“What do you seek—God? you ask with a smile. I hesitate to answer, since all other Americans have settled the matter for themselves and to give such an answer would amount to setting myself a goal which everyone else has reached … Who wants to be dead last among one hundred and eighty million Americans? For, as everyone knows, the polls report that 98% of Americans believe in God and the remaining 2% are atheists and agnostics—which leaves not a single percentage point for a seeker…
Truthfully, it is the fear of exposing my own ignorance which constrains me from mentioning the object of my search. For, to begin with, I cannot even answer this, the simplest and most basic of all questions: Am I, in my search, a hundred miles ahead of my fellow Americans or a hundred miles behind them? That is to say: Have 98% of Americans already found what I seek or are they so sunk in everydayness that not even the possibility of a search has occurred to them?
On my honor, I do not know the answer.”
— Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
I’m sure many of us can resonate with Binx Bolling, the main character in Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer. A sincere exploration (not to say that it is a chosen ‘adventure’) into questions apropos of God, truth, etc., etc., seems anathema in the predominant religious and ‘secular’ milieux. “Of course,” you might say, “Percy is writing fiction. And by the way,” you might add, “he doesn’t even have his facts straight.” Admittedly, that Percy received the National Book Award for this, his first novel, in 1962 should lend credence to the verity of a certain factual datedness. The thrust of Binx’s logic, however, continues to resonate, as the public logic of certitude (and subjective infallibility) still pervades much of Western culture.
Not only because of certain events that have transpired in the recent past in several Christian Universities and Institutions of “Higher Education”, but also because of the seemingly genuine lack of concern for proper biblical, theological, etc., education within the Church, I’m considering doing a three or four part series on the role of formational and transformational education/learning within the ecclesia. I’m particularly interested in interacting with an article that F. LeRon Shults published entitled Pedagogy of the Repressed: What Keeps Seminarians from Transformational Learning? and two books recently published by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza entitled The Power of the Word: Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire and Democratizing Biblical Studies: Toward an Emancipatory Educational Space. I think that Walter Brueggemann makes a critical distinction between the injunction of fidelity and the desire for certitude—this distinction is largely absent in the contemporary Christian vernacular.
In The Moviegoer Binx Bolling says (as we read), “What do you seek—God? you ask with a smile. I hesitate to answer, since all other Americans have settled the matter for themselves.” What responsibility does the ecclesia have with respect do addressing the problem of certitude? Should the ecclesia be concerned, rather than rejoicing, with such a significant number of individuals having “settled the matter” apropos of God? et cetera, et cetera, right? Let me end this post with an excerpt from the beginning of Jürgen Moltmann’s Experiences of God:
Why am I a Christian?
What a curious question!
Who is interrogating me like this? Do I have to put my name to my answer? The question sounds inquisitive. Somebody wants to know the reasons that led somebody else to a particular conviction. It sounds impertinent too — as if the other person is bound to justify his (sic) decision to believe. The question can lead both the questioner and the person questioned astray; for does Christian existence really belong to the level of reasons and counter-reasons, for and against? Do the reasons produce the conviction, or does the conviction produce the reasons? Kierkegaard thought about this and decided that in questions of faith conviction creates the reasons, because the fundamental vital interest precedes all the arguments. On another level, Rilke was right too:
Look at the lovers —
How quickly they lie
When the proofs begin!