I don’t know what I believe.
Well, that’s only partially true. I know some of what I believe. I think.
I have not written a blog post in over a month. The last one I wrote was far and away the most read post I have ever written. It sparked a lot of conversation. Most of it positive. In fact, I did not experience anything that I would consider negative.
Uncomfortable? Certainly. But not negative.
One of the uncomfortable realizations that came out of my last post is this: I don’t have a well-stated theology of sexuality. Many people do. There are Christian authors like Gagnon who have done a lot of work and study and stated quite plainly how they believe in the traditional teaching on same sex attraction. There are those like Hays who almost apologetically come to the same conclusion as Gagnon. And then there are others, like Justin Lee or Matthew Vines who are able to articulate well and scripturally an almost opposite view of sexuality.
But this post is not about my view on sexuality. This post is about my view on not having a view.
Don’t get me wrong: there are some things I believe wholeheartedly.
I believe in God.
I believe He is the Creator (but I believe He can create any kind of way He wants to, so who knows how He did it? I don’t believe in the literal six day creation; especially since that is immediately contradicted in the next chapter).
I believe in Jesus. I believe in the virgin birth. I believe in the death, burial, and resurrection. I believe that because of Jesus we have redemption, freedom, and the opportunity for relationships that we do not deserve.
I believe in Holy Spirit being alive and active (does that mean speaking in tongues? Maybe. Does that mean the Bible is the gift of Holy Spirit and there is no current activity on this earth? Nope.)
Side note: I don’t really believe in the concept of “The Trinity,” but that’s another post for another day.
I believe community is important. I believe that can look like a few people in a home sharing a meal and praying together or a bunch of people in a building sharing life together or any other number of ways community forms in our world today. But community is vital for thriving and life is much better when we thrive and not just survive.
I believe we are called to take care of people who are cast aside by those in power. From the beginning of the Old Testament, those groups of people were listed as the orphan, the widow, the foreigners, the poor, and the imprisoned.
So in some ways, I do know what I believe.
There is a lot I cannot state so clearly, however.
I have already mentioned human sexuality. What does the Bible really say about same sex attraction and relationships? Just as importantly, what does it not say?
Another example would be the afterlife. I believe we have one promised to us. But what exactly is heaven? Or where?
I am a pacifist who hates the death penalty yet fully aware of the biblical passages used to support both.
On these and many other issues, I am theologically unsettled.
I grew up in a faith tradition that valued being certain. We had the ability to know truth and error, right and wrong, therefore we would always cling to everything that was true beyond a shadow of a doubt. Anyone who did not was regarded as a false teacher.
But even in that tradition, I was encouraged to ask questions. Many I know were not afforded that same luxury (thanks, Mom and Dad!). Yet even in my questioning, I felt this unstated belief that I would always end up exactly where I started.
Starting with my senior year in college, several events occurred which shook my faith in ways I never imagined:
- Witnessing racist practices at my alma mater
- Watching white privilege work during my ministry (before I even knew about that term)
- Alcoholism and recovery
- Working professionally outside of the church
- The death of my brother
- Attending funerals of children the same ages as my own
Beverly Ross once said, regarding the death of her daughter, “Jenny’s death was the earthquake that left me searching through the rubble trying to find the remnants of my faith.”
When I say that my faith has been shaken, it is because real life has crept in and stolen from me the convenience of having everything placed neatly on the shelf where I put it.
And you know what?
I am thankful.
Because what has happened is that I have started listening to people. For real. I mean, I always heard their words, but I was not listening. Now, I am listening. I am learning what it means to experience life lived from a different perspective than my own.
I am reading the Bible through a fresh lens. I have learned to ask a different set of questions. I have sought counsel from people who have devoted their lives to reading and studying.
I have expanded my borders. I have read and listened to people on polar opposite ends of perspective. I have also learned to shut some voices out. I have learned that it is okay to think about things from a completely different point of view. It’s even okay to consider some things that completely challenge everything I believe.
I have had conversations with people who can articulate their beliefs well. Some of those conversations have been uncomfortable. But they have always been a blessing.
For me to say that I am theologically unsettled means that I have been challenged and I have decided I will not accept things just because I always have.
Being unsettled can be a scary thing. But it is out of that place that renewal, rebirth, and rejuvenation can thrive. We should not run away from having our foundations shaken. We should not be afraid to be challenged. We should look forward to it as an opportunity for growth.
I am theologically unsettled. I invite you to join me.