an image diary

"And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be? ... You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream! If that there King was to wake you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle!"

"Hush! You'll be waking him, I'm afraid, if you make so much noise."

"Well it's no use your talking about waking him when you're only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you're not real."

Thursday, July 31, 2008

. . . .


The value of faith--its weorthscipe--was lost on me, and mostly still is. I've come to think of it as akin to developing better listening skills so that if all there is to hear outside of myself and outside of you, too, is silence, I'll actually be able to hear it. But people who have faith know this is not faith. This a precaution.


When the evangelist asked, "do you believe Jesus died for your sins?" ten year-old me who sat in the front row with the pastor's daughter thought, "why would I do that?" And when he said, "you need to sacrifice the flesh to the spirit and kick Satan out of your temple," I thought, "that doesn't make any sense." And when he said, "Jesus is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, second only to the Father," I thought, "what do I want with a king or a lord?--my parents are bad enough."

In the simplest frame of the matter, when the evangelist assumed everyone in the room did "accept Jesus Christ as a personal savior," I was busy worrying. If the divine Jesus stuff were true, then the Father slaughtered the Son cruelly, wrathfully, out of vengeance against, and punishment of, humankind, and I'm to worship that, for an eternity, and that's heaven. That's fatherhood. No thank you. And if it weren't true, then we were all here in this room for nothing, the saddest stupidest people in the world, and we were all going to die for good when we die, and we were right now wasting the time of our lives.


Most of the time when you're ten nobody thinks your questions require complex answers, anyway. But in a culture where the flip side of faith is demonic, you need to take real care with what you express aloud. Doubt is someone you should murder and bury before he buries and murders you.


So I tried. Tried to work out in my head this paradoxical business between divine omniscience and my own freewill, tried taking a few unplanned steps forward down the walk, backtracking, sidestepping to surprise myself, twirling on one toe, bending to the ground, and after a few minutes determined that even if I could fool myself into making a spontaneous choice in my path, divine omniscience knew every step I would make before I could make it.

I declared freewill null and void. Silently, to myself, of course. But I asked my mother in case.

"I don't know," she said. She was putting on mascara in front of the mirror. I watched her pump the brush and make an eyelash face and thought: "gotcha." That night she dragged me by the arm to the front of the church and positioned me in front of the pastor and said, "ask your question." Brother Bill had a glass eye, so it was hard to tell if he was actually looking at you, and he mumbled like Elvis, so unless he was preaching he was hard to understand. I was embarrassed about this challenge, not yet ready for my question to become a public announcement, so I traced the tiles of the floor with my foot and avoided facing him, though not knowing was its own agony. If I'd missed the logical answer, I had to know now. As mildly as I could I asked: "I was wondering if God knows everything how do we have freewill?" Brother Bill stopped fiddling with the mic setup, grunted a kind of "huh," put his hands on his hips, and looked directly at my mother. "She's smart, huh. " My mother's hands were on my shoulders, kneading. "Yes she is," she said with some pride and a little fear. Brother Bill put his hand on my head, nodded, and looked at my mother with pity. He turned back to his mic. He said nothing.


Sola fide, faith alone.


Some months ago, JT put down his book, cleaned the lenses of his glasses, and said, "Some people think omniscience and omnipotence necessarily presuppose that our lives are predetermined, but that can be very damaging to the soul, for then it doesn't understand that it is free." We were in the car, somewhere outside of Indiana, on a highway full of construction. I was driving. Someone in the back seat said, "What do you mean by 'damaging,' Father? It might be misguided, but I don't see how it's damaging." He fingered something in his book. A biography of Einstein. "You can know someone is going to choose to hurt himself, and you can even have the power to stop him, but out of love and respect for his freedom and his intelligence, you cannot do more than to try to help him see for himself that he might always choose otherwise. Because love can never be tyrannical."


"and what is the use of a book...without pictures or conversations?"

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