Towards the end of his life, Kierkegaard had a shaky relationship with Christendom – for him that meant the official Lutheran Church of Denmark. He did not receive Communion on his deathbed and refused visits from clergy, even his own brother. He turned his back on the institution, stayed away from public worship, and wrote at length about the dangers of Christendom. But did he have a shaky relationship with God?
I have always found Kierkegaard’s gravestone very inspiring. The inscription finishes with “And unceasingly / Speak with my Jesus.” For me, it separates the institution from the Person – the church from Jesus. Yes, Jesus speaks through His Church – in His Word and through the Sacraments – but the institution is not Jesus. I do not have faith in the church but only in the Absolute Paradox that brings life and embodies love. I like community and I am not anti-people but the community of faithful needs to lead me to communion with Jesus – He is the end of the journey!
So today I thought about a quote from the end of Kierkegaard’s life in the midst of his struggle with the official church:
I do not dare to call myself a Christian; but I want honesty, and to that end I will venture.“XII. What do I want?”, The Moment, Hong 46
I guess, in modern speak, we would call that authenticity. For Kierkegaard, this honesty is connected to risk and faith. And the honesty he is speaking about is honesty about my relationship with God – honest before God. Being on a parish roll is not the same as being in the book of life.
It is human nature to try to find security in this world – finding certainty. For a lot of people, science offers that certainty – a truth that is imminent. Sometimes we use the terminology objective or absolute truth – a truth outside of me that is indepentant of me. Unfortunately, some people use that terminology about God. Kierkegaard’s point is that people finding that absolute truth in the institution is not the same as a personal relationship with Jesus. The fundamental movement of faith is to leap into uncertainty and that leap changes me.
So honesty has to do with risk before God. Risk that God will change me. Honesty is also about uncertainty – I do not have all the answers within myself. I am not complete without transcendence. I am not complete without the God who has reached out to me in love in the Absolute Paradox. And I can not surrender that honesty to another person – no one leaps for me into uncertainty.
My mental health struggles have taught me that I must live each day on its own merits. I must live now. Without any certainty about tomorrow. And that requires of me a certain amount of honesty about me and about my relationship with others and ultimately with God. I try (with God’s grace) to live for Him today.