Ken Lay is dead. Ann Coulter is a plagiarist. Rush Limbaugh is still able to have chemically-induced right-wing sex, but won’t say with whom. Kim Jong Il is mad. Soldiers kill innocent people, sometimes after raping them. The space shuttle still flies, though those pesky foam tiles still keep falling off. Joe Biden will not be the Democratic nominee in 2008, just like in the past six elections. The lunatics still rule the asylum that is South Carolina politics and their Bull Street haunts will soon be expensive condominiums. (Unlike mine.)
I go on vacation and nothing changes.
Sorry for the lack of posts around here. I was gone. I’m back. My readers (both of them) have probably gone on to blogs that are actually interesting and whose authors actually write on a somewhat predictable schedule. Let’s start again.
The past month or so, I gave up politics and got religion. Of course, while this blog has always been about religion, it seemed to me that the battles that were being fought in my church were bigger than a single denomination and were part of a greater struggle to bring religious faith into the post-modern age. That’s why I spent so much time on the General Convention and its absurd attempt to legislate theological purity. I know I bored you. Hell, I bored me. That’s why, after it was over, I sat at the beach, sans internet, and read, without writing. I needed filling. And, evidently, copious amounts of the distilled juices of various plants.
Theology happens in the space between holy writ and the editorial page, between the diner and the altar. It crosses the gulf between the human condition and the divine mind. It shows us the path towards authentic humanity and authentic divinity. It’s hard work and too often left to people who are more interested in clever aphorisms or bedside “devotionals” that yank little pieces of scripture out of context and build publishing empires out of them. (Prayed the “Prayer of Jabez” lately?)
But theology is important, too important to be left to the Kendall Harmons and Peter Akinolas of world, or of the Church, for that matter. It’s too important to be left to people who have it all figured out, or believe that they are President or Pope or Archbishop because they are spokesmen (they are nearly always men) of God.
One thing the conservatives have right: we are in a theological crisis, a crisis which threatens the very meaning of what it is to be a person of faith. Is faith the sum total of the accumulated thought of the “fathers”? Is it simply a catechetical response to questions which can have only one correct answer? Is it some doctrinal system, revealed to wiser, holier, Godlier people than us? Or is faith something more, something less analytical, something less sure of itself?
The theological crisis of the early 21st century is a political crisis as well, for politics, says the Wikipedia, “is the process and method of making decisions for groups. Although it is generally applied to governments, politics is also observed in all human group interactions including corporate, academic, and religious.” Political orthodoxy is as rigorous as any religious one. If you want justice for the poor, you have to be a liberal Democrat. If you want relief from ever increasing taxes, you have to be a conservative Republican. The deep thought required to navigate the uncharted waters of reality is too hard. Better let smarter people do it. People who know better. People who have read the book. Be it Left Behind or The World is Flat.
Because it’s too hard to think. Because when you think, it occurs to you “that you just may wind up being wrong.” (Penned by the great theologian and fallen away Catholic, Jimmy Buffett.) Because thinking means giving up on sureness, on certainty, on always knowing. Because thinking requires faith.
And nobody needs faith who already knows the answers.