Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Me and Religion: A Post in Two Parts

So a bit of background first: I wrote the first part of this post back around September or October, several weeks into my most recent semester at the seminary. I set it aside, fully intending to finish it, but never got around to it. Honestly, I think I've been avoiding it. I've opened it up a few times over the last couple of months and thought to myself, "you know, Holmes, you really ought to finish that." And then I'd close it. I wrote it during a time when I was pretty depressed, which is perhaps another post all on its own. But now the semester is over, and I think it's time to revisit it, if for no other purpose than as an exercise in self-exploration. Having said that, this might be kind of long, sooo, yeah, do as you will. I'll indicate where the old text ends and the new text begins.

So I don't really know if this is "ha ha" funny or "oh hey what a surprise" funny or "I think I'll go be a super villain now" funny. But in whatever sense, it's funny. To me anyway. So to recap, I'm in my third semester at seminary, the goal of which is to move into the counseling field. I chose the seminary for several really good reasons:
  1. I fully believe that the spiritual side of the self is of great importance to many people's mental health and well-being, and so I wanted to be able to at least talk about it when and if it ever comes up. Not that everyone in the world is Christian, but rather that Christianity is one vehicle, a language, a symbology, through which to try and make sense of the divine. And it's a vehicle whose language I am somewhat familiar with. So it's a place to start.
  2. The decision to move into this field had a lot to do with something of a spiritual renewal of my own, though it was one that was fraught with questions. Thus, I wanted to put myself in an environment where I could grapple with these questions. I wasn't looking to be spoonfed easy answers - I just wanted a place where I could struggle with the questions, hopefully with other strugglers.
  3. It's cheaper than UT or St. Ed's.
But now, here I am in my third semester at this place, and while I can definitely say I've learned a great deal about the theory and practice of the field that I intend to go into, I also find myself realizing that any and all concepts of an interventionist God that cares one iota about the human condition simply doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me anymore. I've held off on writing about this because I've been trying to identify a narrative to plot how I got from wherever I was to where ever I am. But I can't quite see it. It's like a book with a bunch of the pages ripped out.

So that was sort of unexpected.

I have made one decision though: I'm not going to run from this.

And with that, I stopped writing and the post sat idle. What follows picks up where it left off.

The questions are big, and not easily answered, perhaps not even answerable at all. Which then begs the question, do they even matter? Which, of course, is just yet another goddamn question. But I don't feel as if just walking off in disgust is quite the way for me to go. It's not as if the questions will just go away. I don't think humans are wired that way. And to stick with the metaphor, I have to wonder if much of the discomfort and unease that I feel is a result of the process of tearing out some of my old faulty wiring and looking for new ways to hook things up, a process that's been going on for a number of years now, and will probably continue for years to come, perhaps even until the day I die. Maybe that's life. Maybe that's the journey. Maybe it never makes sense, and we simply make peace with the fact that we just don't know, and that any one of us is just as likely to be as full of shit as the next person. To me, this inspires a sense of humility. Why doesn't it do that for everybody? Argh, more questions!

Maybe my problem is my perspective. I see a question, I feel the need to find its answer. If the answer is not forthcoming, then harumph and argh and well fuckall, etc. Sometimes, that is. Other times, I'm perfectly laid back enough to accept whatever. It could be, however, that the shift I'm making is larger and in a different direction than I expected. I definitely didn't plan to somehow become "more Christian." In a lot of ways, I haven't really felt Christian for quite a while, and that's only become more solidified over the past few months. But I've never before seriously considered that maybe, just maybe, This Is All There Is. But now I am. I'm not making that as a declaration. In fact, I'm running pretty short on anything much that I can declare. Instead, it's a new question, another one to toss in the old thought grinder for some mulling over for the next few...however long. Just another thing I just don't know.

In talking to a friend of mine about all this, she suggested an exercise to try to get at the heart of it, and it goes something like this: Ignoring external influences as much as possible, including other people's opinions, political leanings, religious background, etc, write down the things that you truly, deep down in your core, believe to be true. It'll probably only be a few things. Maybe even just one. You don't have to prove it, just state it. So here's mine, in no particular order:
  1. Everyone who has ever lived and ever will live is capable of great good, unthinkable evil, and everything in between.
  2. We are not the sole architects of our lives. We are born into situations with people and certain inheritances, and given certain advantages and disadvantages. Still, we encounter choices that are ours and ours alone to make.
  3. Our lives and our decisions affect other people. Ignoring this fact causes harm.
  4. The human race has discovered so much in its time, yet there is still so much we do not know and cannot presently explain. This fact should humble us each enough to treat others with respect.
So that's all for now. I imagine this list will evolve over the years. Perhaps it will grow. Maybe I'll find better ways to state things. Maybe some things will be shrugged off entirely.

And with that, I'm off to live life some more.


Whit said...

I like both parts. This post hits home for me. I'm not even remotely religious, but that doesn't mean I don't ponder the big questions that it creates.

The fact that so many people walk this world without respecting others just baffles me.

Let me know when you find the answer.

Bubblewench said...

I've often wondered how your seminary was going. I see now that it's doing its job. Keep questioning.

I really truly think your core beliefs are strong and on the mark.

Good luck.

Julie said...

Very interesting that you're grappling with all this. Me too, although I'm not in the seminary or anything. In the last 6-9 months, I've just gone from believing strongly in God and going to church every Sunday to questioning whether it's all a bunch of hoakum. I have a hard time admitting to myself that I'm pretty securely in the hoakum camp these days.
Let me know when you figure it all out, I'd love to borrow your Cliff Notes;)