On the last page of Michael Ruse’s “The gym teacher’s of academia“ I stumbled over, “Recently, I have been trying to articulate a position that allows for a middle way between science and religion, in the sense that one can show limits to science (and why there are limits) and how it is legitimate for religion to step in (legitimate, not mandated or necessarily profitable).” I then serendipitously switched over to Dover’s Beach for the first time in several days only to find a few quotes that sung in harmony with the close of Ruse’s article.
Voicing things similar to what I had seen scattered across Massimo Pigliucci’s Rationally Speaking securely tied me to Michael’s article. In most people’s eyes, my loving the works of atheists and agnostics makes things confusing since I also claim our Risen Christ as my Savior. My pleasure in things such as Ruse voiced rests within my feeling an odd joy when discovering shards of dissonance commonly scattered among all of us. Ruse’s comments are deeply dissonant in the eyes of some atheists, as well.
While I grew up a believer from further back than I can now remember I came equipped with and constantly worked out a desire to question things. My questioning has not always been well built but I kept at it nonetheless. This drive to wonder about things more than occasionally upset my Sunday School teachers. A quote from the pen of Fredrick Nietzsche I found in Dover’s Beach stirred the dust off those old questions. “I might believe in the Redeemer if His followers looked more Redeemed.” Years ago I tucked it away in my favorites file. Finding it, anew on this page felt like I’d found it while rummaging around in an old toy box.
Long ago, Nietzsche’s point had rubbed the gloss off mine and my Protestant peers judgment of liturgical Christians. Our, Protestant, actions away from Sunday morning services were no different than what our Catholic neighbor’s lived out. In a short time my clinical work made clear the constance of speaking right to keep everyone distracted from our actual lives. Our lies do not need serious things like pedophilia, domestic violence or pilfering money from the offering plate to prompt lies. Keeping ourselves secure in the group we belong to is reason enough for a lie.
Next to Nietzsche’s quote was another one from George MacDonald, “The truly wise talk little about religion and are not given to taking sides on doctrinal issues. When they hear people advocating or opposing the claims of this or that party in the church, they turn away with a smile such as men yield to the talk of children. They have no time, they would say, for that kind of thing. They have enough to do in trying to faithfully practice what is beyond dispute.” Do you hear a lilt in those words shared with both Nietzsche and Ruse?
I have heard other words from non and ex-believers in cadence with those quotes. Now, you are me me voice things seemingly out of step not just with the Eastern Orthodox Church. As I said above I seek the dissonance of life and not always cheerfully. Put simply, I do not credit those intent with calling people away from knowing God with being the foundation of this problem. My peers within the Church, however, do. Evangelical Atheists and the like are not the source of the problem. Rather, I’m intentionally striking off-key with a desire to make some believers aware that the problem is in their cord. This fault rests with us, the believers.
The thread I see woven across those quotes is the common effort of believers to prove they are true believers over and against those others who just can’t be. In one fashion or another we all share in this conflict. It isn’t just on religious grounds that all of us catch sight of this striving. Politics is a marvelous picture of what is common among us religious folk. Family conflicts are replete squabbling. Listening to the wordings people used to present their beliefs keyed me into a commonality but the key of those words soared out of my feeble reach.
It took me years and an ungainly assortment of professional and personal conflicts before I, this time, caught hold of the key. I was then beginning to become a tuned to what my profession labeled the “unconscious”. John Zizioulas pointing towards the works of the Cappadocians, who well over a millenium ago saw our Triune God as “no thing” not “nothing” disrupted my sense of self and God. Beginning to see God calling me away from who I thought I was began a slow but steady rotting of a feeble foundation.
This one, I had already worshipped for decades, not fitting to anything I knew is then best labeled as not fitting within our context. Their works pushing hard on me to even step out and away from my conceptions of God painfully stretched my mental tendons near to tearing.
Unknowingly taught to fit God to myself and so my group has become what I see as all of our problem. This is what I want us all paying attention to. Rip your attention away from and deprive them of your gift of energy. Our diatribes against them pull only a few away while pushing masses of others on towards them. Our being stripped of the self we have each learned to be and so shifting our attention and energy to living the life without speaking a word can and will prove more attractive.
That’s right, I am seeing us as idolatrous with our belief systems. Cease trying to win people to our Risen Christ with the right arguements or right liturgy or better sets of quoted verses. Do not stop living the liturgy or reading scripture as those are the foods that feed your life. Those we needfully share with one another. Toss those off when out on the street and so let people see you nude. That’s right let people like Ruse, Nietzsche and billions of others look at your life denuded of theology, liturgy and scriptures. Focus in on their being drawn toward or pushed away from our Savior by just your day-by-day life. If your normal life is the first thing draw people toward you because you focus on walking with God you won’t sweat about witnessing to them.