There it was. In the beginning to the beginning of the book mid-sentence. I stared at the unexpected words wondering if they were real. The book, recommended to me by a blogging friend of mine (Julie) over at Cookie Crumbles to Live By was barely through the preface when I was hit over the head with what seemed to be a boulder. A bold statement that just couldn’t be true. A statement that prefaced a book about two German siblings who started an underground movement against the terror that was Nazi Germany and the Hitler regime. I had barely braced myself to read another book I may not make it through about the Holocaust when the pain came before the story began.
Hans’s “conversion” process is more intellectual than Sophie’s, his spiritual growth being nurtured in large part by books. Many of these are by French Catholics, among them Leon Bloy, Paul Claudel, George Bernanos, and Etienne Gilson (ten years later these same writers would play a central role in my own temporary conversion to Catholicism.” (excerpted from the Preface to the American Edition of, “At the Heart of the White Rose, Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl.
I had never quite seen the words “temporary” and “conversion” tucked so neatly away in the same sentence. As if to say, I found God, it was good for a while and now I am on to trying something else…As if to say it is that easy to move on from God…
The words stirred me so much I had to stop reading the book and instead start to find out who Richard Gilman was. I had already said a silent unprompted prayer for His soul that I felt may be languishing in the throes of purgatory. It was like he was stuck between here and there and just couldn’t see his way out. I broke down and cried for a man I did not even know.
But the news of his “temporary conversion” grew worse still. The article in the New York Times was punishing. How could it begin like this? The title of the piece was What He Found, What He Lost, but how exactly does one lose God?
Eight sentences in I learned. Richard Gilman was a self-proclaimed Jewish “atheist” who became a Catholic and left the church eight years later. Why? According to the summation of his book Faith, Sex, Mystery, because, “there was no place for him in the church either sexually or intellectually…After he left the Catholic Church he briefly tried to return to Judaism, but found there was nothing to return to; he has never been a part of anything.”
And strangely I could see the Judaism that he spoke about. The one I myself had left to embrace my wholeness in the Church, only to realize I never left Judaism at all, but rather found it in the Savior’s arms. I thanked God for my time in a non-denominational church which taught me not only the fundamentals of Christianity but also the scriptures. I was able to embrace the Catholic Church because I had known the savior. The Church was Him walking me home…
It occurred to me that Mr.Gilman may have had a romance with the Church and all its beauty but lacked in His relationship with God. I too had been drawn in by the false promises of other religions and practices, temporary “fixes” that focused on me and self rather than God. I never believed that God didn’t exist, I just chose to look elsewhere for meaning and purpose in life. God was an entity to me, a concept, not a personal loving friend who offered me salvation.
And I imagine that there are so many others out there like Richard Gilman. Those who are searching for the truth in false religions or new age models. Those that have rejected God because they have chosen to yield to the world and its desires rather than take the narrow road. And there are those who have labeled themselves “deconverts” as if somehow that makes God not to exist. In any case, they are all people who have chosen an alternative to God.
I don’t think Richard Gilman stopped believing in God, I just think that he chose to have his own way. Maybe because the romantic pull of the Church was just that; a fantasy he had created in His own mind. There is nothing romantic about Christianity. It thrives on the notion that suffering is good.
But if one can get past their own selves, if one can reach for God as if a child, if one can believe that nothing else is needed but God alone, the truth of the Church will shine brighter than the sun. I grieved that Richard Gilman never found that truth. But maybe his life was meant to be read about to produce conversion. To draw those to Christ who have clung on to the lie that there is such a thing as “temporary conversion”; and not in the sense of the Church but in the lies of the world. For in Christ there is nothing temporary- there is only eternal.