This blog was born out of my religious practice in the institutional church. It was either give expression to my experience or go crazy. I was actually half-way there when I realized that I would only meet the church at the end of the road. So here I am.
As Kierkegaard said “the relief provided by speaking is that it translates me into the universal.” I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. God already knows this setup does not make sense to the human mind. We only oppress ourselves with the delusion that faith is not only rational, but is always a pleasure. Glorify God with a hallelujah anyhow!
I was raised in the church. Actually, I was sent there every Sunday by parents who needed some alone time. Trust me, my siblings and I attended Sunday school 52 weeks out of the year. Hey, it beat paying a sitter. Other parents eventually caught on. In no time, all of the neighborhood children began to find their way to church at nine every Sunday morning. It was not a bad hustle while it lasted.
As the weeks went by, I realized that we did not fit in. The children who were not of our set behaved differently. They came in, sang hymns robotically, and sat unnervingly blank as the teachers read recycled lessons from little booklets with pictures of white people they said were from places where the native inhabitants were of color. They were like little Stepford children whose parents were less concerned about their soul salvation than social control. “Teach them to be well-behaved, drug-free, and sexually abstinent however you can” was their mantra. “If they get too deep into Jesus my cover might be blown.” We didn’t have that kind of pressure on us. Our parents were content to have the house to themselves for a couple of hours a week.
Much to our Sunday school teachers’ chagrin, we brought the fun. The lessons began with biblical passages followed by the stale narratives that did not connect with our reality and what we should glean from them. We were the first generation of the post-Civil Rights era growing up in Chocolate City no less. Social justice, not social climbing is at the core of the gospel. “Prepare us for the revolution!” we begged. Little did we know, we not supposed to engage them; we were supposed to swallow the lessons whole. “Forget about loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind” they insinuated. “Drink the Kool-Aid.”
Well, being from the ‘hood breeds a healthy sense of skepticism. “I hear you talking, but is that really in the Bible?” “Is that what God is really saying here?” “Do you adhere to these teachings yourself or are they just for the masses?” They weren’t ready for us.
Well several churches, a seminary degree, and thousands of dollars worth of therapy have led me to more insightful, erudite, and expensive versions of these questions. This project began as I approached total insanity trying to align what I experienced in the church with the messages of scripture and God’s revelation to me personally. I stopped as I saw the church well ahead of me. Then I embraced the cross and the burden of an institution to mitigate my faith rolled away.
Remaining in the faith does require a degree of insanity for basing the pattern of one’s entire life on a man rising from the grave 2000 years ago. There’s no way around that. However, God doesn’t want believers to abandon all reason. God commands us to be as shrewd as serpents, but innocent as doves. Resurrection faith opens a whole new realm of thought that makes the impossible possible. Only the foolishness of the cross empowers the mind; man-made foolery—the likes of which never cease to amaze—insults the intelligence and ultimately leads to destruction.
One of the greatest miracles in my life is that I still believe. On top of that, I have committed my life to the professional service of the gospel. Why bother after witnessing all manner of malfeasance, insincerity, and corruption in the church? What kind of God would allow tragedy to favor befall the just and unjust in seemingly random patterns? I’ve lived my life the way God led; where are my earthly spoils? After those things let me down, He restored me.
It’s a good thing that my hope is not built in any person or earthly thing. It would fail every time. However, I am crazy enough to believe there is so much more to God than any single human, object, or concept can capture. When those things fail, He meets me. Faith is a huge risk because there is always a chance that one is wrong. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. He came that we might have life and life abundantly. The reward is not all material; it is a better quality of life that defies explanation. Put a little madness in your life, but take it with a grain of salt.