Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Adventures of Pig Boy

Here's my response to the comments of Miroslav, a seeker among seekers, who's growing uneasy in the faith of his youth:

Greetings Miroslav --

I'm glad you got hold of me, because just tonight, again, I was mulling -- I should say brooding -- over this very thing, of doubt. Here's a sip from the well of my vast insight and wonderful wisdom. ;-)

I tell the story again. Of course you know it, from Sunday School days, but it's such a good story.

A son goes out from the safety and control of his father's house. Young men must do such a thing. And he does what young men do, and he wastes his inheritance on such things as would appeal to a young man. With me, were I so inclined, it would have been women more than wine. With him, it was what it was. Well, long story short, he runs out of money, and winds up sleeping among the pigs. And when he comes to his senses, he longs to go home. He gathers himself together, and scraps the pig feces off himself as best he can, and turns his face homeward. Isn't it strange, no matter how old we get, we know where our true home is -- it's not the place, it's the people.

We know how the story ends. The son is received with rejoicing, and the fatted calf is killed and there is such a feast of celebration. What was lost, is found. And that's all very nice. But here's the image that I just love -- I could weep for its beauty.

Every morning, that father, that rejected father, gets up with the sun and walks to his gate and searches the road, longing to catch sight of his son. How his heart must ache. You think he hasn't heard the news? How he burns with shame, with pain. You think visitors haven't carried the gossip, the scandal of what his son has been up to in the city? And all through the day, that father's soul and mind and prayers turn to his son, and his eyes are fixed, fixed on the horizon. Every trail of dust rising in the distance can only pull at his heart.

Then one morning, or afternoon or evening, his hope is fulfilled and the figure in the dust resolves itself into his dear and beloved son. And how he races to the road, his robe flapping stupidly around him -- rushes to his son and pulls him to his chest as if to never let him go. I know those tears.

We know what that father feels. We know what the son feels too, some of us, because we were lost, and now are found. We've lived with pigs.

What I think, is that all religions are pretty stupid. I think life itself is pretty stupid. Sometimes, I please myself with a smug little formula. I think I'm very amusing, when I say to someone I've buttonholed or manipulated into listening to me, the following: "Ya know," I say, unctuous with self-approval, "ya know, God and I have been having a little disagreement, lately. I say, 'Hey, God, what's with this crappy universe of yours, so full of pain and suffering and futility.' And God says back to me, 'Shut up, Jack, and obey me.'" Pretty funny, huh? But of course there's a serious side.

Untested faith is dogma. Unquestioned faith is superstition. I'm tempted to think that I'd rather live with the pigs, than "just believe." Of course you know God says, "Come, let us reason together." Yeah. That God, I can respect. He doesn't say "Just believe or I'll send you to hell." He does send people to hell, express, but it's not because they don't have blind faith.

So I don't have any advice. All I have is a capacity to reason, and a capacity to feel. Both of these have led me to the God of the Bible. But countless others with the same capacity to feel and reason pick some other god. There you have it. Some clay is made into extra fancy vases, and some into slop pots. Paul had a little something to say about that.

My observation is that a questioning spirit is an honorable thing. We love a devoted child -- how beautiful and sweet. We are exasperate with the defiant child, and we punish him. But we love him none the less. And when he is won over to our values, how much sweeter the world is, for that. I flatter myself in thinking I'm a Berean -- who heard Paul's teaching, and liked what they heard, but then they went and looked it up in their scrolls. They tested what he said. Is it true, or just interesting ear-tickling and tale-spinning. And because they did this, their more noble spirit was praised. Imagine having God say that you had a more noble spirit.

It's worth living with the pigs, just to feel clean afterwards. And I'm a gentler man than I have been. I don't ever feel guilty, for questioning God. This is a crappy universe, flat out, and he's its king. What's that? He handed it over to Satan for a while? That's supposed to be an excuse? Well it isn't.

The thing of it is, it wasn't the whirlwind of God's appearance, or even a still small voice, that dealt with poor Job's questions. It was God's answer, that dealt with the question. And his answer was, as Paul has it, "Who are you, o man..." Not a very good answer? It's not just the only one there is, it's the best one. What do you say to a very little child who asks a question he cannot possibly understand? You'll understand when you're older. Now, through a glass darkly -- then, face to face. Don't like that answer? Tough. You can't change your brain, but you can change your heart, one of stone for one of flesh. You've done that already? Then as you know, flesh hearts can be hurt. Welcome to the universe. But you knew that already.

In my wiser moments, such as they are, this is what I know. Everything I can know about God, I know through Jesus. God's answer, to every one of my complaints, is to point at his Son. And my mouth is shut up. God, we can blame. Jesus is unanswerable. I say the same thing, in The Trial of God -- posted below. That Jesus. What a man. He's the reason I'm Christian -- God knows it isn't God -- I'm not satisfied with his attitude, or his crappy universe. Oh! -- I'm so blasphemous! But that Jesus...

As for answers to specifics, I'm the same as you. I like to get it organized. Maybe I've got some detail that will help put it together for you. Might be fun to try. Anyway, hope these ramblings have amused, if not enlightened.



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