For some reason, I cannot escape faith. Faith keeps showing up, where I am, even when I’ve thought that I had left it behind or explained it so thoroughly that it would surely be embarrassed and fade, irrelevant, into mere memory.
I do not mean to sound sappy or sentimental–or worse, naive–about my religion. Like so many, I am suspicious of religion and faith, cynical about the way in which the church has aligned itself with the Imperialists and Colonialists; I am skeptical about the hundreds and thousands and millions of times that faith provides justification for manipulation, ego-indulgences, oppression, and anything else that is crazy or evil in teh world. Faith has helped us along to becoming racists, misogynists, homophobes, oppressors of the poor, profiteers who raze and rape the natural world, and even genocidal sociopaths. Still, my story is one of faith. I seem to be searching for what John Caputo and Jacques Derrida call a “religion without religion.”
With an extra hour of free time on my hands, I’ll usually sit down to read or study. Better still would be to do so alone in a wild, natural space. I like to observe and think, to figure things out, to understand how they work and what they mean. For me, there always seems to be more pieces to the puzzle, more intellectual connections to be made. What can be most difficult for me is to just relax and engage life, to not become so consumed with observing life that I forget to live life. In terms of personality profiles, I am an INTJ (Myers-Briggs) and a Type 5 Investigator/Observer (Enneagram).
I live in Kodiak, Alaska, a small city on an island a few hundred miles south of mainland Alaska. My fiancée, Tamie, spent her summers commercial fishing on a little island just off the island of Kodiak. This little island is Bear Island, and it was fishing on Bear Island in teh summer of 2010 that eventually led us to live in the city of Kodiak. Bear Island is on the opposite side of the island of Kodiak, opposite from the city of Kodiak. It is remote, wild, and beautiful. The geography of Alaska resonates with me, as does the idea that there is just endless, infinite space with no planes, trains, or automobiles–just endless, untamed land. I am, I admit, a bit of aLuddite, a lover of the wild world. It took me a while to realize this. Most of my life has been lived in northern Indiana, which like so many populated areas of the U.S. emphasizes control of nature. There is something to be said for this, of course, but for me I want to stay connected with something in me that is primitive and primal.
It was in Indiana that I had a deeply formative experience. For one year, Tamie and I taught a creative writing class in the Kosciusko County Jail. Until this time, I was under the general conviction that I would go on to get a Ph.D. then teach classes and write books. Something began to change in me, however, as I read the stories of my students in teh jail. I began to feel a sense of calling, a pastoral calling to lead and minister with faith communities among people who are marginalized and ignored by most of society. Despite how wise we are to the failures of religion, perhaps a faith community can still be a place of healing and a platform from which we can advocate and advance social justice and equality.
In college I studied accounting and business administration, and I worked professionally in accounting for about ten years after graduation. I am a critic of the way we practice capitalism here in the U.S. Politically, I am sympathetic to the Green Party, with their emphasis on creating sustainable, local economies, their respect for the dignity of all persons, and their emphasis on environmental responsibility.
I am also deeply concerned with the way our economic structure promotes oppression and violence. War and the weapons of war are the greatest U.S. expense. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our prison systems are now a major economic system in our country. Taken together, we have created an economic system that profits from violence, crime, and poverty.
It is difficult for me to just write my story. I keep wanting to define myself and explain myself according to what I believe or what I think or the way in which I view the world. I am writing this story, my story, on paper, in a journal, in a park in Temple Texas; but it’s difficult to stick with my story. I keep finding myself having to edit out several paragraphs where I talk about what I think, not who I am or where my story has taken me. In a very important way, this struggle is my story: to engage the narrative of life and not define myself by what happens in my mind.
We humans are so silly. Why do we struggle with things that are so obvious and so simple?
This blog is my attempt to open up my story, to just write my life, to share the trivial minutia. For me, this will be an ongoing challenge. Waxing eloquent about theology, economics, or philosophy is easy. Telling you that I had a crummy day for no reason that I can figure is not so easy.
My favorite album is A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. I love to listen to Coltrane because his music so often feels both chaotic and harmonious. Each musician is trying to break out of the group and just solo, like a stream-of-consciousness moment; yet at the same time they are all responding to each other, aware of the direction of the music. The music, like life, seems pointless while at the same time that very meaninglessness is the point.
To write this blog, to share my story, is to see what emerges. I’ll try to break out and solo, but I will always be responding to the world. I’ll just have to kind of let go and see where the music takes me. Perhaps this is the act of faith, a faith to respond to the world. Perhaps this is what I mean by the fact that I cannot escape faith: that I cannot escape life, for all of the ways it is mysterious, painful, beautiful, unjust, lovely , true, pure, dark, completely beyond me and yet closer than my heart’s beating. A live a life of faith, a love supreme.