November 30th: In the Shadow

I feel bad for St. Andrew. He’s kind of like the B-side of the record.

In the lore of the church, not much is known about Andrew other than he was the brother of St. Peter…about whom much is known.

Imagine being known only in relation to your sibling to whom you’re always being compared. I imagine some of you don’t have to imagine too hard…this happens. Lots of people live in the long shadow of someone else.

But St. Andrew gets a bit of the historical last laugh. His feast day, November 30th, is the day by which the church sets the Advent calendar every year: the Sunday that falls closest to St. Andrew’s day is always the first Sunday of Advent.

Author and erstwhile theologian, Frank Schaeffer knows a bit about growing up in a long shadow. His fundamentalist pastor of a father, going by the same name, was a leading crusader in the early movement of the Religious Right. The younger Schaeffer has spent a lifetime coming to terms with that heritage, rejecting it, and finding his own voice.

Stumbling headlong into a kind of atheism (or, perhaps, “a/theism” as metaphysicist Peter Rollins would say), Schaeffer has been a prolific writer and voice in a kind of “in-between-belief” system that walks the fine line of faith and doubt. His book, _Why I Am An Atheist Who Believes in God_ is a wonderful reflection on the struggle to make sense of life in the shadow of religion.

“A/theism,” by the way, is a term coined by philosopher Peter Rollins to describe someone who believes in God but isn’t sure quite *what* to believe about God. They question what they’ve been taught about the Divine.

Advent is a season where we get to dip our toe into a bit of a/theism, a bit of “not-yet” when it comes to Divine promises being fulfilled and the whole notion of certainty.

Advent, with it’s focus on “hope,” is about not being certain, after all.

Advent is about clinging to bits and pieces of hope when there aren’t many to be found, repeating the promises of old again and again until you start to believe them, by God.

Or not.

I wonder if St. Andrew believed them, in all honesty. We know Peter doubted…but Andrew? He’s historically silent on the matter, except to say that he gets to usher us into this season of candle-lit waiting, wondering, and uncertainty.

Artist Joshua Radin’s hauntingly beautiful “Winter” kind of embodies the feeling of lostness and longing that St. Andrew’s day fills me with. Radin’s notion of a “name like a splinter” being lodged in his being is evocative of this wrestling with faith and straddling the line of belief and doubt.

Could God’s name be a splinter in us that is hard to get rid of? Is this why we’re continually drawn back to matters of the spirit and the heart?

Add the song to your Advent playlist, and ponder along with St. Andrew, with Schaeffer, with Radin, and with me.

2 thoughts on “November 30th: In the Shadow

  1. Tim, this was great, especially during a period in which my major response has been “meh” about Scripture and the Churh. Thanks.

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