“Sometimes God calls a person to unbelief in order that faith may take new forms.” -Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss – Meditation of a Modern Believer
Do you remember, while lingering in the light of a face turned toward you, how a rush of love forever fractured your carefully constructed world?
Years ago I read a book by the religious philosopher, Martin Buber, called I and Thou, in which he posits that reality is dialogical and that wherever there is an authentic I-Thou encounter, God is present, like electricity surging between. And wherever there is an I-It relationship there is objectification, marginalization, at best, a courteous means-to-an-end, relationship.
Buber was a Jew but what he was talking about in an I-Thou relationship was the mystery and wisdom of incarnation, a notion central, if not unique, to Christianity. This naked subject to subject meeting, this open and abiding “we” of you and me, that invites what is always present—that is, the wholly other and intimate Eternal Thou—to become a felt, real, presence, is, in a word, Easter.
Incarnate I-Thou wisdom is too often absent in the heavy machinery of Christianity, traded away in the I-It transactions of what is called Christian Ministry.
I imagine that on the whole, God is more comfortable outside the secured doors of sanctioned dogma and hard parsed doctrine—which in turn primes the ideology of redemptive violence, feeds the mercy devouring mechanisms of religious hierarchy, perpetuates all forms of division, builds the visible and invisible walls of racism and sexism, obsesses over who’s in and who’s out, all the while forgetting the poor, or marketing the poor to raise social capital for the Denomination thereby proving the supposed orthodoxy of its tenets.
This is why Christian Wiman’s thought about God calling people to unbelief is radically refreshing. It is a call to a new form of faith, by going back to a time before “the way of faith” wedded itself to a large self-authenticating system—to follow the risen spirit of Love.
“The Glory of God is a human being fully alive.” -St. Irenaeus,
Clear away the creeds,
clear away salvation theology with its original sin,
blood atonement and heavenly reward,
clear away the ragweed that’s choked out the original Word,
tear down those towering clay-footed projections: omnipotent,
omniscient Father-God in our image!
and recline in the bright haze of another heart.
Release the light-spangled doves
and say to your love, “I and thou!”
and God will be in the clearing,
everything you need to be-come, will come,
everything modelled by Jesus will green—
kindness and empathy will sprout and tiller,
the gentle mystery of the original mover, will bud,
the latent longing to be the joy of another, will blossom,
and the love that casts away fear,
that lives as though death were not,
that trusts the delicate truths, whispered
in the warm rays, winds and rains of life,
will bloom you—fully alive.