One perk of going to seminary is that you get to talk about God a lot. I go to class and talk about God, I come home and talk to my roommates (both seminary grads) and talk about God, I meet new people and when they hear that I’m in seminary, we talk about God.
I’m sure I am not alone in this observation, but often when religion or some synonym thereof is the topic of conversation, there are potentially infinite other conversations going on simultaneously. Are we talking about God or your relationship with your family? Are we talking about God or are we talking about our conception of authority? Is this really a discussion about my own sense of failure and my use of the term “God” is really just my projection of my idealized self? When we say “kingdom of God” do we actually mean “America”?
God becomes a placeholder for any number of more personal or more abstract topics of interest.
What is really interesting to me in these conversations is when a subject comes up that someone won’t budge on. Someone recently said, “I’m fine questioning a number of things, but just don’t question the Trinity.”
The Trinity? Really?
The question that always pops into my head is, “what about those questions terrify you?” what is it about certain questions that terrify me?
Hypothetically, if Christianity is way wrong about the Trinity, what would change? How would the world, the empirical universe, be different?
The fascinating part to me is how this plays out. It’s not just that some questions terrify people, but how that fear informs practice.
I know I have had experiences where I realize that what is being said to me, or better yet, what I am saying about God feels less like witness and more like: I’m terrified that this is not true, but if you believe it, then it will feel more real. Or maybe it’s more like this: I need to convince you, because I need to convince myself.
I think this is a boring game. It’s boring, because it is only as real as we say it is. If at any point someone questions the game, or questions any of the rules, the game is up, or people get hostile.
I want to talk about God, like I talk about my new favorite album.
I have a bit of a compulsion, but I love indie music, I love hearing music before anyone else. I have joked that my music is so indie and so cool that I listen to songs that haven’t even been written yet. I love the experience of going to the iTunes store (support musicians, support art folks…don’t steal it’s not cool!) and downloading a new album, putting my headphones in and getting lost in an album.
I listen to it from start to finish, playing my favorite songs a few times through and just enjoying the art that people have created. I try to identify all the instruments that I hear, wondering about what influence the band has, why they made the choices they did, what is the message of the album, what is the story that is being told, or if I was to make a film with just this album how would I do it, what do I see, how does this album capture certain emotions…and on…and on…
The best part of new music though, is sharing it.
Taking the headphones out and plugging the music into the loud speakers, the ones with the good bass, and watching as other people encounter music for the first time. It is always interesting to see how people react and how the album intersects with their life.
Sometimes I play music and the folks I’m sharing it with love it. Other times they remain neutral, or they hate it. Whatever the outcome, it’s still my new favorite album.
They can shred it and tell me it’s derivative, or that my musical tastes are lame, and we can argue and they can sing it’s praises and tell me how brilliant and refined my tastes are, or whatever, but it’s still my new favorite album.
Whatever their response is, I enjoy it, and that’s enough for me.
I want to talk about God like I talk about my new favorite album. I play my favorite songs, or Bible stories, or personal stories and listen for all of the instruments, I wrestle with the parts of God and life that do not make sense, but at the end of the day, it’s still my favorite album.
I have personal joy in playing it, and in sharing it, but there’s no fear. No worry that if I share it someone will hate it. The joy is in the sharing, not in their response. If they love it, now you get to share it, but if they don’t it doesn’t make my experiences any less valid.
I don’t think drawing lines in the sand and not budging on certain topics is interesting. What I do find interesting is someone telling me how their belief in the Trinity makes the world a more holy place. I find it thrilling when someone tells me about how they finally stopped running from their past and their demons and finally faced them…and lived, which sounds oddly like a first century Jewish Revolutionary that took on the cross and burst out of a tomb three days later. I cannot get enough of people telling me how they discovered that they can be who they really are and God loves that.
It’s a bit like they’re sharing their new favorite album.
Here it is. Listen to it, discover, enjoy, wonder, question.
No fear, just joy in experiencing and sharing.