Theology…you really like God n’ stuff?
This one time, at Bible camp…
So I’m really spiritual, you know? Just not religious.
Oh the glory of trying to tell a stranger what you do for a living as an aspiring theologian. Or that you aren’t going to judge/damn/attempt to convert them no matter how they respond (exception: complete assholery).
Or that like any normal human adult, you put your pants on one leg at a time, and had red wine and corn puffs for dinner last night.
A couple articles this past week (along with my continuing application odyssey) prompted me to rethink (again) what the hell I’m doing.
I’ve never been a woman of singular interests – from the gymnastics/ballet/science club/ cheerleading/concert choir/musical theater of my youth to my social work/barista/doggie volunteer/reader of all/travel nut present, I just don’t like to be pinned down.
It’s one of the reasons discernment in the big sense is such a challenge for me. I definitely fall too quickly into the “if I do this thing then that is the thing, I am that, this is what I do. Period. Does this mean I’ll never do all the things?!?! I’m supposed to do all the things!” trap.
Blame it on my type-A nature, or 90s child “they said I could be anything” multiple aspirations, but this particular personality aspect is beginning to frustrate me.
That’s one of the reasons I was somewhat heartened to read Tara Isabella Burton’s article in The Atlantic: “theology is the closest thing we have at the moment to the kind of general study of all aspects of human culture that was once very common, but is now quite rare.”
Her words were a nice reminder of one of the reasons I find theology so fascinating – an in-depth, dedicated quest for meaning. Meaning that can have multiple definitions of equal import, a complexity that is often lost in the modern academy.
Yet, her article overall made me think of her as a “theology apologist.”
I bristled at this because I’m guilty as well. In our science-oriented society it’s just so much easier to explain the whole enterprise in social science terms – that studying belief systems will help us better understand a certain event/person/group and then have this positive impact on the world and one of its particular issues.
While I have no problem with this, and in large part my research works on these types of questions, that’s not all studying theology is about.
In a post-modern world, theology makes truth claims.
The ones you’re never supposed to mention at the dinner table.
And you know what? I love that. I need that. I think we all do.
As much as hard science and MTV and the Real Housewives can explain our world, how often do we force ourselves to sit with our lived reality, our experiences, our feelings, and come out the other side with something that helps it make sense?
Damn, I like that challenge.
This is not just about my particular faith, which is continually hard-won and questioned near-daily, but about our ability as individuals, groups, communities and society at large to make meaning.
Meaning does not have to come in the form of religion or a belief system, but it often does.
This is not because it’s an easy way out, or a comforting fairy tale.
It’s because we all know there is a truth. In moments that we can’t understand, or explain. When we just know that our dead friends are okay. When we kiss our person. When we breathe deep in the autumn night air, looking at the stars.
Theology sits with these questions; with they mystery of it all, and tries to say something about it.
I’m sure it’s that deep quest Dre and Snoop were talking about – fuzzy bikini not included.