I was talking to one of my best friends the other day on cold walk back from a UW basketball game. One of the things I love about this friend is how similar our minds work. We frequently have philosophical discussions where we spend the entire time genuinely agreeing with each other. One would think that this would this sort of conversation would only be used to reaffirm each one another’s believes. Instead, this allows us to bounce off each other’s ideas and expand on our own. In a weird way, it allows us to challenge each other.
During this walk, we were both talking about faith, and what we believe. Each of us has found it difficult to believe what we believe. To struggle with where the church is today and to have such a hard time loving Christians (as silly as it is), while still believing in Jesus and considering ourselves, in fact, Christian.
We seem to be caught in this middle ground, where we have a hard time admitting our faith for fear of being judged as an irrational, cheesy, member of the modern day church. It has become extremely difficult for us to be open about our faith because we feel that, for the most part, modern Christianity has tainted the life of Jesus, rather than glorify it. We struggle with the fact that something so good, so sacred, and so holy, has been turned into a product. But that is another discussion entirely.
As I look back over the fall semester, I really realize that I learned the importance of honesty and what it takes to be truly genuine.
I think that the common denominator for all genuine people is that they never have anything to hide. They acknowledge their mistakes, but they are not ashamed of them. Most importantly, they don’t have secrets they feel the need to keep hidden from everyone else, which allows them the freedom to be open.
And open people inherently encourage other people to open up in some way themselves. They are willing to admit when they mess up and when they are struggling with a certain temptation and want to take all the steps necessary to move past it.
The other day, I was having trouble deciding over the morality of a certain action to take. I could not seem to be able to convince myself one way or the other, which, for better or worse, is often an invitation for me to take the riskier option. Once I started doing something else and turning my attention away from that decision though, as it often does, the answer came to me.
It made me realize that if an action would be something that you would be tempted to lie about to the people/person you love the most in 5-10 years, then you should most likely do the opposite.
For example, when forced to decide whether or not you should have sex with someone, think about if it is something you would want to lie about to your future spouse. It does not mean that you would actually lie about it, or keep it hidden from him/her, but it does mean that it is something that would cause you to want to do so.
I find that, for me, it is easy to convince yourself to do something that is questionable if you are only accountable to yourself. “If it ends up being a mistake,” I would tell myself, “than years from now I can face myself for having made it.” If you think about the other people in your life years from now, however, you are not just accountable to yourself. If it is something that I would want to keep hidden from the people I care most about, than it is not a mistake worth making because I could either hurt those people in some way, or I could keep it from them and allow myself to slip from a life of honesty.
Therefore, I want to be honest about my faith, especially since it is such a large aspect of my life.
During the fall semester, I took a Bible and Archeology class. This forced me question a great deal of things concerning the legitimacy of the Bible. I nearly gave up. I nearly surrendered my beliefs. But somehow, I was able to find peace in my beliefs and therefore expand and refine them.
(Say what you want about Rob Bell, but he was a large influence on me during this time thanks to his book “Love Wins.” It is not a book about universalism. It is a book that played a large part in, for lack of a better term, saving my faith. And I know that I am not alone in this.)
And so, I decide to “come out,” if you will. I realized that I have not been honest about my beliefs to a lot of people. I have kept them hidden out of fear of judgment, and of being misunderstood. I want people to take me as I am, not as a part of something I am not.
Below is a condensed look into my religious beliefs and conclusions and some of my philosophy on life. Because I want to be honest about them and I want to be as genuine of a person as I possibly can be. I do not want to have secrets.
I believe in God. I do not know what he looks like, how he sounds, or even how he works. Not at all. But I believe in him.
I believe that the Bible is a representation of God. It is not a perfect representation. In fact, it is filled with anachronisms, mistakes, misinterpretations, etc. But it is also filled with Truth. That is my belief. I don’t think we should hang on every word of it, but we should read it and let the stories impact us how they will.
And I believe that Jesus Christ, the Jesus represented in the Bible, is God’s son. I acknowledge that he is not the only person to have claimed to be the Son of God in history. There was Dionysus, Hercules, and even Alexander the Great. However, Jesus is the only of these who sacrificed himself for the sins of mankind and the only one to have conquered death. He is the only one who brought grace into this world and I believe that, even if it has been altered through human pen, his message, at its core is the best possible way of life if done right.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “either the man was and is the Son of God [who he claimed to be]: or else he was a madman, or something worse.”
I do not believe any of this because I was raised in a church.
I believe this because I have struggled with it like a pedal bike struggles up a steep slope, but with obstacles like road blocking logs and crazy people yelling strange insults…or something.
The point is, I have spent most of my college career wrestling with religion and pin pointing its faults as well as its advantages. Call me cynical if you will, but I haven’t accepted everything I heard from someone just because he/she attended seminary.
I took classes where professors argued against Christianity and I took classes where professors didn’t care either way. I attended churches and Christian organizations that fueled my cynicism and that caused me to further question the state of modern day, Americanized Christianity. But I never questioned that there is something infinitely bigger out there than humankind. I have never questioned the unexplainable.
Though I understand why it is like this, this is one thing that scholars, particularly secular Biblical scholars do not account for in their studies.
The unexplainable. The fantastic. The miraculous. The divine.
In a classroom setting, I think that is fine to a certain extent. But this has to be acknowledged. Despite the strides science, philosophy, math, etc. has made in the past one hundred years, there is still plenty in this world that cannot and probably never will be explained.
For example, what makes music good? Why do certain note and rhythm combinations sound good to some people and bad to others? Where does creativity come from? How can people create things that, while making some abstract sort of sense to them, they still cannot coherently explain?
I believe that God is found in situations like these. And that is why I believe in God.
Because of this, statistics cannot explain his existence. And I am fine with that. He is beyond that kind of thinking.
I could probably write a book about my philosophies on this stuff, so I am going to cut it short there. This, in a nutshell, is what I believe, or at least part of it and this is because I have challenged myself to question them. I am perfectly fine if other people believe differently. I do not think it is worth the argument.
But I came to these conclusions because I did not refrain myself from taking a particular class because I knew the professor would say bad things about my beliefs. I understood that, if my beliefs were worth holding on to, then a little questioning and a little controversy would not take them away and vice versa.
Instead, the questioning, the controversy, and the overanalyzing have only made them stronger.
I think that there comes a point in mot people’s lives when they have discovered what it takes to live a good story, whether it is too late or not.
And I think that the more you put yourself out in the world and the more you face situations that require tough decision making, the quicker you will make that realization, and therefore, the better chance you have at living a great life as opposed to just a good life.
And I think that I have discovered what it takes for me because I have put myself out there and challenged every fiber of my being. I have faced situations where I had temptations to fall and didn’t fall. And I have faced situations where I fell. But I learned that the more I was in those situations and the more I made the correct decisions in those situations – the more I was able to look back with pride on my reactions to tough situations – the better person I became and the more I learned about life.
This semester, even though I had to learn the hard way, I learned the privilege I have to live life. It is something that is sacred, and I do not want to screw it up because this is my only opportunity to live a great story and the only opportunity I have to improve the overall story of human existence in some way, no matter how small.
And so I am challenging myself from here on out to follow through.
To not waste this life that I have been so graciously given.
To make the most of every opportunity.
And to not settle for just good, but to push myself to be great.
And I hope and pray that you do the same.