I threw up all over the place. And I mean all over the place.
At 10 years old your capacity to eat copious amounts of spaghetti is actually quite impressive. Your ability to keep it all down when you’re sick however, not so much. My parents had told me that if I didn’t eat I was going to get more sick and they would have to leave me in the street out in the rain as the disease-ridden son I was. That may be exaggerating a tad. They did force me to eat the spaghetti though, that much is true.
Spaghetti was the dreaded enemy and I vowed through a blood ceremony to rid the world of it’s evilness once and for all.
Then I grew up.
The problem is, my childhood spaghetti experience stuck with me. Every time I thought about it, talked about it, or saw spaghetti I was nauseous. What’s interesting is that I realized that a basic spaghetti recipe was made from things I liked – salt, basil, pepper, tomatoes and herbs. And who doesn’t like pasta? I mean they have a type of pasta that has the word ‘angel’ in it, if that’s not an endorsement for food holiness I’m not sure what is. I liked all of the ingredients, but I still hated spaghetti. The experience was too much to overcome. From then-on I associated Spaghetti with that one bad experience.
When I became a Christian many years later and reflected on what had kept me from believing in God for most of my life I came to the realization that the roadblocks to belief weren’t what I thought they were. The trustworthiness of the Bible, proofs for the existence of God or historical facts weren’t even in the top three. The major roadblocks were my bad experiences with church, Christians and God. Initially, I couldn’t get over them. They shaped my view of God, of the people who followed him and the place they all gathered on Sundays.
Philosophy & Pineapples
There is a huge foundational issue here when we base our faith (or lack thereof) solely on experiences: we tend to rely on them way too much for truth. There is a whole mode of thinking that bases truth on our experiences called Empiricism. A famous Philosopher, John Locke (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Locke) once described how Empiricism works by talking about a Pineapple. Yes, Philosophers love this fruit too! Locke asks the question of whether or not a person could accurately describe the taste of a pineapple to someone who hasn’t tasted one before. His argument is that although we may be able to come close, when a person tastes it themselves their experience will tell them more than our words did.
Their experience of tasting is more ‘real’ and more ‘truthful’ than a description, an idea, or an argument based on evidence. But what if you gave them a bad pineapple? They may think that all Pineapples taste that bad and conclude that they should be stricken from the menagerie of fruitdom for good.
Experiences can definitely shape or inform our view of the truth but they shouldn’t be the only foundation.
When I was an atheist, my ‘bad experiences’ with God, Christians and the church caused me to believe (Yes even atheists have beliefs! But that is another post for another time) more than a few incorrect ‘truths’. They shaped my worldview, my ethics, and ultimately my decision to have nothing to do with God. This danger is also true of good experiences. Many Christians today associate well-being, wealth, and success in life with their faith. Because they believe in God, good things will happen to them and all of their dreams will come true. It’s dangerous, and unfortunately doesn’t paint a very good (or accurate) portrait of God.
I eat Spaghetti now because I was unwilling to let a moment define a belief. I had to change my belief about Spaghetti because it was based on just one thing – experience. I had to change my beliefs about God too because they were based mainly on experiences. At the end of a recent sermon series our church (http://smccutah.org/west-jordan-campus/) did we talked about how our beliefs shape just about everything about us. However, if we get the order wrong and allow our experiences to shape our beliefs we may miss out on the greatest experience of all – the truth that God loves us. For to experience truth is to experience God Himself.