If you have read this blog before, you will know that I am reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina because the insights it offers into the human soul are far more insightful than any academic paper. Here Tolstoy describes how his character, Levin, feels during a service of confession at church:
Levin found himself, like the majority of his contemporaries, in the vaguest position in regard to religion. Believe he could not, and at the same time he had no firm conviction that it was all wrong. And consequently, not being able to believe in the significance of what he was doing nor to regard it with indifference as an empty formality, during the whole period of preparing for the sacrament he was conscious of a feeling of discomfort and shame at doing what he did not himself understand, and what, as an inner voice told him, was therefore false and wrong. During the service he would first listen to the prayers, trying to attach some meaning to them not discordant with his own views; then feeling that he could not understand and must condemn them, he tried not to listen to them, but to attend to the thoughts, observations, and memories which floated through his brain with extreme vividness during this idle time of standing in church.
As a Christian, this helps me understand the uncomfort, doubt and possible hypocrisy that an unbeliever may feel if forced to go along with my tradition.
Lord, help me to be more sensitive.
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