Sunday, March 17, 2013

watersheds and wanderings

It's been a while. And by that, I mean way, way too long. It's not that I haven't started to write a few times. There are several unfinished drafts floating around in a file on my desktop. It would appear, however, that I haven't been able to complete a thought in almost a year now. Perhaps that should worry me. Perhaps it has just been one long transition, or series of transitions, and I haven't really had my feet on the ground for a while. At some point, I suppose, if I am to retain that precious part of myself that is a writer, I will have to be content with publishing an unfinished thought or two...

I write now from Kentucky, where I have entered the arena of the social sciences at the PhD level, no small transition from my M.A. in theology. As a Christian, it has been disorienting at best. I have stepped from the world of corporate prayer, to a world where Christianity is assessed through the framework of Durkheim's collective effervescence. I wrestle. I shift in my seat. I ponder effervescence and the reality of God. At times I feel like I've lost my moorings, like I am one pinky-hold away from losing my faith. A little numb and a lot lost describes the general goings on of my heart most of the time these days. 

The wrestling. My history professor in college (shout out to you, Dr. Mullins) spoke often of "watershed moments" in history. They are the moments that redefine all the moments that come before and after: case in point, the Enlightenment. What came before is now considered mostly dark and uninformed. What comes after, is.... enlightened. What comes after is the light of positivist reason, empirical truth at last. As a student of Theology, a Christian, and an intellectual, I often find myself standing atop the watershed of the Enlightenment, looking down one side and then the other, wondering if the division is necessary, questioning assumptions about which side is closer to truth than the other.   

A post-Enlightenment world is the water we swim in, to be sure. All the more in my current studies. The age of reason. The power of science. Homo mensura: man (and all his unequivocal data) the measure. I'm not dissing rationality and empirical science. I'm all for discovering patterns in human interaction (hence, dedicating my brain in slavery to sociology for a season) and I'm a big fan of a heliocentric universe. Data is great and useful and powerful. But here's the part that troubles me. This water we swim's a blip in the grand scheme of history. A few hundred years. No much older than our country (which is given far too much watershed shed status than is deserved, I would suggest). Can it really be the measure of all that has come before? Am I really stupid to embrace mystery and a bit of divine nonsense? Paul wrote to the Corinthians, telling them that the wisdom of God would seem like foolishness to the world. The implication here, of course, is that embracing the wisdom of God will make us look like fools. In this stage of my life, I chafe against looking like a fool much more than I have before.

Talking to a friend about this, I was reminded of an experience I had in college. I remember it in detail. I remember that it wasn’t quite dark, just the dimmest shade of dusk. I was walking on a stretch of sidewalk next to married student housing, alone. It was cool but not cold. I had been wrestling with the nonsensical nature of the gospel message. It was ludicrous, really. I was restless on the inside, talking to God out loud, telling him that the whole thing was just crazy, and that I didn’t know what I thought about it anymore.

I heard it then as clearly as an audible voice. “This is where you leap.”

I literally stopped in my tracks that night. “This is where you leap” was not a reassurance that my beliefs made sense. It wasn’t even an argument against my claim that they were downright ludicrous. It was a call to faith. And I leaped into the most incredible adventure I could have asked for. Perhaps I am on the precipice again, and the decision before me is the same as it was that night on the sidewalk near married student housing.

I am realizing that, in reality, everyone is going on faith in some way or another. I mean, trusting the truth of the few hundred years of water flowing down on this side of the Enlightenment is still choosing a basket to put your eggs in and hoping it holds together.

It’s a pinky-hold, man. I’m out on the sidewalk again. I find myself longing for the listening ear of those who shared that campus with me. It's easing past the dimmest shade of dusk, and it's colder than before. "This is where you leap."

Here ends my disjointed thinking. This time, I will post it anyway.