“Being God isn’t easy. If you do too much, people get dependent on you. And if you do too little, they lose hope. You have to use a light touch…. When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”
-God, as depicted by Matt Groening, Futurama
When I first began to think for myself, I was lost. It just so happened that a local youth group, at that time, was looking for strays. I shared a few classes with a number of them; hence I was a likely target. Two weekend retreats and a national conference later, I was as good as saved. It was an emotional occasion – complete with tears and hallelujahs. But mine were tears of despair, for I felt like the same lost soul I was when I signed up. Where was this ‘holy spirit’ I kept hearing so much about? Sure I enjoyed the attention, and being a part of something was anesthetizing, but I wanted what everyone else seemed to have. I wanted peace; I wanted joy; I wanted hope; I wanted what I saw everyone else enjoying – grace. These kids were enthusiastic, confident, happy. Happy. I very much wanted to be a part of that.
I did everything I was supposed to. I accepted Jesus as my personal savior, I ate of his body and drank of his blood, I was baptized, and I shared the good news. I even meant every word. But the lord never brought joy into my life, only more pain and confusion. The change wasn’t happening for me. I still felt the same emptiness that must have fallen upon Job in his time of persecution. Only I didn’t have the luxury of faith prior to my condemnation. Nothing had changed for me. I was the same tortured soul I had been the years before.
My youth pastor assured me that if my faith is real and true, the change of heart would come. Well, it didn’t. no matter what I did, I never felt the presence of grace. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself that my faith must not have been true, the fact is, it felt like the most real thing I had ever known. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I was asking too much. No, this wasn’t some government program I’m talking about - some worldy parental figure – this was the almighty; the alpha and the omega; the beginning and the end; Jehovah; Allah; God.
No, it must be that my faith wasn’t good enough; not strong enough. This wasn’t the first I had heard of such a thing. This was Anton LaVey’s disclaimer on spells he claimed would empower the performers of certain rituals. He disclaimed that the spell would only work if one’s heart were pure, if one was free of all doubt. Lest the spell fail to provide the desired outcome, it was not for the failure of the incantation or the lack of power of the entity evoked, but because of the weak will of the conjurer. So, if efficacy of faith is the deciding factor, what the hell do I need Jesus for? Or God? Or Allah or Satan for that matter?
The lesson I was learning was one of semantics. All of these entities are the same. Certainly each deity is associated with a different set of moral perspectives and dogmatic value judgments, but each serves the same purpose to its adherents. They all exist at the edge of understanding; there is everything we know, and anything beyond that is relegated to the work of god, whatever way one has defined it. The best gods are infallible because they are unknown - everything about them inprovable. If the god is proven to be or not be, then it is no longer unknown. It becomes finite, limited, fallible. If one’s faith is invested into something like, say, an egg, and that egg breaks, what happens to the faith that was focused on the egg? It becomes just as broken as the egg. So faith is aimed at something infallible so as to maintain its strength, thus empowering those that tap into it.
So I have relinquished my quest to challenge people of faith, whatever way they have defined it. I have decided to join them in surrendering my suffering and hardships over to trusting that all has purpose. Labeling my faith, however, becomes tricky. Let it be known that I have faith in the unknown. And although every advancement of science seems to push the unknown farther and farther away, everything is in circles. So by pushing it away, we are also pushing it closer.