I Believe…

i believe

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I believe in love. Not the squishy, touchy-feely kind, but the kind that takes guts and practice and a lot of failure before we start to get it right.

I believe in freedom and pluralism, grateful that I live in a country where I am free to believe in God but where no one has to.

I believe in God, and that the vast majority of people who do not believe in God, or who believe in a different god than I do, are fine people with a lot to teach me. I am not at war with them, and I am not on the side of any so-called Christian who is.

I believe America is not, and was never intended to be, a “Christian country.” Given how Christianity is understood and interpreted by most Christians in America, I would have no interest in living in such a place, and in fact can think of little I would fear more.

I believe that other people’s sexual lives are absolutely none of my business.

I believe God is speaking to all people in all situations and all places, and that I don’t have to worry about trying to make other people live the way I think they should live. Everyone has the personal responsibility to live according to their best understanding of how they should live.

I believe everyone, including me, has the right to be wrong, both religiously and politically. No one, including me, is nearly as right about most things as we believe we are, including religion and politics. Even if someone else is wrong, that’s between them and God.

I believe deeply (and hope passionately) that God will show others the same love and mercy that I hope God shows to me when I am wrong, and when I am doing the best I can but still failing or somehow missing the point.

I believe in peace, in learning to love better and better every day. I believe that most people (including most religious people) aren’t really all that interested in living in peace and learning how to love. Most (not all) people are interested in talking about love and then blaming other people for their own failure to actually do it. This includes most (not all) religious people I know.

I believe many secular people are extremely judgmental about religious people, revealing their own hypocrisy and sense of superiority. Everyone seems to use their own views (religious or otherwise) to prop themselves up so they can feel superior over everyone else. I reject that whether it is done by a religious or irreligious person. It seems most people are self-righteous, and I presume this includes myself as well.

I believe we are deeply loved anyway.

I believe religious people often use God as a cover up or excuse for their self-righteousness (Pete Scazzero‘s idea of using God to run from God), and irreligious people use the often ridiculous or cruel behavior of religious people as the cloak over their own hypocrisy and unwillingness to look deeply into themselves. The tendency to run from responsibility is universal.

I believe love runs deep enough to cover my sins and the sins of everyone else.

I believe that the answer to what’s wrong with the world is not more militant, angry, irritated, self-justifying, critical, the-problem-is-everybody-else people, of the religious and irreligious varieties, but that the world will only heal when every person truly decides to be the change they wish to see in the world.

I believe that is our only hope.

Question: What do you believe? Let me hear from you in the comments section!

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  • Kim Nebel

    a wise man once told me that there are no happy revolutionaries, we can’t impact the world, we can only minister to and effect the healing of those in our immediate enviornment. That’s what I hear you saying here also.
    I don’t believe Jesus will return until this planet is no longer able to support human life. As long as there is one person left who can be “saved” he won’t give up, His love is too strong for giving up on anyone still able to choose love.
    I also liked Tims’ comment about a moral Christianity having replaced a mystical Christianity.

    • Yes, Kim, and the ironic thing is that “moral” Christianity, in reality, could not be less moral, which ultimately means that “moral Christianity” could not actually be less Christian. Scary.

  • Kim Nebel

    “the world will only heal when every person truly decides to be the change they wish to see in the world. It’s our only hope”
    A wise man once told me, that “there are no happy revolutionaries, we can’t change the world, we can only hope to minister to, and effect the healing of those in our immediate enviornment.” that’s what this post reminds me of. The need to focus on ministering to those we come into daily contact with. I believe Jesus will return, when this planet can no longer support human life, so there’s noone left to save, I don’t think he’ll be willing to sacrifice anyone while there’s still hope. His love is way too strong to give up on anyone.

  • Tim

    This is the narrative drawn along the same lines of those like Meister Ekhart and Julian of Norwich of the Middle Ages. We shold listen to them and you. There is a moral Chrisitianity that has supplanted the mystical Chrisitanity that was already in place for centruries and maybe millenia. As the Gospel spread from Palestine to Greece and then to Europe, the hope for a world like you described went by the wayside, in favor of the cut and dried, dualistic ideas of Platonism. The Englightenment came along to write the ship, but only to implode upon itself with help of Bonhoeffer and Barth. They were right of course, but we were left with the belief in a fanciful antichrist, and an escape plan to beat all other escape plans. “Someone has to come and fix this mess!” is the mantra, and our faith traditions of the last two centuries have dovetailed into the notion that a better world is not here but someplace else—fogetting that God has always chosen to manifest Himself through humanity and His good creation. The story starts in Genesis 1, not Genesis 3.

    We throw crap parties because we are all waiting for a bailout. Jesus comes along to rescue humanity and changes water into wine and says, “Oh am I’m just getting started…”

  • Tia

    Brilliantly put my friend. Your insight always amazes me. I saw a documentary recently and thought you might like it. “I am” by Tom Shadyac. I’d love to know your thoughts on it. Thanks for being such an inspiration!

    • Really great to hear from you, Tia. And I will check out that film. Shadyac has some great stuff to his credit. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Tim

      Thanks, typos notwithstanding.

  • Ranay Brwon

    Bravo my friend!

  • “but that the world will only heal when every person truly decides to be the change they wish to see in the world” — This is alot like saying the world will never heal.
    It’s difficult enough to get 3 people to agree on what pizza toppings they want for lunch, how will 7 billion people ever agree upon the changes they want to see for world healing?
    I agree with you, that it is the answer – unfortunately an impossible one.

    • I disagree. Every person knows they would like to live in peace. Every person knows the kind of world they would like for their children. If every person becomes the kind of human being who actually IS what they’d like the entire world to be, the world will be a beautiful place. It’s not impossible at all. Richard Rohr, in fact, has suggested that this is exactly what is meant in scripture with the idea of the “the second coming of Christ.”

      • I certainly agree that everyone has an ideal world they would like to live in, but even among the cultures and societies of the world these ideals are bound to conflict. For arguments sake, what if those who live in a Muslim culture shared the belief in an ideal world without Hindus. And conversely those in a Hindu culture shared the ideal of living in a world without Muslims. Would they not actively pursue ridding the world of each other so they could attain their peaceful ideal world? So even speaking of peace, it’s hard to define what that would mean for everyone in the world.

        As for Richard Rohrs suggestion for the Second Coming, I’d have to strongly disagree.
        I in fact believe the purpose of the second coming is so that Jesus can set everyone straight and bring peace and unity due to the fact that humans will never be able to attain it on their own. This is for the very reason I mentioned above that the world will never agree upon what healing, peace and unity truly means.
        We need a great “unifier” who has the authority to settle disputes and accurately declare who is right and who is wrong. We will also need to be prepared to face the reality that in all likelihood, we as individuals held onto incorrect beliefs. We must be ready to accept that we were wrong.
        This is in fact what I was alluding to when I stated that your answer, although right, was an impossibility for us to achieve on our own. We need Jesus, as judge, to straighten out our world.

        • Only time will tell. But the logical consequences of holding onto your point of view about Jesus settling “who is right and who is wrong” is that men and women have excuses to cling to the “rightness” of their beliefs over against one another and actually PREVENT the world from becoming the place they would like it to be. And I disagree that human beings can’t attain paradise on their own. I think God gave us his Spirit for precisely that reason. Do we not believe God is speaking and moving? What are we waiting for? As long as it’s up to God to do it, we’ll just keep killing each other while we wait for God to come fix everything. That’s not how I want my children to think about me as their creator and the lover of their lives and souls and spirits.

          God is speaking. To Hindus. To Muslims. To Christians. To atheists. We can listen. We can hear God in the world. We can know we are valued and loved and that we don’t have to exclude anyone. The voices of the saints and martyrs cry out over thousands of years that God is love. All we need to do is listen. But we’re too busy building religions.

        • You wrote:

          I in fact believe the purpose of the second coming is so that Jesus can set everyone straight and bring peace and unity due to the fact that humans will never be able to attain it on their own.

          Pie in the sky. God comes down and saves the day. I know this sounds terrible, even sacrilegious, but whether it’s God or whether it’s Underdog or Batman, I don’t think humanity should be hoping for someone to come out of the sky and fix our problems for us. We honor God as we do what God has shown us.

      • “But the logical consequences of holding onto your point of view about Jesus settling “who is right and who is wrong” is that men and women have excuses to cling to the “rightness” of their beliefs over against one another and actually PREVENT the world from becoming the place they would like it to be.”

        Won’t people be doing this anyway, whether they’re waiting for God to settle their differences or not?

        3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:3-4
        It’s been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus left the earth and because of that huge gap of time, many people today are asking this very question, “Where is this supposed coming of Christ?” And because it’s been so long, many well meaning people rationalize it away and make excuses such as “It was an invisible return” or “His kingdom is within us and we have to be the return by living as Jesus lived.” but in Matthew 24, Jesus’ disciples asked him when he would return and when the end would be. Here is his response – Matthew 24:4-14, 22-26
        “4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

        9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
        22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

        26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”

        In these few passages we have answers to several of the things we have just been discussing.
        1. We know that humans will never be able to bring peace to the earth, in fact the opposite will happen. Humans will become so wicked and evil that Jesus will have to return in order to prevent humanity from destroying itself.
        2. Jesus will return visibly and physically. We are not to be deceived by people who claim his return will be secret, invisible, spiritual, out in the desert or in the inner rooms – His return will be obvious and visible, just as we see lightning flash across the sky.

        Is it still important to live lives of love and promote unity and healing throughout the world? ABSOLUTELY! If anything we need to do that more as we approach the end because love will be sparse, and wickedness will abound. But we should never forget our need for Jesus, not in an invisible, mystical sense; not just our need for his teachings on love and unity – but we need his presence physically! We need him on earth, actively reigning as king, exercising justice, sorting disputes, making decisions to lead our planet in the direction God intends it to be lead! The only man fit to fill the role of president, king, supreme leader, or whatever title we can come up with, always has been and always will be Jesus; and until he is back on this planet physically in charge, we will never have the peace and unity that we all desire.

        • Okay. I know when further response is futile. Long Biblical quotations like that are nothing but battlegrounds and prove nothing.

          Ancient Christian tradition provides a richer and better way forward (much better) than Biblicism, which I firmly believe has run its course (hopefully having already done all the damage it can do) in American religious life. If you’re ever interested in studying up on either ancient Christian understandings of God, or the inevitable end of Biblicism in America let me know. Both are inspiring and beautiful subjects.

        • I’m absolutely interested in reading about them. What would you recommend for starters?

    • The reason this doesn’t happen is because most people, instead of being the change they wish to see, are waiting to see the change instead of being it, and that’s why so few ever see it, except in those precious few who decide to stop “waiting for the world to change” and start being the change themselves.

    • julie Hendershot

      With God all things are possible.

  • As always, good words, Friend! I think … conversation here would be superfluous, because I think you’re right on …