Radical doubt underlies my experience of being Christian. At any moment – for any length of time – I am willing to let the whole practice and tradition go, to see it all as unhelpful, confused, discriminatory, superficial, distracting, unnecessary, illogical . . .
It is like an enormous wave overtaking this aspect of my experience, decimating it and strewing the pieces for miles across the landscape.
The work is to let this wave of doubt come and go of its own volition without resisting it, without trying to turn it into something that it’s not. And then, in the ruins, in whatever remains, reconstruct anew the fundamental relationship: self/other, self/Christ, self/God, self/world, et cetera.
It is not easy.
Given my structure as Homo Sapiens, my inclination is to solve problems and resist what appears to cause them. When uncertainty arises, the inclination is to do whatever possible to convert it to certainty. Doubt is the sand on which no stable residence can be constructed.
This feels rational and self-loving. After all, it is a natural aspect of being human. I am not disappointed in myself for being unwilling to live in doubt.
Yet on the other hand, doubt, too, is natural. It, too, arises as a fundament of my structure and nature. Clearly it is sometimes merited – how else do we learn? Become more loving, helpful, patient, instructive? Thus, I want to notice doubt. I want to give attention to it.
Letting doubt just happen – letting it arise naturally in my living without rushing in to change it – is what I mean by “noticing” doubt. By “giving attention”, I mean simply letting doubt have its own space by being in responsive dialogue with it. What does it feel like? What does it want? It clearly wants my attention. But why? How?
Who and what am I when I doubt?
I do not seek doubt, and yet at times it is there. I cannot kill or otherwise end it, for it always returns. While I have the capacity to respond to doubt, I am not its author. I am not its master. Like temptation, like surrender, it is given.
Of course, if doubt is natural, then it arises in concordance with Christ, the light in which all things have their existence. In the lawful order of God, that which appears is what is given and, as such, is the material in which it is also given to work out holiness and grace, and to end – if possible, to whatever degree possible – our alienation from God and Love.
Thus, rather than resistance and disdain, doubt deserves welcome and acceptance. In a sense, this suggests that Christ is that which – in addition to welcoming Christ – is that which doubts Christ. Christ inheres in doubt as well as certainty.
Thus, when I sit quietly and doubt Christ, I sit with Christ. In my nonresistance to doubt, I affirm Christ and Christ affirms me, even if – perhaps especially if – I do not experience the relief and joy such affirmation would seem to propose.
So Christ does not come and go according to my experience of doubt or of certainty; Christ is present in and as both.
This is another way of saying that Christ is beyond – transcends, perhaps (is other than) – the dichotomy of “I feel good/I feel bad.”
I am not suggesting that if we are unhappy we should double down on our unhappiness. It’s okay to come in from the rain. It’s okay to take an aspirin. It’s okay to call bullshit on somebody who’s full of shit (temporarily or otherwise). I simply observe that doubt is not antithetical to living Christianly.
When I no longer resist doubt but accept it as “also Christ,” as “Christ which does not come or go,” then an opening appears. Life widens. Doubt exposes a chasm, an abyss, one we are already toppling through in darkness. It reveals that as constituted – in our very living right now – we cannot find our way, cannot assert who “we” even are, or what “our way” might even be.
And yet, in this emptiness – in this void – we discover agape, the unconditional, impersonal, all-inclusive love which shifts our living from the narrow confines of self (that can be lost, found, and lost again) to the radiant wellspring of the collective, the whole related unto us, in which my joy and your joy are one joy, one love.
It is knowing this one love that enables us to live from it – as it – and thus embody the good news that death is conquered and only happiness and peace need attend our living. Doubt is not a failure of faith, nor a glitch in our well-being but the essence of our humanness, which forever relates us through Christ to Love itself.