Defining religion is a tricky thing. Some would say that religion is tasked with discovering the knowledge of God. Unfortunately, the bad news: ‘true’ knowledge of… [insert god here] can never be achieved. “We see through a glass darkly.” At best, the task of religion is perpetually unfinished. Anything I venture to say about God (including this current writing) fails to express the who or what. Is God everything and nothing at the same time? Is any speaking of God misspeaking? “All have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God.” Humbly, I must come to terms with the truth that the “god” that I love is an idol and always will be. To say that *I know* the truth of God, no matter what the source of this supposed knowledge, is to claim that *I think, therefore I am (God).* “All my [thoughts about God] are like dirty rags.” Religion, boastfully speaking of God through the declaration of propositions (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence), is *by definition* idolatry. Propositions are the gold that I fashion into the Golden Calf. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord they God in vain.” Elusive, I must accept this mystery that always escapes my grasp. I [trans-/di-]gress.
For me, for now(?), religion has one continual task: cutting away all of the false conceptions of reality that hide me from the fact that I am deeply dependent. Proper religion is a speculative discipline. Pharaonic, it is the impossible job of creating bricks without straw. At the same time, I must try. I try to let religion cut away the weights that so easily beset me and keep me from running. It should never be thought of as a scientific discipline because science requires an object. Mystery always refuses objectification. “God’s ways are higher than our ways.” Trying to stare, I stare at the sun. It blinds me before I can see. Maybe this religious blindness is the condition of faith because it causes me to take a leap. Perhaps more conducive to our investigation: What is the leap?
The leap is The Fall off the cliff of certainty and into the abyss of finitude. Leaping, one knows that it is in the nature of a human to deceive oneself. Diving into the abyss of unknowing, one must let go of all the stories that one tells oneself. But something fights back. Every faculty of Being tries to deceive. Screams irrupt: Blindness is sight! Falling is standing! Mind, will, and affect cry out for hard dirt. But honesty compels the one who leaps to grasp at thin air and accept that there is nothing to hold (there IS nothing?). The blindness and the falling, the terror and the nothingness, they challenge the very bounds of rationality itself. Hope? Mere dissimulation. Love? An illusion. And yet.
At this very moment, when everything is lost, when one embraces the descent into the abyss of nothingness, the total rejection of all belief, *this very moment* is the moment of true possibility. It could not come before. Despite the falling, faster and faster, miraculously, Faith hovers over the face of the deep. And faith overtakes us (but only if we let her). Though beliefs have failed, faith compels us to pray. We blindly pray to that which we have not seen, cannot touch and will never prove. All foundation has been stripped and yet faith prays, realizing for the first time in our lives, authentic prayer is possible. Emerging from the chaosmos, faith leads to hope. In the temple of our hearts we beat our chests, not daring to look up and we plead for forgiveness. In faith, we hope that our prayers are heard. Hope leads to love. Love for the Mystery and radical love for our neighbors, love that is patient and kind, becomes angry at injustice and rejoices in the truth. When faith, hope and love have come, suddenly we realize that we leapt into the abyss alone, but it was not The Fall after all. We look around. The scales of religious blindness fall from our eyes, the oppressive chains of certainty fall from our hands and finally, finally we realize that together we are not falling.
Religion let me fall. Bound together, we may fly.