Sunday, April 13, 2008

Loosed from the bonds of past theological commitments...

As most people of faith I gather that there is, in everyone, some sort of transformation in the process. That is, what I believed when I first associated myself with the Christian message and story has undergone tremendous re-evaluation, deconstruction, loss, mourning, faith, and reconstruction several times. I think the greatest thing that has ever happened to me is the loss of my faith, so to speak. For me to say "I have lost my faith" is not to be understood in traditional church lingo, for usually when one states "so-and-so lost their faith" it usually bears the connotation that they ceased to believe in Jesus, left their local community, and that is usually perceived as excruciatingly negative. However, when I use the phrase, I do not mean that "I have lost my faith" and therefore, do not believe; rather, I have lost my faith---that is, my faith reached a location in which it, in its construction relative to that time could no longer support itself with reference to that crucible in which existence, situation, rationality, and loyalty intersect. Thus, when I have gone through a period of "the dark night of the soul" in which I have been confronted with the apparent failure of my own theological convictions to support the history related to, and the person of the Savior himself as it has been passed down to us, I find myself at what people within the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous call "the jumping off place." This is lingo for the end of oneself in which the individual realizes that they can no longer continue to drink and use drugs successfully and yet they cannot stop---or to put it differently when one is confronted with the reality that what they hold dearest can neither be true or not be true. In the case of the addict, they cannot envision life either with or without the next drink/fix.

So also have my moments of crisis in faith taken place, at those moments in which I recognize that what I may have held dearest and labeled "fundamental" to Jesus and Christianity might actually be nothing more than the trappings of late-modernity's Imperial acquisition of and manipulation of the message of Jesus. Currently, I'm coining this (quite unaware of anyone who may well be of great academic prowess who has already pioneered this notion) as "the Imperial nightmare." This, of course, is my own reference to having awakened recently to the realization of my own entrenchment in, loyalty to, and antipathy toward Empire in my situatedness in the Western (North) Americas. How can I love Jesus and hate Empire, and yet be so situated in Empire that it is my very identity? This is precisely the point.

Now I have trudged through these wanderings all resultant of my experience today; when I first followed Jesus, I entered through the Pentecostal wing, most notably through the nutty and distinctly American prophets called "Word of Faith" preachers.... Yes, I admit it; I was attracted to the "american jesus" that is, the one who wants you rich, living in divine health (whatever that means), and basically a co-deity or "little god." How could I have been so naive, so stupid, and indeed so deceived? Well, when I first ventured into ministry to be a "world evangelist" I took with me all the tropes of the american gospel. It didn't take me nearly as long to renounce and move theologically away from such absurdities, but today I had to finally put the axe to some of the rhetoric still found at my website (http://www.robreid.org/). Since I have been in school for the last several years after starting "Rob Reid Ministries" (even the name I now regret), I haven't had any time (or the web skills) to change some of the verbiage on the site. Today, I have done it (at least I think I got it all. While I have been ideologically free of such naive faith for over 5 years, sadly my "face" to the world still bore all the accouterments of such a sloppy approach to faith.

It has been a long and winding road, from atheism to pentecostal faith. From there into the world of the "Word of Faith" nutters to the reaction of Covenantal Reformed faith, to conservative evangelicalism, to the broad place at which I now find myself. I am not "pentecostal" enough for the pentecostal, I am not conservative enough for the evangelicals, I am not calvinist or arminian, certaintly not Republican, but not Democrat... I'm a rogue thinker attempting to follow the Lord. I have embraced peace and not violence, a faith of praxis rather than mere words, and a life of critical scholarship regardless of how my faith might need to be deconstructed and reconstructed. And yet, when I have lost my faith, it was not final, nor a solitary experience, but I have lost my faith at several points, torn down the pillars supporting it, demolished the ground, started back with the person and my allegiance to Jesus and reimaged, reinvisioned, and reconstructed a faith worth having.

I can't wait for doctoral studies, in which I hope to lose my faith yet again; to change, to learn, to reimaging, and to establish myself yet again with a faith purifed by the crucible of criticism, cognizant of the epistemic limitations of humanity, existentially connected through allegiance to Jesus, and genuinely embodying the Jesus of first century Palestine, the true Kurios and yet the true doulos.

3 comments:

Mike said...

I'm glad your blogging Rob! Keep it up and I'll keep reading.

Mike

T. Michael W. Halcomb said...

welcome to the blogosphere, glad you're blogging. thanks for sharing some of your testimony/story in the sidebar. blessings.

-michael

Rob G. Reid said...

Michael,
Thanks for the encouragement (and you too Mike)!