Back on the 25th a link to From Bible Belt Pastor to Atheist Leader showed up in my email. I have to say thank you to Marianna, for sharing the article. More than sharing NYT’s take on Jerry’s life, your words struck deep. DeWitt’s story sits well to my own adventure into and out of agnosticism, verging on into atheism back in the late 80’s.
My own running from home came nearly a decade after going all the way through Bible College. From there I had booked off into a decidedly liberal graduate school to gain a master’s in clinical social work. But neither of those experiences got me to even consider rejecting my belief in God.
Only after beginning to work on a doctorate did I start questioning what I had been raised within. My questioning, though, was embedded in a combination of being dissatisfied with a young marriage, working for a psychiatrist who was using me more as a buffer zone than a therapist and also my reengaging in academics. Putting all of that together frayed my take on walking with God. In a short time I was walking the same path that Jerry DeWitt voiced.
To make a short story out of what I could talk about for days, in a couple of years I became equally disgruntled in the opposite direction. Proclamations that humanity will eventually figure everything out left me queasy. My decidedly existential tenor put me into conflict with that reductionism. How does anyone go about empirically proving or disproving human’s eventual understanding the whole of reality? No one can do such from where we are. It is likely that reality has more to it than the human mind is capable of taking in. It is a confidence nested in the same problem projected onto ‘religions’.
So then, all that happened on that brief run from the One who hadn’t moved an inch from me was a loss of trust in my faith. DeWitt, as I now see this, is a good example of where most people wearing the badge of “believer” are. Most, in my eyes, are closet agnostics and atheist who, in one of various fashions, are only part of a group. Too many of us only seek to be in a crowd. Voicing and acting out everything necessary to be in the group is done with essential comfort. Just being part of a group as DeWitt betrayed is the surest reason most people show up for church.
I am not say no one seeks after the Uncreated Light but rather pointing toward the many who are mimicking only to belong.
I am shaming myself for not having progressed far or deep enough into the cycle of Praxis and Theosis for people to truly see through me and catch sight of God. I don’t mean the miracles, great sermons or even well spoken witnessing. No, I want the presence of God to be intense enough that it raises the hackles on people’s necks. Picking up a piece of change to hand back needs to also hit them with something of which they have no inkling. I want through this repentance to take one more step toward living a life which tempts people around me to question their own take on life. Not because of my words but simply for their experience.