I have to start this with a confession. I often want very badly to write Christians off completely. When faced with their ridiculous slings, arrows, laughably absurd accusations and contemptuous slander, there are many days when I wish I could return such hatred with hatred. But I can’t. Whenever I reach that point, I am compelled by something deep within to stop, step back, take a deep breath, shake my head, chuckle, forgive, and love. (Though I admit that I struggle mightily with the last of these towards those with the biggest mouths or sharpest pens.)
I struggle to identify that force which compels me. What remains of my Christian sensibilities suggests it could be the effect of baptismal grace, some remnant of the Love of the God who abandoned me years ago and ripped apart my world on His way out the door, some small ember of faith holding out in my agnostic heart. Maybe it’s something more prosaic, like maybe the words of the Gospels I heard and read so often for so many years have simply been imprinted on my mind and heart that I can’t not deep down believe (despite all evidence) that it is better to turn the other cheek than to fight force with force, that it is the merciful who will receive mercy, and that we are blessed when we are reviled and slandered. (Only now do I see an ironic ambiguity in that text: it’s actually unclear whether it is the victims or perpetrators of the hatred that are acting ‘for Christ’s sake’. Well played, Jesus of Nazareth; well played.)
I still don’t know what any of this means in the grand scheme of things. I feel every day both closer and further away from the Church; there are moments when it seems I’m separated from faith only by the thinnest and most insubstantial of veils, and others when the very thought of belief in God makes me ill. (If I ever do attach myself to a faith community again, I certainly won’t be because I “want” to; I know it will be because of a similar ineffable kind of inner compulsion.) I know part of that discomfort with the idea is that I am not truly welcome in the place where I am spiritually most at home, but I also know there is much love and beauty to be found in adoptive families and such communities are not to be scorned out of stubbornness or petulance.
I guess at this moment, what I do know is that the more I am tempted to give up on people, the harder it is to find grace, the more important finding that grace becomes.