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Saturday, February 27, 2010

You believe what? Give me a break.

Caution: The following is a rant.

Don't you just love it when someone "proclaims their beliefs" to you, as if this is going to have some sort of redeeming, transforming affect upon you? By their speaking "The Truth", I suppose their expectation is that the hand of God is going to come down from heaven, grab you by the heart, and instantly transform your life (in a way that they want). By uttering the words, I suppose the Holy Spirit is supposed to leap into action on their command, descend into their targeted convert and act.

There's a problem. Perhaps this works from time to time when someone just shows-up on the doorstep, or sits in the seat next to someone on an airplane - the right person in the right place at the right time. But unless the speaker has made some deposit into the life of the other, the likelihood that they'll really be heard is very low. More often, a negative reaction is experienced: "Who is this person to speak to me about such personal things?" Why would you or anyone else listen? More likely, if you're having this sort of conversation, you probably know this person. You know something about them; the way they behave, the types of relationships they have, something about their family, etc. If you're a rational person, I would expect you to ask a key question: How has this person's "beliefs" been transformational in their life?

Human nature has always been self-seeking. To break this natural tendency, something transformational must occur. All of the enduring faith traditions seek to break us away from selfishness and seek the transformational peace and presence of God. Yet most followers of all of these faith traditions do not actively work to grow in their faith and follow the teachings of their tradition. I've spent decades of my own life in this mode.

Jesus understood human nature when he said “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?" (Luke 6:46) Jesus expressed frustration with both the disciples and the townees, often. He was trying to break them free of their selfish nature, legalism, and their lack of faith in God, their creator and provider.

But Jesus saved his strongest criticism for the self-righteous. The Pharisees were the keepers of the law and O how they loved to drop truth-bombs on Jesus. Imagine the arrogance. You don't have to look very far to see Pharisee-esque behavior alive and well with us today. Our churches are full of them. Most of them can recite chapter and verse and hit you with truth-bombs for every situation that your fallen, miserable life need to ask, they'll serve it right up. They exist among "evangelical conservatives", eager to tell you that if you don't raise your right hand and ascribe to the literal truth of every syllable of the King James version of the Bible and every element of the Apostles Creed then you're going to hell (a creed probably developed in the fifth-century or so). They exist in the "progressive left", proclaiming all evangelicals idiots, the entire Bible metaphorical, and God, who may have created the universe, incapable of interaction with us today.

I recently had a conversation with a person who asserted "You have to believe in the historical, physical resurrection of Christ!" I continue to dwell upon this notion, the virgin birth, and other elements of Christianity and I keep coming back to the same place. What I want to ask this person and people like him is this: Has Christ been resurrected in your life? Does Christ live in you, in your life, today? Do you dwell on His teachings and want to love others as He loves you? If not, then the historical event has no bearing on you, and as far as your life is concerned, never happened. Apparently, there is no filmed recording of the resurrection; It's only evidence remains in the movement it spawned and the lives it transformed.

Regardless of the theology of any given group, my question remains: How has your belief transformed you? How has it called you to serve others? How do you treat others who are different from you (Gay and lesbian community, minorities, political differences)? Who do you judge and why? If there is no discernible difference in the fruit we bear, there has been no transformation and our beliefs are a dead.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Who you are is speaking so loudly that I can't hear what you're saying." This quote hits me right between the eyes every time I read it. It's a daily thing, to set ourselves aside and choose to live out our beliefs. The truth is, we do live out our real beliefs every day and our actions speak louder than our words.

I'll end this rant with my favorite Bible reading:

Matthew 22: 34-40
The Most Important Commandment
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[f] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Blessings my friends,