I’ve had an insight this morning. I’ve found myself vaguely uncomfortable with how I’ve positioned this project so far. It comes down to audience. Who am I pitching to? So far I’ve been aiming at Christians whose critical awareness has begun to make them concerned about what their honesty means for their faith. And that’s good. I want to be with these people. I have something to say.
But this morning I’ve realized that there is another audience I’m trying to speak to. These are people for whom Christianity has ceased to “work” or never really has “worked” to begin with. It’s not about doubt, per se, but depth, intensity, and vitality.
I have often said that Paul Tillich’s famous quote about his perceived mission could just as well be my own. He says:
Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful.
I think that’s still pretty close. But the term “doubt” is probably too narrow for what I have in mind. And faith also needs to be understood rightly. I’m not talking about “believing things you can’t prove” here. Faith in the truest sense is connected with ideas of ecstasy, transcendence, and unconditioned passion.
For this second audience, then, doubt is not so much the issue, but a kind of existential dissatisfaction. Life has begun to feel superficial and characterized by a feeling of “There’s got to be something more…” In a world where fearful self-preserving interests seem to rule all human activities, on what does one set one’s heart? What is worth living for? Worth dying for?
Now, this is a tricky place for me. The moment I am outed as a “Christian theologian” I am flagged as but another representative of another self-preserving interest group. So let me say this as clearly as I can:
I don’t care if you are a Christian. I have no desire to convert you to anything. In my book, the only Christianity that is worth paying attention to is the kind that gives itself away without limit. The moment Christianity begins pointing to itself without the willingness to lose itself, it has ceased to be a bearer of the depth of life. This is paradoxical Christianity. This is nothing new, but my god has it ever been missed by the vast majority of what passes by the name.
The moment Christianity begins pointing to itself without the willingness to lose itself, it has ceased to be a bearer of the depth of life.
Perhaps this is impossible in our time. The profanity of Christianity is widespread and obvious. Any yet…
I’m convinced that for those who long for truth, even at their own expense; who yearn for intimacy, but fear their own adequacy; who hunger for justice, but feel powerless and helpless; who simply wish they could wake up in the morning and receive the warm morning sun as a gift, rather than “just another day,” or worse yet, an affliction to be endured…
I’m convinced that the deep wisdom of the tradition that I’ve been fortunate to study has something for you, regardless (and perhaps in spite of!) your stated affiliations.
Is there an audience to whom this speaks? I feel I need to take that risk, for I don’t feel content moving only among the Christians. If you’re here and if what I’m starting to describe on this site resonates, I’d love to hear what you’re struggling with, either in the comments or by just sending me an email. I’m still in the early phases of aligning my own interests and skills with the struggles of an actual group of people. Anything you chose to share would be a valuable insight.
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