Sunday, April 17, 2011

Full Faith and Credit

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas): "The debt ceiling is going to be Armageddon."

Statements of absolute certainty have always bothered me. It's not like I don't make my fair share of them, I'll admit, but my very belief in God is based on my understanding that God can never be truely known, that he is ineffible or too great to be described by mere words invented by limited humans. I have had this belief in a wonderous and yet unknowable God for quite some time. It ebbed and waned in importance, but in many times in my life it was the only important thing that mattered, and I studied accordingly.

I studied many books on religion throughout my life. First came the picking up and reading of the Holy Bible that was given to me in vacation Bible school. My parents would never interfere in my religious development and for this I am happy. But some good Samaritan, I'm not sure who, enrolled me in vacation Bible school to learn basically nothing. It was all pretty much above my head or didn't make it across to a young child of about 6, I guess. However, at the end I received a gift of a Bible. It was all wrapped up like a birthday present. I remember being disappointed by it when I found out it was a book without pictures. The type was small and it looked very unappealing.

However, later I took this Bible every week to the Baptist church that a few kids and I started attending. Again my parents did not influence me one way or the other. The church was always a nice place to hang out around. People were friendly and often there was food from various events. We were always welcome. We often sat in the back and enjoyed "revivals" that would last an entire week. One of the small group of us was baptised there in the glass case filled with water that was high above where the pastor preached. I remember a microphone and the sounds of water it would pick up. Those to be baptised were dunked completely into the water and brought up. This was always a highlight because the production was rather difficult to do and often led to interesting moments.

This Bible was my first resource. Later, I received a "Living Bible" which I never quite trusted. But it certainly did help with my understanding. Meanwhile the church "Ridgecrest Baptist Church" of Montgomery, Alabama was struggling with a problem. Rezoning was occurring for integration of schools. Many houses of former parishioners were being sold to black people as the zones changed for black schools. White people just fled instead of sending their kids to schools that were purposely built and staffed to be inferior. White people without kids eventually sold also as their property values decreased as homes went on the market everywhere by homeowners desperate to sell to the delight of the local real estate moguls.

At the time it defied my imagination as to why the church had problems with this. Today it would defy pretty much every one's imagination. I was a relatively deep thinker for all my youthful innocence and wondered what the problem was. Apparently, in plain view to everyone, Ridgecrest Baptist Church was holding a vote to decide whether to allow people of a particular race to come inside their church. As instructed, I had been reading, studying, and thinking about this black book given to me as a present. Already I had reasoned using this book that the Vietnam War was immoral. But such a simple question, of whether to open the church to everyone who wanted to come inside, had not occurred to me as even a question worthy of asking. The group of us argued it through and I was of the opinion that a few would vote for exclusion of black people and the vast majority would vote for inclusion.

I was wrong. I quit attending church and much of my later theological development stemmed from this complete disconnect Ridgecrest Baptist Church had with my understanding of what I had read in the Bible. One incident of intolerance had ruined the whole organized movement for me. As I learned world history and the full story of the development of mankind, despite one college instructor's rabid bias against Catholicism and probably religion itself, I came to realize that the world was larger and encompassed many more ideas than I previously had an understanding of. My first years of college were consumed by my increasing awareness of learning for the sake of learning. There was no class in religion so I studied the 4 gospels on my own with commentaries from every possible source that seemed to be scholarly. I focused on Jesus Christ and his teachings.

What I found was nothing like what I had been taught in church and was much more involved than my previous rudimentary readings as a child. When I look back I can see I was a bit obsessed with trying to come to an absolute understanding of an ineffable subject. I am none the worse for it now, I believe, but I was very naive at the time.

I honestly dislike the word "faith" for it seems to imply a blind faith. I prefer the word "belief" as I have spent some time coming to my beliefs. Had I ever had that one moment in my life that I became "baptised" and saved from that day on, I would have missed out on the most important learning process in the questioning of life that has led to such fulfilling moments of clarity as I get older and hopefully wiser. I have been through years of belief and disbelief. Until I tired of it, I have held argumentative discussions with anyone who wanted to "save" me. I pointed out the problems of interpreting the Bible as the literal truth, and many times along the way I found myself lost. The constant barrage of fundamentalism coming from living in the south had at times caused me to pivot into a pretty much atheistic stance. Was this the best God could do? Were these the best arguments? Did things really turn upon the theory that the world was only thousands of years old when I knew beyond doubt that it was at least millions of years old? I have come to realize that those who seek out arguments are not always on top of their game, and the discussion is far from a game.

Just recently someone showed me a chart which showed the history of Earth with all the various Christian events and personalities carefully lined up below. I said "The Bible really shouldn't be limited by this idea." As the necessary disagreement ensued, this person asked me why I could not see that the chart proved the Bible was correct. At this point I realized that putting things in a chart meant that something was proven to this person. I said, "It is just that you limit God. I know the world is millions of years old and I know that the star light we see is millions of years old. Don't you see? If you battle with science, you lose. And God loses.I want him to win." It was because I had almost been led astray by Ridgecrest Baptist Church. I had almost given up because of the disappointment I had with small minded Christians. While I understood this person's desire to battle science and prove his religion, I kept worrying about the people who would choose science over God when confronted like this.As I have learned just recently from the book I have been incessantly reading and mentioning, Science has no business in criticizing God because Science deals with only things that are not Supernatural. It is one of Science's original postulates. Because some had taken to trying to "prove" God exists, to prove the ineffable, Christianity seemed to be "proved" wrong. It is not an effective battle to fight.

Similarly, in the field of politics the belief that a certain political party has God on their side disinherits anyone who believes we should, say, give to the poor rather than to the rich. It is easy to be led astray.

Is it really necessary to hold the country hostage to bankruptcy including the specter of Armageddon as a threat? Does Senator Hutchinson believe that a single party of the American government holds the key to Armageddon in it's hands? Do citizen legislators think it is somehow their right to hold the "full faith and credit" of the entirety of the United States up for international ridicule? It's not particularly inspiring to me, personally.