I have been reading Why Weren’t We Told? by Rex A. E. Hunt and John W. H. Smith. I would have called myself a “progressive Christian” on days when I can stomach the Christian label at all prior to reading this, but some of the more dogmatic articles about “progressives believe this” and “progressives don’t believe that” chafe at me as much as the original orthodoxies of the church(es) did to begin with.
Why may I not believe in the Virgin birth sometimes on days when I need to reflect on the creative power and possibilities females may have untouched by males? Why may I not believe there is a life after death when I remember my darling mother and my brother, my first playmate? Faith/belief can be mystery and mystical. I guess it is a matter of epistemology (sorry I know people hate that long word) and I am not a naïve realist or a logical positivist.
There may well be scientific facts about what exists and doesn’t exist and how the universe exists and all of that. I accept that. I have no real quarrel with science. But I have a huge quarrel with the “that’s all there is” argument because ultimately there is a huge amount of unknowing linked to scientific facts and to the “real world” we inhabit. And that is not to say I have some sort of naïve belief in a santa-claus like God and a place in the sky and magical fairytales. But faith to me is a different way of knowing and being known. For me to say “I believe…” is more akin to saying “I trust you…” to the great relater. And yes I anthropomorphise God because I need to relate, I need to grapple with my loneliness and the potential meaninglessness at the heart of my life and my being. There is a huge and unending dark night of the soul and emptiness and my heart cries into it “Please exist, please love me” to the One.
And sometimes I hear a frightening lack of response and the stars whirl like cold orbs above me whispering “you are so small, so insignificant” and I cry and fall upon the earth and kiss it and want to know love. And that is the “real world” where my mother is dead and I will die too and the rich get richer and the poor suffer for ever and for always and we might as well try to be as comfortable as we can and climb on one another’s head because there is no inner meaning, all is futile we die and we are gone and nothing happens afterward.
And why would you want to know for sure that that was the case?
I can’t accept that. I need love to have meaning. It matters a lot if today I hold my son in my arms, or smile at a baby bird ot notice the colours of a rainbow. It matters if I want the refugees to be set free and I say so, and I learn a couple of words in Chinese to delight one of my four-year-old students and I fall in love with an intelligent woman and the taste of bitter-dark chocolate in my mouth keeps me awake while I read words of fire. It matters because God exists. Yes God. Someobody who loves me. And it is not contradicting or trivializing 100 other faiths and religions and spiritualities to say that my God is real and embraces me.
So for me “progressive” means justice. It means reason but not the cold, heartless fluorescent light of being so rational you don’t bother to hope in things anymore. Meaning is not always tangible things we have evidence for, or even can put into words. She dances and nine times out of ten I am too tired or stressed or sad or selfish to follow. So she turns and dances back to me again and again and she is real. And the tenth time I may take a tentative step in her dance.
I couldn’t do that if she wasn’t real. I couldn’t love. I wouldn’t really be alive.
So here is a creed I wrote that I could pray instead of a whole lot of archaic imperialistic and patriarchal nonsense (please note the book I mentioned above is good for cutting the ground out from under some of the oppressive nonsense)
My beliefs change from day to day
but I am human
and I need to relate.
I listen for traces (in creation) of a loving God.
I invite that God to touch me,
to empower and empassion me,
to draw me toward deep unknowable Wisdom,
I quiet myself to hear her voice
because of my need to know her love.
I bring my gifts, my questions,
my failures and desires all to her;
to try to make meaning with her.
I yearn for a scent of Wisdom
in all my comings and goings.
I read about Jesus, Wisdom embodied in humanity.
I reflect on his teachings,
his courageous commitment to the oppressed,
hope for the broken hearted,
world shaking, empire destroying social justice.
his courage, his death, his continued meaning-making
for millennia after death.
Perhaps after all I am not called
instead she calls me always to dare