why i am no longer an apologist

October 21, 2012

If you’re unfamiliar with the expression, an apologist is one who, simply put, defends the faith.

I used to spend a lot of time defending my Christian faith. My own faith, as expressed in community, is a set of beliefs and practices that relate specifically to the Palestinian carpenter Jesus of Nazareth. I am gifted with a measure of cleverness and have cultivated an appearance of confidence so I would lead things, run courses, talk at little seminars. It was all, more or less, an attempt to justify, make credible, something that is fundamentally at odds with nature, something that is in fact, incredible.

And yet, there is a tension there, because I chose to believe what I now not firmly, but deeply, believe because, at the time, its truth seemed inescapable, and its truth seemed to resonate or perhaps, vibrate, with the rhythms of my deepest self. The rhythms of brokenness mixed with love. The rhythms of explosive life tangled in the grip of death. The shards of pain that seem to cut through places made tender by goodness. And so I hold now what I think are the truths with a kind of robust fragility. The truth itself is strong, like muscle, and my grip, weak.

For five years solid I surrendered my love of novels and plunged into Plato and Aristotle and Schopenhauer and and Kant and Nietzsche and Spinoza and Russell and Jung and Hume and Dennett and Arendt and Hegel and Heidegger and Aquinas and Sartre and Marx and Kierkegaard and Scheler and Singer and Descartes and Freud and Kuhn and Rachels and MacIntyre and Taylor and Adorno and Camus and all the rest and still my inexplicable love for this carpenter deepened and sharpened and softened, and still his songs and stories were lullabies to my restless heart. No parent told me to love him, and no teacher cared. But there was and is a flame that burns somewhere in my mind that provides light to everything that I can understand, because of him. And I have to tell people about him sometimes.

This is not something that is easily verbalised. It seems altogether rational to me, but its rationality is not its sum total. Because I am not just a brain; I am a person. And we can talk about chemical reactions and drives to procreate, but nothing can explain the deep rush of affection that surges up from my gut when I see my husband and partner of the the last fifteen years beside me on a Sunday night, drowsy and rumpled in slippers.

So I am no longer an apologist. But ask me what’s the reason for the hope that I have within me, and yes, I can work with that.