It appears that “doubt is the new black.” Or, that uncertainty is “in.’ This is so particularly in Christian circles.
This sentiment is everywhere on the web these days – in blog posts, in Facebook postings, in tweets, and also on the more established Christian publishing sites. Doubt has displaced dogma. We are supposed to be wary of those who are certain of their faith. We are supposed to be suspicious of those who claim to know the truth. We are all supposed to bask in the glorious uncertainty of everything, because there’s nothing more annoying (or dangerous for that matter – be very afraid!) than someone who presumes to express confidence in faith.
We are all just muddling through. Don’t you dare presume or suggest otherwise!
Now it seems to me that there is something profoundly disingenuous in many of these writings that celebrate doubt. In many instances this celebration of uncertainty seems to be nothing but a trojan horse, under guise of which writers simply want to establish a new dogmatism. It’s not that they doubt. It’s that they want YOU to doubt what THEY want you to doubt. So doubt is only celebrated to the extent that it might help to change your mind – mostly to abandon traditional elements of faith.
In a few cases perhaps there has been an old-fashioned crisis of faith, and the celebration of doubt is an attempt to say something rather than nothing – after all, bloggers and preachers need to say SOMETHING. But once again there appears to be something disingenuous going on, for those religious leaders who advocate uncertainty often continue to deploy the language of faith, as if the language and reality of faith can survive their thoroughgoing assault on confidence.
As I thought about all of this a few weeks ago, I began to wonder what worship would look like if we took these celebrations of doubt and uncertainty as seriously as they seem to want to be taken. Expressed differently: What worship would look like in the churches of those who insist that doubt and uncertainty are so vital to life and faith today.
So I decided to write a call to worship that might give expression to this new, doubt-full faith. And perhaps the next time I hear a church or religious leader going on about the wonders of uncertainty, and the threat of dogma, I’ll ask them if this is what they mean. Not so much as a test of their faith, as a test of their doubt:
God of covenant and creation, we are grateful
today for the gift of life and breath and body.
Or maybe the universe is here by accident,
in which case what can gratitude even mean?
We praise you for cool nights of Autumn, which
bring forth the glorious reds and oranges and yellows
on the trees, proclaiming your wisdom and grace.
But this first taste of winter’s cold also reminds
us of the big freeze that is the likely end of our
universe: A cold dark nothingness.
As your people gathered for worship, we praise you
also for the redemption of your people, whom you
called out of slavery into the land of promise.
Or maybe the Hebrews were just a collection of
tribes that somehow ended up in Palestine.
This first day of the week we celebrate Jesus, your
beloved Son, our Saviour, crucified and risen. We
praise you and sing “Hallelujah.”
But maybe he’s still dead, buried in an unmarked
grave, in which case we take back about four-fifths
of that hallelujah.
As we continue in worship this morning, be near to
us by your Spirit, that we may know your comfort
and presence, your joy and peace.
Or maybe it’s just the sixty-seven of us here, in
which case we’ll just try to get along, even if
there appears to be no good reason for it.