“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.” C.J. Jung
It makes faith a very small country indeed.
When we are young in our faith (whatever that faith may be) the necessary questions we ask are ‘What must I believe?’ and ‘How do I believe it?’ In essence, what are the rules? Bearing in mind that many in our modern world do not have any faith engagement this is a worthwhile place to be. It provides us with foundations, a necessary set of rules and a marker to find our place on the map. It’s black and white thinking but it is good. We grow some understanding of faith and look at some wider fundamental questions about our existence and the meaning of life.
But many never get beyond this stage. There is security in the faith group we are born into (or adopted by). The language and rituals of our chosen subculture are underpinned by belief in a shared ‘truth’. This ‘truth’ becomes monolithic. Questioning it will see you moved to the edge of the group and eventually you will probably jump or be shoved. This is because the groups’ continued existence depends on maintaining that edifice, even if it makes faith a very small country indeed.
Tribalism pulls us down at all levels
So it’s time to move on, but many will not question or leave, because of the security and comfort the group brings. Some, though physically present on a Friday/Saturday/Sunday (please delete as appropriate), are metaphorically travelling the back lanes and rocky shores (turning over stones to see what crawls out). They are wanderers on their way to some sort of desert experience. Others may ‘lose’ their faith at this point or be sidelined as heretics or backsliders. These happenings are all part of a faith transition which makes room for doubt, critical analysis, questioning and deeper spiritual growth. It takes some courage to go there, but this journey is essential to get us beyond dualistic thinking.
This type of thinking opens our minds to wonder at our place in it all – insignificant but important – a paradox at the centre of our existence as individuals and a species. Failure to reach a point where we can embrace paradox is a failure to even begin growing up. It could be said that the human race still behaves like a spoilt teenager, making a mess of everything – economically, environmentally and socially. Being altogether too big for our boots we have failed to realise that our unique and special gifts are ours to serve the Earth community, not to rule it. Tribalism – identity with my ‘right’ group - pulls us down at all levels – government, group or family. We need seers and wise elders to incorporate life transitions correctly into our group settings. Unfortunately it is often people with this potential that get excluded first and are lost to the process.