Reflection on Doubt
Written by Joseph “Josey” Stone
All Saints’ Atlanta Project corps member
As a child, I thought my responsibility as a young Christian in a conservative church was to memorize the increasing pat answers fed to me by my Sunday School teachers and pastors. If I had a question, I soon learned to keep my mouth shut, simply because my questions would take the teacher “off script.” Years later, I could have easily ditched my faith if it wasn’t for an “Intro to New Testament” class in undergrad. On the first day of class, we were asked to write down questions about the Bible we’d love to ask. I forget what I wrote, but I do remember that the professor chose my question first and we ended up discussing it for the rest of that hour. That was the day the ‘theology bug’ bit me. So much so that I eventually changed my major to Christian studies.
At my ESC worksite, Covenant Community, a residential life-stabilization program for homeless men recovering from substance abuse, some of my long-held beliefs have been challenged immensely. Even with my experience of working in a homeless community for the past seven years, I’ve struggled with the reality of caring for chronically homeless friends in the throes of addiction. During my service year, I’ve learned to take to heart the unofficial slogan shared among priests at All Saints’ Episcopal Church: “The job of Messiah is already taken.”
Asking honest questions will get you far, particularly when it comes to strengthening one’s faith. Questions like “what can we as beloved community offer to our communities hurting from racism, classism, and the various other -isms that cause schisms in our “civilized” West?” I’ve come to accept that a healthy sense of doubt can help one reach a balance within the swinging pendulum of one’s pessimisms and assumptions about life, living, and everything in between. Doubt can reveal one’s unchecked blind spots, biases, and obliviousness to others’ perspectives and experiences. With patience, it can be of great help in revealing one’s insecurities and the way toward sustainable growth. Healthy doubt leads invariably to an informed faith. Our faith, at its best, is one shown through the art of hospitality, generosity, and compassion. Blind belief, on the other hand, assumes that one will be favored by the Divine if one says the right words, employs correct rites, and knows the right secret handshake to get into “the Clubhouse.”
Let’s be honest, living out one’s faith is rarely popular, always under-appreciated, and often criticized as foolish and illogical. Even so, God gave us brains (and free-will) for a reason. As we are honest with our doubts and wrestle with them within beloved community, we can proclaim more boldly, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. (Mark 1:15)”
So doubt bravely, because after all, doubt as well as anger are a few of the many things one can offer up to God in prayer.