Plastic Jesus

From The Summer of the Great-Grandmother by Madeleine L'Engle.
A conversation between Madeleine and her mother.

"Several times she reached out to me. 'I know that even if I get through this operation I don't have very long to live, and I don't know where I'm going. I feel very hypocritical when I go to church, because I can't say the Creed.'
'Why not?'
'I don't believe it anymore.'
'Did you ever?'
'I don't know.'
'Mother, you can't understand the Creed like your Baedecker guide to Athens. It's in the language of poetry. It's trying to talk about things that can't be pinned down by words, and it has to try to break words apart and thrust beyond them.'
'But I'm supposed to believe--'
'No, you're not,' I say firmly, holding her hand. 'It's all right.' Dimly I realize that she is caught in the pre-World War I philosophy . . . that world of human perfectibility and control.

She says, 'I can't take communion because I'm not worthy.'
'Oh, Mother, if we had to wait till we were worthy, no one could ever take communion.'
I certainly could not. But Mother isn't the only one to talk to me like this, nor is it only her generation. Students have talked to me in the same words. Someone is still teaching theological hogwash. What is this restrictive thing they feel they have to conform to or be hypocritical? If I have to conform to provable literalism, I not only rebel, I propose immediate revolution. How do I make more than a fumbling attempt to explain that faith is not legislated, that it is not a small box which works twenty-four hours a day? If I 'believe' for two minutes once every month or so, I'm doing well.
The only God worth believing in is neither my pal in the house next door nor an old gentleman shut up cozily in a coffin where he can't hurt me. I can try to be simple with him, but not vulgar. He is the mysterium tremendens et fascinans; he is free, and he understands the ousia of this frightened old child of his. No wonder I can't believe in him very often! . . .
I get glimmers of the bad nineteenth-century teaching which has made Mother remove God from the realm of mystery and beauty and glory, but why do people half my age think that they don't have faith unless their faith is small and comprehensible and like a good old plastic Jesus?"