I find your faith disturbing…Good!

My birthday is coming up next month and I was looking for a laptop sticker for my Macbook to add to my list. I found an intriguing one that I really liked.

Here it is:

find-your-faith-disturbing

It’s a subtle play on the line uttered by Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope where he force-chokes a fellow Imperial officer when the officer insults the Force and Vader. Vader chokes him from afar and says “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

But this sticker says “I find your faith disturbing.” Little wonder because the title of the product is “Star Wars for Atheists.” The connotation is that it’s not a “lack of faith” that is disturbing, it is the presence of faith that is disturbing.

While we can haha about this clever play on words, I believe there’s a deeper issue here.

Because the thing is…I want my faith to be disturbing.

Gerhard Ebeling, in his Introduction to a Theological Theory of Language, quotes Luther’s conception of “The Word of God” as disturbing to us, not consoling:

According to Luther, the word of God always comes as adversarius noster, our adversary. It does not simply confirm and strengthen us in what we think we are and as what we wish to be taken for. It negates our nature, which has fallen prey to illusion; but this is the way the word of God affirms our being and makes it true. This is the way, the only way, in which the word draws us into concord and peace with God.

If the basis of the Christian faith is one of discontent–not content–then a disturbing faith is exactly what I want to have:

  • I want people to see me wasting my time listening to old people and poor people and immoral people and be disturbed that I would choose to break bread with such people deemed unusable by society.
  • I want to challenge the assumptions of people’s value as defined by society and disturb the status quo.
  • I want people to see that my beliefs are different than the Christianity that is played out on cable news networks and have their image of Christianity disturbed.
  • I want to be disturbed by those TV Christians and be incited to challenge their dominance in the discourse.
  • I want to disturb the people in the pews to go beyond their current places in discipleship, outreach, and belief.
  • I want to disturb the people around the church to see there’s something going on in the church that challenges their assumptions.
  • I want atheists who share my disregard for cable TV faith to be disturbed by my faith that challenges the stereotypes.
  • I want my faith to not be static, to continue to push boundaries and challenge long-held conceptions…I want to be disturbed by my own faith that keeps me up in anguish at night.

Like an old bumper sticker I still have on my church office pegboard (“Help me to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”), so also I want a real faith that disturbs my life, not a therapeutic deism that refuses to engage the world.

But more than that, I want a faith that disturbs the fellow believers in my faith. As Peter Rollins writes in his book How (Not) To Speak of God, 

Insofar as Christianity fails to engage in self-critique, not only realizing its own conceptual limitations but also pointing out our own failings, it becomes a discourse about our kingdom and not God’s.

P. Rollins, 116.

And that’s one of the base missions of this website: to hack Christianity into something better necessarily challenges the programmers and holders of religious truth. To hold accountable my own United Methodist Church and its membership leads to disturbing situations between this blog and the ecclesial leadership. And that’s okay, because that’s what we are doing here: making faith disturbing to our present world and yet simultaneously making faith compatible with the world to come.

Your turn:

  1. In what ways does your faith disturb your life?
  2. In what ways does your articulation of faith disturb the powers-that-be in the denomination or faith you have professed?

Thoughts? Thanks for reading.

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