I’ve gathered some beautiful and challenging writing on faith and doubt and the struggles many have with identifying as “Christian” in the twentieth century
First, Christian Wiman, raised Southern Baptist, estranged from the church, now exploring that complex relationship between faith and doubt in our contemporary world:
I do feel that some people may be called to unbelief—or what looks like unbelief—in order that faith may take new forms. Emily Dickinson is a good example of this, or Albert Camus. But I also believe that God requires every last cell of yourself to bow down. Or perhaps that verb, requires, is wrong, or that it’s God doing the requiring: It’s more like your nature requires, in order to be your nature, that every last cell of yourself bow down. There is still some satanic pride in me, for which I pay a high price.
Casey Cep on the spiritual journey of Reynolds Price (part I, part II):
It pains me to know that Price considered himself “a literal outlaw” of Christian churches because of his homosexuality. In one of his final books, A Serious Way of Wondering: The Ethics of Jesus Imagined (2003), Price confessed “though I’m not a churchgoer, for more than sixty years I’ve read widely in the life and teachings of Jesus; and since at least the age of nine, I’ve thought of myself as a Christian.”
Like the mystic Simone Weil, who resigned herself to “the conclusion that my vocation is to be a Christian outside the Church,” Price found his community with Christ beyond the sanctuary.
I never met Reynolds Price, but I carry his meeting with Christ in my consciousness, hold the words of his translations in my heart. Here was a writer, who many assumed would appeal to me for all his imaginary worlds, but who I only ever understood as a brother in the faith.
Pained as I am that he felt himself an outlaw of Christianity, I cherish the knowledge that he and I meet forever in the communion of saints.
Justin Erik Haldor Schmidt writes beautifully of “coming out of the closet” as a Christian, and the difficulties he has in confessing his faith publicly:
Those who know me or have read me will probably know that I have often claimed that I am an atheist. I would like to stop doing this, but if I had to justify myself, I would say that it is for fear of being confused with that blowhard with the ‘John 3:16’ banner that I am unforthcoming about what I actually believe. I am infinitely closer, in the condition of my soul, to the people who feel God’s absence– the reasons for this feeling are a profound theological problem, and one might say that it is only smugness that enables people, atheists and dogmatists alike, to avoid grappling with this problem. I am with the people who detect God’s hand, perhaps without even realizing it, where the smug banner-holder sees only sin: in jungle music, dirty jokes, seduction, and swearing. I am with the preacher who puts out a gospel album, then goes to prison on fraud and drug charges for a while, then puts out a hip-grinding soul album, and then another gospel album. I am with the animals, who can’t even read, but can still talk to the saints of divine things. I am sooner an atheist, if what we understand by Christianity is a sort of supernatural monarchism; if we understand by it that God is love, though, then, I say, I am a Christian.
I like the “jungle music” line. It reminds me of the various musical instruments outlawed by the church throughout history, such as the harp, the madness-inducing flute used by women in the woods for ecstatic dance, and of course the lyre and cithara. The Canon of Basil outlaws the guitar, and any lector caught with one was excommunicated. Some instruments such as the sistrum were outlawed by the church and no longer even exist in common culture.
Of course, the Motu Proprio of Piux X clarified that 16th century polyphony, specifically the music of Palestrina, was the ultimate form and reference for liturgical music throughout eternity.