Comment: the crowd you lament

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the crowd you lament

JRoth,

I most entirely disagree with your statement that, "Religious teaching is based on a pre defined truth regardless of societal needs while true libertarians promote the concept of freedom from all dominating forces, including religion.

For me, as well as for most of the Christians I know intimately, our religion is first a seeking beyond defined truths. It is an attempt to deal with the unknown, unknowable. Most of us experience times in our lives when we are confronted with just how little we know, how little we can trust experience, how wide the gap between what we seek and what we can define and claim knowing. My sister calls this the "gap," and I think that serves. The religious seeker makes a decision, whether in one come-to-Jesus moment or in incremental ways, to explore that gap, to go beyond what he or she can be sure of...and, well, cease pacing along beside the gap and take a step.

Religious people, rather than being afraid of the indeterminate, the undefined decide to go there. For most of the Christians I discuss such stuff with, it is not a seeking for pre-defined truth, but a seeking beyond what is known and described and categorized.

Some of my favorite biblical passages are from Paul, who, when asked about the undefined and uncomfortable aspects of man's relationship with God, simply says, "Oh, the mysteries," and "Who are you, oh man?" He does not offer pat answers; he appeals to those who wish to deal with the gap, with God, with the unknowable. He appeals to people who wish to contend God without pat answers and pre-determined truths.

The notion of faith is all about this. They call it a "leap" for good reason. It means that you step into the gap and choose to contend with the unknowable God DESPITE not having answers. You go forward in that relationship -- anyway.

I sometimes think that there is less separating me, a lifelong Christian (except that agnostic spell in college and a couple years after), from an atheist. An atheist, it seems to me, is contending with God (or the lack of a God). He's dealing with the gap by deciding it is a void, some sort of accidental artifact of human evolution that holds nothing. But he is contending with it. I contend with it, too, but I've decided it is more intriguing to step into it than to pace along beside it, calling it nothing.

I'm not sure who's right -- the atheist or me. I'm not sure. And that's faith. I've chosen to believe, or act as if it were, so that I can explore. I chose to be a religious person -- a Christian -- because I want to content with the gap and the god that may dwell there.

I would argue that your premise is off and so you set yourself up for a problematic dichotomy between religion and libertarian philosophy. It's often the case that some premise you take for a given is tilted and so the rest of the thought process slides off into irrelevant direction. Tilt at windmills.

Sure there are Christians and other religious people who are not cognizant of their desire to explore the unknown and many who are clutching at hard truth even as they dangle over the gap. Just as there are libertarians who think that if they grow a beard and shout, "End the FED" they are pursuing freedom even if they've no idea what Just War Theory is or what M1 is. We all do what we can with where we are at.

This teacher and this student (and so many of the other players who involved themselves in this documentary) are speaking from where they're at. I trust in the power of freedom -- espoused in the New Testament and in libertarian philosophy -- to allow each of us the broadest possible path to wander and to contend with the gap, our god, the unknown with the best of how we can where we are right now. I believe that the freer the man, the more capable he will be to contend with what is or isn't of God with his best most honest self.

Freedom and certainty are always in dynamic tension -- in us as individuals and governments. To set one against each other misses what's both beautiful and scary in both religion and political philosophy. It seems to me that you're trying to be the judge here, trying to find a black and white lens. You can do that; we all do that much of the time. But the truly exciting places aren't so delineated. They're gray, and the human struggle is to step into them, despite our fear, with the freedom to go on the adventure.

Freedom is scary. And there will always be people who, upon experiencing that first spine-tingling sensation, will retreat to safety and what you call pre-determined truth. Don't confuse the crowd you're in with the crowd that is. If you experience Christians or religions people as folks clamoring for pre-determined truth, it's most likely because that's the crowd you're hanging with. Like clings to like. Step out a bit further. Stop defining your beliefs according to the crowd you lament.