Two weeks ago, I was writing a piece about why my God was too small. It was a criticism of where evangelical Christianity has gone wrong in addressing issues of social inequality. As I was finishing writing this piece, I was suddenly sucked into a vortex of sadness. The Liam funk had encroached upon me once more. A Liam funk is when I find myself in a particularly bad mood and I cannot explain why this parasitic aching is present within myself. I had been feeling frustrated, unmotivated to do any work, distant from people and incapable of being a support to others. My classes, the preparation to lead the Northern Ireland trip and my RA position are all really exciting and yet, I could have cared less about them. Why is that? Why did I receive this feeling when I was writing about how my God was too small?
I have been claiming lately that I am done with complaining and maliciously criticizing the Christian church for all the places in which their theology has been oppressive or illogical. Since the time period of when the Destroying Godevents occurred, I have been extremely critical of the evangelical church. I firmly believe this was a healthy reaction on my behalf. But, I have allowed this criticism to overwhelm my thoughts and beliefs, which has been extremely inhibiting to me as I attempt to reside and thrive within a Christian community (considering my college is Christian). I cannot sit in chapel in a peaceful manner because I mentally challenge each theological statement that is said. The day I wrote this piece, I had an amazing discussion with my RD in which this discussion with her inspired me to write this essay. When I told her about what I mentally do during chapel time, she said two things. First, she was able to point out that I was being nitpicky. I yell at the church for nitpicking Bible verses to use for their own purposes and yet I am being nitpicky of the message they are trying to promote. Sometimes, the smaller details work together to speak to a bigger idea. When I write, I have the same purpose. I share smaller stories hoping to speak to a bigger idea. I would feel very frustrated if someone took a detail from one of my pieces and stated that that one detail thematically, theologically, and socially superseded the greater theme I was trying to promote. Yet, I am doing this to the chapel worship songs and chapel speakers. My RD suggested that there are some things that I will be able to take from the chapel message and there will be some things that I will not. She recommends that I shouldn’t enter through the chapel doors with the attitude that there is nothing that I can gain from that experience.
This narration of my recent experience with chapel is a small example of the more holistic critical attitude that I operate within. In Christian Theology class last semester, we talked about the idea of operational theology. Operational theology is someone’s personal beliefs that helps govern the motives to their actions. As I analyze this small example of my attitude towards chapel, I recognize that my operational theology is being ruled by criticism of evangelicalism. My belief in God has resorted to less belief in a being who does incomprehensibly amazing things and instead has become a list of angry statements against a specific institution. Please don’t misunderstand me as I do think that being critical is a healthy discipline in which it aids one in understanding that the world surrounding them is not perfect. But, when I succumb to criticism or complaining being my only mode of thinking, I am bound to a mental state that will only damn me to deeper depression. Thus, my goal of this writing is not to continue to rant about everything that is wrong with Christianity. The goal of this writing is to transcend that negative attitude and discuss who I think God is. I have spent so much time saying who God isn’t that I have neglected to celebrate who I believe God to be. This essay is that celebration.
The first and most important new found belief in God that I have is that God is so much more present and active in this material world than many are aware of. I am extremely unsure if a life after this one exists or not. What I do know is that paradise is present here on this earth. There is discussion that after we die, we get to abide in an awe-inspiring paradise that exists on the clouds in the sky. There is a possibility that this is true, but I would state that when we get too caught up in this hope for a heavenly city, we neglect the paradise that surrounds us here and now. Go to Giant’s Causeway, Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park, or the Great Barrier Reef and tell me that paradise does not exist in that place. We allow our breath to be stolen away when we observe those landscapes because we recognize that there is something divine about that sight. At the same time, one doesn’t even need to travel 1500 miles across the U.S. to experience this beauty as this same kind of natural, ecological wonder can be experienced in one’s backyard. A couple weeks ago on a Saturday night, a friend and I were at the beach all the way until Sunday morning. On that Sunday morning on the beach, we got to see the sun rise. In this one scene, the sun was emerging at our left as the moon was fading away to our right. It was a place where light and dark made love with one another. Because that cosmic dance was occurring, the colors seemed as if they were painted by van Gogh himself. It wasn’t just me and my friend that felt the majesty, but so did the birds. The birds all awoke at the same time, creating a captivating cacophony that made me feel as if this was one of the most precious moments that I had ever experienced. Now tell me that is not paradise! If God gave me the choice to reside in a city in which the streets were lined with gold where there were angels playing harps or the other option allowing me to stay here on earth just so I can sit on the beach and listen to the birds sing their melodious song, I would choose being here on this earth.
What about falling in love with someone? In a relationship, one is able to abide with another without being completely certain of the future. I find that there are times in which I am uncertain of the future and because of that lack of certainty, I choose not to worry about what will happen next because there is no use in stressing about something that can’t really be controlled. Two people in a relationship do this sometimes in which they end up forsaking the concept of time and instead choose to sap every moment out of the time they are given with one another. Those ephemeral moments with the one you love is a miracle. We talk about miracles happening only when Jesus walked the earth. Getting to be able to spend five minutes with the one you love is a miracle in itself. In the American society, the concept of time determines how humans operate daily. Time dominates our politics, our technological advancements and our religious beliefs (especially regarding the topic of eschatology). For two people to be able to separate themselves from the imprisonment of time and act organically is supernatural.
It’s not just a romantic relationship that creates paradise in one’s life, but many friendships can do the same (but also in different ways). There is a friend of mine who used to go to my college that I feel incredibly close to. I feel so close to him because it seems as if he impressed his very soul onto mine. This man’s soul was rich in enthusiasm, creativity and love. He searched for the inspiration of the divine with a carefree attitude. He is a prodigy of an artist, an entrepreneur, and a mentor and friend to many. He is also a roamer. This man roamed this earth with an accepting attitude, willing to receive the revelation God would give him in the landscapes he observed and the people he spent time with. Every time I would talk to him, I would just want to run and jump out the window and keep running. The way he spoke made it seem like my dreams were already a reality. All I needed to do was bump Step Out by Jose Gonzalez, break through the fibrous jailing strands of my window screen and never look back. He made my dreams seem like realities because he often told stories in which his dreams became realities and how God helped facilitate that. I had an experience with the divine every time I sat in this man’s presence. The Supreme divine being is present in the landscapes (city or nature) and the people I constantly have the blessed opportunity to be with.
To read Pt. 2: The Present Eternity Pt. 2