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Questioning Everything, Going Mad.

WARNING: Pardon the non-music-related post. Other things happen sometimes. I know a lot of you have no religious affiliation; conversely, a lot of you have very deep religious affiliation. I’m not sure which side will be more uncomfortable reading this. If you’d rather not think about it one way or the other, you have my permission to skip this one.

I went through a few boxes of keepsakes this week that I had saved from the ages of 0-24. Among the knick knacks: my first toy (a stuffed green bear named… Green Bear), Moccasins I made when I was 7, and a hundred love notes. Also among them, a bunch of my old writings and school assignments, a majority of which were about my faith.

See, I was raised in the Assemblies of God, which is one of the more fundamental of denominations. The Bible is inerrant, speaking in tongues is real, drinking (even a little) is a sin, healing and the casting out of demons still happens, et al. The concept of the “slippery slope” was alive and real in my upbringing.

I must take an aside to say that I appreciate my parents more the longer I live. While my dad was an ordained missionary with the A/G (and a rodeo cowboy!), he never seemed to me to be unreasonable, stodgy, or out of touch with reality. I’ve never heard him swear, but he is reluctant to tell people on airplanes that he is in the ministry because he doesn’t like how they treat him when he does. He believes what he believes, but he’s not going to scream at you if you have some theological differences of opinion. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him “scream”, in or out of the pulpit. He has an uncanny ability to state deeply profound truth in really simple ways. (Not all A/G preachers had this ability. I remember asking as a child of 4 or 5 why a lot of pastors would end all of their sentences with “-ah”. Ex: “And I belieeeev-ah! That the Spirit of Gawwwd-ah! Is in this place-ah! glorytoGod-ah.” It seemed insincere, even then.)

I say all that to give a little background on not just my upbringing of faith, but the *kind* of faith. It was not a nod-of-the-head-to-morality, or a check-box on a census form, or a Sundays-only thing. It was a kind of faith that made it not-weird to pray about what I was going to wear to school that day. It was not a coat of paint, it was the foundation and framing of the house.

Every decision that I made was rooted in that foundation. I could reconsider the drapes or arrange the furniture better with each sermon I heard, but it was all based on the pre-existing foundation that the house existed.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I am thirty now, and cannot shake the fact that I have questioning my faith every day for months. It’s driving me insane (am I being literal or figurative? take your pick.)

i can’t pinpoint where it started. I could give a list of questions I have, but I’m sure you have your own and if my own experience is anything to judge by, I don’t want to contribute to you mumbling to yourself and sitting silently where once you used to engage the whole room.

But somewhere along the way, some really big questions crept in, and now it seems that *everything* is pointing me back to them. (“Yeah, you’re right; that couch does belong against that other wall IF WE’RE NOT ALL STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIELD SOMEWHERE!“) you can’t re-arrange any furniture or rip out any carpet until you answer that question.

Is the house make believe?
Does the house exist, but all the Palin-ites are standing with Pat Robertson in an adjacent field, selling real estate to the “room of the house with really fresh air”?
Are they actually in the house, and the rest of us are indignant that the house is so “exclusive and judgemental”?
Is it all one big house, different rooms?
Is furniture theology still true, irrespective of house/no house?

Here lies the paragraph I wish I could start with “no. here is the answer…” and proceed to impart to you all of the answers that my seeking has unearthed. But instead I have to say that my questions are only breeding more questions. Questions that I am not listing here. Not yet. Because I know the standard answers of both sides, and the opposing rebuttals. Who wins the argument generally depends on whose side you’re on before the discussion even starts. Much like the Republican/Democrat divide, I don’t want the party line, I want the truth. If I discover the truth aligns with one or the other, then so be it, but to start the class at someone else’s graduation feels like a rip-off.

Maybe that’s the point of faith. If it were certainty, it would be something else altogether.
But I can’t stay in limbo forever. Not given the effect it has had on me. I really do feel crazy.

Using the texts of my youth (1 Corinthians 15), I can leave you with one thing that I have found to be true.

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… If only for

    this

life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”

15 Comments

  1. I certainly have been aboard this boat of doubt for most of the past five years. It's, by no means, ever easy. On one hand, if you decide to attend church and read the bible, then you feel like you are just trying to push the doubts away. On the other, by examining it you feel like you are scrutinizing the truth you lived by for so long. It's no easy road. Many of my own convictions and questions are still up in the air and I far from certain of what is right. But I do have to kind of disagree with that verse. If, by your faith, you have done works in service to the lord your faith and works were not wasted. They gave you a reason and purpose and improved the lives of others. If we get the the end and there is nothing, we have still done good things.

    Regardless, good luck finding your way.

  2. People who look for the answers generally find them. So will you. We all have doubts about something or other about as often as we breathe in and out. Reading this post doesn't distress me or make me uncomfortable because, for one thing, I've been there. And depending on what day you ask me, I might BE there. But more importantly, I know you, and you always come back swinging, feet firmly planted on that steady foundation. I would like one day to meet your Dad. I find it interesting that you describe him in ways that can easily be attributed to you. Not that I would ever expect you to see that, and even if you did, you're too humble to admit it. You're gonna be just fine.

    Please post a picture of Green Bear.

  3. i hear ya broth-ah! this is SO true: "Who wins the argument generally depends on whose side you’re on before the discussion even starts." sometimes it seems futile to even begin the conversation. and i have recently realised that the way we think about things or what we believe is based on the context in which we live and who's at the pulpit or around us. and until you get out of that context, you never quite realise how ridiculous those ways of thinking really are. or even begin to question them. on so for people like you and I who have "gotten out" find ourselves questioning. a lot. and of course, i wish you had the answers. or that i had the answers. but we don't. damn. but what i do think is that it's all not so black and white. nor is God so worried about all that jazz. i would venture to guess that he wants us to live as Jesus lived. and love him first and then others. sadly christianity fails horribly at the greatest commandments. and that my friend makes me want to run away from all such things sometimes. ugh.

  4. Tim Tim

    2 thoughts… neither from me
    1) from Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz
    “My most recent faith struggle is not one of intellect. I don’t really do that anymore,” he writes. “Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly I don’t care.”
    2) take a look at "Myth of Certainty" by Daniel Taylor http://bit.ly/JWePb Doesn't have answers to the bigger questions, but does a great job of defining the back and forth that the reflective Christian faces from the perspective of a Christian philosopher in a not so Christian profession. One of the few "Christian" books I've read that I can recommend.

  5. I suppose I've always been in an odd boat. I'm not of any faith, that's sure, but I'm not the kind of bloke who'd wave a sign around yelling there's no god or whathaveyou. Maybe its just me, but I found that the times I'm most faithful in anything is when its in humanity itself. Sure there are plenty of things that make me feel like that the human race is a lost cause (political figures, celebrities, even people at the supermarket) but then there are other times when I become witness to a artistic master piece or scientific discovery or humanitarian grace that reminds me why I still want to be around on this earth. The idea that cause those things to come to fruition, be it god, fate, or blind luck, isn't so much important to me but much more what those events inspire… at least that's how I feel about it. We'll always be asking questions and finding answers as long as we live; just one of those interesting little hurdles we're always going to have to be jumping over, and I have a feeling you'll end up just fine :]

    And I agree… I demand to see Green Bear.

  6. Your thoughts sound a lot like mine for the past year or so as well. My friend wrote a post a while ago that really resonated with me (concerning this). Specifically this quote:

    "It is as though, in this spherical universe, the pursuit of far-ness from God, like the pursuit of the farthest eastern point, forces one to remain still, for it is there that any movement at all is simply towards Him." (Here's the rest of the post if you want to read it, it's quite short) http://phoenixrenovatio.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/

    Also, I'm sorry. Because I relate I do know what you mean when you say you feel like you're going mad. And it's frustrating. Here's to hoping truth pokes its head out of all of this soon and gives us a breather soon. I'll pray for you Levi. Much the way I've been for me… just a sincere, "Please help."

  7. I don’t attend church on a regular basis, no less associate with any particular denomination. Yet I am a born again Christian since '73. I strive to never discuss “doctrine” because I’ve seen the Bible used more times as a sword to divide, than a scripture to heal and minister. I’m liberal on most social subjects and yet very conservative about others. I grow tired of people who will insist that I am not a Christian because I believe in (fill in blank here) or don’t believe in (another blank here). The longer I live, the more I learn that things are more gray and less black and white. I think that compassion and understanding lie in the gray and not in the absolute.
    I feel closer to God when I’m out hiking with nature, sitting by a campfire, or just feeding the birds on my deck. The only truths that I have found so far are simple.

    God is real. He loves me for who I am, flaws and all. And I will never be deserving of his Grace.

    For now, that is enough for me.

  8. Derrick Derrick

    Thanks for posting this. I went to school at a non-denominational evangelical Christian school that met in the basement of an A/G church. I'm still good friends with a kid in my grade/class who also went to that church. I've spent my whole life in a different Christian denomination, but as far as the basics go, it's the same as your church. That is, the house is the same. I wonder if it's there too. Worse still, even when I think it's there, I often live as though it is not. A couple days ago I described myself to some close Christian friends as "spiritually schizophrenic."

    I will talk to G-d for you as well. And for me.

    Derrick
    Philippians 3.7-8

  9. Not that this is an answer for you, but it has been helpful for Chris & me (growing up uber traditional SBC, so, like you, minus the whole demons and tongues) 🙂

    We just started attending an anglican church.

    It has been the best thing for our faith…

  10. Man, you guys. Thank you.
    I kind of expected to hear radio silence on this.
    I had some more thoughts last night & I'm posting an addendum shortly, but I just wanted to say thank you all for the solemn nods of solidarity. I really do appreciate it.

  11. Oh man, Anne beat me to it…
    Even though I still work at and attend a church that is technically Baptist, I've really been enjoying learning about the Anglican approach to the faith. Specifically the idea of the already/not yet tension of the Kingdom of God, and the idea that we, believing that God will make all things right, should act with God in making things right in the here and now.

    Not that it answers YOUR questions to talk about MY faith. But, thinking about things like that helped me heal from wounds inflicted by the ministry I used to work at (which was quasi-Lutheran, if you wanted to know.)

  12. Eric MacLeod Eric MacLeod

    read GK, bro

    • admin admin

      Have done some reading of Chesterton in the past, actually – One of the most eloquent voices for the faith I’ve heard.

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