Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Saints of Doubt: Doug Pinnick

In what I hope will be an ongoing series, I will be highlighting the great doubters who have shaped my own spirituality. Some of these are ex-Christians, some were burned by the church, some just tortured souls; all have influenced me (and others, I presume) in profound ways. Many of them are artists who have remembered tragedy in the midst of a Church afraid to read the hard parts of her own Book. Many are theologians or philosophers who dared to look into infinite spaces even when these filled them with dread.  All have struggled with faith, not all have remained faithful.

I don’t know how well this will go over, so I will very much appreciate feedback (email if you don’t feel like commenting). I especially want to hear from those of you who don’t like it.

The Patron Saint of Gay Christians

King’s X is one of the coolest, dirtiest rock bands still playing.  15 albums and counting.  Doug is their lead singer.  Although they never branded themselves a “Christian” band, Christians were their base, and many of Doug’s early lyrics were evangelical to say the least. 

In 1998, Pinnick came out of the closet in a Christian magazine. 

On 2004’s Ear Candy, the second verse of “Looking for Love” features these lyrics:

A standard, a program/religion burned me at the stake./I questioned, I listened, I worshiped, how can I relate?/I worked so hard at it, oh Lord, the bruises and the burns/I just don’t—don’t get it—I guess I lost my faith/Looking for love.

Listen to it here.

In a 2002 interview, Pinnick had this to say about giving up on faith:

The greatest thing that happened to me was, when I stopped believing in God, I stopped believing in the Devil. When I stopped believing in the Devil, all my fear went away. I'm not afraid to die, I'm not afraid to walk down the street. I'm not looking over my shoulder thinking the Devil's going to get me, or 'God is watching me, so I'd better not do that,' when there's nothing wrong with what I've done. We used to preach when you come to Christ you're free, and you have peace and you have happiness. Well, for me, I got all that stuff when I stopped believing in God. I was in prison, I was unhappy. I felt like I didn't fit in-- And then people tell me that I didn't believe in God in the first place. Well, I totally did. I gave my whole life to it. I studied it. I learned it. I lived it. I really, really did.

Well, even on the other side of the fence he still hopes you’ll pray:

On second thought, let's just do satire

This from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle.

Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.

You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan

Via Hit Dan Back

This being the post in which the “theologian” acts like one

In the last week, a lot of people have asked me what I think about Haiti and God, or what Pat Robertson said, or how I can believe in a good God when things like this happen, or something along these lines. It boils down to a simple question: How can we think about Haiti theologically? How should persons of faith encounter terrible tragedies?

It’s interesting to me that these questions didn’t really crop up the first or second time Airbear and I went to Haiti. When we came back and told stories about how horrible the conditions were, no one asked us how we could still believe in God, or questioned God’s goodness, or anything like that. I certainly asked those questions in-country. For someone who often struggles with doubt, seeing the devastation firsthand simply italicized my own questions, underlined them, and put them in bold.

And eventually, working there, being with the people, seeing the blessing that is La Maison Des Enfants De Dieu to those kids, eating gut-busting curries and lam-en-sauce, hearing the children praying before and after lunch, I just decided I was asking the wrong questions.

A lot of people assume the Bible is supposed to help us make sense of the world, supposed to explain things. If that’s the case, it’s a really crappy book, because for every story about God punishing sin with disaster and war, there’s a story about innocent suffering. For every story about God angered, frustrated, and vengeful, there’s a story about God moved, merciful, and relentlessly kind. For every prophecy of God turning his face from his people, there is an utterance about God’s gracious, unending, unyielding commitment.

The Bible doesn’t explain life and sort things into neat categories. It rather takes life seriously, in all its messy madness. It doesn’t dole out a prescription for fixing every illness; instead it invites us to live faithfully with our infirmity. If God wants to tell us why this earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, I’m sure God will raise up a prophet to speak to us. Maybe right now there is some Haitian Christian out there with a Word from the Lord we need to take seriously.

Maybe Pat Robertson is sort of right. Maybe vodou really is evil and God really doesn’t like child sacrifice, child prostitution, and child slavery and so he gave those tectonic plates a little nudge on the quantum level.

Or maybe being God is really hard. Maybe God is having a tough time balancing all the crazy going on down here while simultaneously trying to unleash the Spirit and move people into Kingdom life while keeping an eye on human evil and minimizing its effects and giving his natural creation the freedom to be itself. Maybe being God is a little bit like being asked to turn a jungle into a garden. Maybe that’s why he asked us to help.

Maybe this place is just nuts.

But maybe, just maybe, we need to ask these questions from time to time to spur us on in faith. We need to slam our heads against information that simply defies explanation until we, like Paul, are reduced to worship. When we are so exhausted by our inability to comprehend that we can’t help but pray in solidarity with those who suffer and solemnly commit ourselves to alleviating their pain in the name of one crucified. The world cannot understand this sort of incomprehension, though it tries to mimic the response.

Thinking theologically about Haiti means taking scripture seriously, taking God’s work in the world seriously, asking questions seriously, and then seriously shutting up.