If I hadn't discovered Marcus Borg, I probably never would have set foot inside a Christian Church. In his books, I discovered that there was a way of seeing Christianity that was not tied to certain dogmas that I simply rejected out of hand. Given that Marcus Borg was so popular in certain circles, I imagined that there must be a vast reservoir of free thinking, rational individuals within progressive Christianity, people with whom I might not agree on every detail but who, like I, sought to fulfill their spiritual desires without giving up their intellect, who didn't share the mind numbing premises of conservative theology.
I am beginning to think that this was all wishful thinking.
The more contact I have with real world liberal Christianity (as opposed to the esoteric world of progressive thought found in books by Borg, Crossan and others), the more it seems to me that, when push comes to shove, it may not be that different from conservative Christianity after all. While it is true that liberal Christians generally reject wholesale biblical liberalism, as far as I cant tell most of them still adhere to an awful lot of what I would call magical thinking. I think that, in my desperation to find some place within the Christian community where I could belong, I may have been in denial about this. I have been bouncing from congregation to congregation, church shopping and trying to find something that would work for me, because I wanted so much to believe that I could find a home somewhere if I just looked hard enough. I've been searching for the ghost of Borg and I am not sure it can be found anywhere in the real world.
When I compare myself to liberal Christians, I think about the beliefs that many of us have had in our lives. Some of those beliefs ultimately we come to consider untenable, leading to a crisis that demanded a resolution and a new set of beliefs. For example:
- - Age when I stopped believing in Santa Claus: 7
- - Age when I stopped believing that Jesus was physically resurrected from the dead: 16
- - Age when conservative Christians stop believing that Jesus was physically resurrected: never
- - Age when liberal Christians stop believing that Jesus was physically resurrected: never
It largely does boil down to the resurrection, and this was what made me so cranky at Easter time. My experience has been that the vast majority of liberal Christians are just as stuck on believing in this as a literal, historical event as conservative Christians are. And not only do they believe that, but many of them also seem to believe that it is an essential tenet of the faith. This goes even further than merely relegating my views to that of "acceptable but second class", which is mostly what I have grudgingly felt that I had to put up with up to this point. "Acceptable but second class" would mean that my views were tolerated but ignored, that clergy would never suggest in their sermons that Jesus's resurrection was anything but a literal, historical truth, but that I was welcome anyway to participate in the church life of a congregation where my views were never brought into play or given respectability.
But no, saying that the physical resurrection is an essential tenet of the faith goes much farther than that. Instead of "acceptable but second class", my views are deemed instead "unacceptable". To say that the resurrection is an essential tenet revokes even my second-class status, because instead of allowing my views as a sort of minority report within the faith, never talked about or acknowledged but at least tolerated, my views are instead considered contrary to the very essence of the religion and therefore not to be tolerated at all.
So I am left out in the cold altogether. And if I can't even make an alliance with liberal Christians, then I've got nothing. I might as well be a Buddhist.
I wrote around Easter time that the whole resurrection thing was making me cranky. I'm still feeling cranky, probably more so.
My goal is not to insult liberal Christianity, but what I am about to say will probably offend. Unfortunately, I cannot help but get this off my chest. I cannot believe that otherwise thinking, adult human beings who go about their lives on a daily basis as if we live in a rational, ordered world that obeys certain physical laws suddenly throw their brains out the window when it comes to literally believing in an extraordinary fairy tale about an event that supposedly took place two millenia ago. I expect conservative Christians to believe such things, because, after all, that's who they are. But liberal Christians believe this stuff too.
Credulity becomes a hallmark of faith. This whole belief in miracles is so, so, so pre-Enlightenment, so God-of-the-Gaps. It isn't what my religion is about. I believe at the core of my being that God doesn't intervene in the world through extraordinary means. Post-holocaust Jews can give you 6,000,000 reasons why it isn't so. To me, it is wishful thinking to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead in any literal, historical sense, a product of a belief system that was outdated a few centuries ago with the rise of the Enlightenment. In a post-Enlightenment era, the continued belief in the resurrection can only be justified out of desperation from a notion of the God of the gaps, which itself has become repudiated. This belief in a physical resurrection is, in my view, a case of wishful thinking overcoming reason and common sense.
When I first began writing this blog, I felt caught in the middle between the orthodox Christianity found in mainline churches, and the lack of Christian focus found in Unitarian Universalism. I felt dubious that I could find a religious community that would work for me. But, pushed by a need to connect with God, I decided to try looking in mainline churches anyway, to see what I could find in some obscure corner somewhere. Maybe this quest for something that could fulfill me in Christian denominations was based on a little wishful thinking of my own.
So maybe I was being delusional. And yet, I'm not quite at the point where I have given up on Christianity entirely just yet. I am willing to continue to give things a try. But I am feeling a sour taste in my mouth right now, frustrated, and not sure what to do about it. I wish it were so simple that I could just give up the core of my beliefs and latch on to a religion that offered me the answers, and all I had to do was assent to those beliefs, sign on the dotted line, and I'd be in. But it doesn't seem to work that way. I simply can't do that.