The other day a parishioner came up to me before eucharist and said, "I saw a TV show last night where they said that Jesus did not rise. That really scared me." He talked about the importance of the resurrection and reaffirmed his belief that Jesus had risen. But he had clearly had a brush up with a terrifying idea. On Thursday, one of the people connected with the Jesus Seminar addressed our diocesan clergy. He is a leader in proposing an alternative, more "sceptical" view of Jesus. I did not attend. I teach a bible study on Thursdays. I also do not need to hear him. I have heard enough of that stuff. I have been taught and read about the scarey idea that Jesus died and that was it. It is in my head and it won't go away. Ideas that are like verbal atom bombs, threatening to wipe out our foundation in life.
Some words are hard to forget, especially bad words. Some images are hard to wash out of our head, especially bad ones. It is one reason why the church of my youth emphasized "avoiding the near occassion of sin." There was a list of forbidden books and a list of condemned movies in those days. Unfortunately, like the forbidden fruit of the garden, being on the forbidden list seemed to make it more alluring and increased the temptation. A book needed an imprimatur, a bishop's approval that it should be printed. Such an idea is so offensive to us in our culture that it no longer occurs. We Christians (the majority) read most anything and watch most anything. Efforts to do anything about it are called the work of "thought police" and are viewed negatively.
Now I am not advocating a return to the 1950's. It truly had its own problems. Still, I also know that the doubts that plague me are the result of a culture which portrays Christian faith in negative light. There are lots of "atom bombs" which are placed in our memories. We are bombarded with thoughts, ideas, images which will destroy the fouundations of faith and morality. I used to think that it was an act of courage to wrestle with doubt. As a younger man I viewed it as my duty to engage such things in order to understand why so many of my contemproraies rejected the faith. I thought it was my duty as an apologist. Doubt and faith, I thought, were partners.
Then I read John Chrysostom. He was a great preacher and bishop who lived over fifteen hundred years ago. Turns out John thinks doubt is a bad thing. He advocates feeding faith and starving doubt. I think that is good advice.
To grow as Christians we need to stretch and challenge ourselves. On the other hand, we need to feed the faith and not starve our souls. Where to draw the line on what to read, what to watch, who to listen to? Not sure. That is the struggle. But watch for the fruits in your life. And do not kid yourself, some ideas are like worms eating away at your soul.