Monday, June 28, 2010

A Big, Bothersome Question

I had an argument with myself last night. It was over the question of whether the idea of God was reasonable.

I started to wonder about a story in which God really  was the God of Abraham, that that God really did communicate with us first through the Jews, then through Jesus, and finally through Mohammad. That he finally just got angry with us and said, fine. You wouldn't believe my rules (the Jews), you wouldn't believe my forgiveness (Jesus), so now you either believe or else (the Muslims). 

It's an interesting premise, if silly. But it does beg a bigger question: who is God? Why does he hide? Is it reasonable to think that he would communicate with us through a book (inspired writings) that are internally inconsistent and clothed in mystery and allusion? Isn't it sort of human to latch onto regular old objects and turn them into magical amulets, so why would we think there is anything any more special about the Bible than about any other old documents from a bygone age?

Then I got into the whole question of submission versus non-submission. This is a tough one. There is something both seductive, and impossible, about submitting. This notion has been explored on a variety of levels, and in many different ways (for example, Lina Wertmiller's Swept Away, a movie about sexual submission). 

On the one hand, how infinitely comforting to simply turn one's life over to a higher power and say, "I can't do this. The unexpected always happens; issues and questions and life events are so huge I feel powerless in front of them. How much easier and safer to say, 'Whatever you want, God. I just put myself in your hands.'" Then you float on the water like a leaf, go where the waves take you, rest in the power that compels you.

But then human nature kicks in - for some of us more than others - and we say, "Hell, no. It's my life, my choices. God, if God exists, wants me to handle things - to take charge. This is my life, my one and only life, and the choices I make, the things that I do, are all there is. I don't want to submit, I'm an adult, and I take responsibility."

We're told on the one hand that we're being children if we simply submit and go with it. On the other, it's explained to us that when we refuse to submit, we're guilty of the sin of pride - the sin of our original parents.

I'm guessing that the answer is, as the Church has taught us, somewhere in the middle. 

We are expected to own our lives; we are given the incredible power of free will. At the same time, we are expected to fight our human nature, and submit to the will of God. And the big, imponderable question is: if God's will were just all happy and positive and easy, it would be easy to submit. If it's that easy, it's not a challenge, and nothing has been proved by doing it.

The difficulty of all of this is why for me, and I suspect for many, faith is a matter of get up every day and try again. There will be good days and bad days and days when you think you're just going to quit. But you get up the next day and try again. 

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