Sunday, August 29, 2010

Well, What Do Ya Know, I'm Mad!

Today, I attended a monthly book club meeting at my church where we discuss books that address faith and science issues. We reviewed the book Darwin on Trial. At one point, I shared that as a child I was taught to accept the Youth Earth Creationist(YEC) viewpoint. However, as I studied and came to see all the evidence supporting an old earth, I felt misled, whether the misleading was intentional or not. I expressed the distrust it has caused me to feel about any conclusions drawn from the YEC perspective. I was surprised at how emotional I felt as I shared this about myself. I was angry.

I have thought of my faith crisis as a primarily intellectual struggle. However, I am beginning to connect more with an undercurrent of unhappiness about several aspects of my faith. I don't like being made a fool of by being taught the earth is 6000 years old. I don't like feeling like I'm not allowed to examine scientific evidence regarding evolution (pardon my vagueness, Jeff!) without a preconceived conclusion in mind. I don't like having to justify infanticide or genocide. I don't like having to harmonize contradictory accounts of Jesus' life.

So, there it is. As much as my Christian faith has been a source of support to me, it is also the source of some resentment. It became apparent that in many ways, my YEC upbringing is now becoming a hindrance and stumbling block in my Christian faith. One outcome I'd like to avoid is rejecting all of Christianity when my problem is really just the narrow type of Christianity I've been practicing. I want to be objective enough to discard what is old, worn out, and useless, without giving up anything of value. However, there are times when my irritation at it all tempts me to just throw it all out. I tend to pride myself on being even-tempered, mature, and reserved, so this admission isn't easy for me. I rather feel like I'm throwing an online fit. But, I feel the need to be honest with myself and others as I continue in this faith journey. The facade of an unchanged and unshakable faith is starting to crack.

7 comments:

  1. "I don't like feeling like I'm not allowed to examine scientific evidence regarding evolution...without a preconceived conclusion in mind."

    I felt the same way when confronted by YEC material. But it really became difficult for me when I started asking questions related to biblical higher criticism. I felt censured for asking the questions, and was firmly rebuked for reading the books I was reading. It is only a couple of years later when I am starting to try to deal the resentment and bitterness that arose. Honestly, it seems so justified to me, but justified or not, it can be a hindrance. I think it was needed at one time, I needed to carve out my own space to investigate things in the way I had to. The leftover resentment may be a problem though.

    "However, there are times when my irritation at it all tempts me to just throw it all out."

    Kind of like a friendship? We need to let go of the irritation, resentment, etc., in order to hold fast to what is good? I am sure that is the case with Christianity. Regardless of how much one holds onto while making the shift from the narrow, conservative version, letting go of the irritation is probably important to allow us to see clearly and make objective choices. Though that seems almost impossible to me. And at the same time, you have to be able to do that without discounting the intellectual questions, right?

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  2. Interesting post. I'm coming from Catholicism so I related to having wondered, "What if some form of Christianity is true even if my version X isn't?" I'm trying to look at it as a whole without much care for particular variants, though I do wonder specifically about Catholicism probably as you are preferentially biased toward your position of origination.

    I don't know how in the world YEC can be true, though...

    I can relate to the anger thing. I was at a retreat and we were praying over one another and someone else had doubts and was asked, "Are you mad at god?" He answered no. When it came time for me, I said that my answer would have been an emphatic "Yes." Why? Because I think it's ridiculous that I'm groping in the f***ing dark looking for answers everywhere and don't have them while he who formed the earth from nothing, knew me before I was formed, who knows the hairs on my head, who is the author of all knowledge and wisdom, and who wants every single person in the universe to have a relationship with him and get to heaven... won't give me whatever it is that I need to have this settled.

    No matter how you look at it, we all have a "threshold of belief" at location X between utter faith and knowing everything in the entire universe. I'm more and more speculative that we don't have anything to do with where X is and wouldn't be able to define it anyway. Given that, we don't know what we even need to belief.

    Given that:
    (1) god knows what you need to satisfy X
    (2) believers have had X satisfied
    (3) everything that happens is orchestrated by god

    I'd say that one could see that believers have had their free will at least slightly infringed upon. I've left necessary premises, but the point is that believers had X satisfied and god did it. I don't see why he can't/won't just because my X is higher than pretty much everyone I know. I am who I am and can't change that in the snap of a finger.

    For anyone who thinks I can (Christians, that is), I politely request that they believe whole heartedly in Islam for the next day (or even the next minute or hour).

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  3. Hendy,
    It's an exhausting proposition to investigate every possible variant of Christianity, so I'm not proposing that. But... I do think it makes sense that where problems with my faith have to do with specific doctrines, I look to see if they can be resolved by way of other Christian perspectives. I have to admit that until now, I gave Catholicism about as much of a change as Hinduism.

    I like where you wrote:

    "For anyone who thinks I can (Christians, that is), I politely request that they believe whole heartedly in Islam for the next day (or even the next minute or hour)."

    Good point!

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  4. @DoOrDoNot:

    I agree regarding how to proceed re. variants. It probably makes the most sense to handle the basics. Figuring out what counts as "basic" can get quite troublesome, though!

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  5. No, no, no!

    Don’t get caught in the variants. “Is this true? Is that true?” This will end in a labyrinth of madness.

    Find your method first. Take a simple, non-theistic issue. How do you find your keys when they are missing? How do you determine who is lying when two children claim the other broke the lamp?

    What is it that you do to find the truth as best you can? Understanding, of course, that you may have to eventually change your position upon finding new information.

    First get the method. Don’t worry what you are inspecting—get the method.

    Once you have that firmly in place, THEN start looking at theistic claims, using this method. Stay true to the method. If it results in something that appears absolutely wacky at first, stay true. You will start to find that your method is more solid than beliefs you once found sacrosanct.

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  6. DagoodS,
    You might need to clarify here, because I don't quite see that what you and I are proposing are mutually exlusive. I do have a method I use and I suppose the point in my original post is that I want to use it consistenty and not be derailed by my emotions.

    Now, maybe you were reacting primarily to my comment to Hendy, perhaps when I said "I do think it makes sense that where problems with my faith have to do with specific doctrines, I look to see if they can be resolved by way of other Christian perspectives."

    I agree that I don't want to enter a "labyrinth of madness." I just don't want my particular brand of Christianity to stand in for Christianity as a whole. That wouldn't be a fair evaluation. So, instead of letting specific church of Christ doctrines derail me (such as hell or women's role), I think I should evaluate the primary claim of Christianity that Jesus died and rose again. If I believe in the evidence for that, I can then go on to other doctrines, with acceptance of some type of Christianity. If I don't believe in the evidence of the resurrection, then there's no reason to get caught up in evaluating other doctrines.

    How does this differ from what you did?

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  7. DoOrDoNot,

    Never fear. I was really spring-boarding off “the variants.” I agree we are on the same page.

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