A mighty host of my coreligionists, ever on guard against looming
criticisms threats to their faith, have for many years taken arms against academia’s latest culture-deteriorating enemies of truth: the postmodernists and deconstructionists. To their chagrin, I have not heeded their warnings, at least not since I began reading postmodernism’s deleterious prophets. I expected to find poison against which I would quickly become immune and a respectable purifier. Instead, I discovered drinks that have done wonders for my intellectual digestive track, and I gleefully pass a bottle at every appropriate occasion.
I came pretty quickly to forsake my old realist religious faith in favor of a distinctly postmodern apophatic faith. John Caputo, who’s to blame as much as anyone for my having gone astray, explains the kind of religious faith I’ve embraced:
The religious heart or frame of mind is not “realist,” because it is not satisfied with the reality that is all around it. Nor is it anti-realist, because it is not trying to substitute fabrications for reality; rather, it is what I would call “hyper-realist,” in search of the real beyond the real, the hyper, the über or au-déla, the beyond, in search of the event that stirs within things that will exceed our present horizons. In this sense, religion is, in the best and deepest sense, so much “hype.”
In having a religious faith that is not realist, but hyper-realist, I am a wayfarer uncertain of where I am, what direction I’m headed, and where exactly I intend to arrive. I’m a little lost, on a journey in the dark, seeking in my less lazy moments to find and follow the way. Those seemingly certain of the right path and where it leads would, perhaps, call me a poor pilgrim, and they would be right. I’m terribly poor at this religion thing. I fail to recognize God in the places I’m told the almighty resides. I’m faced with thousands of years of spiritual traditions, and yet I insist that I cannot know what I love when I love my God. I cannot be sure that a divine voice will not one day command me to depart because I have not made myself known to God.
Mine is not a comforting faith.
It is a faith of fear and trembling, which I suppose means it’s more biblical than the certainty-enriched fundamentalisms that claim, torches in hand, to have all the answers to all the really important questions and promise hellfire to people like me who desire to walk in darkness even though we may have seen a great light. For me, being religious has little to do with certainty about God or the moral life or reality or anything else. It’s about radical hospitality to the “wholly other,” to what may visit us from beyond the worlds we fashion, define, and cautiously defend. It’s about self-giving and forgiveness and the impossible demands of justice. It’s about transcending our idols and deconstructing the roads we pave for the journey. Most of all, it’s about the unconditional love of God, neighbor, and stranger, three words that are, in a sense, interchangeable.
Religion’s celebrations, services, liturgies and rituals mean next to nothing if they do not prepare one to love–to seek the good of others with one’s full being. If religion’s creeds, doctrines, and sacred texts to not call for love, then they are worth less than the breath wasted to speak them or the ink spilled to write them. The truth which religion ought to disclose is the truth of love, which is a truth one pursues and does, not a truth one possesses and imposes.
What I call postmodern religiosity can be summarized in the words of Teilhard de Chardin: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”