In this essay I explore some of the manifestations of ‘teenage rebellion’ in matters of faith and society: how disillusionment with God can manifest and impact our lives. As we grow from infancy to adulthood, an early childish optimism towards our idealised vision of life often gives way to dissatisfaction, cynicism and disillusionment in our teenage years. This is a natural by-product of a youthful idealism based on unrealistic notions, and hopefully as we continue to mature to adulthood we understand life more deeply and regain our satisfaction, enthusiasm and sense of wonder with all that this life and universe have to offer. In general, I believe that this disillusionment is rooted in our early failure of understanding. The core of the Christian faith is a personal relationship with God through the person of Jesus. A person who believes in God but does not have a relationship with him may find that this level of faith is insufficient to withstand the additional pressures, responsibilities and difficulties that adulthood requires. On a broader perspective, I also look briefly at disillusionment with science from the Enlightenment to the present day.
Music, and indeed any art form, involves striving to express that which is recognised but cannot be fully put into words, that which is unknowable and yet known more deeply than anything else. It is this striving for expression that produces great art, it is the acknowledgement – without complete understanding – of the intangible Other that drives creative work.
This is not unique to Christian cultures, it is a universal feature of art. We do not express artistically what we could simply describe succinctly and fully, in a sentence. The intangible natures of love, of the soul, of our deeply felt and yet deeply fractured relationship with God, these are the things which give flight to the mad impulses of the artist.
“I think of this as an expansive and empowering term. Its expansive because it asks that we stretch our view of Godde beyond what we’ve had. Because we’ve tamed “God” with our theological definitions and public services we’ve therewith lost a sense of respect, awe and wonder at this elusive, magnificent and wondrous Being.”
Tim goes on to explore the significance of both the masculine and feminine aspects of God.
Over at Urban Mystic, Tim recently wrote a post about the ambiguous and très trendy phrase “spiritual, but not religious” (SNR). It seems to me that, while it can be used by those who are earnestly seeking to engage with God and their spiritual nature but have not found a home within organised religion, it is also often employed to denote a vague spirituality which avoids any of the more serious theological challenges.
I find this interesting because it seems to be a curious mirror of an attitude which could be called “religious, but not spiritual”. I would use this to label to cover both those who follow an organised religion but adhere only to the ritual, and also materialists who deny the spiritual altogether. It seems in each case that the individual is content with a superficial reading of the world:
the materialist looks at the physical world and refuses to explore the spiritual dimension at all
the SNR may simply experience a vague spirituality without delving deep enough to discover the nature and person of God
While it’s great to seek the spiritual, I think that there is a danger of stopping our seeking at the first glimpse, instead of plunging ever deeper into the mysteries of God.
We are called to be filled with the Spirit, not just lightly dusted!
PS: I was amused also to discover today that there had been a recent article over at the satirical news site The Onion along an identical theme. The article describes an individual as follows:
” … while he believed in blindly adhering to the dogma and ceremonies of his faith, he tried not to get too bogged down by actual spirituality. “I’m not so much into having a relationship with God as I am into mechanically conducting various rituals,” [he] said. … [He] emphasized that although he did not personally agree with those who pondered the eternal, he had nothing against them.”