Dear Church of the Holy Abstraction:
As you no doubt have seen, I’ve been talking to atheists–a word you taught me to pronounce in a somber, low tone. I spent a lot of time on what I wanted to say, and dare I admit I prayed fairly earnestly that it would be something connective and rejuvenating.
And that’s what it was on the day I submitted it. But then N read it, and though she liked it immensely said, “Let’s hope our parents never read this.” Later that night, over the phone, P hashed it out with me and pointed out that a few areas were perhaps not as airtight and researched as I had previously thought.
Enter: those pangs of old, that as I’ve detailed already, tend to focus on digging into my ribcage.
I didn’t sleep well that night, to say the least, and I felt as if I had betrayed something/Something in a big way. I said things–perhaps for the first time in bald language–that spelled out beliefs and opinions that have been in hazy embryo for the last few years (and really, my whole life). Saying them, then, did not only bring the joy of the declarative, but the needle-stab of thinking I was dead wrong about everything.
Am I just a dissenting voice because I’ve never publicly stood against anything related to the context I grew up under?
It’s been my mantra over the last few years to not make big declarations that could, depending on the unpredictability of every day, totally change my mind. To make it sound less post-modernish (since that can make your vestments chafe), call it a continual openness to revelation/Revelation. But, perhaps it is because of my intense fear of being misunderstood.
Ok: by that I mean my intense fear of not being liked by every person I meet. But, I also don’t want to be guilty of the Laodicean Infirmity–becoming tepid God-spit.
Those feelings of guilt, however, seem to be knee-jerk reactions–learned behavior from attending one of your schools K-College. You tend to praise and teach books about famous faith-ers who stepped outside the dominant structure–St. Francis, the Desert Fathers, and, duh, Jesus–but you also train newbies to break their backs on your locked doors.
I am a whirlpool in utero, gathering ideas and flinging out the weightless flotsam. I have things to say, but not because I want to be heard, but because I need to hear myself after years of believing I’m constantly wrong. Forgive me if I think that this kind of bold-speak is a natural and necessary step in life, and why I feel connected when David Bazan sings “All leaves must curse their branches,” and Sufjan Stevens sings “And the people bowed and prayed / but what difference does it make for you and me,” and one of your pastors lauding the darkness* in Isaiah 50:11, and a secular humanist** citing the name of Jesus in the kind of language you use every week.
Everything could and will change tomorrow. I remain open and hopeful for this. I just don’t want to lose my voice in the process.
*sermon is 40mins, but worth it if you’re stuck in an airport or any other kind of purgatory
**you’ll hopefully be hearing from him directly in a few weeks