The following are a few of my musings on faith and religion. If that’s not your thing, you may want to skip this thread.
The current religious culture warriors seem to me to be primarily comprised of two Christian factions that would initially appear to have almost nothing in common, the Roman Catholic Church and Baptist/Pentecostal fundamentalists.
It would be harder to find two more dissimilar groups of Christians based on theology, doctrine, or even hierarchy. Surely the Episcopalians are far closer in worship and doctrine to Catholics, but they are not significant players in the fight against gay equality. The Quakers with their autonomy are surely structured closer to the non-denominational Pentecostal churches, but they expend no energy in restricting rights to a privileged select.
What then is it that Catholics and fundamentalist evangelicals share in common? I suggest it is that they each have certainty, a conviction that they are absolutely and unquestionable right, to the exclusion of all others.
What the mainline churches share is that measure of uncertainty, the questioning, the willingness to listen to alternate thoughts just in case God has a new revelation to share. It is not for nothing that the United Church of Christ has “God is Still Talking” as a motto. And it is this openness that allows mainline Christians to wonder if maybe those who don’t completely agree with them might be right as well… or instead. And that maybe to consider that those who disagree with to be evil and to be destroyed may leave you ultimately on the wrong side of God.
This is not to suggest that mainline churches do not believe what they believe. But rather that they are less inclined to think that we already know every thing there is to know about God. And while they may not be convinced, they are willing to listen, to consider, to weigh.
But the Southern Baptist Church knows the TRUTH and they are convinced that – since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever – the understanding that they share is absolute. And the Catholic Church (under the current Pope) knows the TRUTH and they are convinced that – since they are headed by the Vicar of Christ, God’s voice on earth – the understanding they share is absolute.
Logically, this should result in religious war, and for centuries it has. But a common enemy has been found: gays, sinners, liberals, and “secular humanists” (anyone else who disagrees with their morality crusade). And because they jointly share an absolute certainty about gay people, they could join ranks and joyously engage in battle.
Anne Lamott and I have very dissimilar viewpoints, especially in politics. But her love for God is unquestionable. And in her writings I find gems of wisdom that further my spiritual growth. In Plan B, Anne Lamott shares something her friend, Father Tom, told her:
The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.
This takes a moment to comprehend. If you were raised evangelical fundamentalist, you were probably trained to think that faith is an adherence and never-questioning belief in what you were taught about the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. It is scary to consider that faith may not be unwavering belief but may be questioning belief instead.
But it is my opinion that an unquestioned adherence to a doctrine is not belief at all. It is not until you consider that you may not be right, not until you measure your teaching against your observations, that you actually believe. If your faith cannot stand up to questions and challenges then it’s not faith at all.
And I believe it is for this reason that the ex-gay movement is almost exclusive to those churches that discourage independent thought. If your heart is open to revelation, you are open to the idea that God may have created you gay in his image. This may not be something that is readily accepted, but if your faith is structured on an increasing knowledge of God rather than a static knowledge, your faith can grow and become stronger through challenges.
But ex-gay ministries need absolutes. Change is possible. No one is born gay. All lesbians were molested. All gay men had distant fathers. Homosexuals seek to destroy society. You can’t be both Christian and gay.
I am often critical of those within the ex-gay movement for their willing disregard of observable facts and objective truth. But maybe they truly do themselves more damage than they do to us. They are locked into their limitations and thus they cannot know the abundance of God. They have restricted Him to the small covered box of what they know and of which they are absolutely convinced. They have certainty. But they lack faith.