Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cowboys and Indians

When I was about three or four, my older brother and I were playing with our plastic Cowboys and Indians in the sandbox.

“Wawawawawawa!” I cried as I held the rigid body of an Indian to his horse, threateningly aiming his arrow at the kneeling cowboy in my other hand.

“Bang, bang!” I shouted as a response from the crouching Cowboy as his otherwise stiff figure shook from the backfire of his weapon.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I gasped from the equestrian native, who began sliding off his mount in defeat.

Suddenly my older, wiser brother interrupted my reenactment. “Em, what are you doing?!” he scolded me in alarm. “Do you realize what really happened in the New World? The Indians didn’t do anything wrong, and then the cowboys came and took away their land!”

Confused, I looked at the plastic toys in sadness, trying to allow this new information from my six-year-old elder to sort itself out in my shaken worldview. Their rigid figures had become strangely complex, and an afternoon adventure in the sandbox had been robbed of all its simplicity.

Suddenly, in a burst of inspiration, I put the cowboy on the horse, repeating the same scene in inverse.

“Hahahahaha!” shouted the evil settler as he charged toward the innocent native, and “Twang, twang!” fired the arrow of his foe. A potentially confusing afternoon was saved.

All that to say, I remember when the world was simpler, when there were clear-cut good guys and bad guys, and all a kid had to do was figure out which were which. I remember being able to talk about political issues without ever knowing anyone on the other side, or being able to talk about theology when I had only ever been in one kind of church. Like I had been that afternoon in the sandbox, I was as confident about evil as I was of good, and confident that I knew how to identify both.

On the other hand, I also remember developing some kind of a Christian agnosticism in which one could never know anything for sure beyond God, Jesus, and the Bible (the interpretation thereof, of course, was anyone’s guess), and I would not suggest that position either, at least not to anyone with a similar propensity to despair.

But I do need to keep reminding myself, as I slowly gain the courage to believe God has not left us to muddle through moral and theological ambiguity alone, that confidence divorced from humility creates travesty as monstrous as the one I enacted in the sandbox. May I learn the courage to believe in knowable truth, but never lose the humility to imagine I might be mistaken about it.


MCS said...

Em, I too appreciate the "grayness" of life and life's situations. You express that concept well. Mary S.

Phil said...

Poignant story and good points, Em! I've never thought of solo Scriptura in terms of 'Christian agnosticism' before. I pray that you continue to grow in courageous faith and humility, learning what one can of God's mysteries. Though God may not reveal as much of Himself as we'd like, He communicates enough for us to love Him.

Hope all is well at the cloister!

God bless,