a manifesto from my soul right now

Sometimes I sit down here with a little time on my hands, knowing I have to update my blog or likely lose the last of my readers, and I haven’t even decided what to write. Last weekend I went to Chicago to see Mary, check out [in progress] down a bit and to the left of your screen. It was a great weekend, my first days off from Qdoba in two weeks, a little time away, relaxing, enjoying things.

On Saturday we spent some time at Chicago’s indoor garden conservatories at Garfield and Lincoln Park. It’s so relaxing, calming, refreshing to walk about God’s amazing creations without all the confusion that humanity has thrown into the mix. Just seeing the diversity of the flora, the colors, shapes and detail. It’s clear that the creator is showing us something in all this.

That’s really about where my faith is these days. If I sit down to read the Bible, I get through about five verses before I get an almost gagging, suffocating feeling. When I read something “Christian” in nature, even if it’s sincere and insightful, I start thinking about how much rhetoric is out there being spewed based on ignorance, hatred and worse, pure capitalism. I can’t separate my intense confusion from my remaining detached relationship with God. I can’t pray without my thoughts turning to all the carnage in Iraq or the “lostness” of the billion people in China or India.

If Jesus really is the “One” for all of them, then what about the huge majority who have never had an encounter with Him, who have never even seen a church, couldn’t read the Bible if they had one, and have never known a Christian in their lives? I know I am supposed to believe that they will all have an opportunity to hear about Jesus, but I have been to these places, and that is about as realistic as shit actually hitting a fan.

Seriously, when I did missions work for a few years during college, I really tried to believe that what I did made a difference. And maybe I helped a few people here and there become more spiritual, more enlightened people, but what about the billion that don’t know. During my time in India, China, Thailand, I tried to convince myself that all these people would know about Jesus through some means in their lifetime, but you know what, I never really could get that. It’s not possible given the current state of the world. First of all, they have their own religions, which for the most part, they are quite happy with. And second of all, there is not even close to enough Christians in these places to actually convert people to Jesus, assuming they wanted to convert. But considering the opinion toward the West in most of the East, I seriously doubt how many would be interested in converting.

This is all, of course, very faithless thinking, but God for whatever reason, made me rather rational. My soul doesn’t mesh well with stuff that makes no sense whatsoever. I can believe in miracles. I can accept all the crazy stories of the Bible, Noah, Moses etc, but I see the world around me today, and I don’t see God intervening to “save” people. So do they need to be “saved” in that redemption Jesus-saved-me sort of way? I don’t know. I really don’t know. And if you aren’t sure about something, you certainly shouldn’t attempting to preach it and follow it.

And if God can create orchids, mangoes and 150-foot palm trees, he certainly doesn’t need me to help him figure out humanity. I don’t know why I think like this. Certainly millions of people are perfectly happy being Christians, but I don’t know how to do it anymore, I just don’t know how.

So much for a quick blog entry. Please comment.

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9 Responses to a manifesto from my soul right now

  1. Mary says:

    wow, laura. that was a really hearty read. i forgive you for not posting for so ridiculously long now 🙂

    i, of course, have no answers. which is good, because i don’t think you asked any pointed questions. sounds like you’re just thinking out loud. and it’s nice to be let in on a little of what’s going on in your brain, your heart, YOU.

    i’ll add only what i felt as i read your blog: that where i’m at right now is a place where my heart feels swelled with god. following 3 years of “hello, what? can someone plese tell me what’s going on here????”, this place is MUCH better. i imagine there are several of both those places in each person’s life, but i am thankful to be in this one.

    all that to say that i’m really glad you’re able to define where you’re at. and define it so well. thanks for sharing.

  2. Laura says:

    mary – thanks for the thoughts. I’m glad you didn’t try to “answer” my questions. That’s the funny thing. At this point in my life, after 10 years of being a really intense Christian, I just don’t think there are any more answers left until God speaks to me in some more tangible way. the funny thing is, I have realized over this time how self-absorbed and falsely righteous I used to sound trying to dole out answers and advice for people struggling with similar questions, and none of those pat Sunday school answers work for me. It’s not for lack of trying to convince myself, that’s for sure. Anyway… off to real life. =)

  3. Jack says:

    Laura:

    Your comments here remind me of myself back very many years ago. I asked myself the same kinds of questions when I was being confirmed. Our strict Lutheran minister used to rather sneeringly say things like Catholics won’t go to heaven because they believe doing good works is the means to get there. I often wondered how I was lucky enough to have been born into the right religion, Lutheran, when many kids I knew had been born as Catholics. It didn’t make sense to me that they were wrong and I was right.

    Then as I got into High School and started studying world history, it struck me like a thunderbolt one day that there were not 2 religions, but thousands in the world over human history. And being quite logical, even at that age, I realized that the odds of me landing at birth in the right religion were not 1 in 2 like I had sort of thought, but 1 in thousands.

    So I began to question in my mind what my teachers and ministers had been telling me, and over a fairly short time, I came to the conclusion that these kinds of questions are unanswerable. They are unanswerable not just by me, but by anyone. No one knows with certainty why we’re here, or where, if anywhere, we’re going. Obviously, there are many who believe they know, but in my mind they believe that because emotionally they want to or need to, not because of a rational thought process.

    Having said that, I’ve become quite comfortable and content with where I am spiritually; i.e., knowing and accepting that I don’t know and can’t know, but still having some kind of overall sense of goodness in the world, and a belief that the goodness is overcoming the bad, and will continue to do so, if we stay vigilant.

    Keep writing Laura, I don’t know how many readers you have, but I, for one, look forward to your essays. Also, if you haven’t read it, I would recommend you try “A Road Less Traveled” by Scott Peck. I’ve got it if you want to borrow it.

  4. Jack says:

    Laura:

    Your comments here remind me of myself back very many years ago. I asked myself the same kinds of questions when I was being confirmed. Our strict Lutheran minister used to rather sneeringly say things like Catholics won’t go to heaven because they believe doing good works is the means to get there. I often wondered how I was lucky enough to have been born into the right religion, Lutheran, when many kids I knew had been born as Catholics. It didn’t make sense to me that they were wrong and I was right.

    Then as I got into High School and started studying world history, it struck me like a thunderbolt one day that there were not 2 religions, but thousands in the world over human history. And being quite logical, even at that age, I realized that the odds of me landing at birth in the right religion were not 1 in 2 like I had sort of thought, but 1 in thousands.

    So I began to question in my mind what my teachers and ministers had been telling me, and over a fairly short time, I came to the conclusion that these kinds of questions are unanswerable. They are unanswerable not just by me, but by anyone. No one knows with certainty why we’re here, or where, if anywhere, we’re going. Obviously, there are many who believe they know, but in my mind they believe that because emotionally they want to or need to, not because of a rational thought process.

    Having said that, I’ve become quite comfortable and content with where I am spiritually; i.e., knowing and accepting that I don’t know and can’t know, but still having some kind of overall sense of goodness in the world, and a belief that the goodness is overcoming the bad, and will continue to do so, if we stay vigilant.

    Keep writing Laura, I don’t know how many readers you have, but I, for one, look forward to your essays. Also, if you haven’t read it, I would recommend you try “A Road Less Traveled” by Scott Peck. I’ve got it if you want to borrow it.

  5. allan says:

    Hey Laura
    Sorry I missed you in Chicago. I would like to meet you one of these days. I am curious to meet this person I read and hear so much about.

    Okay I’ll be the dumb ass Christian who answers all your questions. Kidding,… to be honest they echo some of my own. There seems to be this part of the journey of following Christ that no one ever told us about. You know the part where you seriously doubt everything you were so sure of. The pat answers to REAL life problems are so, so ridiculously trait you feel like gagging as you throw down another “Christian” self help book or hear some lame ass preacher do his little bit, that often seems more appropriate for comedy central than for anything else. Well meaning Christians don’t just sound annoying and arrogant but they even look it! Secretly I feel embarrassed listening to them give their sales pitch, simplistically ranting and raving about how they have the secret to it all.
    It doesn’t convince me…in fact it makes me ill.

    The thing is, I’m in too deep. I’ve gone past the breakers and have found God in the hugest swells of my soul. I admit that God and faith are completely irrational to me. I agree. But the very core of who I am has seen Him and I know, know, know…more real than anything, I KNOW He is real and THIS Jesus is the pinnacle, apex of, …of EVERYTHING! Somehow He supersedes what is rational or logical or even what is fair. He should step in and save the 4 year old child being raped and sodomized or step in and stop the genocide in Rwanda but He didn’t and doesn’t. Regardless of what I think He should or shouldn’t do He is beyond this, He supersedes any “yeah but” I try to throw at Him. This frustrating confusing walk is not some sort of emotional need, convince-myself-this-is-true, or the truth I choose, this thing, this invisible relationship I have is SOLID! Unshakable. I have tasted and I have seen and so I live and I follow…. frustrated, angry at times but so freakin blown away by Him and the truth of who He says He is. Everything else is like shit compared to truly knowing Him.

    I know I may not be making a lot of sense but I just honestly loved your post. I love your tough struggles and I’m really not trying to answer them but perhaps add some of my own spice to the aroma of thoughts on your blog.

    …ha, even know I can hear God telling me He loves you furiously.

    thanks for sharing

  6. Laura says:

    thanks all for the comments. You know, it’s really funny, what you said Allan. It’s not that I don’t believe God loves me. I know that God exists, I really don’t have a problem with that. I don’t think I could ever be an athiest, because like you said, I am in too deep. Right now I sound rather agnostic, but it’s not quite that way. I have experienced God in real ways, I just don’t know how to lead “the Christian life” anymore, if there is such a thing. I just don’t know what is sacred in this world anymore. I don’t get why I would be chosen to have the circumstances I have had to know God while millions, billions of people, certainly more deserving than me, would not. What happens to them? I suppose I should just worry about myself, but then what sort of Christian would I be? And if God is leaving the future proliferation of his Word, his church, his people on earth in the hands of today’s Christians, then I don’t know what good is coming. It’s not hopeless, I just don’t know what to do with that dull doubt that lingers there every time I start to consider going back to the church or trying to communicate with God again.

  7. Adrianne says:

    Hi, Laura. I’ve been processing your post for several days now. I want to throw my two cents’ worth in, but I seem to have a dollar and a half’s worth of things to say and am trying to narrow them down in a way to express what I’m thinking.

    I’ve been writing the next few paragraphs for the last hour and nothing seems to come out right. I’m just going to write it, and if you don’t like it either let me know or chalk it up to a severe case of fatigue because my dog was freaked out by the fireworks last night and wouldn’t let me sleep.

    Most of all, I hope that you don’t give up looking for answers. I must admit that it made me a little sad to read your post. Not that I think you shouldn’t feel the way that you do (you and I share some of the same reservations about the contemporary Christian church), but that maybe you felt that you had to be a “really intense Christian” and got burned out by that. I think there’s so much out there that we can latch on to that’s just plain, well, wrong. It’s a bit unnerving to realize that something that you’ve been clinging on to so hard and for so long may not be right.

    As my disgust for Christianity grows, my desire to be a Christ-follower and to embrace an authentic faith also grows. My thinking about some of the things I would have held firmly to a few years ago has really been challenged. I do think that a revival or movement or whatever you want to call it (some people refer to it as emergent) is coming. To truly follow Christ is radical and dangerous and counter-cultural and amazing. I’m going to bring you that book I told you about, A Generous Orthodoxy, when I see you in August. I think you’ll like it. There’s a lot of, “Wow, there are other Christians that feel this way” in there. (Even some off-handed comments about President Bush that you might get a kick out of.)

    My parting thoughts are about what you did when you were in Asia. I wouldn’t discount what you did just because you don’t know what the impact is/results are. Maybe you weren’t supposed to “save” anyone. Maybe you were just supposed to love them. When I went to South Africa I didn’t feel pressure to “save” anyone. (Does that make me a bad missionary?) But I did love them, which can open doors for God to come in and transform. I don’t believe that today’s Christians are 100% responsible to spread the news about God. God is pretty big; he can do things with or without me. But, you love the people of Asia. I love the people of Africa. We reached out in love. That has to count for something more than feeling like your time was futile.

    All this to say, I’m still under construction. My views change almost every day and I hope that I am constantly pushed to be more authentic than I was yesterday. To all you blog-readers out there: I do actually work at a church, so don’t think I hate churches. You may have been feeling the need to find me a nice, loving congregation, but fear not. Laura, I love you and will still be a faithful blog-reader until the day your site is shut down.

    Adrianne

  8. Mary says:

    l – this has been such an incredible blog. such incredible comments from everyone. i really look forward to reading it. just thought i’d add that.

    keep posting!!

  9. Laura says:

    thanks guys.. these thoughts will continue in my next entry

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