Monday, June 11, 2007

speaking of faith

Every once it a while I'll be pulled into a news story, movie, or radio without really wanting to. Against all my better prejudices. I love NPR, but there is one show that I avoid: Speaking of Faith. I avoid it, I think, because it hits so close to home. I've had religion up to my ears as the daughter of a Pentacostal preacher. More religion than I could handle. And to boot, these days, I feel like religion has become a dirty word. It has come to represent extremism. It divides communities. It wages wars. It scares me.

Still, as I said, today I was drawn into an episode on my drive home from work. It was a different kind of episode, because this time instead of telling a story of someone else's religious journey, the host Krista Tippett was telling her own story as the granddaughter of an evangelical minister. And it did hit very close to home. It reminded me of my relationship with my father. But it wasn't scary. Instead, I found it very hopeful. Perhaps because it reminded me of how important spirituality has become in my outlook on life and my own role in this world. This is a good thing.
I spent much of my childhood in church. ...Faith helped me live with the tension between the smallness of the world around me and my intense inner sense of a larger beyond. It helped keep that tension alive. In this way it grounded me in reality, not just mystery. But my grandfather's rules and beliefs did not add up as I grew older. I came to find the disjunction between the thoroughness of my mind and the limitations of church teachings intolerable...

But I hold to my memories of his complexity — his fear and fallenness along with the humanity and virtues of that faith of my childhood — against stereotyped images of evangelical Christianity that are at large in our culture now. The rock-solid, certain aspects of my grandfather's faith bequeathed me a spiritual inheritance. They are the foundation upon which my questions and ideas now are planted. I learned to trust in an overriding sense behind the universe. I learned to look for grace and for truths that revealed themselves at times baldly but just as often between the cracks in my ability to see and hear what is important. Above all, I understood belovedness to be woven into the very fabric of life.
Everyone, she says, has a certain level of spirituality. In that sense we're on the same level. Religion just serves as a container for that spirituality.

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