My deconstruction from orthodoxy and small town life began quite accidentally by reading great books, and talking to friends who had read great books. Or it began by just going to university and thinking academically. Or it began by asking myself those questions that I guess some people eventually cannot avoid when they end up in a lonely place, physically and/or emotionally. Anyway, each of these challenging voices did fuel my 'conversion' process. I literally cried when at last, it was told from stage in church that hell may not entirely be real, by a clever friend who had performed a lot of research and thoroughly explained why. Suddenly, I felt so much freedom. So strong is the power of a community over an individual.
I was raised with a quite lively image of hell, and I still fear it sometimes, though fortunately not often, and perhaps I really fear something else. I first dared to negate hell's existence, at least in a sense, after I very seriously considered what love actually means in the real, physical world (and how that can only be incompatible with a punishment as mercyless and wicked and twisted as the classical notion of an endless hell, destined for innumerable and relatively innocent people, such as my dear non-Christian friends and their innumerable friends ('relatively innocent' because at least in some collective way, I am contributing to a guilty system - but becoming a neurotic perfectionist and carrying the post-colonial yoke all alone is not the correct answer), especially if 'Christianity' means nothing more than having recited an unsubstantial, technical, sentimental formula like the sinners' prayer (or having been baptised), probably at least partly under psychological pressure, perhaps as a dependent and disoriented teenager who needed solace and security and answers.
In other words: one day, or in the process, I chose (and still choose) to put aside the narrow lens of my religious upbringing, and put on the eye-opening lens of what was stirring deep within. Which also meant: how in God's name can the world's gross systemic unrighteousness ever go unpunished? Only one good look at the global distribution of wealth suffices to justify that question. And also, many people behave evil and get away with it (the question from the Psalms). But then again, how do personal behaviour and responsability relate to societal errors, multigenerational effects, unforeseen consequences and inherited DNA weaknesses, or even ephemereal Zeitgeist-like dynamics and machinations?
So perhaps, at the most, some sort of temporary hell would be desirable and beneficial, given the dazzling immensity of evil, as well as our heartbreaking vulnerability. Supposing there actually will be an hereafter.
On top of that, I once went through a tragic, absurdly acccidental loss, and eventually wondered: "How can a loving, almighty God ever be responsible for this anomaly? Either (s)he isn't loving, or (s)he isn't almighty." The same question we can of course, ultimately, also ask about the very existence of evil (the Theodicy). So much pain, so many questions. And yet, the Bible keeps insisting on the possibility of physical resurrection. Try to wrap your heart, soul and mind around that after a serious loss at a vulnerable age.
The emotional recovery began in hindsight, by acknowledging how wonderful my life has become (or, paraphrasing Monty Python's "The Life of Brian" [which I didn't dare to watch for a long time]: when the darkness finally lifted, I began to see the bright side of life more than before), a luxury I have now, but haven't always had. Yet, there still is no real answer. Sometimes I boldly think/feel: that would somehow mean God her-/himself utterly deserves that punishment. Perhaps that is why Jesus came to earth. For what is true love, if it doesn't include some level of identification? In other words: substantial love means to surrender your life for your friends.
There seems to be a dominant tension towards defending the poor and defenseless in the quotations ascribed to Jesus in the gospels. And even God himself was tortured to death. Maybe that mysterious amalgam of human and divine utter selfnessness and love is part of the answer (but there can never be sincere love without the presence of healthy self-love first). Though I had preferred my daughters' fantasy world of unicorns, Tinkerbell and innocent play to be the answer, instead of all that horror. But no, for that would be smothering true questions in a reality of breast cancer, social Darwinism and an ever rising divorce rate.
Why I believe in God? Because it's still the easiest way out, because it's my social network, because the benefits outweigh the burden, because it has become part of my identity in time, because it offers me a place to start thinking, because my life is great, because it is a rich world view to relate to, because the Truth should have the shape of grace instead of the law, because love should win. So here it is, a very human construction of profound and shallow pragmatics and principles.
Why it's weird that I believe in God? Because I grew up in the most post-Christian country on earth (the Netherlands; hence the language mistakes), because I've been academically trained (English language and literature, and I love the access it grants me to this vast ocean of human thought), because science in general is so elegant, because I've gone through a hurtful and meaningless loss of life and love, that can still kick in unexpectedly after nearly thirty years; because the Bible is so bizarre, exotic and deeply connected to older Canaanite and Babylonian religions, because Greek and Roman mythology is also stunningly beautiful, ingenious and sincere, because Christianity does not at all possess a spotless track record, because too many Christians defensively and offensively pretend to know it all, and because for some odd reason, Christians are still persecuted in several countries. I can put all of this in a fitting perspective most of the time, although I must confess that I also feel torn apart now and then.
In other words: there is so much more to say. I have to be modest: I'm not per se offering academically reliable and consistent information, I'm only a fellow believer who thinks and feels and spills his guts. Maybe you can relate to some of it.
Jaap Slingerland (1976) staat in zijn directe omgeving bekend als relatief ongebonden denker, even fladderluchtig als loodzwaar, bourgondisch maar broodmager, linkshandig en veelal -stemmend, destijds op Hyves nog erkend bohemien maar inmiddels mild gevestigd en sowieso professioneel, en offline meer introvert dan hier, al liggen die kaders bij vertalers naar verluidt weer anders.
Alle poëzie en proza op dit blog zijn louter fictie. De auteur is zoals altijd dus weer eens niet de verteller. Hoezeer deze teksten soms ook op de levens van mijzelf, mijn geliefden en anderen lijken te zijn gebaseerd: ze zijn op zijn minst afgezwakt, aangedikt, door elkaar gegooid, en meestal gewoon goed verzonnen.