12. Moral Pivot

Herald

Adam whispers of the undressed emperor. Granite-graven and implacable, our primordial Washington stands ever unyielding to the contortionist demands of textual adaptation. So many models to synthesize science and myth, but none able to wed genome and genealogy. For the problem of Adam remains not merely one of theological frustration; Adam whispers of the ill-directed volition of the faith community. It has not mattered whether our proposed solutions were actually true to the historical understandings of the faith, nor to the manifest evidences of our world, nor to the requisites of coherence and sufficiency. It has not mattered that our explanatory bridges do not really span the divide.

With bleary eyes and slacked jaw I met the embarrassment of our vanguard’s mission. On the creation accounts, our ledgers are laid open, telling of our bankruptcy and our resolution to forever trudge circles around concession, muttering of mystery to one another. Their self-appointed tasking is to find some new way to look at it: a way to see the text, even if with blurred vision, that will keep plausible the claim of revelation. They do not seek truth, nor really even reconciliation. They simply wish to defend as plausible our self-belief: we are descended from the immortal and glorious. Our first article of worship has shouldered to the front: we pay homage to unknown authors, collated by unnamed redactors; and we worship a deity of pages, whether the hand of Moses or any prophet penned them or not. And we defend them for ourselves, for our self-image that we are more than mammals. The deity of pages makes us special, central, and empowered, in an otherwise dwarfing and indifferent cosmos. The deity of pages grants us the narcissism of being more than merely human. And so, the hole will be squared. The music will play on.

In retrospect, the rest of the Old and New Testament discussions demonstrate variations on the same theme. We deny the similitude of our testimony bubble. We absolve the second temple scholars of their eisegetical wish-thinking. We repaint peer-influenced lurching as divinely progressive. Fact, I realized, cannot trouble where the faith card remains to be played. Our very means of defense convinced me how little we actually had to guard and how poorly we were guarding it. It was our own scholars, and no one else’s, who taught me to despair.

Affirmation

Reader: This is the word of the Lord.

Congregation: Thanks be to God.

So proceeds the liturgical exchange which follows scripture readings at our conservative church. I have uttered such affirmations times beyond number, and ever with conviction.

I recall a day not long ago when a passage from Deuteronomy was read from the lectern, and I could not bring myself to utter the response. But no, that’s not quite it. It wasn’t that I could not, but that I felt that I ought not. Deuteronomy, standing as it does with its markers of illegitimacy, roadblocked my conscience. At that moment, I felt that affirmation would flirt with blasphemy.

And further dominoes fell. Indeed, on Adam and Creation, Genesis beckoned the same realization when it was read on a day not long after. The remainder of the Pentateuch and Joshua likely belong in the same bracket. They fall well short of reliable history, much less The One Divine History. The creation accounts simply are not factual by any measure, much less True. And it regrettably does not stop as one marches through Chronicles, the prophets, and the New Testament. John’s Gospel and Acts appear to manifest flowering enhancements that extend beyond the actual events of history. 1 and 2 Peter are in all likelihood both forgeries: deceptions from the moment they were penned. It seems that there are texts that ought not to be affirmed, and within those texts, claims that ought not to be affirmed. My moral position had clearly pivoted.

There was here an irony. The Judeo-Christian framework taught me to take blasphemy seriously, yet the Judeo-Christian tradition seems to take liberties in bandying God’s name and using it to underwrite ill-founded texts. Were I actually godless, I could shrug off such a dilemma as not mattering. What is blasphemy to the godless? But as long as I believe in God, there was no casual position open for me to assume. And that constitutes the most bizarre of Catch-22’s.

Mislabeled Apostasy

We tend to say that departed believers struggled with doubts. Or that they embraced the pleasures of sin. Or that they perhaps never had believed. I found myself in the nether spaces between these categories. I really did believe. I do not have a licentious lifestyle to defend. And at this point, it is not a question of doubt.

I hold a Bible in my hands, and I turn the pages. I close it, and resting a hand on the cover, I can only affirm a few things: “It did not all happen that way. It was not all written by who we thought. We were mistaken about much of it all for a very long time.”

My reluctant position has become one of conscientious objector. How can I assert as Truth that which does not measure well even as fact? How can I ascribe to God the nefarious and dubious and false? Ought we to make such affirmations? I cannot answer yes.

Next: [13] Epilogue >>

4/20/2013

Comments

  1. Kevin Vendt says:

    I think what you wrote is excellent however I can’t help but feel that you don’t go far enough into your real concerns. Constantine’s cannon or should i call it Luthers idol is always going to problematic because of its historical nature. The starting point for you and all of us must be, “is there anything more to this life than e=mc2” and does that “thing” exist necessarily and serve as the foundation for this contingent existence and more specifically our perceived self consciousness. What is the nature of such a thing? From there all elemental questions from quintessence to the Cartesian mindset will roll. In these comes true faith. Only when you find yourself not believing in your own existence will you have faith in God’s and have hope in his incarnation into the e=mc2 that we “know” exists.

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    • Good thoughts, appreciate the feedback. I have a couple of pages pending that step back a bit further on the global reconsideration. For myself, in this state of transition, I lean more strongly than before toward a straight materialism. It appears that venturing more than that is speculative… fun perhaps, but speculative. A place where one can land anywhere. 🙂

      Like

    • By the way, are you running a blog on WP?

      Like

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