What I Believe

What I Believe (1,122)

April 20th, 2011

I was told to believe.

It was pretty much demanded that I have a belief in three enduring concepts. I was supposed to believe in God, family and America—the trinity for worship in this nation. If you don’t believe me, just stand in a crowd and speak evil of one of these three giants. You will quickly be assailed by the faithful, who challenge your patriotism, your loyalty or your basic sanity.

I don’t have that much against the trinity. I just feel that what I was told to believe was shrunk to fit into a context which was acceptable in our society. You know about shrinking, right? You take a cotton t-shirt, throw it into a hot washer and dryer and it comes out smaller. At that point you have three choices—you either throw it away because it’s useless to you, give it away to someone who’s smaller—or try to shrink yourself down to fit into it.

I think that’s what most people have done with belief. As what we believe has shrunken, some people have abandoned belief, given it over to smaller causes or tried to make themselves appear to be less expansive to fit into the existing framework.

You see, here’s the problem. First, God was presented to me as salvation—heaven or hell in the fundamentalist church, and in the mainline denominations, heaven or just not being a very nice person. And since salvation was a free gift of God, once I went through the ritual of confirmation in my particular denomination of choice, then God became somewhat non-usable in my everyday life—unless there was a tragedy, a wedding or a funeral.

Continuing on, what could have shrunken more during the years than the term “family?” In the sixties we talked about the “family of man.” In the seventies we decided to liberate women and include them, but then gradually, over the next thirty years, the term “family” has become limited to those of our own procreation. If I am supposed to believe in family, that is rarely more than a dozen people who are in my immediate lineage. What about the rest of the planet?

Then, of course, it was essential that I believe in America. For God’s sake, we pledge allegiance to it. Literally. In my lifetime, I have seen bumper stickers reading, “America—love it or leave it” and then had that opinion decried, only to see it return again. Does my country really need unconditional love? Or is it a location filled with people who are in flux, discovering a better way? I just don’t know whether blind allegiance is useful to a form of government that needs to evolve—and even admits it needs to by having amendments to its constitution.

Belief has shrunk around me. I refuse to give it away. I don’t want to throw it away. But I also am not going to shrink my vision and intensity to try and conform to the present smallness of thinking. God has to be more than salvation—otherwise, why do I care? Family has to be more than the people I made or who were made to be like me –or where does mercy come into play? Where do I learn to become more expansive in my outreach? And America is a great nation—as long as it continues to do great things instead of sitting around looking through old photo albums of former days.

So during this spring “house cleaning” of Holy Week, I would encourage you to do something intelligent. Don’t abandon God, family and America. Just decide what you believe about each one.

For this process I go to my friend, Jesus. Let me tell you mine.

(1) Here’s what I believe about God: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

I only study heaven so I can get a vision for what I want to do here on earth. I only ruminate over the divine to develop a prototype here in the practical. God does not exist simply because I believe I am saved. Salvation exists because God is working in my life and through my life to make things happen here and now.

(2) Here’s what I believe about family: ”Love your neighbor as yourself”.

Only one out of every twenty-five people on this planet are Americans. That means there are twenty-four people that are my neighbors who have a vast array of customs that I need to learn, try to understand and find a way to love. I use my immediate family as sounding boards and allies in this pursuit.

(3) And finally, America. “You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.”

My country is valuable to me as long as it’s seeking the truth of the matter, which continues to grant us the freedom we treasure. When America preaches freedom and rejects the truth about itself, it is no longer a great nation, but rather, an old balding man trying to pretend he is still young.

I know what I believe. It is not what I was told to believe. I will not allow my faith to merely be in salvation, family reunions and a red, white and blue banner. I believe that the kingdom of God is within us, every human being is my brother or sister and that I have a responsibility to hold my country to a higher standard of truth than sometimes the general population wants to pursue.

Does it make me popular? I don’t care.

Does it make me hated? I seriously doubt it. That would take a level of passion rarely seen amongst the mediocre.

But it does make me consistent. And there’s one thing I know about belief: it never works with hypocrisy.

Published in: on April 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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