Fear and the Deconstruction of our Beliefs
"Everything You Fear" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
OWN THIS CARTOON
When I was growing up I was fascinated with Noah's ark. I loved animals. I loved the bible stories. My dad read a lot of books about Noah's ark and other archeological interests around the Old Testament. I even remember reading "Chariots of the Gods" and watching documentaries on all these archeological and historical curiosities. I even heard stories something like "Whale Caught Off Coast of Greenland With Man Found Inside Still Alive After 2 Days!" This story substantiated my belief in the Old Testament stories. I also read about how dinosaur bones are a hoax. Or how dinosaurs were killed by the flood. I was very interested in these kinds of things. Plus, I was living in a religious culture that endorsed and promoted these beliefs.
One summer my mom and dad and us five kids all squeezed into a Datsun station wagon and drove from Toronto to Los Angeles to see my dad's family. On the way we stopped at the Grand Canyon. In one day I walked from the rim all the way down to the Colorado River then back up again. On the way down I was shown the lines in the rock where Noah's flood rose to, which explained why there were sea fossils in the rock at these high levels so far from the sea. It all made sense to me and made my belief in the bible even more sure.
I found proof everywhere for my biblical beliefs.
Then I read a book sometime during my teens that said that Jonah's whale was not a not whale, but fish. He was swallowed by a great fish! Of course, it was biblical literality that pushed this theory because it said ‚Äúgreat fish‚Äù, not ‚Äúgreat mammal‚Äù‚ so it had to be a fish‚ like perhaps a huge shark. Well, that didn't make sense to me. Apparently I could figure a man could live inside an oxygen-breathing mammal that came to the surface for air, but not a fish. That made no sense at all.
Then in college, when I learned about the synoptic gospels and how they are radically different from each other and John radically different from all of them‚ things really started to rattle and shake. Wait a minute!? And the numerous theories offered bordered on the ridiculous.
But I could never say that.
Then in seminary, I read The Silence of Jesus by James Beech and my whole belief in the bible as the inerrant word of God crumbled forever. It was one of the most terrifying moments in my faith journey.
In each of these moments I remember the cold fingers of fear wrapping themselves around my mind. When I think about it now, I know why these were horrible experiences. It's because I was afraid of the fear. The fear itself is terrifying! It feels like the ground crumbles beneath your feet.
But what was really going on? I think it is that I was trying to protect something that was important to me. In every case it was that the bible was accurate and historically true, and this was a shield for my beliefs and therefore a support for my faith. My fear was if the historical truth was removed, then this would threaten my beliefs and undermine my faith.
What I found though was when I let things go that were no longer true, what was really true still remained. I've come to learn that what is most central, important, and true to me does not need lies to protect it.
Strange, isn't it? It takes so much effort, so much anxiety, to sustain so many smaller lies in order to protect our more central big one.
I used to concede my own independence and allow others to tell me, with their stories, what is true. Instead, I have learned to respect my own conclusions about what is true and measure all stories against this. I respect the bible and its stories and ideas now far more than I used to because I respect it as it is, not as I want it or need it to be.
It is a healthier and happier way to live.
Deconstructing? Join others who are too at The Lasting Supper