Of Doubt

by

Just this past week I spoke at a civic public gathering. The topic had to do with the words we use in our practice of the faith, and how those words have come to lose their intended meaning; how, often times words become hollow and wooden from overuse, or even misuse. I talked about the word love as it is used in the Gospel of John… that it is not a word that describes feeling, but an active verb that is most accurately translated as ‘befriending;’ befriending in the sense that one lives a life of sacrifice for the other. I talked about righteousness, that ubiquitous word in both Hebrew and New Testament literature. The word for righteousness in the Greek means justice…. “Blessed are the righteous”… No… “blessed are the just” (properly translated). There is a difference. Words matter. The latter implies an active faith, not a state of being. I talked about salvation as having to do first and foremost with our neighbor; that salvation is not chiefly about “me” but about my bearing God’s saving love to the world. I talked about sin being structural; sin being the entrenched predispositions of the institutional world that disenfranchise and oppress, and push to the margins many of the human family. Some at this gathering seemed interested, some distracted, some offended.

At some point in the conversation I mentioned that doubt was an essential dynamic of faith; that faith was not about dogma, but about discovery; belief coupled with practice, our doubts notwithstanding; that surely God is still revealing God’s self… That was offensive to one person (that I know of)… She wrote me a 600 word e-mail taking me to task… She said she was worried for my soul… She prayed that I would convert to ‘true’ Christianity one day. She signed her name, unlike many who used to comment on my¬†Press Register¬†column. I remembered her. She sat across the table from me during lunch. She was a nice person; but her missive to me was angry, fearful, accusatory, but passionate… She asked me why I was a priest of the church if I doubted.

Actually, it is a good question, particularly in a culture that wants certainty at all costs. Paul Tillich, the great existentialist theologian of the 20th century, posits that faith is not faith without doubt… He goes on to say that our skepticism, our ability to think critically, our reasoned questions, are gifts… gifts that in fact enrich our faith; gifts that lead us into deeper knowledge… they are the engines of our passionate desire to know… to know ourselves; to know God.

Faith is the practice of enacting the vision of Jesus for the world ‘as if’ that vision is true… It is this ‘as if’ that gives life meaning and purpose… It is this ‘as if’ that teaches us to desire the truth… It is this ‘as if’ that we would act for the good in a world ambiguous, and uncertain, and random in its becoming. It is this ‘as if’ that bears powerful witness to the power of Love… Love that gives order to the random iterations of the cosmos… Perhaps it is Love that makes the vision come to be, in spite of our doubts… Perhaps it is Love that is the answer to all of the questions… but questions still… questions we must, for God’s sake, ask.

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Laura Scott-Adkins
November 6th, 2016

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I sent your blog to Kevin. I hope he responds. Our country is in a difficult time right now. I got Trump bullied 2 weeks ago at my doctor’s office waiting lobby. Being a white 62 yr. old female, I was bullied by a WM about by age. Of all the empty chairs for him to sit, he chose the one right next to me. I’m sitting there minding my own business ready my Vanity Fair mag and he shoves his phone in my face, full volume blasting, of a Trump rally video. I sat for about 10 sec. and he wouldn’t stop. I got up and went to the other side of the lobby and he yelled at me, for the whole office to hear, “you must be a Democrat!!!” I took a deep breath and said, “Damn Right”. Well, the older black ladies in the room giggled in favor of my comment. What is this country coming to? There’s all of a sudden no respect for women! Thanks to the Republican Party. And I don’t think their party wants any of this. But, they chose Trump, so, it falls into their hands. God bless Hillary Clinton. May the best woman win. Love you Jim, Laura

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