The most recent book on my reading list was C.S. Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity’. At a time in our nation’s history when it seemed impossible to believe in a god, C.S. Lewis began broadcasting to World War II soldiers why a god must exist. He focuses on dispelling some misconceptions of Christianity, and some potentially refutable arguments, and discusses what living a Christian life truly means. It’s a book geared towards those on the fringes, those who dabble into Christianity, and offers them intellectual insight as to why they should find refuge in God.
Already being a believer myself, I didn’t necessarily need to be persuaded to believe in Christianity. However, C.S. Lewis draws some really compelling arguments, uses some very reachable examples, and explains what it means to be Christian, and why there must be a god. Upon finishing this book, I began reflecting on my own reasoning of why these must be a God:
The more I take away from church, the better I feel: Sometimes, I feel like going to church is like going to counseling. When the preacher tells me to slow down, and make margins in my life, because here is the Bible quote that instructs that, and then I actually do, I feel better. When the sermon tells me to stop expecting other people to act and behave in certain ways, because Jesus was selfless and accepting, and I actually do, my life is happier. When we are told to not be righteous or proud, because the Gospel warns against too much ego, and I actually revise my self-perception, I can handle the world better. It’s as though, whatever created human beings, and thus created the human mind, knows exactly what a healthy psyche needs, and what a healthy psyche needs are those lessons directed straight from the Bible.
And, I am not sure that these lessons are necessarily cultural values. Something like individualism and competitiveness is cultural; as Americans, we like to be better than everyone else and we like to stand out, whereas in other cultures, it’s more important for the group to gain recognition. However, I think every major religion in the world teaches the ‘Cardinal Virtues’ that C.S. Lewis lays out: prudence (taking the trouble to think about what you are going to do, and what the outcome might be, instead of just acting impulsively), temperance (not necessarily abstaining for pleasures, but only indulging in the right amount), justice (honesty, give and take, truthfulness, keeping promises, etc.), and fortitude (the courage to when faced with danger, and that sticks to it ‘under pain’). These virtues, these promises that “if you live life with these in mind, you will be fulfilled”, I think, are innate to human nature, not just a cultural expectation. Anyone who can unlock their secrets, and who works to maintain their quality, feels better.
Precision of timing: When I look back on certain events in my life, how could I not believe that there was some other force, a hand, placing all the events, people, and obstacles in my way for a reason? For example, my first teaching job: at the time, I had interviewed for at least six different jobs. In one of my rejections, a lady mentioned that the school across the highway wanted to start up a dance team. So, the next week, I marched myself into their athletic office, talked to the director. Fortunately, their English department was hiring as well, and that is how I got my first job. Had any one of those events not occurred, I would not have been hired; the cards could not have matched up more perfectly.
Even people that come into, and leave, my life seem to have some kind of precision of timing. I met someone a year ago this week that seemed to have no other purpose than to be someone I could have fun with. However, as it turns out, he became a huge influence in my existential crisis: he caused me to dig up my past and dissect my roots, remember and reinvent my teaching philosophy and purpose in life, discover my faith and define my ideas of dating and marriage. And, the timing of him coming into my life could not have been more perfect, more planned. He served as a planter of seeds, so when he left my life, it gave me opportunities to sprout those seeds, to consider those questions he brought up, and to find, and solidify, myself amongst the chaos.
And these events continue to surprise me. Just the other day, I had this inclination to text a long lost friend (and, not being a lover of repressing desires), I turned to my room mate, asked if I should send the message, he said yes, so I did. And, the person responded, “Holy smokes, I was just thinking the same thing”..at the exact same moment that I sent the message. Or, you think about all those love stories where people “weren’t supposed to go out that night, but for some reason, they did, and then they met their future spouse”. Or, how one conversation with a stranger in an elevator morphs into something way more meaningful in your life. Of course, there is always the theory of coincidence, but the universe is chaotic, there are 6 billion plus people in the world, and the probability of instances like these just randomly aligning themselves and happening is just too small and unfathomable for there not to be something else installing and plugging our lives together.
The accuracy of gut feelings: There have been multiple times, especially in the last few years, where I have felt like I needed to do something; at the time, I didn’t understand why I needed to do it, but was later revealed to me. For example, an opportunity presented itself to me to take a new job. I made my pro/con list, and on paper, taking this job seemed like the much better option: space with windows, teach whatever I wanted, potential increase in pay. I kept praying for a sign, for an answer, that I was supposed to take this job. And, it never came. I even went to a yoga class that focused on “taking chances”, and I thought, “Ok this is it! This is my sign!” I meditated, and left the class, not feeling any different. I now completely understand why I was not supposed to leave my current job, and it was obviously some other unexplainable force holding me there.
These kind of instances happen all the time. For example, when my parents first got a divorce, my mom appeased us with a cat, Cleo (she was truly a trooper…we used to dress her up and walk her around the neighborhood in a baby stroller). When I was a senior in high school, I got a call from the office: Cleo had escaped the night before, and my mom found her dead body, eaten by some wild animal, in the backyard. I remember being sad, but also remember thinking that perhaps the death of Cleo meant a turning point in our lives; that, perhaps a new chapter was beginning. And sure enough, it did.
Or, the gut feelings you have when you are supposed to call someone, and it turns out they needed to talk to you. Or, the gut feeling that you want to go to a different King Soopers than usual, and you run into someone you haven’t seen in forever. Or, the gut feeling you have when picking out a dog at the shelter, and it turns out that dog could not have fit you better. These gut feelings can’t just be nothing; they must be someone speaking to us.
The miracles of science: As my friend Anika, a NICU nurse, once said, “People always look at these frail, underdeveloped babies, and say it’s a miracle that they survived. I always look at the perfectly healthy babies, and say it’s a miracle that they survived”. When I think about the accuracy that must take place in everything science related, especially in creating a baby, it is perplexing that things ever go right. Science has so many specific rules: water MUST freeze at 32 degrees, a hydrogen atom MUST have one electron, a baby MUST split from two half-cells (yes, sciencey people, I am fully aware that there are always anomalies, but the fact that things just happen 99% of the time is a miracle within itself). The fact that everything fits together in this perfectly planned puzzle called life is evidence enough that there is some kind of higher being out there.
Really smart people are believers: And, at the end of the day, if I still don’t believe there is a god, I think about all my favorite intellectuals, who are strong believers. I am always amazed when I find out my favorite professors, leaders, authors, surgeons, teachers, etc. are devote Christians, who pray and go to church every Sunday. If they believe, there must be something to it. C.S. Lewis writes, “the battle is between faith and reason on one side, and emotion and imagination on the other”. If they can see through the inconsistencies of religion, and still believe, then I might as well too…