By Rev. Rick Skidmore
As a favor to a friend I agreed to meet with a young woman who was feeling conflicted about attending the marriage celebration of a lesbian couple. What does the Bible say about this? Does God sanction this type of ceremony? This woman was earnestly trying to find answers and had been to visit several other ministers around town. As we sat down together the woman began, “Now before we get into my specific situation, I need to know, what does your Church believe?”
The hardest questions can be deceptively simple. You would think that as a religious professional I could deftly field this most basic query. I tried to keep my answer brief and said something to the effect, “Well we believe in the teachings of Jesus; compassion, acceptance, tolerance, and the freedom to use both our minds and hearts in our search for God.” Thud. Everything I said seemed to leave out more than it took in. The woman left, still conflicted, and I started feeling depressed.
In an effort to make the most out of this less than heroic clergy moment, and for my own solace, I have since compiled a list of “stuff I believe” that has stood the test of time in my own experience.
- God is a unity. God is One.
- There is in each person a spark of the divine. Relevant and meaningful statements of belief are personal statements.
- Truth grows and changes.
- People should be free to judge whether or not to accept the pronouncements of their church.
- A broadly inclusive tolerance in religion is preferable to an enforced uniformity.
- A person must develop a trusting reliance himself/herself and on his or her own capacity to make sensible, moral, and life-improving choices.
- Religion ought to be concerned primarily with this life.
- Answers to questions, solutions to problems, comfort for discomfort - to have any real or lasting effect - must come from within a person, not from outside.
- Suffering is a part of life, not punishment for a way of living.
- In our relationship with others and with ourselves, we are called to move towards love and away from violence, judgment and rejection.
- Talk is cheap; especially religious talk. What we think and believe and articulate is less important than how we act (or) what you DO is what you believe.
- Evil is real and we are all capable of it.
- God is to be experienced in this life, rather than to be abstractly explained, or hoped for after death.
- The surest signs of grace are contentment, peace, humility and joyfulness.
This is no definitive list, of course. In our faith tradition we are trying to learn to love the questions, knowing that the Gospel is a dynamic, growing power that can never be captured or fully set in words.
We keep trying, in our own inarticulate ways, to point in the directions we hope to be heading. Concerning “What Do We Believe?” at Kairos UCC; the question requires always an ongoing, dynamic, and conversational response. Please know your voice and your beliefs are a crucial part of this process.