As our culture swings more and more to an extremely individualized and relative society where even basic morals are up for interpretation, I sometimes feel like the church is reacting to that by tightening its grip on its theories, even on the unknowable issues, we make a guess and stake our claim. The unknown, differing opinions, question asking, and sometimes faith itself, is seen as weak or a cop out to the real work and belief of Christian faith. I agree in a sense because I believe in absolute truths, yet I differ because I just don’t think we know what these absolutes are all the time. In an effort to avoid relativity we have exchanged flexibility for rigidity. We have answered the unanswerable with straight lines and square shapes and expected all others to do the same. If one were to find themselves existing in a solid box of concepts, just a slight push on the edges would reveal the undefined chaos that lay beyond it, and for me, a fear to step out lest I fall into the abyss.
I wonder if my education could have helped me understand the comparitive narratives alongside my belief system, within the minutia of theology and beyond that into the great religious debate, or if this expanding is just a necessary part of growing up. If I had known what lay outside the theological construct that was built around me I think this process of finding faith would have been less painful, because I wouldn’t be quite so terrified experiencing the vertigo of the unknown. I would have been able to move within my understandings of faith and God without blowing up my entire box, my safe, straight, knowable box.
And yet, we do need some sort of clarity, even in the grey of betweenness. Maybe we should switch to chalk, we can outline our understanding and knock down the walls of rigidity yet still maintain our own beliefs and decisiveness. I wonder if we accepted that we might be fallible and that someone else might have gotten it right in one area or another, then finally we could have grace for one another. We could find a common language and collaborate in our areas of sameness, we could set the arrogance aside and assume that maybe we don’t have it all figured out and probably end up being a much better picture of the church then we could ever be in our separateness. Maybe that’s naïve, or maybe the fear of the undefined is just so crippling we would just prefer our corners.
Rabbi Yehoshua has this weird capacity to have an openness to different ideas of the unknown while still maintaining a tight hold on his practices and beliefs. For example, he is an ardent observer of kosher laws, and yet is willing to be much less rigorous about it when interacting with Jews at different levels of observance. I asked him how he does that and he made a clear distinction for me, that in issues between he and God he fully engages his passion and zeal in the most acute and robust fashion, and when an issue involves others he tempers such zeal to allow for compassion and grace for the other. This is the balance, when to outline belief, when to give space for differences and the unknown.
In all this I’m learning to hold sometimes competing views in tension. I’m learning to accept that we can be flexible and gracious to the other and still passionate within our faith. I’m finding where I can place my chalk to outline my belief yet still see beyond it and offer humble grace to the other. I’ve stepped outside of my box and have found that there is wisdom beyond it, clarity outside of it, truth within it, and yet still so much grey.