What is truth?

Yeah. I know. This is the stuff philosophers thrive on. Yet, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

If you live long enough, you’ll come to points in the road where core beliefs get shaken. You can believe things about your God, about yourself, about the world you live in—that are patently false. (Though you may not know it yet.)

I’ve been discouraged by the number of things I was taught as a kid—especially on hard metal chairs in Sunday school—that haven’t proved to be accurate. (The Bible says that Noah took more than two of each kind of animal on the ark.) I’ve been discouraged by things that weren’t implicitly taught, but that were implied. (If you are good and follow Jesus you will have a perfect life.) I’ve been discouraged by illusions shattered. (People I thought loved me who didn’t.)

I’m confused by all the different belief systems in the Christian community. (I was taught by one teacher as a kid that Catholics couldn’t possibly get into heaven because they pray to Mary. Confusing since they actually met the criteria that denomination laid out to get there—belief in Jesus.)

The experience has left me skeptical. Not cynical. Open actually. That maybe there is more than what we know. More than we can figure out and document.

Once upon a time humans thought the world was flat. A rather big thing to discover it wasn’t. The thing is, we have no way of knowing how much flat world programming exists in ourselves. I do believe there are ideas we hold precious that simply aren’t right. (Spend too much time on that thought and it is intellectual chaos.)

But if head knowledge is such shaky ground, I’ve been pondering lately if there are things written on our souls that our hearts know to be true. If there are common truths that bridge cultural and religious chasms...

Yesterday afternoon, I was walking with a group of design professionals through the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. And while the architecture struck each of us differently in our reactions to the aesthetic, I was overwhelmed by the amount of money spent not just on the architecture but the operations (scene shops, wardrobe, actors, etc) for a place in which we tell stories.

Based on where we spend our money (the movie industry gets measured in billions), we value stories. And my thought is that the affinity for stories is such a common human trait across culture, geography and time that they are more significant than simple escapism. And I wonder if there are echoes in the broad themes of conflict, love, sacrifice, disappointment, rage, laughter, sorrow, etc. that are mirrors of a bigger theme written on our soul?

I have to be honest and say that I’ve been grappling with Christian theology lately. Please understand that I’ve believed…no, that’s the wrong word…I’ve known Jesus since I was a little girl. I’ve witnessed miracles, I’ve seen visions of things I had no way of knowing that came to pass, I’ve spoken in tongues (don’t freak out)…I believe He is “not the God of the dead but of the living” because He is very real to me in my experience.

But I see this huge disconnect between the One who raised the dead and said “you will do greater things than this” and this intellectual exercise that passes as Christianity.

Does it really come down to believing the right stuff? If I embrace the Virgin of Guadalupe, am I out? If I don’t pick the right millennial view is God disappointed? Because I have to say, I don’t know. I can’t figure it out.

This I do know. I want a hero with all the trimmings. The one who rides up on the white horse and rescues the city when all hope is lost. When despair sets in because it looks like evil is going to win the day.

I’ve never heard a story where the hero grabs the girl from the railroad tracks and pauses to see what she thinks. Or for that matter if she knows his name. He doesn’t stop to query her sexual orientation or denominational background. She’s in trouble. Trouble she can’t get out of. The man with the black moustache tricked her and now she is tied to the tracks unable to save herself. She can’t even scream for help. And panic is making her choke on the gag in her mouth.

Quite frankly, if I’m the girl watching the train speed toward me, I don’t believe I’m going to make it. I resign myself to my fate. Even if I see the horse, I can’t believe it. How could he ever make it in time?

We all know how the story is supposed to end. The hero gets there in time. The heroine kisses the hero. He is everything the evil guy is not. He sweeps her on the horse and they ride away. They live happily ever after and the evil guy winds up in jail. Though our experience doesn’t prove it out, we know deep inside us that this is how the story is supposed to go. We understand the power of the happy ending.

I don’t know how to quantify my theology, but I do know this. I want the big epic hero Jesus who gave His life to save the world then kicked death’s ass. This anemic version who requires we fill out the right forms and check a box can't be right. It’s too dissatisfying of a story.

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall