Tuesday, January 25, 2011

God, Doubt, Authenticity, and Foolishness

There is a saying about "It is better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

We nod sagely at that, not stopping to think ... Oh, then that means no one would talk. Or share ideas. And really, isn't that rooted in fear?

So I say, tish tosh to that, and prefer Emerson's words, "Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day."

In one of my seminary classes, the professor talked about the ambiguity in the Bible, and the fact that we must have humility in understanding that there is so much we can't understand. He was questioned by a student, wanting to know how this plays out in the life of a pastor.  "Well," the professor conceded, "There are some things that you'll learn in seminary that you won't share with your parishioners. They can't handle it."

If you are now envisioning Jack Nicholson, red-faced, "You can't handle the TRUTH!" ... well, you are not the only one.

But it made me think of some I know -- even ministers -- in UU churches, who hide parts of their spiritual lives -- daily prayer, communing with God, and what not. Would we say, "They're mostly Stage Fours. They can't handle it."?  When, of course, what we mean is, "I don't want someone to look at me and think my beliefs are ridiculous."

I think one problem that can arise, whether we are absolute doubters, absolute believers, or something in between or somewhere else, is when we hold any such belief toooo tightly. Doubt or belief, either can be squeezed so hard that to loosen our fingers would mean painful, crampy digits. We become more attached to protecting what we hold, rather than being authentic with our doubts, questions, and feelings we can't fully rationalize.

For several years now, I have been exploring my understandings of God, Spirit, and the like. I have had numinous experiences. These are cherished moments in my life.

But I remind myself to hold them loosely. Don't get too attached. And even those special moments, where I felt connected to something larger than myself, something I call God ... if you were to ask me, I would, with all humility and authenticity, say, "Yeah, but it also might just be my imagination."

And I don't feel it takes anything away by leaving that as one of the options for finding meaning. In the last Harry Potter book, he asks about an experience he had. "Was it real, or was it all in my mind?" The answer is that it can be both.

Unitarian Universalism is an agnostic religion. That doesn't mean "a polite way to say atheist."  One may give heartfelt prayers every day to God and equally be an agnostic.  We are the religion that has the humility to say, "I don't know."

To me, the model Unitarian Universalist humanist/Christian/pagan/etc. all say the same thing.  They say, "I believe X.  But I don't know that for sure."  What "X" means doesn't matter as much as, "But I don't know that for sure." But I don't know leaves room for discussion with others. But I don't know leaves room for what the person personally considers ridiculous. But I don't know leaves room for growth and revelation.

We loosen our grip, stretch our fingers. It hurts, at first. But the blood begins pumping, and soon, our fingers feel just fine.  Better, even.  If we want, we can reach out to other things now.


ms. kitty said...

I agree, LE. And it's better to share our religious practices (prayer, whatever) than it is to hide them.

Sara said...

Thank you - another beautiful post.