Archive for March, 2007

In conjunction with all of the feelings, thoughts, and decisions that have been going through my head, I’ve been wondering if maybe a Quaker meeting is the right place for me after all. I have a hankering to visit one again. I have my apprehensions about Quakerism, too.

At a minimum, a Quaker meeting is a place where you can go and feel the grand divine whatever, without getting a lot of theological nonsense thrown at you. There’s something to that.

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These posts are kind of rapid-fire, I know, but these are things I have been thinking about for a couple of days, and writing about them lets me take a break from writing my final exam appellate brief for my Legal Research and Writing class.

I have been trying to make peace with the idea of not being any religion.  Really, I would prefer to have a religion, all ready-made and off the shelf, with generations of theology to explore, and a sense of purpose and identity all wrapped up into one.  The problem is, I’m too skeptical absent soem kind of mystical impetus.  I just don;t believe that any of these religions out there are really true, or even true enough for me to be willing to commit.

I’m not turning my back on anything (in particular I am not turning my back on Christianity and openly rejecting/denouncing it), but by the same token, I may be at the point where I have to admit that my journay is not taking medown any one fo the well-trod paths.  at least for now.

I believe in the divine, mind you.  I believe there’s something out there, and sometimes I’m blown away by it, by the majesty and the grandeur of the big things and the little things that are actually the biggest things.  I feel it in the way my wife smiles, in the way the wind feels on my skin.  I feel it in sex, in poetry, and in music.   I feel it in the quiet spaces, and in the thunderstorms.  I feel it in churches, and I feel it in nature.  In life, in people, in the universe, and in your eyes.  I don’t know how to explain it better than that.

I am a believer.  For now, that simple declaration may need to be enough.

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In many ways, I am waiting for a mystical experience.  Arrogant as it may be, I want God to tell me what to do, personally.  I’m not picky about the specific means, but I am very picky about how I will know it is the real deal (or at least, real enough for me).

Sometimes I have a dream, and I wake up from it with an overwhelming sensation that is is significant, important, that it really meant something.  This has happened to me on a number of occasions, the most memorable of which led my beautiful wife and me to decide to try to have a baby (we did, by the way, and now he just celebrated his first birthday a few weeks ago).

Anyway, the feeling I am talking about is an overwhelming sense of import.  I don’t really know if I can explain it to someone who hasn’t felt it, but it’s the kind of thing that is hard to shake.  It weighs heavily and feels like the kind of thing that could change your life forever.

That’s what I’m waiting for.  I’m waiting for something weighty.  Something that makes my head spin and makes me sit back and just try to deal with the level of significance it carries.  I am open to God talking to me however he/she/it/they choose to talk to me, but I’m not going to just stick the “God said it” label on the next stray idea that wanders into my head, because that’s how bad I want a mystical experience.  I’m waiting for something that feels important- I’ll know it when I feel it because I’ve felt it before.

I’m not saying that this will be somehow unfalsifiable or logically unassailable.  I’m just saying that this is what will make me sit up and take notice.  The kind of experience that I am talking about is what will be enough for me to say “all right; I am committed to this path.”

Until it comes, I’m kind of on my own.

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For almost my whole life, I have thought that claiming to be “spiritual but not religious” was the lamest cop-out ever.  I thought it was spirituality without sacrifice, without commitment, and was thus only illusory.  Spirituality without religion could be no real spirituality at all.

However, in my own spiritual journey I am being increasingly confronted  with the possibility that no religion satisfies me.  No religion seems true.  There’s no religion that I really think I can dive into fully and without reservation, absent some kind of mystical experience to reassure me or propel me onward.

I may be left as just one person trying to be “spiritual but not religious.”

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A Recap

For those of you who are new, this blog is really a blog with a specific purpose.  I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, and I’m not some kind of spiritual exhibitionist.  I’m trying to figure out life, the universe, and everything, so why am I doing it in blog form?

So there’s a record.  This is a long and complicated process, and it’s easy to explain something to someone that I thought of six weeks ago if I can just show them the blog post.  So this is a journal, on the internet.  Why then, do I make it public?

Because I feel like feedback is important.  I like to hear from people with different points of view, with different things to say.  Even voices that I disagree with  are, in my opinion, voices worth hearing.  Also, I’m holding out for the possibility that someone has something to say that is totally revolutionary and changes my way of thinking forever.

That being said, this is not a public forum.  I’m not interested in debate for debate’s sake.  I’m trying to get somewhere, and I’m hoping all you random (and not-random) internet people will perhaps e able to help me on my journey.  But this isn’t a democracy.  If I don’t feel like someone or something is helping me in a meaningful way, I have absolutely no qualms about deleting comments or completely blocking comment-ors.  I’m not going to be a jerk about it, but I’m trying to get something done here, and I don’t want to waste my time with nonsense.

Now you may be thinking “is he talking about me?  Are my comments ticking him off?”  Rest assured; I am probably not talking about you.  Like I said, I am interested in a diversity of input, so just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I’m going to delete your comment or re-route you permanently to spam.  I may decide to start moderating comments, but for now I’m not going to.

Anyway, everyone should probably read my statement of purpose, “Why I Am Sailing.”

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I’d like ot have a relationship with Jesus Christ, but I’m not sure I know what that means, or if I am necessarily convinced that it is possible.  I mean, how do you have a relationship with someone that you can only read about?  I can read about Justin Timberlake, and even buy all of his CDs and whatever, but that doesn’t mean we’re friends, that I know him, or that we’re in a relationship.  Even if I am a rabid Justin Timberlake fan, that’s still not a relationship, regardless of how devoted I am.

All the relationships I have by comparison are with people who, at the very least, have a mortal existence that overlaps with mine.  We can (or have been able to) communicate in an apparently concrete way, whether it’s face-to-face, written, telephone, or over the internet.  If a relationship with Jesus can be like that, then great.  If not, then what does it even look like, and how do I know it isn’t just wishful thinking, or more-or-less benign self-delusion

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I can certainly read about Jesus Christ, talk about Jesus Christ, and think about Jesus Christ.  I am even glad to do so.  And I don’t just mean be critical, either.  I’m fine to be genuine, open, and teachable.

But I don’t know about believing in Jesus, having faith in Jesus, or having a relationship with Jesus (which is what my ideal goal would be).  I don’t even know that those things mean, much less how to go about doing them.

And I don’t know how easy it will be to shake the nagging skeptic inside me.

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For whatever reason, I cannot make myself believe in Jesus Christ.  I just can’t do it.  I’ve been trying but it isn’t working.

Unfortunately, I also cannot make myself reject Jesus Christ.  I don’t really know what to do.

Also, I don’t think I would have an easier time accepting any other given religion, either.

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I met Brian McLaren today (here’s his Wikipedia article).  I haven’t read any of his books (I probably should), and I don’t know him or anything, so I was kind of awkward about it, but it seemed a shame for him to be there and speak and then be approachable and for me to not go shake his hand or something.  He thought our baby was pretty cute, so he has good taste in babies, at least.  He was very pleasant, personable, and charismatic, without having that sleazy snake-oil aftertaste.

McLaren founded the church we are currently attending, although he’s currently not actively serving as its pastor (instead, we have the absolutely wonderful Matthew Dyer), but is instead traveling the world, meeting with people and, you know, doing stuff.  But he was back for the Sunday and he spoke about the state of the church (the church at large, not Cedar Ridge), what he’s been up to, and what he’s seen on his travels.

He has a very good way of criticizing with love and respect.  For example, he talked about the worldwide trend in favor of prosperity theology (which makes me retch), but he didn’t come across as castigating or scathing.  He even complimented what he thought were the good things about it.  Instead of lambasting prosperity preachers fo, you know, being wrong and hurtful, he talked about the enormous potential that they have to do real Christian good.

Anyway, it was a good meeting.  I always enjoy the sermons at Cedar Ridge, and I think our intention is to keep going there for the indefinite future.  The kind of Christianity they preach there is definitely the kind that rings true to me.  Most importantly, we almost always walk away from the service there with a desire to be better Christians.  Also, I think it would be realy easy for Cedar Ridge to be a Brian McLaren personality cult, but it definitely isn’t.  He rarely even gets mentioned, actually.  The focus is definitely on Jesus Christ, and on his relationship to the community of saints (i.e. the Christian church at large, to Cedar Ridge Church as a community, and to us as families and individuals).

If I decide to be a Christian, which I probably will in the end, Cedar Ridge is definitely a place where I can be the kind of Christian that I would want to be.

Speaking of which, I am thinking more about Christianity, and trying to come to grips with it somehow.  I have ths nagging feeling that I am going to ultimately come to Christianity anyway, and so I’m wondering if I shouldn’t quit beating around the bush.

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I feel like chilling out for a bit.  I know I run hot and cold all the time, and that probably means something bad (hot + cold = lukewarm = spit out?), but I’m doing the best I can.

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