Barbara Brown Taylor on Darkness

I have just listened to Mary Hynes’s interview with Barbara Brown Taylor, “Let There Be Dark,” on  CBC radio’s fine program Tapestry.  Highly recommended.  She talks about the pressure she felt as a preacher to be unfailingly sunny and describes her own religious practice as “lunar,” as distinguished from the “solar” tendencies of many communities.  This syncs up with my feelings about pink, about the efforts to dress up a painful experience with brightness. Any encounter with a kindred spirit who does not demand constant cheeriness makes me—cheery.  I’m still not pink though.

This is an excerpt from Barbara Brown Taylor’s “In Praise of Darkness,” in Time Magazine.  (It is an excerpt from her book “Learning to Walk in the Dark.”)

 . . . a kind of spirituality that deals with darkness by denying its existence or at least depriving it of any meaningful attention. I call it “full solar spirituality,” since it focuses on staying in the light of God around the clock, both absorbing and reflecting the sunny side of faith. You can usually recognize a full solar church by its emphasis on the benefits of faith, which include a sure sense of God’s presence, certainty of belief, divine guidance in all things, and reliable answers to prayer. Members strive to be positive in attitude, firm in conviction, helpful in relationship, and unwavering in faith. This sounds like heaven on earth. Who would not like to dwell in God’s light 24/7?

If you have ever belonged to such a community, however, you may have discovered that the trouble starts when darkness falls on your life, which can happen in any number of unsurprising ways: you lose your job, your marriage falls apart, your child acts out in some attention-getting way, you pray hard for something that does not happen, you begin to doubt some of the things you have been taught about what the Bible says. The first time you speak of these things in a full solar church, you can usually get a hearing. Continue to speak of them and you may be reminded that God will not let you be tested beyond your strength. All that is required of you is to have faith. If you still do not get the message, sooner or later it will be made explicit for you: the darkness is your own fault, because you do not have enough faith.

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