Not a Sheeple but Happily in His Flock

Recently there was an op-ed in my campus newspaper titled “Counting Sheep: An Exposé on Ignorance.” It started with a Richard Dawkins quote and did not warm up to religion from there.

The culture we live in is brutally dominated by dogmatic beliefs that feed on a lukewarm stew of apathy and systematic brainwashing. Too frequently, we as citizens of the universe unflinchingly accept as truth the ideologies we are force-fed from birth — “My god is greater, my god is stronger, my god is higher than any other.” a passage sung by choirs of cattle, branded without hesitation, slaves masquerading behind the frail guise of free will.

How do you really know that your god is greater?

How do you really know your god is higher than any other?

How do you really know that you know anything at all?

We are dwelling in a time of social decay, allowing the pious bourgeoisie to flog us with their laws and doctrine.

The main point of the article was not necessarily a condemnation of faith or religion, but it was implicit in the argument. Side note: Can we all take a moment to enjoy the hilarity of an article that is trying to attack a perceived pretentious status quo but uses phrases like “the pious bourgeoisie?” College is a time for questioning and pushing against preconceptions, but I want to take a moment to say that it is not wrong to find answers. It is not wrong to find that some foundations stand firm when you test them.

Last night in my Christian fellowship we worked on testimony writing. As I worked through some exercises of journaling about “Why I love Jesus” I was struck again, as I always am when I pause to consider it, by how completely my faith shapes my life. I could not make sense of existence without it, without Him.

I remember at some point as a small child reading The Moon by Night by Madeleine L’Engle and crying in frustration as a nihilist character argued that including God in his understanding of life made it nonsensical. I could not understand how he could have gotten it so backwards. I’m an unpleasant, passive, pessimistic person but my faith makes me patient, kind, and hopeful.

At summer camp I took ownership of my faith and learned that it is a living thing, a relationship with God. After moving to Texas from Pennsylvania, religion became a part of my community and day-to-day life. Really though, my spiritual growth is marked by the same signposts as most other aspects of my life, children’s books. It was reading long past her bedtime that aspects of a young Emma’s understanding crystallized as she tearfully wrestled with God. Just as L’Engle helped me to understand that I could not make sense of life without God, C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle showed me that an eternity could be a joyful, exciting thing and not just an existential horror. Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy taught me that it is okay to look at even the religious words and actions of men with a critical eye.

I am unsure of how I want to close this post.

  • Am I trying to wrap back around to arguing that children should be encouraged to read books that challenge them to ask big questions so that when their college newspaper prints criticism their beliefs do not crumble? Parents should discern when their kids are ready to take on certain topics, but I would like to state loudly and unequivocally that if reading Harry Potter is going to turn little Timmy into a devil-worshiper then there are bigger problems than what he is reading and he might not be in the right type of Sunday school class.
  • Or should I cut out the stuff about the op-ed entirely and just muse about the fact that after reflection I was fascinated to realize that God has spoken loudest to me through children’s books (the small group leader in me feels obligated to add that without knowledge of Scripture I would have lacked the context to notice)?
  • Maybe it is just that I spent time writing my testimony and so I decided to publish some of it online so next time I have to do a similar exercise I can find it easily and do not have to start over entirely from scratch?

My experience with faith has not been some ever-strengthening journey; it has been one of crises and lapses and questions. However, being a college student at the edge of an unknown future is scary. Without Jesus I would be paralyzed. God’s grace allows me to step forward into the future and to appreciate each moment.

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