Tue, 13 March 2018
Cass Midgley talks with Ryan Connell. Cohost Bob Pondillo was not able to be there for the conversation. Ryan is an Assembly of God pastor's son and himself was in ministry and aspiring to be a pastor like his father. But his pursuit of truth and love took him to some unexpected places.
Ryan is the homeschooled son of a pentecostal pastor and was himself a traveling preacher and inner city missionary. His crisis of faith caused him to dig deeper into philosophy of religion and church history, where he has spent the last thirteen years or so trying to make sense of what we were raised to believe. He is now a nomadic religious scholar and journalist, traveling the country sleeping on people's couches and guest rooms, documenting the American religious experience. He also jokingly refers to himself as a "missionary to evangelicals" as he writes a weekly contemplative blog directed to them about how to move past the more damaging aspects of their belief system while still holding on to their faith. You can check out his essays on his website theholyapostate.com that help explain his background and what he's up to now. I loved this talk and I love Ryan. He's truly a brother of a different mother. We could hang. It's all I'm saying.
At one point, Ryan refers to the theodicy of divine silence and I want to address this for a second. Theodicy means the vindication or the insistence of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil, in this case, the fact that God is silent and rather cryptic in revealing himself to his creation. The seeking and finding of a hidden God. This serves as a way for humans to feel superior to those that have not found God because of this very promise--that if you had truly sought God then you would find God. You're not humble enough. You're not desperate enough. Your pride is keeping you from seeing God. It flips upside down the old adage, "you have to see it to believe it," to "you have believe it to see it." Which conveniently puts the blame of not being able to see a non-existent god onto the unbeliever, creating guilt and deep distrust of one's self as inadequate to see the invisible. And the temptation for people in that tribe to keep pretending has little to do with their true beliefs, but rather the safety the feel in numbers. All these people can't be wrong! It's the prime environment to fake it til you make it. After all, what would we do outside this tribe? The chaotic world full of unexplainable injustices and daunting emptiness awaits us outside this tribe. At least here we all know what's going on, don't we? Please keep preaching to me week after week! Please let's go see all our friends in the tribe because we all wouldn't be coming here if it wasn't true. We wouldn't build this building or the local police wouldn't direct traffic outside our parking lot. Handel, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven wouldn't have written about God if it weren't true. Billy Graham wouldn't be invited to the White House by 11 Presidents from Truman in 1945 to George W. Bush in 2007 if it weren't true. Look at all the cathedrals around the world. Look at all the seminaries and books written about our God. Look how many times we remind ourselves, "God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good." Because God is silent, because life happens exactly as it would if there were no god, we fill the silence and replace the chaos with the sounds of praises and the grand narratives of meaning, lest we lapse for just long enough to catch a glimpse of the meaninglessness, to hear the deafening silence, and actually consider that all these people and buildings and books and music and popes and general hoopla says more about our childish fears and insecurities and our need to hide the man behind the curtain and protect God from his own scriptures than it does about the actual existence of God. Believers need things to be simple. They can't handle chaos. Life is complex. Humans are complex. The cosmos is complex. And all are chaotic. They like order and neat, clearly divided compartments where everything fits and makes sense. It's why the homophobic authors couldn't understand gayness, and why today's homophobes are fighting LGBTQ and transgender humans. We're messing up their sandcastle. Stephen Hawking, may he rest in peace, threw a wrench in their perfect, divine plan.
Now, for those of us who, like the Truman show, found the edge of the soundstage and stepped through the door to the real world, found the world to be much less scary than we were told or imagined. We discovered real humans and real art and real sex and the amazing creativity and determination of science and curing diseases and understanding our universe and cultures that worshipped other gods. That our little indoctrinations were so clearly man-made. Just this week I explored a couple of YouTubers called nerdwriter1 and Casey Neistat. I celebrated the music of Joe Bonamassa and The Kinks and brilliant artists that make us think and laugh like the Coen Brothers, David Letterman, Wes Anderson, Game of Thrones, Peaky Blinders, the Netflix series Seven Seconds and all the streaming shows that stretch us like Black Mirror or documentaries that challenge us to think about what we're doing to destroy the planet. Life is happening outside the Christian bubble in depths and breadths I wouldn't allow myself to consider inside the tribal walls.
And my guest today, Ryan Connell did just that--he not only left Christianity but he loaded up his car and went on the road to better understand why humans need religion, especially Christianity. His curiousity and lack of judgment is a breath of fresh air. I believe you're going to benefit from this conversation. We taped it on March 3rd, 2018.
We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.
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The segue music on this episode is "Hard to Be," by David Bazan