A case for faith

There's no sense in going further -- it's the edge of cultivation,"
So they said, and I believed it -- broke my land and sowed my crop --
Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop:
 
Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated -- so:
"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges --
"Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and wating for you. Go!
 
So I went, worn out of patience; never told my nearest neighbours --
Stole away with pack and ponies -- left 'em drinking in the town;
And the faith that moveth mountains didn't seem to help my labours
As I faced the sheer main-ranges, whipping up and leading down.
 
March by march I puzzled through 'em, turning flanks and dodging shoulders,
Hurried on in hope of water, headed back for lack of grass;
Till I camped above the tree-line -- drifted snow and naked boulders --
Felt free air astir to windward -- knew I'd stumbled on the Pass.
 
'Thought to name it for the finder: but that night the Norther found me -
Froze and killed the plains-bred ponies; so I called the camp Despair
(It's the Railway Gap to-day, though). Then my Whisper waked to hound me: --
"Something lost behind the Ranges. Over yonder! Go you there!"
 
Then I knew, the while I doubted -- knew His Hand was certain o'er me.
Still -- it might be self-delusion -- scores of better men had died --
I could reach the township living, but....e knows what terror tore me...
But I didn't... but I didn't. I went down the other side.
-- From "The Explorer" by Rudyard Kipling
There comes a time in a man's life when the world stops giving you things, and starts taking things away. It is inevitable that this should happen; we are mortal, after all, and death is as much a part of life as anything else. Eventually, all of us will pass on, to stand before the Almighty and account for our time on this Earth. Sadly, except for certain special cases, we cannot choose precisely how or when we will die, but we can choose to affect the manner in which we are remembered.

And the best that any man can hope for is that he leaves this world a little better than it was when he found it, by raising strong sons and virtuous daughters who will carry on his name and his legacy through the ages.

That doesn't make the loss of a loved one any easier to bear, of course. And sometimes, when such a loss hits, and a man is faced with a choice between bad and worse, he is left with nowhere to turn- except to a Creator that far too many of us would like to believe does not exist.

And when that happens, a man will come out of that experience with his faith in the Lord shattered and broken, as glass smashed upon the floor... or strengthened and sharpened, as a sword forged by fire and shaped between hammer and anvil.

Such was the choice facing me a few weeks ago.

Someone very dear to me died recently. It was his time, in my opinion- well past his time, for over the last few years I had seen him deteriorate beyond the point where he could recognise his own family. The last time I saw him, earlier this year, he had absolutely no idea who I was and was a hollow shell of the good and kind man that I remembered from my childhood.

So even though I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing, it was with a sense of relief that I greeted the news. At long last, his suffering was at an end.

But, there was... an issue.

In the old country, when someone dies, the family is expected to observe a series of rites and rituals that, to Western eyes, seem arcane and bizarre in the extreme. And the whole family is expected to be there to honour that person's passing.

Such a trip for the "wake", as it were, would involve an enormous amount of discomfort, expense, and hardship. To get there takes a minimum of 25 hours' travel; you arrive feeling like death warmed over. In my case, it's like going to a foreign country, with alien customs and ideals, where the food is basically inedible for someone like me, the customs make absolutely no sense, and the people are every bit as strange to me as I am to them.

On top of that, mid-September is an absolutely awful time to travel, for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the fact that, in my industry, this is when things start to get busy again. Everyone is back from vacation, and in a very big hurry to get things done before the markets go into cruise control after Thanksgiving. And then there is the weather to consider. September in the old country is a time of utterly miserable heat and humidity; American summers in the northeast are picnics in comparison. We're talking about 90% humidity with 35-degree-Celsius heat- conditions that men cannot easily endure, especially when they are used to the relatively temperate weather of northern climes.

But the worst thing about such a trip, by far, is the fact that there are... well, let's just say "family politics", involved that I don't even want to begin to get into. If it were merely a case of going in order to honour the memory of a good man, that would have been an easy choice to make- but the politics I refer to have poisoned relations within my family to such a degree that my mere presence could easily inflame things and set in motion events that neither I nor anyone else could control.

Those issues have caused no end of tension for my father, who has to deal with the results every single day. His strength of will is tested daily by those realities; it is partly because of those realities that things came to a head after the death in the family.

I knew that if I went, I would be risking far more than I could count- my health, my strength, possibly my job, up to a point, and certainly the trust and expectations of some of my clients. My parents both made it clear to me that no one would ever think less of me if I chose not to go. They knew what pressures faced me; they knew that I had worked long and hard to get to where I am now; and for the sake of my own peace of mind, they urged me to think of all of the trials and hardships that awaited, and to consider very carefully just what I'd be getting into if I went.

In every way, refusing to go would have made sense. It would have been easy. Based on purely rational grounds, it would have been the correct thing to do.

If I went, I would spend two days travelling, land with severe jet lag, go to the various ceremonies the very next morning, have barely a day to recover, go off to another ceremony, and then return. I would have spent three days travelling for three days on the ground. I knew that I would be in for a hugely stressful trip, exposed to the vagaries of the politics of my extended family, having to meet people that I do not care for and do not respect, forced to put on a false face for the sake of one who is no longer among us. I knew that if I went, it was a virtual certainty that I would fall ill upon my return- potentially quite badly, given the pattern of past trips.

And no matter how I tried, I couldn't make that equation balance out. 

But I couldn't avoid the fact that I had a duty to my family, and to the memory of a good man, to go. My family needed me. My father needed me for strength and support, even if he can never bring himself to admit it.

At that moment, caught in the jaws of a dilemma with no good way out, I would have given almost anything to have the choice removed from my hands, to have someone tell me to go or to stay, so that I could abdicate responsibility and not have to face the consequences.

It was at that point that I turned to the Lord, and asked Him, in despair and at an utter loss to decide between a bad choice and an even worse one, for His help. I did what, ten years ago, would have been unthinkable to the younger man that I once was. I prayed, to a God that I once knew for a certainty did not exist.

And He answered.

I do not believe that the Lord speaks to us directly; I've never held much truck with the idea that men can somehow hear a voice from "out there" speaking to them in their heads. Instead, I have found that the Lord speaks to us by simply letting us see what is right, and then pointing out that doing what is right is rarely easy, and is not meant to be. Indeed, it would seem that the more right a course of action is, the more likely it is that His course will be arduous and painful.

And though I wrestled long and hard with the choice before me, I knew that, when the Lord calls me to stand before Him and account for my time on this Earth, I could not go before my Creator and tell Him that I chose what was easy and expedient over what I knew to be right.

I knew, ultimately, that the choice before me was no real choice at all. I had to do what was right, despite the cost. I could choose to do what was easy, and no one on Earth who really mattered would ever think any less of me. But I would know, deep down, that when I had been given the chance to do what was right, I had failed that test.

So I went. And basically everything that I feared would come to pass, did.

I've been back a few days now, after a truly insane trip. I have not slept properly for eight nights of the past ten- including one night where I didn't sleep at all and then had to put in a full day at work. I'm down with a rather irritating cold- though, fortunately, not quite as bad as I thought it would be. And the "family politics" I referred to up above were quite alive and well. The bad news didn't stop coming while I was there; when I got back home I learned that several close family friends had seen parents die over the course of the month prior to my visit, and while I was there we learned that a close family friend had been stricken with cancer and that his condition was deteriorating rapidly.

Yet I came out of that experience with my faith deepened and strengthened. When my family needed me, I was there. My conscience is clear. I did what had to be done- in the end, the only thing that really could be done.

I went to honour the memory of a man that gave me much, and who was a good man in life, even as his faculties dimmed and eventually abandoned him altogether. It is my firm belief that, even though he lived his entire life as basically an atheist with little more than casual disdain for organised religion, he stands beside the Lord now, restored in mind and body, once again the good man that he was, watching over his descendants with the same kindly smile and quiet good humour that I remember.

Most of all, I came out of that experience knowing- beyond any shadow of a doubt- that the Lord would not abandon me, and that He would continue to tell me what is right, rather than what is easy. When I prayed for His guidance and wisdom, He was there- not to absolve me of responsibility, but to impress upon me, once again, that the true price of free will is that a man must take responsibility for his choices, and must face the consequences, as a man.

There are many of us "red pill" or "neomasculine" types- far too many- who reject faith as shackles that bind Man to superstition and fear. They reject the Lord and His wonders in favour of an equally irrational devotion to "science" and the scientific process. While I do not question the great power and virtue of that process, I also note that the scientific method is and has always been subject to human error- the difference between scientage, scientody, and scientistry is one that too few of us truly understand and appreciate, and when we confuse scientage and scientistry for scientody, we run the very real danger of mistaking the biased result for the unbiased method.

I have come to a very different conclusion over the last few years. There is no inherent contradiction between reason and faith. They need not be in opposition to each other. Instead, reason must be informed and strengthened by faith, while faith must be constantly tested by reason.

And in this regard, those of us who abandon faith and pursue reason blindly are making, in my opinion, a terrible mistake.

Faith is not something that we can impose upon each other. It is something that has to come from within. It cannot really be explained- I could no more explain my faith in the Lord than you could explain the concept of "green" to a man born colour-blind. But it is there nonetheless, as real as real can be.

I do not, yet, presume to call myself a Christian. I only the vaguest notion of what Christianity really means, my writings on the subject notwithstanding. I don't pretend to be any kind of particularly moral person. I have, oh, many sins to answer for when my time comes. I haven't even read the New Testament yet.

Yet even so, I am pointed to the increasingly inescapable conclusion that it is the Christian understanding of the Lord that makes the most sense, and that the Gospel of Christ is the "one unbreakable shield against the coming darkness, one last blade forged in defiance of fate"*.

And I know now, without doubt or fear, what I had thought to be true for a long time but could never really put into words:

Even though, for many years, I abandoned the Lord, He never once abandoned me.



*Technically, that's a quote from Warhammer 40K. But it works rather well given the subject matter.

Comments

  1. I don't mean to just gloss over your loss. My condolences on that, my friend.

    But in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul said to "work out your OWN faith with fear and trembling." I grew up in Christian churches and yet I still simply had to walk away from Christianity as a religion for some time, just to make up my own mind. Because I'm afraid that the Christian religion in the West is very, very lost.

    For a while, I wondered if I still believed in Him. I wondered if maybe all my atheist friends were correct about it all being just a myth fashioned by the Old World. You know, those folks who built pyramids that you cannot put a razord blade between the stones, mapped the sky, started civilization who "just didn't know any better." The big dummies and their silly 'god' ideas! We've got ScienceMagicks now! We smart big! (Side note, it was those very Ancient Peoples of all branches that has helped me build my faith into something formidable)

    It was the LORD Himself that chased me. Yes, He chased me. Who on Earth could tell you why, Didact? I'm an asshole. I'm sinful. I'm intellectual but not 'smart' with my life choices. I'm divorced, single and mostly useless to society. I haven't even done my Prime Directive, so to speak, and fathered a child. Yet, there it is: He chased me down in ways that make a Hound of Hell seem downright docile.

    Many years later, I am here, with a faith that I will not apologize for. You should stop immediately saying things about what a sinner you are, how you don't know this and that. The LORD is chasing you. Let Him catch you, Brother. It seems to me you're already His, so let Him.

    You will have nothing at all to show for this, mind you. Save for contentment, boldness, peace of mind, the ability to think even more clearly above the fray of modernity, comfort in the midst of troubles (and you will have those still, even more so because when it comes to Darkness, when you see it and turn away, Darkness sees you turn. It covets you back), the ability to truly reason beyond sciencemagick talk today. Paul called it "The mind of Christ" and as peculiar as it sounds, he wasn't kidding.

    Walk right into His temple, right up to His throne, and tell Him who you are. He already knows. I don't know your real name, but I've let Him know you're coming by. :-)





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  2. Well, I'm sorry for your loss, and I'm glad for you and all, but saying that you want to be a "Christian" is worse than saying that you want to learn to speak "European."

    There is only one Bridegroom - yes, and I'm glad you've seen the truth of that - who has only one Bride, the Catholic Church. She is with Him and bound to Him, within this exact history and beyond it, eternally.

    Once you get over your romanticized, touchy-feely, ahistorical, echt-autonomous, a- or anti-sacramental "Christianity" and are ready to actually love your Mother, your real, historical, yet eternal Mother, then take instruction, get baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church, confess your sins, and start munching on the Medicine of Immortality.

    For the Eucharist is better than the purest, strongest iron you can ever lift. It is tender as a Lamb, and weightier than the whole world. It both nourishes and trains. And most important, the Eucharist exists - not as an airy idea, and not "by faith," but as Him, the crucified and risen Lord you purportedly seek but are deathly afraid of, as His real Flesh and real Blood in your exact time, existing "ex opere operato," serenely independently of your or anybody's "faith" and of all and any of your powers.

    If you are weak, the Eucharist will make you strong. If you are strong, the Eucharist will make you humble. As humble as you want. And then, very possibly, it will make you more humble than you want. Of course.

    And start thinking about an obituary notice for yourself that joyously says that you died "fortified with the sacraments of Holy Mother Church."

    And then maybe some very wise and very holy Catholics will give a rat's ass about your spiritual awakening.

    Or not.

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    Replies
    1. And here I thought Catholics were supposed to take the "love thy neighbour as thyself" part of Christianity seriously...

      Once you get over your romanticized, touchy-feely, ahistorical, echt-autonomous, a- or anti-sacramental "Christianity" and are ready to actually love your Mother, your real, historical, yet eternal Mother, then take instruction, get baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church, confess your sins, and start munching on the Medicine of Immortality.

      Do not come here and pretend that you know the first thing about my understanding of Christianity based on a single post. First read the rest of what I have written, and then come back and tell me where I got it wrong.

      Delete
  3. The Lord does not chase. He calls and you answer. The Creator of Heaven and Earth does not require us to make decisions. That's the difference between a Man-centred "understanding" of Christianity and a God-centred one.

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