Did I ever tell you that once I provoked a church-wide controversy by hosting a cocktail party at my apartment? No, of course I didn't. We don't talk about that kind of stuff. Until now.
Maybe "church-wide" is a bit of an exaggeration, but the controversy did reach all the way to the elders of this rather large, exceptionally conservative church. Everyone invited to this small cocktail party was over the age of 21. The party was in no way affiliated with the church or any of its groups. But somebody needed some attention or something and threw a fit and a controversy it became.
It really was the living end for me at that church. I liked a lot of the people, but I couldn't go there anymore.
Then I found this church where people are fully capable of admitting that hey, none of us are perfect and God doesn't always make sense and life's not always fair, but we're in it together. To be quite honest, I never made much of an effort to get in on that togetherness because I'm pretty shy and all of that, but I watched from the edge and it looked like good stuff.
I don't count the people from that church among those Christians who went a long way toward putting me off Christianity. But there certainly have been plenty of those Christians and they have had some success. I make every effort these days to steer clear of those people, but they keep cropping up. In some ways, I have found them quite helpful. Through their example, I see what I do and do not believe.
I do not believe that God's will is some sort of cosmic Choose Your Own Adventure novel. I do not believe that there is a prescribed person, place, job, and number of children that I must have in order to be "in God's will" and that any deviation from these will be my own undoing.
I believe that God's will for my life is that I love him and love my neighbor. Period. The end.
I do not believe that we get a free pass from God for not loving anyone based on their looks, actions, past, religious beliefs, political ideology, sexual orientation, or marital status.
I believe that that "take the plank out of your own eye first" business is some good shit.
I believe that it's ok to use words to make points.
I do not believe that an SUV and a big house in the suburbs are evidence of righteousness any more than I believe that poverty or disease are evidence of unrighteousness.
I do not believe that Americans are God's chosen people. If you'll consult your Old Testament, you'll find that that title is pretty well sewn up.
I believe that the concept of taking God's name in vain has a lot more to do with using it to your own gain and justification than it has to do with what pops out of your mouth when you smack your head on the cabinet door.
I do not believe that a Jesus alive in the twenty-first century would spend his time whining about people saying "happy holidays" or fighting for organized prayer in schools or engaging in a culture war or crusading against gay marriage. If the New Testament is any indication, it seems to me that he'd be more concerned with feeding people, healing people, and talking about forgiveness. So I believe that's what we should still be about too.
I do not believe that it matters all that much what we believe on any of that small, petty stuff that Christians are always fighting about.
I believe that real faith should have more questions than answers and that anyone who tells you otherwise is covering for something.
Gordon recently wrote something which included the phrase "love the idea of God". Some people sure did have a fit about that. I really liked it though. I think if we're honest with ourselves, there are times for a lot of us when that's pretty much the best we can do. And I believe that God is ok with that.
I guess what I'm saying is that if you think that you have God one hundred percent figured out, I'd question that. And I'd also think it was too bad. You'd be missing out on the mystery, which to me is really the loveliest part of this whole faith thing. I'd advise you to open up to the idea that there might be more than you know and that you might not be entirely correct. You don't have to listen to me, of course. You're free to tell me that I'm dead wrong and why. But I don't have to believe you.
That's pretty much all I have to say about that.