Thursday, June 05, 2008

Random Blasts from the Past ~ 21st December, 2005


I have been wondering a couple of things lately. I didn't know if I ought to say the things that have been running through my mind and I've wondered if the things are true. I have several times been advised never to say the things I really think, that even if the things are true, that no one will be helped by them.

I have observed that people are hardly ever helped by the things they read, their minds are not changed, their opinions altered nor their outlook expanded or refined. I am confident of a few things, one of which is that nothing anyone writes, either in this strange medium or anywhere else will make the slightest difference of importance to anyone.


Several things have been happening lately that have made me wonder about the holdingtogetherness of the things we rely upon for our confidence in the world and life in it.

What I mean is, that God's government seems to be encountering a series of crises that, were it run under the British Parliamentary system, would be grounds for the Loyal Opposition to launch a motion of non-confidence.

In that system, when things start simply becoming so catastrophical that no one can believe the current government capable of solving the crisis, when everything that happens seems to make things worse and there is no discernable light at the end of the tunnel, the opposition party may bring forth a motion of non-confidence. Should the motion be passed, Parliament is dissolved and an election is called with the hope that a new government will take the reins and things will improve.

I think what I have done is to call the government's bluff. In the case of the Liberal Party of Canada, it's not much of a bluff to call. In the case of God, and his promises, it is a little more problematic. One of the most obvious problems is that once you have accepted the existence of God, as he is identified by Christianity, it is not possible to posit the existence of a loyal opposition; all opposition to God is the negation of being, it is inherently self-destructive. Well,

Another, and one that I feel is more interesting, is that were his creatures to call an election, there would be no alternative government. Once you have lost confidence in the existence of, or more horribly, the mercy and love of God, there is no where else to go. The cosmic vivisectionist god, once accepted, turns the mere fact of existence into a living horror. "What if the sun rose and it were a dark sun? What if we drank water and it was dry water?"

The trouble is that a human is just human. We each have a series of interconnected assumptions about reality that constitute our mental superstructure. It is the understanding of things that each of us holds that makes it possible to proceed in confidence. A child, for example, must know that there is a home, a mother, food, shelter, love and a minimum level of security to have the confidence he needs to strike out in the world, to accept the existence of and beneficence of things outside his immediate sphere. Without those first confidences, others are impossible.

Now, we have had ample cause for complaint lately in the Church and no long-time reader can be in any doubt that things are not so rosy as some would have us believe. But in this case, I am talking about things more subjective. I have long since ceased to care about the workings of the Church, except inasmuch as one would be fascinated by an ant farm. What I am referring to are more personal things. But they are personal things that I perceive as indicators of larger meaning.

The incidents I refer to, I do not propose as proofs of any thesis. I do not see them as evidence of an outwardly aprehensible phenomenon. What I am talking about is the necessary conditions for belief. What minimum internal, natural dispositions and circumstances are necessary for a person to be what we speak of as a "believer"? Of course the answer is different for every person, for every temperament. But I mean for me.

The answer is significant for others since even asking the question seems to negate a cherished Christian notion. I believe that in asking the question" 'how much damage can a soul sustain before it is inapable of rational belief?' is to accept that God does not always protect us. I have seen that some people are protected, but that some others are not.

What I think the question means, even before it is answered, is that the assertion common with the spiritual writers, "God does not visit upon us more than we can tolerate without losing the capacity for faith" is false. In fact, perhaps the significance of asking the question is so great that any answer truly becomes meaningless. By posing the possibility that God rescues some but not others, that he allows some to be overwhelmed but protects others, we have said something about him that is incompatible with the categorical assertion of his merciful love.

To an outside observer, the particulars are not very important. What would destroy the faith of one person would be mere irritations to another. In my case they are simple. A friend has died. A mother is terminally ill. Another friend has left a religious community. In addition to these little things are the million pinpricks of life in the modern Church and world. The daily horrors of another scandal, another apostate, another episcopal coward, another day of silence when speaking is required, another betrayal. The daily treacheries.

What straw breaks my back will not be felt by yours. But the fact that my back has been broken, that I do not find it possible to belive in the love of God, makes the whole web of our assertions about God collapse. He is not good for his promises, or we have so misunderstood them that the God we thought we knew is a monster that no one could love. If I can be lost so, if a holocaust camp survivor can have his faith wrung out of him though his body survives, if a widow can be broken in mind and soul by lonliness and the emptiness of her future, then God is not who we say he is.

Of course, the only option is to blame the one without faith. Easy. We must assert that God offered and the creature refused the grace. It is the only way to keep the whole house of cards from collapsing for everyone. But I do not find it enough to blame his victims in our effort to exonerate him. If he is the only game in town and we cannot win, we must accept that we cannot win, that God is not who we thought he was. Comforts are contemptible when we gain them at the expense of truth.

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