Blast from the past: on the relationship between doubt and cynicism…

This week’s #throwbackpost comes from 2013. It focuses on the journey we had experienced away from attending church, and the doubts that my faith had grown through. Much of what the post contains still rings true, with one notable exception: we now have found a church just around the corner from home where we’re exploring Christian community together. More on that to come…

Those who have journeyed with me over the last few years will know that the concept of uncertainty within my faith has become very important to me. I guess a simple explanation of this is the willingness to abandon the need for answers and certainty when dealing with spirituality, and even to a certain degree when dealing with religion.

I’ve moved away from a ‘religious’ life where at one time I was a ‘professional Christian’ to a place in life where I struggle to identify myself as religious at times. I no longer attend church and yet my faith has remained in place, expressed largely through relationships with family and friends. I’ve struggled with the bedrock of religious life, with prayer, belief in the centrality of the scriptures to belief (or at least in how we regard or read those scriptures) and how religious life is expressed publicly through membership of a church. All of these things that once were central have become somewhat less so to various degrees.

My faith has been deconstructed and is in the process of reconstruction into something different, perhaps more resilient, perhaps less – I’m uncertain. I doubt more than I believe nowadays, and yet within this doubt I have learnt more about faith than I ever knew.

A confession – all of this post-modern angst has at times led me to be deeply cynical about much of Christianity. I have critiqued without grace and for that I am truly sorry. I have looked at those who are more certain and thought them to be little more than religious ‘crack addicts’, dependent on their weekly top up for survival. I have judged without compassion, something I have often criticised others of doing when dealing with issues of great importance to them, such as on the Christian response to issues of sexuality. I have become tolerant and yet deeply intolerant and again, for this I am sorry. If you have been hurt by this, forgive me. That was never meant to be part of this journey out and back in again.

I allowed my doubting and uncertainty to become a source of pride, something it should never have become, as it has brought great freedom at great cost. I have asked questions that remain unanswered, and have many areas of paradox within my own life. I don’t need to point out the paradox of others’ beliefs – someone once said something about removing the log out of our own eye before pointing out the speck in someone else’s.

Doubt and uncertainty are vital to me now, the dark night of the soul a place of value and growth. Discovering the solidity of my own experience within this process now provides me with a place from which to re-grow (or restart, as I mentioned yesterday) a faith that pervades every aspect of my life. But I want now to abandon any cynicism that came as part of this journey, to celebrate the beautiful diversity of belief and tradition that makes us who we are. We don’t all have to be the same shape, we just have to be who we were made to be. I have found great freedom where I am, others find it elsewhere. That’s ok. I keep saying that God is big enough to deal with this stuff – I need to follow that example.

And so onto a future where I look with love and grace. I speak with compassion and realise that if nothing else, this bumpy old journey has taught me the importance of loving those around me wherever they may be.

I still believe all the stuff I’ve written about that you’ll find under the beliefs tab – although this will always be an evolutionary process. I’ll probably still annoy you and perhaps even disagree with you on important stuff, but I’ll try to do it in a way that reflects the beauty of healthy relationships. Jesus models to us the abandonment of power and violence used to subjugate others that the world so often embraces – so must I. I’m never going to force you to agree with me, no matter how clever my words.

Cynicism sucks. It doesn’t do anyone any good…and for me it’s time to leave it behind along with so much else. Doubt is healthy and leads to growth. That’s the place to be.


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