Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why Philosophy Class Scared Me: Installment #2

In my first installment, I gave a background of my life growing up in the Church and how it impacted me. All of my family members were Christians, as well as my friends and role models. I was perfectly fine with this life until about the middle to end of high school, which is when some doubt started to creep into my mind about the legitimacy of God, and eventually blossomed into full blown disbelief and anger. Not wanting to confess to the important people in my life about my unfaithfulness, I continued to "act Christian" for the rest of my high school career, going to church, attending my small group, and going on not one, but two mission trips to Haiti. The first trip really solidified my skepticisms, but the second had a different and almost strange effect on my emotions 
Getting on the plane for my second summer in a row of Haitian mission work felt almost like a chore. I thought I knew exactly what was coming my way and how to prepare for it. I was ready to see extreme poverty again, ready to hold a child and feel every little bone of their fragile body against me, ready to feel the presence of the Haitian body guards as they protect us from any danger that might befall the rich people from America while we sleep. All of these elements were present during my trip, and more. I had the same attitude as last year, still excited and happy to be helping people in need, but not seeing God or hope like the rest of my team was seeing. That was until the second to last day of the trip, which was a Sunday. We got to attend a Haitian worship service at Zion Tabernacle Church, a building with concrete walls and a tarp for a roof that sat right on a cliff with the ocean waves crashing at the bottom. My team members would tell you they could feel God inside that sad little building, but all I felt was the ocean breeze. We were instructed to spread out and sit amongst the people as we walked in, so I ended up sitting next to a single mother and her two teenage girls. Right off the bat I noticed how incredibly different the service was from those here in America. I was used to a little singing and then a really long and boring sermon. In Haiti, we sang a little, listened to some preaching, prayed together, and repeated the cycle about fifteen times. Seriously, we were there for almost four hours, and I couldn’t understand a single word the whole time. The native language of Haiti is Creole, which is super close to French, but I took Spanish in high school so I really had no idea what was going on. Towards the end of the service though, something happened. We were transitioning into worship again for about the one hundredth time, and I recognized the song. It was a very popular Christian worship song in America, and while the Haitians sang it in Creole, my team and I joined in singing in English. One of the teenage girls next to me noticed me singing the same exact thing as her in English words and grabbed my hand. As we stood there singing together, the Haitians in Creole and Americans in English, I started to feel something. It started really small in the pit of my stomach, then grew until I couldn’t ignore in anymore. It felt like a mixture of a panic attack and an immense sense of relief all at the same time. I didn’t know what to do with this feeling. I looked around for my friends and saw them all with their arms lifted and eyes closed, singing their hearts out. Suddenly, the girl holding my hand raised her arms up too, taking one of mine with her. So I'm standing there, this girl I've never met before raising up my left arm and this feeling building up in me, and all I can do about it is cry. I didn’t wake up that morning with the intention of crying in front of my friends and a bunch of strangers, but it happened anyway. I think the crying also fueled the feeling as well, because it stayed with me for the rest of the day.  
I haven't felt that feeling since then. The next day, I got on a plane, went home, and stayed stuck in a constant state of "huh?" for about two straight weeksHonestly, I don’t know what to make of that day. Was I really feeling it? Is God actually out there, trying to get my attention? I decided to open up to my close friends and tell them about my disbelief and how confused I was about everything, and they were surprisingly understanding. They saw where I was coming from, but they said they still felt Him all the time and that prayer was an actual conversation, which I'm a little jealous of to this day. Trust me, I gave the whole prayer thing another shot, seeking the effect the multilingual worship had on me. Still nothing. Still a brick wall. But I was trying, and I really felt that my second trip in Haiti was not just something to brush aside. That feeling was real. I met with my mentor Nichole again about three weeks after my trip to get a little more outside perspective on my situation, and boy did she have some. She talked about how personal relationships with God are all different, and maybe mine has specific limits. Maybe I can only feel it in very extreme circumstances, like Haiti, while other people feel it everyday. She said that I also shouldn’t be jealous of other people's relationships with God and just accept mine for what it is: different.  
This conclusion is what I carried with me into my first semester in college: that my relationship with God may be complicated, but its there. I definitely needed to work on it, and maybe a little more honesty with myself would lead to more feelings of connection with God that I don't have to be in Haiti or some other extreme circumstance for. But I realized that I had to stop actively seeking that feeling and just let it come when it may. With all this running through my head, I randomly signed up for this Philosophy class, not knowing that I'd be introduced to other ways of thinking about God and Christianity and religion as a whole. Even when I stopped believing for those few years, I was still technically in my "Jesus Bubble". The possibility of a God other than mine or no God at all was never thrown my way. I mean, of course I knew that other people believed in different things, but I was never in the middle of a discussion about such matters until this semester, which was super freaky. If so many amazing Philosophers like Dewey, Hume, and Marx were all atheist, how do I know if they were right in their beliefs or not? Obviously they were incredibly smart people, and they wouldn’t believe in something that wasn’t true. So now I'm left with more questions. Are these famous philosophers right about the existence of God? Should I listen to them, or to my feeling?  

Link to first installment: http://cophilosophy.blogspot.com/2016/12/why-philosophy-class-scared-me_2.html

Comment #1: https://cophilosophy.blogspot.com/2016/12/this-i-believe-life-is-about-love-by.html?showComment=1481079590356#c1549990998539699171

Comment #2: https://cophilosophy.blogspot.com/2016/12/this-i-believe-continued-altruism-and.html?showComment=1481080117900#c2303466944226473473

Total word count: 2,737

1 comment:

  1. No one else can tell any of us what our own experience means to us, or how we ought to interpret it (though I suppose that's something a lot of people pay for expensive counseling sessions to try and learn). But as you describe that moment, it seems not out of the question that what you possibly were feeling was the power of cross-cultural, inter-linguistic human connection - a rich experience of solidarity with a fellow human, and with your own extended humanity.

    But again, it's not for me or anyone else to tell you what your own experience meant. Isn't life an ongoing process of assimilating and reconstructing the meaning of our experience, in the light of further experience?

    "Are these famous philosophers right about the existence of God? Should I listen to them, or to my feeling?" - Or? Why not AND?

    The important thing is to not stop asking questions.