Monday, 21 August 2017

The Saint Of Oz - Thomas, Apostle of Doubt

The Surprise Doubting Saint Of Oz

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Saint Thomas, Apostle of Doubt

John 20:29

Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Matthew 13:16

Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

I did not expect to meet an apostle on the road to the Emerald City. Yet he was there. We walked and talked. A secret passage behind the gods of a shrine in India had led him to Oz.

From grey half-born light
Thomas approached. His face worn
of anxious wrinkles.

Seeing me, he smiled.
Held out his hands in welcome. Said
“Come, Wander with me.”

He showed stark wisdom.
Taught the virtue inherent
In my doubt wrecked life.

Thomas, the despised.
Through a thousand stern sermons
Stoned for his thinking.

But Jesus blessed him
Just as much as men of faith
Who fail to question.

Pronounced salvation
On evidence and emptiness.
Valued the contrasts.

I learned to lose guilt.
Let go the religious critic.
Accept my well-lived way.

Then he turned to leave,
His weight held by trusted staff.
He did not look back.

Consider this: What if the sermons are wrong? What if Jesus was congratulating Thomas for wanting evidence? What if he was pronouncing that faith has to be intelligent and can't be based on nothing – not even a well loved book or its social acceptability.

What if Jesus said, “Well done. You've tested to see whether something is true rather than turning your brain off and being a dumb slave to a Gospel message.”

What if the blessing he gave to those with that unseeing faith arose from his toleration and acceptance of all?

What if he said, “Your faith is a bit silly but I walk the way of love so bless you anyway?”

What if Jesus doesn't want anyone to take statements, especially religious ones at face value?

What if he wants us to test everything in the book about him? Through science. Through history. Through the evidence of our own lives. Through plain common sense.

What if he wants us to let go of everything in our lives, religious or otherwise, that doesn't make sense?

What if Jesus wasn't bearing with the weakness of Thomas but the weakness of his other followers?

I too taught that Thomas was a doubter. I preached it.

But he is not a doubter. He's a questioner. And questioning faith, assumptions, the media, politics, motives, our own souls, and the whole of life is a good thing.

Plato said that the unexamined life is not worth living.

What if Jesus pointed to Thomas and said, “Look, here is an example of the examined life. Follow this example.”

What if the churches got it all wrong? What if the New Testament writers got it all backwards too in the very worship of Jesus rather than the greater light he pointed to?

These are just questions. Do with them what you will.

Embrace me. Condemn my heresy.

I don't mind.

But will you walk with me on the yellow brick road of the examined life and on a road where evidence leads to the risk of rejecting many things we would love to believe in?

I took the risks. Life is now harder. Far less certain. But it is more worthwhile.

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