Saturday, September 4, 2010

Singing with Agnostics

I am a theist who loves agnostics. (I want to say I am a gnostic who loves agnostics, but that would take too much explaining!) I love agnostics’ honesty and courage, and ability to clearly see through the smokescreen that most of us Christians blow around our churches.

Last night I was listening to Folk Alley, an internet folk radio station. All I get is country and pop radio stations up here in the woods of New Hampshire, so I have resorted to listening to radio via my laptop.

A song came on that I mistook for a gospel song at first … until I listened closely. It was “Probably Not” from Susan Werner’s 2007 album “The Gospel Truth.” The refrain goes: “Is there a god above? Is there eternal love? Probably not. Probably not. Is there a home up in the sky? Will we be there by and by? Probably not. Probably not.” Those would be “fightin words” for most preachers, but I found myself wanting to sing along.

The final verse got me laughing out loud. “But what if I've been wrong, And God's been up there all along. And He hands me a heavenly crown. Would I dare to turn Him down? Probably not. Probably not. And if He sends me down to hell, Would I smile and say ‘oh well?’ Probably not. No, Probably Not.”

Werner describes herself as an “evangelical agnostic.” They are “a passionate but ambivalent group,” she explains. She calls her music “Agnostic Gospel.” From what I can pick up from the lyrics of her songs, she is one of those kids who never could fit into the shoes of her parents’ faith.

She writes in “Lost My Religion” that she lost her religion at age ten. “Lost my religion. I guess it had to be. Lost my religion, or my religion lost me.” In her song “(Why Is Your) Heaven So Small” she asks, “If god is great and god is good, why is your heaven so small?”

In her song “Sunday Morning” she sings, “and I went back the other day, closed my eyes and tried to pray. But a voice spoke loud and clear ‘you ask too many questions, dear’ and I said, ‘you ask too few.’ That's why I still don't know quite what to do on Sunday mornings.”

In “Our Father (The New, Revised Edition)” she prays, “Thy kingdom come to every nation. Thy will be done in everything we do.  Lord, lead us not into temptation. And deliver us from those who think they're You.” I could quote every word from every song on the album. I love it. 

I  love agnostics. I love talking about spiritual matters with them. They are so much more interesting than most church folk. They think things and say things that true believers are afraid to think and say… at least to preachers. They question the sacred idols of Christianity.

I am not an agnostic, not even an evangelical agnostic. I am more like an agnostic evangelical. I don’t mind regularly saying, “I don’t know,” which is what agnostic means.

I once said in a sermon “I don’t know,” and a lady came up to me afterward and told me she never heard those words spoken from a pulpit. She said, “Pastors don’t say such things.” She meant it in a good way. She explained that she respects people who admit they do not have all the answers.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have all the questions. In fact the longer I live, the less I know. It is in this unknowing that I see God. The less I know, the more I know God. That is why I love agnostics. They don’t know either. And unlike most of my Christian brethren, they know they don’t know.
Susan Werner’s website can be found at

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