Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Search for an Authentic Faith

Is there such a thing as an authentic faith?

While Protestant denominational boundaries have blurred in the past generation (I serve a congregation where about half are lifelong Lutherans, the others are from divergent traditions, or no tradition at all), dogmas seem to be as divisive as ever. Whether addressing same sex marriage, race, economics, politics, or the place of Christians in society, the church often invests energy in dogmatic positions. With these dogmatic positions comes to the belief that the world would be a better place if only their particular position gained significant adherence. Maybe this is true, maybe not. Dogmas provide a cover for our feelings about life in general, a distraction from whatever pain we are experiencing at the time.

In reading Psalm 69, the sorrow, fear, and frustration depict a faith that is not neat and tidy, but full of doubt and challenges. This seems so rare in any community of faith I have ever experienced. This isn't to say that one needs to expose everything that is revealed in Psalm 69. But I find such psalms of lament to represent an authentic faith, an engaged faith. I would struggle to pour out my heart in such a way--especially in front of people in the church. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was crazy or overly emotional. I reserve these kind of conversations to people I love and trust. Which really is the point of such a psalm. When life is messy or bloody, when figurative or literal floods surround us, God is there. God goes to the depths.

It's one thing to say that God goes to the depths, but it doesn't mean anything unless people of faith go to the depths with one another. Sometimes I am put in those places, and sharing some dogma like "God needed another angel in heaven" is not about going to the depths with that person, but trying to make things easier for myself. I don't know if there's an authentic faith out there, but Psalm 69 is a part of scripture that being in the midst of the messes of life without a recipe for getting out is closest thing to an authentic faith I can observe.

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