Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rumsfeld and Religion

"Because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know.", Donald Rumsfeld.

You might think it odd, but this infamous rambling quote by George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense flooded my mind recently as I was struggling with several aspects of my faith. Sometimes I read something or think about something and can set it aside and walk away from it when I don't fully understand it or can't come up with a reasonable answer. At other times, some idea or thought latches onto me and won't let go. Such is the case after I finished reading a Christian book containing some highly controversial thoughts. Definitely not items discussed in Sunday school. It was then that Rumsfeld's utterance bubbled to the surface.

There are known knowns - I know that God loves me and wants a relationship with me. He died on the cross because He couldn't bear the thought of heaven without me. He wants me to look to him and follow the path that consistently leads to Him. Sometimes this is the only truth that I can latch onto and it serves as my refuge and my beacon of hope.

There are known unknowns - I don't know with 100% certainty what happens when I die. I guess there is the possibility that my coffin will be my final resting place. But if I go to heaven, I have no idea what I will do to fill my existence. Will I still be me? Will I get bored after a couple of choruses of Hallelujah? Will my relationship with Jesus ultimately help me find peace in this life? Do my prayers matter? Am I heard? Is God too subtle for me? I don't know who will ultimately get to the afterlife and what the full set of criteria are. These are questions that I know I can't answer.

There are unknown unknowns - What surprises lie ahead in this lifetime? Will any of the hard lessons that I've learned to this point matter? Will I get to where I am supposed to go? Will I ever be able to unload this heavy collar of regrets?

Sometimes hard questions are good, because they help you defend what you think you know, at least to yourself, or they give you a perfect opportunity to scratch your head and figure things out. Some of the known unknowns can never be answered because the answers lie outside of us. The best we can do then is to establish an uneasy truth of plausible reasoning to help us get past them. As for the unknown unknowns, hopefully how I am living now will give me the strength and tools and approaches to deal with them when they arise.