Peter Rollin’s recent interview, Belief is easy (at provoke love), is worth listening to, I think. He is so clear about the false narratives we live by, and why they separate us, and about why acknowledging our brokenness could be so freeing, enlivening, human, and godly.
I couldn’t find a transcript online so I transcribed some of it myself (and bolded some words and phrases that seem important to me):
“I think there’s a universal problem … that we all seek certainty and we all seek satisfaction. All of us want to have a story that tells us why we on this side of the river are right and those people on that side of the river are wrong. Why we are good and they are bad. We all want a story that tells us why we’re here, where we’re going, and what we should do in the meantime.
“When we’re children we start with the story, whenever our parents tell us we’re strong when we’re crying, that we’re brave when we’re [crying?]; that’s a lie – if we’re crying, we’re not brave [well, we might be]. Or you say to a little girl, Oh you’re a little princess. She’s not a little princess. We create these lies, these stories. But the stories are great, because they give you a sense of mastery, they give the child a sense of “Oh, I’m independent, I’m strong, I’m beautiful,” And it covers over the fact that they’re dependent, that they don’t really have an understanding of what’s going on in the world.
“And as we grow, we simply develop these stories, into cultural, political, and religious ones. And they do exactly the same thing. They cover over our unknowing, they cover over our brokenness, they give us a sense of mastery, they tell us that I’m right and they’re wrong.” …
“We wanted to begin to interrogate those beliefs that we have, that separate us from each other. Because as soon as I meet you, if you have different beliefs and practices from me, I generally think of you as monstrous and weird. If you have different views on religion, or marriage, or sexuality, or something like that, I think, ‘Wow, you’re bizarre.’
“And I either try to consume you — to make you like me — and if I can’t do that, I want to vomit you out, I want to get you out of my social body, because I can’t integrate your difference. Or I might tolerate you, as long as you don’t tell me what you believe, hide it behind closed doors. Or I engage in interfaith dialogue, where we discuss where we’re both in agreement.
“We wanted to reject all four of those, because in all four of them, I’m right. In the first three, I’m right and you’re wrong. And in the fourth, we’re both right, let’s have tea and biscuits. I wanted to create a space where I see myself through your eyes, and I encounter my own monstrosity. I encounter my own beliefs and practices as weird and contingent, and in doing that face up to the anxieties in my life and give them a place to breathe. …
“We want certainty, and everybody’s offering it. Everywhere you turn, people are saying, ‘Believe this, think this.’ The other thing is satisfaction: We all think there’s something that will fill this gap in our lives. Might be looking a certain way, buying a certain product, worshiping a certain god. And again, for me, this is a problem, that God just becomes another product like BMW, God is just another thing to satisfy your soul. …
“We wanted to explore the idea that actually we need to embrace our dissatisfaction, embrace our brokenness, embrace our suffering, speak it into being, and find god not as the solution to it but rather in the midst of it . And find god not as the guarantee that we’re right, but rather god as the mystery that dwells in the unknowing where we acknowledge our brokenness and our inability to have the answers.
“So, you can see it all around you that churches that claim certainty, that claim to have the answers, seem to be growing. And that makes total sense to me. Because belief is easy. … Because we want certainty, we love to know why we are here, we love a story that tells us that we’re important, that we have a place, a story that covers over our brokenness, and so selling certainty is easy. Asking people to interrogate their beliefs, to question some of the things that they hold most dearly … that’s difficult. That’s profoundly hard. “
Later, he talks about the odd idea that churches seem to have that belief is about what we (think we) think, what’s in our mind; when actually, belief is about how we live, what we do: “I want to believe that I don’t believe in child slavery.” But his actions (and most of our actions) say that we do.
His final words:
“We all want to become more like god, we all want to get out of our limited perspective and take a god’s-eye view. The great thing about Christianity is that if you want to become like god you’ve got to do what god did and become fully human. We’ve got to become more human.”