Ever since I heard about the St. Alban’s Theological Book Group’s discussion of Jonathan Sack’s The Dignity of Difference, (beginning next week on Wednesday nights at 6:30 in the rectory) dropping into my daily cup there has been a barrage of reminders about the perils of certainty. It doesn’t take long for me to recall the many occasions when the only thing that surpasses my stridency is my ignorance.
Dorothy Sayers, a Christian who explained the nature of the Trinity by equating God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to the process of making a piece of art, on several occasions also wrote: “The first thing a principle does is to kill somebody.” In an entry on Sayers in his book From Dawn to Decadence Jacques Barzun writes: “In this world belief in God she thought indispensable to answering unavoidable cosmic questions and as a fixed point by which to settle earthly ones, but to demand or enforce a particular conception of the Deity would ensure only division and oppression.” Similarly, one of the points at which my devotion to Christianity grew deeper was when I learned that the devout Christian theologians who have influenced me most were proponents of the concept of universal salvation.
Many of us in the contemporary church are comfortable with the role that doubt plays in regard to our faith; uncertainty invites – even welcomes – our curiosity in regard to exactly what we believe in and what we don’t. And yet the truth claims we profess, expressed most adamantly in the liturgy of the church on Sundays, tend toward the exclusivity of Jesus Christ rather than some sort of religious collective as the means for the hope of the world. Can our faith and liturgy be particular and diverse simultaneously? Are they already?
I think so. And of this, I am certain:
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
– Yehuda Amichai