Thursday, September 06, 2007

A rationale for faith

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. -- 1 Corinthians 13

For the better part of my life, I have wrestled with the concept of God. The product of a union between a part-time Catholic and a part-time agnostic, I was not indoctrinated into any particular faith. However, as a child, I did ponder God, and professed to believe in Him.

As I came into physical (as opposed to emotional) manhood, and the flower of my youth, when the world seemed to be at my feet, I came to believe that God was unnecessary to me. I read all the classics of literature (including the Bible) to enhance my understanding of the world; I maintained my health with vigorous exercise; I was a stranger to defeat. I drew strength from my ability to live what I considered a moral and informed life without relying on what I believed to be a crutch for weaker men.

But then, of course, life dealt me a lesson or two: divorce (the dissolution of my first marriage), death (my grandparents, my father, my aunt), and the suffocating triumph of ignorance and fear (the Iraq war and the beguilement of the American people by the Bush administration). Gradually, I came to realize that there were many things in this world that were greater and more powerful than was I.
When my father passed, in 2001, his wish was that I would be baptized in the Catholic church. In accordance, I contacted the local Catholic parish and undertook to study their faith with an eye toward conversion. To my surprise, the lessons I derived from this experience did not conflict with my secular humanist views. Rather than interpreting the Bible literally, I was encouraged to view the stories as metaphors....metaphors from which we interpret meaning in our lives today. Whether or not there was actually a Great Flood that drowned everyone except for Noah and his family is unimportant. The importance of the story (myth?) is the meaning that we derive from it.

Of course, many Bible-thumping Evangelicals will shriek "Heresy!" at such a notion. The idea that the Bible is subject to interpretation is a frightening prospect for those that feel they must have concrete, moral absolutes to guide them through the perils of the modern world. But, for me, it is an acknowledgement of what has become obvious: I am just a man; just a tiny part of the Great Creation.

There has been no sudden epiphany (at least, so far). Only a gradual realization that God is something so vast and beyond comprehension that no one faith (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, et alia) can define Him, can claim to know Him. And how can one deny something that is beyond definition?

One might scoff at my father's end-of-life return to the church. A larger-than-life figure, who scorned weakness and stupidity, he had rediscovered the church at perhaps his weakest moment: after being diagnosed with Lupus. In short, his conversion came as he faced his own mortality. But when in one's life is one likely to confront the truth of one's existence? As Leonard Cohen so beautifully wrote:

And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
He said, "All men are sailors, then, until the sea shall free them;"


Anonymous said...

I like. This was a great way to show people how you've grown...

Anonymous said...

Dade, I have not read this post until now, 2 years later. I am impressed, I can't put into words what I want to express how I feel about your continuing growth through life, so I'll just say that your little brother Calee put it exactly how I would if I were that able to.
Excellent post.

Anonymous said...

what I love most about you now Dade is that you are so courageous to share all this with everyone. beautiful, j

Roger Buck said...

I echo the above and repeat myself - despite our widely divergent views, I am moved by your writing.

I think what radiates in your writing is such evident sincerity.

And sincerity is a key that something is going very, very right.

It is impossible to be sincere without there being a deep seated rightness - somewhere.

As so often, the anonymous author of Meditations on the Tarot said it best, in my view:

"This is exactly to do with the Holy Grail or the mystical Eucharist. For it is there, and only there, that the power of sacred magic resides.

This power is
in the last analysis, that of twofold sincerity — divine and human — united in the human word or action.

Because not one word or action is truly sincere when it
is only cerebral, and when it is only cerebral then it is not a flow of vital blood.

The more sincerity there is in the human word or action, the more there is the
vital essence of blood.

When it happens —and the Angels fall down in adoration
when this occurs — that the human wish is in accord with the divine, the Holy
Blood is then united to the vital essence of the human blood and the Mystery
of the God-Man is repeated, and also the miraculous power of the God-Man is
reiterated. Here is the power of sacred magic —or its sceptre."