To the Fellowship of the Uncertain, at Christmastime
Jen Hunt sent her poem forKindred Spirit with
her Christmas letter last year with the following explanation:
The poem began in my head when I received a TIME magazine article a while back. The basic point of the essay was that those with strong faith are to be feared; that earthly peace will only be realized when religious people relinquish their claims to certainty. It even went so far as to propose that our human limitations require us to deny conviction. Because God is so much bigger, the reasoning went, He cannot be completely knowable. So, we mustn’t get too carried away. Unless you’re living under a rock you know these themes have become axiomatic in Western culture.
Sound reasonable enough, don’t they? Yet, while I’m all for humility in discussing my faith, after a year or two of the kind of challenges* we have experienced, I have no desire to trade in the comfort of orthodoxy for the cloak of uncertainty. Apparently the TIME writer confuses peace with anesthesia. While God may by definition be bigger than our minds, it doesn’t follow that we are permitted to reject what He has opted to show of Himself. The One who is beyond all knowing is also the One who took great pains to show Himself as all holy, all loving, all powerful, and all present. This is the God who revealed Himself to us on that first Christmas long ago.
“Cafeteria Christianity” may be experiencing a comeback, but it is, like Garrison Keillor’s apt description of a Lake Wobegon church potluck, a rather risky event. I hope I won’t be around when the hymn, Blessed Assurance, becomes “Blessed Agnosticism.” Even if I am, you can be sure I won’t be jamming to the CD. While others challenge it at the philosophical level I’ll do my part to challenge it at the experiential level. It just won’t hold up when the rains come.
*My letter later goes on to summarize some of those rains: “faith challenges, financial setbacks, emotional hurdles, career changes, health issues, scrapped moves, hasty moves, ministry refocusings, altered school plans, and even the greatest loss of my dear mother—none of this slated in our Palm Pilots, so to speak.
Writing the poem helped me process the feelings of sadness I had in receiving an article like this from an unbelieving loved one, someone who had just gone through the death of his wife, as I had the death of my mother, but without the comfort I know in Christ. Though it certainly meant something to me personally, I thought the reference to a mother’s death an appropriate way to universalize the sort of real issues contemporary thinking is inadequate to address. I’ll go on and state what I hope is obvious—that the reference to Prozac and burnt fuses was my way of suggesting evidence that our culture is broken and lacks answers to questions of mortality, meaning, excess, and so on. Oh, and I really did have that moment of conviction last year as I was busy decorating for the holiday when I realized I had covered every flat surface in our duplex with Christmas paraphernalia and had made room for everything but the crèche.