Lately I’ve been reading a lot about New Age spirituality, which is about way more than wearing crystals and listening to Enya. The worldview that underpins New Age thinking is diverse and spiritually rich – whether you take it as truth about our metaphysical world or just a good fantasy story. To some it’s myth, and to some it’s fact, but either way it’s fascinating.
Yesterday I attended my nephew’s baptismal ceremony at the Catholic church where I attended as a fairly-fundamentalist Catholic teen, which is always a strange experience. For one thing, this nephew is the son of a pair of my dearest friends, people who have genuinely been there for me through the darkest points in my life, and have allowed me to be there for them when they’ve felt the need for an extra pair of hands – deeply beloved, deeply valued people in my life. But at the same time, this church is also frequented by people who have been deeply unkind to me across a very long time, betrayals of friendship going back all the way to my primary-school days and as recently as a few weeks ago. There have been so many relationships made and lost and awkwardly patched over here, it gives the building a very strange emotional resonance for me.
But there was more to it than just the awkwardness of a lifetime’s good and bad memories collected in one church building. There was a very deep familiarity to the ritual, and a sense of belonging that grows out of knowing it all so well. I’ve been a Catholicism junkie in the past; there’s not much I don’t know about the religion, its history, its origins, and its beliefs. It’s all left me a bit jaded about the Church. But the ritual is beautiful – blessing oneself with the baptismal waters, genuflecting before seating oneself in the pew, making the Sign of the Cross – and it creates a sense of belonging to know them so well. As the ceremony began, I felt very deeply connected to the other worshipers, the community of faith, the Church as a whole . . . and yes, even to God, though the ceremony was rooted in an understanding of the Divine that I can’t quite say I accept or believe.
I thought that might get your attention. There’s a certain way of thinking about Christian fundamentalism – essentially, if a fundy says it, it must be insane. This stereotype (as far as I can tell) grows out of belief in the Rapture, collective hoop-jumping to deal with contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible, and popular support for Sarah Palin.
But today I was surfing Answers in Genesis (mostly because fundamentalism amuses me) and I found a statement that I deeply agree with. It was buried in the testimony of a student who is “not ashamed to be a Creationist”. On Biblical inerrancy and its role in his choice of college, this unashamed student had this to say:
“Without a commitment to biblical authority (that the Bible’s teachings must be the final, absolute authority to which we defer), a Christian simply has no true basis for discernment on essential doctrinal matters and morality.”
I’m not agreeing with this as an absolute – that the Bible is the only truthful way to discern reality. But it is true that, if you don’t put faith in the Bible, your reasons for being a Christian start to crumble away beneath you.