I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but I’ve been a little MIA online lately. There was once a time in my faith journey when I immediately checked the blogs as soon as I woke up every day. I felt I needed that presence to feel grounded. Now about once a week I wander around to see if I missed anything. I’ve been wondering what the source of my lack of activity is. Do I care less about these issues? Am I just too busy? Have I just moved most of my online presence into another medium? (Twitter, um, yes) Is bloggernacle fatigue normal? Is my level of faith so low that I’m coasting and don’t care?? Is my faith journey in a place that I no longer need to rely on the bloggernacle community and engagement for a foundation? This last week I ran into a post that seemed to fit.
Boyd Peterson wrote over at Rational Faiths on Landing Instructions for those with a Faith Crisis. Everyone really, really should go read it. It’s that good. I’m an accountant and don’t have much exposure to philosophy, so I hadn’t heard of Paul Ricoeur until Boyd introduced him and his ideas in the essay. Ricoeur developed the idea of three levels of engagement with faith: pre-critical, critical, and post-critical. In the pre-critical stage most things are accepted at face value. As someone moves into the critical stage they allow themselves space to examine and critique their faith. The post-critical stage accepts the insights of critique but seeks faith through those questions. It seeks to question *and* to obey. (I don’t want to copy Boyd’s post, but he has really good example of this; so really, go read it. You’ll be glad you did.)
A person can bounce back and forth between critical and post-critical thought, but they can’t go back to pre-critical – you can’t unsee what you now see. A lot of the things I lost in the pre-critical to critical transition were accompanied by a lot of emotions. I felt sad, angry, scared, betrayed, lost, etc. I needed support and community to work through that stage. The issues are still there but I need new lens to see through, because if I stay in the critical stage I’ll find it increasingly difficult to stay. Many people leave during the critical stage and don’t find the safe “landing” in the post-critical stage. The post-critical stage knows the issues, is aware of the insights the critical questions ask, and have the ability to hold the tension of sometimes opposing views without discarding them. As Brother Peterson says, “In this post-critical world we are, as [Ricoeur] put it, “animated by [a] double motivation: willingness to suspect, willingness to listen; vow of rigor, vow of obedience.”[xiii]” Another example from Rational Faiths:
When Saul spares the livestock, the scripture reads that God regrets having made Saul king and Samuel chastises him, saying “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). A pre-critical reading of this scripture requires us to think God condones genocide. A critical reading of the text would recognize that this text was written by a relatively primitive tribal people that attributed a call for genocide to their god. But a post-critical reading of the scripture allows us to think ethically about this scripture—to hold it in tension—recognizing that God’s words are inevitably filtered through a cultural prism. We can acknowledge that this is a misrepresentation of God’s will and think deeply about how we individually might justify acts of cruelty in God’s name. [xv]
I’m looking for a way to engage with those issues beyond a gut-level emotional reaction. I still feel like a novice compared to some (and have a lot of road behind me compared to others) and I feel I need to spend a lot more time reading Bushman and the minutes of the RS to be able to say I’m engaging with these issues at more than a superficial level. For me the move to the post-critical stage is a conscious choice; I know I’m going to stay for a variety of reasons, but staying in the critical stage won’t help me get there. I need to surround myself with post-critical thought.
Have you had a similar path in your faith journey? What resources have you found that help you most?