Wednesday, July 12, 2006

On Not Believing in What we Experience

Someone told me lately that she was not a believer, nor was her (deceased) mother, although, she said, her mother might have believed in an afterlife and had told her some "creepy stories about about having "seen" her brother and father at the moment of their deaths."

In the whole context, it didn't seem appropriate to respond to that, but I was sad, and I keep being sad. I imagine that mom herself might have said, had she had the "churchy" words and spiritual support, that she believed in an afterlife, in part because she had been blessed with vivid experiences her father's and brother's non-physical presence after their deaths. But that's just a guess; maybe she herself thought her experiences were creepy, rather than numinous.

She might have said such words if she had belonged to a community which had allowed her to tell that story and had helped her to frame and understand and value her experience and base her beliefs on it. If, in short, she had belonged to a church, a covenant circle, a Sunday school class. If she had had such a community she might have come to realize that such experiences are not uncommon and are the very stuff on which belief is based.

She didn't avail herself of such support, in part over fury that a misguided pastor in her past had refused to allow an unbaptized baby to be burred in a church yard.

In this particular nutshell of a casual sentence, I'm slain by the weight of ministry, that our actions strike such deep notes in others, for good and for ill, the the communities we help to create and the vocabularies we help people hone,own, and share, really do change lives.

1 comment:

Turtle Mountain said...

It would seem to me that if I or my fellowship felt that it was necessary to guide her toward what she truly believed that I and they were being terribly patronizing. I do not feel it is the place of a non-creedal fellowship to give guidance - only encouragement.