I don't really like theology, as a subject. Oh, it's not my least favorite (philosophy wins that award, hands down) but every time I try to study theology or understand it, I wind up feeling less sure of everything than when I started.
And yet lately, everyone I talk to has been getting an earful, because I have so much stuff I'm working on figuring out. Questions like, "Does God punish people?" and "Why does God seem so different in the Old Testament from the way he seems in the New Testament?" and "When we say God is good, how are we to define goodness in a way that isn't circular?" and, most of all, "How am I to know this isn't all a big scam?"
That last question is the scary one. After seeing how Regnum Christi functions, I have trouble trusting that all religion isn't just a way of controlling people. In the past, I have heard and believed the argument that the apostles would never have endured martyrdom for a scam. But now . . . it occurs to me how many of us pledged our word that Maciel was innocent of whatever he was accused of, and I'm not so sure. We weren't consciously lying -- we were just that convinced. You can convince yourself of almost anything.
My answer that I have gone to in the past, to comfort me when I am freaking out about it, is -- so what? What is Christianity, if it's not true? Well, it's a set of beliefs and practices that convince people to treat others better and which can be comforting. It carries within itself notions like the dignity of man, the benefit of sacrifice, free will, and continuous self-improvement. Even if it weren't true, I would still think Christianity was a net beneficial influence on humanity. There is a reason the Church has survived so well -- it's a set of cultural ideas that definitely have a place in society.
However, a lot of things the Church teaches and does do not help society, but rather propagate itself. Evolution favors the fit, but it also can favor the over-fit -- cancer, invasive weeds, and so forth, things that destroy the ecosystem. Christianity and Catholicism in particular have mechanisms that keep people from leaving -- for instance, the belief in hell. Religions that believe in hell naturally suffer less attrition than others, because people are afraid they'll go to hell if they leave. A layer is added if you say that doubt is a sin that will send you to hell. So maybe the safe choice is to not even question.
This is a very scary line of reasoning to me. Ever being told I shouldn't question is a major trigger for me, and so I question anyway, because I figure sincere questioning isn't doubt, but a search for God who is Truth in the first place. Yet I still worry .... maybe all my doubts are my own fault for asking questions and I should just stop. Only what sort of trust do I have in God, if I think even examining my faith, discussing it, and reading up about it will destroy my faith? Surely he has answers to all the questions?
Why I am I so scared? Well, you see, I'm not the stereotypical questioner I used to imagine -- someone who's just trying to find an excuse to leave so they can sin. Even if I weren't Catholic, that wouldn't change my moral standards. My conscience, wherever it comes from, is pretty strict. I can't think of a single rule the Church has that I don't agree with. I'd no sooner use birth control than I would take up bulimia, because it feels equally wrong to me. So, no, I'm not looking to get out of anything.
In fact I'm not looking for a way out of the Church at all. I want to be Catholic. I'm holding onto my faith by my fingernails, because with it threatened like this, I realize I really do want to believe it all. It's hard to even say why. I know it isn't because I want to feel superior (I don't; I know some wonderful atheists) and it isn't because I find much comfort in it. A little bit of it is because the Church is the only community I know -- probably 75% of my friendlist is Catholic, and the sort who would be very upset with me if I left. Some of it is straight-up fear: if it turns out that God is a vengeful God, I don't want to be on the bad side of that -- even if I were 99% sure it was all a hoax, that 1% would come with scary consequences so best not to risk it.
But I think perhaps, on some level that I can't quite put into words, I really do love God and want to be with him. I want to live in a world that has that much kindness and truth in it. I want to have someone to say thank you to, the many times a day when I need to say thank you.
But for the moment I feel I can go on. I had a scary couple of days when I really felt it must all be false; less a real argument against any part of the faith than just a fear that I'm getting manipulated again and I don't want to have my life and beliefs turned upside-down again and maybe it would be morally wrong to hide my head in the sand and try not to think of my doubts, because it would be lying.
But I had a good talk with John, who pointed out that he, at least, is one person who believes the whole thing without either painting God as a big jerk or hedging his bets for fear of hell. You see I have this deep distrust in my ability to know anything, and there are so few Catholics I know whom I trust much more than myself. But there is John. I have a great deal of trust in him. If I can tell him all my worst doubts and they don't trouble him, I think for the moment I can go on.
I've also resolved to read the Gospels again. The rest of the Bible is an iffy proposition; some things are great and uplifting and other bits are upsetting. So I'll start with just Gospels. It's a start. Because Jesus is the sort of person I really would like to know, not because of fear but because he is so easily recognizable as Good.
In other news .... gosh, what else is going on? Michael has been sleeping very badly, and worst of all, won't let you leave the room if you come in at night to comfort him, so you have to stay there for half an hour or more. If you try to sneak out, thinking he's asleep, and he isn't, he comes fully awake and wails that he needs you to "be wif me!" And for fear of waking Marko up, you just have to sit back down and wait.
Because I have a great husband, though, I am not handling much of this. I'm staying with Miriam, who actually sleeps through the night once in awhile (knock on wood or the Internet Curse will get me) and so I get more sleep than John does. We've even moved a sleeping bag into the boys' room so John can sleep in there if he has to. Sometimes he's in there from 4 am to 6, when the kids get up for the day. I sure hope this stage doesn't last.
Today I buckled down and actually sewed the dress for Miriam I said I'd do weeks ago. It took me like an hour. Funny how I can put off things for so long that wind up being really no trouble to do.
The fabric is just a receiving blanket that I happened to have. Since it's cotton flannel, it's nice and warm and soft. I would have preferred pink trim, but the green was all I had. No pattern, I just cut it vaguely Miriam-shaped and sewed it up. I had planned to put a button opening in the back, but when the neck hole went over her head easily, I skipped cutting an opening.
For my next trick, I want to knit her a headband with a flower on it so people will know she's a girl even though I don't dress her in pink much.
She is three months old now, and just reached the stage when she immediately rolls to her side when I put her down. Still can't roll all the way over, unless she's on a very uneven surface like a pile of blankets.
She's not asleep in this picture; she's just super excited about that thumb.
Marko has all of a sudden gotten super affectionate. Not in the sense of wanting affection from me -- he's always had stages where he wanted lots of attention. But in the sense of figuring out what I like (hugs and kisses and saying I love you) and very pointedly doing them. It seems a little artificial, but I think he's just finally wrapping his head around the idea that he can make other people happy by doing certain things, so I appreciate it and tell him so.
Anyway, what is sweeter than a little boy who says "Come back here, I want to kiss you"? He is not always so good about listening, he sometimes pinches his brother, but he really does care about making us happy and that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. You see, kids don't love their parents when they're little ... they need us. But Marko is finally reaching a point where he's ready to give back.
How was your week?