Thursday

Dear John Shore

Dear John,

I grew up in a evangelical church that did not condone questions. Questioning was of the devil, and we were to simply believe what we were taught.

I bought this hook line and sinker until, at sixteen, I had an epiphany.

While sitting in a service where my cousin was made to stand in front of the congregation and apologize for embarrassing them for getting pregnant out of wedlock, it struck me: How could this be the wishes of a loving God? If this is truly what God wanted, then God could only be petty and unkind.

Sitting there, I realized all the cruel and judgmental things I had been taught to say to my LGBT brothers and sisters, Catholics and basically anyone who wasn’t just like us. That was the moment I lost my faith. And that was the moment I walked away from Christianity entirely. From that time forward I prided myself on being a student of reason, logic and rationality.

Now, fifteen years later, I am a social worker pursuing my Master’s degree, a wife and mother of an eight-month-old. And yet, I find myself missing God, missing a church community, and missing having faith in something. How do I intertwine the two? How do I trust the Bible as the word of God, and as the only image I have of Jesus, when I know it was written hundreds of years after Jesus’ life by some dead dudes—and then some other men got together and decided what got to be included in the Bible.

How do I have faith in something when faith itself is truly irrational?

Also, I cringe when I hear the word Christian. Fear, judgement, bigotry. These are the words that have come to be associated with Christianity, and I know the truthful pain in those things. I don’t ever want to go back to that.

So, I don’t know why I’m writing this letter. For some guidance, perhaps? Some words of reason from someone who also has no time for a God only interested in punishment? Perhaps some hope that for once my questions will not go unheard?

Where do I go from here? Thanks for listening.




THIS IS JOHN'S RESPONSE:


First, faith is not at all irrational. If faith is irrational hope is irrational. Hope is faith; it’s the belief that things can get better. Without faith there is no hope.

The truth is that your life is already informed by faith. If it wasn’t, you’d have already committed suicide. (Which is why “It Gets Better” is exactly the message emotionally desperate young people need to hear.)

Your concern isn’t really that faith is irrational. Your concern is that your faith in God is irrational. Which is to say that you fear that God does not exist.

Yet you miss God. Which means for you God does exist.

Houston, you have a problem. But one that’s easily fixed.

Here’s the thing: there’s nothing in the slightest irrational about believing that God exists. In my experience atheists are generally keen on passionately arguing this point, but the fact remains that it makes no more sense to posit that there is not a God than it does to posit that there is. You can believe in God and still be a rational person. Millions of people do it every day. I do. Copernicus did. Isaac Newton did. Galileo did. Rene Descartes did. That list is endless. Belief in God informs and sustains the vast majority of people, most of whom are perfectly rational. It’s always been that way, and always will be.

Your beef isn’t with God. Your beef is with people. People have trashed your relationship to God. You were raised in a terrible church led by a terrible pastor. But that church and pastor were no more representative of God than the Mafia is representative of justice. Beneath their respective veneers of honorableness, both are thug-based organizations whose true purpose is to instill and exploit the most elemental kinds of human fears. Both organizations are sustained by effective victimization and bullying.

But so what? Bad people are everywhere amongst us. There are always going to be bad pastors, bad preachers, bad teachers, cops, nurses, accountants, doctors, farmers, tinkers, tailors, spies. The world is, and always has been, lousy with bad, mean, stupid people. You were raised in church where too many such people had way too much power. But those people aren’t you. They got it wrong. They’re twisted it all up. They were mean-spirited. They were ignorant and lazy. They urinated all over the truth and dared to call it communal bread. But you didn’t do any of that that—and when you were old enough to think for yourself had the brains to stop falling for it.

Today you have a life. You have a career, aspirations, a husband and child. And like most parents you desire for your child to grow up amidst noble ideas and ideals, inspired by admirable role models, believing in the enduring value of altruism and charity, being part of a community that is decent, supportive, productive.

Nothing wrong with that, to say the least. And a good church, run on good principals and headed by good people, brings that to the members of its family. Anyone who says differently has never been part of the life of a good church.

“Questioning is of the devil.” Holy cow, man. What else do you need to know about how severely dysfunctional was the church in which you were raised? You teach a kid that it’s evil to question, and you might as well sign that kid up for a full frontal lobotomy. His brain will never be any good to him anyway.

You just need to find a good church, is all. That’s it. That’s your whole challenge. Find a church you like; start going; at some point start bringing your child. Boom. You’re good.

Don’t deny yourself the comfort and knowledge of God just because your parents chose to raise you in a bad church. I say let God back into your heart, and start again. Try it, if nothing else. See how it works for you. Why not?

Dare to be irrational! With God.And yes, the New Testament was written and compiled after Christ died. The whole Bible is exceptionally dense, intensely complex, and informed by all sorts of stuff that is profoundly difficult if not outright impossible to grasp. But life is exceptionally dense, intensely complex, and informed by all sorts of stuff that is profoundly difficult if not outright impossible to grasp. So they go together really well.

(John Shore)


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