Your comments have betrayed your anxiety about faith. You have been confused by information coming at you from various sources, words and actions of friends, and awareness of the world in which you live. This is entirely normal, and you should not feel alone. Not all are as forthcoming about their uncertainties as you, and that’s why you feel different.
The search for certainty and meaning of existence has occupied man’s intellect for millennia. Many have concluded that they have received insight or deduced transcendent truth, and have made it their life’s goal to share their revelations with the rest of us. Some used gentle persuasion, others logic, some coercion and fear, while others elected an ascetic lifestyle and/or personal charisma to win followers. Their motivations have varied as widely as their methods. Some gained peace and wanted to share their bliss. Others (judging by their tone and demeanor) have become bitter, and think that vexing others is the way to please God. Some want to justify an institution. Some believe they can placate a vengeful deity and gain preferment for themselves. Some want to get rich. Others crave power. Some are simply cruel and wish to inflict misery on others. Hence, our world has a multitude of competing religious doctrines and practices. No wonder you are confused.
You are fortunate, beloved grandson, to live in a time and place where you are free to consider the work of those gone before, and to choose your own path to faith. For most of human history, people were coerced into observance of the dominant rites. The right to choose is our legacy as Americans.
At this point in your life, however, the right to choose seems less important to you than your desire for certainty. You have been told some things that your intellect finds improbable, and some of your peers have solemnly assured you that they have found God, and you feel that you have been left out. I assure you, you are not the first to feel this way.
For ages, perceptive and intelligent men have asked the same questions and sought the same assurances that you now seek. Some are willing to accept the first plausible explanation presented, elect to believe it, and cease to wonder. They seem very contented, and some of them have lifestyles to be admired. You, like your grandfather, have a skeptic’s bent – you need to know more.
I can’t tell you what you must believe and do – that is God’s prerogative. Those more intelligent, studious, and spiritual than I have spent their lives seeking certainty, and some never found it, viz.: Mother Teresa, John Calvin, and the Apostle Paul. Others (and their name is Legion here in our Southland) are absolutely and unequivocally assured and harbor no doubt whatever that they have found The Way. As you learn the language and understand the phrase “whistling past the graveyard,” you will understand your young friends’ vociferous assertions belie their anxieties. Many are as confused as you, but not as forthright. After all, churches are built on the rock of dogma. I’ve never yet seen “I could be wrong” engraved on an altar table.
So, dear one, go on with your quest in your indomitable fashion. Listen and evaluate without snap judgments or hasty decisions. As your skills develop, read. Ask your Dad and Mom about the things that trouble you. They can share what they have learned, and point you toward helpful material and toward people whose judgment and sincerity they trust. Read your Bible, sure, but don’t try to read it straight through and don’t expect to understand it all at once. It is the world’s greatest collection of literature, and all great literature requires diligent study to grasp its meaning. It is a group effort by a diverse group whose life and work spanned many centuries. They had different understandings of the nature of God, so you can expect inconsistencies, even contradictions, but that’s all right.
It’s the American Way to want it all, now!
It is God’s way to learn precept upon precept. “Be still, and know…” the ancient sage advised. And, “Go not with an angry man…” People who show anger and impatience are trying to convince themselves, not you – ignore them. Your life is the workshop in which God will forge His will.
I love you, and so does God.
Contact community columnist Sonny Scott, a Chickasaw countian, at email@example.com.