Panning for Gold
About twenty years ago I heard David James Duncan speak at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. During the audience Q & A someone asked about the different representations of Christianity in his novel The Brothers K. He said something about how some readers assumed that the novel was throwing out Christianity because some of the characters’ expressions of “faith” were destructive and self-serving. Then he said that the novel didn’t “throw out the baby with the bathwater”, and if readers looked closely they would see there’s definitely still some “baby”.
I knew exactly what he was talking about, and his novel remains one of my favorites.
In a roundabout way, this captures my own ongoing spiritual search. I don’t go to church anymore, mostly because the “container” . . . the “form” . . . of church causes so much confusion for me. Yet I have not thrown out everything. Much of my attention, my heart, and my thought, is spent going back through the experiences, the beliefs, the scriptures, and sifting for the gold that remains. It’s like all that church culture stuff is a rocky stream bed with lots of murky water churning over it, but in the stream bed there are still flecks of impossibly precious gold, and I can’t abandon the stream because I know the treasure that’s found there.
I don’t need another alter call, another five-point sermon, another women’s retreat or special offering for a visiting missionary; I don’t need another set of announcements from another thirty-something pastor or another hyped worship song right before we all settle into our pews. I don’t need the crowded church lobby. But oh, I need the gold, the truth of who Christ was, and is, and what this means for living a full, healthy human life. I need the mystery that skirts in my peripheral vision, the glimpses of gold catching the sun.