Monday, September 19, 2005

upon this rock

I came across faith in the most unexpected place today. I was doing research in GQ this morning. No really, I actually was (although it turns out they don't post their editorial calendar so it was a short trip). In the course of my search I came across an article by John Sullivan about a trip he took to Creation -- the Woodstock of Christian rock. I got hooked into the article because the author was so obviously anti-Christian rock, a position I can sympathize with entirely. While it's true I do own a copy of the first Jars of Clay album, in general [Jars excepted] I have to agree with the author's claim that "Christian rock is a musical genre, the only one I can think of, that has excellence-proofed itself."

The article went on to be really funny at first. The author tried to get find a few people willing to travel to the concert with him. He was hoping to get the human angle, the "here's what the herd is thinking" sideline. Instead he tragically misunderstood the average age of the people who read the board he posted on. He realized one email too late that he had "just traipsed out onto the World Wide Web and asked a bunch of 12-year-old Christians if they wanted to come for a ride in [his] van." A few days later when he consulted his lawyer he was given the excellent advice to "never touch a computer again."

Surprisingly though a few pages in the article turned into quite a beautiful discussion of faith. Turns out the author had gone through what he described as a "Jesus phase" and was quite willing to talk about it. Speaking of his spiritual walk he described faith as "a logical door which locks behind you." He went on to say:

Everything about Christianity can be justified within the context of Christian belief. That is, if you accept its terms. Once you do, your belief starts modifying the data (in ways that are themselves defensible, see?), until eventually the data begin to reinforce belief. The precise moment of illogic can never be isolated and may not exist. Like holding a magnifying glass at arm's length and bringing it toward your eye: Things are upside down, they're upside down, they're right side up. What lay between? If there was something, it passed too quickly to be observed.

Forgive me for being shallow but since when are there philosophical discussions in the pages of GQ? I was impressed by the way in which he was able to look at his own faith from a distance even though, now that it is lost to him he seems to mourn it, or perhaps mourn it's passing. He wrote, "My problem is not that I dream I'm in hell or that [my Christian friend] is at the window. It isn't that I feel psychologically harmed. It isn't even that I feel like a sucker for having bought it all. It's that I love Jesus Christ."

And that leaves me sitting here in reflection having just read GQ. What happens to a man who loves Jesus but has lost his faith? The author himself claims that his apostasy is a sign he never truly believed, but I don't buy that. He ended the article with lines from a poem I have never heard before. He said they came from Czeslaw Milosz:
And if they all, kneeling with poised palms,
millions, billions of them, ended together with their illusion?

I shall never agree. I will give them the crown.
The human mind is splendid; lips powerful,
and the summons so great it must open Paradise.

Afterwards, John Sullivan writes, "that's so exquisite. If you could just mean it. If one could only say it and mean it."

I don't know how belief eludes him. He seems to want to believe, or perhaps want to be the kind of man who could believe. He admits that he used to believe it and that he doubts his doubts. I find myself thinking of a man standing at a door and I wonder if John Sullivan is knocking or simply standing in front of it. I have no idea.

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