As a Christian, I wandered through a few theological camps: the Dallas Theological Fundamentalist camp, the Jesus Freak Charismatic camps, the Mennonite camps and a few others. Each camp, each sect had its own amazing theories — each contradicting the others. Each flavor of Christianity had its amazing authors and charismatic teachers. And when I’d talk with an enthusiast from each camp and hear the certainty of their carefully tied together web of theology and belief, I craved for a bit of that certainty. But the patterns stood out too quickly and I would leave.
After leaving the Christian world behind, I traveled for more than a decade through Pakistan, India, Japan and China where I intimately encountered Islam, Hinduism, Shintoism and Buddhism — each full of highly different sects too. I also discussed and debated religion with these folks much like I had Christians before. They had the same excited eyes, the same certain witness, the same miracles and changed lives. But now those theological knots were done with different texts, different histories, different saints. I could have drawn a Hindu theology knot, a Buddhist knot, a Jewish knot, a Muslim knot ….
With all these conversations and observations, I came to see that all these theology knot-makers were just people doing very similar things. I began to see the same silly, yet serious efforts to gain certainty, direction, a banner, an identity, hope and much more. Yet under or inside the knot was a simpler person who the knots obscured.
Some folks settle into one of these complex knotted nests, but I just saw the weaving at its deepest level (the mind) and began to feel just fine without the theological clothing, without the saints, without the texts, without the certainty. And all of a sudden, I shared much more with everyone than I did before.
Now when people witness to me about their wonderful beliefs and their certainty, I see a knot maker who is fascinated in the complexity of their own little contrived world. I am happy for them in a way, except that for most, they use their knots to keep others out. Those are weavers whose only goal is to get you into their exclusive tangled mess.