This is my continuing "review" of Peter Rollins' book Insurrection, although I'm really writing with a mixture of review, summation, and personal reflection. In short, these writings are more a way for myself to work through what this all means, rather than a "review" per say, or my trying to convince anyone else of these ideas. Additionally, please note that my beliefs expressed here may not necessarily coincide perfectly with Rollins'. You can view the previous installments in previous posts below.Beliefs are important, but the comforting powers of beliefs need to be rejected. Those comforting powers lie in the way that beliefs ease our anxieties, i.e., the way they satisfy our psychological need for God to exist.
"The cross is the moment when we join with Christ in crying out, 'Why have you forsaken me?'" (p. 82.) Religion is buried.
Anxieties are different than fear, in that fear has an object, but anxiety does not. Fear is being scared of something, e.g., spiders. Anxiety, however, has no object. It is "a response to the foreboding shadow of nothingness itself." (p. 83.) As creatures who have a hardwired psychological need to believe, nothingness is the worst thing of all. That's what makes Crucifixion so hard to truly participate in. Anxiety is pure despair, with nothing but nothingness looking back at us.
Religion is what happens when we abuse our psychological need for God--when we believe in a constructed God in order to get relief from these anxieties. The anxiety of death is avoided by believing in eternal life. The anxiety of meaninglessness is avoided by believing that God is in control of, or at least aware of, everything. And the anxiety of guilt is overcome by constructing and embracing a narrative of one's "personal life" to represent the truth of who a person really is, as opposed to the desires that drive one's actions.
That last part--the gap between our personal lives and true selves--is the majority of Chapter 5. Rollins explores how we like to think that our personal lives (beliefs) are what really matter, and that we compensate for this shortcoming by trying to make our actions live up to our beliefs, i.e., "live out" our faith. But the problem here is that our actions don't fall short of our beliefs--they ARE our beliefs.
Rollins' example of Hitler is a succinct way to describe this. Hitler had an immaculate personal life--one that many of us would find admirable. He didn't touch alcohol, he loves children, he was an aficionado of the arts and culture. But the funny thing is, this narrative of personal piety that Hitler wrote into his life scares us, because it reveals to us that our own highly-prized personal lives can't possibly reflect the truth of who we are, since we know that this is not the truth of who Hitler was.
Furthermore, it is made clear that attempting to extinguish this gap between our beliefs (personal life) and actions (public life) only serves to affirm it. The gap itself doesn't actually exist--we only tell ourselves that it exists, because then we can say that we at least have a good belief system, no matter how often our actions fail to "live up" to it, as if our actions are subject to something other than our beliefs. In reality, however, our practices do not fall short of our beliefs, but our practices are our beliefs.
Christianity by-and-large has become a mode for us to both exacerbate this gap and avoid our anxieties of death, meaninglessness, and guilt. Intellectual affirmation has been prized over life itself, convincing us that we are what we believe, and that our actions are somehow separate from those beliefs. "The life of faith becomes a crutch," Rollins says, "and the Crucifixion becomes nothing more than a mythology we pay lip service to." (p. 107.) There's not an "outer world" that needs to be brought in line with some "inner world," for the very act of trying to align these "worlds" acts as a barrier to real, radical transformation.
But there's good news too. The Crucifixion is where we actually confront our anxieties. Then, resurrection can happen. But Resurrection is not an "answer" or a "solution" to crucifixion--To truly live in a state of Resurrection means to be willing to undergo Crucifixion again, and again, and again. This willingness is called Incarnation: A way of living called Love (or God) in which we experience the world as worth living for. It is an embrace of humanity, rather than a God "up there."
We don't live this way because God loves the world... We live this way, and that is God loving the world. (How's that for a theological understanding of God?) The highest truth is not to be loved, or give love, but love itself. Belief in God, then, has nothing to do with a supreme being, but rather an embrace of humanity.
True affirmation of God is the material practice of love. We become creators of destiny, rather than slaves to the idea that "everything happens for a reason" (deus ex machina). We participate in the creation of the eternal itself. Participation creates reality.