Thursday, April 28, 2005

Humanity Unite!

Thanks to budjesmuhyawkar for this Thomas Merton quote:
At this point I am making a public renunciation, in my own name at least, of all tactical, clerical, apologetic designs upon the sincerity of your unbelief. . . I think this apology is demanded by the respect I have for my own faith. If I, as a Christian, believe that my first duty is to love and respect my fellow in his [or her] personal frailty and perplexity, in his [or her] own unique hazard and need for trust, then I think that the refusal to let him [or her] alone, to entrust him [or her] to God and [their] conscience, and the insistence on rejecting them as persons until they agree with me, is simply a sign that my own faith is inadequate.

My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. On this level, the division between believer and unbelievers ceases to be so crystal clear. It is not that some are all right and others all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity. Everybody is an unbelievers more or less
This quote sums up not only the importance of human unity in the face of divisive dogma, but the religious imperative to delve below the surface of personal faith. Religious belief and practice are based on faith, something that by its very nature cannot be factually proved or disproved. Though differing admittedly by degree, we as human possess a distinct rational sense that will vacillate that faith. The myth of "factual objectivity" attempts to undermine the very premises of constant faith, forcing reason into a staunch stance against faith. Faith and reason can and must coexist if we are to accept the common human condition, much less our personal experiences. What is reason but a faith in "factual objectivity"? What is science, but a faith in reasonable conclusions? Acceptance, not denial is an important tenant in every major belief system, including Christianity.

Without the counterpart to an entity, that entity does not exist. Without dark, there is no light. Without evil, there is no good. Without both dichotomies, there is no choice, no challenge to explore ... no faith. Without some doubt, there can be no true understanding of faith, just as without dutiful practice, there is no religion. Part of accepting the unity of concepts is understanding its duality. Part of embracing monotheism is understanding there is one God who created with one hand, good and the other, evil. This is difficult to accept, but in true faith, this duality must be digested and dissolved. Acceptance is not the easiest road to walk, but if religion was so easy to practice, what would differentiate the believers from the non-believers?

Merton's answer: not much. By embracing the doubt that plagues our faith, we embrace the uncertainty of the non-believer. True faith is not certainty, but an uncertain belief that stands on its own without any factual insurance or political funding. It is alone. Someone that does not doubt his/her own faith does not understand the true nature of faith. Fellowship and empathy is no substitute for understanding. Without understanding and accepting our own inner self, how can we understand others and accept them for who they are?

Thomas Merton many times commented on the misled acceptance of our "outer inner self", the inner window to what others believe us to be. We too often internalize what others perceive of us and create a stranger within that we mistake for ourselves. Without constant, silent reflection, we are doomed to become this pale shade of ourselves, doomed to living as someone we are not and thus embrace others in the same way. There is no struggle. There is no understanding.

We are blind mouths consuming all, digesting nothing.

Even the non-believer knows this, for the non-believer is no different than the believer. To become a non-believer, one must reject a belief. To reject a belief, one must attempt to understand and consume it, choosing only afterward the pieces that cannot be digested. The creative energy comes into play when that believer melds the remaining fragments together into a coherent structure, wobbly at first, but bound to gain stability over time.

Merton is right to embrace his connection with the non-believer, for all true believers are also non-believers. We can all argue the role or absence of the Creator, but there is no denying the creation. Is it the timeline of creation we really care about or the meaning of it now that we are in it? The path to this understanding seems inescapable:

The glue of creation binds together all things, whether we wish to be apart of it or not.

5 Comments:

At 6:27 PM GMT-5, Blogger budjesmuhyawkar said...

You make some good points, prisoner, I agree. IT is a very interesting point of view. The quote screams of truth to myself, but I can't help but to think that many "believers" in Christ would deny any truth in Merton's statement. This is only because many christians believe that they are in some way better than non-christians or on some higher plain or something.
For example, I have heard many preachers/teachers/speakers/leaders in the evangelical christian community claim that it is important for "believers" to not associate with "sinners". First of all, this is impossible because one would have to separate themselves from their own sinful being. Aren't we all sinners? Secondly, if a christian separates his or her self from those that sin, they may begin to believe that they are quite different, maybe even better, or holier, than those who do not believe in christ. This seems so contrary to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ himself.

 

At 12:46 PM GMT-5, Blogger the prisoner said...

Most people have a hard time with religion whether Christian or not, usually only accepting it because their family or immediate society tells them to.

True belief/faith is much harder to attain, and thus commonly avoided. Most people want a "drive-thru fast-food" faith where you order what you want and get it in a matter of minutes.

I don't think I am a Christian as much as becoming a Christian. It is the journey that matters, not so much the focus on a destination.

 

At 11:59 PM GMT-5, Blogger budjesmuhyawkar said...

You make a good point about how most people want an easy access religion. I don't know though , it gets complicated. I know of many people who go to Christian churches who understand how hard it is to achieve a true spiritual faith, but yet they claim that they have achieved it, hmmm.
You make an interesting point about becoming a christian as opposed to claiming you are one. Let me pose this question....do you think you will ever achieve chritendom in your life before your body dies? Is it possible to be a chritian, to be a believer, or are we all forever non-believers?
Buddhism is similar to this thought in that the belief in Buddha, in achieving a complete state of mindfulness will eventually result in becoming a buddha, but not necessarily in one's own lifetime...in fact it may happen in a few lifespans of one soul. Is this the same thing? Can we hope that reincarnation will assist in bringing us closer to God, to be more like Christ? Maybe Jesus was a soul of past generations that finally reached his ultimate relation to God. He could have achieved the position of "Son of God" through his many lifespans, or he could have been destined to be God's son, but needed to go through a few lives to become ready for the sacrifice. What do you think?

 

At 3:13 PM GMT-5, Blogger the prisoner said...

Let me pose this question....do you think you will ever achieve chritendom in your life before your body dies? Is it possible to be a chritian, to be a believer, or are we all forever non-believers?

I believe if I knew the answer to that, there wouldn't be any point to the journey. But yes, I hope my journey is the path to true Christian faith.

I think faith must be balanced with good works however. And I have a lot of good works to do...

 

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