Yesterday my son asked me if I was going to church tomorrow. I said “maybe.” He turned to his mom and asked, “Is daddy going to heaven?”
Thinking back to confirmation class in seventh grade I remember the pastor asking us if we knew whether or not we were going to heaven. The result of this discussion left us with this bit of unsettling advice. “If you believe Jesus died for your sins then you will have eternal life.” I say unsettling because it had the unintended consequence of causing me to fear my thoughts that question my belief in God. If heaven hinges on belief, then you have to stifle thoughts of doubt and pretend that you are a perfect unquestioning Christian soldier. And while I have never been shy about questioning Christianity and expressing my doubt, recently the Christian act has bothered me more than usual. I have stopped going through the motions of attending Church on Sundays. I don’t want to pretend to be a Christian, I want to actually be a Christian. Actually, I am not so sure I want to be a Christian, I just want to be honest. I don’t want to pretend to support a church that leaves me feeling spiritually empty. I don’t want to endorse a doctrine that produces empty and corrupt leaders. I don’t want to be ashamed when I question my faith.
So this morning I am skipping church again. I have been reading a magazine that I picked up earlier this weekend called Relevant. It is a Christian publication that I have been aware of but never spent much time with. I purchased the issue because there was an article on the iPhone and some bands that I like. I wondered what “relevant” Christians thought about the music I enjoy and their thoughts on technology. Honestly, I was skeptical because I was afraid the publication was going to be a watered down Christian philosophy that loosened the definition of “Christian” to accept the products of pop culture. I was relieved that this was not the case.
One article in particular really spoke to what I have been struggling with recently. The article is called “Insert Soul Here: How Honesty About Your Doubt Can Save Your Life.” I encourage you to read it if you get the chance. David Dark says,
“If we think we have faith because we faithfully protect ourselves from anything that might call it into question – as if God is counting on us to keep ourselves stupid, closed off to the complexity of the world we’re in – I’d like to argue that we don’t have faith in God at all. We have faith in our own faith rather than the God who transcends it, faith in a faith that somehow saves us. Not faith in God, but faith in a false god of our own conceptions, a god too afraid to entertain a question or doubt.”
I can’t tell you how comforting it is to accept my Christian struggle not as a weakness, but as an integral part of actually being a Christian. And now I don’t feel bad about skipping church today. The question is how do I explain this to a six year old?