First thing’s first: the “agnostic gospel” is not a thing.
You might be thinking about the Gnostic Gospels, which is a thing, but that’s not this thing. This thing is blog, and it’s a blog that needed a title with unique branding that appealed to people like me. That’s the thing with marketing! And here’s the thing with me.
I was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical church. I was raised to be terrified of the world outside that church. I would eventually leave that church anyway, and — after some worrisome wilderness-wandering — leave all forms of fundamentalism behind with it. Thus began my inherent skepticism of all institutions.
And so, I relished in the youth of my twenties as a “post-christian epicurean pragmatist” (that’s not a thing, either, but it is made up from real things). But there was still just one last remnant of religion that I couldn’t seem to leave behind: shame.
Shame is no stranger to those of us who left the fold, but few other than us know how crippling it can become. For me, it meant the constant and agonizing sense that I was fundamentally evil and bound for a hell I didn’t even believe in. Whenever I would try to share my life, my art, or my voice, this shame pushed me back into hiding.
Then, in the historically shitty epoch of 2016, something wonderful happened: I turned 32 and, just two years later than the Christ himself, found my calling.
In that year of incessant political bickering, intense religious hatred, and immense violence — that year of the great bubbling-up of communities and walling-off of our shared humanity — I found myself desperately trying to pull people together. And with some irony, I realized I needed to play the role of a minister.
Now, I’m not exactly sure how to do that. I have no church, and I loathe setting foot in them. I have no religion, and don’t have a desire to create one. I don’t like calling myself a thing, because the last time I tried to call myself a thing it was post-christian epicurean pragmatist and that’s pretentious as fuck. Also, I say fuck a lot.
But if nothing else, I’ve retained my faith in faith itself: the great underminer of all things orthodox, and opener-up of all things Other. That nuanced sort of faith, without religion, becomes an absurd endeavor of love.
I learned that faith from the church. I’m grateful for it. And now, I’m taking it with me — and enriching it with perspectives I’ve gained from art, philosophy, and other people. Sarte claimed that was hell; I’m thinking he had it backward.
The best prayer I ever heard? “In this room filled with people who, no doubt, have a radically different understanding of the divine, let us take a moment to hold hands and acknowledge that we are here, together, and that we are grateful” (it was from a female Unitarian officiant at a gay wedding… I cried a lot).
If nothing else, I think what we claim to know tears us apart, and what we don’t know pulls us together. So, I suppose you can call me an agnostic.
But as for the gospel…?
I don’t know, but since I’ve been a self-employed creative professional for over a decade, I’ll go ahead and get things started. I know I can write, so I’ll write more of these sermon/confessionals.
I know I can sing and play piano, so I’ll make more post-gospel music (agnostic gospel? eh? eh?), which I’ll incrementally release, here and under the moniker of Genuine Joy.
I hope that this helps bring us back together. And, if it helps no one else, well, hell… at least it saved me.