Monday, August 16, 2004

Taking it on faith

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And 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. (1 Corinthians 15:13-19, NIV)

I've been back in Ohio, working on the move-from-hell with my sister Sue and bro-in-law Jeff. (It's actually going pretty well...more like the move-from-an-upper-level-of-Purgatory, to be more specific.) We only have 13 days (including today) to sort-and-toss, have a monster garage sale next weekend, pack up the remaining flotsam and jetsam, and actually MOVE them (August 20-22 and 27-29 - PRAY for good weather!). As my sister keeps saying, "it will be fine."

That, however, has nothing to do with what's on my mind this early AM.

Part of the winnowing-down process has been sifting through hundreds of books that Jeff, Sue, I (and others in the family) read, or collected and intended to read someday. The new condo just doesn't have enough space for them all. So today we took a pile of books to a local used-book-seller-&-buyer in Toledo, hoping to convert hardback ballast into cold hard cash.

While Jeff was dealing with the book-buyer in the front of the store, I wandered through the stacks, looking for a replacement copy of "I Sing The Body Electric" by Ray Bradbury. And that's when I heard it - the voice of the shop owner, talking to another patron about how "Luke didn't write the Book of Luke" and "only about 16% of the New Testament is really verifiable" and "if God wanted to be heard, why didn't He just leave some DVD's with the answers on them for us to find? After all, us lowly mortals can make DVD's - why can't He?"

God help me, but my first thought was, "Ah, another pseudo-intellectual has found a copy of John Crossan's The Historical Jesus and now thinks he can join Nietzsche in declaring God dead. Please, Lord God, spare me." Quite the compassionate evangelist, aren't I?

Now I have to admit...part of me was strongly tempted to engage the speaker in the discussion, and speak the truth in love on the side of righteousness. But a significant other part of me thought, "The best thing to do when confronted with whirling dervishes is to just let 'em whirl." Maybe it was cowardice - maybe it was just not really wanting to deal with it. But I left them to their discussion of the non-existence of God and the ficticiousness of supposedly sacred writings, and went on my way. (And then second-guessed the decision on and off for 10 hours.)

But as I drove home from Ohio tonight, I reflected on how much of Christianity is based on nothing more than the words of faithful people. What we call "the testimony of the faithful" is what many in the world calls "first-century UFO sightings." In the end, it comes down to faith. This afternoon's bookseller has faith that there is no God, and that the Bible is a work of questionable historical fiction. I have faith that there is a loving God, who despite my worst behavior, loves me anyway and wants me to be faithful. To be honest, I'd much rather have my faith - even when it's difficult to defend parts of it - than to have a "what the %$&#" attitude.

I see this dichotomy of "faith" all the time. I have a number of friends who are lesbians or gay men. Several of them tell me that a loving God would not make their life suck so badly, so there cannot be a God. Yet I also know a number of GLBT folks, of both genders, who are people of active and powerful Christian faith - despite the condemnations of a significant number of women and men who claim to be "God's people," and despite suffering mightily for both their orientation and their faith at the hands of supposedly civilized and nominally faith-full people. Who's right? Who's deluded?

For today, I'm grateful to have faith in a God of wonders, who truly is "God with us," who would go to Hell for me than to spend eternity in heaven without me. And if I'm deluded - well, I'll take it. So far as I can tell, it beats the snot out of the alternative.

Thanks, God, for a safe trip, for my sister and brother-in-law's relative health, and the gifts of time, love, and service that you have given me to share. I know I don't deserve any of it - but for this day, I'll take it. You really are an awesome God. Amen.

1 comment:

Dave said...

That was an interesting one. It made me think about my position. I'm one of the people who is embarrased for people who treat the Bible as an historical, geographical, geological, anthropological and astronomical be all end all text. But I do not believe that it has anything to do with my belief in God or how God is.

I think I've believed many lies about God which are irreconcilable with my experience and observation. If the things I've learned and the stories in the Old Testament are true, then he would have to be evil. I wonder how much really has to be taken on faith. I usually find myself needing faith as a means of dealing with the inconsistency between what I have been taught by people and what I have learned and observed for myself. But again, that in no way diminshes God because I don't think that he has ever lied to me.

I have a new sponsor now, Jamie, Lisa's husband, the chiroprator. He good, and not at all what I expected. I think I'm making progress. And I think he's going to give me a brand new fresh perspective.