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quarta-feira, 3 de novembro de 2010

An Agnostic Christian?

[Originally here, in Portuguese: http://cristianismoprogressista.blogspot.com/2010/09/um-cristao-agnostico.html ]

Yesterday I saw an episode of one of my favorite TV programs, which perhaps many of you do not know: Cara & Coroa [=Younger Guy & Older Guy], on TV Brasil. If you do not know the show, my advice is for you to try to watch it one of these days. It is a very intelligent and inspiring show that deconstructs the artificial barrier between generations, presented by João Rocha Lima (the “Cara” [the younger guy]) and Milton Coelho da Graça (o “Coroa” [the older guy]).

Yesterday's episode (aired at 8 p.m.) discussed religion, and during a conversation between one of the presenters (Milton Graça) and one participant (Professor Gilbraz Aragão, from the Catholic University of Pernambuco), I heard this gem:

Milton Graça: Can you be religious without believing in God?

Prof. Gilbraz Aragão - after thinking for a while: I find it impossible to be deeply religious without at some point discrediting what has been called God.

With few words, a lot of maturity, and great sensibility, Professor Aragão was able to summarize all that many liberal Christians, all that many Unitarians, have been saying for a long time. It is impossible, in my personal experience, to develop an authentic, balanced, deep faith without going through moments of crisis and darkness, moments of disbelief and, perhaps, of deconstruction.

Many people may be confused when they hear me talk about my "disbelief." Often, to be provocative - which is a very prominent feature in my personality - I say I do not believe in God, and some who hear me think this is an open avowal of atheism. That happened recently after a sermon in my own religious community. However, every time I do this as a provocation, at the same time I reaffirm my faith in God's reality.

Since I believe words have great weight in the sense we produce out of theological claims, I like to emphasize my faith in the “Reality of God” and not in the “existence of God”. In my personal theology, these two expressions have a completely different meaning.

What would it mean to say that "God exists"? Existence is a quality we attribute to persons or things, obviously we can assign it to ideas and feelings as well - for example, we could say in Portuguese "there exists [“there is”, in English] a feeling of brotherhood among us”, and we would be talking about something subjective, but since we traditionally use this verb [to exist] to speak of God as a "person" separate from us, with an "objective existence" - at least, that is the impression I get when I hear "God exists" - I prefer to use an expression which does not carry in itself the weight of the usual concepts and notions and which does not find itself closely linked to ideas of absolute correction. That's why I do not say "God exists" but "God is Real" or "God is a Reality."

I am an unbeliever in the conceptions of God built by Christian orthodoxy. I do not believe in the notions of God taught by the great theologians of the Christian church, and, even being a Unitarian Christian, I do not believe in the concepts of God taught by some old Unitarians. In that personal God, the Almighty, who controls the history of the world, and who is able to save us from suffering, I do not believe. My life experiences, what I know about the universe of which I am a particle, and everything that happens in the world around me are strong evidence that that God “does not exist”. Or, if you want me to be more objective and less metaphorical, those "orthodox" ideas about God do not touch me, do not move me, and do not do that because they have become a mute language, a language used only to convince.

Despite this, however, I am a believer in the reality of God, who is present in many different ways and in many different moments in my life. I do not try to explain God to anyone, since I do not have that explanation. God must be experienced and understood in our experience, and not treated as if God were an object of scientific observation. God is Real. God is a Presence in my life, a Presence to which I cannot find words to describe and a Presence I refuse to define, but, even so, a Real Presence.

Rev. Gibson da Costa
(September 8, 2010)
Originally here, in Portuguese: http://cristianismoprogressista.blogspot.com/2010/09/um-cristao-agnostico.html
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