Finishing my memoir and the contradiction of certainty

viewI wrote what I believe to be the final chapter of my next memoir last night (which I’m now calling “Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic.” Less of a mouthful and more attention-grabbing). 125 pages and just shy of 30,000 words. How do you know for sure if a story about your life is finished? Good question; I have no idea. But where I ended last night just felt like a good stopping point – hopeful yet not neatly tied up with a bow, the way all my favorite memoirs end.

I also started reading Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty by Gregory Boyd, which helped inspire my book’s ending. As the title implies, Boyd posits that feeling secure in belief over secure in God are two different things, and the former is a form of idolatry. I had to think about that for a while, because those two things are so tied up in each other, it’s hard to tell them apart. How can you be secure in God without being secure in belief? It seems like an oxymoronic proposition.

Yesterday I had an anxiety attack in church. Literally in church, right in the middle of a sermon about how God heals people. There was a video presentation featuring stories of congregants who were spontaneously healed of everything from paralysis to arthritis to viral infections, and I got up and stormed out, and spent the rest of the service bawling in the ladies room. I understood the so-called oxymoron then: I am secure that there is a God. I am certain this God is a Creator, and everything good in this world is from him. I am not at all secure in the belief that this God is solely responsible for healing people when modern medicine does so much, and this idea of God healing some over others sounds a lot like a prosperity gospel to me.

But regardless of what I believe about suffering and healing does not sway my belief that Jesus rose from the dead. Is that the crux I should be focusing on? According to Boyd, it is.

I hope when people read this new book (I’m anticipating a spring 2016 release), they will understand that it’s a documentation of a woman on a journey, and not at all a treatise about capital-T Truth. Inevitably, an individual’s story of faith will be labeled inspirational by some and heresy by others. I personally don’t read spiritual memoirs for “truth,” but rather out of interest in the way experiences shape us.

All of us are on individual paths of discovery, which means at many points we will be walking contradictions. That’s not hypocrisy, but the natural process of figuring out life as we go (how else can you do it?).

There is one thing I’m certain about, and it’s been a very long, twisted road to get to this conclusion: I believe my faith is strong enough to handle being wrong about something without the whole thing tumbling like a house of cards.

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7 thoughts on “Finishing my memoir and the contradiction of certainty

  1. Hannah says:

    Hi Beth

    The alpha course is evangelist charisma church of England . The purpose of which (not stated) is to convert people to Christianity, via a meal , lecture then group discussions, over several weeks- originally written by rev Nicky gumbul of holy trinity Brompton. I got roped into going to a course at university via some Christian people I knew in halls.

    What do I think? Well I did have a lot of questions and debates – I have A5 notebooks on each of the sessions- I flirted with Christianity – but I was given a lot of counters by my well cool Jsoc , so I didn’t convert. The notes and what I said and what I believe would probably be deeply offensive to some Christians. But now I want to positively talk about my Judaism, nor bring others down. What struck me on reflection was how much Christians thought I (&my sis) were blinded to thr truth of Jesus , because our old testament was all about Jesus coming to save us. But we couldn’t see this , because we’re “spiritually blinded”.

    I remember there was a prayer weekend away retreat. You could go up to be prayed with. There were a lot of Christians falling over and fainting because of the holy spirit. I didn’t and couldn’t faint. Thr guy “ministering” to me started praying for God to prevent devil from holding me back . I said “but it’s gravity”[that’s holding me back]. But it was o.k.. they’d got an excuse. I was gay, so like that sin was blocking me from the Lord….. also one of the party thought I’d done the sin even Jesus can’t forgive,blasphemy against the holy spirit .

    pace this with my fab time with the J soc and the much more inclusive, listening and engaging not preaching , wherein we doubt and don’t go out to convert ways of the Rabbis and chaplains. I knew where I should be and Judaism (Sephardic in particular) was my natural home. And it most certainly wasn’t Christianity or Jesus. … although there is always the phrase “moving in mysterious ways”..Like my sister liked one of those guys, It took ten years and a circumcision later, he became a Jew and married my sis.

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    • Beth Caplin says:

      We have Alpha in the States too, though I’ve never been. I’ll be honest with you about feeling drawn to Christianity because of the personal nature of an incarnate god as well as the more practical reality that a Jewish community was virtually unavailable to me for most of my life. Even now, 1500 miles ftom my hometown, a Jewish community is almost unheard of. If you wanted a religious community as I did, you went to church by default.

      And I’ll be even more honest that there’s much about Christianity I don’t quite get, and perhaps never will, but the incarnation has given me a context to feel closer to God. If that makes any sense.

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  2. Hannah says:

    Hi Beth

    Several things I don’t get – one is the arrogant assumption of Christianity that Jews can’t have a relationship with God , but Christians can have one via Jesus, given both are not ostensibly physically “here”. Two is this view by Christians of Judaism being boring ritual. Like our Sephardic Seders (Passover, Rosh Hashanah,Tu B’Shevat) are anything but. And there’s Purim. Judaism is as life is deeper and richer than Christian stereotypes. Plus and this is insight from my bro in law , who went from Christian to Jew , is that Judaism is less dogmatic(in belief, not necessarily practical applications) than Christianity and he enjoys our weekly Torah study which is often no holds barred and none get chastised for having the “wrong” view.

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    • Beth Caplin says:

      I hope you aren’t under the impression that I believe those things (about Jews not having real relationships with God and being a set of ‘boring’ rituals). Unfortunately, many Christians have shallow and innaccurate ideas of what Judaism is about. You are right, it is offensive.

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      • Hannah says:

        Hi Beth

        No I didn’t think that, not at all. But it’s something I just don’t get really, in my dialogues with Christians and when I went to an alpha course (do you know about these?). I’m not offended really , just perplexed with the dichotomy. I mean we’ve just finished Simchat Torah , which was spent singing, dancing , drinking wine around the synagogue and streets with the Torah scrolls.

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