"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wFriday, October 10, 2003

PUTTING IT ALL OUT THERE: I won't go into the details of the night, but things took a nasty turn toward the end. This threw me into a reflective frame of mind and now, at one in the morning, I find myself unable to shut it all down. And, the problem is, there's just so much to say that I'm not sure how to approach this. I feel that if I don't find exactly the right re-entry angle, this post will burn up. But I have no idea what that angle is, so, please, bear with me.

I do many things badly but I'm a particularly bad witness to my faith, because 1) I'm a hypocrite and 2) I don't understand unbelief. At all. Does not compute. I was raised a Baptist , a non-sacremental mutation of Christianity which emphasizes a personal relationship with God. One is "saved" from one's failings by asking Jesus to come into, er, one's heart (that construction sounds so bloody British but oh well). As critics put it: Say a prayer, go to heaven. Haw haw.

They can laugh all they want but here's the thing: I've seen this work on a massive scale. I've watched people confront their lives, absolutely break down, and become very different people than they were before. And, though one can quibble with the formula and the beliefs behind it, I don't see this as a case of massive self-delusion or the unlocking of one's inner potential, or somesuch. Rather, you have deep crying out to deep; one man's soul finding some relief in his creator.

To be sure, there are rational arguments for and against belief (in God, in Christ, in his church), and I find those in favor more persuasive. But let's get real: You would expect me to say that, wouldn't you? And to the extent that it plays into what you think of as my peculiar needs, you'll discount it, yes? And Iwould expect that you (you being the unbeliever) would reach opposite conclusions because to do otherwise would lead to all kinds of inconveniences. We become two ships passing while the night watchman makes the rounds.

I don't know how to narrow these differences. In fact I wouldn't even know where to start. I can't imagine what it would be like to go to bed at night and not say a few words to my creator; or pray when I am anxious; or entertain the idea that I can determine what is right and what is not (that would be a truly scary world); or carry the burden of my own sins (and they are many and non-trivial). What does the unbeliever do when he wakes up with cold sweats in the middle of the night -- when the weight of his decisions comes crushing down and the future seems like a sick, sick joke? Keep sweating? Brazen it out? Hit the bottle? Distract himself by watching the television? We all have nights and days like this, and I would love to know how some of these people manage.

Some harden themselves. They develop a posture to the rest of the world which screams I am right and you, my friends are all badly mistaken, and ride that for all it's worth. But in my experience with unbelievers, these are a minority. How, I wonder, do the rest find the strength to look at themselves without flinching?

posted by Jeremy at 1:42 AM