Risky Faith

On page 808 of Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition, the Judge reflects on the disappearance of Mother Abagail (the prophetess):

“I wonder if we need to reinvent that whole tiresome business of gods and saviors and ever-afters before we reinvent the flushing toilet.  That’s what I’m saying.  I wonder if this is the right time for gods…She’s been dead six days now.  The Search Committee hasn’t found a trace of her.  Yes, I think she’s dead, but even now I am not completely sure.  She was an amazing woman, completely outside any rational frame of reference.  Perhaps one of the reasons I’m almost glad to have her gone is because I’m such a rational old curmudgeon.  I like to creep through my daily round, to water my garden—-did you see the way I brought the begonias back?  I’m quite proud of that—-to read my books, to write my notes for my own book about the plague.  I like to do all those things and then have a glass of wine at bedtime and fall asleep with an untroubled mind.  Yes.  None of us wants to see portents and omens, no matter how much we like our ghost stories and the spooky films.  None of us want to really see a Star in the East or a pillar of fire by night.  We want peace and rationality and routine.  If we have to see God in the black face of an old woman, it’s bound to remind us that there’s a devil for every god—-and our devil may be closer than we like to think.”

What the Judge says reminds me about what I heard a professor of rabbinics remark about why prophecy ceased within Judaism: prophecy produces social instability, for it allows a person to come along and unravel everything with a “Thus saith the Lord”.

I can sympathize with the Judge’s comments.  A struggle that I have with faith is that I am afraid it will disrupt my predictable day-to-day life.  Not everyone is cut out to go to Africa as a missionary, or to skip work to do one of God’s special projects.  If I were Joan on Joan of Arcadia, and God was giving me a bunch of assignments, I’d wonder if that would take me away from my schoolwork.  Of course, Joan had the luxury of knowing that it was God speaking to her.  I don’t.  If I felt “led” to take a risk, how do I know that’s God, or just me?

There are passages in Scripture in which faith is consistent with living a predictable day-to-day life.  Ancient Israelites under the Torah would just go about their agricultural tasks on a daily basis, honor God with tithes and offerings, and be just in their interactions.  Nothing dramatic there.  But then there are the passages in which God or Jesus calls people to leave everything behind and to take a risk.  Those are the passages that scare me.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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