Saturday, February 25, 2006

Faith Crisis?

Well, the classwork has really been piling up and I've found myself reconsidering whether I can honestly call myself a Christian. To some degree, this is an ongoing debate in my head but it's also rearing it's ugly head a lot with this semester's courses. The first two reading assignments for my Intro to Worship class dealt with the church calendar, which is all based around the death and resurrection of Jesus. The general liturgy, particularly in the Roman Catholic background, is based around the death and resurrection of Jesus. Then in my class "Approaches to Paul's Theology" we've been talking about how, for Paul, the life and teachings of Jesus weren't relevant (he never quotes Jesus and tells any stories about things Jesus did) - just the fact that he lived and died and was resurrected. My United Methodist doctrine class hasn't harped on the resurrection bit quite so much, but we have been talking about John Wesley's theology and read Wesley prayers each class perios, so it's not exactly missing from the conversation either. It seems that there's a theme that Christianity - in some way, at some point, on some level, means that you believe in the resurrection. Now, exactly what is meant by that varies - I know some people take the resurrection as more of a myth which gives meaning and others believe in the bodily resurrection (zombie Jesus?) and others are somewhere else entirely. Personally, as the child of two engineers and a former science geek, I've never seen a body rise fromthe dead and have a really hard time buying it. I've never understood the whole Easter story - I've always just taken the story of the crucifixion as a story of how cruel and unjust humanity and empires can be, and yet God is present all the time. I've never felt the resurrection was needed.
I have one other class this semester - conversations with Buddhism and Christianity - and it's really speaking to me in deeper ways than I anticipated. I've always had a fascination for Buddhism, and my partner has managed to synthesize being Buddhist and United Methodist, although don't ask me to explain it. I did my senior paper in college comparing the lives and teachings of Jesus and Buddha (remarkably similar, but not twins), but this class is getting much more involved with the philosophy and world view of Buddhism and Eastern thought. Last week's class we were talking about karma and dying and someone asked more questions trying "to understand death from a Buddhist perspective" and it was then that someone explained it so simply. Death is almost a friend in Buddhism, an inevitable step we all must take on the journey with hope for a better life the next time, closer to attaining nirvana. In Christianity, death is the enemy, something which Jesus conquers in the crucifixion and resurrection. Death is often portrayed as the consequence of sin - our "fallen" state as human beings, but what if there wasn't a fall (as I don't believe the Bible is a history text book)? Why are humans the flawed beings that they are? Is it possible that there is no need for Jesus to die "for us"? Is it possible that the story of the resurrection was just a story someone made up (for any of a number of reasons)? What then, would become of Christianity? Would it even make a difference? I'm asking for your input - I'm an extrovert and need to bounce things off of others to better understand myself, so will you help me process this "crisis" of mine? I don't feel like I can walk into a seminary classroom and declare myself not a Christian - doesn't seem right, does it? But if I really feel this is the case, it also leads to questions of vocation. What business does someone like me have being a leader in the church, even if it isn't a position in the pulpit? How do you understand the resurrection? What's your Christology?


hipchickmamma said...

just wanted to say i've been pondering the whole idea if i am xian myself! i think the only thing that keeps me christian is that i do believe in the incarnation--i need a god that cares enough to get in the mud and muck of our lives and offer a better way rather than standing back and just shaking her head or laughing at us.

for me...i believe in "accidental christians" those who live a life dedicated to living like jc. they can be muslim, hindu, atheist, whatever--follow me has little to do with belief and everything to do with action/lifestyle/orientation to God.

so thanks...and i'll stop trying to tell you it's ok and you don't have to know right now. 'cause i don't know freaking shit!

mandyc said...

I appreciate your views, and I don't think you have to worry about being a Christian. Your belief in incarnation seems to slidify it, although your Christology may not be "orthodox." I did have a long conversation with John in the library and he helped me find some books about different Christologies, but now I need to find the time to read them! I don't think I have to have it all figured out right now - or maybe ever. I just want to be able to participate in what's left of my classes in an appropriate way and feel like I'm getting something out of them other than frustration! And I think you know more than you give yourself credit for. ;)

What's WMD? said...

I followed a link from Making Chutney. Iask the same questions about the significance of the life of Jesus as well. I took NT with Luke Johnson when I was at Candler and he asks a question that has continually helped me to reframe the life of Jesus. Johnson's thoughts on the matter go something like this, "There were many failed messiahs. Why did this incredibly rich body of literature rise up around the community's experience of this Jesus of Nazereth fellow?" The community in 1st century Palestine must have had a life changing experience with this Jesus fellow. What can we claim to know about that community's experience of Jesus? For Luke Johnson the search fir the historical Jesus is a load of crap. He would rather ask what difference do the stories of Jesus make for communities then and now?

Anyway, thank so much for being who you are and asking the tough questions. Much love and more Peace to you and your amazing partner. Reading your blog makes me wish for the days at OCU again.

I'm still wondering how long it will be till my soul gets it right?