“Stop the insanity!”
That was the catch phrase, I think.
The “fitness guru” (I believe that was her actual job title) told us to stop eating “fat” and start eating clean carbohydrates…or something like that. I can’t completely remember. All I know is I could have fifteen baked potatoes instead of one bag of chips. This was how I was going to stop the insanity.
Knowing what I know about health and fitness now, I think she was right about a few things: you do have to move and you do have to eat and you do have to breathe. All three things…very important. And hey, she was a private citizen, paying for the TV time. Nobody was being forced to listen to her and take any of it seriously. And maybe she helped some people. And maybe she didn’t help others. Either way, she wasn’t asking anybody for a vote at the ballot box. She just wanted to sell her fitness revolution.
Just a few years earlier, though, my grandfather had been placed on a very strict diet, after his first open-heart surgery. It was a low-fat, high carb diet. Only his guidelines came straight from the federal government. No butter or eggs or cheese or red meat. Nothing “fatty.” But even with this government-sanctioned diet, his weight didn’t change all that much. And for some reason he kept having to have open-heart surgeries. Two more, to be exact.
He died, years later, of something completely unrelated to his heart or his diet. He should’ve had the bacon.
We want to believe we know the truth about things; the rock solid, can’t-be-disputed truth. We need to base our lives on it. The world is a confusing enough place. And so we look for any corner of it that we can quantify or qualify or put in a box or place on solid ground. Some find absolute truth in their faith. They “know that they know that they know.” And they base their life on it.
How many heated online arguments have we all seen, between the theologically “learned” (pronounced “learnED” – that always sounds smarter and more sacred because it has a touch of King-James-speak) about the meaning of this scripture or that one. How many articles have we seen, talking about how “the church” is “slipping into secularism?” Or how many have we seen from the other point of view, that asserts that “the church” isn’t relevant enough in today’s culture?
How many judgement calls do we make daily, based on the things we know with absolute certainty?
A young pastor, here in Nashville, committed suicide last week. I was asked by several people to comment on it or blog about it. That’s because we need voices we trust to give us assurances that what we’ve based our lives on are truths. Some people need for him to have gone to hell. Some people need for him to have gone to heaven. Some people need for whatever his pain he was in to be validated. Some people need for it to be invalidated. Some people need for his suicide to be a statement on Depression. Some people need for it to be a statement on his own narcissism.
In the end, no matter what statement I make, or anyone makes, none of it helps him. And none of it helps his family. And, there’s a good chance that none of it helps the next person contemplating suicide.
For those who can’t find the absolutes they’re looking for in faith, they turn to science …
Surely we can know all the unknowables through science, right? Science is fact. It cannot be argued with. It governs the universe. Doesn’t it???
How many Facebook arguments have we witnessed, between people who know just enough about science to be dangerous online? I read a thread, just this morning, about climate change. That’s a subject that brings out all the people who “know that they know that they know” (very much like those religious people who have read the bible through a few times). Phrases like “peer reviewed” get thrown around a lot and tons of percentages get used. Climate warriors love percentages. Then, the other side quotes their percentages and statistics and reports. And everybody posts their links. It’s not a good online argument without the mic drop links that lock down the proof on your side.
But all science is only based on what we NOW know. And none of it is based on what we might know a hundred years from now. And that makes so much of it speculative. Any GOOD scientist will begin any conversation with this phrase: “based on current facts.” Because they know that facts can change as we learn more. And they often do.
Anyone who believes science has all the answers has never funded any scientific research. It has been my experience that good scientists are as much seekers as anyone else. And their minds are often far more open than the people looking to them for something solid on which to base their lives.
So, where is the young pastor spending eternity? Is your eating of animal flesh causing you to be unhealthy? Will Miami be underwater in 20 years? I’m going to make the most controversial statement a human being can make these days: I. Don’t. Know.
“I don’t know” is a phrase we simply abhor. Because it doesn’t give us the footing we’re looking for. It forces us to continually consider other sides and other points of view. We don’t want to hear “I don’t know” from our preachers or our counselors or our personal trainers and definitely not our scientists. “I don’t know” leaves us unsatisfied and groping in the dark for answers.
But until you can live with “I don’t know”s, I’m not sure you can come to any peace in your life.
I found a doctor who gave me all the health answers I’d been looking for, once. He opened doors of knowledge I didn’t know existed. Through him I learned that fats weren’t the problem. Butter, eggs and cheese hadn’t been my grandfather’s downfall. Sugar had been. I learned about science and health and genetics and it all tied together through faith, somehow. And I was certain I finally had all the answers I had been looking for my whole life. And more important than just my belief in his answers was the fact that they actually worked.
And then, that doctor died of cancer at age 63. His exhaustively researched and well-thought-out answers couldn’t save him in the end.
Were they wrong? Was HE wrong? Again …I don’t know.
True freedom doesn’t come until you question everything you’ve been taught and accept that you may be wrong about everything you believe. Jesus might not have existed. We’re accepting everything we think we know about him and his teachings, on faith. We’re accepting that the writers of the Bible are who it says they were. We’re accepting that they didn’t embellish or misremember ANY single detail. It’s called faith, because that’s exactly what it is.
But everything we think we know about current science is also being taken on faith, as well. We put our trust in reports and reviews made by human beings. And we believe that their research and conclusions are correct and accurate and checked and re-checked and essentially…infallible. And we rule out bias and corruption and, well, simple error. And we have faith that it’s all true. It’s called faith, because that’s exactly what it is.
But what if we’re wrong about all of it? Or most of it? Or some of it?
I find that my faith is much more solid when I’m able to say, “I don’t know” than it is when I’m sure about everything. Because true faith knows it’s all going to be okay…even when you don’t know if it is.
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