I’ve been reading this book, and it’s full of wonderful information. At the same time it comes from a “christian” perspective and the scripture work in it is pretty horrible a lot of the time. It spot quotes verses, takes them out of context and tries to make them mean things different than how they were really intended (and I don’t mean in a that scripture is kind of but not really related to that kind of way, but in a that has nothing to do with what you’re talking about kind of way). Normally I would put the book down and walk away, but this one was written by psychologists, and as I said the information (beyond the scripture work) is really good. I’m finding it helpful to me and I would imagine it would be to plenty of others that I know. So, I’ve continued reading, but it has gotten me pondering all kinds of questions about “Christian” perspectives.
On top of reading this book I’ve had a couple other experiences recently. I came across a blog post where both “Christians” and “Atheists” were posting comments. And, I came across a couple of presentations done by skeptics and scientists. And I’ve begun to notice something. I’m noticing that a lot of times our perspective on the world isn’t about truth as much as faith, and it isn’t as much about faith as control. Let me unpack this a bit.
We long to understand life. We want to know the best way to live, how to live and move in the world. We want success, ease, joy, comfort, excitement, and all the other good life has to offer. There’s this sense that if I can figure out life, the key to it, the secret, then I can make the most of it and be happy. And we’re bombarded by a million perspectives and according to each it is offering the fundamental rubric through which we are told we should ground our being. We can pursue money or power, fame or success, excitement, experiences, adventure or any number of perspectives that can serve as our lens for trying to understand how to conquer life.
And that’s what it’s really about, control. Some of us are afraid, so we pursue safety. We think if we can just keep things from going wrong everything will be ok. We buy insurance thinking that things will be ok no matter what, because I’ve got insurance and supplemental insurance. Others pursue fame. We think that if enough people know us, then we will have significance and fulfillment. Others pursue success. We think that if I do something of worth then I’ll be of worth. Or, money will allow me to do what I want, then I’ll be happy. Or, excitement and adventure will bring me a rush and I’ll feel like I’m truly alive.
And to be honest, I’m not ever sure what exactly it is we’re seeking. But, we have this sense that there is some kind of void in our lives and we need to do something to get rid of it.
Now, the anchors beneath all of these perspectives tend to gravitate around either religion or science. Either what we see and can measure and test is all that there is or there’s something more. One of these two tend to lie underneath whichever perspective(s) we choose. Something is going to be the thing through which all that we do will be grounded, thus both are a type of faith. What we’re looking for we tend to find. How else could such brilliant people come to such different conclusions on almost everything (I’m thinking specifically about a debate I recently saw between two unbelievably intelligent men regarding whether moving toward nuclear energy is a good idea or not – and they directly contradicted each other in their basic statistical information. In the end it seems to comes down to an in faith value judgment on the part of each.)
Science is concerned with the “natural world”. And because of it we’ve learned much and made great advances. We need reason, we need science because it pushes us toward truth. It doesn’t accept doctrine or myth. Thanks to science the faith of the Church is more accurate. We know that the Earth isn’t the center of the universe like we once thought, like our interpretation of scriptures once said it had to be. At the same time most of us have this nagging sense that something isn’t completely right about science. We don’t completely trust it because yesterday’s miracle drug now has law advertisements telling us that if we took that drug and developed a certain condition we are entitled to a settlement. We’re hesitant to completely trust science in a world where today’s dream come true miracle medicine could be tomorrows nightmare. We have this depths of our bones understanding that love is more than chemicals in our brain, I, my conscious self, am more than simply mind meat, and in between those two realities, the tangible and the intangible, the scientific and the philosophical lies something real, something meaningful. So, we look to religion.
But, oftentimes popular “Christian” culture doesn’t seem to help. Between the tangible and intangible lies an unspeakable mystery. Yet by and large we aren’t invited to step into it. Rather we are given easy answers to questions for which there are no easy answers. Life is wild, it can’t be controlled. The Divine is untamed, beyond us in such a way that we never know what to expect. Yet, instead of admitting this and inviting people to delve into the mystery, into the wonder, we offer a religious science of “timeless principles” that are “true” because “the bible says so” all the while forgetting that scripture is always interpreted, rarely does it ever just “say so.” Or, we take something God once spoke to someone and we take that as a promise for us here and now, because if it’s in the bible it must be for me specifically. But, because scripture is always interpreted, what’s really being offered isn’t the mysteries of God and the universe, but rather just another perspective filled with over-simplified answers to make us feel like we are in control of life. And that’s really what lies underneath all of this, our fear and anxiety and attempts at controlling both life and God. We do everything we can to place life and God in our little box of timeless truths and eternal promises. But, God cannot be tamed and life is beyond our control. We can influence life, but we can’t control it. There are truths, but we will be infinitely exploring them because they are mysteries too large for us to attain. Much of what we talk about as truths are more like guidelines, things that will work by and large, but not something that is a guarantee. Because we were never intended to be in control. We are to guide and direct and influence, but you can do everything right and things still go wrong.
But, what I think I’m beginning to learn might be that learning to control and conquer life isn’t the point. It’s fools gold that only disappoints. Some of the perspectives will work for some people, some will work for others, and some will only work for a little while. But, all they allow us to do is stay so busy that you run from the void. If controlling life isn’t the point, what is? I don’t know, I’m in my twenties and live in Alabama. I don’t even really understand the theory of relativity. But, I’m pretty sure finding the point begins with embracing the mystery between the tangible and intangible. It involves going beyond the easy answers on both sides of the tangible/intangible coin to that place where something real and significant lies. There is something meaningful in searching and living, in joy and wonder. Good can be produced even out of bad. Living is really about being open to what’s happening around you here and now, communing with the untamable God at this moment, and trusting that whatever chaos life throws your way this God is bigger than it. It’s about learning in the midst of it all to trust this God and ground your life in your connection with this large, wild, untamable Being who often can be found in the most ordinary of places and moments. Even this one.