Sunday, July 28, 2013

The search for common ground

Psalm 67:3-5 (NIV)

May the peoples praise you, God;
   may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
   for you rule the peoples with equity
   and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
   may all the peoples praise you.
I came across a tweet today from noted Presbyterian writer/speaker/consultant Bruce Reyes-Chow (moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)), and I appreciated the sentiment but didn’t pay it too much mind after the initial reading. But after going through the verses from today’s lectionary and searching for inspiration, ultimately landing on these three from Psalm 67, the tweet came back on my mental radar:
To be clear — This Christian does not believe in the God that many people describe when they talk about why they don't believe In God.
This is not to say the Psalm and the tweet are in any way connected, but they are floating together in my mind. As are two people from totally different worlds (one a professor-author the other a singer-songwriter) whom I heard in recent interviews describing how everyone in the world has a relationship with Jesus. The professor said whether or not a person believes in the Jesus of the Bible, they are at least aware of the person who existed in history and what is said to be true. The songwriter, raised Catholic, cited Jesus as a character he likes to include because people who hear his music immediately understand the context. He also references “Star Trek” and the “Wizard of Oz” in his songs.

I try not to be in the habit of telling people what to believe. I do try to be in the habit of being honest about what I believe. And while part of what I believe is in direct conflict with others of varying faith traditions — and outright rejected by people who have no interest in considering anything preternatural — I really would like for everyone to believe in something.

If my boys ever ask me why I believe in God (hopefully I’ve made it clear to them that’s not an “if” question in my mind), I’m not exactly sure how I’d start my response. But I consider life on this planet to be far too amazing to be accidental. And I have to think that no matter how people who believe define God (or a god), about the rules or the power or the responsibility or all the things that divide us and cause anger and segregation and rudeness and violence, all who believe in something beyond humanity are still, at one point, on common ground.

I come not to stake any claim in theological arguments or set forth a definitive position that will establish my belief system and rank it superior to all others. Rather, I am trying to be honest about what I will tell my kids. And that is an urging for them to find that common ground with other people. It is so incredibly easy to figure out what it is that makes us different from other people, and as we do so we overlook the things that make us the same.

I want to raise children who celebrate the sameness, who prize justice and equality. Do you need to believe in something supernatural to understand equality? I suppose not. But for me, belief in a God who created me and loves me requires me to believe the same is true of everything else that has life. That’s why it’s so important to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Another passage I read today but opted not to write about is Jesus’ tale of the sheep and the goats, in which those on the left don’t recall seeing the Lord as hungry, thirsty, naked or so on. The King tells them whatever they did not do “for the least of these,” they did not do for him. Every time I read that passage I think about all the things I could or should be doing to better show love for others, to reflect in the way I live what I say I believe about justice and equality.

I don’t know what else to write. I want my kids to grow up to be better men than I have been, but I also want to make use of whatever time I have left to better myself as well, to lead by example and to show my children what it means to put faith into action. We are blessed to have many such examples to appreciate and follow, and I hope one day others can say the same for us.

A prayer for July 28:

Lord, I try to pray each day, and I try to be good about being thankful for the good things you give and apologetic for the bad things I do. I hope I am sufficiently reverent, and I trust you understand that when I ask for help it’s not because I’m needy but because I realize I can’t become the person you call me to be just by trying on my own. I also hope whatever I write here is pleasing to you, that it reveals my honest self and reflects well on my faith and the hope I have placed n you and your love. Amen.

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