Finding God In the Waves

There are these people who give me little snap shots of who they are, and I think, “Wow.  I want to know more.”

That is how I have always felt about “Science Mike” McHargue.  He is a thinker, writer, and blogger.  He is also  one of the two Mike’s behind the liturgist podcast, and does some solo work, here which is more focused on science.

I got what I had been wishing for.  I just finished his book, “Finding God in the Waves.

If you could spin the book really fast to force all the things that went into it to separate, or maybe boil the book, and reach the melting point of some of the constituents in order to isolate the things that make it up, I think you would come up with 3 different ingredients.

First, the book is a spiritual autobiography.  Science Mike spent the first half of his life in a fairly conservative/evangelical Christian Church.  When life circumstances lead him to question his faith, he began a transition to closeted atheist.  He eventual left the closet, and began a journey back to a reconstructed faith.

Secondly, the book is an attempt to balance the newest findings of science with the ongoing wisdom of following Christ.  Astronomy and brain chemistry get the most attention, but there’s lots of compelling psychology and sociology, too.  I can be a bit of a snob about these sort-of attempts.  In my experience, authors who try to bring together faith and science usually end up doing a mediocre job on one of these.  Or both.  McHargue is kind of intimidating, because he is way smarter than me in both these areas.  So near as my little brain can figure, he gets them both right.

Thirdly, “Finding God in the Waves” is a blue print of what a reconstructed, science-informed faith might look like.  There are times that this book reminded me of Descrarte’s Meditations.  The French Philosopher began with the question, “What if everything my senses bring me is wrong?”  The American thinker begins with the question “What if everything I used to believe is wrong?”  Both authors respond to this by creating a series of axioms that will prove to be the building blocks of a new set of beliefs, which hopefully end up being more defensible than the previously unquestioned assumptions.

My favorite thing about the writing here is how frequently it flips the script.  I will be cruising along, reading almost on autopilot.  A few key sentences will start me heading in a certain direction, and then, from nowhere: Blam!  Suddenly, things do exactly the opposite of where I expected to.  The effect is sometimes funny, or touching, or both.

My favorite thing about the author is that he is so courageously even-handed.  That’s a thing about hanging out in the middle: Sometimes it feels like you are pissing off everybody.  I wonder if the author sometimes feels tempted to play to one side, or the other, just to get somebody to sign-on, whole-heartedly with his ideas.

This even-handedness plays out in a couple ways.  Sometimes, it is around intellectual debates.  He takes an amazingly consistent approach with calling out the good and the bad in targets as diverse as New Atheism and Old-School Baptist Churches.

But this even-handedness plays out in another way that is a little more difficult to articulate.  One way to say it is to say that he has all these different intelligences.  He is compellingly analytical when the situation calls for it.  And then, a page later, he will say something that demonstrates an emotional intelligence, that isn’t about chopping things up so much as looking at the big picture.  His proficiency with using the right mental tool for the right mental job lead me to be so fascinated that I  read this book in like 3 days.

You should go buy it and read it.  It was really good.  It will be released on September 13

 

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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