To read Pt. 2: Destroying God Pt. 2
I returned to my college in January 2015 with a lot of questions. The world didn’t seem as neat, organized, safe, or black and white as I once considered it. I entered the semester with a lot of confusion and frustration. I had entered into an unknown world. The experiences that I had had for the past seven months told me that everything was not okay. These experiences told me that the world still had very serious problems to deal with in how equality is upheld for people of all backgrounds. I had this desire to make sense of all this exposure I had just had. I had a want to piece together the puzzled inquiries. Thus, I decided to audit a sociology class at my school called Power, Prestige and Poverty. The class was amazing and it transformed my life. The teacher of this class thinks in such a unique way as she takes seemingly random events and connects them to each other to tell a greater story of how our society is operating. It’s a beautiful and a very powerful gift to have. The class was centered on topics of economics and socio-economic class structure. What this class did for me was bring greater awareness to social issues that the United States is dealing with. I learned about how gender and race are so intricately tied with the discussion of economics. What this class did for me was send an even greater surge of momentum through the universe of Liam to allow more particles to come together to form something greater and more powerful.
Power, Prestige and Poverty shook the foundation of my religious beliefs. I have grown up in a conservative evangelical background. My home church that I absolutely loved was and is conservative evangelical itself. My beliefs were enhanced and strengthened by the music artists that I would listen to who would speak and sing about evangelical Christianity. Because of that background, I chose a school that would reflect my religious views and promote a Christian community. The questions that I formed in PPP could not be answered by the evangelical Christian community that I have always been immersed in. The answers I had always gotten about God and people were not sufficient for the kind of issues I had just been enlightened to.
I stopped believing in God. The being who I invested my time and exhaustive energy in for many years disappeared. Just like that. Poof. If the God that I have always known is a God that not only allows, but supports attack, ridicule and scorn against women and people who are gay, then that’s a God that I don’t want anything to do with. If the God that I have always known is a God that is only present in wealthy white communities in the U.S., then that is a God I never want to place my identity in. A God whose “good news” decimates the cultural practices and beliefs of other people is a God who disgusts me. When I made that decision to stop believing in God, there was silence. Of course I had amazing friends to accompany me. But, the inner recesses of myself were quiet and alone. They weren’t bumping tunes as they usually do and they were certainly not leaping with joyousness. I was so pissed at this notion of an oppressive God that I forsook God altogether. Stopping believing in God was the healthiest way I could have reacted to this new world that I had been opened up to. But, it does yield some consequences. I felt lonely, I felt an absence. What I resorted to was sociology and other schools of scientific thought to help provide me with strength and answers. What I was learning about sociology and quantum physics blew my mind and helped me, if only a little bit, to understand why the way our world is. At the same time, I had never felt so lonely in my life before. I had Cassie, my family and other amazing friends and yet, I felt lonely. And it hurt. I have never felt loneliness before. I’m positive the loneliness that I felt was not nearly as searing as it feels for other people. But, I did feel alone.
Like most normal people do, I went for a walk in the woods in the middle of the night in the winter to find a solution to the problem that I was facing. Similar to the movie Inception, I conjured one extremely simple idea that would change my future. The idea was that I would seek a God that was so much more vast and unlimited than I have ever imagined. I desired to believe in a God that obliterated the confines that conservative evangelicalism tends to build around this idea of a divine being.
A few days after that night, a friend of mine handed me a book called What We Talk about When We Talk about God by the author Rob Bell. The introduction of the book starts off with Rob saying that he is writing this book from a place of not believing in God as he was on his way to church to preach a sermon on Easter Sunday!! I’m like holy crap, that’s place that I am coming from (although I’m not a preacher about to speak in front of hundreds of people)! The first chapter includes a whole bunch of scientific facts. And he doesn’t do the conventional, “let’s study science so that we can know how great our God is” (no offense to those who do say that), but he encourages the audience to confront these scientific facts while also engaging in the idea that there is some type of divine being that exists. Moreover, he introduced topics of oppression of people and of the environment.
Throughout the summer of 2015, I have been reading Rob Bell blogs, listening to his podcasts and reading more of his books. I’m captivated and enthralled by his philosophy and theology. One night this summer, I had the opportunity to see him in person in Boston on his Everything is Spiritual tour. Without fail, he again mind boggled me. At the end of the show, I got to meet him and take a picture with him. I thanked him and told him about my place of loneliness and my decision to pursue a God who is vaster than I could ever imagine. And his reply was (and I am paraphrasing), “Sometimes we have to let our God die to make room for a new God. And eventually someone will come along once more and hand you a book that will change your worldview.” This statement is so encouraging, beautiful, inspiring, terrifying and unsettling. Let God die! First of all, how do we have the power to kill an omniscient and omnipotent being? Well, I think that depends on how closely we hold our convictions. I was so convicted about the God that I had always believed in. I believed in a God who worked in a single fashion and who upheld a strict list of statutes. And after a few experiences in D.C. and Belfast, I started to think that this being was less real and less believable. That God began to slowly wither away. After all, theology is a human construct. Theology is human being’s reflections on their experiences, their holy scriptures and the tradition and history of their people. Theology is made by humans. Anything made by humans is limited and impermanent. Theology is not the end all, be all, which is what many think. Is that how we can let our God die? I think it’s valuable to sometimes hold my convictions loosely. My convictions for promoting mutuality and respect among all human beings will stand firm till I die. But, my convictions for my faith will be held loosely. I never know when I will come across someone who will have an eye-opening testimony that will cause me to totally reconsider the manner in which God works.
Why do we not let our God die sometimes? Why don’t we step out? Why don’t we leave our comfort zones? Why don’t we destroy our ideologies? Why don’t we incinerate the edifices we know are hurting ourselves and others? These are questions that I am currently puzzled by. Maybe it’s because some people desire control or are too afraid to leave the place they are so comfortable in. Sometimes, people believe in those seemingly narrow ideas because it’s seemingly wide for them. Sometimes, they believe these ideas because it’s already too expansive for them. For me, conservative evangelicalism was too confined. If you are reading this and you identify as Evangelical Christian, I pray that you do not interpret this writing as an attack against you. I don’t know you, your life, your experiences or your beliefs. I hope that this writing comes across as me narrating my experience with religion and faith and how it has evolved. I don’t consider my beliefs any more superior than those who do identify as Evangelical Christian. Some of my best friends ever are evangelical Christians and they love with such an immense capacity.