Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. – Anonymous
One Saturday night, many years ago, I attended a dinner party hosted by a married couple in one of my churches. Since I didn’t know the other invitees, after we were seated, the wife made introductions around the table, identifying me as her pastor. The effect of her introduction was predictable. A man made a joke about having to clean up his language.
Once I began to work as a minister, I soon discovered that my mere presence could make people alter outward behaviors. It first came to my attention at a birthday celebration for an elderly member. Looking for a glass in the kitchen, my entrance made three men quickly hide their beers, who thought they were safe hiding in the kitchen. I call it the Man of God effect. The operative dynamic is guilt.
That evening at the dinner party, in addition to the man who could no longer use dirty words, another guest seemed to find my occupation offensive. As we ate, he began to quiz me about the Bible and God, clearly viewing my mental state as either addled or dangerous. How could I believe in an afterlife? The Bible was a fabrication and there was no proof for a God, let alone one that loves people. As far as he was concerned, I was purveying delusions.
The flustered hostess intervened and apologized the next day, but I told her not to worry. It came with the job. In fact, I understood the man’s point of view. If not for certain experiences in my life, I might think the same thing.
His basic points are true. There is no proof for the existence of a God. Believing in a God of love seems irrational. There is no evidence of an afterlife, despite the claims of people who have died and come back. If you don’t believe in a God, the Bible is a fabrication.
The skeptical guest was simply a man of his times, a product of modern culture, where science provides the measuring stick. For the social sciences, religions perform significant social and psychological functions by manipulating attractive falsehoods. For the physical sciences, God is not necessary. The entire course of the universe, including ourselves, was determined and set in motion at the Big Bang, when everything began. After that, the laws of physics take over forever. Eternity exists, and that’s all there is to it.
In the face of so much rationality, to believe otherwise is irrational by definition. What doesn’t receive as much attention are the limits of being rational. Not everything that is real can be measured or explained. Believing otherwise restricts our experience of what’s possible.
I’ve had numerous experiences that are not amenable to measurement or explanation, but whose reality I never doubted, because of the intimate and meaningful manner they fit within my life. There is a relational quality and a sense of being known. But there is also a musical quality, a tone to the presence, the words, the voice. Once you become attuned, you realize the music permeates existence. The tune is one of depthless love and bottomless pain, a pain that can only be borne by depthless love. Such is creation.
I believe everyone has these experiences. Many have learned to ignore them, to the point they barely register anymore. But they are there, waiting to be acknowledged, waiting for a response, for recognition. Once you allow yourself to listen.
Picture of skeptical man by Tima Miroshnichenko: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-a-man-with-facial-hair-8727509/