What this dotted man teaches us about spirituality, politics


I used to be that dotted man on the right.

Holding my well-packaged, perfectly-circular worldview in my fingertips (you know, so I could throw it at others). On the inside, however, I was insecure and confused. Dotted and fading. Robbed of a soul—my mind, intellect and emotions—because I had placed it into a system, a formula. But as long as I could hold my polished worldview out in front of me, I could efficiently mask my dotted being, blocking others from looking me in the eyes and seeing me for who I really was.

The sketch that I am describing, featured above, is from German philosopher Paul Tillich’s book, My Search For Absolutes. Thank goodness the version of this profound book that I own includes illustrations from artist Saul Steinberg because God knows most of Tillich’s words went right over my head. Perhaps it was God’s way of getting me to read philosophy: “Give that idiot down there a book with pictures; he’ll read it.”

I “read” My Search For Absolutes a couple months ago and found myself drawn to this particular illustration. (By the way, I have no idea if my interpretation was intended by the cartoonist, but such is the beauty of art.) In the aftermath of this exhausting presidential race, I’ve found myself once more thinking about it. And I think this illustration might be exactly what this country needs.

I initially found myself drawn to the picture because of my own journey. If you are familiar with my story, you might know that I was raised and confirmed Catholic, then baptized Protestant before plunging into evangelicalism. And, ironically, if you are familiar with my work, it seems like all I do now is quote Catholic mystics and theologians.

Contrary to many of the progressive Christians today who bash evangelicals, my experience in right-wing, conservative evangelicalism was a positive one—one that sent me on an intellectual journey that I will forever be grateful for. Were there some negatives? Yes, of course. There are negatives in any doctrine. Yes, even progressive Christianity or mysticism. But since I believe the journey of a curious theologian is one of deconstructing and reconstructing,