Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Half-Assed Answers To The Previous Post's "Good Questions"

You can take this as a prayer, if you’ll remember my name
You can take it as the penance of a profane saint -
Mark Heard

Alright, let’s see what we have here.

What regularly (or most) tempts you to second-guess/abandon the principles/worldview you hold dearest, regardless of your belief system?

We’re off to a rocky start, I’m afraid, because I’m not at all sure my religious worldview is particularly “dear” to me. The appeal almost any religion makes is immediate and intimate, but I’ll be the first to admit the Christian religion is fraught with staggering contradictions. It’s certifiably crazy, so if you’re going to be a Christian, reduce it to its core principles and go Mennonite, or Quaker. Or embrace the contradictions - all of 'em - and go Catholic.

I think once a religion takes hold of you, even a little bit, it never leaves your plasma. If you are truly intent on removing it, you commit to a lifetime of energetic argument, both silent and out loud. I’ve witnessed friends turning apostate, and, being a lazy sod, I can’t conceive of investing that much intellectual and emotional energy fighting what have become the well-defined and contradictory dictates of my heart. I also can’t commit to a rational defense of the faith. So ... I externalize. A suburban-bred Job and his unsympathetic friends over here, God over there, with no immediate resolution in sight. I cuss and rage, and every once in a while blubber out a little gratitude. A pathetic spectacle, no question, but there it is.

The principles I hold dearest are, I suppose, Christian virtues: humility over arrogance, self-sacrifice over selfishness, self-control over unchecked consumption, prayer for one’s enemies over blind hatred, etc. The extent to which I second-guess and abandon those principles is seen regularly by my family and in-laws. Contact me if you need references. Next?

What makes you want to "give up?"

The news and the Church, in roughly equal measure. Next?

What's the most hopeless situation you can imagine finding yourself in?

Losing a child. Exacerbated religious-ethnic tensions, a la the Middle-East, Darfur, Cambodia, etc. Third-World impoverishment. I find it remarkable, however, to hear quiet voices from each of those situations that, to use Sister Mary Jo Leddy's words, “say to the Darkness, we beg to differ.” Regarding the Two-Thirds World, my wife works for an organization committed to helping the physically disabled among the planet’s most impoverished people – the poorest of the poor. She usually visits a project site every year, and whenever she returns she remarks on the indescribable joy she witnesses in people we would expect to see walking around like whipped dogs. They have something we don’t, leaving me to wonder if we in the West aren’t suffering the more profound impoverishment.

Getting still closer to home, the most hopeless situation I currently find myself in is a global economy whose engine is fueled by a non-renewable resource. It is all too conceivable I could live to see the complete exhaustion of our planet's reservoirs of oil. Finding it, extracting it, refining it and burning it produces nothing of benefit to our ecosystem (feel free to set me straight on this – please!), and we are doing all of the above at an exponentially-increasing rate. What can we do to transform this situation?

What have you failed at so much that you've either quit trying or you go into that situation knowing you're going to fail?

Have I mentioned I write fiction?

What points of comparison do you use to make you feel better about yourself?

This is the one question that kind of bugs me, but I suppose I feel better when I reminisce. The last 40 years have been a delight I never anticipated – an unexpected gift in more ways than I could recount. No reason to stop now.

What are the things in your life that feel pointless, like a waste of time?

Preachers with facial hair! I jest, of course (my father sports a mustache). Time to go to work. My next entry will be frivolous, I promise.


jeremy said...

W.P., thanks for taking the time to answer; I'm grateful, and my hope is that people leave the sermon feeling free and safe enough to be honest about their struggles rather than feeling the need to put on a happy face, which is what so discourages me about "church." Thanks, man.

Whisky Prajer said...

Good questions, worthy concerns. I appreciate your voice, J. All the best with your sermon.