New Faith (Part One),
The last six months have been an interesting opportunity to rediscover – or perhaps discover – my faith without feeling like I have to fit into any one predetermined list given to me by a denomination or church.
Earlier this week, a friend caught some flack for not attending church every Sunday, especially because the critic was worried about her kids growing up not attending on Sundays. It astounded me, in part because this friend has been Jesus to me over and over, showing grace, love, humor, and giving guidance so freely. Her kids have beautiful, generous, happy souls who seek to serve and love people while they are little minions of faith. I don’t know her husband well, but as far as I can see, he believes in his family, is faithful to them, and is a pretty great guy. How much more Jesus-y can a family get? They aren’t “unbelievers,” but in this season, Sunday morning church isn’t how they experience God and grow in faith.
My job means that I don’t get to go to church on Sundays. I miss it. I ache to go to my church again.
I’ve talked with a lot of people about what it means to be a Christian and how the church fits into that. I know a heartbreaking number of people who are stuck between being a Christian because it’s what they believe and feeling like they’re too battered by the church to return to it. If it weren’t for my friends and my new church, that’s where I would be.
Last week, a customer was trying to bait me into an argument by asking me to label him with terms he would then take offense to. I didn’t take it. At one point, he strayed into the field of religion and asked what I am. I said Christian, he asked what denomination. I said that I attend the United Church of Christ, but I am not an official member of any particular congregation. It got me thinking, though.
My faith is vastly different than what it was a year ago. It is freer, happier, and far more open. If I had to define it, I’m not sure that I could, but here is what I have so far:
1. I have faith that there is a God. A genderless, omnipotent God, and that God loves people, both collectively and individually.
2. The best way to honor God is to to follow the command to love God and others.
3. Jesus is divine, and the best way to understand what it means to love God and others is to follow his example and take his message -LOVE- seriously.
4. There was no asterisk after “others,” so I don’t get to exclude anyone, as much as I would like to.
5. All truth belongs to God. So of I find truth in science, or a Baha’i writing, or through meditation, it’s OK because God is the god of all truth.
6. God forgives people, so I must, too. That includes forgiving myself.
7. I have no opinion on eschatology, other than the opinions that those who fixate on it are typically dangerous, and that it is far beyond my control or scope of comprehension.
8. I don’t get to determine who has salvation, but I am pretty sure its a much larger crowd of people than I can imagine. I am not a total universalist, and I think that those with hard, hateful hearts are unlikely to have salvation. I haven’t been convinced of any specific fate for those who don’t.
9. I think a lot of the things that are focal points of taboo behavior in conservative churches are legalistic garbage that hides far bigger, more dangerous sins like pride, malice, and greed.
10. The best of me is actually a reflection of God that others get to see, and I am at peace when I remember to use all my words and actions as a prayer.
That’s pretty much it. I have a ton of questions and my faith will no doubt be shaped into something altogether new by next week. It really comes down to six elements: God, me, others, love, humility, and peace. When I am in a place where those elements are well balanced, life is good. When they get our of balance, I need to do what is needed to get it back.
It seems to have taken a lot of life to get to this point, but taking the religion out of my religion has revolutionized, restored, and reinforced my faith.