For years, I told people I was not particularly religious; I was spiritual. Pretentious, I know. However, since my return to church and my hesitant return to this grace-giving character called Jesus, I do think I would call myself a Christian. As in someone who believes in the precepts of Christ. Yet, I still cringe when I have to publicly admit to being religious, or a Christian…or even worse…a Baptist. I cringe because I am fully aware of the innumerable negative connotations associated with those words.
Despite encouragement to continue writing from friends, clients and family, I do fear that I will lose friends. I am scared they will think differently of me. I’m worried it will affect my professional relationships. I am terrified that I will be unfairly judged. Seen as a Bible-thumping Jesus freak who can’t think for herself. (Yes, I am aware that now I am the one who is judging unfairly.) So, before I continue on this journey of writing honestly–whether it lasts two more weeks, two more years or two more decades–allow me to clarify what I do and do not believe, understanding all the while that these beliefs are subject to evolve with time.
Let’s start with the Do Nots.
I do not believe you are going to Hell.
I am unwilling to believe in a God who is so lacking in imagination and compassion to give us only a few short years on earth to decide where we want to spend eternity. God didn’t create us in The Divine Image only to abandon us forever. I mean, let’s get real here, people. Who would ever want to believe in a God like that? No. I don’t believe that. I can’t believe that because I refuse to believe in that kind of God. I believe God spends eternity seeking us out. Remember that whole “Shepherd leaves the flock to find just one lost sheep” story? The Shepherd doesn’t return without it after X number of years of searching. Or shrug his shoulders and say, “Well, that one was a lost cause anyway.” The Shepherd only returns upon retrieval of the sheep. I believe Hell is a space (not a place) we create when we choose ourselves over God, and that can happen before, during and after this lifetime. God is not limited by the years we spend on earth. God has no limits.
I do not believe I am going to Heaven.
Just as I do not believe that Hell is a physical location, neither do I believe Heaven is this glorious city in the clouds where we are going to listen to choirs all day long and live in big mansions that never have to be cleaned. Is that really the best we think God can do? Give me a break. I don’t want to believe in that kind of God either. Heaven is a space (again) of perfect communion with God which can be reached (again) before, during and after this lifetime, by everyone, if they seek it out.
I do not believe everything in the Bible.
Prophets being swallowed by whales and then getting spit back out? Putting two of every animal in the world on a big boat that will survive a flood destroying the rest of the earth? (As my pastor has said, “What about the fish?”) Being gay is not a sin, and I am not inferior to men just because I happen to have a vagina. I don’t even know if I believe the resurrection of Jesus is literal. (I know, that’s probably heresy.) I just don’t buy it all. And I’m learning that that’s okay. If we approach the Scriptures with humility, openness and a willingness to learn, God will always meet us in that place and teach us the Way. Always.
On to the Dos.
I do believe in a Divine Source that connects everyone and everything.
Whether you call it Spark, Energy, or Holy Spirit, the Divine exists in all of us and we all exist in the Divine. When we can finally wrap our heads around the enormity of this Reality, that is Heaven.
I do believe in Jesus.
I think. That was hard for me to type. I typed it and deleted it several times. My understanding of Jesus is expanding, beyond the Sunday School version I was taught for twenty years. The more that understanding expands, the more I am willing to believe.
I do believe the Discussion is divine.
Many are uncomfortable with my DIY belief system. I ask too many questions. But I believe that the actual discussion–the very act of questioning–is divine. It demonstrates a yearning for more. God wants us to keep asking. Because how else are we ever going to find the answers?
I do believe in Love.
All of the above stems from this fundamental conviction: that God is, that God is Love, that God loves us in unfathomable ways and that as a result we are all called to love. God’s love leaves no room for Shame. There is no shame.