I created this blog as a way to process and record my experience as a seminary student. I also hope it will provide a platform for my friends and family to participate in the journey. Some of the entries are kind of long, but what can I say--I was in graduate school, they made us do that...


Saturday, March 29, 2008

After Easter

I'm home now, which in my case means Richmond, Indiana.  But, I was just back home in Seattle and I miss it.  I miss the green, the mountains, the water, the city, the market (especially the red bean sesame balls we discovered this year) and the people.  

Sometimes I wonder why I don't just move back.  If I miss everything so much, why do I stay away?  Some days, I want nothing more than to own a home in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle or Peaceful Valley in Spokane and to live there forever, building a network of deep and familiar places and relationships.  But, on other days, all I want is to travel from place to place forever, meeting new people, seeing new places, and discovering more about this crazy world I belong to.  These are very different ways of living and I see goodness in both options--I wish I could do both.  But I seem to follow the path of the second, I seem to stay away.  Not for the sake of staying away, but rather, because something keeps me away.  There is something in me that isn't ready to move home.   

And while I'm pretty sure I'm not ready to move home, I'm simultaneously not sure why I live in Indiana...or why I'm a seminary student.  This move was carefully planned (most things I do are) and yet, I question it almost daily.  Over Easter dinner (one of my favorite meals of the year) one of my good friends talked about a group he's part of called, "Living the Questions."  I have been thinking about this title ever since.  I am very good at questioning, but not so good at living without answers.

I would love to have the answers about religion, more specifically, the answers as to what I believe about religion.  But just as I can't decide whether I want to settle down in one city, I can't decide whether I'm religious.  I suppose that's why people invented the idea of agnosticism--for those of us that honestly don't know.  I don't believe in a personal God.  And I don't think the universe owes me an explanation for my existence.  But I do believe that when humans believe in something and act on it, they give that something power. Example: while I don't believe the bible is inherently powerful or was inspired by a personal, creator God, I do believe that it contains human ideas about a personal, creator God, and therefore, every time someone acts a certain way because of the bible, their action or energy gives the bible and the idea of a personal God power.  

So where does that leave me?  I'm not exactly sure...I'm trying to live with the question.  

Since human beings wrote the bible it makes sense that it is a direct reflection of humanity.  It contains the best and worst that humanity is and can be.  As I look around, I see people doing wonderful and horrible things because of their belief in God.  My years as a believer made me a better person, I'm sure of that.  But, I can't ignore the awful things I did as a believer either.  On a bigger scale, I see the Christian Peacemaker Teams and the Moral Majority both claiming religion as the reason for their actions.  And I'm left in a liminal place.  Is religion good or bad, useful or not?  Of course, nothing is this simple.  Especially religion.  

There are a few things I do know for sure.  Religion isn't going anywhere, we can't escape it and we will never know what the world would have been like without it.  And we can't deny that the world is impacted and shaped by religion--religious ideas and people--everyday.  Therefore, we have to deal with it.  And as I am a firm believer in education, my way of dealing with it is to study it.  

Of course, I would be hiding something if I painted myself as a purely atheist academic.  There is something personal that draws me towards religion.  I love tradition and ceremony.  I love to mark occasions and seasons.  I am incredibly drawn to certain aspects of religious belief--ideas of transformation, new life, goodness, beauty, love.  There is something marvelous about sitting in a Quaker Meeting for Worship.  Participating in silent, expectant waiting with other questioning souls.  Waiting to hear from the divine.  Waiting for the impossible--together.

So here I am, at home for now in Indiana.  Waiting for the impossible and studying the biggest mysteries of life with the peculiar people called Quakers.  Missing the familiar people called Washingtonians. And simply trying to be.  Trying to live without answers. 


Ally said...

Oh, my friend. I miss you so. Already. I hope that someday that wandering part of you will rest and let you come back to us.

In the meantime, peace to you as you struggle to live the questions.

Mary said...

Summer - happy Easter and welcome back to the Midwest.

On days when I find myself struggling with the questions - and the dearth of answers - I'm comforted by the knowledge that some of the greatest saints in the Catholic tradition (I'm thinking specifically of Thomas Merton and Mother Theresa) frequently cited doubt and confusion about the whole idea of God. But they're both definitely saints. I think to be truly saintly requires struggling with those questions. The folks with blind certainty, in any direction, generally seem to be the scary ones. So I guess I'm saying you're in good company. :-)

On a side note, Dan and I have started recording the podcast version of Reading the Old Testament. The introduction got posted on iTunes yesterday, and it will gradually grow, chapter by chapter, over the next few months. Check it out if you need help getting to sleep... Dan and I each use our "teaching grade schoolers" voices in it.

Can't wait to see you and Jeremy in June!

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about what you said at Easter about home being where you and Jeremy are together. It was a joy to be at home with you, and rest in your presence at Easter. Love, Christina