On a recent Speaking of Faith podcast on religion and politics on the Right, Krista Tippett interviewed Rod Dreher, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News and the author of Crunchy Cons, a BeliefNet.org blog. http://blog.beliefnet.com/crunchycon/ Not only would I recommend listening to this interview but also the one she did with Time magazine national correspondent Amy Sullivan on “the Democratic Party’s complex relationship with faith.” One of the first quotes in the interview caught my attention. According to Mr. Dreher,
Religious progressives find the search and find seeking to be so important, religious conservatives put their emphasis on the finding…”
Really? I’d never heard this, but it sounds plausible. True that the people I know who trust that what the bible says is literal and and believe they have “found” the truth are more conservative.
I would put myself in the religious progressive category; and for me the search is not just more important is one of the most important things. If I had no reason to continue looking, asking and searching I would be nowhere. I can’t imagine ever being able to claim that I had found it; that I knew the truth for certain. I’d be interested to hear from those who put themselves in the religious conservative category for more insight on this issue.
Needless to say, this concept intrigued me. Around the same, time I was reading Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. For those unfamiliar, she is a former Episcopal priest and this is her story of why she left her position and found God anyway. She had some very poignant points to make about this concept of searching vs. finding that certainly hit home for me. I underlined them in the book because God knows my brain won’t remember anything the minute I turn the page! Here are a few of the biggie quotes for me:
I want to recover the kind of faith that has nothing to do with being sure what I believe and everything to do with trusting God to catch me though I am not sure of anything.” P. 111
By the time I resigned from Grace-Calvary, I had arrived at an understanding of faith that has far more to do with trust than with certainty. I trusted God to God even if I could not say who God was for sure. I trusted God to sustain the world although I could not say for sure how that happened. I trusted God to hold me and those I loved, in life and in death, without giving me one shred of conclusive evidence that it was so.” P.170
I discovered that faith did not have the least thing to do with certainty. Insofar as I had any faith at all, that faith consisted of trusting God in the face of my vastly painful ignorance…” p. 224
These sentiments hit home with me. I’ve never questioned the reality of God; I’ve questioned a lot of things in the Bible, in church, in other religions…you name it – but not the existence of a God. You could say that I “know” there is a God, but I don’t. I certainly can’t prove it. Because I believe it does not mean I Know it nor do I expect others to believe it just because I do. This is the importance of the personal journey for me. Finding your own path to belief, a path that you never really get off…unless you quit the search of course.
Only a week after thinking about these two concepts, I was reading my daughter’s school Bible with her (she’s in 2nd grade at a Lutheran school) and the glossary in the back had a definition of faith. Unfortunately I didn’t write it down at the time and she’s since taken the book back to school. But it was something along the lines that Faith is when you know God. Maybe this should not have shocked me having heard Mr. Dreher’s statement. But it did and still does.
I don’t know God; I don’t hold out hope that someday I will. I don’t even believe that God is knowable. Isn’t that what faith means – that we believe even though we can’t know? Isn’t God “supposed” (I hate that word) to be so amazing and ultimately unknowable to us very imperfect humans? And I certainly don’t want my 7 year old feeling inadequate because she doesn’t know everything for sure. But maybe I’m taking it too literally. I definitely need help understanding this one.