When I began this blog eight months ago, I chose the title, “Spirit of a Liberal”, and its theme, “a blog of progressive, religious themes” as intentional, in-your-face statements. I favor unfettered intellectual inquiry, on the one hand, but also embrace the mystery, on the other. I reject the hatred and bigotry clothed in Christian themes (“who wants to be lumped in with all the other Christians, especially the ones you see on TV protesting gay marriage, giving money to charlatans, and letting priests molest children?”) while accepting the moments of spiritual fulfillment in my own life. Calvin was mostly right; our rituals, symbols, and myths are just that, but he was wrong when he said they were mere symbols. We speak our unspeakable truths in our mythologies. We doubt, and we hope. The Old Testament book of Job, with all its uncertainties, is my favorite Biblical book; if only the editor hadn’t added a sappy, happy ending.
Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton and acclaimed author of Beyond Belief and other works, spoke of her own faith journey as a fallen evangelical whose academic pursuits conflicted with the unthinking literalism of her youth; yet, when faced with the death of her child, she found herself back in a church because it “spoke to my condition”.
I happened across a superb article entitled, “I am a closet Christian”, which marvelously expresses similar sentiments. Brooklynite Ada Calhoun shares her faith journey in the article, and her theme about religion in general and Christianity in particular is summed up in her line, “Not how it’s right or just, but how — and this may sound stupid, but it’s what I think about religion in general — it works.”
Here’s a longer statement:
All of us need help with birth and death and good and evil, and religion can give us that. It doesn’t solve problems. It reminds you that, yes, those challenges are real and important and folks throughout history have struggled and thought about them too, and by the way, here is some profound writing on the subject from people whose whole job is to think about this stuff.
The idea of an eternal community brings me comfort: I like the image of a long table extending backward and forward in time, and everyone who’s ever taken Communion is sitting at it. The Bible at the 1920s stone church where my husband and I were married was filled with the names of people in the community who’d married, been born and died. When my son was baptized in our church in a traditional Easter eve service, the light spreading from candle to candle through the pews of the dark church made me feel, at least for one moment, we were united in a sense of gratitude for new life and awe in the face of the numinous.
Please read the whole article.