Doubt is kind of a terrifying thing, or at least I was told it should be. When you start to doubt things you start to relinquish control over whatever you are doubting. If you give up control then naturally we start to think that something else is controlling you. We don’t like to be controlled so we push hard against anything that opens up the doors for that to happen.
I’ve seen this happen plenty of times within the circles that I hang with. I’ve had a number of friends that begun doubting their faith. What exactly they doubted varied from the belief in a God at all, to their view on the Bible, the Church and plenty of other heretical perspectives. What would generally happen is these friends would stop hanging out with us, stop attending Sunday services, stop living their lives like they used to and take time to themselves to figure out what they believed. This usually included spending time with new friends, plenty of drinking, pot, sleeping around and a few other creative vices. I can’t help but think this is partially my fault because I didn’t know how to stay friends with someone when they questioned my core beliefs. At the same time though, I don’t think they knew how to be my friend while they questioned either.
Some of my friends have come back to their faith, and others haven’t. One thing still confuses me. I wonder why they have to leave the system that they are questioning why they figure out if they believe in it or not? Why do you have to leave the church to figure out if you believe in the church or not? The only real reason I can think of that makes sense of why people leave is that of shame. From my experience, the church has done a very poor job of allowing room for questions and doubt so the only option for people that are doubting and questioning is to leave and question from the outside. This usually leaves them with a skewed view of their faith and they never actually get to face into the questions that they have.
I wonder if my friends who left, doubting their faith, would have eventually found what they were looking for if they decided to stay within the system that they were doubting. Do you have to leave to have an objective view or can you do it from the inside? I want to think that you can have a more objective, or at least a more hands on perspective if you decide to stay and question from the inside of whatever you are questioning. I’m wondering if we can do that as communities following Christ? Can we actually embrace the Thomas’ in our mist or will we just get frustrated and push people away with our fear of someone questioning what we believe? It won’t be easy. Some of the things that we hold dear to our faith will be out in the open begging for answers.
I’m starting to think the only way to truly test faith or a belief is to jump blindly into it and see how it goes. How long can we pick apart things from the outside claiming that it’s not for us or that we are just waiting to see? It’s the only way I know how to explain my faith nowadays it seems. “Just try it” I’ll say. “If you don’t like it then leave, but I’m not going to try to convince you with arguments anymore, just join me as I try to figure this out also.”
What do you think? Do you think it’s better to step out of the craziness for a while to get a better perspective? Or is it better to jump head first in and battle out your questions inside the system that you are questioning?
4 thoughts on “Questioning the System While Being Part Of It”
I was listening to the latest Rob Bell sermon last night, and he was talking about forgiveness and the reality that we can’t forgive institutions like the church because it is not institutions that cause us pain or grief, but rather individuals from within that institution. So when we talk about people leaving the church because of feeling wronged by her and not having room to doubt and question, it’s more a reflection on the specific community of individuals around them than the ‘system’ as a whole. That’s what seems to be going on when you write about the awkwardness that comes when friends begin to question their faith. I think that what is most important is not having to have to answer all these questions and doubts, but like you said, embracing our faith as the Way, an ongoing process of learning and becoming. If we can learn to create room for questions and doubts while remaining loving people in the process, then the whole question of staying in or getting out becomes moot – the church is meant to be made up of individuals who can show love to others no matter where they are in their journey. To put that burden on an abstract system takes away from the call to love individuals and build communities that help sustain faith through meaningful practices such as friendship and hospitality. I suppose it all comes back to what we define as church in the first place, which is a whole other conversation.
That’s a really healthy perspective. In regards to our faith, almost remove the system all together because really its about our relationships to individuals not an idea of what a community should be.
Thanks for adding that!
Some good questions here!!!
I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile and coming back to it several times.
I like it. Quite a lot.
(Yep, that’s my oh-so-profound response.)