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Posts Tagged ‘faith

Some things float.

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Wasn’t the calcified certainty of religion the very thing Jesus objected to most? That certainty was both misplaced and used as authoritarian cudgel.

I’m with @ChicagoRabbi on this one: “Humility keeps it real.”


Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

June 15, 2015 at 9:49 am

To My Friends Who Have Abandoned Faith

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Kathleen Norris: Acedia and Me03232014-9645679679_4550e7fedb_h

If you’ve been turned off by the excesses of evangelicalism or the big-business, industrial mindset of a megachurch, or if you’ve become weary of a clergy-centric approach to faith, or if you are tired of trite, pat answer to life’s really thorny questions, consider reading Kathleen Norris’ Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life (NY: Riverhead books, 2008).

If you’ve turned your back on faith entirely and see no point in going back to the social club that seemed to promise transcendence, especially then, read Acedia and Me. If you’ve become weary of the automatic linkage between Republicanism and Christianity, well Kathleen Norris does not speak to that sorrow. But, patience: within a generation that unfortunate concatenation will be far less automatic.

Kathleen Norris is an engaging writer who addresses the life of one’s spirit wholly without the overweening sentimentality that usually comes with such discussions. Ms. Norris sought answers from an unlikely set of conversation partners: old dead guys who wrote when people could count the centuries on two hands or even one. Many of these old desert monks had abandoned the newly popular, powerful, and politically-connected church. Instead they sought the quiet of the desert to confront their demons.

Acedia, which is perhaps the heart of Ms. Norris’ book, is not easily translated. Some read it as depression. Some read it as sloth or boredom or torpor. Ms. Norris traces the word through the ups and downs of her own life as a writer. Her own marriage is a key player in the story and she seems to hold little back in illustrating her struggle.

I was particularly taken with her definition of sin, which had less to do with breaking a set of rules and more to do with recognizing that people are made in the image of God and there is something hopeful and fetching about aligning one’s direction to recognize that.

In the end, she has a fresh take on one’s faith. You may agree. You may disagree. But you’ll be engaged. And better yet, you may even hold off from tossing everything over.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

March 23, 2014 at 6:30 pm

“Turn Off Your Mind” is One Approach to Faith. It’s Not a Good Approach for the Person of Faith.

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In which I post about God, thinking and hypocrisy (my own). Skip if offensive.

and yet it remains

Let me pull back the curtain on faith as I’ve seen it practiced—if only just for my own peace of mind.

[Full Disclosure #1: I am not writing from a generalized “faith” perspective. Instead, I write from the specificity of a follower of Jesus the Christ, who I believe was/is the Trinitarian God and who lived, died and lived. Further, I believe persons must act on their belief, because that’s what Jesus the Christ said. He made the point, which I believe, that the only way to God was through Him (including trying to be good enough which—logically—could not possibly work). Comment/email me to talk more about this.]

“Turn off my mind” has popped up countless times since I was a lad. The phrase has often been offered to me as the reason why people would choose not to believe in God or Jesus the Christ. It went something like, “Look, I’d have to turn off my mind to be a follower of Jesus.” Sometimes the phrase went: “I’d have to turn off my mind to go to church.” The first phrase I disagree with. The second phrase may actually be true.


It’s an Honest Assessment

Maybe you’ve heard or said this phrase or one like it. It’s an honest statement that reflects many things. For instance: a reasonable or scientific person may feel they would have to turn off their mind to embrace faith in Jesus the Christ. Perhaps they think of faith in Jesus the Christ as a kind of voodoo/animism/magic because of the contra-logical behaviors and antics they’ve seen practiced in the name of faith. Maybe the religion they’ve witnessed seems not all that different from the ancients sifting through the bowels of chickens to determine the way forward. I respect people who grapple thusly. Faith in Jesus the Christ is simple—and profoundly not simple—especially with your mind engaged. Wrapping your mind around the actions of an infinite God is way more than just difficult. I would argue faith is a gift, which (happily) is the Apostle Paul’s argument too.

It’s Not (Necessarily) the Leap

It used to be that when my friend said “I don’t want turn off my mind,” I would always hear “I don’t want to make the leap of faith required to believe in this Jesus guy. Who knows, maybe it’s all a fiction. I won’t entrust myself to fiction.”

But my perception has changed over the years as my own doubts and questions about how people have practiced their faith. Now I hear “turn off my mind” and understand there are all sorts of leaps in our lives, and I wonder which leap is calling to shut down the mind.

We make leaps daily, from trust that the bus we’re riding on won’t be blown heavenward by a terrorist with a bomb, to trust that social security will be there when we retire, to faith that the authorities are telling the truth when they say the groundwater is safe despite the chemicals 3M poured in the soil years ago. All of us act on leaps constantly. We act on these leaps because every time we take the bus—so far—we’ve arrived safely at our destination. We act on the leap because we don’t have a choice about social security and we’re putting a little bit aside anyway (besides, no one really retires anymore). We act on faith by drinking tap water, but we’re also reading the reports and we may yet resort to bottled water (though no regulations govern the purity of that water). We make leaps of faith and generally keep observing and considering what’s going on with each leap.

Now I think the “turn off my mind” phrase as applying to my friend’s observations of lives governed by faith. Maybe he sees too many of us exhibiting a herd mentality with some gifted leader we’ve hoisted into a popish position (sometimes against the leader’s will) from which they inevitably fall (no one is perfect, after all) (except that one Guy). My friend feels he must turn off his mind because of the echo chamber talking points that roll off our tongues in response life’s deepest questions. I’ll confess to spending much of my life in mindless following as well. Just doing what I hear the preacher or leaders say. Thinking it’s true (often it was, sometimes it wasn’t). Following the paths everyone else followed—we’re all going the right way. Right?

The fact is it’s just much, much easier to walk the same direction as everyone else. Find a group that’s going in a good direction and jump in. And just stick with it. The problem is that groups need help in continuing to find the way and the leaders don’t always know the right answers. And sometimes leaders may even respond to other interests that become incompatible with the original direction.

Faith Infrastructures are Culturally-Based

It turns out that much of the infrastructure surrounding faith is culturally-based. It’s always been that way. How we are together is not truth in the sense that God said it. Much is invention. People who say “I don’t want to turn off my mind” are not stupid—they see artifice (perhaps even built on something that might be believable) and turn away whether or not they can say why.

[Full Disclosure #2: I take the Bible as the Word of God, which means I read and understand it as a document where the usual rules of interpretation apply. But the words I’m reading carry much greater authority than, say, the New York Times. Further: I believe God helps readers understand His words (which carry mystery and are not always black and white). I see the Bible as a living document that pulls me into constant conversation with the God of the Universe. That’s my leap.]

I’m saying this just to point out that there are many leaps we each take every day. I want to invite you toward the great mystery of knowing God, in any way I can. I also want to avoid turning people away because of my pat answers.


Written by kirkistan

November 8, 2010 at 9:13 am

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