Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yes or No

“When faced with the question of God, man cannot permit himself to remain neutral. All he can say is Yes or No – without ever avoiding all the consequences that derive from this choice even in the smallest details of life. Accordingly, we see that the question of God is ineluctable; one is not permitted to abstain from casting one’s vote… In this question, we are not analyzing isolated fragments of reality that we might in some way take in our hands, verify experientially, and then master. This question regards, not that which is below us, but that which is above us. It regards, not something we could dominate, but that which exercises its lordship over us and over the whole of reality.” Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures. 89

Reflection: Ah, the lure of agnosticism! To simply say, ‘who knows?’ , shrug one’s shoulders, and move on with one’s life. ‘There’s probably no God – now relax and enjoy your life’ – so went those signs on the sides of buses in England last year.
In this passage (and by the way, the book it is from is fantastic, and short!) Ratzinger points out that the decision for or against God is not an idle intellectual speculation, but rather determines everything else about one’s life. Either the universe has a meaning, a purpose, a point, or it doesn’t. Either there is a moral law which is absolute, or there isn’t. Either our lives are heading into an eternal framework of some kind, or they’re not. And yes, there are consequences to all those questions.
Even the smallest details of life are influenced by this. As Catherine de Hueck Doherty used to say, you can go to heaven or hell sweeping a floor. Either God is real, and our whole life is headed towards him (which in Christian terms means that every bit of our life is taken up into the mystery of love), or He is not real, and even the most seemingly important moments of our life ultimately lead nowhere. There’s no third option.
And by nature this question involves faith. That’s what he’s getting at when he says it’s not something we can take in our hands and analyze. The question of God is a question of what is bigger than us, by definition. We can reason about it, to a certain point. But at that point, we are confronted by the ultimate existential question: can I trust this Being, this Reality, this God? Can I order my life according to something bigger than me, something I will never fully comprehend? Is there a Love big enough, a Truth solid enough, a Goodness expansive enough, that I can give my whole self to it? Yes, or no.