Saturday, September 22, 2007

Doubt and Imprisonment

It may be a while before I can settle down enough to actually get to blogging again on any sort of regular basis, but I thought these somewhat interrelated pieces interesting.

Firstly, the Saint of Calcutta and the "utter darkness" that she felt most of her life. I've always thought it strange, personally, that people would put so much emphasis on this 'feeling' of God, as in during those moments that they do not sense God's presence it's almost as if he's abandoned them. I've rarely, if ever felt God's presence in my life - certainly not in some sort of otherworldly or light-ish way. If I have, it's been through the touch of another, through the warmth of another, through the otherworldly and/or euphoric state that music can put me into (esp. Black Gospel music), or a particular state and time of peace. But I wrestled more with, I suppose, intellectual doubts than emotional doubts.

Not that I'm an intellectual or stoic; it's just that I've never relied on that stage that much, nor found it abundantly in the narratives of the Bible (well, with notable exceptions such as Jesus on the Hill of the Skull and David in a few of his psalms). Part of the truth may be that I was raised in a fundamentalist church, which being more Enlightenment than we would like to admit, was highly suspect of emotional displays of spirituality. (Truth be told, although my range has immensely broadened lately of what would be considered right and wrong within the Body of the Church, I'm still a bit off-put by what I would consider extreme theatrics - not the wave your hands in the air type, but perhaps the falling out/slap you with the Holy Ghost type. It's something that I think that I need to learn to fully respect and whole-heartedly love those who do honestly love the Lord and seek to follow him in their understanding).

Nevertheless, I do feel for the likes of Mother Theresa, people who have abandoned the Babylons of their fathers to traverse the unfriendly globe and land in the Canaan home that is not their own for God, only not to hear back from God for many, many years. Those who have acted out a Kierkegaardian and Sampsonian leap of faith only to find themselves in a cesspool of humanity at its most inhumane.

I think that Scot McKnight has some good things to say about this "darkness" (not fully reassuring, which is good, as how could it answer all of our questions?) in his series on Theresa, culminating with this article on his own hypothesis. It's worth the short read (and written with more authority and clarity than my little trifle here).

Secondly, some snippets from the educational philosopher Paulo Freire, whose manifesto A Pedagogy of the Oppressed I will quote from here (chptr. 1) was written, fittingly, in the 60's. This reminds me so much of what King was saying. Only this time, it's in Portugese:

[T]he oppressed must not in seeking to regain their humanity..., become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of the humanity of both.

This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power; cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both. Any attempt to “soften” the power of the oppressor in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this. In order to have the continued opportunity to express their “generosity,” the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well....

But almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors, or “sub-oppressors.” The very structure of their thought has been conditioned by the contradictions of the concrete, existential situation by which they were shaped. Their ideal is to be men; but for them, to be men is to be oppressors. This is their model of humanity.

Aarrrghhh! Why can't it be so much easier?!? Why can't we just say a magic word and release the prisoners? Why can't I be released and release others with me through just temporary willpower?

Well, if I desire heaven's footprints on earth, better get to workin'.


  1. Regarding your thoughts on Mother Theresa and that it's "strange... that people would put so much emphasis on this 'feeling' of God...", I agree. And it may be, as you say (though I have never given this much thought) our fundamentalist backgrounds that make us supect of "emotional displays of spirituality".

  2. Dude, I T-O-T-A-L-L-Y think your fundamentalist backgrounds may be getting in the way here. Let's review: God created man[kind] in His image and called it very good. So, why would He call it very good if there was some component that was anything less than very good? Since emotions are part of the human make up, we can conclude they are very good, indeed.

    So, why couldn't God use emotions as a means of communicating with mankind? - Oh, never mind, He's omnipotent. Please strike that query from the record.

    So then, why wouldn't God used a means that He created and deemed "very good" to interact with mankind?

    I don't think any one one element (emotions, intellect, volition) was designed to function on its own, but rather they were designed to operate in harmony. I think when these operate independently from one another, people run into that "crisis-of-faith" thingie I've heard so much about.

    Sometimes I think my non-fundamentalist background gets in the way of fundamentalist propaganda. ;)


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