Photo Credit: Ahmad Zamri
Faith In Crisis
Everyone faces it.
That point when your faith–what you know in your heart–comes up against the wall of your religious tradition and experience.
A traumatic incident or personal tragedy shakes you to your core and there is no way to move forward with superficially held dogmatic tenets.
This is the moment of truth–real faith seizes hold of you, or you abandon your spirituality, believing that it is synonymous with your religious tradition.
I was trembling.
The kind of tremor that is so profound it rocks your soul. So deep that the body is still and the eyes are dry. Rage so intense that the soul burns, but the face is pale.
“Shoot the queers!”
“Get dem dar faggits!”
The memory from fifteen years ago raced forward and enveloped my consciousness. I hadn’t exactly blocked it out, but I had completely disassociated myself from the experience.
At the time, I laughed just like everyone else. Now, I wept. I was raw and the tears no longer held back.
As a young teen, I had sat in a church sanctuary at a youth meeting. There was a skit on stage and two men stood there shooting blanks from large rifles into the empty balcony. The concussion of the gunfire echoed around the auditorium.
Ka-Blam! It sounded again.
About 500-800 teens cheered. A roughly made, homemade dummy toppled over the edge of the balcony, falling to the aisle below.
They had “gotten” the faggit!
They were shooting ‘me.’ I realized.
Wrestling With Religion
I grew up a conservative Christian, and my religion had always provided a framework of structure and clarity for my faith.
But there came a day when it wasn’t clear. It wasn’t black and white. Maybe it had always been gray and I just hadn’t noticed before.
My religion (Christianity), my faith (what I believed) and my spirituality (who I was in connection to God) were all meshed together. I had not recognized them individually.
A Great Divide
How do you reject bad behavior from those in the religious organization without simultaneously losing faith or rejecting your church?
The answer, for me, lay in recognizing and differentiating the three areas of my faith practice–religion (the organization), faith (my belief system) and spirituality (my connection to God).
The reality is that nothing can separate me from my spirituality. The Bible says that nothing can “separate us from the love of God.” (Roman 8:38-39)
Therefore, my rejection of a specific portion of my religious affiliation or organization has nothing to do with my spiritual connection to God.
This is especially difficult when the organization is identified as the source and the way to God. It can be so hard to see the narrow separation between God and the Church.
You don’t have to fully reject either. Let me offer an analogy that I hope will help bridge that divide.
A New Paradigm
Think back to the last time you attended a musical performance, dance or play that touched you deeply. Remember how it felt to be transported with the power of the art?
Do you remember the feeling of timelessness? The tranquility? The expansion you felt within you?
I always feel this most deeply when I hear Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or Handel’s Hallelujah.
God is in the music. The music hall becomes the sanctuary. We can feel it, but we can’t quite name it. That is it, exactly!
The theater is our faith. Religion is simply the usher that leads us to our seat. It is merely the usher which brings us into the presence of God.
When you realize that you can experience God’s presence in every circumstance and in every place, then you can be at peace with the perfection of God and the imperfection of the usher.
God will be found, when we seek. (Jeremiah 29:13-14)
Have you experienced a crisis of faith? What insights or experiences helped you through it? Did your faith grow stronger because of the challenging situation or did you separate yourself from your faith? Would love to get your perspective.