As a freshman in college putting together my class schedule, I saw that one of the general ed. requirements at Pfeiffer was that you had to take a religion course (two, actually), so my first semester, I took Intro to Old Testament. It just so happened that it was also the professor’s first semester at Pfeiffer, so the class was super fun (he hadn’t transitioned to the cynical-teacher-type yet). I remember so distinctly, one of the very first class sessions, he said something that challenged everything I had ever thought about the Bible: there are no original manuscripts (there are only copies of the originals). *gasp* What? So how do we know the copies are true? accurate? real? How do we trust they didn’t change anything? So many questions! What?
The whole class involved learning about the Bible in ways that I certainly had not experienced in Sunday school. It challenged my faith to where there were times I wasn’t sure how I could still believe…but then I thought, well, if this guy (the professor) knows all this stuff and his faith is still strong, then perhaps I can still have faith while growing in my understanding of the Bible. So I added Religion to my plate of majors. (later changed to Christian Ed because it was more practical)
A year or so later, I met Jessica, and a year or so later, I met Jonathan. Things were happening around campus to encourage dialogue about various issues, and at the same time we got a new campus minister who was interested in forming small groups. So we started a small group called Crazy Faith. Through our conversations, Jessica, Jonathan (my friend-now-husband), and I, realized that we needed and wanted a safe-place platform for theological reflection – a group where we could say things out loud and question them and not be judged; a group that valued deconstructing the “Sunday school” (easy) answers and wrestling with mystery.
So we did just that. For two years we met most weeks during the school year for an hour or so, to consider things we had been taught about God, the Bible, and faith, and to ask questions like, do we really believe that? what are other beliefs on that topic? how does that compare with this other issue/belief? There were no set list of questions; just openness to going deeper, a desire to challenge ourselves and one another, and a longing to find some sense of truth .
Some time during my first two years at my first church, Jessica and Jonathan were helping with a youth lock-in and suggested we try Crazy Faith with the youth. I didn’t think they could handle it and I had no idea what to expect. Wow, was I wrong. An hour went by like the blink of an eye. The youth begged for more and we decided to start a weekly gathering on Wednesday evenings to do Crazy Faith.
We established the ground rules to ensure a safe space for questioning – confidentiality, non-judgement, no name-calling with those whom you disagree, freedom to leave the room if things got too intense (which they sometimes did), an openness to others’ ideas, etc. Topics aside, I believe the way of Crazy Faith is why I’m still connected to the youth and adults who participated. It gets real, real fast. It requires practicing love and respect for those whom society teaches us to disregard or dehumanize. It involves deep listening and active participation. It is life-changing, soul-bonding, faith formation.
And it’s a large part of my call to ministry. To help youth think through theological concepts and the Bible in ways that leave room for mystery. To not settle for the over-simplified, schooling-model Sunday school answers, but to dig deep, to think hard, and to embrace the complexity of The Great I Am. AND, to embody love and respect for others who think differently and to practice listening and responding with love.
There are so many books on the crisis of faith that teenagers experience when they go to college, because we as a Church fail to prepare them for experiencing opinions and worldviews that are different than the ones they grow up with. Crazy Faith is one way for youth to explore other views and opinions in a safe environment where they can lean on trusted adults and peers who care about them as they wrestle with truly complex things.
So thank you, Dr. Driggers (and my other professors and friends at Pfeiffer who challenged my worldview and my close-mindedness: Dr. Meyers, Dr. Espy, Andrew, Jessica, Jonathan, Carley, Kelley, Dr. Clayton, Dr. Stivers, Dr. Phil, and so many others). My experiences at Pfeiffer shaped who I am today and I am so incredibly grateful.
And thank you to my youth and adults who participate(d) in Crazy Faith – you will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you for being willing to question, to go deeper, to not settle for the easy answers, to listen to one another and to love one another.
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths,and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression,and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears, to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen
*A Franciscan Blessing*