5 Quick Questions About Faith

We play a get-to-know-you game here at the 5 Kids blog called 5 Quick Questions wherein I ask you 5 questions and you answer them. Usually, I ask you to tell me important things, like “Fill in the blank: The last time I had to clean up something wet but not mine was __________,” or “Pick two: Beauty, brains, brawn or brownies.

But I decided, given the Faith Series we’re (sort of) embarking on, to ask you 5 Quick Questions About Faith because I’m much more interested in facilitating an interfaith discussion than I am in a homogeneous conversation. Although homogeneous conversations where everyone agrees with my faith are RAD for justifying my beliefs, they’re, well, also terribly boring.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post in support of asking questions, even when those questions are hard to hear or tread on thin ice or make me want to rip my ears off. And one of the comments from that post stuck with me. On Facebook, Marissa Kent-White wrote:

“I totally agree w/you! I have a special needs kid, and I am not very PC, to be honest. It hurts my brain to have to always say “the right thing.” I am sensitive and aware (hell, I am a child-family therapist) but I am also an open, honest book. I believe (for me at least) that is the best way for me to process who we are as a family (an awesome one, duh!) and to educate other people. I believe we grow through experience, and asking questions and answering them challenges us to have those experiences. And being a Jew, we’re told to QUESTION EVVVVVERRRRrryyyyyTHING!!!! Hence the Rabbinical debates. No vows of silence here. BRING ON THE QUESTIONS, EVEN THE DUMB ONES.”

And here’s what I thought when I read that: Wait. WHAT?? Jews get to question EVERYTHING? THIS IS SO UNFAIR! Also, this Jewish Question-Everything thing sure does explain a lot about Jesus ’cause that guy questioned a Whole Lot of Things.

Truth is, I’ve never (ever, ever, ever) been part of a Christian church that actively encourages us to question everything. Like, ever. I mean, I’m part of a Christian church that loves me through and despite my questioning, and some folks there love me even because of my questions, but I do tend to upset some Christian people who don’t understand why I can’t just accept their well-thought-out answers. I think of myself as the butter in the group. Butttttttt, what about this? Buttttttt, what about that?

So when Marissa mentioned she’s TOLD to question everything?? I was surprised, and I had a serious case of faith envy. It got me to thinking about all the things I really don’t know about other faiths. Or perhaps even my own. But how do we meet people who aren’t like us? Where can we go? How do we find the trailhead to enter the beautiful wilderness of meeting people heart to heart?

I thought I would start by asking you questions. So here we go.

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5 Quick Questions About Faith

  1. I am a(n) ________. (Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Chocolate Lover, Trekkie, Member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile, etc.)
  2. Why?
  3. One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is _______. This is (true or false) because _______.
  4. One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is ________.
  5. If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be ________.

And here are my answers:

  1. I’m a Christian. I used to describe myself as a “follower of Jesus,” instead, because I wanted to disassociate myself from the very real emotional and spiritual damage some Christians have caused. I talk more about my journey back to embracing the “Christian” moniker in a post I like to call Authenticity, Asshattery, Faith and Fear. In addition to being a Christian, I’m a charter member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile and the Church of I Don’t Know What’s for Dinner STOP ASKING. I also really adore cheese.
  2. Hm. Why, huh? Who’s bright idea was this question? This is not a quick question. This is false advertising. Someone should sue. So, why? To be fair, I’m a Christian because I was raised in a Christian family and then when I tried to reject my faith, I found I couldn’t. Turns out, I actually believe this stuff. Maybe not all of what the universal Church tries to tell me; I don’t always buy their interpretation of the minutia of beliefs. But I believe absolutely that there’s a wideness in God’s mercy that is wider than the sea, and I believe with my whole heart that we were put here to learn Love, to be Love, to live Love.  In the words of U2’s Bono (in what I believe is one of the greatest Christian interviews of all time), “You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that ‘as you reap, so you will sow’ stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts.” Love interrupts. I just adore that.
  3. Probably the biggest stereotype I hear about Christianity these days is that we’re anti-gay. This is undeniably true for some Christian groups. This couldn’t be further from the truth for me. I think gay people are the same as me, which is to say horribly, heroically human; awful and awesome and messy and magical and capable of causing great harm and also loving others to a vast, glorious, unreasonable depth and breadth. Sometimes all in the same day.
  4. One thing I wish people knew about Christianity is that we’re more than our infighting. More that our tedious theological discussions. More than either just haters or lovers. More than the myriad verses posted on Facebook. More than guilt-mongers. More than our loudest members. More than “a decision to follow Christ.” Actually, now that I think about it, that’s one thing I wish Christians knew about us, too.
  5. If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be for all of the ways we’ve judged and belittled instead of embraced and loved. I’m sorry.

And now it’s your turn. How would you answer these questions? Please feel free to answer just 1 or 2 or fewer than 5. Or to ignore these questions entirely (which are really meant more as a writing prompt) and just tell us what’s on your heart. Or ask me or our community your own questions. It’s all fair game, friends, and I can’t wait to see what you say.

With love,
Beth

……….

P.S. This is the 2nd post in the Faith Series, but I didn’t plan on it, so there’s definitely at least one more. A series of at least 3! Woot!

Glasses on Old Books image credit to adamr via freedigitalimages.net

 

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
96 comments
  1. 1.I am a(n) ________. I am a Christian.

    2.Why? Because I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church (the non-dancing, non-drinking, quiet-in-church-and-wear-pantyhose type, not the get-up-and-shout-HALLELUJAH that I’ve also seen). I grew up with Jesus-the-friend and God-the-Father and How-Great-Thou-Art. I remain there because it is a version of God’s love and His story that rings true, though not finished/complete.

    3.One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith is that we are all going to try to “save” you. And this might be true, but who am I to say that the truth I believe is the only truth? Who am I to say that someone else is living their life wrong?

    Oh, and we don’t all vote the same way.

    4.One thing I wish people knew about my faith is that it’s supposed to be based in love. Love and help and sacrifice and giving to others and acceptance is all through the Bible. There is bad there too, but Jesus loved.

    5.If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be the attitude towards gays. I don’t even have words for any of this. And it’s going to be the reason I will have to leave my church, which is teeny and more like family – so pray for me and for them.

  2. […] and wrangling and side-taking I witness online these days, who affirm for me over and over that we can be beautifully, brilliantly different and still be friends. I miss you because you’re the people who I truly believe wave back to […]

  3. […] it comes to our understanding of God and faith and religion. That’s OK. I LOVE that about us; it’s one of my favorite things here. And I know and constantly mourn the ways people who identify as Christian have and continue to […]

  4. I know I’m several years late to the party – but that seems to be the story of my life. As I sit here surfing the interwebs, avoiding doing my actual work that I get paid for, I returned to my old friend Beth’s blog. I hadn’t been by in awhile and I needed to stop over, have a beer, and put my feet up.
    I somehow found myself reading this post and all the beautiful, mind opening responses and something told me to add my 2 cents.

    1. I’m a . . seeker, searcher, questioner, often inspired but often too tired, hoper, wisher, maybe too scared to admit I’m beginning to believe in something again-er.
    2. I was raised Presbyterian, my father was a Presbyterian minister. I come from a long line of good Irish Presbyterians (coffee and a cassarole? don’t mind if I do). After I graduated high school I moved away and attemped to keep active with the church, but it wasn’t the same (traditions die hard for me). About that time I started asking questions and wasn’t ever satisfied by the responses. I had trouble reconciling my scientific mind with my church mind. So I took the easy road, I gave up. There were too many unanswered questions and too many bad things in the world (there still are).
    Fast forward 15+ years and I’m now the proud mama of a beautiful 2 year old. She was born 11 weeks early and about that time things started stirring in me again. Those unanswered questions are still there and I don’t think they will ever go away, but it’s the Love and Grace and Community that speaks to me. I want my daughter to believe in Love and good things and I want her to be a decent human being. For all the faults found within organized religion, the basic idea – just be nice to each other – is one thing they got right. It resonates the strongest with me – if that means I don’t fit with any particular group so be it (I don’t think Jesus will mind, as long as get the idea right). All that being said, I’ve started attending church with my parents on a very irregular basis. They attend a More Light Presbyterian church (they do, and always have, welcome EVERYONE – they have been a strong ally in the LGBTQ struggle for equality). I feel Grace there. I’ve seen Love there. It makes my heart happy.
    3. I don’t believe in God. I don’t have faith. Maybe. Depends on the day. Man in the sky casting judgement down on upon me? Nope. Most of my beliefs around God seem to have a Buddhist bent. Some of my beliefs are just thoughts I’ve had and stuff I’ve made up. I like a little bit of everything. I don’t think anyone has got it right yet.
    4.I’m working on it. It’s a work in progress. The end result (if I ever get there) may not fit with your idea of faith. But it’s mine and that’s all that matters. All I want is to be a good person, a good example of Love for my daughter. Period. End of story.
    5. All the hate. Religion has caused (and still does) so much pain for so many people for reasons that make no sense.

    I had hoped writing my thoughts out might help provide some clarity…nope. Just more questions – Jesus must roll his eyes everytime he sees me coming.

  5. […] here and always encouraged to pull up a chair to this table. Now because this blog welcomes a wild and wide array of people from all backgrounds, some of you have no interest in this topic, and that’s OK. No sweat. […]

  6. […] P.P.S. If you’d rather read about Jesus, you can click here or here or here. […]

  7. […] because this blog welcomes a wide array of people from all backgrounds – faith, culture, ethnicity, etc. – some of you have no idea what […]

  8. 1.I am a(n) ________. (Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Chocolate Lover, Trekkie, Member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile, etc.)

    I am… this bit is tricky… the sort of person who has trouble with labels?
    I believe that there is something in each and every religion. I reckon Christ was an amazing historical figure, that Buddha has a lot of interesting things to say. That the scientology book on ethics I have actually makes a great deal of sense once you get over the loaded word that “scientology” is. And I love the debate that goes on in Judaism.

    I believe in being a moral being..

    2.Why?

    I was raised vaguely Christian. I went to Sunday school, and wandered into Church services a bit as a teeneager, but nothing really stuck. I studied religion and philosophy at uni for a bit, hoping that somewhere in the mix of possibilities I would find something that would be “the one” for me.
    I thought of myself as a Buddhist for a while, but his amazing contribution was tarnished when, as mother I couldn’t get past how I would feel if my husband decided to ignore his responsibilities and head off. (Possibly there’s a small bit of jealously in there sometimes).
    I married and divorced a non-practicing Jew, so tried to teach my kids a little about that so they would understand their history.
    I’m now married to an Anglican and love hearing the moral stories in Church on Sundays. I try to meditate regularly (it’s called practice cause I have yet to get it right!).

    3.One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is _______. This is (true or false) because _______.

    That I’m a dabbler, if I truly agreed, I would follow one. All I need is the proper converting. I don’t think this is true, I have been passionately chasing this question for many years now. I sometimes see people who are certain of their faith and I think about how much simpler it would be if I were certain about mine.

    4.One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is ________.

    I’m certain I would like to believe, but saying anything like this to my evangelical friends makes for tough conversations on both sides. I hate being thought of as a ‘target of opportunity’ for conversion. my beliefs are… uncertain, but I’ve spent many years getting to that uncertainty and I’m happy with it.

    5.If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be ________.

    Sorry, I don’t mean to offend you when I don’t agree with your faith.

  9. 1. I am a(n) ________. (Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Chocolate Lover, Trekkie, Member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile, etc.)
    Lutheran* Catholic. Ha, ha. No, really.
    *Missouri Synod – there is a huge difference between the three branches of Lutheranism, and I’ve only very recently realized how much vitriol there is between them all.

    2. Why?
    I was raised Lutheran. I went to a Lutheran church and school, but my mother didn’t have much religious affiliation at all, she was indifferent to the whole thing. I think she considers herself agnostic now, but then, she knew that she should at least give me a chance to have some faith and get my butt to church.

    I believe that organized religion/denominations are largely a language that we use to talk to God. My language is the tone of a Lutheran hymn, the friendly detachment of a Lutheran pastor, the words of the Lutheran creeds, the Lutheran spaghetti dinners and boxes full of doughnuts that we’re famous for.

    My husband, when we met, was a seriously lapsed Catholic. He’d lost his path just as I’d lost mine for years and years between childhood and adulthood, and he felt completely alienated from and completely defensive of the church. I didn’t have quite such intense and conflicting feelings about Lutheranism, just God in general, and once I’d gotten over the weird God feelings, Lutheranism seemed like a great fit – it was my “language,” and it’s often called “Catholic Lite,” so it seemed like it would be completely perfect for my husband – a very similar language, with the rough edges that he’d first taken issue with sanded off. My Lutheran grandparents that we’re close with had just moved to our state after 21 years of living in the state above me. They’re are only very religious relatives. We started going to church with them. It’s a really pretty church, with a great pastor, great congregation, and the community involvement that we’d wanted.

    Naturally, since this all fits so perfectly on paper, something had to go wrong.

    Well, it didn’t click for my husband. After a year, Catholicism was still gnawing at him, pulling him home, and we started having arguments in Home Depot about me feeling like he’d never really had an open mind and why did he let us join the church we did if he wasn’t really into it? I certainly was not a Catholic. We found ourselves at an impasse, talking about going to separate churches and raising our kids in an inter-faith home. It didn’t feel like the beginnings of a tough, healthy, hard-won compromise. It felt like something needed to give, and he couldn’t seem to and I was definitely never converting to Catholicism. Just hearing “RCIA” put my hackles up.

    After months of praying for help not being a combative jerk (I was being a jerk, I really was), I finally figured the least I could do was learn about Catholicism. Partly to better understand my husband’s weird beliefs in order to be a more compassionate wife. Partly so I could trounce him in theological debates. Depended on my mood. I checked out a ton of books from the library.

    Wellllll…

    What began with a cool, cerebral “Well, I suppose I can see why they’d believe that” began morphing into “Yeah! YEAH! I believe that too!”

    Completely in spite of myself, over the course of months, I realized that I wanted to convert.

    The problem of my grandparents remained. (Remains.) After only four years here and only a couple years going to church together, it feels mean and wrong and sad to ditch the church that we’ve all settled into and go be a Catholic. I don’t want religious conversion to feel mean and wrong and sad.

    In about two years, we’re going to be moving, for him to go to grad school. We’d have to find a new church no matter what at that point. It’s going to be Catholic.

    3) One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is _______. This is (true or false) because _______.
    Lutheranism: we don’t know what we believe.
    I think it’s kind of true. Not for all of us – not at all. Certainly not the pastors. But I think that a lot of Lutherans just want any old Protestant church and go to the Lutheran one near their house without knowing where the Lutheran church came from or what it stands for. If you ask ANYONE “Where does the Catholic church stand on _________?” they’ll have at least a version of the truth. It may be skewed or unfair or incomplete, but they kind of know. No one knows where Lutheran stands. Including Lutherans, sometimes.
    That said, I think this is a Missouri Synod issue mostly – ELCA and Wisconsin Synod are both more “extreme” and I think that as such they have to know their issues a little better.
    I don’t mean to say that I think that extremes are good or necessary in a church. But the in-betweeners can more easily get away without knowing what exactly their church stands for.

    4) One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is ________.
    Catholicism: it’s not what you think it is. It’s not a cold, forbidding, compassionless, self-flagellating, all-in-Latin religion.

    5) If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be ________.
    The Catholic Church’s stance on IVF and fertility treatment. I think they’ve taken the opinion of the higher ups and mutated it into religious doctrine, and I think that in this case especially, it’s hurtful.

  10. 1.I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (Mormon)
    2.Why? Because it makes sense to me. Because, as my mother told me once, “Even if it’s not true, I like the person it encourages me to be”. Because the idea of families being important to God, and being his child in a very literal way, and being able to become like him some day, and being able to stay married to my wonderful husband forever and be my children’s mother forever, are things that resonate with me as being deeply and profoundly true. Because I’ve tested the whole personal revelation from God thing and it really truly works, and I really can’t imagine trying to navigate this world without being able to say “Heavenly Father? I’m scared and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do because there are SO MANY OPTIONS and if I pick the wrong one things will go VERY BADLY.” and getting an answer. Because I don’t believe God would give us prophets and scripture for a while and then say “Okay, you’re on your own now.” Because parents who love their children don’t stop talking to them when life gets the hardest.
    3.One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith is that we aren’t Christians, or that we have horns on our heads. This is false because it says “Jesus Christ” right in the name of our church, and I haven’t been to a single meeting ever that didn’t mention Christ at LEAST once. Usually WAY more often than that….and about the horns, I WISH!! Horns would be AWESOME!!!
    4.One thing I wish people knew about my faith is that contrary to popular belief, women in our church are highly respected as equal partners. Any man who doesn’t get that principle and exercises “unrighteous dominion” over his spouse is living contrary to God’s laws and, in the words of the prophet, “Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man.” I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that they’re sorry for me living under the thumb of an oppressive patriarchal regime and I really can’t figure out what they’re talking about, because if anything women in the church are treated nicer than the men. I mean, at the last relief society activity the bishopric made us an amazing steak dinner up at a cabin and talked to us about how wonderful we are, and the last priesthood activity was a service project and hot dogs….
    5.If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be that we’re human, and some of us do and say stupid things. Please don’t judge us all based on one person’s idiocy. Including my own.

  11. 1.I am an atheist.
    2.Why?
    I could answer this in many ways. For the spiritual side, I guess I started on my path when I was a kid and started to think about religion. Like most Finns, I’ve been raised nominally Christian (Lutheran) but never went to church and my parents never talked about religion. When I started learning about other religions and other types of Christianity, I thought, they can’t ALL be true, by default. It didn’t seem fair to me to say that THIS is the correct religion, all you others are wrong. As I grew older, I couldn’t find any one religion that seemed to me to be more “true” than the others. Also, if there’s one thing I really dislike, it’s saying that there’s only one possible way to do things (religion or anything else in life) and that one form of belief is absolutely true. Since that’s one of my core beliefs, I really should probably be agnostic instead of atheist, but I just can’t believe in a god. So I dislike myself a little bit.
    On the logical side, I love reading about astronomy and quantum mechanics and everything, even though I can’t understand half of it, and none of the math. I like logical explanations and a god just does not fit in my world, nor do I think one is needed for the world to be. I have no wish for an afterlife, I have THIS one and that’s the most important one there is.
    Lastly, beyond all the logical and spiritual thinking, I just don’t believe. I ceased trying about fifteen years ago. For me, I think that if you have or don’t have faith, there’s a part that goes beyond anything you could explain even to yourself and either simply believes or doesn’t believe.
    3.One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is that we’re only interested in the cold, hard science. This is true and false (for me) because I’m very interested in science and have little patience for supernatural things. (Except in fantasy books. I love fantasy books! Go figure.) But science is not cold and hard for me. Reading about things like the beginning of the universe, or that, if you stand on a sandy beach, then each grain of sand is not a star but a solar system, and that’s how many stars there are, or gravity or infinity… That’s amazing! It fills me with wonder and love at the world, that anything could be so complex and strange and beautiful. And (this should really go under question 2, but oh well) I feel the universe is so complex and impossible that if there was a god, it would have to be even more complex and impossible and it would be disrespectful to the universe to say that it’s not enough as it is.
    4.One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is we have just as much morals as religious people. It doesn’t matter whether you do right because you read it in a book, or because doing right is right.
    5.If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be: sorry for the times we act like we know better. We probably don’t.

    1. You said exactly how I feel! Thank you for sharing!

  12. I’ve been waiting for a break in the insanity to write, so just picture me waving from the eye of a hurricane. The storm wall will be overhead in 15 minutes.

    I am a(n) ________. (Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Chocolate Lover, Trekkie, Member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile, etc.)

    I’m a proud Roman Catholic. I used to describe myself as a lapsed or recovering Catholic, but the Lord brought me back.
    Why?

    OK, I was raised Catholic. Then I rebelled in my early 20s and went as far as I could – Wiccan – from the Church teachings. I became a mom, and got spiritually lost for a while. The love of God and his son were there, but they were hard for me to really understand. Mary, however, was a mom. I got her, she got me. And the Catholic Church has a beautiful tradition of honoring Mary as the mother of Jesus, as our spiritual mother, and as the Queen of Heaven. In my searching and reaching, she brought me to her Son.

    One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is _______. This is (true or false) because _______.

    Well, for one thing, I’m not praying to Mary or the saints! We talk with them and ask them to pray for us – after all, they’ve done something right over the years, I figure they have a good line to God’s ear! We HONOR Mary and the saints – it’s not polytheism. One of the other stereotypes is that we don’t read our Bibles much. Mostly true. We do hear the Bible readings in Church every Sunday – one Old testament reading, one new, one Gospel. And it’s set up so if you went to Mass every Sunday for 5 years, over that time you’d hear the whole Bible. Kinda cool.

    One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is ________.

    We’re the original Christians! I have heard many Christians decrying the Catholic church, moaning about “Papists” and how we’re superstitious and in the dark ages, whereas the new churches are modern and enlightened. May I ask – where did the King James translation come from? The Hebrew, Latin and Greek texts were treasured and taught in the Catholic church for centuries before the KJV. Most Christian churches can tie their history to a break from the Catholic church somewhere in their history. Likewise, we owe so much from our faith to the Jewish religion, so we need to honor that as part of our shared background.

    If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be ________.

    Obviously, the pedophile scandal. Awful. It sucks and is the main reason I say “Catholic” in a shoulder shrugging, head-ducked kind of way.

    1. Kelly! The exact. same. thing. happened to me….damn near, exactly. Blessings, Sistah!

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