For the past couple weeks on my podcast I have been discussing what I call “Anarchist Faith” (shorthand for a form of spirituality that is built from the ground up rather than one imposed from the sky down). I’ve introduced the idea here, and now I’d like to apply this thought-experiment to my own life by way of illustration.
The first step in this process involves determining the kind of person we want (or we think God wants us) to be. As I outlined in some detail in the recent “Let the Tale Wag the Dogma” episode of Misfit Faith, I want to be the kind of person who:
- Seeks unity and unification with others, emphasizing what we have in common rather than obsessing over where we differ.
- Respects diversity, and does not want unity to come at the expense of our varying cultures. In other words, I don’t want a “unity” that is hegemonic or that swallows up our differences and forces us all to be the same. New York should still have Little Italy and Chinatown, is what I’m saying.
- Embraces humanity, together with all its weakness and messiness.
- Enjoys earth, and desires to eat, drink, and otherwise throw myself into this world and experience all the blessings it has to offer.
The next step (for those who identify as “spiritual” in some sense) is to seek out a set of ideas that we feel are most likely to get us where we want to be. So in my case, is there a theology that I can reverse-engineer that would be conducive for shaping me into a person who exhibits the traits listed above?
Seeking true unity while respecting genuine diversity is a tall order — How can differing groups be said to be united without their unique languages, dress, architecture, and food somehow being assimilated into a kind of bland composite or amalgam?
Should we either segregate or dominate? Are the fascists right?
And what about the embracing of earth and humanity? Aren’t our physical bodies the problem, as mere prisons housing our souls? Aren’t the offerings of the physical world just temptations enticing us toward bodily indulgence and excess?
Should we abstain and transcend? Are the vegans right?
But then, what if the traits listed above were the practical ramifications of there being a God who is Triune: a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit who, albeit distinct, are still one God? (There’s your unity-in-diversity!)
And what if (according to the story) this God came to earth — not as some haloed and glow-in-the-dark über-Being, but instead smuggled himself into the world as a real flesh-and-blood human born of a woman, thereby gracing with divinity all earthly things? (And there’s your embrace and enjoyment of earth!)
In other words, what if in a grand display of Chestertonian irony the Christian faith were deconstructed, and the Heresy built from its ruins actually ends up being pretty damn Orthodox?
Maybe we can build our faith and spirituality from the ground up after all. . . .