Yesterday a kind friend said people would buy the book I’m writing for the same reason they show up at my blog: they don’t really “go to church” (my friend’s words) but something about the Christian faith and its world of symbols, maybe something about Jesus, still elicits some level of interest or even belief. And so they find themselves here at this intersection, or picking up Grace Sticks at the train station or in an airport book store.
I hope my friend is right- not so much about the fact that people will buy the book (although that would be nice), but more about why folks like you come by every so often to visit, or would want to read a book like mine in the first place.
Because if this online gathering place is an intersection between life and God, it’s also, I hope, a back door to faith. The expression comes from an article in the current issue of The Christian Century, which reflects on the contributions of the British-born essayist, travel writer and novelist Graham Greene (1904-1991). The article, titled “The half-believer,” gives me reason to add Graham Greene to my list of must reads and new crushes. Greene, in addition to earning the epithet I would want if it hadn’t already been taken- “Thomas Merton on a frequent flier pass”- was one such “half believer”: he wanted to live a life embodied by the Gospel, even if that life eluded him, and even if he stood to a certain degree on the edges of the church; which may be why he called himself at times a “Catholic agnostic.” Apparently, Greene was much more interested in stories about sinners who have lived at best morally mediocre lives but who in one decisive moment choose loving self-sacrifice.
I can identify. Maybe because I’m a half-believer, too. In fact, I’ve always been a half-believer, since the earliest I can remember.
The other day, I sat and talked with a ninety-seven-year-old woman who was waiting to be picked up for her weekly prayer meeting and Bible study.
“I just don’t see how people live in this world without God!,” she exclaimed, her born-and-raised Southern accent as always landing with crisp certainty on each word whenever the subject of God, faith or Scripture comes up.
And while I could agree in the moment, I didn’t say what I’ve also come to believe: “I just don’t see how people in this world can live with a faith in God that’s unassailed by doubt or unbelief.”
Just a few minutes later I would be praying with a woman who is a self-proclaimed agnostic. She doesn’t believe in God most of the time, as she puts it, and she most certainly does not pray. This was a first: we held hands, and she let me pray for her.
So if you’re a half-believer, you are warmly welcome here: the back door is unlocked and the porch light is always on, and inside you’ll find a plate of fresh-baked cookies (albeit not home-made, probably Pilsbury, from the frozen section at Kroger). And, be assured: there are a host of folks just like us who, maybe a bit embarrassed by our half belief, traipse in from the back door, trip in the dark over the welcome mat, curse under our breath, then whisper, “Help my unbelief.”
We’re all welcome, anyway.
And if you’re really hungry or need a drink, there may be some bread and wine on the counter. “Take and eat, this is the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ broken for you.”