“I guess Otto’s very descriptive explanation of ‘the Holy’ actually frightens me,” Morris confessed in answering Blue’s query about how he liked Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy. “I mean, not that I agree with all, or even most, of his overall theology, but I think he really nails down what the awesome holiness of God means … and, to tell the truth, it kind of puts me off.”
“Well,” Blue began, shifting his position on the comfortable sofa, where he was seated with Able and Moxie, “that doesn’t surprise me at all, really. One criticism I have of Otto, and I believe I mentioned this in my review, is that he emphasizes the mysterium tremendum of God almost to the expense of the personal immanence and knowability of God. Not that he ignores this, by any means, but his work is, of course, focused upon the fundamentally important idea of the Holy within the history and heritage of humanity. In this, he does a marvelous job, and has made an invaluable contribution to the fields of anthropology, social psychology, general psychology, as well as religion and the history of religion … and, well, spirituality, too, if we mark that off as a separate category. However, this didn’t leave much room for the specific ideas of immanence – that is, God near us – and personality, with all of the attendant qualities of personality.”
Morris leaned forward in his chair. “But that’s just it; it seems like, at least for Otto, that ‘personality’ is only a … what would he say? The word can only be used … imperfectly of God; that God is so much ‘other’ that no human word or concept can ever really, truly describe the Almighty One.”
“Ah, yes, quite right … for Otto, perhaps, but that’s where I take issue. I mean, because this God has revealed himself, most significantly in our humanity as Jesus the Christ, we therefore can understand the Divinity truly, genuinely, authentically … even though only partially. No, we will never in all eternity – if the Judeo-Christian scheme of things is right – completely understand God … but that is quite different than truly understanding what we have been given to understand.”
“And that’s where I tend to jump off the theology train,” Moxie took another drink of the ice-cold cola graciously provided by their host and, hopefully, new friend. “I am a self-described ‘Christian agnostic’ precisely because I do not believe we can know with any certainty the character and make-up of God, if there is God. It seems to me, at best, that in order for the Supreme Being to authentically be God – at least in our classic conception – then this Supreme Being would be ever and always supranatural, that is, above and beyond the natural order and, thus, above and beyond any reasonable, human understanding … much less relationship.”
The living room was dimly lit, although the sunshine still flowing through the open windows helped. The house was roughly the size of Joy’s and, for that matter, the other homes in the neighborhood – decent, middle-class homes, all about 20 to 25 years old, when the subdivision was built. It was sturdy, in good shape, and clean. Nothing bespoke the dark depression that lurked deep inside the mind and soul of Morris Graver … nothing in the house.
“Huh! I’ll have to admit my ignorance, which shouldn’t be all that shocking,” Morris replied, “but I’ve never heard of ‘Christian agnosticism.’ I do hear you on the point about knowing God and having any kind of a real relationship with him… That one’s got me stumped pretty damn bad. And I know Jesus came to save us and give us a relationship with the Father and all that, but… for some reason it doesn’t seem to really work for me.” Morris hung his head, maybe to hide the tears.
“Well…” Moxie began carefully, and Blue and Able instinctively knew to let her take it from here for awhile. “If it has anything at all to do with trying to relate to a ‘Father’ God, then, man-oh-man, do I ever understand!” She shook her head and Morris looked up at her. “My dad was quite a low-life … handsome and charming, but a low-life, nevertheless. And, no, he wasn’t a drunk or a druggy or abusive; he just didn’t want to play the role of husband and father … and so he didn’t.”
“Yeah … I kind of understand that,” Morris opened up. “My dad didn’t seem to want any of that either. I just wish like hell he’d left… I mean, he wasn’t a drunk or a druggy or abusive either. But it’s like, you know, he was here but wasn’t here at the same time. I just wish he’d packed his damn bags and gone off somewhere. It’d sure as hell have been better for my mom and me.”
“Umm, maybe,” Moxie cocked her head slightly and smiled sympathetically. “My father actually did leave. When I was around three-years-old, he did just that: He packed his bags and without any ‘fond fare-thee-well,’ he was gone. My mother’s never bothered looking for him, and we have no idea where he is, or if he’s even dead or alive. We made it … or, I should say, my mom made it and managed to carry me along.” She chuckled. Everyone else smiled. “She’s a damn strong woman, but my absentee father left me with a lifelong impression where men are concerned, I’m afraid … an impression I’m only now overcoming thanks to Able.” Able smiled again and gently put his hand in hers. “But I still get off where the whole ‘Father God’ thing is concerned.”
“Sounds like you really do believe in God – like you’re not a dyed-in-the-wool agnostic – but you just don’t particularly like him … at least, not the God of the Bible,” Morris surmised.
“Hmmm,” Moxie considered. “You may be partly right… In fact, I’m sure you are, but then, of course, I could just replace ‘Father God’ with ‘Mother God.’ I mean, it’s not as if plenty of feminists haven’t already done this, and yes, I’m also feminist … moderately, sensibly, I think, but anyway… No, if anything, if I’m not strictly speaking an agnostic, then I’d have to say I’ve grown and matured into something that might be called ‘Christian deism.’ And this would be more from rational, philosophical conviction than personal experience, I believe.” She took another sip.
“If one psychological truth in faith, or religion, has been concretely proven,” Blue jumped in, “it’s that our relationship with our parents, or legal guardians, makes a great deal of difference in our conception of and relationship to God. Several studies seem to indicate that, probably for historic-cultural reasons, one’s relation to one’s father makes an especially indelible imprint upon our spiritual lives, particularly our conception of God.” Blue lifted his own soda to his lips. He was not usually one to drink carbonated beverages, but thought it very important to be polite now.
“Yeah, well if that’s the case, then no wonder I’ve got such a damn sorry idea of God!” Morris surprised the three with his sudden emotional outburst. Everything grew so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. The seconds felt like hours, then finally Morris continued, “Uh … hey, don’t mean to be rude or anything. I mean, it seems like you guys just got here, but I just remembered I’ve got some chores to do before my mom gets home.” He chortled nervously; it was obviously an excuse to have them leave … politely, of course. “She’ll have my head if I don’t get it all done!”
“Oh, yeah, of course,” Able responded quickly. “Hey! We all understand that, I’m sure!” He looked at the other two.
“God, yes,” Moxie chimed in. “After working all day, my mom expects spic-and-span when she comes home … and dinner ready on the table if I’ve had enough time, although she doesn’t exactly push that.” They all laughed.
“But it’s certainly, certainly been an interesting and delightful conversation,” Blue Poorman said, offering his hand again. Morris reached out and shook it just as heartily as he had the first time. “Thank you so much, Morris, for having us in and graciously providing the beverages.”
“Oh, no problem at all. Thank you, all of you, for coming in… In fact, thank you very much for coming by at all. This really was unexpected, but … well, I’m just thankful.” He’d started to say more, but the other Morris was fighting its way to the top again – the other, darker, suspicious, more sinister and self-abusive Morris. He hated him, or it … This ‘Morris’ wasn’t really a person, was … it? He’d battled this question for years. He loved the more open, friendly, delightful and even playful Morris, the Morris who liked people, who liked reading and talking and, yes, even playing. Why couldn’t that Morris hang around all the time? Why couldn’t that Morris beat the other one to death forever?
“Hope we can all get together again real soon,” Moxie said at the front door. “I’ve really enjoyed it. Thank you, Morris.”
“Me too,” he replied. Moxie was so beautiful. He was envious of Able … but could anyone like Moxie ever truly love anyone like him? “Yeah, maybe next time we’ll do the Frosty Parlor?” Everyone laughed. “And, hey, it’ll be my treat!”
“That’s a deal, then,” Able responded enthusiastically. “Sounds great! O.k. then … well, you have an awesome evening, and we’ll see ya’ later!”
“O.k. See ya’ around,” Morris stood in the open doorway, watching them get back into Lucent’s rather nice, two-year-old SUV. No relationship lasts forever, Morris told himself, but he was glad for the company he’d had, and their conversation. It relieved him somehow; it had relieved the enormous pressure he’d been feeling. For that short period of time, at least, it had chased away the dæmonic image of Fen Sloughheart … his putrid smell of sweat, his nauseating breath, his repelling flesh and the hideous, guttural sounds he had made as he… Morris shook his head aggressively, trying to throw the images and sounds out of his mind. No, it was over! And he had friends now! True friends! No more Fen Sloughheart!
The phone rang…