(Un)faithful Witness

I’d like to start off with an apology.

I’ve been so obsessed with finding answers, and sorting things out, and attacking my presuppositions, so obsessed with finding a measure of certainty, that I forgot what is truly important. I apologize for beating all my readers over the head with a solid month of blogging, everyday. nonstop. I’m sure I wore you out, I wore myself out. If I only happened to annoy you, and spam your inbox, still, I apologize.

I just want to talk a bit about what’s going on with me. I’d been, since last year, trying to prove to myself that I still had theology in me. When it felt like my dexterity with theological subjects was slipping from me, I undertook to blog as often as possible, as if my life depended on it. I obsessed, became sick with reasoning, poisoned with control, even as I sought the answers and tried my best to be faithful, I was trying to prove something, more to myself than anyone else. I was trying to prove to myself that there was a truer faith, or that I was more orthodox, or that I could rise to this or that occasion. I was trying to live out my turmoil all over my writing, and I apologize for that. To all that I’ve hurt, offended, or otherwise misstepped with, I offer my heartfelt “I”m sorry.”

I have been an unfaithful witness, even in my desire for faithfulness. In trying to be more Orthodox, I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. There’s nothing wrong with Orthodoxy, there’s nothing wrong with ancient answers to today’s questions. But there’s everything wrong with displacing your fundamentalist violence from one set of assumptions to another without thinking, and without trying to reason with others.

I ran to Orthodoxy’s goodness and tainted what I received by using it for selfish ends. I sought absolution, I sought to end the restlessness in my own soul. I sought to liberate myself from the despair I felt at seeing my protestant brothers and sisters destroy themselves in faithless idiocy. I sought to rise above the ashes of a ruined church, with pride, with arrogance, and with self-determined idiocy to finally “get it right.”

What happened?

I attempted in all my self-deceit and blindness to find the right fit for ME. and that’s where the problem was, the arbiter of truth the whole time, the whole reason for the “noble” quest was me. It was my own inner depression, my own turmoil, and my own obstinate belief that I could finally feel absolved of my sins if I ran to a certain institution, or found the right combination of prayers, answers and affiliations. I was doing what a lot of liberal prosperity protestants do, and I didn’t even recognize it.

I wanted magic, instead of Jesus. I wanted to feel free to rest, instead of trying to be a disciple in Truth, with Love. I didn’t recognize that I was bastardizing myself, slipping out of my responsibility to myself, my family, and my community to be a truthful, faithful witness. I had slipped into an offensive position that was trying to do clockwork for my faith, instead of growing into faith in connection with others. I had all these resources, all these talents, but due to my desire to understand everything, and set everything in a place where I could finally combine everything and feel as if I were my own.

Nerd Anecdote: For those of you who watch Heroes, I was being Sylar. I was given all these gifts, including the gift of understanding, and all I did with it was dissect things, and push myself further and further away from what it means to be human.

I was attempting to sever all ties, instead of being faithful to the place where I find myself. I had taken absolution into my own hands, instead of confronting with courage and fortitude the cross which lay right in front of me.

The Resolve:

Lent is a time to take stock of what’s really going on, and I’ve realized my own arrogance. I’ve decided to turn, and be faithful to the gospel.  I’ve decided to undo the wrongs I’ve committed in the name of faithfulness, and admit my own faithlessness.

I resolve to take things a little less seriously, and to remember the primacy of Divine Love as the wellspring for my actions. I resolve to be faithful to the places I find myself already, and to follow Christ as faithfully as possible with my local community. I’ve found a community of believers that has made room for me, and that desires unity with other believers, and that’s what is important to me. I have decided to rest, knowing that I don’t need all the answers.

While speaking with one of my closest friends and a personal “mentor” (I know he would likely hate that title, but there it is. Deal with it, if you’re reading this.) I discovered that it’s not as complicated as I’d made it. It’s really rather simple. At the end of everything, it boils down to something like this:

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” -Micah 6:8 NRSV

That’s what it’s about. Do justice, love mercy/kindness and walk humbly with God.

Do justice: I ignored this completely in my scrutiny over matters of faith. I will continue my quest by all means, but only insofar as I can combine it with justice. The loving justice of God that sets things right in accordance with new creation.

Love kindness/mercy: Be merciful, as God is merciful. I cannot continue to trade one fundamentalism for another. I cannot just pull out the answer book like what’s really going on is a “male bravado” measuring contest. Do the churches have a varied witness? Of course. And we know based in Christianity’s historical opposition to heresy, some theologies are better than others. However, the criterion of unity is Love, and where there are lovers, suffering with Christ as intercession for the world, united to the fellowship of his sufferings in prayer and faithfulness, this is the body of Christ. Where there is mercy, that extends grace beyond even the most “just requirements of the law,” as Joseph did with Mary, there is righteousness. And where there is righteousness of this type, there will be what God desires of all.

Humility.

Walk Humbly: I had not been doing this at all. I’ve been an arrogant prat, and I’m over it. Until I know that my arrogance has been overcome, I must continue to work where I find myself. I’ll obviously be much closer to Catholicism than some are comfortable with, but I’ve got people putting demands on me where I already am, and I would like to develop these relationships. These relationships are what’s important at the end of the day, and what will be measured of me, is whether I was a vessel of justice, walking humbly. Not just any type of humility is the criterion though, it’s the humility that comes from walking with this God revealed in and through Jesus of Nazareth.

Closing Thoughts:

A little less “Refute the Protestants” and a little more “let’s really talk about this and try to understand each other, taking each other seriously, in love and kindness.” That’s what I’m after. That doesn’t mean I’ve put away what I’ve come to believe. All this simply means I refuse to use the beliefs I have for my own ends, and instead submit them to the Lordship of Jesus; taking seriously His call that I love my neighbor with the same love that I desire of and for myself, and My God with everything that I am, heart, mind, soul and strength.

Just a side note: I set a few more posts on a post timer, and there’s a few more posts coming, I’ll redact them so they’re a little less inflammatory, and a little more true to this apology. And after the scheduled posts run out, I suppose I’m gonna take a break and write about other things for a little bit, just to refresh my soul.

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6 thoughts on “(Un)faithful Witness

  1. Eli,

    You don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to write to you lately and try to say what I’ve been feeling about your posts, but I was so afraid of offending you. And I’m afraid that it might offend you (in a weird way, as I know you have nothing against prayer!) that I even prayed for you a couple of days ago.

    You are NOT arrogant–very much the opposite, as far as I can tell. But some of the things you say in this post are exactly what I’d thought to be the case. I kept having the impression that you were indeed trying to “prove something to yourself,” that you were somehow running away from something, that God and “our Yeshua” were getting lost in a maze of words and ideas and theology. It made me sad because I felt that you were falling into a trap that so many others–of ALL faiths–fall into: trying to find “the answer,” or the perfect “formula” for a relationship with the Divine, while losing sight of God’s will for love. For you–so clearly full of love and compassion, paired with such a keen intelligence and creativity–that would have been a real tragedy.

    You know (by the way I keep repeating myself!) that I’ve come to believe that it’s not necessary to align oneself with one belief system or another, and one big reason for that is what I see as the “trap” described above. And yet, if someone lives according to the pretty much universal core values of most spiritual systems–“Do justice, love mercy/kindness and walk humbly with God”–I have no choice but to respect that person completely, regardless of what he or she calls him-/herself. It’s been clear to me since I came across your blog that you meet that standard in spades.

    It made me so happy to see that my prayer had been answered and read that you haven’t lost sight of that wonderful quality, and that wonderful will to reflect Divine love, in yourself.

    Bless you, Eli. I know that God loves you very much.

    Nancy

    • I had noticed your silence, and that was my first task, my first challenge, the first indication something was off. I am not offended at all, I’m always appreciative of prayer. In a world that doesn’t pray, any prayer is better than none. ^_^

      Sometimes, in our desire for absolution we excuse ourselves from the real problem, that we must return to embodying love. I think that this is part of the process, and many go through this, and it’s ok, so long as we come out of it, more humble, and more open to loving. Even those without faith face this. (Dawkins, Hitchens et al are just as much found proponents of this radical insecurity as anyone else.) It’s sad when we lose sight of what’s truly important. Of course the heavy lifting needs to be done, but when it becomes obsessive, i think we need to learn, step away, come back to it later, when you’re ready to put love first.

      Thanks for the vote of confidence Nancy, I’m glad you prayed for me. Sincerely.

      Let us all embody love, with forgiving tears and smiles, so that we can have heaven on earth.

      Bless you Nancy, you’re a wonderful friend.

      -eli

  2. Beloved Eli! I can hardly add a thing to the touching and eloquent words of Nancy, but she sure echoes my thoughts and sense of happy relief. It did seem like you were trying to pull off a tour de force and find the perfect articulation, and all the time, you have this wonderful, deep heart, and God was, and is, loving you quite apart from all the noble wrestlings and struggles you were doing.

    Some of my recent comments were my unconscious effort, I think, to try to poke some holes in this magnificent edifice you were building, but I may have only added fuel to the fire. So sorry about that, if I did!

    But look, don’t be hard on yourself, in retrospect. Everything you did was necessary for you to be you. Nothing was redundant, nothing was wasted, and we only learn to be by being. You have a great mind and intellect, and no matter what, it always comes back to bow to your great heart and the Christ-spirit that rules it. Nothing to despair about in that! If more Christians were like you, there’d be far fewer empty pews, believe me.

    So, just want to say, I love you, my friend, and that I see what you are about, and what you aspire to, and I love all of that. And if I can love and see all of that, surely the Father does too, right? I know you have no doubt of that for yourself, but I just want to say it “out loud,” as it were, because I know how hard folks can be on themselves when they see through something they need to work though. But we should never lose compassion for our humanity, else we lose sight of the Love that loves us.

    With great affection,
    Steve

    • “But we should never lose compassion for our humanity, else we lose sight of the Love that loves us.”

      Amen. If we’re becoming more human though compassion, I could not agree more.

      It’s good to have friends, true friends, who care, and embrace my weaknesses as well as my strengths. Thank you, for everything.

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