Insurrection Reflection (Chapter 3)

Chapter 3 is titled, “I’m Not Religious” and Other Religious Sayings. I have some issues with the theological line of thinking in this chapter, and so I can imagine that feeling might be tenfold for other, more conservative, Christians. I tread lightly over the words, reading the chapter a few times before making any final reflections, and then I apply it to how it pragmatically looks in my own life.

Here are my thoughts on the first half of the chapter. One of Pete’s major challenges within the church structure is how we do worship. How, as he puts it in the book, “The worship songs affirm certainty so we are free to celebrate uncertainty.” (pg. 48). I believe deeply that worship can be anything that is done to the glory of God, up to and including doubt. A person needs go no further than the book of Lamentations to find a dark night of the soul. We can not forget, though, why it is we worship. We worship to a God who longs to be worshiped by his creation.

I do, however, affirm Pete on many thoughts in regards to worship, such as; where do we find the ‘leader’ in ‘worship-leader’ if the only songs we are ever led to sing are about knowing, peace, and love. As a creation of God there are times I do not know, I do not feel peace, and love is not the first thing on my heart. It is in those moments of unknowing that I cry out to God, and I can see how this crying out in community could be a healing movement. I also believe, however, that God needs to see our faithfulness. I do not worship for my sake, I worship for His sake.

I need to worship my Creator. I will doubt my Creator. I need to do both of these things.

The second half of the chapter involves the differences between the recognition of levels of non/belief in today’s society, and the psychologically seeded security within each of those differences. The idea being that within our culture, even those who consider themselves atheists, still rely on God ultimately as a means to bring them comfort. In most cases, people would deny this idea. People desire to believe they serve a God for the purpose of glorifying Him, but the only true way to unpack our reasoning behind our beliefs is to look towards how we practically live our day to day life … which is where this Insurrection is going.

To Believe Is Human, To Doubt Divine

Chapter 2 brings us to some of Pete’s favorite words, ‘To believe is human, to doubt divine”. As in much of Pete’s prior work, and a good chunk of the rest of Insurrection, we are brought to the point in Christ’s crucifixion where Jesus loses God.

Jesus, hanging bloody on the cross, cries out to God, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”. Pete aligns this moment with the moment that Christ himself experiences doubt; possibly even a/theistic doubt. We are shown throughout his work that a key element in discovering what is beyond Christianity, as we know it, is to seek this point in our own journey. Our own moment of ‘Why has God forsaken me?”.

I could go many directions with my reflection on this chapter, because I certainly felt that cry of Christ deep inside me within the months following my husband’s death. As the days continue, however, I have been drawn to this idea in a more concrete way of living on this Earth. When my husband was alive I felt a deep sense of comfort in life. I shopped without the conscious notion of who was being extorted in order to fulfill my consumerist greed at such a low price. I ate food without the haunting thoughts of what chemicals lay just below the surface of my food. I drank milk without the fear of becoming immune to antibiotics. I bought chocolate as though I was in favor of child slavery, and yet, I was completely unaware of the cost some children pay for us to eat such foods.

My husband had a ease about living, an ease of life that I was attracted to. I was attracted to this partly due to the fact that I am not that way. At the time I met him I was exhausted from the amount of worry I had put myself through. I could no longer take the anxiety that weighed me down so heavily; anxieties not of the world, but of my own failings. In losing the tension I held in my life, I lost something more than that. I failed to pull back the curtain, and see the world around me for what it actually was. Life is not what we see on TV, not on the news, and not in the movies. Those things we see and hear are filled with propaganda sold by corporations in order to make money. It is fueled, motivated, and moved forward by sheer greed, and nothing more.

For me to believe in a life that existed free of worry, anxiety, pain, and suffering was easy. I would look to my carefree husband; I would follow his lead. Years went by, and I began to believe what I saw on ‘Real Housewives of New York City’, what I read in US magazine was somehow real life. That what I was seeing could somehow be connected to my life, but there was no connection here – not for me, or for anyone else I have ever known.

The hard part for me is doubting on a level at which my sanity can remain in tact. I must remember each day that there is tension in this life. I must remove those things unimportant to God’s creation. I must care about the Earth, and take part in making a difference. I must remember my children will live longer than me, and teaching them now is imperative to the world’s well being. I must meet felt needs of the poor and hungry, and not satisfy my own self desire to be ‘good’ by throwing some change at a charity of my choice.

And then . . . I must remember that I will not always do these things well. I will mess up, and at times I must live in a place where life is full of suffering. I must live in the tension of the Earth’s fallen ground. I must find grace there. I must also live outside the suffering, and partake in God’s great creation for us. I must drink and eat with family and friends. I must live life to the fullest, enjoying the gifts He has given to us.

The cry of Christ is deep, is painful, and it can remind us why we too must doubt as He did. There is a thing as too much security. Too much security, in a fallen world, could point to a curtain you have failed to peek behind lately. My hope for you is that you will.

Reflections of Insurrection (Chapter 1)

I’ve decided to break down Peter Rollin’s Insurrection chapter by chapter. Not so much as a book review, but more as a way to self reflect. I discovered Dr. Rollin’s work in September of 2010, prior to my husband’s death. It was after my husband’s death that I began to connect with the words I had just recently discovered. Insurrection is Pete’s best work to date. His message is becoming clearer, it is becoming hard to ignore. You need grace to read his books. Grace, and and an open mind. An ability to set aside beliefs you have held so tightly, for so long, and an desire to reflect on their core nature. It is not easy, but Christianity should not be.

“I’m a Christian! I’m a Christian!” – Chapter 1

Chapter 1 hits close to home for me, as much of Pete’s work does. He describes the moment at which a person loses their reason for living. Death of a beloved is one of his examples. It states that it is in these moments we come to realize as living beings we are not desiring a person, but rather desiring their desire of us. I get that. I miss having Matt around, not only to comfort me, but more to live life with me. What is raising children as a single parent? What is a home without someone to build it with? What is a hard days work without someone to talk to about it?

Do we bring God into these moments of our lives as a means of relief? Do we use God as a reason to go on hopefully, when there is no tangible hope left? Is God no more than a crutch we use in a broken world?

These questions bring up fear within us. We become angry, anxious, even violent. These type of questions can make Christians want to scream ‘heretic’, and avert their eyes. But could it be that as Christians we have averted our eyes long enough? It seems so overly obvious that Christ taught us how to live, and we are not living in this way. If we were living the way in which Christ taught us, things would radically change, but they are not changing.

Pete states in this chapter that “To believe is human”. We all want to believe, so finding people to believe is the easy part. If you don’t believe in God, you do believe in something, everyone does. Financial stability, evolution, social justice, science, or any other of a hundred life basing idols. Belief in God is not the issue, as all people desire to believe, it is the living as Christ that is hard.

So this chapter becomes an invitation to explore why we believe what we believe. To imagine ourselves for a moment without God. To imagine a God outside of suffering and loss. To engage in life that God is not where we turn in pain. It is an invitation to reflect deeper, something I sadly imagine most people would rather not do, but hope they might anyway.

“It is perfectly understandable that we would find ourselves desiring someone who would love us unconditionally and absolutely. An individual who would never cease caring for us, who would never leave our side, never die, and never tire of our presence.” Pg. 7