“The Benefit of the Doubt” by Karen Bell

We are halfway through the Easter season. We’ve celebrated the Resurrection with joy and, accompanied by the renewal of spring, are rejuvenated for the next steps on our spiritual journeys. Oddly, my Easter experience has led me to a period of questioning. What are my long held attitudes and beliefs that need to be pulled from that dust covered box and looked at with fresh eyes in the new Light of the Easter miracle? In what areas am I stuck in some aspect of my thinking or actions which prevent me from including what and whom Jesus would surely have enfolded in his loving embrace? In what instances does my unacknowledged, hidden sense of superiority and bias limit me from recognizing that everyone is, at the very least, my equal and in most instances, greater than I? And I find myself pondering the role of unshakeable faith.  

I recently heard someone quote lines from Scripture to support their views on a particular topic. It so happens that I don’t interpret the passage in the same way so I was rather struck by their unwavering belief in their reading of the text. I have often encountered individuals who are 100% convinced of their particular belief, religious, political or otherwise. I often find myself mystified by the sheer immutability of their convictions. For me, life, and in particular, faith, is experienced in a more fluid and less monolithic manner, one in which doubt and questioning play an essential role. God willing, I will perpetually find myself along a continuum of growth, a constant balancing and reframing based on the dialogue between the fruits of my prayer life and long held truths which the world has handed down to me.

Over the past several months I have been participating in anti-racist work which, as a white middle-aged woman, has been challenging, thought provoking, uncomfortable and necessary. Seeing for the first time the ways in which I benefit from systems and structures put into place decades ago has been revelatory. As I continue this work, I remain acutely aware that, as in my faith life, there is still much unexplored terrain on my journey and that some of the terrain will be rough, difficult to navigate, strenuous and demanding. However, I continue to trust that the pilgrimage is not only worthwhile but essential.

And so I’d like to champion the virtues and benefits of doubt. Forging ahead into uncomfortable places, considering ideas that challenge, test me and raise questions may indeed be a very fine place to find myself midway through the Easter season. Living through faith often requires accepting the gray areas more than demanding sharp blacks and whites which often prove to be more myth than reality anyway. I have always been drawn to looking at things from multiple angles, so I am wary of stating anything unequivocally, with the exception of this: We must constantly push the boundaries of our capacity for love. We shall never reach the apex of it but we must die trying. 

That’s something about which I harbor no doubts at all!

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