Saturday, April 7, 2007

Darcey Steinke on Easter and Doubt

Salon has published part of Darcey Steinke's new memoir, entitled Easter Everywhere. I found the following description of sticking with Church even through all the doubtful periods of a faith life very moving:

I am lucky if I can believe in the resurrection ten minutes a month. I have doubt. But I have faith as well. My doubt fuels my faith. To me doubt connects to the mystery of God much more than certainty. The finite cannot contain the infinite. Once, a New York cab driver told me he was a former Muslim who now subscribes to no organized religion. "Religions are not directly from God," he said animatedly from the front seat. "Religion is finite. God is not finite, but infinite."

. . .

I slip from my pew and walk out of the church. On the sidewalk I think: Jesus himself was a doubter. He questioned the validity of the established religious order. He doubted his ability to do what he was asked to do and, on the cross, he doubted the loyalty of God.

. . .

But I am not able to break with Christianity, no matter how uncomfortable I am with many of its current manifestations. Biblical imagery and Christ's message of forgiveness continue to haunt me, and I know my own redemption lies in Christian tenets, not in others' religious beliefs. Still, I can interpret the Bible in my own way. I can choose from the creeds that have been passed down, I can make my relationship to God my own, not one that is defined by church doctrine. And I can pray. Of all the gifts Sister Leslie has given me, her Aunt Birdie's Book of Common Prayer has been the most valuable. Thin colored ribbons stick out the bottom. I read Morning Prayer and sometimes Compline. The Compline antiphon is my favorite: Guide us waking, oh Lord and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.

Since I was a teenager I've lived in a world mostly devoid of divinity. But now I see the sacred includes not just churches but hospitals, highways, costume jewelry, garbage dumps, libraries, the cruising area of public parks. Also pet stores, subway platforms, Ferris wheels and rain storms.

Rather than certainty, I try to cultivate a sense of sacredness. Life is brutal, full of horror and violence. Life is beautiful, full of passion and joy. Both things are true at the same time. The paradox extends to my own being. I think of the words of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who calls Christianity the religion of Love and Comedy, à la Charlie Chaplin: "The point is not that, due to the limitations of his mortal sinful nature, man cannot ever become fully divine, but that due to the divine spark in him, man cannot become fully man." Abbie, as young as she is, has already felt this dichotomy. On a page of her journal I found this epigram: I feel like I am someone like God I do not know why.

Read it all.


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