Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Brainwashing & the "painful dissonance of doubt"

I remember sitting on the couch with our parents, and my younger brother was explaining "his religion" to them. They smiled, and nodded, and asked pressing questions about his former life -prior to reincarnation- when he lived in Chicago. I remember thinking that it would be pretty cool to be born again as a tiger :) But the point is, my parents did not raise us in the, or any, church. They didn't even seem to lean one way or the other. They told us to seek and find for ourselves, and I went on to create my own religion, just like my kid brother did. 

An agnostic friend of mine recently told me that he is going to let his children choose their own religion too, if religion is the right word. But I wonder what he'll do if one of his daughters comes home one day to share her love for Jesus. Because that's what I did. 

And then I married Eric, joined a church, and we started leading worship together. Go big, or go home.

It would be a lie to say that the doubts I had before stopped visiting me. In fact, I often wonder how the bookmarks in the Bible I owned as a non-believer, marking all of the places in the book that enraged and confused me, could still sit there without wrestling my rational mind into reversal. Now, I marvel at God's incredible power, and I thank him for the countless moments when he has met me in prayer, in solitude, or in song, to deliver a bit of intellect or knowledge and soothe my doubts with his incomprehensible beauty. One by one, I've peeled every bookmark away, and today, I live in a constant stream of doubt and receipt. Doubt has become the place in which I can fall in love with him all over again, and the source of my knowing. I don't take my doubts to the world; I take them to the one who made me, and somehow, in time, in his way, he answers. 
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
I've always told people, "Nothing you say can offend me, and I can almost guarantee that not only have I heard it all before, I've thought it, and said most if it, before too." Yet, every conversation, and every challenge to my faith, feels like the euphoria of academic enlightenment, mixed with the comfort of God's embrace -my mind is sharpened, and my heart is stabilized, as teetering leads to an even more realized place of balance. 

I was recently searching for a TED talk for the online course that I am designing, and with all of these thoughts whirling around in my head, I couldn't resist opening the video with the title: "The Doubt Essential to Faith." I hope you will take the time to indulge in the mind and the ponderings of another and find yourself abandoning the hostility of religious and secular debates, able to share in the discussions of faith that plague us all. Brought to you from an "Agnostic Jew," author Lesley Hazleton:

And when you are done, perhaps read "Young Goodman Brown," and remember that the human battle with faith is timeless, and real. As much as we try to leave her, we find her next to us once again, pleading with us to determine where we really stand. 

I mourn for my brothers and sisters who speak loudly about a faith that I fear they do not hold in their hearts as dearly as their tongues confess. My God, would you free them from the guilt of doubt and provide them with your authenticity that comes from asking the toughest of questions. The questions David cried out in the Psalms. 

"People who are insecure in their religious beliefs may feel the impulse to silence and harass those who disagree with them, because their mere existence arouses the painful dissonance of doubt." -Carol Tavris et. al.

"If our faith is such that it is destroyed by force of argument, then let it be destroyed; for it will have been proved that we do not possess the truth." -MacDonald and Porter 

I end this entry with a vision I had today... of my brain being washed. You see, that's the greatest fear I had all along. They'll accuse me of being brainwashed. Or, at least, they'll think it's so in the quiet of their own minds, as they nod along and say such half-hearted supportive comments as, 'Good for you. I'm happy for you,' and 'To each their own." But I realized that the human mind craves to be washed; yes, I believe that we are all seeking a brain-washing of sorts. We all pour carefully selected textual, audio, and visual information over our minds in an effort to invent ourselves. I'll admit that I am brainwashed, but I hold myself accountable. I survey my actions, and I am at peace with who I am; for I strive to share all that Jesus is doing within me with those outside of me, in hopes that I may live the life of a peacemaker and be a blessing to those around me. 

Much love on this rainy day,