If you haven’t had the chance to read some of the comments and replies on my previous post of, “The Bible, bigotry, and same-sex attraction,” I’d encourage you to do so. Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond. I couldn’t be happier—this kind of dialogue is everything I want the blog to be about. The following is one of the many wonderful responses to that subject. I thought the honesty of the question and the length (and hopefully value) of my reply merited it’s own post.
|@ Bob Rice: I respect your tone and appreciate you sharing your perspective on the video. Part of me wants to say “It’s Dan Savage. This is what he does.” You might also listen to his speech about his Mother’s death on an episode of NPR’s This American Life to hear a different side of the man.http://youtu.be/ADDo5PT_ToI
Leaving that aside, I get wary when Christians begin to compare themselves to other Christians, and reach a decision that they are on the correct path or know what is “true”. I simply cannot understand what objective measure you use to know that your reading of the Bible is the correct one. I’m sure that research into the cultures that were active around the time of the writing of the Bible are useful to better understand their mindset and intentions, but this demonstrates that the words in the book are decidedly that of men (as in males) and I just can’t see how you make the leap from “men wrote these words in these circumstances” to “this is what God or Jesus would want.”
Is this some kind of revealed knowledge? If so, again, what objective test do you perform to demonstrate that the information you receive is divine, and not manifested within your own brain? What if someone else claims to have had a different truth revealed? Who will be the arbiter? This can be true of revealed wisdom between the full spectrum of Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc.
As for me, I’m all for doing good works in the name of love and compassion. I’d just prefer to do it without the tangle of revealed truth, dogma, and divine commandment.
For what it’s worth, a short comment.
Thank you for your comment. And for what it’s worth, a longer answer.
I appreciate you sharing that video. It’s great to see a more personal, human side of Dan Savage than the one that might be inferred from seeing the one that has gained so much popularity over these past few days.
The divisions within Christianity are a big turn-off to the faith. All of them have Scripture at their center (yes, even the Catholic Church!) and their belief is formed mostly by how they interpret those Scriptures. If you’re not Christian, from the outside looking in, it might seem like a real mess.
To share my view from the “inside”: yes, there is brokenness within the family of Christ. But there is more than unites us than what divides. I have disagreement with some of what other Christian denominations teach—sometimes strongly so. But they are still my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I do believe in revealed truth. You inquired as to what objective test I perform to prove it is real. But if the implication is that my subjective experience can’t be a part of that answer then I have no full answer to give. There are certainly objective parts to what I believe: the beauty of creation, the fact that we exist at all, the universal power of love, the empty tomb and the fact that ten guys gave their lives saying that He rose from the dead, just to name a few.
But there is also the subjective. The experience I had when I first surrendered my heart to Jesus Christ. The way my heart burns when I read the Bible. The times I’ve heard His voice in my heart and the miracles that occurred when I followed His guidance. The wounds I was spared by living the “new life” that He revealed. The healing I’ve received when I didn’t. I think of my wife who I wouldn’t have known were it not for our common faith, the wonderful children we have because of it, and my amazing son with beautiful black skin who, I truly believe, is a total, unmerited gift from God Himself.
You can find objective answers to my subjective experience. Perhaps I was emotionally manipulated at the Bible camp I went to. Perhaps I have heartburn. Perhaps I just got lucky with my choices. Lots of people get married and are happily in love who aren’t Christian. Lots of people adopt and are ridiculously blessed by it.
People can do that with the Bible, too. Perhaps the Red Sea parted because of an earthquake that caused it to temporarily recede. Perhaps the Israelites got lucky by surviving through a time when most cultures disappeared. Perhaps Mary told Joseph about the virgin birth so she wouldn’t get in trouble. Perhaps the Apostles stole the dead body of Jesus in the middle of the night and were even willing to be tortured and die to keep the lie alive. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
But then again, perhaps not.
My faith isn’t blind or contrary to reason. But I can’t answer why I believe by reason alone, just as I hope any Christian wouldn’t answer by faith alone. It’s not a neither/nor but a both/and. I think there are many objective reasons that proves He is there. But just as importantly, I have experienced Him in my own life. I’ve heard Him call my name.
These truths aren’t a “tangle” for me. They are freedom. I don’t mind confessing my weakness: I need them. I need Him. The cross I wear around my neck is a daily reminder of what love and compassion truly are. I confess I don’t always live up to that example.
Savage cannot reconcile the conflict within himself of faith and reason. He shares that the very thing that pulled him away from God is what drew his mother closer. He can’t explain why this happens and neither can I, but it happens all the time. Looking at the narrative of my life, I wonder how the tragedies I’ve experienced brought me closer to God while those same experiences might drive someone farther away. The lives of amazing men and women of faith prove the followers of Jesus weren’t just those who had an “easy life.” If one can be a saint in Auschwitz, one can be a saint anywhere.
I believe that Jesus Christ is my savior and my friend. I believe that the Church, His bride, is both my mother and family. I believe that all men and women were made in the image and likeness of Him and therefore have immeasurable beauty and dignity.
I believe that sin in the world destroys not only ourselves but our relationship with Him. I believe that Jesus so loved the world that He became flesh so that in our flesh He could show us how to live. I believe He died for our sins. I believe He rose from the dead and is still living today—most intimately alive in the sacraments of the Church and the family of believers who call upon His name.
Am I right? Perhaps.
I am strengthened that what I believe is true because it’s not just my belief. I’ve seen and read about the example of an innumerable amount of men and women who have lived this life and found it to be true. I look at people like Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, and Maximilian Kolbe and say, “I want to be like them!” Like the cross around my neck, I don’t always follow their example, either. Yet the heart that beats beneath that cross rejoices with hope that if they can do it, maybe I can, too.
But I can’t do it on my own, nor would I want to. Jesus is both my destination and my companion; the song I sing and the one I sing it to. He is my life. He is… everything.
You didn’t ask for my testimony, but after watching Savage speak so beautifully about his own story I felt inspired to share mine. Thank you for your thoughtful and considerate questions and the link to this video. Your post and his talk helped challenge and clarify my own beliefs even though they don’t mirror them. Perhaps this sharing of my own faith might do the same for you or other readers of this blog.