It's been a while, hasn't it? I've let over a third of a year go by since my second post. A bit too early for a hiatus, I know, and for that I apologize. It's been quite a summer.
As you can tell from my previous two posts, I'm in a state of searching. I've been here a while, but it had been more or less in the background until February of this year, when things got "kicked up a notch" so to speak. This intense period of doubt, seeking and confusion ultimately manifested itself in the publication of this blog, which I'd had the idea for several years ago, but lacked the motivation to really get it going until this Spring. I finally got it going and began writing, even got a small community going over at Facebook (see link at right), and then I suddenly stopped.
What happened? It's not easy to say. For starters, I could go on about lack of energy, combined with laziness and writer's block, and that would be correct, but it wouldn't be the whole picture. It could be due to the direction my spiritual life has taken in the interim (I will discuss this shortly), which is probably correct as well, to a degree, but that still doesn't encapsulate the reason for my leave of absence. It's all these things and more. I could probably say there is no one big reason. But as with many areas of my life, lots of things all coalesced into an impediment that kept me from going, even though the individual excuses themselves might not necessarily have had that same effect. The straw that broke the camel's back wasn't actually strong enough to do so; it merely completed the work started by all the other straws. So that's my excuse, for what it's worth.
I've felt bad about starting and then immediately stopping, yet coming back wasn't easy either. I let the change in hosting (and subsequent re-doing of the template) delay it further, but it had already been quite some time even by that point. And as of right now, the template still isn't 100% done, but it's far enough along that I don't mind people browsing the site. Additionally, I have struggled with what to write, and I figured a "how the last few months have gone" type post was the best way to go. I didn't really want to just pick up where I left off (because I would like to move on to other topics for the time being), yet simply forging on didn't seem appropriate without some context.
So here it is.
From the get-go, I've tried to be very careful as to how I wrote, so as to not give away much of anything about myself or my specific worldview / belief system. The reason for this anonymity was to take the focus off of me personally, in order to allow what I say to be read without any bias on the part of the reader (since knowing a person's background can often unnecessarily color the text). I wanted my words to be read objectively. It was a lofty (and perhaps misguided) goal, to be sure, and one that may not even have been truly achievable, but it was my goal and I worked toward it as best as I could. It seemed like the best route to take (at least to me) -- especially at a point where I wasn't very sure what to believe -- to not give any particular slant, but to just put the ideas out there unencumbered. Now that I'm more focused, this no longer makes sense, as everything now needs to go through this filter at which I've arrived. So, no more hiding beneath a wall of non-specificity. I'm going to be forthcoming about myself and what I believe. But first, a little history.
For the bulk of my 32-year life, my faith has been more or less the same. Doubts have come and gone, and my stances on Issue X or Argument Y haven't always been consistent, but I've pretty much been on the same general path from the get-go. I was raised in the Church of Christ, which -- for those of you who may not be familiar with it -- is a particularly conservative body of believers whose practice and theology are descended from the 19th-century Restoration Movement in America, usually defined more or less by its extremely strict interpretation of the Bible and its claims to represent the original church teachings and practices. There is much I could say at this point, especially with regard to how I now feel about those teachings, but I don't want to get off-topic here, so I'll save this for another discussion for another day. Suffice it to say that is my background, which I'm sure will be evident by my approach to theology.
As a child, I didn't have much knowledge of other churches. I knew they existed, but I didn't know much about them, except that they were different somehow, and we were doing right what they were doing wrong. I grew up with pretty much no knowledge of church history or theology; I was taught the Bible itself was the only thing we ever needed to study, and that sometime in the distant past, the bulk of Christians left the true faith and went in sinful directions, hence the existence of "the denominations." Thus there was no real distinction between "denominational Christians" and people who didn't believe in God at all. As I got older, particularly as I went through college, those notions seemed to make less and less sense.
It's a road-worn stereotype, the story of the "cradle Christian" abandoning his faith when going off to college, but for me it wasn't a matter of leaving it behind, but attempting to really define it for myself, to figure out if what I'd always been taught was really true. Gradually, I had a harder time reconciling the notion of Restorationism in and of itself, and of putting more stock in the actions of 19th-century reactionaries than the teachings of those who lived in the first few generations of Christianity. But still filtering everything through that lens, no other "version" of Christianity seemed to be right. It seemed like nobody -- not even those with whom I'd associated all my life -- were "on the right path." It almost seemed like I could let go of the Christian faith altogether (if there is no valid path to God, why try?), but I couldn't. I still can't, even in the depths of theological despair. I can't simply give up on what is true just because I can't figure out how to get there. Hard as it was, I still had to try and figure things out.
Then, in February this year, I started down a path I never would have thought I'd go down, and wound up somewhere I didn't expect to be. In my next post, I'll describe that part of my journey in more detail.