Making Space in the Middle
I’m not planning on telling you what to believe.
Ultimately, the question here is about what I believe and why.
There are so many forces on all sides telling me what I should or shouldn’t believe.
It shouldn’t matter what any of them say, nor should their judgments or scorn or altruism or profit or whatever investment they have in my belief. When I am alone and quiet, I am at peace with what I know, what I fear, what I hope for.
But it is difficult to walk through this world and its systems without tripping over the tangled web of beliefs that are interwoven with everything else. Our fears and hopes, our sense of purpose and of the underlying rules of this life, affect our every interaction.
So why not bring them to light?
On one hand, there is deep tradition, the belief system in which I was raised, which connects me with family and friends and a community of believers, while defining my expected role in society, how I should act, how I should vote, how I should spend my resources.
But the Christian tradition in which I was raised—fundamentalist, evangelical, holiness-oriented—is only one planet in a single solar system in an entire spiraling galaxy that is Christianity. When one talks about returning to a kind of Christian orthodoxy, going back to basics, one must admit that this can mean many things, from Catholic to Baptist to Mainline to a thousand splinter denominations, driven by various revelations, interpretations, forward-looking leaps that could be heresies or epiphanies, backward lurches that could be the fundamental restoration of principles or the fearful reaction to progress.
That galaxy swirls along with many, many others around the center of a universe of beliefs, each system with its own claim to truth, and adherents who claim revelatory experiences that rival my own. Is only one of these systems true, with all the rest being false? Would a just God allow so many of His children to be deceived? Are they all different roads up the same mountain, each valid, if incomplete, in its own way? Are they all valid in their own right, with a call to find a way to coexist while embracing the complexity and ambiguity of such a system?
Then there are those who would say all this vast galactic panoply of belief is truly just a projection of our imaginations. They would turn on the bright white lights to show that we really truly know nothing beyond what we can see and measure, and that the supernatural is our fantasy of an omnipotent parent or a comforting friend or an avenging bodyguard. They would tell us our belief systems are tools for the powerful to control the masses. They would tell us these beliefs are an opiate to soothe our fear of death.
To the degree that anyone is invested in what I believe, there are those who, out of concern for my beliefs, worry about the soundness of my thinking. And there are those who, due to the quality of my doubt, worry for the soundness of my soul.
Back in my own world of belief, I live with my own doubts, concerns, revelations, interpretation, and the sum total of a life of experiences, conversations, reading, listening, seeing that make my belief experience unique. Even if I tried to adhere to a certain orthodoxy, it is my own.
Sometimes I feel so crowded in by all the voices of wisdom, all these people who seem to know so much, trying to fight and kick and twist to make space for myself here in the middle.
A space of my own, where I clearly define what I know, and what I don’t know, and where I can confidently stand, knowing I’ve done my absolute due diligence in seeking the truth I am supposed to know, and that I have been vigilant and attentive in doing, saying, and being what I’m supposed to, to the best of my knowledge and ability.
Know as much as I can know, and do the best I can with that knowledge.
Is there anything better that any of us can do, but this?