So lately I’ve been on this kick of talking about living in the Spirit. In doing so, I realize just how much I know about this comes from those years when I followed that reading schedule in the back of my Bible to read the entire Bible each year. So the gospel of John and everything Paul wrote about the Spirit would come back to me both this way and through my memory. Then I’d see the Spirit acting in my prayers, in my life and at church, differently at charismatic churches than elsewhere, but some in every church.
Likewise my passion for helping the poor came from reading in the Bible, such as Matthew 25: 31-46, which describes how Jesus is in the needy, together with the practical experience of being in a helping profession and learning so much about God’s love and my love from that. Yet churches neglect this. Post-modernists like to deny that there is any objective truth, that any truth is determined by a group of people. Something like this challenges that idea so much. What does it mean to call contradictions and hypocrisies “truth”? It seems to me to be just another lie so that people can avoid being any different than they are.
Then being educated in science was a different sort of influence on me. Just yesterday I was reading something written by a man thoroughly dedicated to the idea of intelligent design. It was junk. It was junk for the same reason everything about ID is junk. The proponents of this only make points to back their prejudice. I had moments myself wondering how something intricate could have been entirely natural. I remember a specific moment like this regarding how complicated protein synthesis is. Yet it’s not that hard to picture a natural process building up to this if one tries to see it, and it’s also easy to see the many places in anatomy and physiology that are not designed well at all, like the human spine. ID really is junk. Only propagandists say otherwise.
Rather than be the atheist toward that so many of my scientific colleagues are, I did something else that was subversive toward a specific ideology. I started praying regularly. I found my prayers were answered, in subtle ways at first. Eventually they began to be answered in words. Now these were words that have been exceptional to me in providing me with direction, strength and comfort. I can’t imagine them coming just from some better part of me. Still God never has given me words this way that included something I knew absolutely nothing about. It could be that atheists are right that this is something entirely within me. If it is, it’s something as remarkable and as unknown as the God I suspect is its source.
If that was everything there was to religion in my life it would be hard enough to connect with either traditional religion or traditional atheism, but there is this other thing. It happened again this morning, as it does many times a day now. I was about to start fixing my breakfast when I had a feeling equivalent to a tug on my sleeve. I said something about whether She really wanted to speak to me or was She just playing. She really wanted to speak to me. So we retired to one of the places that are quiet enough for that. I’ve been having trouble lately knowing how much She loves me. With the various demands She makes on me, it doesn’t feel that loving sometimes. It’s impossible for Her to show me everything She is at a given moment. I am an open book in contrast and make very few demands. Between that and that She has my entire consciousness, She knows how much I love Her, and how much I would love Her no matter who She were, but also knows I have a little doubt, even though I believe Her when She says She loves me even more than I love Her. So She has been feeling the need to tell me who I am to God. I am someone who has done all of the above, read the Bible, go to church, pray as if it means something, together with things that have meant more in recent years than they once did, to be educated in science and to help people through medicine and otherwise. That’s where I was years ago. Then it changed. I did some things for God spiritually that are very hard to explain. Now there’s all this spiritual experience on top of more ordinary things of this world. It’s impossible to explain, as it is to repeat what the Spirit said to me for the hour or so before I got to eat. It’s impossible to build a context for that. There are years of experiences to relate and then who knows how much to explain the meaning of the experiences, things the Spirit can explain to me with an image or two.
So now I have these summary statements, like, “All religions are false, including atheism.” It’s not that every bit of religion is false. It’s that on the whole they are false. Anyone orthodox about any religion is wrong about something. God says so, not just me. What a subversive thing to say, and what impresses me more than that people see it that way is that I have things to say that anyone finds subversive, atheist, liberal, conservative, or religious, but non-Christian. So when did I become subversive?
The things I did on purpose are common enough, read the bible, go to church, pray, be educated, follow my profession, and volunteer beyond that. The truly subversive part was when I was willing to listen to God. He might have said that I should be a thoroughly orthodox Christian. I would have listened. He didn’t. Some would insist that because He didn’t, He must be a demon. Well, you can tell God He is a demon if you want. I just say that God is whoever is in charge enough to talk to me so consistently over the years, in the face of every prayer I could think of asking God what to do with this. That sort of willingness is all I did, plus all those other things I did on purpose.
I’m not sure even my own family stays with this idea long enough to understand this. I didn’t call the Spirit this morning. This all started with my asking God for a little help almost 20 years ago. Maybe He doesn’t give a little help, but rather this huge package deal where people take as much as they’re able. Whatever it’s been, I didn’t do this. I’m not the one who’s subversive. God is. God tells me that none of atheism, liberalism, or conservatism has any chance at all to survive in the long run, that so many words are wasted in promoting each of them. The only benefit is they are so useless that some people will get disgusted with all of them and look elsewhere, as I did. Elsewhere is where God is, not among those who cling to doctrines, rituals, leaders, and institutions as their idols, no matter how many of them do it in unison.
When I let the Spirit have Her way, words can pour out of me. They can be words of prayer, as when I first watched this happen in charismatic churches. They can be words of condemnation, as would be the case if God wanted to use me that way. Fortunately most of what God wants me to do has nothing to do with preaching at people who aren’t prepared to hear anything challenging. That we just do for fun and fellowship.
The truly subversive things God has in mind need no preachers. Time and events will kill every tradition. Some will reject Him when their tradition falls apart or in the case of atheists, reject Him even more. It doesn’t matter. God persists. Those who reject Him don’t. Eventually anyone can become useful to God, as I have. Then God has to show someone like me that He does love me, that I’m not his toy, but His son, even every loving relationship. I’ve seen God is good at that, very adaptable and practical. Just don’t count on having your breakfast on time.