I sometimes meet with a group of would-be thinkers. As it turns out, so far as I can label any of them they’re all Humanists. Explicit, practicing, prostheletizing Humanists. I’ve fallen into remarkably similar circles before and eventually become a thorn to all parties concerned, though it’s usually been out of a combination of my own pride and a tremendous joy in poking arrogance in the eye. While I (deeply) enjoy sitting and discussing a topic with a group of people who think for themselves, I am finding a great similarity in the conspiratorial and oppressed feeling that groups of this sort enjoy.
I should say that throughout my life I have moved quite freely among Christian groups of many flavors (though, often not without being much less of a thorn). Speaking very generally, as of late – and I can’t tell if it is because of a changing political mood or perhaps the heightened level of fundy-ness of the particular groups I am near – there seethes beneath the surface of evangelical Christians a pervasive believe that Christians are somehow oppressed in the United States. Even as one who wishes to one day honestly wear the label of Christian (as opposed to one who bandies it about willy-nilly), I can only imagine that these people believe that they are oppressed because they are not permitted to do with the backing of the law anything they please. That because public schools still hire Muslims, because the government conspired to kill terry Schiavo, and because people insist upon teaching sex education that covers more than abstinence, that this Christian nation, this one nation under God, this city on a hill, is rapidly going the way of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Similarly, this particular group of 20 or so Humanists seems to believe that Fundamentalist Christians are quickly annihilating anything resembling social or intellectual freedom along with any separation between church and state. That intellectuals and thinkers are on the run, forced to endure the oppressive 50.5%, and if left unchecked we will soon reside in a totalitarian Theocracy.
What’s more, members of both groups speak with the same judgemental disdain for the members of the other. They recount lurid tales of the ignorant/faithless along with hurtful encounters and betrayals which lead into gross generalizations of the opposing group. And both groups think they are working for the good of everyone – if they would only accept that we are right!
And here I stand, a foot in each circle, not really belonging to either.
My beliefs fall nicely in line with the Reformed Church. But the image of Christianity in this nation at this time repulses be. Empty-headed regurgitators living the Contemporary Christian lifestyle (look like the world, act like the world, shop like the world, but know that despite your actions you’re really different) while bouncing between a feel-good church service where you will wear your piety on your sleeve for an hour on Sunday and a Wednesday night praise service that works you through the emotional gamut again and again so that when you leave you will know that you “felt the Spirit.” It’s not profound, but this is not the Christianity of the New Testament.
Meanwhile, I believe. I have faith. And sometimes – sometimes – it moves. It moves so hard the it overcomes the inertia of my apathy and selfishness and arrogance and pride and raw self-centeredness and makes a tiny thump against something that is akin to the quantum forces in an empty beer can lining up and coming together from within to spontaneously bump it onto its side once every few millennia. And yet it happens. And I know this. And it’s real.
I know who God is and I believe who God is. God of the Hebrews and the Israelites, God of the New Testament that became flesh that suffered and died. God that moves in men. That dwells among us. That provides. That gives us the words that we cannot think of in a time of need. God that loves. God that forgives. God that pours out mercy upon the unforgivable. God that is person and personal. God that brings the most analytical stoic to tears.
So I cannot fathom standing with those who have cast their lot with Satre and Neitzche and Martin Gardner. Who are resigned to the notion that this is all there is. Not because I do not respect the process that has brought them to where they are, because I very much do and I quite enjoy their company, but because I cannot relate to where they reside or the ways that it influences them personally. It is an immeasurable task to grapple with the possibility that there really is nothing and that this life really is all there is. But somehow I think I may have emerged from this struggle with the tiniest, sickliest bit of faith. Or maybe my human-ness has grown tremendously in the fight. Or maybe the fight is ongoing.
And so I remain, not sitting on the fence but straddling it, one leg on either side, loath to loose my balance and be forced to tolerate time on either side.