If you were raised in a Christian faith tradition similar to mine, you will readily recognize the following beliefs, the following worldview. If you were not, however, this will give you an idea of what I was taught to believe and what many Christians believe still. While I mention only a few below, these are some of the more prominent ones.
Have a mind that is open to all things and attached to nothing.
I was told these were all true…that I was not to question them…and, had it not been for my father and mother who encouraged me to question things nonetheless, I would still be incarcerated in a belief system that is, in my own opinion, narrow and misguided. I say that, however, knowing many hold these beliefs very passionately. And, for them, they may be sacred, not “narrow” or “misguided.” And, I would not want them to be offended. This has been my conclusion, however. I would only hope others would be discerning, thoughtful, and, just as my parents encouraged me, question everything with an open mind.
As Paul Tillich once said, or some smart person said, “The opposite of faith is not doubt; it is certainty.” Faith, if it is authentic, is made of the stuff of doubt. If you do not doubt and ask questions – hard, honest questions – you aren’t being faithful to anything but a belief system that isn’t even your own. It’s just a collection of opinions you feel obliged to argue about and defend. When you have grappled however with real faith, and it’s fine mixture with doubt, then you come out on the other side with a ring of genuineness in your faith – forged on the anvil of doubt. That kind of certainty is hard won.
And, worth the struggle.
The Beliefs I Was Told I Had to Believe to be a “Good Christian”
• The Christian religion is the correct or “right” religion. That is to say, all other religions
are wrong, and the people who believe in them need to be converted to Christianity or face the dire consequences that await them in eternity (that is, they will go to hell if they cling to their religion and do not renounce their religion and become Christians).
• Jesus is the Savior of the world and the one-and-only-way to God. All other ways may lead to something, but not to God. If you want to go to heaven, therefore, you’ll have to believe in Jesus. Or else.
• God’s word is the Bible. God’s word is found only in the Bible. Be suspect of anything anyone else may call sacred scripture.
• The Bible is infallible (without error), at least in its “original manuscripts” — referring to the actual parchments on which the biblical writers wrote their words. (I must add here, however, that no original manuscript has been found. Nada. Not one. Not one even close to the original manuscripts. Furthermore, the earliest ones we have date from the second century and are distinguished by the fact they are filled with innumerable discrepancies between them).
• The family God has ordained is made up of one man and one woman. A few other unions may be permitted, but they are hardly preferred.
• Homosexuality is a sin against nature and an abomination to God. God made them Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
• Abortion is murder. No exception. No debate.
• If America wishes to remain strong, it had better side with Israel. Israel is God’s chosen nation. Again, no exception and no debate.
• The Second Coming of Jesus could occur at any moment. (I must pause and add here, too, that Jesus said the “second coming” would occur only when people “least expect it” (Matt 24:43-44).
Since many Christians are not only expecting it at any moment but are actually praying for it, they should know they are likely responsible for his delay).
• God is not finished with Israel. Thus, the nation of Israel will play a pivotal role in a pre- or post-tribulation Rapture-of-the-church view of the end of human history.
(Some Christians believe in what’s known as the pre-millennial view of the future, a few believe in what is known as the post-millennial view, and some believe in the a-millennial view of human history, meaning “no millennium.” It isn’t important to go into detail here about the meaning of these different views of “end times.” But if you’re familiar with the Left Behind series of fictional books released over the past fifteen years, you’ve met the most popular of these complicated apocryphal systems of thought. The novels themselves are based on the pre-millennial view of the end, with its special devotion to the futuristic notion known as the “Rapture.” Hal Lindsey first popularized this with the masses of untrained but fascinated followers with his book, The Late Great Planet Earth. If people actually paid the price to study these matters themselves, and of course most Christians have not – they simply get their “theology” on such things for one of these books instead of researching it for themselves. But, if they did, they would know the questionable sources from which these ideas come and most would reject them outright.)
• God is not a Republican, but any God-fearing soul knows there’s no way she would ever be a liberal Democrat. Oops, did I say “she”? That was a Freudian slip of my pen. Christians all know God is neither male nor female but, whenever they think about God, they cannot help but get this picture of a benevolent male, granddaddy who lives above the sky, wears a white robe, has a long beard, a kind face, and a Shepherd’s staff in his right hand. A throne is behind him and two winged creatures stand beside him and he has unlimited power and authority. (Selections Here taken from The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God).
Yes, these are the things I was taught to believe. There are other things but these are some of the more important things. If you’re guessing I’ve given up on most of these, you’ve guessed correctly.
“Then, what do you believe?” I am asked, and asked often.
I have many strongly held beliefs, as anyone knows who takes time to regularly read the things about which I write. My main belief, however, is this:
“God is…I am…We are…And, love and compassion is really all that matters.”
And, in the final analysis, can you tell me anything that matters more? (Matt. 22:36-40).