“The Drips” is the name that several friends and I applied to an informal e-mail dialogue we had begun on spiritual matters, politics, social issues and any other heady stuff. It’s a self-deprecating reference to the fact that that our ideas and opinions don’t collectively amount to more than a dripping a faucet. The Drips are/were comprised of a variety of world views, from Atheism, to Evangelical Christianity and everything in between. I really love these guys. I took “Mitch’s” hypothetical scenario (below)very seriously, and over the preceding few days I tried to live it out, like an actor taking on a role. I journaled out my thoughts over several days, sharing them with other Drips as I went. It was an eye-opening, educational and patently un-pleasant experience that concluded with an essay titled, “The Pond” which comprises the post following this one.
Good morning, Father. Thanks for the time we had earlier today. I’m entering a three-way dialogue with you and the Drips because Mitch asked me this:
“A hypothetical scenario. God/Truth/Ultimate Reality is revealed to you in crystal clear terms, maybe via a bolt of lightning, a hike in the woods, or a funky batch of brownies. It is revealed, utterly and irrevocably, that the Jesus you know and worship does NOT, in fact, exist. Maybe you find out that we’re just matter, and religion, mythology, and philosophy amount to nothing more than metaphorical posturing. Or maybe you learn that Jesus was/is real, but not in the way you think. Whatever. My question for you is this: would you live your life any differently? If so, how/why?”
I have given this some thought, but I want to process the answer right in front of you, God and right in front of my friends. I’m still so afraid of my own propensity for self-delusion, for fabrication and for manufacturing my own glory that I don’t want to do any of this work in secret. I’m a recovering alcoholic when it comes to self-deception, and the idea of processing this question in private without “spinning it” in some way is the equivalent of taking a mouth full of tequila, rinsing it around in my mouth, and expecting myself to spit it back out without swallowing. Not likely to happen.
So God, I ask that for the sake of truth, that you will embrace the presence of my friends in my psyche while I work this out with you. I trust the author of truth to guide me to him/it/herself.
First thing I thought of when I allowed the question to settle in was: I would have to quit my job.
In fact, given the criteria that Mitch laid out, “…utterly and irrevocably…the Jesus you know and worship does NOT, in fact, exist”, I believe I would feel some “mysterious” compulsion (I’ll explain to my human listeners later why I would consider it mysterious) to call a meeting of all those whom I have had some degree of spiritual influence over during my days as a follower of the now fictional Jesus, and explain to them what has been revealed to me.
I don’t believe I would encourage them to abandon their faith – but I would certainly explain to them why I am walking away from not only my job, but my relationship with you, God. I would cite the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
I might conclude my remarks to those I have been leading over the last few years with something like this:
“Given what you have just heard from me (the lightning bolt evidence) and what you’ve just heard from one the first and most devoted followers of this pretend Jesus, I don’t know why you would choose to continue in worship of him…but I certainly won’t tell you to stop…like I have any authority. Hell – I don’t know why you would listen to ANYTHING from me at this point…I’ve gotten it SO wrong!”
I would then strongly suggest that the Elders of my church close the doors permanently, publish some kind of public statement and apology for having been so wrong, and then I would go home and sit for a couple of days in a dark room and cry over what an ass I am.
I might try getting drunk once or twice, just to temporarily ease the psychic pain – maybe see about scoring some weed…smoke a bunch of that. But I’m too old to really enjoy that stuff for longer than a day or two, so when I was done getting sick, I would begin to consider what my life now means. This is where it would start to get really depressing: TO DO LIST (for the day after theo-religio-philio-world collapsed):
- Get real job.
- Book burning (will need permit. Suspect this to be a LARGE fire.)
- Find reason NOT to blow brains out.
I hope 1 and 2 will be easily doable. 3 would begin with some questions. The first question to myself might be, “Why did you bother informing the church of my findings? What was the source of that mysterious compulsion to “free them” from the lie of Jesus Christ as savior? “Why do you care? Let ‘em think whatever they want. It’s how the rest of the world has been running for millennia…it worked for you for the first 40 years of life.”
My first theory would be: habit. I’m just used to making an effort at caring for, leading and teaching others. It’s a practice I have developed over a lifetime, and simply out of habit, I felt compelled to continue “leading”.
I think that’s a solid assumption. It’s simple. Given the facts as I know them now, it aligns with “What’s-his-Name-Razor”.
But then I would begin to re-wind my life back to the times I first BEGAN to think about other’s needs. There was some point in my life when I thought of others before myself for the first time…habit cannot explain the first FEW times one engages in a particular act. There MUST be “causality” prior to habit in order for habit to become habit. Yes, yes, parents taught me, and their parents taught them, but let’s skip over this and acknowledge that there has to be a BEGINNING to the habit of care SOMEPLACE.
Now I’m remembering “Mere Christianity” and the case Lewis makes for a “moral law”. An external law that supercedes things like instinct, herd mentality or habit. I’d re-read that portion of his book I think….ignoring any obvious illusions to Jesus. (I actually just did that).
I think I’d re-read a lot of the drip e-mails. (I’m actually doing this now). I’d look for the places where we all intersect, with an eye toward piecing together a few truisms to work from, based on a theory of “philosophical triangulation” a solid point of truth MUST exist when it is described by the intersection of multiple lines of otherwise disparate reasoning.
But wait, that works in geometry, yes, and I know it’s true cause I can observe it and repeat it. But it’s not observable or repeatable regarding philosophical truth, so why do I feel compelled to use this methodology?
Probably BECAUSE I see it operating in the natural world…it is a truism SOMEWHERE, and so rationality would suggest that it might apply elsewhere. But why is rationality available to me as a tool? Where did I get that!
I’d smoke pot again for a while. Listen to “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls and try to feel better.