I started my day yesterday by reading the sexual abuse lawsuit against several Sovereign Grace church pastors. I got 16 pages into the document before I couldn’t read anymore. (If you are a sexual abuse victim, DO NOT read the lawsuit. It will hurt you. It’s the worst I’ve ever seen.)
Today, I was confronted with science that accuses systems of religion as naive, at best. There’s “solid proof” in their argument that religions were merely social constructs. Now that we know more, we should think differently, they say. Their ideas are reasonable. Incredibly reasonable.
Tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll hear of some church or mosque or temple where more took place: money laundering. Fear mongering. Sexual abuse. Indoctrination. Filth.
That’s what it really is. It’s filth.
I confess that on some days, I want to join up with the atheists. If this is what organized faith looks like, I don’t want to be associated with it. My critical thinking kicks in and questions overwhelm my heart. I would lay out those questions, but I’m sure you know them all too well.
The end result of those questions seems to be this idea that it’s stupid to believe in a God, much less a loving God, in light of the realities we face in our churches, schools, communities, and nations today.
It’s taken me years to work out how Christianity, in particular, responds to this. The administratively simplistic — and somewhat brutal — just lay out the facts. We broke the rules. The consequence is that we live in a sin-sick, disease-filled, horrible world. And that God’s none too happy with it. And He will set things right one day on Earth. He will bring justice to every wrong…. And things don’t function this way in His kingdom in Heaven.
But for the deep thinkers, the intellectuals, and the emotionally aware, that theology is just a band-aid. All it takes is to hear the story of yet one more 8 year-old girl sold into slavery, who is drugged daily to be raped by 8-10 men to make that line of reasoning crumple like a paper bag.
“That’s it? Years of horror and a lifetime of mental anguish, and it’ll one day all be set right?”
It is a pathetic response.
…And yet…. I believe. How?
I believe because I’ve sat across from the raped. I’ve wept with the beaten. I’ve been handed the diagnosis of “there’s nothing to do to cure this.” And in every situation, there’s been another person in the room that stepped up. I’m a good counselor (not a great, but a good), but I couldn’t have helped to heal a wound of rape. And yet, in turning over my voice and body to something greater than myself, I saw healing from incredible horrors take place. I’ve been to the place where I can’t breathe because I imagine the possibility of my children watching me suffocate to death. And I’ve felt a presence of assurance say that there will be grace in that moment. I want to shake it off. I want to call it naive. But those I am confident in those realities more than my own existence.
As I let those moment-by-moment realities exist, I’ve found more beauty in the writings of scripture, not less. I’ve seen God’s anger and wrath at injustice, especially injustice perpetrated by “His people,” written in between the lines of scripture in a way that I hadn’t before. I’ve seen His ability to heal and restore in a way that I didn’t think was possible. And I’ve seen Him do something that humans don’t. I’ve seen Him fully admit that there is nothing okay with the absence of 100% love and respect for a human soul, and I’ve seen Him offer it as one who’s capable of giving it.
And suddenly, it becomes stupid to hope in humanity, executors of violence, and not in a being capable of perfection. It becomes stupid not to partner with someone — something — that can change individuals and societies in ways that are beyond our comprehension. This is the reason that so many faith practices exist, after all, is it not? Because we know that we can’t be it. We can’t be all that there is. We cannot be our own hope. For that hope is the most despairing thought of all. Call me greedy, but I want more. Call me greedy, but I don’t think you can call me stupid.