It’s three days until my 26th birthday, three weeks until my wedding, and about six weeks until the end of the year. I’m sitting here at my desk sipping coffee and thinking…This isn’t how I expected my life to go. At all.
That’s a mixed blessing. I never thought I’d lose my father before he got to walk me down the aisle; no one asks for that. But I also never envisioned myself getting married in the first place. I thought I was one of those people who is “called to singleness,” and I was in the process of becoming okay with that right until I bumped into Joshua in the student center of Kent State, and was unexpectedly asked out on my first date in…well, um, ever, actually (that Sadie Hawkins date in 10th grade doesn’t really count).
Through all that, I developed a quarter-life crisis of faith, which didn’t happen overnight. There was seminary…bouts with depression and anxiety…personal crises…the usual stuff (well, maybe not seminary). That’s quite normal for anyone, but it’s especially traumatic when you go through the tedious process of converting, upsetting your family, finally reaching a mutual place of respect and understanding, and then having to wonder…was it all for nothing? Or is this just a particularly damaging pothole in the middle of the road?
I mourn the certainty I had in college. Man, I used to be so solid. I used to be this iron-clad woman of conviction. She had her problems, and could be quite annoying, but at least she was consistent.
Like a typical millennial, I’ve found some solace in the blogging community. I follow many Christian bloggers: funny, articulate, deeply intellectual people who remind me that it’s perfectly okay to pursue faith while deeply enmeshed in doubt. Then there are opposite perspectives, like this guy who grew up in the Bible Belt as a devout Southern Baptist. But at some point during adulthood he started to question everything he was taught, and ended up leaving it all behind.
You may be thinking: why are you reading this stuff if you’re still determined to remain Christian? This can’t be helping you. Well, it is and it isn’t. I’ve never met him, but I respect Neil. I like the way he organizes his thoughts so that discussion and alternative viewpoints are welcomed, not antagonized. He’s a breath of fresh air in the midst of stereotypes that say all atheists are angry about something.
But I’m angry, too. I’m angry because he raises important questions that many Christians prefer to sweep under the rug, doing more harm to the faith than anything else: like why a supposed good God doesn’t do a better job of warning his children about hell (and why is there even a hell in the first place?). Why did he order genocide of women and children? Why allow the tree of good and evil if he knew humans could eat from it?
(I’m still working through those questions, in case you’re wondering. So don’t ask me for my opinion).
Aside from the doctrinal debates, I’ve witnessed deep damage to the cause of Christ by Christians themselves: Christians who follow a “prosperity gospel” that praises God for close parking spaces and shiny new possessions while children all over the world die of malnutrition and other preventable causes. Christians who perpetuate the same tired rhetoric over and over when it would be so much more beneficial to drop the sales pitches and ask people to simply share their life stories. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to claim these people as my own, and admit I’m part of their tribe.
Which brings up another valid question: Why do I still care about being a Christian in the first place?
Lately I feel like I’m toeing the line between faithful and agnostic. But a big turning point for me was realizing I don’t have to choose between faith and reason. I believe literature can be used to communicate truths about humanity even if the story itself didn’t happen exactly as it’s written – and while parts of the Bible function as a history book, other parts of it are literature. I see traits of the kind of person I want to be in Jesus, for there is no one in history quite like him. And being Jewish himself, he is woven into the rich history of midrash – the practice of scholars expanding on specific aspects of Scripture that are commonly overlooked (like how did Sarah really feel about Abraham carting their son away to be sacrificed?).
The entire Jewish tradition embraces questioning without having to know all the answers. Because Christianity is born from Judaism, I don’t see why that aspect cannot be embraced in Christian tradition as well. It frustrates me sometimes, this Christianity with all its principles and doctrines that, quite frankly, seem ludicrous and unintelligible. But I so badly want to believe in redemption – the idea that broken things can be made new and beautiful again – and I cling to the hope that Christianity offers that.
Does that make my faith a crutch? Maybe. But for all the trouble I went through to claim it, I’m simply not ready to give up on it yet.