We’re taught to expect grace from the church. But somewhere along the line we meet this expectation, which serves to bind of our faith, dishonoured. We realize deserving the church’s grace demands living within conditions we, given the nature of our beings, can never come to be. Seeing this, we let go. We embrace a dark premise: the church celebrates its tenets in a way that fails to cater to the needs of all its members. The church has failed to cater to our needs. So, we chop off the one bit of self that serves to keep us centred. We let go of our ability to believe. We let go of our faith.
Those who notice our shift become concerned. They do what comes when concern seats at the heart of a human being: they question. Why have you decided to be away from “the presence of God” for so long? They ask. But from the way we see it, we haven’t been away. The premise that God is everywhere seats deep in our hearts. Yet, their concern troubles us. It leaves us harbouring a different concern. We suspect that in a quickness to throw away the foul bathwater of religion we may have thrown with it our baby of soul nourishment. Our ability to believe. Our faith.
We should not fixate on this concern misguidedly. Contrary to what we might be disposed to intuit, that we are bad people, our suspicion is indicative of what can be found in a great many of human beings: a desire to be good. And the confusion, the desire to throw it all away, arises from our inability to reconcile the “flaw” we inhabit with what has been described to us as good. We need to reject this birthplace of confusion, because it guides us away from the route to greater happiness and fulfilment. We need begin our reconciliation from a different place. One rooted on this following premise: every manifestation of faith stems from a collection of stories.
Every form of religion stems from a network of stories. A complex collection of statements compelling enough to stir psychological and emotional devotion. It is this idea Yuval Harari writes about in a portion of his extraordinary book A Brief History of Humankind. Quote:
“[…] the truly unique feature of [human] language is not its ability to transmit information […]. Rather, it’s the ability to transmit information about things that do not exist at all.
Legends, myths, gods and religions appeared for the first time with the Cognitive Revolution. […].Thanks to the Cognitive Revolution, Homo sapiens acquired the ability to say, ‘The lion is the guardian spirit of our tribe’.
[…] But fiction has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively.”
We should be alive to stories, they have the power to connect and disconnect a people. And, more importantly, we should be alive to the influence they have on our lives for within them lies statements capable of not only enriching or destroying our personal lives but enabling or stifling whatever contribution we might possess for the advancement of the external world. Faith begins at holding on to truth. Sometimes it requires reassembling sets of stories to mirror what resembles truth, because the statements that constitute the stories make up the set of beliefs that inform our faith.
The feeling that the church fails to carter to our needs is a legitimate one. It decries what we perceive to be the manifestations of unjust social constructs. However, losing our faith over the expectations of a mighty few is a path towards disaster. It leaves us disoriented and decentred. The saying “You got to believe in something” should be of paramount value to us. It begins with holding on to what is true. All the statements and stories in the world needn’t leave us unnerved about what we know to be true. This anchoring to what we know to be true is perhaps the only indication that deserves the term we describe as having faith.
You are Awesome.