Thursday, October 10, 2002

Eve Tushnet and the "comfort of religion"

Eve has an interesting few blogs (Click here and follow the links) about bad days: Recently I had a bad weekend. A really, really lousy, stressed-out, low, hateful weekend. And at some point I realized something: You know, I used to feel like this all the time! Thinking over it, actually, I used to feel worse than that, all the time. Like between the ages of, say, five or six, and 20. After 20 or so, I've had frequent bad patches, grim little self-hate-fiestas, but they've been interludes between longer calm, basically happy stretches. This correlates very roughly with my entrance into the Church, which is interesting; I don't know what to say except "interesting," because entering the Church has certainly provoked new anxieties and fairly painful self-assessments. But there it is.

I reference this because it exactly squares withmy own experience. Before I came back to Sancta Mater Ecclesia, I was subject to really bad black moods, where all I saw was darkness. I still have them every now and then: I had one this past Monday night, triggered by the Bears' loss to the Packers, but no less serious for having a trivial beginning. I couldn't see any reason to hope. But the difference between now and, oh, say 1992 is that I know that there is a reason for hope. The black days are much fewer, although they still come. But when they come, I can hold them at bay by saying "I know that my redeemer lives." Even when all feels black, I know in my soul that there is light, that there is joy. Before I came to have faith, I had no defense.

Consider the problem of evil. How is it that an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God allows evil to exist? This is a difficult puzzle, and is best answered by an appeal to the value of having free human beings who, being free, have the possibility for sin. This puzzle is quite often given as a reason for why atheists don't believe in God. But getting rid of God solves nothing. Evil still exists. Why is the spontaneously-generated universe so full of evils? The atheist can only answer with a shrug. A Christian may be able only to give a variation of the same answer, but there is a crucial difference: the Christian has reason to hope. Yes, there is evil, but there is also the hope of salvation and redemption.

The theological virtue of hope, instilled in baptism, is the cure for black moods.

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