Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.

The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade


God haunts me. Let me count the ways. There are days that I wish could escape the whole matter. But it is hard to be a writer or thinker without the skulking raven in the room, except this raven not only says “nevermore,” but “evermore,” as well. And the paradox of God haunts me, too. It all haunts me. I cannot be happy. I cannot find relief. It won’t go away, but I tremble at the thought of the absence of God’s presence and absence. Paradox.

“You’re overthinking it,” you say. “Just have faith,” you say. “Throw God down and walk away clean,” you say. You are all Job’s friends to me. Leave me alone. I’m thankful no one tries to ask me about Jesus, anymore. Let me ask them about Jesus.

There are those who consider themselves or get called “seekers.” Seeker churches and such, which are really just bait-and-switch outfits, deceptive evangelicals that wear the devil’s clothes. Or those spiritual nomads who meander through one religion to another, following the glare of the enlightening moon through her four phases. Or the junkies who jitter after god-horse, itching for a new fix of truth or whatever wherever they can get it. They’re ecstatic about it, too. They know a guy. Or know a guy who knows a guy. I know that jakewalk. I’m not a seeker.

I marvel at those who can confess the existence or non-existence of God. I marvel at the agnostic, too. Such faith. I feel like I am on my way to Mount Moriah, asking myself along the way, “What am I doing? Am I really doing this? Why? Why not?” Am I working out my salvation? In fear and trembling? What am I doing? Am I really doing this? Why? Why not?

You know that the Christian is not Kierkegaard’s “knight of faith,” right? Not like we throw around the word “Christian.” That’s what annoys me about those who read Fear and Trembling and immediately identify with Abraham. The hubris. The chutzpah. “Yes! I am just like Abraham taking that leap of faith in God! I did it when I accepted Christ that dark night of my soul.” No. You’re not like Abraham. No one is like Abraham. That’s the thing. Johannes de Silentio, Søren’s pseudonym here, marvels at Abraham, there is no one like him. You are not like Abraham. You are like you. We may be on our way to Mount Moriah, but a ram has not been provided. All has not been returned to us. Stop kidding yourself. We are knights of infinite resignation – if we are lucky to be knights at all. We read Fear and Trembling and we marvel at Abraham, the shining knight. And in doing so, we forget Kierkegaard begins with taunting Cartesian epistemology and ends in his indictment of hubris against Heraclitus’ student. You probably don’t remember those bookends, do you? You only remember what you want to. You’re not paying attention. Lucky you.

This blog, this project, this bleak theology is not some attempt for a run-around on the System, on organized, popular, or academic Christianity. It’s not a “new” take on God or an attempt at some “better” lens or understanding. It’s not confessional. It’s not atheism. It’s not agnosticism. It’s just a mess, a huge mess.

Nietzsche wrote that God will not be truly dead until we vanquish God’s shadow. His madman in the marketplace, who claims we are God’s murderers, holds a lantern in broad daylight, his Diogenes the Cynic seeking an honest man. But shine the light on God and only the most blind will not see God’s shadow. To quote The Joy Formidable, “the greatest light is the greatest shade.”

Nietzsche is right that we cannot escape God as object or subject. The more we shine the light on the question of God and who God is to us, the more brutal the reality of it all is. Culturally, we are bound. Psychologically, we are bound. The empire of time is Anno Domini, though secularism has whitewashed that into the Common Era. Christ still rules the calendar, helped all the more by Pope Gregory the Great. Our time is not our own, we are subtly reminded.

And even to believe to break out of the Foucaultian chains of history and culture, to still put it to the Kierkegaardian question that the individual is still wholly and utterly and terrifyingly free to make this decision about who Christ is and one’s relation to Christ, it makes the decision all the more anxious because if we think too carefully about it, there is the baggage of belief, the haunting afterward. There is that troubling, niggling, relentless freedom, because now there are the horrors of theodicy, of Christendom, of injustice, of hatred, of so many unspeakable and confounding truths and acts to wrestle with. This is all part of it. It comes with the package. We are not knights of faith. Let’s not kid ourselves with such hubristic and sanctimonious self-deceptions.

These are thoughts that haunt me. Haunt my mind, my heart, my soul. Can perfect love cast out all fear? That makes me anxious, too. Can it?

Like a Derridean spectre, God haunts me. Like a Hegelian Geist, God haunts me. Like the Paraclete, God haunts me. Like a dead parent, God haunts me.  But do I want the haunting to stop? I don’t know. That’s what haunts me, too. What would it be like to be free of all that – except that kind of freedom does not exist. God’s shadow is everywhere. All you have to do is light a candle and see.


About the author

By Burke
Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.


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