What a difference 4 months makes in one’s life! When I wrote part 1 of this series, things were going pretty hunky dory at my primary church home (an urban Mennonite church in OKC). Like every church we had our problems and tensions, but overall things were ok.
Today though, things are not ok. I have faced some pretty vicious attacks by those close to me at my church and my days there may be numbered. And strangely enough, the blog post Religion (Part1) is one of the things I have been attacked over.
While I don’t want to focus too much energy responding to negative spin, I do want to try to clarify things a bit.
My critics have made two criticisms of my post.
The first charge is that they say my post made it sound as if I “would be an atheist if I had the courage to be one” and that it is wrong for a minister of the church to say this.
In response to this charge, I’ve re-read my post. I can understand the confusion due to my imprecise language. However, in large part my intended continuation of the post was going to discuss in more detail WHY I DO BELIEVE. I’ll explain it more detail in part 3, but in short I believe, not because of logic reasoning, but rather because of intuitive knowledge. Certainly I think that it is possible to be intellectually consistent and faithful at the same time, but I also believe that logic by itself does not necessarily lead to faith. — Or to put it in other words, I don’t think the bulk of my atheist and agnostic friends lack faith due to their not thinking logically enough.
And I would go a step further. I think that many people (myself included) are turned off by the attempts to use logic as an apologetic tool. Too often the tool is used clumsily, inconsistently and even maliciously. I think it is much better to say that faith is a mystery, a grace given by God through the Holy Spirit.
Now as to me saying I admire atheists for their courage, well I do admire them, just as I admire anyone who is willing to state the truth as they understand it even if the catch flak for it. And I admire other things about my atheist friends. I admire their love (that isn’t tainted by fears of punishment for not loving) and their passion for the causes they believe in too.
The second charge that has been raised against me is that it was wrong for me to say that “God is too big to fit into only one religion.”
I stand by my statement. It is true. And I’ll go further. I don’t believe in a literal hell either. I think religions at their best moments all point to the Divine. They are all imperfect but they all have something to teach us. Christianity speaks the clearest to my heart so that is the tradition I identify with, but I have no problem with seeing Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, etc. as my brothers and sisters, as fellow seekers of the Divine.
When I wrote the prior blog post I was speaking for myself and only myself. If I were speaking on behalf of the church as a whole, I would have to frame things differently. Most members of my church know what I believe on these subjects and significant number agree with me. But I have not tried to cram these ideas down anyone’s throat or force others to adopt these views. I’ve accepted the fact that other members of the church believe in an exclusivistic kind of faith. I think those who believe this way are wrong on this issue, but they are still my sisters and brothers. I hope they feel the same about me. When I speak to the church through a sermon, I try to find messages that will encourage and uplift and challenge everyone, not just those I agree with.
Anyway there’s a lot more to say. I really want to go back to discussing the nature of faith and doubt in more detail (especially relating it back to the book A Prayer for Owen Meany, but I did want to write this post in an effort to bring some extra clarity.
To be continued . . . Religion (Part 3)