Someone emailed me today with a question that I think may haunt many of us. (They had just read my book Patience With God) where I describe my loss of faith in the Evangelical religion that I was raised on by my pastor father.
The question was:
"Frank, how do you pick up the pieces after your faith falls apart? How do you bring some order back to the chaos?"
Here was my answer and I share it here because I think that this person (and I) may not be the only people wrestling with this question.
I don't think there is a "how to" because of something I've learned along the way: There is no final arrival.
I think that one side effect of the "born-again" way of looking at things is that we tend to think in terms of in or out, lost or saved. Some days I'm an atheist, on others an agnostic, on other days I believe and feel God's hand "on me" as we used to say.
So what? Some days I'm in love with my wife, others not, some days I love to see my children, on others I don't. The journey of faith is a struggle and there is no destination because (I believe) the life of the spirit is real. Therefore we never arrive because the spirit never dies.
So then what matters? And what may keep us going on this journey and make it seem worthwhile?
Love is the only answer, and I mean that in a very basic and ordinary way.
Love of a child, partner spouse or friend. Love of art and beauty. Love of seeing and being in the moment. This love points to a greater meaning. So what if we will never fully know what that meaning is?
As far as specific Christian faith, well, admit it, it is all about geography. You were born here, not there. That is why a particular theology challenged you. If you'd been born in say, Saudi Arabia, you'd have other questions about theology.
Theology per se, let alone theological correctness, doesn't matter because it isn't universal.
What is?: The longing for meaning.
That is why I believe in God on the days that I do. And that is why some -- not all -- of Jesus' teaching resonate with me. Because some of his words tap into a universal love of meaning through Love of other people.
Stick with your love of beauty, and stick with the Sermon on the Mount and forget the rest.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of 'Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism)'