Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Crisis of Faith

I am not having one, but I don't seem to be much help to those people who are.  That makes me incredibly restless and itchy, so this is just an outlet for the maelstrom of disjointed thoughts swirling around in my head.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have never had a crisis of faith.  Maybe it's my phlegmatic nature, but working on the assumption that Catholicism is indeed the one true faith informed by a just, omnipotent and omniscient God, I assume that there is a reasonable answer for every question, and we can find it if we look hard enough.  Likewise, whatever crap happens to me in the life must have an equally compelling reason, and it isn't necessary for me to know.  That is not part of my job to work out.  That is why I am not God.

Many times the first thing I hear is the tired old question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  It just saps the life out of me, because it has been asked and answered so many times before.  Deep down, it's usually a case of the tough getting going when the going got tough.  They hadn't really thought about it before and went through life on spiritual cruise control until suddenly something horrible happened in their lives, and now they have to reinvent the theological wheel.  Their prayers weren't answered to their satisfaction; God wasn't there for them; they didn't get their miracle.  Clearly God isn't worth their time.

What helped me most during the dark times was putting things in perspective.  The worst suffering in our lives is probably peanuts compared to the suffering of someone else.  There is always someone with a more compelling tragedy.  Getting pissy and angry with God is completely pointless, because He is the best and sometimes only comfort.  The crucifixion should be reminder enough.

"But now I'm thinking for myself," they say.  Are they really thinking, or are they just angry and feeling sorry for themselves?  I congratulate them if they are able to intuit what we have gained over thousands of years of collective study.  They come to the prideful conclusion that they don't have to take this supposed abuse from a tyrannical deity, that they are taking a stand for the little man, a stand against all the injustice of the world.

Even if God was an arbitrary tyrant, what would this little hunger strike accomplish?  He doesn't need our approval of His management of the universe.  Deciding to ignore Him doesn't make Him go away.  If we are angry enough to deny His existence, who are we angry at now?  If we acknowledge His existence but don't like Him, we can either just come to terms with Him because there is no getting around it, or we can invent the God we like and live a happy fantasy.

There are some hard questions which must be asked.  Are we rejecting everything we ever thought we knew and believed about God because we suddenly know better, or because we are angry and emotional?  Are we too proud to admit we were wrong?  Are we getting some perverse enjoyment out of the mistaken romance of our own "Non serviam," or the feeling of self-righteous victimhood?  Are we just too lazy to give the matter serious thought anymore?

In any case, imagining God to be a capricious abuser who enjoys inflicting suffering on us, that the crucifixion was no more than a case of divine one-upmanship to stem the tide of human complaints, must be a very bitter and lonely place to be.

There is no need to stay there.