|Stained Glass Cross at Cedar Hills Baptist Church, Portland, OR. |
Photo by me.
As a Christian pastor, this is troubling to me. I understand the objections; in fact, I've had almost all of them myself. I've read atheist books and materials. And I have spoken to many, many people who self-identify as atheist or agnostic, who recite objections about the religious treatment of science and/or the idea of believing in something as implausible and invisible as God, the hypocrisy of the Church, or the countless abuses committed in the name of religion.
I get it. I really do. I completely understand the thought process that could lead someone to believe that religion is a psychological trick to make oneself feel better. I've had that thought, more times than I can count. Marx was the one who called religion the "opiate of the masses," and the charge that religious leaders exert control through emotionalism and tyranny is of course one that must be taken seriously.
It is this idea - that God is a ridiculous, made-up, fiction - that is rampant among the gifted population. Smart people just don't believe in impossible ideas, right? If it's not provable through science, it's not worth the time. I've had my intelligence questioned because I believe - and I'm not the only one. But I will be honest with you - I can't not believe.
Like many gifted kids, the Teenlet began questioning his parents' beliefs earlier than most, when he was about 7 or 8. We were faced with these big questions about the existence of God as a very young person. He asserted that he was having trouble believing in something he couldn't see. I asked him if he believed in gravity. He, being the physics fan that he is, said, "of course, but that's because I can see the effect that gravity has on everything."
I asked him, then, what he would see if he didn't know anything about gravity. He would see things fall, but he wouldn't know why. He would probably think it's just the way things are. He wouldn't identify it as gravity if he didn't know about the force that pulls everything to the Earth's core. I said, it's the same with God - I see God actively engaging with me and the world every day, but that's because I'm looking, and I can identify it when I see it. I can see the effect of God on everything. But if I don't know it is from God, I might assume that it's coincidence, or an accident, or just the way things are. But when I'm looking, I see it.
And that's why I have to believe.
I am frustrated by many of the same questions that others are frustrated by. But in the end, God is bigger than all of that. In the face of all the questions, the challenges, and the struggles in my faith, I cannot ignore my real experience of God - in miracles (though I have no answers to why miracles happen for some and not for others), visions, nature, dreams, and discernment/guidance that comes from outside myself. God may be invisible, but God's work is not. In those moments when I want to throw up my hands and give in to the questions, I am reminded of what I have seen God do. And I believe.