How do you explain it?
In my mind there remain a handful of people who seemed to understand. They were on their own path and knew it, so I offer not a word of criticism about their choices. Most of them chose to stay in the churches I simply had to leave. I can recall one good church and a segment of time in a military chapel when things were delightful. Military chapel congregations vary because of the mandatory turnover, so the character of that kind of “church” is a broad snapshot of time and you wouldn’t recognize the character of the group later. One such snapshot brought together a truly amazing congregation at a critical time in my spiritual development. The rich atmosphere faded before I decided it was time to move on, but I stayed past that point because of a few fine people. So in general, I can say I miss certain individuals, but I don’t really miss the churches that much.
About a decade ago was the last time I gave mainstream organized Christianity a try. I’ve stayed close enough to observe, but far enough away to avoid entanglement. Over the years one truly amazing and disconcerting feature remains constant: The jarring disconnection between words and actions. Not the typical hypocrisy you hear or read about from most critics, this is something far more subtle, and far more damaging. So subtle it is that you might not be able to agree with me, even if you grasp the nature of this thing.
A critical element in Christian Mysticism is a powerful sense of Two Realms. Not in the sense of my doctrinal teaching, but I refer to a full apprehension burned into your awareness. With rare exception, all of the Christians I’ve ever met ascribe to some version “Heaven” as somewhere different from here and now. But it seems most of the time a mere idea. It’s not part of their calculus of life. They act as if it’s not real; they talk and write and construct a whole framework that denies it. This denial is pervasive. The belief is not a truth, but a mere fact for them, and has precious little effect on how they operate. It’s always out there somewhere and they aren’t striving to connect directly. It’s an orthodoxy without faith.
I can recall a session in the NATO chapel with a bunch of teenagers from those military families in the chapel. I tried to convey the concept of our universe as a mere bubble with distinct boundaries and a distinct lifespan existing within a broader existence that has no such boundaries. I used a lot of jargon common to science fiction from those days. I suppose some of them got it, because you could see the proverbial light bulb flash on their faces. But these were kids just a few years from legal adulthood. Why was this so new to them? So I tested the idea against their parents in a different setting, and it was a similar experience. Military adults don’t respond the same way as civilian crowds, but I could see it was news to many of them. These weren’t new converts and not ignorant within their own sectarian backgrounds, but even the typical American evangelicals seemed surprised.
It’s not that anyone argued with me. It’s the sort of thing where, if they got it, they recognized it instinctively as true. Some of them began to exhibit noticeable changes in their moral existence. It awakened something in them.
To this day I can’t explain where the concept came from. I’m pretty sure my youthful obsession with Science Fiction and the theory of dimensional physics was part of it, and I suppose that was the fertile ground for when I began reading Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) literature and academic explanations of the ANE intellectual background in college. It must have all fit together neatly because I can’t recall any moment when it dawned on me, only that I had assumed it for quite some time. It crystallized when I felt compelled to answer some sharp questions.
By now you probably recognize that people can’t get this concept if it’s not already true inside them in some way. All it does is give some kind of intellectual shape, pulls it into conscious focus from where it stood in the shadows. It was already there or it isn’t something people can accept. We believe that Creation is much bigger than our universe and that some part of us belongs to that higher dimension, but there seems no way for us to actually create the connection, only recognize when it’s there.
We have a distinct cosmology and anthropology. Without them, this whole religion dissolves into mist. We assert by our very lives that there are Two Realms and that we are designed to connect across that dimensional boundary. I can most assuredly tell you what it’s like to lose that connection; God allowed me to experience it briefly and it was worse than dying physically. A lot of things died during that time. The experience was the final destruction of a lot of goofy theology for me, I can assure you. Without these fundamental differences in cosmology and anthropology, our religion doesn’t exist, but we have to be ready to live with the simple fact a lot of folks will never get it. We can do our best to offer some kind of explanation that may or may not work, but we can’t make them see something that doesn’t exist for them.
Answering questions about your faith can mean having no answer for some folks.