Monday, December 18, 2006

Reflections, life, & SLC

A little while ago I went to a 'Student Leadership Conference' (SLC) that was run by TSCF, a national support organisation that helps out the Auckland Uni christian group, EU.

They covered 2 Timothy as their text. I may have heard it before...?

Those who I have talked to over the last little while may have realised that I have been having an "interesting" time with my faith.

Part of my recent doubts have in some ways felt liberating, especially since genuine questioning borne of actual doubt creates a sense of true clarity. A person who lives in the closet all their life doesn't know what the room is like outside. The room might be filled with snakes, on fire, or contain a mountain full of golden marshmallows. That doesn't mean the person in the closet is wrong... or even that they are right... it just means they haven't bothered to find out, and so they can't really know.

I watched a little bit of Richard Dawkins, tried to get into some Carl Sagan, and also managed to re-read some C.S. Lewis.

Richard Dawkins seemed nice, although still somehow confused - and slightly robbed of a true sense of security. I'd prefer to talk to him, however, than to Ted Haggard whom I saw him interview (who seems slightly snakey and two-faced).

Carl Sagan is always fun, but he doesn't really provide any for's or against's in the search for the Dragon in our Garages. In fact, both sides of the fence use his facts about the universe to prove or disprove God; did you know that there is 116 gigabytes of information in the DNA of one Paramecium? That's 10^12 bits of information - or 10000000000000 bits, or 116GB - in a single-cell of our simplest bacteria!

C.S. Lewis is interesting, too. I haven't read as much of him as I should like, although he seems to go between amazingly insightful or logical at one moment, while at another moment being slightly too foregone in his conclusions. However, if I could be one person (aside from Jesus? although, maybe bags not him) then I'd probably choose C.S. Lewis.

When talking to people, or when reading books from theists or athiests, I guess I realised that people gain the answer most appropriate and convincing to themselves, while not necessarily being able to communicate the impact of those answers to others.
Im not being poMo in a painfully relativistic sense here, I'm simply saying that I won't necessarily care about the issues and insights that rock your world most, nor you will of mine.

And now for the happy ending?

I found SLC to be very good. I went there for encouragement if any could have been found, and I did find it. I was feeling relatively near the end of my patience with... God? My faith? Religion? It's hard to describe. There was one session about people who leave churches, and that was really interesting to hear. The lady who took it demonstrated that she didn't just have a list of pat answers to apologetinate at me... but in fact she listened to me and didn't seem all that surprised with some of more candid admissions. Sure, i had 5 minutes with her, but it was nice all the same.

I realised at SLC that having been trained at the Bible College of NZ means that I can say all the right things, and people presume something about me even when i haven't been saying that at all. There is no way I tried to seem like a super-christian at SLC, especially since I set out to be honest with people, but I think that some people still had an overly generous estimation of the current place in my faith.

The message I heard coming out of the study of 2 Tim was of returning to beginnings, remembering the past, going back to basics. It is always good to move forward, yet sometimes it is even more important to focus on the simple things. Life, God, and religion can certainly become over-complicated. A significant moment for me was during a worship session led by the Fijian contingent (who were visiting from a sister campus group on Fiji!). Seeing their passion and energy was special, but it was the fact that they represented differences and harmonious unity all at once that hit home. My Bachelor of Ministries has a 'major' of Missions; my vision of true Christianity, and of 'heaven' (and the ideal faith community), is one where all nations, all people, all cultures can love each other despite differences and because of differences! Life is about people, and loving people and giving of yourself for them is the highest and most noble goal (Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friend. ~Jesus). The song sung by a faith that embraces cultures isn't about having one voice - no great choral piece is ever done with only one part. I have sung that song in my heart before: I have sung it at Church; I have sung it among my Korean, African, Tongan, and Kiwi brothers and sisters at BCNZ; and I sung it that night as the Fijians stood before us.

No moment and no one, single feeling will ever ultimately replace all doubt (at least, not one that I have had so far!) - yet that night was the drink that my parched lips so desired.

I feel so very weary of not having any 'final answers' to address any doubts once and for all, but I suspect my whole life will be an interesting rollercoaster.
I know, however, that an important decision to make is to accept life as a journey (rather than waiting for THE answer), and to make sure that I am not alone as I travel along.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~ Robert Frost, excerpt from Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (link).