Monday, February 13, 2006

Because it's true

I recently met up with one of my husband's good friend's wives. I don't know Mai very well but was happy to have the opportunity to hang out with her for a day and get to know her better.

One of the things I couldn't wait to ask her about was her religious choices. Like me, she was raised pretty much without religion. Her dad is agnostic and her mom is Buddhist, but neither of them ever talked about religion much. While she was in school at a notoriously liberal Ivy League college she decided to convert to the Eastern Orthodox faith. (I think it's safe to say that she may be the only person ever at this school to go in agnostic and come out Eastern Orthodox).

As we ate cucumber sandwiches outside and watched the kids play in the yard last week I asked her how on earth she ended up choosing Christianity. Why not Buddhism? It seems like she would have been drawn to that since Buddhism is the hot "spirituality" on college campuses right now, and it's extra-cool that her mother, who is of Vietnamese descent, is the real thing. It seems like that would be a very tempting path for a college student exploring her religious beliefs.

I expected a lengthy intellectual discourse on the sociopsychological merits of the various schools of thought in modern religion, but the simplicity of her answer caught me off guard.

"I did explore Buddhism first," she said with a shrug. "But it's not true."

Seeing that I expected a bit more of an answer, she elaborated, "As soon as I started looking into Christianity I saw that it spoke the truth. The things it teaches about God, the meaning of life, what the afterlife is like, etc. were to me just obviously more accurate than what Buddhism taught. If one religion is telling you that two plus two equals five and another tells you that two plus two equals four, you go with the latter."

She went on to explain how she ended up with the Orthodox church as opposed to the other branches of Christianity, but I was stuck thinking about her simple answer to my question.

I realized that that was pretty much why I had chosen this route too. For all the doubts that still linger, I have yet to encounter another religious worldview (including atheism) that was a better fit for explaining life as I know it. And the more I research the historicity of the New Testament, the actions of the early Church Fathers and even the history of the Church the more I think that these people are telling the truth.

I think I've been overanalyzing a lot of the issues I have with my beliefs right now. In all my mental thrashing around and self-analysis I've lost sight of the big picture. Every time I get lost in thought, frustrated that I still have doubts, that I haven't seen any concrete proof of God's existence, I should take a moment to ask myself why I'm still even bothering to explore this religion. After all, back in my "open-minded" days (read: open-minded to everything except for Christianity) I explored a variety of different belief systems but never stuck with any one. So why now do I go to Mass every Sunday; spend way too much time updating this blog; bend over backwards to find time in my schedule to read Lewis, Chesterton, Geisler, Groeschel and all the other Christian authors whose books have overtaken my bookshelf? If my doubts are so deep and so strong then why am I devoting more and more time from my busy schedule every day to pursue Christian thought and activities?

Because I think it's true.

7 Comments:

At February 13, 2006 5:18 PM, Blogger Jeff Miller said...

Which of course is the only reason to believe.

One thing you will find is that the truth is symphonic and the more you find out what the Church teaches the more it makes everthing else make sense. There is a coherence in the Catholic faith that can be found nowhere else.

 
At February 13, 2006 5:58 PM, Blogger Christine said...

Jennifer,

I just found your blog (though I should have looked earlier...you have been mentioned on some of my favorite blogs), and will definitely book mark it.

My hubby was raised Methodist, but was an athiest for a while up until shortly after we were engaged. Okay, a few months after. I've always been Catholic, and he was ready to marry in my Church because of what it meant to me. Over a period of time, he wound up becoming a Christian (again) with a Fundamentalist twist. After our first child was born, we rarely missed Mass, and over the years, he's researched Catholicism on his own. Occasionally, I'd ask him about the RCIA possibility, and then I'd drop it. (I did not convince him to believe in Jesus, and I wasn't going to be able to convince him that the Catholic Church is true.)

This summer, he made the leap and is now in RCIA. He teases that he's doing it for me (which he offered to do when we got married - I turned that offer down), but when I really pressed him, he said he's doing it because he believes that the Catholic Church is closest to what Jesus left for us to be in, church-wise. Basically, because it's true.

Wow...that was a long way for me to go to tell you that you are on the right track, huh? God bless you on your journey, and I will remember you in my prayers.

 
At February 14, 2006 7:18 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Hi Jennifer:

Might I suggest that you add Merton to the list (Seven Story Mountain)?

I get so much from converts as their belief comes from such an honest place.

I am a Catholic "revert"...I was passionately Catholic as a young person and then fell away in college and worked my way back. When I came back I had very little faith--but I would just sort of try to rest my mind in Mass and release all the doubts I was struggling with and say "Here I am, Lord. I submit."

He took that--over time, mind you--and blessed me with more grace that I would have imagined possible.

I give all my doubts and objections to him, try to feel comfortable with them...St. Augustine (I think it was him, it's who I've been reading so it must be) said that doubting is not a sin, its what we do with our doubts. I no longer allow doubts that enter my mind to cause me anxiety.

"Free us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope..." is one of my favorite parts of the Mass.

This is a great post.

 
At February 14, 2006 11:34 AM, Blogger SteveG said...

Beautiful, beautiful post. I wholeheartedly echo Jeff's comment as well. Orthodox Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) is the key that fits the lock of our hearts.

I haven't read it yet, but I have heard wonderful things about Frank Sheed's 'Theology and Sanity' which builds upon the idea of the coherence of the Catholic worldview. You might want to add it to your wish list (I know it's on mine).

I think those of us with an intellectual bent definitely overanalyze things at times. That can be great in that it can offer us wonderful insights into the depth of the mystery, but it can easily get us off track as well.

For example, in a previous post on prayer, you said...

What I thought was the hand of God guiding me to see things I had not seen before was really just me using the meditative time of prayer to figure things out for myself.

...to which I might ask, what's the problem? ;-) The two are not mutually exclusive are they? Prayer is the time where we offer ourselves to be transformed by God. If that transformation occurs via a totally natural phenomena where we are 'rewiring our brain'* by meditating on life in the light of Christ's love and truth, does that make it less real? Does that mean that God's hand isn't involved? I don't think this is so.

This is the God who created our minds, and I'd be surprised if the supernatural didn't connect to us in a very 'natural' seeming way using the very material from which he created us.

This was just one example, but it’s true that we often look for a complicated answer, and protest when we encounter a question, when a simple answer suffices. The attitude I think we must take is one of humility where we first assume there IS and answer and then seek it out before letting a question turn into a doubt.

Anyway, great post!

* You might be interested in reading about scientific advances in understanding the neuroplasticity of the brain and the role of prayer and mediation in that The Mind and the Brain : Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force

 
At February 14, 2006 5:52 PM, Anonymous Hannah said...

Hi Jennifer,

Great post! Peter Kreeft says the only reason to become Christian is because it's true. Sometimes I think it's too good to be true, and other times I'm daunted to think about what lies ahead.

 
At February 14, 2006 10:26 PM, Blogger SteveG said...

P.S. You should hold a blog retitle contest to see if anyone can come up with a good blog name. For some reason, I think Jeff might be able to come up with something catchy. :-)

 
At March 05, 2011 8:22 AM, Blogger Matthew Coombes said...

What you're saying is that Christianity makes the most sense, and living it seems to work. But did the resurrection happen? Is Christianity really true? I have the same doubts.

 

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