The Difficulty of Belief

Faith has never been easy for me.  Even as a child, I seemed to have more doubts and questions as is normal for a snot-nosed little sprite.

Growing up in a reformed baptist church, though, I was required to attempt to develop a rock-solid certainty in the veracity and infallibility of Scripture, in the complete sovereignty of God, in the five-fold Doctrines of Grace, as well as a host of other and sundry doctrines, dogmas, and certitudes.

Finally, when I left the church it was in the midst of a true “Crisis of Faith”.  I had begun to see through the veneer of the serious, forced facade to the devilish interior of the people and the system I grew up in and as I did I was faced with a series of three seemingly simple choices:

1.) There is no god

2.) What I was taught about God was completely true

3.) What I was taught about God was in some sense partially or completely false

As for the first choice, its quite possible that there is no god, but its never been something that I’ve been able to every put any kind of moral or cognitive weight behind.  One way or the other, it seems to me that there must be SOMETHING out there, beyond us, and beyond the realm of the material.  The concept and idea of the “Spiritual” has always carried clout with me.  It seems quite plausible to me that there are multiple gods, or else a god who’s different from the Christian God, but I don’t know that I can ever be an atheist.

As an aside, I feel that I must say something about this.  As a younger man I thought that Atheists and Agnostics were engaged in the worst sort of intellectual and spiritual laziness, to the point where it was hard for me to even Hear them.  Now though?  I get it.  I understand why someone would ditch the faith and conclude that not only is God a colossal motherfucker, but that he doesn’t exist, nor do any other number of gods in any number of collective pantheons throughout the course of human history.  I cannot conclude that myself, but I do understand.

Secondly the thought that what I was taught is completely true is something that I seriously considered, but in the negative.  In other words, if what I was taught was completely true, then God could go fuck himself, which meant that I was subsequently done with Him.  Even if it meant my soul.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I couldn’t serve a god like that.  Whatever part of my mind that had housed those families of concepts was burnt up in the fire and the land had been salted and made dead.  As I said elsewhere, “If there’s a god who seeks to sling some holy-fucking wrath, he’s dead to me“.

So, I couldn’t NOT believe in God, or at least a concept of God (an agnostic possibility), and I couldn’t believe in a God that was as intent on wrath and hatred as the god I was taught.  So, that left me with finding a way to believe in God (or to put in more generically, The Divine) in a way that I could live with.

And although this might be a topic for a different post, I have decided that some of the concepts/tenets of Christianity (an attempt at explaining the reality of evil in the world and in man, the notion of Grace, and the person of Jesus) is compelling enough for me to retain the “title” (while groaning inwardly at the word) of Christian.

Still.  I believe, but am so very full of unbelief.  Belief has never come easy to me.  Certainty is an illusion that I cannot help but seek, but which is foreign to me and forever beyond my grasp.  I say the Creed every week in Morning Prayer, but often have a hard time claiming it for myself.  I pray the prayers, but my heart is most often not in it.  I persist in claiming faith for myself, when I live in the land of darkness and doubts.

I feel myself to be a laughing stock, an unbelieving believer, or perhaps a believing unbeliever.  I don’t really know.  I hope, I suppose; and I hope that that’s enough.

(featured image: “Doubt” by Alicechan on DeviantArt)

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Fiddling with Fire

anglican-communionPrimates of the Anglican Communion are meeting this week in Canterbury, England at Archbishop Welby’s invite to the first time since the 2011 Dublin meetings to discuss the growing schisms within the Communion. At stake, some would say, is the very existence of the Communion itself.

I was raised in the mire of hyper-calvinism (not exactly a bastion of magnanimity). We were taught that anything other than our particular brand of confessional, cessationist, calvinistic theology was grossly unbiblical at best and downright heretical and satanic at worst. We were never the kindest of folk. To us, recalitrance was faithfulness and unity that is forged in the fires of diversity was considered indubitably idiotic. I’ve had enough bigotry and vilification shoved down my throat and up my ass to last a thousand lifetimes. Lord knows I’ve excreted my fair share of it.

coexist2Folks who have not been raised and immersed in such a dogmatic fundamentalism cannot understand just how thoroughly and extensively your faith can be burned to cinders in such an environment. You are presented with ultimate things. Truth is capitalized and any deviation from it is the worst kind of squalid deviance. Then those ultimate things fuck you. You wallow in the melting pieces of your soul and you feel as the earth must feel under the weight of nuclear armageddon. You have nothing left to believe in and no where to turn to.

It is therefore no surprise to me that so many children of the Church end up leaving it. Why would you stay involved in the face of such legalistic rage? Why subject your ashen corpse to further defilement?

It IS a surprise to me that I have not left the Faith. Why do I stay? I often ask myself this. Perhaps it is that although I hate much of what the church teaches about sin and depravity, at least it has an answer for why humanity is so often so fucked up. Perhaps it is that I find Jesus to be so compelling. Perhaps that although the church often behaves so differently, at least its Savior taught us to love the little ones of the world.

I ultimately might never know. I DO know that if what I was raised with is Christianity, then I am not and do not want to be a Christian. But I will not leave the Faith, so I must find another expression of it.

anglican_395For us, that is Anglicanism. That’s why, contrary to everything we were taught growing up, we are having our children baptised into an Anglican church later this week. And that’s why I find the whole situation with the Anglican Communion to be so perplexing and unfortunate. She fiddles while Rome burns.

Two factions: both calling for the other’s repentance. Both proclaiming that unity can only happen when the other side complies. There can be no unity without uniformity, it seems.

Meanwhile, life marches on and most of humanity (and dare I say, the church’s laity) doesn’t give much of a flying fuck about the squabbles of the institutional church. It’s like a bad joke. Too bad the Church doesn’t seem to realize that the joke’s on her.

Faith, Doubt, and My Neurotic Need for Certainty

I feel like my brain is broken in the “believing” bits.  I don’t even know what faith is anymore, much less the specifics of anything resembling a theology.  Perhaps the damage comes from the fucked-up marriage of C-PTSD and OCD… hurt at the hands of Christian leaders upon a person with the “doubting disease”.  I just cannot believe anymore.  Still, I persist in whatever belief that I can maintain.  I go to Communion to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood (I hope?) and I pray the prayers of others as I can no longer pray my own.  I just need to be content with that…

Someone warned be recently about where my thinking has been leading me, calling it dangerous, warning me about throwing the baby out with the bathwater… when the baby keeps shitting the bathtub, perhaps the baby is the problem…

I have realized something recently.  I’ve been tortured by fears of losing my faith, of being outside of God’s love (if He/She is even there), of being damned.  Yet, I think I’ve already ditched it (such as I was taught, such as it’s always been).  It has died on the vine, cut-off at the root.  I’ve said that if the beliefs I was raised with are Christianity, then I don’t want to, and cannot, be a Christian anymore.  Thus, my whole understanding of Christianity has already flown the coop.  If that’s all I knew of faith, and I cannot in that anymore, then that faith is dead.  Gone forever.  So, what next?  Perhaps that’s been my path all along.  Perhaps a new form of faith and belief has been growing beneath the surface.  Then again, perhaps not…

Friends tell me to ease up, that my suffering is the proof of faith’s growth.  Sounds like bullshit to me.  It seems more acceptable to talk about doubt, but its always under the banal shade of a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge”.  You doubt, but that just proves the veracity of your faith.  But what if that doubt is really, truly disbelief and you believe that the Bible is full of shit and that the church is simply a collection of pietistic assholes and that that’s not a noble thing or a proof of misguided Divine Love?  What if you really do believe that God (if He exists) is just a tormenting prick, getting-off on pain  and hurt and that Jesus is just the Church’s lick-spittle?  Is that still the doubting bit of faith?…  Then, most fucked-up of all, the next morning, you believe all of the major elements of Orthodox Christianity, and doubt feels just like a bad dream…

It’s like I am Two.  Warring, fighting.  Never finding what we’re after.  Never arriving home.  Always wandering, never finished, always seeking…

I want a simple faith.  Not simplistic or ignorant or lazy or naive, but a faith that holds to simple truths, that is secure enough in simple truths to be open about the rest.  A faith that is comfortable with doubt and complexity and uncertainty and that is loose enough not to be offended…

Church services are such fucking dog-and-pony shows.  The emperor is naked, his hairy ass is glowing and no one says anything about it.   We mumble hymns and call it worship.  We parrot tripe and call it prayer.  We attend to the sermon and call it  God’s Word.  We’re all disingenuous fakers and we wander why no one comes or cares…

(featured image source)

 

Cesspool of Dreams

It always starts with the whispers.

Voiceless premonitions – indications – intuitions – that something is bubbling up from the cesspool of the mind.  That I’m about to fall down.  Down..  Down…

Into the shit.

Sometimes the pool swirls in silent rage.  Breaths quicken, limbs twitch, thoughts run and yell and scream.  A possession of some Otherwordly trickster, an agitating sprite of confusion, an eidolon bent on overwhelming, on breaking my psyche and memory.  Beatific filth flows between my teeth and out my gaping facial orifice.  Fuck.  Shit.  Shit.  Shit.  Cunt.  Prick.  Fuck.  Fuck!  FUCK!

It always starts with the whispers.

I can’t sit still.  There is nothing to do and everything to consider.  Unholy possibilities assail my mind, with dancing images of stabbings, explosions, missing limbs and severed heads.  Conviction flees my soul and I am buffeted with doubts and questions.  Uncertain vacillations about my doubts complete the madness’ deconstruction.  Before me lies an empty world of nothingness.  A life bereft of meaning and hope.  Eyes twitch – unfocused, confused, lost before the endless, awful possibilities of life unlived.  Questions slit my remonstrations’ throats and leave them lying in the void to die alone beneath a cruelly crimson flood.  Madness reigns in melancholy happenstance as fevered thoughts flash and flit and flirt before my addled brain.  The world’s become a tenebrous place.

Sometimes the pool stagnates in torpid sloth.  Instead of a storm of agitation, frozen death begets the meme.  Breaths labor to flee my shrunken frame, limbs lie limp within gravity’s constant grip, their strength stolen from them by a black malignancy, sunk into my core.

Weighed down by sorrow’s bloated weight, my head rests heavy on my heaving chest.  I cannot raise it.  The sadness of the world assaults me, overwhelming whatever paltry defenses I’ve been able to develop since my last swim in the pool.

 

I want to believe.  I want to see hope and experience happiness, but the pool is no place for such positivities.

 

I want to believe.  I want to see hope and experience happiness, but the pool is no place for such positivities.  The part of my mind and soul that’s able to experience joy is a wasteland.  Scorched.  Torched by too many years of wrath’s acidic flow.

Unfocused, I drift.  A dead-man breathing, wasting air best utilized by one whose mind is not a corpse alive to all its rotten possibilities.  Floating on a sea of misbegotten vagaries, I weep inside with tears bled dry by habituated hatred of self and all my hopes and memories.  Before me lies the Void, a yawning maw of apathetic sorrow, sadness putrefied by time’s remorseless trot.

The whispers are never far.  I hear them always, waiting…  wanting to throw me once again into my cesspool of dreams.

The End of Religion

What role have I left for religion? None. And I have left none because the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ leaves none. Christianity is not a religion; it is the announcement of the end of religion.

Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshiping, sacrificing) the human race has ever thought it had to do to get right with God. About those things, Christianity has only two comments to make. The first is that none of them ever had the least chance of doing the trick: the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins (see the Epistle to the Hebrews) and no effort of ours to keep the law of God can ever finally succeed (see the Epistle to the Romans). The second is that everything religion tried (and failed) to do has been perfectly done, once and for all, by Jesus in his death and resurrection. For Christians, therefore, the entire religion shop has been closed, boarded up, and forgotten. The church is not in the religion business. It never has been and it never will be, in spite of all the ecclesiastical turkeys through two thousand years who have acted as if religion was their stock in trade. The church, instead, is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. It is not here to bring the world the bad news that God will think kindly about us only after we have gone through certain creedal, liturgical and ethical wickets; it is here to bring the world the Good News that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” It is here, in short, for no religious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace.

– Robert Capon

(featured image source)

Adam’s Lament

He lives his life in quiet desperation;
Or so it’s said.

He makes no difference in his diffident indifference-
coasting in a callow coterie of drones –
unmanned, unmade,
afloat within his murder –
A colony of bombs, a cluster
fuck it.

Boiling in an apathetic fervor,
he’s benefitted but forgotten
on the ash-heap of mankind’s empty memory –
stolid, steady, badging through the years.
Every day, another day
used-up and spent.

Neither flashy nor showy
(dumpy, dopey dupe),
he’s middle-aged, over-weight, middle-class, over-wrought,
a laughing-stock within the shitted shoots,
fodder for the butcher’s slaughterhouse.

He’s honored with the dregs of juvenile attention,
offal from the shapely ass of Jesus’ luscious bitch
who straddles him with promises of heaven’s cream;
stretching him upon her pillowed rack,
she mounts and rides him to the dust
and milks him dry
to die
within her pungent flood.

Drowned in tortured dreams,
he lives to die within his mind –
his hell.

Rotting in his purgatorial palace,
the sap finds solace in the sullen dreams
of darkness’ kiss –
alone within his paradise.

Quiet desperation?
He mourns,
he weeps,
he burns with silent rage

and aches for bleeding grace.

(featured image source)