The Merry Mystic: Introduction, Part Three

This is the third part of my introduction to The Merry Mystic, my weekly letter.  This one hits the third important characteristic of merry mystics around the world: skepticism.

Do you ever feel like your doubts are unwelcome in church? Scroll down and share a message about it. I’m here to tell you, you’re not the only one!

Please think about serving others with your comments. Anything offensive or too off-topic, I'll delete.

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6 thoughts on “The Merry Mystic: Introduction, Part Three

  1. Hi again, Adam,
    I don’t think you meant for someone such as myself–a non-Christian–to post here; but, what the heck, I’ll do so anyway just to spice up your web site a little. (And if this post has gone a bit too far, you may delete these words and I won’t be offended at all, dear Brother.)

    When I was a little girl growing up in the Methodist Church, no one loved attending church more than I; but that was back when I mistakenly thought that most Christians were like me and considered Jesus to be one of God’s many prophets. I don’t know where, exactly, this idea of Jesus-as-purely-prophet came from in my little mind, but my childhood prayers were always directed to God, never to Jesus. Jesus, for me, was mostly just a character in a set of stories. I thought the stories were there to teach us and, even as a child, I took the lessons of these stories to heart. I really, really thought that “to be a Christian” meant that you were trying your very best to love even your enemies. As a third-grader I was completely stumped by the difficulty of such a task, asking my mother one day, “Mama, how are we supposed to love mean people?” Her answer: “You don’t have to love them. Just be nice to them.” Her answer felt wrong to me, intuitively, but I didn’t dare tell her so because I was afraid I might get a spanking.

    Not until I was twelve did I discover that most other Christians had a completely different picture of Jesus in their minds. I was aghast. By age 16, I decided to leave Christianity behind. I was an atheist for a year (convinced that “the voice within” had been nothing more than the imaginary fancy of a young child). I loved being an atheist. It gave me a great amount of pleasure “knowing” that I was in complete control of my life; AND, no longer did I have to worry about loving others (a most difficult task). But then one night, when I was seventeen, the “inner voice” returned and it didn’t seem to give a hoot that I was an atheist. It’s message that night: “The only reason you are here is to love.”

    As a young child, whenever I had received a message from the inner voice, I had always assumed it was the voice of “God” coming to me on my “God radio,” but on that night, as a seventeen year-old atheist, I decided that, possibly, this voice was simply my own subconscious mind communicating to me. But it didn’t matter to me what the source of the voice was. Its message felt right to me, intuitively, so that night I asked the source of the voice to teach me how to love. Whatever this source is, “it” has been my guide–my “authority,” I guess you might say–all my adult life, and, yes, I’m still working on learning how to love. (Christianity, I might add, has the most powerful set of teachings about loving others that I’ve found in this world–the most important being “pray for those who persecute you.”)

    Adam, I appreciate your thoughts about not having too much certainty about one’s own “mystical” experiences. In my young adult life, I had some experiences that made me think that, for sure, I was insane. These experiences were frightening, to say the least, but they were also humbling because they taught me to remain open to the idea that maybe, just maybe, I am–at least a little–insane. However, I will also say that maybe we all benefit from a little insanity every now and then, a little stretching of the mind, if you will, in order to expand our state of consciousness.

    Thank you, Adam, for a very thought-provoking post!
    -Shelley B.

    • Thanks, Shelley — what a great story. Learning to love God and neighbor — to love your enemies, and pray for those who injure you — certainly seems like more than enough work for a lifetime. And yes, of course, I hope merry mystics of all varieties will feel free to post, not just those who self-identify as Christian.

  2. Thanks for singing “Welcome Thomas”, which, like another poster mentioned, is hard to *hear* in the form of sheet music for some of us.

    From an early age I identified with Thomas and with the message you also find in the text – that Jesus both gave Thomas exactly what he needed and welcomed him into fellowship. It gave me hope as a budding scientist, engineer, skeptic, and ultimately minister. And that certainty has stayed with me in the midst of the vast sea of doubts – the blessed assurance that what I am being given will somehow turn out to be what I need – in fact not sort of what I need but *just* what I need. That’s the mystifying part of the experience. Again and again, despite my doubts, the gracious response of Jesus to Thomas has proven completely reliable.

    Using your desert island image – I sometimes feel stranded, as if on a desert island, by all sorts of events in life – inexplicably shipwrecked, abandoned by divorce, physical injury, seminary (!), parenting, middle age – and surrounded all the time by seemingly crazy voices pretending to speak for God or at least for Country – but then, strangely, if I start exploring the desert island where I’ve gotten stuck, a bottle shows up containing, say, the Bible, or an episode of your Merry Mystic, or a copy of “How To Get Off This Frickin’ Island” (which, really, should be a subtitle for the Webber Edition of the Bible anyway).

    Thanks for your ministry. Peace & Blessings

    • Hi Rob,

      Thanks for sharing that. I like that you included seminary in your list of things that leave you stranded. I felt that way too. I loved my seminary experience, and I recommend ESR wherever I go. But I went there because I had a sort of crack in my heart, and of course the result is not the mending of the crack, but the permanent wedging-open of the crack. Now everybody can feel the wind blow through it. It’s a good thing in its way, but also alienating. Like in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan:” Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes! His floating hair!

      As for the desert island: hey, maybe you’ve given me the title of my next book! Maybe we could start a church where we all sing “Amazing Grace” to the tune of the theme song from Gilligan’s Island: Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, that saved a wretch like me…

  3. My mind is churning with much thought, which is good because that means I am questioning as you discussed in your video. I to would tell people I am a Christian, however, I know that most mainstream Christians would say that I am not because of many reasons, one being my progressive open mindedness to everyone haivng their own spiritual journey and relationship with the Divine or higher power or Goddess or Mother or whatever they subscribe too. I too find much value in the Bible and I would always want to have a copy of it available to me. However, I also have found much value in other theological writings, including the Quran and Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism. I don’t have much other thoughts right now but wanted you to know I am thinking. Thanks and blessings.

    • Yes, there are so many great text-traditions in this world. I don’t think I’d want to be immortal, but I do think it might be nice to have several lifetimes, if only to have more time to read! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.