The Power of Curiosity

The Power of Curiosity
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

We live in frightening, polarizing times. Put more bluntly, we live in a horribly incurious time: we are incurious about the experience of others, the contents of their skulls, and what motivates them. This incuriosity is stoked from a thousand directions, from social media to bloggers to news outlets, all preying on our baser, animal instincts.

Into this fray comes David Dark. In his book Life’s Too Short To Pretend Your Not Religious, he writes that nuance is sacred:

I want very badly to challenge the ease with which we succumb to the false divide of labels, that moment in which our empathy gives out and we refuse to respond openhandedly or even curiously to people with whom we differ. As I see it, to refuse the possibility of finding another person interesting, complex and as complicated as oneself is a form of violence. At bottom, this is a refusal of nuance, and I wish to posit that nuance is sacred. To call it sacred is to value it so much and esteem it so highly that we find it fitting to somehow set it apart as something to which we’re forever committed. Nuance refuses to envision others degradingly, denying them the content of their own experience, and talks us down tenderly from the false ledges we’ve put ourselves on. When we take it on as a sacred obligation, nuance also delivers us out of the deadly habit of cutting people out of our own imaginations. This opens us up to the possibility of at least occasionally finding one another beautiful, the possibility of communion. I happen to live for these openings, and I suspect I write “NUANCE” in the margins of research papers more than any other word. It could be that there’s no communion without it. I hasten to add that the communion I’m hoping for isn’t a retreat from the everyday or the realistic but a more profound engagement with it. This brings to mind Iris Murdoch’s definition of love: “Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real. Love, and so art and morals, is the discovery of reality.” The work of consciousness, we begin to understand, is never done.

 

Gender Complementarianism is Superstition

gender complementarianism is superstition
Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

Growing up gay in the conservative church, I believed I was barred from ever having a gay relationship and that, unless something truly miraculous happened which allowed me to marry a woman, I would spend the rest of my life celibate. This wasn’t because my Christian community overtly hated gay people – though many did. It wasn’t even because of the “clobber passages” – the handful of passages that allegedly directly mention homosexuality.

No. I and my Christian community believed I was barred from a gay relationship, first and foremost, because of gender complementarianism: the belief that the union of male and female within the covenant of marriage creates a morally exclusive spiritual state, and that such a state is the only valid and virtuous “container” for sexual activity.

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Finding Identity Outside of God

Finding Identity Outside of God

Last week, as I was talking to another fellow deconstruction survivor, I had a realization. I suddenly understood that what made my falling apart of faith so painful, so overwhelming, was not just the trauma of an unprecedented paradigm shift, but a breaking of myself.

Too often, when our faith falls apart, we break too. Through my journey of doubt I sometimes felt, psychically, as if pressure was being put on a joint in the wrong direction: maddening, roaring pain, and the terror that something fundamental within me is about to break. It wasn’t just something theoretical, external, theological that was about to break. If my faith broke, I broke too.

Now, as I reflect on this, I realize why. Or, at least, why the stakes feel so high for me as I re-evaluate my faith. My faith, my understanding of God, doesn’t just tell me what the world is, it tells me who I am. My God doesn’t just organize the cosmos around me, he organizes the principles that guide my life. I believe in compassion, goodness, and mercy because of God. I believe in not lying and pursing justice and being a man of integrity because of God. In other words, all my principles and guiding forces are outsourced to something outside myself. When that external thing dies, it feels like I die, too. I become lost, blind, with no compass to guide my way.

I’ve come to understand that a shift of faith is inevitably difficult, sometimes even traumatic, but it is made all the more so by the fact that so much of our identity is outsourced to this external, etherial thing called God. When we lose that, or when that God comes up for serious review, the foundation for our guiding principles come up for review as well.

As I’ve mentioned on the podcast and in my articles, I no longer know if God exists, and I can no longer go beyond the magisterium of science when making external truth claims. I dearly hope for a God, and I hope for an afterlife. But regardless of whether there is or is not an afterlife, wether there is or is not a God, I have to stop outsourcing my guiding principle to some external, unstable foundation.

I can choose compassion, mercy, and justice even if there is no God. I can choose truth telling and integrity even if there is no God. I can locate these things in my own being, in my own conscious, without appealing to some higher power. Doing so provides a far more solid foundation: I don’t need to go through life in an existential moral wreck if I doubt God’s existence, and my identity need not feel threatened every time I ask crucial questions about the nature of God.

I am called to be a person of integrity regardless of whether God exists or not, and I find that epiphany deeply comforting as I continue my quest for truth.

Deconstruction

In this episode of the Sacred Tension podcast, my good friend Justin and I have a long, raw, late-night conversation about our tumultuous religious upbringing in fundamentalist pentecostal and charismatic homes, our spiritual experiences, and the deconstruction of our faiths.

Charlottesville and Waking Up to Racism

Racism America

In this mini episode of the Sacred Tension Podcast, I reflect on the recent display of violence and racism in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Ashamed as I am to admit it, the Charlottesville protests were a wake up call for me. I realized that I have had the privilege to distance myself from the subject of race, and that I am complicit in systems of injustice. I admit to my ignorance and privilege, and I hope to learn more and become an even greater advocate of justice.

This will not be the first and last episode on racism in the United States. As I learn more, I hope to have more nuanced and helpful discussions on the podcast about race.

If you enjoy the podcast, please spread the word and write a review on iTunes.

Artwork is by Justin Caleb Bryant, music is by The Jellyrox.

As usual, thanks for listening.

Sacred Tension Podcast, Ep. 2: Life’s Too Short To Pretend You’re Not Religious, With David Dark

In this episode I have a conversation with author David Dark about how to navigate the murky and triggering topic of religion. Many of us have religious baggage of some kind, and David Dark provides some thought provoking insights into engaging the subject of religion in a new way.

David Dark’s website

David Dark on Twitter

Music for the show is provided by The Jellyrox

Artwork by Justin Caleb Bryant

Sacred Tension Ep. 1: Escape From Scientology: A Conversation With Chris Shelton

In this episode I have a conversation with Chris Shelton, who was a member of Scientology for nearly three decades. We talk about his experience of horrific abuse in the Sea Org, how he eventually escaped, and how easy it is for human beings to fall prey to cults and crazy beliefs.

Chris’s Show: The Sensibly Speaking Podcast

My appearance on Sensibly Speaking.

Music for the podcast is provided by The Jellyrox.

Artwork by Justin Caleb Bryant.

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