Monday, April 30, 2007

What do I believe

Yesterday morning I was listening to the mass from Notre Dame and in the homily I heard this: “We want belong somewhere. We want to make sense of our lives; we want to draw closer to God.”

It occurred to me that I have been on this little “journey” of questioning for a while here, trying to find that sense of belonging.

If such a thing can be said, I am a religion mutt. Let me explain what I mean by that. When I was a child, my parents didn’t go to church. My dad had been raised by a very “my way or no way” Baptist minister father and my mother’s parents were faithful church going people. Perhaps in rebellion, my parents never went, someday I would love to know what kind of conversation went on between them about this subject, because I know they met in church, but by the time I came around, they had quit going.

I used to spend a lot of my weekends with my mother’s parents (actually a lot of my young childhood was spent with them, I don’t really remember my folks except in a couple of painful incidents until after I was 5).

My grandmother took me to the Baptist Church with her. I learned scripture verses (whole chapters sometimes, like I Corinthians 13 – and I still like the beauty of the King James version), I like the singing part of church too, both of my grandparents sang in the choir. Baptists don’t have an arbitrary time when children are baptized, you have to “feel the call” of the Lord and “go forward”, thus making a public declaration that you want to become part of the body of the church. I did that when I was about 10, and a few weeks later on a Sunday evening I was baptized and became a member of the church – my parents didn’t show up for the occasion. One of the strongest memories I have of that event was getting to choose the hymn that was used, and the feeling of the power of the music and the lyric to speak my feelings about it.

The problem with the situation was that I was only part of the church on weekends….we lived clear across town, and I certainly wasn’t getting any encouragement at home for this activity.

A kid can only fight the tide so long, so by the time I hit high school, I was deemed old enough to be home alone (and take care of my little sister too), so there were no more weekends with grandma, and I just quit thinking about the church pretty much.

Sometime in my teens, I had a long conversation with a Catholic friend (I was intrigued by the rituals), and she gave me a pearl rosary that had been her grandmother’s (it is still a treasured possession).

And so it was until I was in my thirties. Along the way I read about reincarnation and Rosicrucians and Edgar Cayce. I took classes in college in comparative religions.

In my early thirties I met a couple of Mormon missionaries. I was at a particularly vulnerable point in my life, and I desperately needed to belong to something that gave me some sense of having a safety net. So, I joined them. But eventually, I drifted away.

And most recently, I became a member of the Catholic church, but at this point I can’t really say I’m a practicing Catholic either.

Part of this reluctance is that actually going to a church service is full of land mines that I just would rather not deal with.

So, having said all that, I have begun to think about actually stating what it is I believe in.

1. I believe in a loving Father God. I believe that He created the earth and all that is on it, but I have no issue with science’s theories about how He did that – He is God and can do these things in any way He sees fit.

2. I believe that Jesus is the Christ. I believe that he was born to The Virgin Mary and that he died on Calvary to save the world. I believe that His act of salvation extends to every person that ever has or ever will walk on this earth.

3. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Trinity, the messenger “voice” of God that can speak to and guide every one that will listen. I believe in these three as separate “bodies” of the same mind, that they act in concert for the betterment of every individual.

4. I believe in grace. Every person that ever walked on this earth, except Jesus Christ has sinned. I believe that is part of our nature. I believe that we are all sinners, and that sin can not enter Heaven. I believe that we are each responsible for our own sin, but I do not believe that we are responsible for any one else’s. We can not “save” ourselves. We are expected to do the best that we can and we are “saved” by the grace of God through Christ’s sacrifice for us after all that we can do.

5. I believe that beauty is one of the things that lead us to God. I see the creation of art, especially art on a spiritual theme, as prayer.

6. I believe that we were allowed to be here so we could learn new things. I do not believe we are meant to spend our whole lives suffering. I do not believe that a loving Father God wants us to always be miserable any more than I as a parent want my child to always be unhappy. I believe that through our own bad choices we will sometimes suffer. I also believe that sometimes bad things happen to us with out our doing something wrong. It is at those times that I personally have the most trouble accepting and dealing with them, and it is then that I have the biggest problem not blaming myself for them.

So there is a beginning. Now the question is “where do I belong”?


Marty: said...

I loved reading your beliefs.
What a good idea to state them like that.

I think a lot of the bad things that happen to good people are because of bad people. I think God allows it because everyone gets a chance to prove themselves, and whether they will choose good or evil. In the whole scheme of things, I think the suffering of life will be short compared to the reward we earn by our choices.

I personally don't believe in guilt. I believe in recognizing what I could do better and trying to improve. I don't think God punishes us; I think he allows us to experience consequences, and gives us opportunities for growth when we are victims of other's mistakes. I think God will judge us based on our understanding, experience and motive, and that he will be perfectly fair.

I have wondered if we view God the way we viewed our first authority figure. My dad had his faults for sure, but the way I imagine God is very much the way my dad treated me. As I realize the way so many kids are treated by their fathers, I can understand better why people don't believe in God, or why they picture God wrathful, or angry. I feel that God forgives us, loves us and wants the best for each of us.

I just read a quote by Abraham Lincoln that said it didn't matter where he went on Sundays, the evidence of religion is in how he lived his life.

Kay Dennison said...

The road to God is a rocky one for many of us. St. Paul struggled along the road to Damascus and when I start questioning my beliefs because life is too lifelike, I remember that. I not only believe in a just and forgiving God, I rely on it since my chances for sainthood fall somewhere between slim and nonexistent.