Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Value of Doubting

So I'm really frustrated about my LACK of community and church.

The thing that is hardest for me is that I really do love God, and I really do love His church.  I just don’t like most local churches.  Or fundamentalists.  And I know that sounds terrible, honestly, it sounds hypocritical and awful even to my ears.  It makes me sound like one of those hipster Christians who just ‘hates the church’ because they’ve been so ‘you know, like, burned.’  And I don’t want to be a hipster Christian, but I find myself falling into it so easily. 
What I really want, I cannot seem to find.  And I’m not sure what that means.  I want a church that has doubts.  I think doubts can be a really powerful, good thing.  Often, when I go to a new church, I am much more concerned by their absolute certainty about one thing or another than I am concerned about their doubts.  Here’s the thing:  one church is certain that God is this way, another church is certain that God is that way.  And they’re both Christian churches that read the same Bible and profess the same creeds. 
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
I know this church in our area that is really into Creationism.  Like, really, really, really into it.  I have a lot of family members that believe in a literal 6 day Creation; I don’t subscribe to the same belief, but I understand it.  This church, however, is very involved in organizations whose chief goal is to ‘disprove’ evolution.  Now, it seems to me that it’s hard to disprove anything that has a large amount of scientific backing, especially using Faith, which cannot be proven itself.  But, this church is really, really into it.  I’ve talked to the pastor’s wife several times and she has brought up this organization, as well as other Young Earth theories every time I’ve talked to her.  She’s SURE that this is a young Earth and that the accounts of creation in Genesis are literal, day-by-day guidelines for how God created.  As I come from a different school of thought, it’s hard for me to want to even visit a church that puts such a strong emphasis on something that is “known” to them, when it’s really a belief.
This is true of many churches.  I would have a hard time with a church that preached evolution, over and over again, from the pulpit.  It’s not a soapbox.  And Creation/Evolution has very little to do with how we live our lives today, in the here-and-now.
When I have asked some local pastors about women in leadership in some churches, I have been told, point-blank, that God does not permit that.  This is not the church’s ‘stand’ or ‘belief,’ it is what is, and I should know that.
I have not found a church so far that has been open about doubts or uncertainty.  I haven’t been able to find a church where the pastor says something along the lines of “here are two schools of thought, both have merit, both have Biblical basis, it’s up to you to discern which you think is right.”  Instead, I have found a LOT of certainty.  It seems as though the congregation should just accept everything the pastor says as canon.  And if there is one thing my parents raised me to do… it’s not that.
So here I am, full of doubts about all sorts of things, and I cannot seem to find a local body of Christ that is willing to talk these things through with me.  And it’s really frustrating and disheartening.
There is a part of me that thinks, “Maybe I need to do something about that.”  But I am not a theologian.  I do, however, miss the body of Christ.  Yesterday I told Bryan I had found several theology books that I wanted to download to my Kindle; I also told him that I thought I was being very lax about my beliefs, “almost to the point of not believing.”  He seemed concerned, like I was about to say that I am now agnostic.  That isn’t so.  What I meant, I explained, is that if you stop playing guitar for years (like I have) then, to a large extent, you are no longer a guitarist.  And if you have stopped putting time and effort and thought and heart into your spiritual beliefs, I’m not sure that you are a “believer” in the truly active sense; you’re certainly not practicing it a whole lot. 
And this is upsetting to me, because I certainly do not want to be that way.  I do have many, many doubts and uncertainties about many things.  I find myself at local churches disagreeing more than I agree.  I find myself laughing at the emotional chess that I feel some pastors like to play.  I find myself getting colder and more hostile to those around me, who appear to be just listening and not actively engaging with the message.  And this makes me less and less interested in being a part of the body.  And I don’t think that’s right.
So what is the next step?  Bryan and I have talked about the possibility of doing some sort of small-group book study in the community, opening it up and getting all ecumenical like.  Neither of the non-denominational churches in the area are our cup of tea, unfortunately.  We still need to visit the Presbyterian church again, give it another go.  But I want people who are willing to step out of their denomination, who are willing to think outside of their comfort zone.  Pastors are helpful, yes, but not if they are not pushing you to find Truth; it seems like so many pastors that I have seen do not WANT you to doubt.  Doubt is not the enemy.  If anything, I think it can be extremely useful because that means that you need to sort it out and figure out what exactly it is that you believe.  Some people may go through a period of doubt and come out on the other side not sure of what they believe, or if they believe in any sort of Theism at all.  That’s a definite possibility.  I know, in the past, that when I doubted things and took the time to really read about it, sometimes it led to MORE doubts, but it also made me realize “wow, this is important enough to care about, important enough to ask questions about.”  And I have found that my beliefs have been strengthened as a result.
So I’m not sure what to do; I’d really like direction.  If we are really supposed to start some sort of small group book discussion, I know that it will be me taking the lead, as Bryan isn’t as comfortable in that role.  That scares me a bit; I hate arguing with people who are “sure” about everything and unwilling to talk it out, so I'd hopefully have a group of people are open to discussion.  But at the same time, Bryan and I cannot be the only ones in this community who want more, who want to be part of a group that not only cares about Truth but authenticity and transparency.  And cookies. 
So I’m not quite sure.  I do know that reading bits and pieces of Rachel Held Evan’s blog reminds me of where I really should be; I’m hoping to download and read her book “Evolving in Monkey Town ” sometime soon.  Because I really, really do care.  And I don’t want to be stagnant and despondent and apathetic.  I want to ask hard questions and maybe not find any answers, but learn a lot on the way.  And I want to ask these questions and search for answers with people who want the same sorts of things that I do. 
So that’s where I am right now.  Unsure and confused and a bit anxious about the whole thing.  But we’ve almost been here a year and I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, and that’s getting old.
Does anyone have any suggestions?  Encouragement?  I’d love both.