Why Not Believe It?, Or….I Can’t Think of A Clever Alternative Title Right Now

One night my husband Brad and I were on the way home from a holiday family event when we drove by some tennis courts near our house. The floodlights at the court were on and 4 people were playing tennis. Brad was on the phone with our friend Tio and suddenly shouted….

“Holy *&^%! Are those ninjas???!!!!”

I nearly ran off the road from laughing so hard. They weren’t ninjas, of course; they were two men in suits and two women in black jilbabs and hijabs.

But here is what amazed me….that somewhere in Brad’s mind – a mind that focuses on the concrete and doesn’t care much about what can’t be seen or touched – somewhere in there is a spark of wonder that allowed him to believe for one split second, when something unexpected flashed past the corner of his vision, that this world is one in which ninjas really could be playing tennis on a cracked-up old court in the middle of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

I want to live in a world like that. I like living in a world like that. Where wonders are waiting around any corner. Where the unexpected is full of potential delight. Where amazement and awe are invited anywhere, everywhere, anytime.

The first sentence of the Christian Bible states simply, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Then follows the synopsis of God’s creation of the world, the sun and stars, the plants, the animals, and man, all within 6 days, followed by his rest on the 7th. Simple story. Short. Pretty cut-and-dry. And a major, dividing, contentious source of debate.

The two sides that I know of boil down to this: either the creation story is true and factual exactly as it was written, or it is a sophisticated theological statement of the attributes of God that is true but not factual, constrained as the writers were by the scientific knowledge available at the time and driven by the need to clarify the identity of God against the other belief systems present in the area at the time the story was written down. I’m not getting into the debate in this post, nor explaining either side of the argument. All I’m thinking, after a discussion tonight with an awesome group of people, is this….

If you are a Christian and have an opinion one way or the other……Why not believe it….either of the its?

I am not asking here why you believe one way or the other is wrong. I am asking this – why wouldn’t you want to believe that one way or the other is right?

Why not believe that God created the earth in seven days? Maybe seven 24-hour days; maybe seven 1000-year days; it doesn’t matter. Why not let the wonder of a God that can – with nothing more than a command – build an entire planet and inhabit it with millions of lifeforms seep into the mundane realism  of your existence? Why not believe that the God of the impossible did the impossible in a way so divine that we can barely grasp the possiblilty? Why not attribute to God the power to do something he wanted in the way that he wanted at the time that he wanted and to do so outside of the constraints of science and physical history and timeline rules that he himself created? Why wouldn’t you want believe in that kind of magic, that amount of wonder, that possibility of the miraculous?

Or…

Why not believe that the purpose of the creation story is to proclaim the truth about God’s glory and power and majesty, using metaphor and poetry and symbolism instead of hard, cold, emotionless facts? Why not believe that our science and our histories and our ability to reason, gifts given to us from God, are not incompatible with, nor belittling of, the simple story of creation that reads like an ancient myth? Why not believe that the ideas about God present in the story are radical enough within the context of the time it was written to make the creation of the story itself a miracle?  Why would you not want to believe that God loves his creation enough to help us attempt to understand him within our own feeble limits of knowledge and wisdom and language, even though his power and actions are far, far, far, far beyond our ability to comprehend and we insult his might with the smallness of our concept of him?

We believe something about everything. That this is true, and that isn’t. That this is good, and that this other thing is bad. That mine is blue, but yours is red. Belief….our foundation of our faith, or of our lack of faith…the way we understand the world we live in and who we think we are. But let’s open ourselves up some for a moment, and pretend that the other point of view might be right, and ask ourselves, “Why do I not want to believe this? What is it about this different point of view that offends me so deeply?”

Ask this: Why do I not want to believe…..insert the story or law or person of your choice here. What would hurt me, if I believed the opposite way of what I do? What would challenge me? What would I have to change or discard or let go of or accept if I believed that other way instead?

What would I have to give up if I accepted this explanation? My belief in justice? My feeling of control? My hope for mercy? My trust in logic? My knowledge of science? My sense of myself? My lifestyle? My friends? My plans? My life?

Maybe I don’t want to believe that the creation story is a literal description of exactly what happened, because that would challenge my belief in science and make me have to question my belief in a rule-bound, comprehendable, and predictable universe. Furthermore, people might think I’m crazy.

Maybe I don’t want to believe that the creation story is a theological statement wrapped in a metaphor, because then I would have to dig deeper into the other stories I have accepted at face value and see if there is a deeper meaning that I missed, or if I can even maintain my faith when I know there are facts that I have not been given. Furthermore, people might accuse me of being politically correct.

When I take a look at some of the things I believe, and then turn around and try to figure out what makes me resistant to believing the opposite, I start to uncover things about myself. Weaknesses, like things I do or think that I know are wrong and wish I could hide. Fear, maybe that science won’t have all of the answers when my loved one is sick. Resistance, like to the idea that I am not nearly as in control as I wish I was. Strengths, like that my faith is stronger than my ability to understand. Hope, like I, so small, might be worth so much to a God so large that he would make the ultimate sacrifice for me.

And even though exploring this question – “why would I not want to belive it?” – won’t make us change our minds about what we believe or where we stand on any issue, it might – just maybe – make us change ourselves for the better.

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~ by gypsyjonga on October 4, 2011.

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