Sunday, April 13, 2008

Existential Christian...I guess I am one

(repost from a recent email sent to friends and family...feel free to participate on the subject here)

Just thought I would fire off a few personal thoughts and observations today incase you were bored…or had the passing thought of…I wonder what Ed is doing and thinking about today. Come on…I know you thought of me, didn’t you? LOL

As many of you know, in my advancing years I have been starting to reflect, and write, quite a few thoughts on subjects that have always been important to me. I think one of life’s biggest challenges is to stay on top of who we are, what we believe in, why, and thereby be able to make clear cut decisions on how we want to live…and even with whom. Maybe someday some of you will read a compilation of my thoughts, past, feelings and beliefs. Right now because we live apart generally and are not privy to each others daily lives, process and changes in thinking, it is hard to be sure we know where each other is coming from. It is nice we have in these modern days the internet and other cheap immediate forms of communication…yet, most of us don’t really spend much effort or time daily talking to each other or discussing many of the important issues we face in our lives. Most of us are probably just too busy living our lives to worry about reporting on them.

That being said, I have tried to make it a point this year to be more communicative and open about myself with those who I think love and care about me. And sure, part of it is probably a selfish form of expression and part of the exercise of deciding who we are and what we believe by speaking or writing it. Religion, faith or belief is obviously one of the big issues and concerns facing our lives…and the world at large. Because for many years I have not been active in a church or religious movement of any kind, I know there has been speculation and in many cases concern about me, my soul, and just overall personal well being. I accept that concern and questioning as part of the act of “loving” your brother or a family member. In some of our conversations, I know some of you have not been very comforted with some of my views or lack of them. At the same time, I have tried to live my life honestly and forthrightly to the reason of my own mind and personal decisions…and obviously we don’t all take the same paths or see things the same ways. But hopefully through it all, love and acceptance of difference will endure between us all.

In thinking and writing about these things lately, I have come upon a realization that I think worth sharing with my loved ones. I have grown reticent to use labels and simple words to describe myself, feelings or beliefs in most of my adult life…mostly because I have found words and labels too limiting or misleading in capturing the whole or reality of those senses. And on many subjects, I am still too early in my journey to make many blanket statements about what I know “for sure”. But if I were to find the best definition of what I would call myself as a person of faith, I would say the best description would be an “Existential Christian”. Now, some of you have probably too many years from your textbooks to even define clearly what “existential” means…so let me help here briefly as I can. The core definition I prefer from American Heritage Dictionary is “A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.” When added to the noun definition of “Christian”… a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ…it brings an interesting combination of definition to a person.

The best summary of “Christian Existentialism” I have found online is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Existentialism . This school of thought is primarily traced back to the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in the early 1800s who I studied briefly back in college days but somehow missed the deeper personal connection I now have with his experiences and train of thought. His understanding of Christianity was based on three major assumptions…”1) that the universe is fundamentally paradoxical and that the greatest paradox of all is the transcendent union of God and man in the person of Christ. 2) Having a personal relationship with God supersedes all prescribed moralities, social structures and communal norms, and 3) following social conventions is essentially a personal aesthetic choice made by individuals.” To add Ed’s abbreviated summary to this concept, a relationship or faith in God/Jesus/Abraham/Mohammed/ or Buddha…requires a very personal, subjective understanding of that which we believe in. No two people are going to have exactly the same experience, feeling or thoughts related to that belief…and therein lays the essence of the one to one relationship Jesus describes when it comes to faith in him and his Father. A PERSONAL faith if you will, based on each of us sorting out our faith and not conforming to others ideas or experiences that you can’t relate to. That would be a contradiction to the truth you have and submitting to some socialist style religion or faith…going along for the sake of “common good” or not stirring the pot or feeling your own ideas/observations have merit. This then would put our faith in the hands of other men…and mimic the world religions that strive for conformity and conviction to a common dogma or movement…that then stands against other dogmas or movements…and we know ALL religions can’t be right…can they? Back to the times of the “Crusades” of old…

In pursuing more objective material on my self examination on this subject, I ran across another website created by a young man in his 20s. As I read his views along with many postings on the blog he has there from many people…I felt like I found a real “soul brother” in what I have been experiencing along these lines most of my adult life. When I was in my early 20s I started having many of his same convictions and thoughts…yet never took the time (nor had the internet as a tool to do so) to explore or state my thoughts. The site is http://www.existentialchristianity.net/ . Under the “articles” link on the webpage is a pretty good series of writing on major theology issues…and I have yet to find much of anything I disagree with there. So…until I take time in life to do my own website and series of published writings…my new author friend Timothy Neal can give you a pretty good insight into my own personal beliefs and views at this point in life. No, I am not a “follower” of Timothy, but I can imagine him being very similar to Paul’s Timothy in the new testament of the Bible. Remember…part of the secret in an “existential life” is that discovery is ongoing, truth and absolutes CAN be subjective, and that separating ourselves due to matters of doctrine/belief is petty.

I offer this not to “convince” anyone of anything…but only to provide insight and open the door of “self” a little bit wider to those I love and trust. I am always open to dialogue and constructive criticism on any subject…including the above :).

2 comments:

edward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Timothy said...

Hi Ed,

It was nice to read about your own personal experience and the nice summation of Christian existentialism you gave. I will continue to check back to this blog!

Tim