UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai participates in the 2014 Girl Summit. Photo courtesy of Russell Watkins/Department for International Development/WikiMedia Commons

Dear Doubting Thomas

'Your story reminds me to move through the fog of fear, doubt and cynicism’

By Carolyn Pogue


Dear Thomas,

Doubt hangs everywhere these days. Back in your time, just after that first Easter, you had to go against your peers to express doubt; it likely took courage. Today, it is the opposite. You'd fit right in.

Back then, when the disciples and friends rattled on about the empty grave and having sighted Jesus, you maintained your cynicism. "Prove it!" you said. Maybe, you had been tricked when you were a kid and laughed at for your gullibility. Maybe, you wanted so badly to believe that death isn't really the end and you couldn't bear to be disappointed. Who can blame you for that?

Today, people doubt that the planet can survive with us on it. We doubt the media, politicians and the weather forecast. We doubt that the economy will turn around, that solar panels and windmills make sense. We doubt that ‘going green’ is affordable. Mostly, I think, we  doubt ourselves — the very goodness that we were born with. It's a doubters' world, Thomas.

It's understandable, I guess. Watching hope evaporate like so much smoke from a burnt match can be unbearable. Hospital halls echo the stories: “So sorry to tell you. . . . We've run out of options.” Hopes for technological fixes crash: “terminator seeds kill bees. . . . Water treatment plants fail . . .”

It can be discouraging. But then I recall that snake story about Moses in the desert. You would have known it, too. Everybody was mad at their reluctant leader because they'd been wandering around in the heat, swarms of bugs and uncertainty for decades. “What next,” they demanded. And then, the answer came: poisonous snakes. There were people dying all over the place. So Moses made a bronze snake, hoisted it up on his staff and said, "Look at this and live!" He commanded them to look at what scared them most. I love that upside down story. I love it because its message has helped me to be strong when I wanted to cave-in to grief. Is that what you were trying to do, too? Did you want to look at the terrible wounds of your beloved rabbi Jesus so that you could go on?

I don't know if you keep track of things like this over where you are, but this year, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai became an honourary Canadian citizen. Born in Pakistan, Yousafzai was an outspoken child advocate for education for girls. For this, the Taliban shot her. I imagine her in her hospital bed when the bandages were removed, looking into a mirror, and touching her own young, wounded face and head. "I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don't be afraid; if you are afraid, you can't move forward." Yousafzai travels the world now, speaking out with courage, confidence and creativity, bearing her message of justice for girls.

Thomas, you took a risk expressing your doubt out loud in front of friends. You said that you needed to see it to believe it, and Jesus accommodated you and you reached out. Then, you were able to carry on. Tradition says that you even found yourself in India, planting churches that still continue to this day. But you know all of that.

Your story reminds me to move through the fog of fear, doubt and cynicism — not only personal doubt, but the societal web of doubt making optimism seem quaint. To touch the wounds of what is sacred to us — of neighbours and strangers, as well as of Earth, herself — perhaps we need to recognize our fear, and have the courage to reach out a hand and touch the wounds. Only then can we move on.

— Carolyn

This is the sixth in Carolyn Pogue’s “Letter to a Spiritual Ancestor” series.



Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a Calgary author and longtime Observer contributor. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Columns

Moderator nominee Colin Phillips gives his nomination speech at General Council. (Credit: Richard Choe)

Hey, United Church — we could have talked about my disability

by Colin Phillips

A moderator nominee says the majority of commissioners at General Council weren't comfortable enough to truly engage him.

Promotional Image

Observations

Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image

Columns

August 2018

Why Canada’s first-ever minister for seniors is long overdue

by Julie Lalonde

A gerontologist says she hopes that a ministry dedicated to elder issues will mean that seniors finally have a voice in policy making.

Columns

August 2018

Hey, United Church — we could have talked about my disability

by Colin Phillips

A moderator nominee says the majority of commissioners at General Council weren't comfortable enough to truly engage him.

Interviews

August 2018

'Photography was the way that I could share different Indigenous realities'

by Emma Prestwich

Award-winning photographer Nadya Kwandibens wants to change the perception of Indigenous people through her work.

Promotional Image