I’m really struggling with New Year’s resolutions this year. I have way too many and they all feel equally important and pretty do-able. But I can’t do “everything.” Or can I? Start anywhere, as Bruce Mau once said. Or in my case, start everywhere.
This year, another resolution has been sort of lurking in the shadows, afraid to declare itself. It’s a pretty big deal so it has the possibility of obliterating all the rest by making them seem trivial by comparison.
It makes me nervous even to say it out loud though i’ve been thinking about it for a while now.Like I might be suddenly struck by lightening, or worse, just have everything go wrong for ever after. That feeling is just one more reason to take this resolution seriously. Folllowing bald superstition and fearfulness is no way to live.
What i’m thinking is that this year I’m going to give up God. There, I’ve said it. Saints preserve us.
By giving up God, I mean stop believing, or trying to believe, which is honestly the best I’ve been able to manage anyway when it comes to faith. Church is for the struggling I used to say. By all means go. Try to believe. I used to think that is what it is all about, the best I could manage anyway. I’m not so sure anymore.
Not that I’m not grateful for how my life has changed for the better these past few years. Church and prayer have been part of the process. No doubt I could have done more of both. Maybe with even better results. But I’ve muddled my way through in my own way and having even a modest bit of discipline about something as random and arbitrary as religion has, I think, made a difference. It’s been part of who I am and also how I describe myself.
Not believing, or not trying to believe, means some practical changes. It will mean not going to church, and more importantly, not praying, or at least not in the same way. I start everyday with faint prayer; I try to keep focused enough to do an Our Father or three and some Hail Marys. Rarely 10, never a whole rosary. But it’s been something. I do it to dispel the dread I typically feel when I wake up every morning. It sort of works. I move my mind somewhere else. Then I get up. I get on with things. I stay relatively positive I think and I reach out during the day for help if I get into difficulty.
Church has become kind of similar for me. I go because it’s there and doing that regularly sets me outside of my normal routines, and apart from most other folks too. I’ve met some interesting people at church. They are nice and they seem to respect that I’m there on my own for my own reasons without prying. There’s quite a bit of public sharing at the Mennonite church I’ve been attending so there’s also a sense of openess and trust. But like a lot of things in the God realm, you don’t want to look too closely at what that’s about let alone put it to any kind of test.
But lately I’ve been thinking praying for me is more about mindset than the words you say or the “faith” you want to put in them (“glory be,” “thank you,” help me” and so on). There’s something about doing anything consistently and for no other reason than that you do it. The “magic” is in the ritual, the repetition, and abstract purposeless-ness of it perhaps.
Practically speaking the world of God, Jesus and the church (any and all of them) are a mess. We all know that and yet we cling to the hope that there’s an ideal in there, a “good” that somehow survives the legacy of colonialism, racism, systemic abuses and the current scandals.
God knows I’ve tried to see past all that. For about a decade in a fairly focused way I’ve visited churches, attended services, got involved, all of which has been more or less fine, minimally useful but not harmful. There are many worse things to do with one’s time.
I’ve also cultivated some more or less original concepts that have kept me interested, like the idea that church is for the struggling not the converted. The truly converted don’t need the temple. I think Jesus would agree and appreciate the honesty, but I could be wrong. He was pretty unpredictable.
At some point on my journey I started to refer to Jesus as “that rascal Jesus.” After all, he was a wiley, contrary and hard to pin down guy. Reminded me of a certain “wascally wabbit.” Charismatic and intellectually brilliant. Consumately confident, he could be brutally critical and dismissive one minute, supremely empathetic and kind the next. But from a strictly secular, analytic if you will, point of view, Jesus was a spectacular Narcissist. He surrounded himself with accolytes, had to be the centre of attention wherever he went and never worked a day in his life. That bothers me, the same way fandom, hero-worship and gurus do. They’re fake and it just won’t do to say, yeah but this time, this guy, is the real deal.
No church is ever going to talk that way about The Great One. No church is ever going to try to get past the Bible, the legends of Jesus and the prophets and the idea of the capital c Church as a binding immutable doctrine, varied and contradictory though they all may be.
And then there’s the atheists. What are Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens on about? I’d like to know how they get through the day without agonizing over suffering and salvation, without getting lost in the why’s and wherefor’s.
Anyway, this has been coming for some time. I think maybe it is time to give my religious interests a rest, try something else perhaps, like meditation or yoga, or exercise, or whittling, or smoking pot even.
We all know the church is dying here and for 99.999% of the reasons, good riddence. My limp faith isn’t going to make a difference, and if I am to be saved (and God knows I need saving) then I better get on with doing what I can to practically make that happen instead of sitting around praying for a miracle or hanging around communities of honest, true believers to which I don’t really belong.
The irony of course is that having made this resolution, it’s a pretty good bet I’m going to break it. We’ll see soon enough. Tomorrow is Sunday.
– Posted by email from my BlackBerry mobile device on the Rogers network.