Thursday, August 10, 2006

precisely

I occasionally participate in a discussion forum online and one of the threads I frequent is the one on religion. I have noticed a trend among many of the participants that is rather disturbing to me: they base their assumptions on the viewpoint that science as we know it today is the ultimate gauge of truth and precision is its essence.

While I agree that science and precision are definitely included within the spectrum of truth, I do believe it is a rather small worldview to parade facts as equal to truth. Truth is so much larger than accuracy. While you can freely discuss music and movies and relationships and art and even politics on this forum with emotion and a certain amount of ambiguity (i.e. admitting you only know a part), once you enter the realm of religion, it seems that to a majority of participants, everything must be scientifically proven and free from any hint of wonder or uncertainty or mystery and even reliable ancient Hebrew and Greek texts are not sufficient to substantiate anything since they are not scientific documents and therefore, obviously biased.

I just want to know…when did religion become a science? A course of study you take alongside calculus and chemistry? Why can there be only one answer for every question? What happened to the exploration of ideas, the mystery of profundity, the beauty of words and images, and the fluid development of relationship?

These well-read and informed and intelligent people that offer their opinions online often accuse religious people of being ignorant and intolerant, yet they are some of the most closed-minded and biased people I have ever encountered. I want to have a meaningful discussion with them, but most of the time our worlds and values seem too far apart to even find a common language and all too often, anger and degrading words enter into the picture and then I am truly sad that I have not been able to understand and be understood.

This past week we were at a gathering of Vineyard Churches in the East Coast and what struck me in many of the meetings and talks and encounters was a conviction that how I deal with those “other” than me, those I do not easily identify with, is an important test of how strong and healthy and loving and real my faith is. And I am not sure I pass this test at all. My compassion seems low for those who treat me with disdain. Understanding is something I would admittedly rather not bother with when I encounter a person who repeatedly does things to make myself and others cringe. Love is easier when I don’t have to work side by side with an abrasive personality. Faith is safer in an anonymous setting.

The challenge for me has always been to be a real Christian in a real world – not a religious caricature, but a living, breathing, human being with strengths and weaknesses, thoughts and emotions, good days and bad, struggling to get my motivations right more than wrong and my compassion larger instead of smaller. I do not hope to live my life with precision, but with love. I do not aspire to answer every life-question correctly and completely but in the process of life-long learning, to always enjoy the mystery and wonder of the gift of living. My desire is to be a great friend and lover, not a noted scientist.

And how does all of this apply to online forums? I guess that is what i have to learn.

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