I haven’t given up on this series, “Relearning Christian Faith,” but the next step is difficult because I must navigate between two dangers while trying not to post something that discourages reading it. And the approaching holidays are taking time from writing.
What I’ll try to do is blaze a trail between the philosophical notions that have pushed God away from us by presenting God as absolutely all-everything and so perfect as to be above caring what we do (except, maybe, to condemn us) and the sentimental notions that have caricatured God as our good buddy in the sky or our slightly senile grandpa who smiles at everything and anything we do because we’re just so darn lovable.
On one side lies dense philosophical language that turns most people away (but still asserts more influence over Christian beliefs than we may realize). On the other lie the pretty flowers of Christian-ish slogans and sweet sentiments that offer superficial comfort without confronting the realities of our human sufferings, cruelties, injustices, prejudices, and anxieties. The problems superficial comfort fails to confront and address are not limited to guilt about (1) things I have done but should not have and (2) things I should have done but did not do. Shame (which makes me feel awful about myself, about who I am) and the anxiety about meaning and purpose must also be confronted with hope, but a hope that does not simply dismiss them or gloss over them with easy answers. Does anything really matter? Do my life or human life as a whole have any purpose and meaning? These anxieties need good news that is real and present to flesh and blood; they do not allow simple fixes however pious, and they cannot be answered sufficiently by slogans or encouraging memes.
I’m working on it.