Am I unusually packed full of paradoxes, or am I just more aware of my paradoxes than most people are? I strive to make a clean break with my past, and then long for an understanding of a continuous thread of identity formed by select memories. I declare that the material world matters little to me, and then I go and obsess over my bald spot to see if the minoxidil has accomplished anything. I swing erratically between not wanting to be anyone’s friend to wanting to be everyone’s friend, as I go from caring little about being your friend if you disagree with me at all about anything to caring about wanting to find common ground with all of God’s children.
Part of me is desperately seeking a human institution that I can utterly and completely believe in. I don’t want it to be some johnnie-come-lately group, either. I want something old, tried and true. And, I also know that every single institution under the sun has in some way perpetuated systems of abuse and injustice, even if the primary institution itself at its top level has the best intentions ever. I don’t want reality to be loosey-goosey and relative. I want it to be utterly absolute. This was always in me, but I tried to hide it from others because I knew that it wasn’t cool to be this way.
But, it doesn’t matter. I have to confess that this is in me, because I am either going to give into it completely and utterly at the expense of forfeiting a lot of critical thinking and my right to reserve great skepticism for the effectiveness of the institution–or, I am going to once and for all meet and deal with this part of me and rid myself of it.
What I want: A God who is all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful. All indications of the contrary in this reality are due to the necessity of this God to create a pocket of non-Godness (like the tzimtzum) where beings with ultimate free will can operate. I want this God to also not be ever inclined to damn a single soul to eternal damnation until that soul has completely and utterly given itself over to pure evil. What’s more, I want to land upon the religion in this world that most completely reflects this kind of God, and utterly give myself over to that religion to the point of complete submission of Self. Yes, there is a part of me that wants to utterly and completely become a servant of God and to do so under a communal, human institution of some kind. The obvious candidates of religion are Judaism, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and to some degree Buddhism and some strains of Hinduism. Islam is probably the one religion that most clearly manifests the type of God I am seeking, but it is by and large the most alien to me of all these religions I’ve mentioned. I also feel strongly that the people of my religion should be almost always the underdogs throughout history. History isn’t over yet, and I think eventually Christians will be persecuted in much the same way as they were in their early years. I am unsure if Islam or Judaism will ever be the dominant power religions across the earth. Probably not, since militant Islam is quite polarizing and turns off would be converts and Judaism tends toward ethnic exclusivity.
I also find Judaism to be rather complicated in its myriad of laws. I appreciate the sentiment of striving for purity, but there seems to be a paradox inherent in trying to be more pure by adding more laws on top of what you should and shouldn’t do. Of course, the Judaism you practice can be of a varying kind, but the more purist adherents seem to inevitably be the ones who feel the need to follow the most laws.
I am writing this part at a later time. It is now Christmas Eve, and I’ve ranted about the absence of God and the state of the world and watched the movie Scrooged instead of the Sound of Music. I couldn’t help but see Trump in the Bill Murray character, except I don’t think three ghosts visiting Trump would do him much good. Maybe he is redeemable, maybe not. I probably also saw too much of myself in the Bill Murray character. That which is unsavory about me generally tends to fall in the category of me being too selfish. Tonight, we’ll watch The Sound of Music, and I can imagine what it would be like to take my family off to New Zealand after Trump and cronies become too much like Nazis. Hopefully, that will never happen, but we can’t rule it out.
As far as seeking out a particular kind of monotheistic religion that I can utterly submit myself to–they all obviously have their strengths and weaknesses. I think that at the end of the day, God may be seeking to be having a more authentic relationship with me as much as I am with him. Every time I get too caught up in being overly righteous and pious and start expecting everyone else to be the same way, God becomes uninterested in having a relationship with me, and I would actually be having a relationship with an idol in order to sustain my righteous behavior. Maybe too much of religion is unredeemable idolatry, or maybe there is a goodness about all of it when you meet the right, good people expressing their faiths rightly and goodly.
Does this mean I will end up being a New Agey kind of lover of all religions? Probably not. I don’t think this is any more advantageous for me than trying to find a perfect institution to utterly submit myself to. But, I also can see that my longing to belong to a club isn’t going to go away, either. I want very badly to be part of a club where it is unquestioned that I belong there–I don’t get the stares and scowls and sideways glances when I enter the room. I don’t hear the hale, hearty hello’s shouted out to the people in front of me and behind me while I receive the terse mutter after I take the initiative to greet the person first.
This club isn’t going to be found at my present church, maybe not in my present denomination. But, I do think that there could be a basic church out there that seeks to do basic, Christian things without a lot of splash, while being focused on the faith when the people are at the church. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change–having discussions about fellow members’ walks of faith when we are sitting in our pews talking about our week, instead of trying to make artificial smalltalk about the weather, sports, families, etc.?
I have the Fitbit set up, and am wearing it. As soon as my wife has slept a little longer, we are going to go for a walk. Once again, it has passed the darkest day of the year, and the days are going to get lighter and warmer, and I am going to once again feel compelled to try to have a workout regimen that sees me running and in the workout room. Maybe the Fitbit will keep me on task. I weighed myself recently, and I weigh only a little less than I did when we moved down here. I am ready to make some greater progress in eating and being healthy. I have to learn to not let my classes and family life completely prevent me from staying in shape.