Recently I have come to the conclusion that the best word with which to describe this world is this: pathologic.
For most of my life I have lived under the impression that the world is somehow supposed to make more sense as time passes and experience teaches me the true and appropriate ways in which this world works. I thought that I would gain an increasing measure of wisdom, insight, and comprehension about how people, culture, God, ethics, and, ultimately, “life” functions. Yet in my observations about all that has been seen and heard under the sun, I am drawn to the conclusion that everything is simply pathologic. Insane, or at the very least non-sensical.
For example, it continues to baffle me how the good are struck down and the evil continue to thrive. Christianity, in an attempt to squeeze some sensibility out of this conundrum, holds that God will somehow deliver an ultimate and final justice through which every good and bad deed is accounted for. Reward and punishment will be meted out in appropriate measure. This what is said about horrific crimes against humanity or lives of virtue that end in an abrupt and tragically uncompensated manner, as if such a promise could abate the cruel sting of lingering injustice.
In stark contrast, another voice in the human heart tells us that such belief is merely wishful thinking and that it comprises what may be the ultimate delusion. “Just look at the world around you,” it says in stern tones. “Can you really bring yourself to believe that?” The voice raises a very good question. Can I really bring myself to believe that? There are those who perish in the heat of great sacrifice and little glory while those with fame, fortune, and health languish and complain in crass terms about their pathetic circumstances. Christianity says that this is because God has a Reason and a Purpose, however nebulous and awkward it may seem now. Christianity even says that we ought to accept these incomprehensible, divine decisions with a prayer of gratefulness. But the voice says, “Surely, if God was really all that just and merciful, he could afford to shift the balance towards something a little more fair, something a little less self demeaning.”
This reasoning is very appealing.
It is also disheartening to hear those of the faith imply that you are somehow weaker, less faithful, or less Christian for listening to the seductive voice. “Air out your doubts, but make sure not to dwell on them too long lest you backslide.” I find it ironic how people of a faith that professes “perfect love casts out fear” can be so good at using it to manipulate, as if this same God of infinite power, mercy, and justice needs a little help in convincing us to believe that he actually exists.
But at the same time, the rejection of such faith demands that we are alone: utterly, completely, and desperately alone with no hope in an external mediator or helper to save, protect, or punish. We are left to our own devices for survival, and I think that history has demonstrated fairly well that we are quite incapable of being just, fair, equitable, charitable, or even reasonably decent to each other or to ourselves. This world defies a certain degree of rationality simply because it either demands complete surrender to the promise of an unseen divinity over which we have no control or the complete surrender to the horror of a world over which we have total control. To make things even more incomprehensible, the only thing that is absolutely certain, uncompromising, and final in this world is death.
As I said before, the best word with which to describe this world is this: pathologic. It’s all so messed up.
But if I am truly honest with myself, I am forced admit that God – if he does exist – has been particularly good and merciful to me. I cannot deny it, however much I wish to do so. I suppose all that I am trying to say here is that I have long underestimated how excrutiating and demanding faith can be. I have not yet paused to consider exactly how much it costs and if I am willing to pay that sort of price, hefting the weight of the world and its state of pathology against the weight of the cross. I strongly suspect that many of those on this same journey of faith who speak of it in glib terms have not yet made such a consideration either… or perhaps they already arrived at a conclusion long ago. Do you understand what I am saying? For all the experience, thought, and wisdom I have gained from my short journey through life, I find myself at a loss to answer even this most basic of questions. Again.