An Exploration of (My) Faith

As I have shared before with several people and also in this blog, I have struggled with my spiritual life for the past year at least. Lately, though, I have found belief in God itself to be quite a challenge. From beginning to question my beliefs and deconstructing my faith, I have come to a point where the idea of God just does not seem to make sense. But I have not given up, and I have decided to continue this struggle by engaging in conversation with others about questions of faith, spirituality, and belief in God. And, since you know I love podcasts, the product of this will be For Laypeople, By Laypeople.

Let me be clear: I am trying to hold on to God with everything I have. Losing my faith scares me to death. I want to believe in God; but I am struggling to do so. I love the Body of Christ, but I’m tired of sitting in the pews wondering why I’m there if I don’t feel anything, if half the time I’m not sure I believe in any of what the pastor is saying. I find the Christian story so fascinating and beautiful that I can’t get away from it, and I want to believe it and live it with everything I have and am. So bear with me.

I strive to be completely honest about my faith. I think it is important for believers to be open about how difficult belief can be. It is a scary thought, for sure, but there are many of us who have questions but don’t feel like these can be discussed among believers because they may challenge the very foundations of our faith. And so we hide our doubts and avoid our questions in order to fit in. We grow discontent with our spiritual lives and live out a lie, one in which we may ironically find comfort. But I don’t wanna live out a lie, so I will be honest, and I would be honored to get your honesty in return.

While I believe sharing our struggles is beneficial to the body of Christ because there is a lot we can learn from one another, I am hesitant to be this open when I know how some in the community might perceive my struggle. All I can say is there are people who sincerely and constantly yearn after God and can’t seem to find anything or anyone. The process is exhausting and support, rather than reproach, from fellow believers is crucial.

Lastly, I know nobody needs yet another podcast on faith. There are some great (e.g., The Liturgists) and not-so-great podcasts out there, but I think I do need this podcast myself. I need a space where I can talk openly about where my struggles come from, a space where I can engage with different perspectives and learn from them. And while this is a very selfish project, I hope you can find something useful in whatever conversations take place in For Laypeople, By Laypeople.

So, with that, here’s the first episode:

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#023 – Michael Paradise

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Before leaving Lincoln, Neb., for good, I sat down with Michael Paradise in his office at the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church where he serves as the young adult pastor. I was curious to know what it is like to work with young adults and what made him want that job—it may have something to do with having a pretty wife.

After a fun chat, I left so he could continue eating pizza and playing worship songs on the guitar, which is basically his job description—according to him, not his employer.

#022 – Honest and Self-revealing

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Slade and I have been spending quite a bit of time attempting to read at our local coffee shop, but we just end up talking whenever we run into each other. We decided to talk for the podcast about some of the Christian books we’ve read—or more specifically, just me ranting about an “honest and self-revealing” book I read. Enjoy!

This episode contains some explicit language.

This was our new set up! How does it sound (and look)?

Truth and Facebook conversations

Surely I’m not the only one tired of those “political” conversations, many that in all fairness should be referred to as social, but politics is a nice dysphemism we use to avoid them when convenient. And with those incredibly useful and thought-provoking conversations we initiate and carry on painful distances, it is rarely not advantageous to escape them.

The thing is you’ll never get it right, but the other person will. You see, you just haven’t read enough or formed your own opinions. Well, perhaps you have read a lot, but only the lies they’ve been telling you. They won’t tell you the truth, someone claims, so they can continue profiting off the situation.

The other thing is that those intellectuals do know where to get their information and how much to get. They know where the reliable sources. They know the lies and the truths like the back of their hand.

Sorry, you lose. Mostly because you end up frustrated and with wasted time behind you.

They, however, are not winners. They lost, too. They didn’t get anything more than a self-congratulatory pat on the back and their ego telling them, “Go get them, champ!”

So, the third thing is: we’re all losers here.

I’m left feeling powerless. I want to know when enough information is enough or what sources are trustworthy, but we have build an empire where distrust reigns. Any small suspicious action and we are ready to claim a source is forever lying to us for whatever Machiavellian intentions they have. Yet, we readily accept and repeat what the charming prince tells us. He’s charming, right? No, he just tells you what you want to hear—the oh so harmfully satisfying confirmation bias.

I know I don’t know enough, but I know I’m tired of all these straw man arguments. Beyond that, I’m tired of knowing you’re behind that screen honestly believing you got it right, that you are the sole—perhaps, if you are that vain—possessor of truth. If only we all had your outstanding, ivy-league-worthy reasoning and research skills.

So, for those Facebook conversations, just run away from them. The leftist with the superiority complex who fills your feed with piles of sensationalist media won’t get it—the pot calling the kettle black? Please, do not even think about replying to that annoyingly, stupidly reductive right winger. They won’t get it, either.

Blogging, honest sharing

I have not written in a while. Usually, every Sabbath I would make time to write. For some months, I had been quite consistent I was even surprising myself I had been able to keep up with the blog and the podcast. All that fell apart in the last month, though.

As grad school applications deadlines got closer and the end of the semester approached, I was overwhelmed with all the work that needed to get done. Every week when Sabbath came, I didn’t feel like writing. I was burned out, both physically and emotionally.

I definitely thought about writing, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything that wasn’t about all the work I had. Sure, I started some drafts on some interesting thoughts I still plan to share, but at the moment it felt like to much work. I first had to work some things out in my life before I could write about these other topics.

Even now that the semester is over, I still feel like finishing those drafts require a little bit of lying to myself. It doesn’t make a lot of sense since I still think about those things quite often. Yet, it makes sense when I open my computer and try typing. It feels dishonest.

All this talk leads me to the purpose of this blog. I want to be honest, but how honest can I be? On his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” Stephen King wrote, “If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

Is that really the condition for truthful writing? I’m not ready to give up my membership for the polite society, but I do want honesty.

I don’t want to talk about myself, but I sometimes need to before I can move on to things that are worth your time.

I want to question love in a serious way. I want to ask whether we lie to ourselves and other when we say we can do whatever we put our minds to. I want to point out the shortcomings of the groups I consider myself part of (at least kind of sympathize with) such as Christianity, Seventh-day Adventism, and the left with all its oft-petty activism.

I want to call you ignorant and close-minded when you behave like a jerk, asshole, or prick—depends on which one offends you the most.

And I want you to hold me to the same standards, because, as anyone who knows me knows, I can be all those things thanks to a superiority complex I can’t seem to get rid of.

If this doesn’t make much sense, I’m sorry. I guess I’m recovering from a tough semester.

The Wayfarer by Stephen Crane

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that none has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”

—Stephen Crane

I first read this poem two years ago. However truthful, though, it didn’t leave a mark. I forgot about it soon after posting it on my previous blog. But it does address many of the things I’ve been struggling with and probably always will.

People have constructed many paths that people have taken over and over. Each person that passes through it makes it easier for the next one, taking down vegetation and marking a clear road. But the right path, or the path to truth, is walked by few, which means it is still full of vegetation, of weeds and knives.

Crane does an excellent job and to explain it any further would be counterproductive. I can just say I don’t want to be the wayfarer in the poem.