(caution: it’s best to read ALL the way through, ponder, then comment. thank you.)
oh NPR… ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh NPR…
in the midst of it’s fund drive and my personal desire to not sleep (even though i should) i listened to an encore presentation of Terry Gross interviewing Julia Sweeney. Sweeney talked about her journey from Catholicism to Atheism. in her words, she has “let go of God.” she’s even written a song about it. it plays on her website and really captures a sense of relief.
while listening to the interview, my skeptical mind immediately said “oh please, Julia! you can’t let go of God coz believe it or not, you never had God…” or did she and what does it mean to “have God” anyway?
but before i got skeptical about Julia, i let out an “oh Terry” sigh for the renowned interviewer who seems to love talking about not being or no longer being Christian. i just don’t get it. i know that we’re all entitled to our opinions but Terry, what’s your deal?
but i must stop myself from all this negative backlash…at least for a minute. because there’s a bigger question to be asked. what causes people to move from yes God to no God? i’m no philosopher but i’ll venture a guess and my guess is that you can only move from yes to no if your yes is based on something faulty. (and yes, i’m an idealist. bare with me.) i don’t quite understand how anyone can not believe in God and not desire all that God has for them after years of belief. i don’t easily get that. i understand doubt in and wrestling with God but a total peace out? the fact that you once believed in what you now think is nonsensical goes to show the amount of faith necessary for belief and somehow or another you had that faith. so what really happened? yeah, i think something was faulty. coz if God is really that nonsensical, your adult mind wouldn’t have had enough faith in God to begin with, would it? or was that the time in your life when you were searching and unstable and needed to hold on to something that sounded good and God was that something, or that notion of God that you’d heard so much about, therefore the fact that your belief was momentary is okay….?
excuse my boldness but i dare to suppose that what you’ve let go of isn’t God so you’re not really an Atheist after all. whew! that was a close call Julia! you had me worried there. i was about to pray for you and everything. coz i know what’s what. you see, i know God and God is the real deal and you obviously didn’t experience the real deal or you would have never left. oh yeah! once you get all wrapped up in Eternity, you don’t peace out. you just don’t…i mean, that wouldn’t make any sense. how could it?
or could it?
Julia, i’ll admit it. i’m not comfortable with you being an Atheist. in fact, i’d rather spell it with a lowercase “a”…atheist…so as to diminish its significance against my uppercase “G”…God. i’m not comfortable with you being an atheist for 3 reasons (coz that’s all that’s come to mind, not coz 3 has some sort of intrinsic power):
1st…what i said before is completely true. i think God is the real deal, so real that i don’t EVER want to live without God. i can give you one experience after another to explain my belief (though “explain” probably isn’t even the right word). but i’ll spare you coz i don’t think you need my story. but if you’re curious, please feel free to ask. i won’t hold back. you may have to schedule five 1/2 hour sessions to prevent overload. it’s not that i’ve rehearsed a monologue (no offense) but i’m so sure of God’s presence in my life and in the lives of others. i’m so sure that God literally walks with me and talks with me. i believe…YES, i BELIEVE that God loves me with ALL God’s heart. and i’ve questioned. a lot. and i’m still believing. (and i’m sorry that the “b” word trips you up. i wish it were a simple case of semantics but i know it’s more.)
2nd…i’m afraid that somewhere down the line, you were given the wrong picture of God, one that forced you to decide between reason and faith. you chose the former, not realizing that God never divorces the two coz God made the two and works in both arenas all the time. i’m afraid that you were given the wrong picture of God because someone wasn’t patient enough with your questions, and like me in their idealism, they wanted to fix the picture according to their “expert” knowledge and faith journey instead of giving you the time and space and encouragement to seek God and wait for God’s reply.
3rd…i don’t think you want to believe, afraid that you’ll lose something if you do.
Dear Julia, i want to paint what i believe to be a more accurate picture of your disbelief in order to make me more comfortable with it. i’m sorry. please forgive my swift kicks. i’ll try to believe you. yes, you’ve let go of God for some reason…a reason i may never properly qualify. a reason i may never properly understand. i promise not to write an essay/book or preach a sermon against you or others like you. i won’t pretend to know. and i sincerely, sincerely hope that one day you take a few intentional moments to ask God for just one more glimpse of Eternity. and when you wait patiently for it and get it i pray you’ll hold it close forever.
yes Julia. i’m praying for you. it feels weird to write, sort of like saying that i’ll pray for President Obama or other world leaders. i know you’re not on that level of worldly significance but there’s always a weird feeling attached to saying that i’ll pray for someone who’s so far removed from me. there’s always a little voice in my head saying, “really? you’re really going to pray for that person? and you think your little prayer is going to do something?”
see, that’s 90% of the problem. somehow i grew up with the notion that my prayers work like a magic trick. poof! snap! stuff happens just like that! but lately i’ve started thinking of prayer as simply me talking to God and then listening to what God has to say. God sometimes replies right away sort of like when i say hello to someone as i walk by and they respond in kind. but then there are other times when God answers through other people or through the Bible. i’ll talk to God at 6:15am and i’ll get a reply at 2:55pm. it’s similar to a child asking, “mum, can i go out to play?” she often waits, not because she wants to torture her child but because she’s hoping the child will think things through a bit more, weigh the pros and cons like she’s taught the child to do, and do some research on the weather conditions…what are the ramifications of this desire and will you use your brain or just wait for the handwriting on the wall?
so i’ll talk to God about you. and maybe God will direct me to some concrete answers and maybe God will help me figure out how to be even more useful to you. and just maybe these conversations will disrupt things in the spiritual realm and cause Gods enemies to retreat and give you the space you need to believe again, to hold on again. (and yes, i believe that happens but there’s not enough time to discuss it now.)
whatever the case, i’ll pray. and i’ll hope. and i’ll keep on asking bold questions and tossing around bold answers. and hey Julie…if you want to reply, i’m all eyes…