Here’s the two-hour fireside tale in a two-minute summary:
I was raised in and spent most of my adult life committed to a conservative Christian denomination. Outwardly, I always seemed fully committed to all of the faith practices the denomination taught; but inwardly, I was on a journey of questioning, doubting, experimenting, discarding, deconstructing, reaccepting, experimenting. There was always movement in a direction I couldn’t identify toward, a goal I couldn’t describe. All I knew was that I was moving.
Fast-forward (now there’s an archaic term, eh?) to two years ago, when I’d spent nearly 8 years with a small group of Christians who met in homes; (allegedly) followed no leadership beyond consensus; and had no denominational ties — and in March 2018, that group imploded (for various reasons I won’t get into now; suffice it to say HUMANS).
My family and I didn’t know where to go from there. Speaking wholly for myself, I knew that I could never return to sitting in a pew somewhere and being required to follow the worship practices set for the whole by a small, hierarchical few. Was there anywhere for me to go? Where could there possibly be a collection of humans who would not only let me ask all my questions and speak the doubts and fears and cries of my heart — but also refuse to reject me for any of it?
We stayed close with and got closer to another family from our former “house church,” and together we continued the questioning, the doubting, the delving deeper. What did we believe? What didn’t we believe (anymore)? What did we hope to believe?
I’d lost 90% of my faith community in one fell swoop, and I was unmoored, untethered, unhinged, unravelling.
In the midst of my wandering in these barren wastes, I was introduced to the writing, speaking, and thinking of Irish author, storyteller, and philosopher Dr. Peter Rollins. You should check out his website if you want to know what he’s all about. My short take: if you let it, his “pyrotheology” will burn it all down so you can see the bones of what you’re really living. His work deals exclusively with the truth that life is shit and you’re gonna die — and this is Good News.
Like I said, you really need to check out his stuff.
I said this was a two-minute summary, and I’m straying into the 20-minute territory, so the rest is short and sweet like so: Rollins does a yearly event called “Atheism for Lent” (AfL) in which he uses daily readings and/or audios from various atheistic philosophers, theologians, and artists; his goal is to examine the atheistic dimensions of theism and the theistic dimensions of atheism.
GASP and EGAD. Are we collectively clutching our pearls yet?
The point of AfL is to decenter, destabilize, and disturb us. I did the course in 2019 and can confirm that it accomplishes its goal.
Honestly, I should’ve blogged my AfL2019 journey, because it’s now 10 months since it ended and I am still processing. Adding AfL2020 on top of that is probably going to rupture my brain as well as my already-threadbare paradigm of the universe.
That, of course, is entirely the point.
Atheism for Lent is also very closely tied into the concept of “a/theism,” which is (among many other things) the idea that honest faith lives in the “dash” (or the “stroke,” as Rollins calls it). It also dovetails with the dialectic move of acknowledging our human existence in the gap between who we really are and who we wish we were. We never arrive; we stand in the flow of life between the stepping stones; this uncomfortable space is where we live and move and have our being. Watch this site; I’ll have more on a/theism in the future.
I don’t know to what extent I’ll blog my AfL2020 experience. A lot will depend on how much time I have. The daily readings/audios themselves can take 30-60 minutes, so that’s already a good chunk of time commitment. I will also continue living my life, which in this season means exercising, familying, and writing. And as you all know, my dear little inklings, I am not the most accomplished at daily blogging.
I am making a commitment to blog AfL2020. I am making no commitment as to the length or quality of each daily musing thereon.
Here is Rollins’s a brief introductory video for “Atheism for Lent.” I tried to embed it but couldn’t get that to work. So I’m sorry to navigate you away from this, my illustrious online author portal, but alas and alack it must be done.
Feel free to come back soon though, because I’m about to write a few thoughts on AfL2020 Day One. 😉