“I can really relate to what you’re saying, and I don’t think the church makes a place for doubt.”
“My friend was told she couldn’t be a Christian because of some of her doubts.”
“I didn’t think I was allowed to ask those questions.”
(Responses received from I Don’t Believe in Jesus Christ II)
If you are here, it means you are part of this movement.
It’s bigger than you, it’s bigger than me, and people all around the world are joining this new Reformation.
It’s the Reformation of Doubt. The movement of unabashed pursuit of Truth. It’s what the church has been claiming to do all along.
You know the verses and maybe you’ve heard the sermons. Seek Truth with your whole heart and you will find it. This is how athiests find God, and how little children discover Beauty.
Seek. Ask. Knock. And it will be found, answered, and opened.
Except of course if you ask the wrong questions.
Cults and Culture-
Any time two or more people get together, culture is created. Social norms, rules, and generally understood feelings as to what is and isn’t “what we do here” develop. This is because we are tribal people, and it is never going to change. It’s in our blood.
So you can imagine what happens when we start forming tribes around something as deeply profound as knowing and relating to God.
Welcome to religion.
Welcome to “the Church.”
Jesus’ word for church is the Greek “ecclesia,” or “mob.” A grouping of people that form around an idea, person, or worldview. Jesus’ Church is the one most of us talk about, but any “mob” of people that form a culture is a “church.”
Across all religions, every church has unwritten rules, and anyone that visits can tell in about a hymn or two if they ascribe to those rules or not.
Some church cultures are exclusive; if you don’t follow their rules to the letter, you don’t belong. Some churches are so exclusive that everyone is practically a photocopy of each other, thinking and doing all the same things as everyone else.
We call these cults.
Finding the Walls-
Regardless of which church we happen to be in, whether Muslim, Hindu, Athiest, Christian or Native American, we all know the pain that comes when we butt up against these rules.
No matter how free or accepting our brand of church is, all communities have walls that hold the structure together. Some of these walls protect us. Some define who we are, and help us to live out the fullest and most meaning driven existence we could possibly create.
Others block out the sun, and leave us starving in a dark room without a door (if you ever played The Sims, you’ve watched this kind of thing firsthand. I used to lock my poor Sim avatars in door-less rooms all the time. I was a troubled kid.).
Sooner or later, someone comes asking, seeking, and knocking. Someone starts to push against that walls to see what happens. This is when the others in our “church” become our attackers.
When we doubt something that is fundamental to the preservation of the group, especially if it’s something everyone silently “agrees” to ignore, then the group rises up to destroy the threat. Again, this isn’t surprising; it’s human nature.
Parents defend their families, tribes defend their communities, and churches defend their ideologies. That’s why when someone asks “how do we even know God exists?” or “if God wants a personal relationship with us why doesn’t he just show up already?”the surrounding community rallies together to “shun the nonbeliever!” (Somebody better know where that quote is from. C’mon y’all!)
We silence what might destroy what we love, which is why we fight so hard to defend our worldviews.
The Ancient Christians understood a secret about church that most of us in the West have long since forgotten. They did “walls” a bit differently, and their secret can unlock a whole new dimension of what it means to come together and form culture.
The apostle Paul talks about a church model where everyone is different and everyone participates. No one is “of Paul” or “of Peter” or “of whoever,” but instead everyone unifies around belonging to God. This community is filled with differing theologies, philosophies, classes, ages and races. It has doubters like Thomas and lovers like John. It has female apostles like Junia and male apostles like Peter.
It is a church that isn’t afraid to doubt.
Doubt the social order. Doubt the religious structure. Doubt even the very existence of the risen Lord. These things were talked about openly and publicly. These doubts were expressed to leaders and to each other.
This was an open culture that allowed people to share their stories, and to let one person’s strength balance another’s weakness. The doubters could ask the believers, the “evidence seekers” could talk to the “evidence holders,” and those who had questions could know they were not alone.
They didn’t by any means get this all perfectly right, but this is the kind of Church we are invited to build upon today.
A New Kind of Church-
After 2,000 years of Christian Church history, 1,500 years of Muslim Church History, and thousands upon thousands of years of Human Church history, we are ready to take our expression of Church to the next level.
It is time to build Churches of Doubt.
Most of our churches fear doubt because it tends to make our worldview feel unstable, but who wants to live a life that can be destroyed simply by honest questions?
Jesus promises that if we seek, ask, and knock that we will find. The Church of Doubt embraces that you can’t destroy truth by doubting it. As a matter of fact, the only thing that doubt can do to true faith is reinforce it.
Think about it. Can doubting gravity make it dissapear? No, of course not. Yet, that doubt can lead to new discovery that deepens our understanding of what Gravity is, which makes us that much more sure of its reality and its properties.
Doubting God, religion, or any of religions structures is an invitation to discover Truth, not a threat to that truth but only those grounded in experiential knowledge of Truth will understand that.
If you are doubting, you are not alone. All honest seekers do. Even within your churches right now, there are those that have doubted the same things you doubt. Some of them are doubting now, while others have found gemstones of living Truth on their journeys of doubt.
You are invited to doubt with me, and to doubt with your church. As a part of the RealHopeRising community, you get to be a voice for this new type of Church that enjoys Truth even as it is discovered through the gift of doubt. God gave you your doubt for a reason. It’s about time we step up and start doubting together.
Have you ever felt discouraged by your community from doubting certain things? What were they?How does your community respond to those that doubt it? Do your “churches” embrace and encourage doubt? What happens when the doubter arrives at the “wrong” answer according to that community?
We are all the movement. I look forward to hearing from you.
For more on doubt, check out my previous two posts in this series:
For more info on the RealHopeRising Church Community based out of Sacramento, please contact me here.