Faith Column: An evolution in faith
Self-reflection and personal trials can alter beliefs
A few weeks ago, The New York Times Magazine published a marvelous story titled “From bible-belt pastor to atheist leader.”
The name says it all.
Jerry DeWitt, a veteran preacher from Louisiana, abandoned his faith last year, losing his wife, house and community in the process of becoming the executive director of Recovering from Religion.
The story concluded with the former pastor, now a self-described secular humanist, stating that “the problem is, for me, there was a process involved in moving from Pentecostalism to a more liberal theology. What makes me different is that process didn’t stop, and it took me all the way.”
It’s an intriguing, albeit slightly problematic, take on Christianity and one that I can certainly identify with as an extremely skeptical and critical member of the faith.
My church foundation was in the charismatic Pentecostal movement (watch the documentary Jesus Camp for a slightly hyperbolic description of my childhood). I sometimes lump myself in with the “liberal theology” section of his prognosis, often finding comfort and theological satisfaction in liberation theology and Christian feminism.
But on some days, which have become far more frequent over the summer, I’m ready to follow DeWitt’s lead and go “all the way” into unbelief.
So little about faith makes much sense to me anymore. Reading Karen Armstrong’s short “biography” of the Bible last month forced me to dismiss much of the trust I had in the rational and literal worth of the text, although that isn’t to say that I disregard the allegorical and moral meanings contained within it.
Armstrong’s book — combined with frustrating events such as debates with evangelical Christian friends about gay rights, the witnessing of the moronic nature of the Religious Right in the States and a particularly tumultuous and unresolved break-up — has left me in a limbo state, wandering for some semblance of truth(s).
This makes me a slightly strange candidate for the “faith column.” Sure, I authored it for The Reflector last year, but that was at a time in my life when I still attended church every few weeks and when prayer was more than a once-a-month activity.
Nothing about my spirituality is certain anymore. There are a frighteningly few grains of faith left in the hourglass of my belief system, and I’m not sure what I’ll be writing about in this column six months from now when the sand presumably runs out.
Hopefully, whatever God does exist will have the grace to turn it upside-down, once again, and get this doubt-filled journey re-started.
Peter Rollins, an Irish theologian and philosopher, is one of the few religious voices I still pay attention to; his overarching thesis is the importance of doubt in faith, and the need for the religious community to be a space for the “darkness to be” — one where questions are encouraged rather than condemned and where the most divine action is the losing of one’s faith just as Christ reportedly lost his faith on the cross.
Considering I don’t attend church anymore, this column will serve that role in my life. Hopefully, you can gain something from my journey, and we can engage in the confusion of whatever faith you do or don’t subscribe to together.