Being a Theological Never-nude
Expect people to be late on Monday May 27th this year. It isn’t that the 26th is a religious holiday per se, but it might as well be. The faithful have been fervently waiting a decade for this return. No, Harold Camping isn’t predicting the rapture again. Instead, this is something I’m actually excited about: the return of Arrested Development! What does this have to do with OneTheology you may be asking yourself – as you contemplate how to watch the first three seasons in as short a time as possible. Well, let me tell you. Your religion may have turned you into a theological never-nude!
Being a never-nude is exactly what it sounds like. You can never be nude. Ever. With anyone. Even yourself. While there may be dozens of never nude sufferers the world over who are keeping the male jean short market alive, it isn’t to them that I really direct this blog. Instead, I want to ask if your theological convictions, or more likely the convictions of your community of faith keep you from ever being nude.
Nudity is about vulnerability. It is about removing all those protective barriers which separate the “real” us from others. I believe that if you are scared to share your doubts, questions, and fears about theological topics with those near to you, that you are suffering from a condition which needs to be addressed.
Do you think Adam and Eve are most likely literary characters and not a literal first couple? Do you share that with anyone at your church? No. I hope you like jean shorts.
Do you cringe when people complain because the Boy Scouts of America decided not to discriminate against homosexual scouts? Are you willing to tell anyone? Denim looks good on you.
Maybe it isn’t even a hot button issue that you disagree with. Maybe you simply have questions you don’t want to ask because you’ve been taught that doubting is sinful.
If you are afraid to ask questions, or say what you believe because it involves being vulnerable and naked, I understand. It is difficult to admit you have no idea what in the world to believe on certain things. This gets even tougher when you are in a position where other believers look to you for answers. But the payoff is great. It gets exhausting when you can never share your doubts or opinions. Will people dislike you for disagreeing with them? Sometimes. I told a guy at my church last weekend that I don’t believe in a literal Adam and I thought he would drop right there from a heart attack. I was thankful his wife put her hand on his arm to help calm him down, because I didn’t want to feel responsible for killing him.
I don’t understand Paul Tillich. He may be one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century, but he makes me feel like I don’t understand the English language. “The vitality that can stand the abyss of meaninglessness is aware of a hidden meaning within the destruction of meaning.” That line is from The Courage to Be which has been sitting mostly unread on my bookshelf for almost 7 years. I have no idea what it means, but I think I understand the title of the book better now than when I started it so many years ago. It takes courage to be ourselves. To be vulnerable. To admit that we have unanswered questions that haunt us. It takes courage to be theologically naked.
C.S. Lewis has one character ask, “How can we meet the gods face to face until we have faces?” That character wore a mask her entire life and hiding behind it was the source of her strength and her greatest weakness. If you are hiding your questions and doubts to keep up appearances, or because you are afraid of the discomfort it might cause you, I’m sorry.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Talk. Question. Be vulnerable. If something doesn’t make sense, don’t simply accept that. Have the courage to be a questioner. Have the courage to be naked. The Christianity I am a part of is made of up of vulnerable people who have questions. All are welcome. The only requirement is that you leave your shorts at the door.