Walker Percy and the 98%

The MoviegoerEarly in The Moviegoer, Binx Bolling starts talking about “the search” that he finds himself on when he is not too “sunk” into reality.  Soon after that initial talk of the search (which I mentioned here), Bolling continues:

What do you seek– God? you ask with a smile.

I hesitate to answer, since all other Americans have settled the matter for themselves and to give such an answer would amount to setting myself a goal which everyone else has reached– and therefore raising a question in which no one has the slightest interest.  Who want to be dead last among one hundred and eighty million Americans?  For, as everyone knows, the polls report that 98% of Americans believe in God and the remaining 2% are atheists and agnostics– which leaves not a single percentage point for a seeker . . .

Truthfully, it is the fear of exposing my own ignorance which constrains me from mentioning the object of my search.  For, to begin with, I cannot even answer this, the simplest and most basic of all questions:  Am I, in my search, a hundred miles ahead of my fellow Americans or a hundred miles behind them?  That is to say: Have 98% of Americans already found what I seek or are they so sunk in everydayness that not even the possibility of a search has occurred to them?

I mention this passage from Percy’s classic because it asks something good and vital about community and belonging.  How do you ask a question and seek an answer when most around you have already answered it or can’t even acknowledge the question even exists?  Are churches full of people who are members of (what was then) the 98%?  And if so, what changes has this belief brought about in the lives of these believers?

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Every week at the church some of my closest friends attend, the priest acknowledges the church’s approach to communion.  If the person present is a baptized believer, they are welcome to partake of the bread and wine.  If the person is not a baptized believer, if they are still seeking God and asking questions, they are welcome to come to the front (arms crossed) and receive a blessing.

I often wonder if there is a way to do both at once.

Because to have found God, or been found by Him, is not to stop asking questions, to stop seeking.  This isn’t about orthodoxy or orthopraxy, either.  It’s something, I think, like this scene from The Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

How do we work with the genuine seeker in our midst?  And is it possible for them to fit in community when they understand the significant questions in slightly different ways, in ways that still ring true and maybe ringer louder and in a tone we have too easily and often ignored?

Continued tomorrow with something from Mere Christianity . . .

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