This I Believe

A few years ago, National Public Radio aired people reading essays they had written, reviving an older radio series called “This I Believe.” The project continues here

Last month, I challenged myself to write an essay about what I believe. I didn’t exactly follow the “This I Believe” guidelines, but it got me started. Since I have been particularly focused on faith and doubt, I wanted to write an essay exploring where exactly my theological beliefs are at.

Reading through this essay today, a month later, I can already see fault lines, places where shifts are happening. I can tell that when I wrote this, I was deep into Leo Tolstoy’s The Gospel in Brief: The Life of Jesus

I present this not as a statement of belief to be argued with (though you are welcome to respectfully interact with me around these ideas), but more as a challenge to you, to take a moment and hash out your own particular beliefs at this moment in your life. Not necessarily about theology (that just happened to be what was foremost in my mind when I wrote), but about whatever is moving and motivating you right now.

In the process of stating our own beliefs and considering how we arrived at them (and realizing how many times we have each changed our minds over the years), we hopefully become more patient with ourselves and one another in our thought and growth processes – and less afraid of being honest about our thoughts and beliefs at any particular moment of time.

This I Believe

July 25, 2013

I believe I am a product of the words and ideas that were poured into me, that surrounded me in my vulnerable childhood, that I chose to hear and heed as I grew into adulthood. I believe these ideas have taken deep root in me, and while I will always ask questions and seek new information and rethink, I continually live in conversation with these particular ideas. I may swing in wild reactive arcs, or hold fiercely in agreement, or deem an idea unimportant, but agreement or disagreement or indifference – none of it means departure. I can’t scrape off my mental DNA.

I believe I am nature as well as nurture. Something essential yet fluid is alive, growing here, withering there, becoming true – or false – in the onslaught of moments that make up my life.

I believe I am integral to the story of everything, and so is everything else. It isn’t as important as I often think it is for me to ponder my own integrality to the story of everything.

I believe in God, and I believe in Jesus. I believe God is the groundwork of all things, the only reality, the animating force, the source of life. I believe that Jesus was remarkably in touch with God, and called all of humanity to live in the same way. I believe that the notion of deity is irrelevant to the life and work of Jesus, that Jesus lived to be followed, not worshiped. I also believe that the notion of deity is irrelevant to the nature of God – that God is love, not overlord; truth, not dogma; life, not intelligent designer.

I believe in life before death. I believe life grows fuller as an individual reaches beyond self, embracing neighbor and stranger in love, which is God. I believe that life after death is incomprehensible from an individualistic perspective, and pondering this also is not as important as I tend to think it is.

I believe that my beliefs, while never completely uprooted from the ground of my nature and nurture, have changed in the past and will change in the future. But I believe that taking a snapshot of my beliefs in a particular moment is always helpful in clarifying why I do what I do, why I am who I am – right now today. More importantly, I believe that articulating my own current beliefs helps me to grow in love and understanding for others. I see the evolution of my beliefs, the holes and fault lines and stutters in my own thoughts, and I grow in patience and grace for the conflicting beliefs of neighbors and strangers.

2 Comments

  1. Love that first paragraph of your statement. I recently decided that I’ll be happiest when I come to the place where I’m neither defined by nor threatened by my religious history, and that’s part of accepting my mental DNA.

    Thanks to your challenge, I’ve been intentionally asking myself how I would write a This I Believe essay. I’ll come up with my own eventually, but the last several weeks I’ve been working on memorizing a statement that has done a pretty good job of summarizing the things that are important to me right now. It’s the preface from the 1855 edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass:

    “This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

    • Wow. I need to read more Whitman! Just finished reading Thoreau’s Walden and was equally stunned with his brilliant writing. Newly appreciating 1850’s American literature, I guess!

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