Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Someone asked me today, in total sincerity, "what do you have to believe to be a Christian?"

Well, I consider myself a Christian--an Episcopal, liturgical one. But the truth is, the older I get, the less I really 'believe'.

I believe there is a God/Goddess, though I don't know if He/She/It matches up with the whole Bible thing. And I believe that Being loves us totally, without limit, without qualification, with self-giving love.

I believe Jesus of Nazareth lived into that Love that gives itself away and his teaching should be followed.

I believe the Great Being has given us a Companion in life's way that you could, if you need to, call the Holy Spirit--though Companion is enough for me.

Beyond that, I don't believe much.

Stuff like the Virgin Birth and the bodily Resurrection and the Ascension and Pentecost 'inform my thinking' about the Being, but I don't need to 'believe' doctrines and dogma unless by 'belief' you mean 'to live as if...."

In most people's mouths, "belief" and "faith" and words like that mean you assume all that you say you believe is TRUE.

There's a lot of what I assume is TRUTH around. But I don't 'believe' it, I just accept it as TRUE.

Most of the Hebrew Bible, to me, is helpful myth and story. I don't even begin to wonder if it is TRUE.

I know enough about early Christian thought to know there was in no way any consistent agreement on what the first three centuries of Christians 'believed'. That didn't happen until the Council of Nicaea in 325, just as the church was to leave the catacombs and start building cathedrals.

The Roman Emperor Constantine had become a Christian, at least in theory, and Christianity was about to move from being a footnote in the Empire to being the 'official religion' all would adhere to. Imagine that shock! So the church had to clean stuff up so they could say what they 'believed' so everyone in the Roman Empire could agree to believe it.

The Nicene Creed, created by that Council, was, in fact, a guide to what you couldn't believe and be a Christian.

Just take the beginning: "I/We believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth...."

There were lots of Christians around who did not believe the 'Father God' of Jesus was the God of the Hebrew Bible. So, they were out of the post-Nicene church.

I don't like creeds and when I introduce them I say "Please recite with me the Nicene Creed." I don't ask people to 'believe' it.

All this could probably get me defrocked as a priest, but I'm trying to be honest.

And Heaven and Hell stuff, just for a last example of my heresy, I don't trouble my mind about.

I'm actually a very good priest when someone dies. I don't tell any tales about the dead being 'in a better place'--since to a loved one of the deceased that sounds like being with them wasn't good enough.

And when people ask me, "why do you believe happens when we die?" I say, truthfully, "that's one of the things I'm leaving up to God."

And I mean it.

So, since I am a Christian by personal declaration, I obviously don't think you have to "believe" all that much to be one.

I'm much more interested in how you live your life--in your empathy, your compassion, your acceptance of all people as God's 'people', your kindness and generosity--that, for me, is what makes you a Christian...not what you 'believe'.

I've met a multitude of people whose lives made them 'good Christians' who would have laughed if I told them that.....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.