Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thursday Morning Thoughts and Prayers

I do not doubt that it was You who called me, with so much love and force. It was you. I know. That is why the work is yours and it is You even now - but I have no faith - I don't believe.
-Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light

The new book, Come Be My Light, reveals the deep doubts and loss of faith that the one woman on all the Earth we would least expect such sentiments from - Mother Teresa. This is the woman who worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor and sick, not just in Calcutta but around the world. When the book first appeared, some people were shocked by these revelations and some even expressed losing their own faith because of it, reasoning that if Mother Teresa had doubts what hope is there for the rest of us?

I had the opposite reaction. It comforted me to know that Mother Teresa lost her faith from time to time - or she lost her faith for the last fifty or so years of her work. It made me feel much better about my own lack of faith sometimes. If even someone like Mother Teresa, who did great works despite her doubts, can fail in her faith then I must be on the right track.

I have had moments where I'm not sure if God even exists, let alone gives a fig about any of us. I look around at the war, the pure evil being displayed by elected officials and their minions, and I have to stop and wonder - if God exists is he even paying attention?

Over at Street Prophets, their latest Progressive Bible Study posits that if we believe God is almighty then we have to ascribe even evil to God. This is the world view of ancient Hebrews who would rather have a monotheistic God responsible for both evil and good than be accused of polytheism by believing in an equal opposing force of evil.

A God that perpetrates both good and evil is too much for me to wrap my mind around right now. If I believed God created both good and evil, I don't think I'd believe in that God for long. I know God makes it rain on both the evil and the good, but that's an affirmation that shit happens, whether you're good or evil. That's wholly different than God creating evil.

I have to believe in a good God - a God that does both evil and good makes no sense to me - but perhaps that's the point. Perhaps that's where Mother Teresa lost her faith. She toiled so hard against the evil in the world and hardly ever saw a glimmer of God's goodness. In that situation, I guess it would be hard to believe in a God that is only good.

When we try to nail God down, God always eludes our easy definitions and wiggles out of our expectations. Perhaps God does perpetrate both good and evil. Perhaps God isn't the Pollyanna, bleeding heart liberal I wish She would be. Perhaps, all I can really say is, "God is ..." and leave the rest to God.


Haakon said...

Pardon my french; English is not my mother tongue, but I'd like to comment on something I find rather important. The gnostics say: "Thou shalt not believe, thou shalt know."
How about the opposite? "Thou shalt not know, thou shalt believe." Moslem followers don't question the existence of God, it's a christian phenomenon to trust in God, and have faith, rather than blind submission. Maybe that's an important reason why the christian countries still "rule the world". Philosophy, doubt, hope, faith, but not gnosis. Gnosis is not for us. Only God knows.

Candace Chellew-Hodge said...

Haakon, thanks for your comment. Glad you stopped by!

I've arrived at the point that the only thing I KNOW about God is that God loves me and guides me. Everything else, I take on faith.

Shannon said...

For me the doubt of Mother Teresa is also an important revelation. Not only for my personal peace of mind but also for others who see doubt in the hearts and minds of great people of God as a weakness. Paul Tillich, in his book Dynamics of Faith, gives a wonderful account of the necessity of doubt when talking about faith. To sum him up (and possibly incorrectly) doubt is an essential element of growing in faith. Without the risk of uncertainty it becomes indoctrination. The seperation from God that often breeds doubt is a necessary evil. We are not God, and none of us can claim to know the exact will of God. This provides to uncertainty that faith requires. In addition, doubt is often times the fuel for education, whether by God or self. I myself have experienced this when I was struggling to come out. My doubt provided the desire to "find out for myself" and since then I have grown in knowledge, trust, patience, and understanding of what God desires in my life. I don't even remotely claim to understand or know it all, but the journey and the growth are what is so important. When we become stagnant in our faith we often times lose what it is and what is really important.

Candace Chellew-Hodge said...

Shannon, thanks for your comment!

Those who will not allow doubt to be part of their faith often become the most fundamentalist, because it is our doubt that keeps us from becoming arrogant in our faith. Episcopal laywoman Verna Dozier wrote in her book, The Dream of God:

"Doubt is not the opposite of faith: fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong, I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today."

Doubt keeps us open to God's possibilities. Fear keeps us locked in a fundamentalist belief that what I believe now is right now and forever. We must embrace our doubt and move forward despite any fear.