Low energy, in midst of gorgeous spring weather. Burnt out at work. Spend most of my time lately musing disconnectedly about religious-metaphysical conundrums. Interested in new discovery (Gillian Rose). Discouraged about my place in poetry land. Behind on projects unto which I should attend. What else is new? The phenomenology of the Marginal (Failing) Poet in America.
I'm one of the "believers". I can't help it. Things happened to me. I can't otherwise explain them. But - "Help my unbelief!" I spend a lot of time, very unsystematically, attempting to explain to myself - give myself some rational basis - for exactly what & how I believe.
But to put it into worthwhile & convincing language - writing - is another thing. Don't cast your costume jewelry before swine, Hank.
To the untutored modern/contemporary eye, religion is simply mythology, delusion. A projection from the brain. So how do I account for a faith which grants a very special status to one person, one particular Jewish son of carpenter?
Even if I accept that we cannot read the Bible literally - that much of it is "historical" storytelling & editing by priests, in exile in Babylon, in order to design an apologetic text for their own religious tradition - even so, I can still believe that those priest-writers were inspired by the spirit of God. This is, I think, the traditional idea : that the entire Bible was "composed" (via its writers) by the Spirit of God. I can accept this, I think, without being a fundamentalist - I'm not a literalist, I'm not going to argue for the "infallibility" of Scripture. (I'm an Episcopalian, for heaven's sakes.)
& maybe my great absorption as a bookish child in stories & novels and history, helps me to do this. Stories affect us in obscure ways. Their motive/meaning is not all on the surface, not amenable to reductive paraphrase. Stories & poetry are embodied language. So for me the life & work of Jesus can be both obscured by time & mythology, and historically actual & real (though we may not understand its full meaning & import : for now we "see as through a glass darkly").
My faith is rooted and expressed in a kind of enthusiasm (from the Greek, I think, for "inspiration"). An enthusiasm itself echoing, and triggered by, the vision of a created/creative cosmos - of life permeated & given meaning by the divine Being, the divine "I am". Personhood.
I believe the ancient writers of Scripture were also filled with a like enthusiasm (of vision). They were "filled with the Spirit" : they "spoke for" God (in prophecy). Biblical scripture is the formal sign-making, the forging of an image, a "lawful" text, which represents the "in-breathing" of that Spirit. When I say my enthusiasm/vision is "incarnational", this has something to do with how I conceive the situation. I love the word, I love the writing, and I love the life & truth it aims to represent - it's all incarnational.
In this way I can see the particular work - the vocation - of Jesus in a certain light, as the "Son of Man". As the symbolic End-Person : as the "fulfillment of the scriptures", the "fulfillment of the Prophets". The Son of God, the "first-born of the dead", the 2nd Person of the Trinity, the symbolic Imago or pattern of all humanity. The one in whom the mysterious knot of life-&-text, Word-&-Person, Spirit of God & nature of Man - are brought to a kind of closure-in-union. Earth & heaven, mortality & eternal life are joined together. When the Spirit is knotted, in-fused with the Person, this event becomes a kind of "template" to represent the divine spirit (or potential) in every human person. Star of Redemption : which means redeemed - purchased - from slavery. Soul-freedom, liberation.
The modern sceptic will ask : if the task of Jesus was to "humanize" God - then wasn't that job over a long time ago? Don't we live in a completely humanized, disenchanted, post-Renaissance, post-Enlightenment, post-Christian world?
Here again, I can't dispute this on very easily-rationalized grounds. Things happened to me. My enthusiasm I identify as a form of love. Of loving identification. A kind of affinity, a "kinship". Of identification with the lineaments of God as I see them radiate through the "law & the prophets" & the Gospels. The resurrection : I get it. Call it deluded superstition : but again I say, I'm not a literalist. What I get - fundamentally - is the news of a loving creation-Being/Power as source of reality, and of a human culture & human beings responding to that as inspired witnesses : formulating the true words of love & righteous life on earth. Time itself as somehow redeemed by this priesthood of witness. The basic law of love, the Way.
This is not to deny that spiritual wisdom & righteous life take many paths & show many manifestations in many creeds & cultures all over this planet. What it means for me, though, is to affirm a kind of actualization, in history, of the law of a "kingdom of love". That this arose in the Middle East & out of Egypt, both cultural matrices of "divine kingship", makes sense. But this is the counter-action of the Spirit of God, the "king of kings", the Eternal "I am" - the instauration of the ultimate divine law (love, agape, mercy-&-justice). & in the process liberating human beings from inward enslavement to any power & authority not from God : to make the "children of men" into "children of God". & thus to claim their full human dignity as images of God on earth.
As I say, my witness is obscure, I guess. Or perhaps it will be seen as formulaic superstition & mumbo-jumbo. I would not be here writing this if many years ago I had not undergone some charismatic experiences which forced me - as a rational, reflective person - to try to make sense of what had happened to me. Believe me, I have tried to "psychologize" what occurred - to explain my experiences as projections of subconscious personality traits, etc. I am sure there is an entire dimension - or many dimensions - of my life & personality which could be illuminated by such critical reflection. But for me, anyway, those dimensions are not the whole story, or the main story. I've been "touched" by something beyond myself. God's grace, unto this sinful man.