Monday, March 19, 2012

The Adventurously Faithful

 In my conversations with and evaluations of those of agnostic or atheistic viewpoints (or any non-religious type), I frequently hear the criticism that Christianity is nothing more than a crutch, used by people too weak to deal with their own problems.  This especially holds true for Catholicism, where people see devotion, adoration, and pew-dwelling as a pathetic breed of people using superstition to settle issues rightfully dealt with in the realm of psychology.  
Well, if sin is imaginary, I'm sure you won't
mind me punching you in the face
for coming up with this ridiculous idea...
Now, granted, atheists/agnostics/non-religious have many criticisms, some of which are legitimate, others are just bad excuses from taking a bold step into the doors of the Church, but this one struck a chord.  So I asked: What's the root of their concern?  What do they have against pew-dwellers and Rosary-pray-ers?  And then it hit me:  There's nothing dangerous about simply pew-dwelling and Rosary-reciting.  Quite simply, these critics look at this kind of faith (which they tend to generalize as being the only expression of faith) and say: Where's the thrill?  Where's the excitement?  

There's a lot to say about this, and these critics have a point in some regards.  There ought to be some excitement about Christianity.  There ought to be something thrilling about the world.  People don't jump off airplanes and dangle by bungee cords because it makes them feel safe and secure, they do it for the sheer and dangerous thrill of it.  And, for the most part, that is perfectly fine.   There's nothing wrong with living an exciting life.  In fact, I think its good to live an exciting life.  Case in point:  Bilbo Baggins.

Bilbo Baggins:  You, in
hobbit form
Bilbo Baggins, the main character of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit," can be seen as the metaphor for many people, in that he lived much of his life in peaceful bachelorhood  until he had a run in with the wizard Gandalf the Grey, who sent him upon an adventure, and Bilbo's world never was the same.  For the rest of his life, he craved adventure, he thirsted for it.  

We are the same way.  We crave adventure, because we realize that we are meant for adventure.  Our lives are meant to have excitement in them.  This is why we read the epics of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  This is why we love heroic battles, passionate love stories, and death-defying adventure:  because we aspire to adventure and greatness.

So it is with our faith.  Our faith lives, although certainly a source of safety and comfort, of peace and serenity, must also be a great source of adventure.  One of the great tragedies of our ages is the lack of adventure in the world.  No longer do we aspire to find the adventure in our own lives.  We're much more content to find it on the screen or in the pages.  In Christianity especially, we're tending to lose the thrill of Christian faith.  Faith cannot merely be a shelter, it must also be a great journey.  
The Church, sailing to an eternal
We must take risks in our faith.  No one changed the world from a lounge chair, nor do we have the ability to change it from quarantining our faith into church walls and comfort zones.  Faith has the astounding power to change the world, but only when we do not domesticate it.  Faith must drive us towards something.  Some people treat faith as a lifeboat, but it is more accurately a ship.  Rather than merely being a flotation device meant to preserve you until rescue, the faith is a vessel of journey, with a destination across the proverbial horizon.

Now, having all these things considered, I pitch this curve ball:  When done right, even the most seemingly mellow of Christian practices is, in face, a massive adventure.  Rosaries, Holy Hours, and Chaplets, although considered boring by the outsider (and many of the insiders), are fascinating experiences to the one who has the patience and discipline to see them for what they truly are.  Mass, commonly bemoaned as boring, irrelevant, and unengaging, is the most dazzlingly indescribable experience of your life.  It takes the adventurous faith and the imaginative heart to see that Mass is more than bread and wine, that a priest is more than a man, and that Church is more than a building.  It takes a risky, adventurous faith, a faith that looks more like a journey than a refuge, to see it all for what it really is.

So to the skeptics and the superstitious alike, I give this word:  Do not domesticate the faith.  The faith is not just a refuge for the weak, but a means to make the weak strong.  The faith never lets you rest, for like Bilbo Baggins, there is always another adventure to be had.
"I think I'm quite ready for another adventure" -Bilbo Baggins

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