Question Nine

Why are your fears of greater interest to me than your beliefs?

As I write this we have recently moved to California, which is experiencing a severe drought.  A scarcity of water, but no shortage of beliefs.  California is a shopping center for belief systems.  And I love it here, I swear.

I have a friend who once told me that the thought of Jesus dying for her made her angry.  And I wonder if that’s one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard, and perhaps one of the most revealing.  Could anger directed toward Jesus somehow get at the center of all things?  Having eluded domestication, does Jesus expose our core concern, the splitting of a personal atom?  Otherwise, why would there be any reaction?  I mean, who cares?  Even if we’re talking about a virtually undisputed historical scenario that emerged over two thousand years ago, why should it even matter to us, let alone elicit strong emotions, including anger?  Unless that message has traveled well over time, has staying power, and lives to disturb our spiritual equilibrium in the present day.  ("Oh, great.")  And could that Jesus message, even Jesus himself, be “the edge,” the tipping point for deep internal considerations?  Even that stone over which we will not stumble?

I’m told there’s a connection between anger and fear - that fear is often at the core of anger.  And here will you allow me to press on a particular, and I imagine largely unrecognized fear, the fear of revelation — information (perhaps even Truth) that comes to us from the outside, perhaps welcomed but uninvited.  It enters the world and exists independent of our requests and appetites, threatening to penetrate or establish our personal belief systems.  Revelation breaks into our self-ordered world, and then asks “what will you do?”  And what’s not to fear about that?

For me the fear of revelation rides in tandem with my greatest longing in life, that I will never be exposed for who I truly am.  And I will spend every ounce of energy and utilize every seeming innovation to fortify the mortar and keep the walls high on that one.  Not being one of the celebrity fears, fear of revelation strikes me as a subconscious acknowledgment of an overlooked stealth operation that, among the smorgasbord of fears, may be located at the heart of the matter.  And does such a fear entertain the possibility of a sequence of wonderful disturbances, including the prospect that the very nature of revelation is to interrupt and challenge self-organized searches and spiritual complacency?

Take for example the Harvard University shield.  I had worked at Harvard for years before someone pointed out to me the original shield design, which can be found within the stained glass of Memorial Hall and in stone on several buildings at Harvard.  That shield contains images of three open books — two on the top shown face up, and a third book on the bottom shown face down, which was to symbolize the founders’ view that a search for Truth must acknowledge the limits of human reason and the need for God’s revelation.

But that sweatshirt or mug you just bought at the Coop doesn’t configure the books that way.  Now all three books on the shield are face up.  Isn’t that curious?  An oversight, a dismissal, or a fear?  I loved my years at Harvard, and I was fortunate to work with some wonderful people, but why would the modern Harvard navigate around the revelation distinction?  What might that…   reveal?  And here I thought Veritas was Latin for "No Parking."