God is paradox. Or rather, paradox is the closest approximation we have to a comprehension of Deity. And that is how God works with us, bending reality and straining thought to make contradictions collide into a unity of meaning, of meta-meaning. Paradox cannot be grasped, cannot be touched, cannot even be thought, for the second we think of it, it disappears into infinite nothingness. It is only possibly because it isn’t. And thus is God: infinite, incomprehensible, fathomless, slippery. We say Deity is a mystery, but that’s only because we don’t understand what mystery means, and so it suffices to express our willful ignorance.
Theologians say that Christ taught in parables, but really, he taught in paradoxes. His life was a paradox, fully divine while fully human, perhaps divine because he was human. Infinite and yet clothed in a bonded tabernacle. Sinless and yet the bearer of the sins of the world. An immortal God who suffered death to live again that the dead might rise from the grave. He taught of two births and two deaths—a birth that brought death, a death that brought life, a death that was a rebirth, and a birth that was a crucifixion. Christ taught paradox because he is paradox, because he stands at the edge of infinity, the gate of absurdity, the portal to heaven. I’m not sure we are expected to understand, but we follow him, knowing that in him is reconciled the irreconcilable.
Perhaps being both Gay and Mormon, having my life split into two mutually hostile components has left me more sensitive to irony and paradox. And thus more sensitive to Divinity. I always felt that I had a secret fast-track ticket into Gethsemane. Here, I thought, was a very real crucifixion, a mortification of the flesh that would glorify the spirit. Life through death. I thought the irony would save me. But I failed to realize the most obvious point: paradoxes are only true because they are false; they are slippery things. The moment I thought I had found my reconciliation with Deity, it evaporated oblivion, because the whole point is the reconciliation of the irreconcilable. I had created a finite God, and that God rules hell, not heaven.
Now, on the outside of the Closet and of Mormonism, there is a higher, more complicated wisdom that informs my theology. Now, I seek an infinite God and I seek it paradoxically. I have come to understand that God allows competing theologies to exist, mutually hostile theologies, but theologies that are, ultimately, salvific. But that is not entirely right. Neither theology is salvific, but rather the tension between them is. Salvation is in the contradiction. They are salvific only because they are irreconcilable, because they each claim a monopoly on truth, and because they claim the other has no salvation. I find myself in that in between space. It is uncomfortable, agonizing, and alienating. It is true because it is false; it is real because it doesn’t exist. And here I have found a life because I lost it; here I am reborn because I committed suicide.
I leave Mormonism not claiming that the Church is untrue. Indeed, it must be true, or I am damned. I declare it to be true in every detail and declare also that I was right to leave it. And they must damn me; it’s the only way I’ll get to heaven. I believe the Church is absolutely true in every detail, even in its blanket condemnation of homosexuality. And, at the same time, I believe I am absolutely right in my embrace of homosexuality. The Church is right to claim a monopoly on truth, and I am right to proclaim a different, contradictory path. Indeed, my path only makes sense if the Church really is true. It is the competition of these absolute truths that can only be subsumed in the Deity that makes for an infinite God and an infinite Atonement. And it is the tension, the grinding of two millstones, the irreconcilable, that I must present unto Christ for reconciliation. But it is only irreconcilable if the Church really is true and if I really am right at the same time. Only then is God truly infinite. The ontologies of the competing theologies mean much less than that they conflict and yet are both true; the contradiction. For there is paradox; there is God.
And dear God, is that not a refiner’s fire? Is it not a crucifixion? But it isn’t my old conception, my false conception of deity. It is a much harder crucifixion, an infinite crucifixion. It is living with the impossible, enduring an endless night, trembling in the darkness and waiting for a dawn you do not expect to see. It is being drawn apart, having your very atoms torn and twisted and recomposed into something else. It is faith that breathes fire and freezes the soul, as though you suddenly have to fill the immensity of space with the smallness of your mortal frame. It is passing again through the birth canal, drawn fine, drawn into an infinitesimal thread. It is bearing the crushing weight of everlasting consciousness in a single moment of horrific lucidity. It is gasping your last and breathing your first, being born and dying, passing out of existence because suddenly you are all of existence.
That is Christ in Gethsemane. And I tremble as I follow him. For now, I begin to understand what awaits me. I understand because, finally, I acknowledge that I do not understand. I bow my head and say, “It is a mystery.” And I am grateful that I don’t comprehend the meaning of the word. I give my life that Christ may save it. And I enter into infinity to be subsumed into the Deity. Glory be to God.