The River of Life




I am an agnostic Christian.

For the sake of full disclosure, perhaps I should define what I mean by agnostic. I believe in God; I just don’t think we know squat about him. I sense that we are linked by something mysterious, that we are more than matter. I am not agnostic in general, I am merely agnostic toward the Christian depiction of God, or any other personal god, feeling that inadequate evidence exists for one caricature to rise above the rest. Arguing about whether it is Shiva or Allah who is the Truth is a little like bickering over the color of Cinderella’s eyes. Yet I believe, because I have both seen and felt God. I have sat in the churches of various denominations and seen strong people reduced to emotional puddles and then lifted into radiance. I have seen kidneys given to complete strangers. I marvel at Mother Teresa’s mission of kindness in the name of God, though she herself felt estranged from the God of her church.

I am a Christian in search of God. Christian, because Jesus is my inspiration and Christianity is my heritage.

Life is a mystery. How do we explain our universe, life’s origins, and human consciousness? In the Christian Trinity, we have the Son (the mystery of incarnation, or God-in-us); we have the Father (the mystery of our creation and creator); and we have the Spirit (that “something mysterious,” the wave of meaning and purpose which links us). All three are astounding, beautiful, awesome. We Christians tend to combine these three mysteries into one, and then personify their union, though we have no evidential reason for doing so. Nevertheless, I am happy uniting all three under the heading of God so that a common ground exists for discussion.

I am also a liberal Christian, living in a conservative world. Most of my family and friends are conservative Christians. Conservatives consider apostolic tradition of utmost importance, meaning they seek to emulate the first-century church as best they know how. This is a noble goal, but it can lead to stringent intolerance for diluted beliefs. It’s the right way or the highway. Liberal Christians, on the other hand, find the creedal requirements which develop from such strictness stifling and contrary to observation and experience. We see God in many people and places, not just in Christian circles. This can lead liberals to a violent condemnation of narrow doctrine. Intolerance is intolerable.

And round and round we go. As a liberal Christian, I have both stooped to verbal aggression and felt the sting of attack. Both sides care so dang much that we can’t help squabbling, but this hardly puts a good face on Christianity. If the two sides could merely take one step backward, digging back to the Jesus we both adore, perhaps there could be a unity of purpose. Even though there can never be agreement about religious belief, the Kingdom could nevertheless advance. That is my hope in writing this book.