Faith hasn’t always come easily to me. I’ve always been intellectually curious, things had to make sense for me. I’m trained as a scientist because I’ve always been about searching for answers. For truth. But it’s also why I don’t hold to a “everything can be explained in nature” sort of worldview. Facts only take you so far. You can assent to a set of facts, but you can’t disprove my faith with facts. You can’t argue someone into faith with facts. Plus, facts equal certainty and certainty is the opposite of faith. It’s the frustrating thing about faith: it’s an intuitive leap that isn’t always logical. I do, however, believe one can think critically and logically about one’s faith.
For the record, I didn’t grow up in a faith-filled home. My father and his father before him were about as God neutral, even anti-God as you can get. My father, in one particularly chilling conversation, once told me that he understood fully the choice he made living his life the way he wanted. He recognized the consequences and if that meant an eternity of hell, then so be it, but he at least got to live his life his way.
My mother talked about God on occasion, but I had no sense of her having a spiritual life until the last ten years or so. I grew up in the church, however, and our family has a history of spiritualism, such as the obeah people, the practitioners of the Jamaican form of voodoo. My first major sale, “Family Business” to Weird Tales, was about wrestling with that branch of the family. [But I've detailed this part of my journey before.]
Faith is what you choose to believe in. You have to have some system of belief, something to hold onto, or else you end up just flailing about through life. Just like it’s easy to have faith when everything is going well, when life chugging along pretty much as expected, going along the way you want. But what happens when things go off the tracks?
Any followers of my blog know that I have failed: as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a friend, as a leader. And in light of the mess I’ve made of my life, it’s left me asking a lot of questions about what I believe. I’ve wondered if there’s any truth to the Christian story? Why does it feel like I’m not close to the person I should be by now? I’m left wondering what’s real about it and with doubting eyes, I have to re-examine what I hold to be true.
So here’s what I know, or rather, what I believe to be true. I firmly believe that this life has meaning and is heading towards something. If this is all there is, I feel sorry for us, because then we truly aren’t any different than any other animal.
We’re hard-wired with certain longings, certain base ideas. Like the idea of justice. We have a passion for justice. We have a sense pretty early on of what’s fair and what’s not, like a dream written onto our hearts. We know there’s something like justice, but we can’t seem to get there.
I also firmly believe that the human heart longs for fellowship, love, and communion. We’re wired for relationships. We want the comfort of an embrace, we want to be known and loved. It’s as if we were designed to find our purpose and meaning in community: family, friends, co-workers, or nation. Yet there is a pain and brokenness to our relationships. What should be so natural is often difficult to navigate.
And the world is full of beauty. Now, I’ll admit, where some people see mountain vistas, lakeside view, a sunset, all I see is why God created tv and air conditioning. There is truth and goodness in beauty, one that we recognize without having to be told. Beauty calls us out of ourselves, is outside us, and appeals to something within us. Beauty touches a primal chord within us, captivates us, and spurs us to adoration, even worship. Beauty is in our art. We know it in music, we interpret it in dance. The idea of beauty points to something greater. It’s a longing we want to express as we try to capture an ineffable quality, an indefinable … truth.
And we have a quest for spirituality. One of the reasons I started Mo*Con was because I believe most of us are on a spiritual quest, a search for truth, and we don’t have enough folks to ask our questions to. We may embrace the western mindset that right-thinking people give up their silly superstitions, and see religion as little more than a runaway imagination, misguided feelings, mixed with wishful thinking, foolish and unsophisticated. A cultural neuroses. Yet we can agree that we all want more for ourselves and our lives. We want meaning, for all this, our struggles, our pain, to have been for something. To me, that very human experience and longing points to an exploration of a spiritual dimension to this life.
So we have this nebulous idea of the need for faith which becomes shaped by personal experience and intuition. I’m a scientist and a theologian (in the way that all spiritual seekers are theologians). So how do I make sense of it all? I’m also a writer.
I love story. I was the kid in class who instead of having a comic book in my text books, I had Bullfinch’s mythology hidden in them. Okay, comic books too. I love all stories. I believe we’re caught up in a story, Wrath and I at different points in it. We connect to a story. We choose the stories that ring true to us, each choice is a leap of faith. The story of evolution doesn’t move me, doesn’t give me purpose and sense of being. It doesn’t take me outside of myself and connect me to others. So the story of evolution couldn’t be the complete story for me.
The Christian story claims to be the true story about God. It’s the story with the recurring themes of going away and coming back home again, of slavery and exodus, of exile and restoration, of death and resurrection. Yet, as Wrath has pointed out, The Church and its people have never gotten it all right, sometimes doing as much harm as good. It’s easy to take any story and do bad things with it.