Nothing to Defend

Growing up, I was taught that my faith had to be defended. Now, I know there's nothing to defend. 

It was, and still is, everywhere. Books on apologetics. Sermons on biblical "proof." The pervading notion of our rightness and the harm of "their" wrongness. The logic goes something like this: If we don't defend our faith, we too could be swayed to compromise. If we don't stand up for Jesus, who will? Particularly in evangelical Christianity, there is a strong fear of losing a hold of truth and the ongoing need to defend it.

I used to think this way. There were times where I thought I was guilty by association, both with liberals and conservatives. I used to think that if I accepted one beautiful part of a doctrine, I too had to defend the confusing or even seemingly immoral parts. The violent wrath of God had to be defended and maintained because the bible says so. Strict first century (or earlier) moral codes had to be defended because the bible says so. The pastor, the church, the system, it all had to be defended because the bible (or at least, the teacher) says so. The more I became connected to different streams, sects, conversations and traditions, the more confusing this got. Pretty soon, I was at war with myself. I was keeping my "liberal" beliefs hidden from my "conservative" friends. I defended what I thought the basic truths of Christianity were, but even these became muddled. Ultimately I realized that the only thing I was defending was myself... and I wasn't doing a very good job.

For me, the breakthrough came in the form of Jesus. Not in a theological or doctrinal sense, but in a personal, psychological and even mystical sense. Rather than looking to scripture or church for what to believe, I began looking at Jesus for how to be. I was confronted with courage. I was challenged by passion. I was inspired by the authenticity  and depth of conviction. I saw that Jesus was unmasking what has always been the present, animating spirit of the universe, divine, nonviolent love. In looking at Jesus, I saw that he didn't defend even himself, let alone religious and political systems. He defended other people, victims of violence, scapegoating and patriarchy. He laid himself on the line for what he believed and paid the price.

On this journey, I have begun to feel more at home with my odds-and-ends of belief. I have found that everything belongs, that there is space wide enough to be my authentic self in God and with others. Now, when I run into odd doctrines, silly beliefs about the end of the world or religiously vocal believers, I know there's nothing to defend. I can open myself up to criticism in just being and saying what I believe. I don't have to defend the doctrine of the trinity. I don't have to defend the divinity of Jesus. I don't have to defend the inerrancy of the Bible. There's nothing to defend.

The divine love revealed in Jesus is expressed not in defending truth, but in living love. 

Neither I, nor Christianity have to be defended. All I have to do is authentically share my life with open hands and heart, just like Jesus.
Benjamin FaderComment