(Tulips, Wind & Sun Oil on canvas 24 x 24 by Frank Schaeffer)
In 1990 I joined the Greek Orthodox Church because, in the words of Umberto Eco, I aspired “to the construction of narratives capable of providing [me] with an explanation and a model, an exemplary image.” At first I missed the point of my escape from my evangelical past almost altogether. I argued the finer points of theology and church history with my long-suffering evangelical mother and sisters. (Dad was spared. He’d died in 1984.) I argued as if any church I happened to join was ipso-facto the gatekeeper to heaven.
I argued in a way that implied that a human can find THE TRUTH and judge others by it. I argued in a way that denied the reality that human our brains process what we hear and see and touch and therefore all “information” is just another story more than a fact.
In our human desperation for meaning we see things very clearly. They just happen to never quite be as true as they’re cracked up to be.
Speaking of which I wrote a book (Dancing Alone) about all that is theologically and historically wrong with the Protestant Reformed tradition I’d fled. I laced my rant with the zealous spirit of proselytizing certainty typical of the fundamentalist “born-again” religion I thought I’d escaped. Ironically I did this while defending an Orthodox tradition that, at its heart, is about ineffable mystery and freedom.
It gradually sank in that if I was honest I’d admit that I didn’t join the Greek Orthodox Church for theological reason, but because it wasn’t my childhood faith and I needed a change. It gradually sank in that when it came to where I went to church “Hide not, but judge not” would be my motto. It gradually sank in that life’s a journey.
I’m still on that journey. I changed my mind once and may again. It gradually sank in that (as I have a character say in my book And God Said, “Billy!“) “there is only one defense against the rising worldwide fear-filled fundamentalist tide engulfing all religions: The embrace of paradox and uncertainty as the virtuoso expression of Christ-like humility.”
It gradually sank in that my ego must be curtailed by what I do not know, which is far more than I do know.
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Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy!“ exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback. It spent 8 weeks as Amazon’s #1 best seller for Political Humor.