“There is really nothing more intellectually unfashionable than Christianity. If I could have chosen something else, I would have – God just had other plans for me.”
So writes 17-year-old Marjorie Corbman in “A Tiny Step Away From Deepest Faith.” Though only in high school when she wrote the book, Corbman’s capacity for self-reflection and spiritual insight belies her young age. She not only takes us into the minds of modern teenagers, but presents questions and insights that are relevant to people of all ages, be they seekers or established believers.
Raised a Reformed Jew in a family that was half-heartedly religious, Corbman found herself yearning for meaning–“wired for worship” she calls it– from a young age.
Though she considered herself an atheist for a time, her faith journey a zig-zagged through Wiccanism, Paganism and Gnosticism, but the more she investigated those belief systems, the more their claims fell apart. The more she learned about Christianity, however, the deeper she was drawn into its beliefs and mysteries. Ultimately, it wasn’t that Christianity made more sense than the other religions – she notes that Christianity is full of “paradoxes.” It was “an encounter with a person” – namely, Jesus – that made the difference.
Having spent much of her young lifetime surrounding herself with superficial relationships, Corbman discovered a radical new definition of love in the gospel of John. “For so long I had confused love with affection, with infatuation” she writes, “I began…to see a new definition – Jesus’ love demanded blood. It wasn’t simply comforting, it was a promise and a surrender, complete giving without the single thought of repayment.” With that discovery, Corbman forged a new relationship with the people around her and with the God she now worships. She eventually found her way to Orthodox Christianity, the faith into which she was baptized this past Easter.
Corbman admits that she and other members of her generation often search frantically and recklessly for meaning – “Our god is the person or thing we think most about – whether it be God Himself or a crush or a celebrity or an object or an ideology. My friends and I chose to worship anything – everything – in order to fill the gap that leaves us empty and unfulfilled.”
The search for fulfillment isn’t unique to being a teenager of course. Despite our attempts as adults to find a spouse who “completes us,” a job we enjoy, or material things we think will make us happy often there remains an underlying hunger for something more. That hunger often leads to the self-help/spirituality section of Barnes and Noble in a quest to improve ourselves or bring our lives meaning. But as Corbman points out, most spirituality books view religion as a drug-like fix humanity needs for self-gratification as opposed to being about “finding Truth, about submitting the self to something greater.”
A number of Corbman’s beliefs would be considered theologically conservative, but she remains a self-proclaimed liberal who isn’t afraid to look critically at Christianity. Her deep love of nature and concern for the environment is confounded by the fact that she “never really saw any Christians defend the earth with love.”
Though she has settled on her faith tradition her zeal for it is remarkably undogmatic. Corbman’s experience has given her a unique insight into understanding the lives of spiritual seekers. She defends young people’s pursuit of other faiths saying, “We flee from the lukewarm, from pat answers, from dull ideology…It’s there that God meets us, in our refusal of anything less than perfect good.” Instead of capitalizing on this search for greater meaning, many Christians simply condemn these beliefs. Corbman, however, recognizes that young people – passionate toward whatever faith they practice – are at least on a path to belief.