Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Godless Love

Acts Chapter 2 (44) All the believers were together and had everything in common. (45) Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (46) Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, (47) praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

It was these verses, and ones like them, which led me to question the ultraconservative version of Christianity I grew up believing.  It was these verses, and ones like them, which led me to question the very core of my faith.  So, some introspection seems appropriate here.

These verses speak of a magical time in the early history of the Church. Everyone was equally generous, and no one abused this generosity.  They met together everyday to pray and probably to sing.  They ate together, sharing good times around their tables.  They constantly told God how great He was, and everyone loved them.  Seeing all this love and affection, approval and care, few could resist and their numbers increased everyday.

I read this passage for the first time when I was around nine or ten years old.  My home life was pretty rough in those days: lots of screaming, lots of crying, and some rare violence, so I suppose it’s no surprise that my heart locked onto this concept of the divine super-family of the early church.

“Why then, but not now?” I remember asking someone.

“Well,” began the voice of reason, “that was a special time, and God was pouring out special gifts as a sign, to mark the beginning of this glorious age of Christ in which we dwell.  But once the time of marking the beginning was over, God began to step back those special signs.”

And for a long time that was enough of an answer.  But the question still burned in me. “Why not now?”  Sometime later I would see the movie “The Mission“.  In part of the plot development, the Jesuits explain that the Indians live as the early Church, sharing all things in common.  After viewing the movie, my father remarked, “Well, the Indians were doomed.  Communism never works.”

But it did work in the early history of the Church; the Bible says so.  What made that time so different?  And the reasonable answer was repeated.  The question remained in the back of my mind, rolling around for years.  I suppose it was this question, in fact, which made me take the interest in cults I mentioned here.

Away at college, a new friend encouraged me to really study through the New Testament and see if I could find any evidence of this theory that those “special times” of the 2nd Chapter of Acts had ended.  I found evidence aplenty, but none of it was any good.  To prove this theory with one verse, you had to forget the one in the next sentence.  To use another, you had to ignore the verse previous.  From the evidence, no person trying to base their worldview purely from scripture, rather than from the traditions about scripture, could conclude that these fascinating things had ended.

And after much consideration, I became a “Charismatic“.  I did not make this decision lightly.  I detested the touchy, “don’t-think-just-feel” vibe that I felt the Charismatic movement represented, but I felt that if I were to call myself a Christian, then I must follow the Word of God, and the Word of God did not teach (in any textually valid way) that the Signs and Wonders of the early church should have stopped.

Yet, the evidence of the Church and the world around me showed clearly: The Signs and Wonders were gone.  There was an explanation, however.  The lack of the signs of God was caused by the lack of obedience to God.  And so I joined the church which I thought did the best at obeying God.  They believed God would use them as vessels to bring His Glory, and thus His Signs and Wonders, to Kansas City.

I still love those people. They were earnest people, desperately hoping for a better world.  But when I was truly presented with the chance to live the way I thought I had always wanted, I was repulsed.  I prayed about it.  I confessed it.  I said I wanted help.  But the idea of working my butt off, to give my tiny, hard earned wages away so that others could fritter away their time in 24 hour prayer grated on me.  Worse still, then I felt terrible for feeling that way.  Obviously, the Lord had so much more work to do in me for I was still so full of self.

It’s been three years since we left that church, broken hearted.  Sadly, hoping for a better world does not alone a better world make.  More questions, and my abiding love for reality, has lead me to atheism as a world view.  And now, surprising even to me, I want that communal life that seemed so repugnant only three years ago.  How did this change in world view make me desire this deep community?

Becky and I went to another Society for Creative Anachronisms class.  The class is held in the living room of huge, rambling country house.  It is owned by one couple, whose adult sister and her husband also live there.  They share many things in common, and “break bread” together from time to time, often with the strangers that wander through their door for the S.C.A. classes.

It’s lovely.  And it sets me to thinking how lovely it would be if Becky and I could do that.  I think of all my friends under one huge roof, laughing together, joking together, and working together.  I makes me feel warm inside just to think of it, like the memory of a hug. Why this 180 degree change?

And then I knew.  Compulsion.  I don’t have to love my friends now; I choose to.  I don’t have to force myself to love any yahoo I meet; I am allowed to be honest with myself and admit that I really love some people, and really dislike some other ones.  I don’t believe anymore that there is anything particularly moral about “loving” all 6.6 billion members of the human race (as if such a thing were even possible).  So, while the quantity of my love has gone down, the quality has gone up.

I don’t love people because I am supposed to anymore.  I love them because I chose to love them.  I can choose to share my home with the people I truly love, people with whom I share reciprocal giving of happiness.  Since there is no Holy Book which can tell me the “right way to love someone” (again, as if such a way existed), there is no expectation.  I do not perform for the people I love and they do not perform for me.  We love one another because, intrinsic to our very identities, our way of showing love is the way that makes the most sense to each other.

Imagining this house full of friends now is a house full of people who love each other by choice instead of compulsion.  What could be more wonderful than living with people who could have chosen to love anyone, but chose me and mine?

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August 1, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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