Often I try to process my faith publicly, either through my blog or through facebook or twitter. Sometimes in personal conversations, although my introverted self has a rough time with that. Usually this is a good experience. I receive support and affirmation, “me too”s and “I believe something else but your way is cool too”s, or “have you considered ____”s. I have friends who know more theology than I do, who chip in. I have friends who are atheists who challenge me. There are times when I agree, times when I disagree, times when I change my mind, and times when I store-info-for-processing-at-later-date.
Overall, this is a healthy, fulfilling, often-difficult, always-intellectually-stimulating experience. It’s what I’d always wanted, and rarely found, in church. No one has an agenda to save me from hell. My eternal security isn’t on the line. We can just talk about what we believe and why we believe it and how we struggle with those beliefs and how those beliefs affect the work we do in repairing the world.
Every now and then, though, someone decides that I’m a poor, misguided soul and they’re going to set me straight. At this point I start thinking of Pokemon (because I am pretty sure my default state of thought is Pokemon): A WILD APOLOGIST APPEARS! Doo-dooo-doo-do-doo-do.
It’s funny because I went to a Christian school my entire life. And not just any Christian school, but a Fundamental Baptist Christian school that believed all school subjects (from history to science to literature) had been infiltrated by the “worldly” system, and that one of the main focuses of education must be to teach students to recognize the way the “world” taught those subjects as an attack on our faith.
The world was out to get us, and we’d better arm ourselves.
Not only that, but I was THAT student. I’d like to call myself a Hermione, but back then Harry Potter was the devil, so I’d probably have just called myself a nerd. If we had to learn how to arm ourselves against the wicked outside world, I was going to learn to arm myself BEST.
After Fundy High came Evangelical University, where the ideas of the world being out to destroy us were toned down a bit but still quite existent. I took entire classes (that are worthless now that I’ve transferred but I’m not bitter…) on how to defend my faith (or what my professors assumed was my faith) against the evils of the world.
So, when A WILD APOLOGIST APPEARS and claims I’d be able to believe in ______ or ________ if only I talked to HIM/HER, I often play a game called “guess what the apologist is going to say next!”
I almost always win that game.
You see, the thing with the apologetic system that I grew up with is that it’s not founded on anything solid. It’s not really defending anything but itself. It’s built upon pretenses that–if false–cause the entire system to collapse.
And because it doesn’t have much of a foundation, it becomes more “let’s see if I can back you into a wall with my questions so that you can’t answer anymore in the context that I’ve established” than a search for truth.
It’s like the game Bejeweled (anyone remember that) where the player (or the person answering the questions of the WILD APOLOGIST) must be extremely careful to choose correctly, because a wrong choice can get you stuck and make you lose the game. It’s a puzzle game, rather than a real conversation.
But I have the cheat codes.
I know what THE WILD APOLOGIST is going to say, and it all seems so silly to me. I also know (from experience) that even if I provide a satisfying answer to all of THE WILD APOLOGIST’s loaded questions, he/she will write me off as a “crafty” and “persuasive,” you know, like Satan.
I have the cheat codes, but the game is rigged, and I already know that.
Besides, I’m not interested in playing puzzle games.
I just want a faith that is as logically coherent as possible, yet reflexive enough to admit its shortcomings, gaps, biases, and flaws. I want a faith that is humble enough to admit that it may not be best or right for everyone. One that empowers me during difficult times and inspires me to repair the world around me.
I think I’ve found that faith, or, at least, I’ve started to explore it.
I think I’m happy with where I am. I wish people would stop using the same arguments I’ve been hearing since first grade to try to convince me otherwise.