Thought I might share a few of these quotes about orthopraxy before I say something.
Catechesis and Life Experience
22. It is useless to play off orthopraxis against orthodoxy: Christianity is inseparably both. Firm and well-thought—out convictions lead to courageous and upright action, the endeavor to educate the faithful to live as disciples of Christ today calls for and facilitates a discovery in depth of the mystery of Christ in the history of salvation.
It is also quite useless to campaign for the abandonment of serious and orderly study of the message of Christ in the name of a method concentrating on life experience. “No one can arrive at the whole truth on the basis solely of some simple private experience, that is to say, without an adequate explanation of the message of Christ, who is `the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn. 14:6).”
Nor is any opposition to be set up between a catechesis taking life as its point of departure and a traditional doctrinal and systematic catechesis. Authentic catechesis is always an orderly and systematic initiation into the revelation that God has given of Himself to humanity in Christ Jesus, a revelation stored in the depths of the Church’s memory and in Sacred Scripture, and constantly communicated from one generation to the next by a living, active traditio. This revelation is not however isolated from life or artificially juxtaposed to it. It is concerned with the ultimate meaning of life and it illumines the whole of life with the light of the Gospel, to inspire it or to question it.
John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae (Apostolic Exhortations; Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979).
Jesus Christ has not come to establish social justice any more than he has come to establish the power of the state or the reign of money or art. Jesus Christ has come to save men, and all that matters is that men may come to know him. We are adept at finding reasons-good theological, political, or practical reasons, for camouflaging this. But the real reason is that we let ourselves be impressed and dominated by the forces of the world, by the press, by public opinion, by the political game, by appeals to justice, liberty, peace, the poverty of the third world, and the Christian civilization of the west, all of which play on our inclinations and weaknesses. Modern protestants are in the main prepared to be all things to all men, like St. Paul, but unfortunately this is not in order that they may save some but in order that they may be like all men.” – Jacques Ellul. The Ethics of Freedom, 254–255
He drops the mic at the end, doesn’t he?
I wonder in amusement at those who believe Christian follows the culture, that somehow progressive Christianity is counter-cultural, etc… Christianity has always been counter-cultural. The first liberation theology was the Creed. Jesus is Lord (Caesar is not). The freedoms were by Christians. The first modern Western sciences were by Christians.
Yet, we modern protestants marvel at our innovations, taking of those anti-Christ and calling them Christian.
This is for Jana Maria, John-David, Jill Michelle, Jessa Lauren, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn-Grace, and Josie. Even you, Josh. This is for you when you finally leave your home, in thought and in deed.
I want to welcome you to a world that is far brighter than you’ve led to believe it is. I want to welcome you to a chance to truly experience all of God’s creation, as something more than sex objects, as something more than husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, baby-sitters, and anything else that you were told you could only be. No doubt, you are going to be afraid.
Then you are going to be mad at your parents, at yourselves, at each other, and finally at God. As someone who has escaped a cult, let me tell you now: you are absolutely right to feel every bad thought you are feeling right now. The pain is real. Even if no one can see it, it is real and maybe even more real than if you had just been torn asunder. Your entire world is breaking down and you simply have no one left to turn to you give you the firm assurance you once had. If someone promises to restore to you a black and white world, don’t believe them. Find someone though, whether it is a real counselor, a priest, a pastor, a friend — find someone who will listen.
If you are reading this, you are now “free” of Quiverfull and a host of other systems imprisoning you. In truth, as I have learned, you will never be truly free of things that have happened to you or that you have done to others. Don’t worry. I understand that. Do not let anyone judge you for this, especially yourself. You can be your own worst critic. And you should be, but don’t believe everything you tell yourself. To be honest, it wasn’t your fault. You were trained to think and believe and act a certain way. You couldn’t have left if you tried. You are only now leaving because your psyche cannot handle any more walls and mental gymnastics between what you know and what you see. It is exhausting to continue to build those walls up. At one time, you had help. Your parents and church elders helped to reinforce those walls. But they are gone. They may return, but they will never return to a place that allows you to go back from whence you came.
You are going to be mad at God. You may reject Christianity. I don’t blame you. I did myself, really. What you are told is Christianity is not Christianity, I assure you, but you will have to decide that for yourself. Right now, don’t give up on believing in God. Just because the God of Quiverfull and your parents may not be in the box you were given, don’t mean God does not exist. In fact, I found out — like many before me — that God can never fit into a box. If you find someone who tells you they have God all figured out, don’t believe them. There is no answer, proof, or concept of God that is healthy to have for too long. If, in the end, you reject Christianity altogether, and even the concept of a deity, I don’t blame you. No one can because everything done to you was done in the name of the Christian God.
For me, I choose to believe in God because I cannot believe in a world of this much evil without a deity as the redeemer. I have to believe that life matters because I have seen real beauty. I believe in orthodox Christianity because theology is a theory and as a theory, I find orthodox Christianity the best of all worlds, one where God became human so that we could become divine. Only orthodox Christianity provides for me the love of a God that I believe this world needs… that I need.
You aren’t going to be fine. You are going to be different. You are going to be a different person because there is simply no other way you can exist as the person you were before. You will have the same name, experiences, friends and family (if you choose to have the last two, that is). Yet, you will see them differently. You will see them almost like they exist in a movie. But, they will be real to you. The foods won’t taste the same. The clothes won’t feel the same. You will get squeamish when people pray, joke, or attempt to understand what you are going through. This is part of the new life you have now. It is not easy, but it is worth it.
A couple of words of advice.
Get into a real counseling program. Whatever state you land in, find a licensed counselor through that State. Go. Go as often as you want. Be honest with your counselor about everything you are feeling.
Breathe. You are exhausted. You will remain exhausted for a long time. You will be depressed. Find a real way to handle this.
Don’t rush. You can’t rush this. If you do, you will find that you have established more walls, but that this time they block out other stuff, like getting the help you need.
Take the ruin and the ashes around you and salvage the good, discard the bad, and rebuild.
Never think this is easy. You have come from a cult. Many of you were physically harmed, some sexually harmed, and all of you emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually harmed in this. Some of you are in a part of your lifespan where maturity has set in. That means you have learned certain things that you will have to first fight to unlearn and then attempt to learn a better way. This is just not going to be easy, but if you decide it is worth it, you will make it.
Don’t be afraid to be by yourself. But, try to be near to people who love you — they usually won’t understand you — and will care for you. You need more than bodily care; you need soul care.
Whatever brought you to this point, you are here now. You will not return. Stay with us and let us help you. Many of us have been where you are right now, coming from a cult and into a world that we are not ready for — a world we do not want. Yet, we have made it. You will too.
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.” (source)
What do you do with that? Is most of statistics and science made up?
This is why, in my opinion, we must train minds to look for counter-evidence and then start to decide. Too often, we see people eating up one side or the other, without paying attention to detractors. Yes, there are some detractors that rely on subjective interpretations that are equally agenda driven. But you should be able to spot them.
My last post stirred a discussion that made me think. These thoughts are the result.
It is fair to say that Christian tradition has vastly dictated right practice of our faith can only stem from right beliefs within the faith. When I questioned that understanding by suggesting that there must exist a balance between the two – that one doesn’t necessarily spring from the other – the reaction was to recoil to the previous and most widely accepted understanding of orthopraxy coming only from orthodoxy.
Since, I have not been able to shake the idea that our traditional understanding could use a tweak – and necessarily so.
To demonstrate my thinking, I will use three real-life examples where I think things cannot be seen as black and white.
The first example is that of an atheist who has been attending my church. He does this for his family. I couldn’t tell you what he thinks while he is there, but he comes. He participates in the life of the church and does anything else anyone else in the church does. Now, if he were to develop in the faith over time, so that he lives faithfully both in orthodoxy as well as orthopraxy, wouldn’t his right belief have flowed from his right practice?
Second, I am currently walking alongside a family who lost their father last fall. There is doubt, fear, and anger. Their faith – what we would otherwise call orthodoxy – is shaky at times, and that’s just what they’ll admit to me. However, they remain connected to each other, the church, and to the support system offered to them through the church universal. I see very little evidence that they won’t ultimately remain faithful once the storm subsides. Is this not orthopraxy giving birth to orthodoxy?
Thirdly, many who will read this know that I lost a son a little less than three years ago. It wasn’t a complete surprise, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less – and we hurt plenty. In the immediate wake of his death, I would say, “Our grief is strong, but our faith is sure.” In hindsight, I knew I was saying that in hopes it would become true, not because it was true at the time. You see, I was a functional atheist for a few months in 2012. Three weeks on from Carter’s death, I had to get back in the pulpit. That was the hardest sermon I’ve ever had to write. Mainly because I was still hurting from the death of my son, but also because I was unsure I could believe some or all of the things I was saying. Eventually, I reconciled myself back into the reality of my faith. However, I was literally faking it until I made it. My practice was the thing that eventually brought me back to my belief.
These examples are anecdotal, of course, but don’t they speak to the issue all the same?
At the very least, I believe we must understand the relationship between these “orthos” as existing along a spectrum, mainly because the linear equation we have traditionally used doesn’t account for reality. Most of the time, ones current state will hover around the center of the spectrum. When things go wrong, we may find ourselves at either end of the spectrum. However, we should eventually work our way back the the center, where there is a healthy balance between our faithful belief and our faithful practice.
I know we like cut-and-dry, but the world in rarely that. In order to survive this world, we should learn how to exist in that tension.