Monday, June 15, 2009

Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 2-What do I Believe?

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 (New International Version)

14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."

[ A woodcarving of Belial and some of his followers from Buch Belial by Jacobus de Teramo (1473)]

In What Do Christians Believe, author Malcolm Guite states that the three core elements of being a Christian is sense of belonging, believing, and behaving. Belonging in Christianity is being a part of a faith community and not belonging entirely to this world. This community united by one body with Christ as the head is shaped by the other two elements of believing and behaving. Believing "arises within the community of belonging" but because of the variety of differences in expressing beliefs within Christianity has caused communities to splinter throughout history (What Do Christians Believe, Pg. 2). Beliefs define the borders between these communities and at times cause intra-faith strife.

It is sad that beliefs have been the cause of so many wars and filled graveyards as far as the eye can see. The issue is not in the beliefs themselves (beliefs don't kill, people do) but the desire to defend them so passionately that Christians once went beyond killing fellow Christian, we had to torture them first. Why? Because in a cosmic battle between good and evil, good MUST win at all cost. Our egos, not beliefs, cause us to continue collecting eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Our beliefs define the borders between our communities but they should not be lined with razor wire and watched over by armed guards.

One of my core beliefs is the willingness to listen to our neighbors. I mean if we can't look our neighbor in the eye how are we to spread the gospel? If we listen with our eyes and ears shut to what others have to say we might miss a gem of truth that we never would have unearthed within Christianity because we, as Christians, do NOT have all the answers. How's this possible? I've stepped outside of our faith and have found transcendent beauty elsewhere. Either I'm lying, misled, and confused or I might be telling the truth. There is no shame or fear that should keep us away from learning from one another.

If these are just simply beliefs why do we defend them to the grave? Is it because some of us etch our beliefs onto stone tablets with "thou shalt not stray" along the the top? Or do we think that our beliefs are so weak that they need defending? Since our beliefs define our community, our tribe, we feel that we HAVE TO defend them, and because we are tied to our beliefs any attack on them is a direct attack against us. Now it's personal, but there's no need to be defensive. Our beliefs do help to shape the community and the individual but we are not bound and chained to these beliefs UNLESS we let them bind us. I believe that even though the Bible, if read literally, can be read to say that God despises homosexuals that I don't have to also hate homosexuals (although the Christian stance is to hate the sin but love the sinner. Why hate at all?). And even though the Curse of Ham (Genesis 9:20-27), again if read literally, can be read as those of Black African descent being cursed to enslavement we don't have to be bound by this belief (check your history books, racism and slavery were justified by this interpretation). Interpretation of the scripture progresses along with society's progress even though at times it's a few steps (years!) behind. For the individual, moving beyond the confines of the faith community's established borders may create alienation, tension, and even new communities to rise up with new borders. I believe that revelation and religion should be progressive for it to be able to communicate with the modern generation. This does not mean repackaging faith to bring in more faithful but to reexamine our religions as a whole.

By branching beyond our community's beliefs we may find that we have more in common with each other than we thought or could even see behind our borders. I envision my spiritual journey residing on the very edge of the Christian frontier; I consider myself a Christian but those within the community would not agree. But does this really matter? I can not envision a God who would be so fickle about the beliefs of a person and gloss over the contents of his/her heart. If God really did care about the contents of the heart then why do we worry ourselves with beliefs, theology, and doctrine? What I seek is a Godly path without these man-made constraints, fears, and prejudices. What I seek is progress and growth that transcends borders.

Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 1-Where do I Belong?
Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 2-What do I Believe?
Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 3-Why do I Behave?

Read all three back-to-back, here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm standing on that "frontier" with you.

Infallible, inerrant....two words which I have found to be so divisive when used to further a point of view.

Don R

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