There were a million reasons to leave. But she didn’t.
Faith deconstruction—asking questions and finding that religion doesn’t do a good job of answering them—has become a well-documented phenomenon within Christianity. Studies show that people are leaving the church. Accusations loom large in faith communities.
Andrea L. Lingle didn’t leave. She had a million reasons to leave: grief, deconstruction, cynicism, disillusionment … but, she can still find a church bulletin in her purse most days. Credulous is a walk through the different movements of a traditional Christian worship service bulletin to wonder aloud, why? Why is she still here? What does she have to say, as a woman, mother, lay-person? And Credulous asks:
What might you have to say?
What follows is an excerpt from her questioning – a Speakeasy selection.
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed—a small bit of self-replicating genetic material that will blossom, yellow like the sun itself, with abundant, free nourishment for all.
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.
Which falls to the ground, tossed by the generous, hopeful, credulous sower, and grows to a very great size, then flowers, is pollinated, and goes to seed.
How do the people of God turn empire into the kingdom of God?
I don’t know.
Jesus the Christ, God incarnate, didn’t give his followers a stepwise plan. He talked about seeds and fishing and breaking bread. He talked about showing up to where you are and noticing what is there. He talked about a God of seeds and soil. He poured his blood, sweat, and tears into his work, then left it to another. He taught that there was a farmer who came to sow seeds. The farmer dipped his hand deep into the seed bag and threw them out by the handful. He threw them out regardless of where they fell. He threw them out with gleeful, credulous hope. The seeds fell on rocks, on pathways, and on soil in great abundance.
In some places the seeds crunched under the feet of travelers, in others the birds screamed in delight, but in the soil the seeds found purchase.
Soil is more than the dirt we mindlessly walk on. It is history cupped in our hands, a song echoing down a century. Soil is the future following the worm. Soil calls through time and enchants those who pause long enough to hear. Stones are ancient and imposing but helpless against the grind of the future. Soil is a living thing that whispers of harvests while consuming the fossils of the past. When we lie down, finally, we will inhabit its tilth and join its siren’s call.
In the garden, my hands cup the soil, drunk on possibility and the smell of warm dirt. Soon, I will lift my foot to the shovel, but just now, I will kneel here, in the ancient-becoming soil that will never be owned, and feel my soul sink down beneath the shallows. Down into the subtle depths where worms devour what was once a boulder. As I travel along the webs of mushroom hyphae, ant burrows, and clay ribbons, I allow wide-eyed hope to rise within me.
I return, season after season, driven by the same knowledge: somewhere—everywhere—in this dirt is treasure. Slowly, spring thaws to abundance and I am beckoned to come and seek once more. I become a sower of seed and I hope my extravagant optimism will bloom and fruit. Mostly it doesn’t. Honestly, I am a terrible gardener. My failures have ranged from simply disappointing to horrifying. I have watched packets of seeds for children’s gardens—“Easy to Grow!,” “Guaranteed to Delight!”—unfold miniature vegetable tragedies. But still, I follow the call of the earth.
Yes, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.
Jesus said: the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which starts small and grows to a raucous, saucy, irrepressible size. How does the church become the kingdom of God? Probably like mustard seeds—flung out ridiculously.