I spent lunch time today reflecting with a friend about my journey of (no) faith over the last year or so, and how during “atheism for Lent” I managed to fail, in the sense that I found where God was, even if I couldn’t see where he is (I still can’t).
One of the things that came up in our conversation was that it was a good job I was part of a Christian community, so I had a frame of reference for my faith. I don’t think that made any odds, though. Reflecting on the situation, I think that the reason I was able to rediscover a faith in God was because I refused to deny my past experiences.
It’s easy when we’re deconstructing to deny our own histories. We like to do this – it means we can forget all of the bad stuff, or all of the stuff that we’re now ashamed of believing. But the problem is that if we start from ‘nothing’, then we are bound to end up not relating to God.
Peter Rollins talks about how we need to strip away our faith to a more ‘pure’ form, one not diluted or distorted by ‘idols’ of God. Whilst that’s true, I want to weigh that up with something I once heard Tony Campolo say: we are the sum total of our experiences and nothing more. If we take away those experiences, we are nothing,
If we choose to be nothing, then we will not see our past selves through an honest lens. We will see a past self where God was not, even though perhaps God was. In this sense, I could choose to see my missing God, my seeing where God was as simply my lack of understanding of a more rational world. However, I know that those experiences have shaped me in such a way that I am unable to imagine a world without God, and that has to mean something.
Of course, it isn’t concrete proof. But in the past I have felt the presence of the divine, I have heard a voice – a still, small voice (and sometimes a loud one). I could dismiss myself as mad, or I could accept these experiences and build on them. Yes, I can’t find God. Yes, I can’t hear God. But I know that I did.
This means that my deconstruction and reconstruction takes on a new and better meaning. Instead of simply doing away with everything I am forced to only do away with that which hinders my life, that which holds me back and that which distorts my relationship with God in such a way that I begin to lose sight of who God is.
We’ll never get away from our distorted views (or ‘idols’ if you prefer) but we can go too far. It’s that which is necessary to avoid in the reconstructing. Not making an idol of the deconstructed view of reality.