What you're hitting on is the sometimes irrational nature of belief itself - what we believe, and why we believe it, often has little if anything to do with "evidence that demands a verdict." Surely, evidence is often compiled and presented as a means of persuading or defending particular beliefs, but religious and community affiliations have much more to do with social relationship needs and psychological temperaments that we each bring to the situation.This is really the heart of my UPI column from last week. I used my AM Talk Radio voice, but in truth, as I move forward in describing my journey, this is what I want to discuss and emphasize. The evangelical community is so attractive, so filled with good people who love to love each other, so filled with mission and purpose and an aliveness expressed in their desire to make a difference, that beliefs like Adam and Eve are almost unimportant.
I remember explaining to someone that I really didn't care whether God created the world in six days or six billion years. Neither of them would change my faith because the point of my faith was to save people for an eternity of heaven. Eternity far outweighed my thinking about six 24 hour days or six "aeons" of creation.
Insofar as my faith grew in the context of loving people who made it their business to offer other people hope and help, community and caring, prayer and purpose, my interest in examining the historical veracity or scientific likelihood of miraculous events was a low priority. I accepted the Bible's inerrancy because the words of the Bible gave me life... every day. And as long as that perspective sustained me, I believed.
I liked this comment that Dave wrote right after the above:
Beyond those "mundane" considerations, I also harbor enough "faith in God" to believe that there are times when we are drawn in by circumstances larger than our own minds, plans and ambitions to fulfill larger purposes, or to put it more piously, "conform to God's plan for our lives."One of the most powerful benefits to my early conversion in college was that my desire for "lived truth" (moral clarity and commitment) helped me to avoid a slew of consequences that attended both my roommate and my siblings who also experienced parents divorcing at that pivotal time in our lives but who never turned to religion for help.
I didn't use drugs, sex, or alcohol, I didn't develop eating disorders nor did I drop out of school... I busied myself with the highest of ideals: becoming a better person, caring about others, giving my free time to helping friends grow in their understanding of prayer, the Bible, how to be a kinder, gentler person, how to forgive others who hurt you, how to get over anorexia, developing a sensitivity to all nations of the world, and more.
I was unsuccessful in many ways. I, myself, was overbearing at times, I didn't know how to be gentle when one of my disciples came into the sorority house after a party drunk, I shared my faith without invitation too many times, I didn't always walk what I talked. But my intentions were in the right place. I wanted ultimate purpose. I wanted people to be happy and to live fulfilling lives. I wanted to be committed to something bigger than money and a nice southern California lifestyle.
When I read Dave's comment, it occurred to me (as I even said to Jon last night) that I am very glad I was a missionary in a Muslim country in my early twenties. I'm equally glad that I served in Central Africa for a summer. These two experiences have done more to impact my worldview later in life than any others. I have a global perspective I couldn't buy, read about or study to acquire. And living in those contexts as a fully committed Christian was key to the development of the worldview I have today.
I lived the contrast of one worldview and faith against another. I lived it. It changed me. It informs how I think about global politics, economies and religious traditions.
Over the years at Xavier, I've come to the place that I do appreciate the power of religious faith and how important it is to study it, to take it apart and to examine its impact on culture. Religion, images of God, holy texts are as powerful as peace treaties or nuclear bombs. And so, I'm glad I have been a Christian because I can be a part of determining what role our faith plays on the world stage.
So Dave may be right - my parents' divorce brought me into a lifelong relationship with Christianity that is for better or for worse. Amazingly, in spite of my critiques, I have Campus Crusade to thank. :)
I want to end with a question for you: How do you feel that your Christian faith has benefitted you in the past and in what ways has it changed its role in your life?