“So I’ve been at this Christianity lark for ten months now. The first eight months or so were all about the run up to Lent and Easter—Christmas is fine, Christmas is all jolly, except for the long shadow of events to come—Easter, I was worried about Easter. But I got through that and . . . gleep. It’s like looking up from picking your way down a very narrow stony path with a chasm on one side and dragons on the other and realising that it’s not just dragons and bottomless ravines but you’re lost in a universe-sized jungle AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHERE YOU’RE GOING. Where does the narrow stony path go? Is that where you want to go? Is there a beautiful sunset and a cup of tea at the end of it or a larger dragon?” Robin McKinley’s Faith Journey!!! LOVE FANTASY AND FAITH” from http://robinmckinleysblog.com/2013/07/24/microsoft-outlook-and-spiritual-direction/
‘You know those moments when you are fully aware of God? That nanosecond-to-a-second fullness of time where you and the universe in it are connected and the beauty of the divine exists? Since we are only human we can only take in that immenseness for a moment in time, but that is part of why we are in a community of faith instead of just living as individual believers!’
A Pastor Katy Theological Apostrophe hehehe
Smee “I think I’ve had an Apostrophe”
Hook “I think you mean an Epiphany”
Smee “LIghting, just struck my brain”
Hook “That must have hurt”
Every time we talk about belief in the Bible, the word is actually faith.
WAHOO! LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN: religion is about belief, whereas it should be (and spirituality really is about) faith.
For a handy chart with some scripture click here
Here is the deal
Beliefs are the limit of human capabilities, they allow us to stretch. Knowledge takes us only so far, beliefs are what we can do beyond knowledge
Faith is letting go to what we know or even believe, and letting the fullness of God to enter our lives. It is beginning to understand that God is beyond our ken, and there is something we live in
Belief is individual, its something you say to define who you are. These is why beliefs are so hard to change, because they are about who you are, and you have reasons for the beliefs you hold. A person (like your spouse or sibling) has a set of beliefs oftentimes they are not e–zzzzactllllyyyy the same as what you believe. Beliefs are a part of who you are. This is why people (and groups, like Presbyterians) have a set of beliefs.
Faith is communal, its about what holds people together. Its often more about the gaps and differences rather than similarities. Faith is what allows you to not know everything, its about practicing the give and take of beliefs. If you don’t have the energy or the wherewithal to believe or trust in something, you can come to a group where others can do what you can’t. When people ask Why do you go to church? Can’t I just believe what I want to at home? I completely agree…one can be spiritual, disciplined and have beliefs on one’s own. And these beliefs are important. BUT, faith is a community that allows for a deeper exploration that isn’t only about what we believe.
Beliefs are tenants that we hang onto. The structures by which we understand the world. As much as they are about who we are, they also are about how we relate to the world and what is important to us. They are the structure on which we hang our hats (philosophers are GREAT at this). Beliefs are something to hang onto.
Faith is a seed–its a small beginning of who we are that we allow to grow. Although it starts out with who we are, its more flexible, not defining our world but instead is something we can come home to (Chart), somewhere to live in the world of different beliefs. Faith holds onto us when we are lost, its what comes and looks for us when we can’t find our way back–Prodigal son, lost coin, lost sheep.
There is nothing wrong with beliefs, I think they are great…they help us to define our world and to express who we are….there are places for beliefs in Christianity–they tend to be during the time of confession, when we say who we are, what we believe first together as a particular church and then silently as individuals. Beliefs are wonderful.
Faith is different that belief though, and in all the places (except in 1st Timothy) what we define as belief is actually faith: epistw (pronounced epistu) .
(Probably because the disciples continue to say they have unfaith, which isn’t a word for us but disbelief is….ah, the logistics of language LOL). Many, many times the disciples and followers of Christ confess that they do not have enough faith…they ask for Christ to help it to grow.
Belief is about telling our own story—telling who we are and why we are that way and what we believe
Faith is about a way of life, a way of faith, hope and trust in the Lord that is beyond us without God’s help. Faith is something we CAN’T hang onto by ourselves, its too big for us to understand. Its like when Peter walks across water, one minute he has faith–the fullness of God in him, and then it becomes too much and he has to let go and thus starts to sink. These moments are flashes, pieces where we connect via community and God to the fullness of life.
“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
Note, the problem isn’t that the disciples don’t believe in forgiveness, no doubt they do. They just don’t necessarily have the capabilities to do that much forgiveness all the time, so they need more faith (more trust/hope/love from God) in order to be able to live a life of faith.
In Conclusion: Spiritual but not Religious …the church is doing it backwards Christians such as Peter Rollins, Jay Bakker and Jim Palmer deal with the problem of belief and doubt. They say that doubt isn’t counter to belief, its a part of it. I would dig deeper as say that both belief and doubt are a part of the richer, communal and God-intiated (and gift of) faith. (Faith Hope and Love, hence why LOVE is the most important, its about how you live things out, not what you believe)
The Church shouldn’t be a place of tenants and beliefs, it should be a community of questions and faith. The church should be a place for unbelievers to gather (the drunks, the prostitutes and the lepers should be taxi-ed in!)
•Ever notice that Jesus doesn’t go around touted his beliefs. Instead he ask people what they believe (or don’t believe) and then meets them there! (up a tree, by a well, at a stoning, on a cross)…The disciples certainly don’t always retain their trust in God. But, Christ doesn’t ask what people’s beliefs are before them, instead he works to increase their faith. And when people ask Jesus questions, he doesn’t tell them what they should believe, instead he asks them a question in return.
Essentially this scenario takes place over and over, the penultimate being the interchange with Pilate (Katy’s interpretation of events to follow)
Pilate: Who are you?
Jesus: Who do you believe I am?
Pilate: Are you the King of the Jews?
Jesus: So you say…
Pilate: You are the savior?
Jesus: If you think so….
Pilate: Just answer me, are you the King or aren’t you?
Jesus: You say I am, and all these people say I am, I don’t claim to be the King of the Jews, however, I will say this. Even if everyone stopped calling me the King, then the very rocks would say that’s who I am…just saying………
Note: not putting beliefs on others, just a discussion about where the community of faith was….that should be how the church exists!!!!!!
This is the call of the church, we are called not to a set of beliefs (that’s law people) but the gift of faith (YAY for saved by grace not works)……
I don’t know what I believe…but I do have a little faith!
For God so loved the world that whoever has (even a little) faith into him shall never die, but have eternal life
When people say they are spiritual not religious, they are often indicating that they do not hold the “beliefs” purported/preached/encouraged (or forced) by religion. What they are trying to verbalize is their journey of faith, and the importance of it.
Here there is a little known dichotomy between belief and faith. Church should be a place to nurture faith, but spiritual people often see belief as getting in the way. (note epistus în the New Testament is often translated as belief, but it really means faith. “Belief” is only present in 2 Tim 13:11)
•Telling Our Story (our picture) •Telling God’s Story (God is bigger)
•tenants that help us frame the world • the seed that can grow ( (Mustard Seed of Faith Luke 17:3-6)
•as far as humans can go: stretching to limits • letting go—> to who God is (Where were you when earth was formed Job 38)
•individual •communal (Why church? so that the community can support you with faith even when you can’t)
•something we hang onto •what holds onto to us when we are lost (Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32)
• things we say to define ourselves •something to come home to (Heaven is like…Matthew 13: 31-32)
My new definitions of spirituality and church….”I think that belief is an individual thing and faith is a group thing…personally I like to have access to both”
Why do people god to church part 2 (you gotta love my defining moments ha!)
Spoiler alert: if you haven’t read “The Wonderful Land of Oz,” I’m about to ruin it for you….
I think “The Wonderful Land of Oz” is the first cross gendered story I ever read..True I had read other tales of girls dressing as boys to escape whatever…but Ozma is the only “truly” transgendered character I can think of….She simply changes from a boy to a girl–turns out she’s been a girl all along. Kind of like the book “Boy Meets Boy” its almost too blase about the acceptance…but hey, I like to think this is how it will be in a perfect world!
PS its the total feminine empowerment story, every power-player is female!
“Eon/Eona” does the girl disguise thing plus a legit transgendered character who is lovely, as does “Song of the Lioness”, Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End hints at other kinds of love, even though sexuality isn’t really the point. of course Malinda Lo does a great (no-cross-dressing needed) out and out lesbian fairy tale. (PS want a great history of sexuality? Check out “Coming Out Under Fire” an amazing history of gay and lesbian sexuality)
All this makes me think about all those transgendered people are under enchantment, they don’t look like who they are supposed to be….
on the other hand, most fantasy is about that (I’m part fairy, I’m dating a vampire, I have superpowers, I’m really a girl in disguise, I’m a prince/princess turned into a frog)
Being a fantasy nerd, I often feel frustrated with who I present to the world and who I really am
Its difficult on so many levels..
I’m a pastor, fantasy-loving, mother. I am not right-wing, or conservative, but I’m not an atheist either. I had children young and am a professional career woman. I am creative, cheerful, optimistic and yet strong, a leader and am super-responsible.
I’m hard to stereotype.
So I read fantasy, I read it because I know that I am not limited to what other think Christianity is (THANK GOD), but at the same time I think that my Christianity defines my entire being. I read fantasy, put my family first and dress the way I want to because I am Christian. Being Christian isn’t a guideline for me, it is the very fiber of my being and I continue to find more and more ways to live fully into it…..
If I’m in disguise, and I think all of this is a part of being Christian, what parts of Christianity are being unexplored when we are exclusive. What do gay men and lesbian women experience in Christianity that I miss out on? How about single parents, immigrants and the transgendered?
Fantasy is not about escapism, for me its about the facts of life
1. the world is full of a multitude of unique and interesting beings
2. we have to learn to get along
3. there is a battle between hatred/greed/powerseekers and love–good and evil do both exist…..
4. Even when humanity is failing, hope exists, heroes emerge, and love wins
5. Everyone has a call: a unique part to play in this ongoing quest for hope and love, and it doesn’t matter who we are, because the call is perfect for each and every one of us (only fantasy literature seems to do a good job of defining call!)
Living into this is hard, but this is my reality, and for me fantasy is another way to understand real life and the Bible….
Gotta love the irony of that…I’m sure God gave me an appreciation of wry humor so I can straddle all of that..
So some day fully believe I’ll come out of the closet…….and find Narnia
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, read to your children and provide them with quality children’s literature. There is no substitute for stories and the life of the imagination for a child’s developing mind. Children need to be able to encounter on their own terms (not in a preprogrammed “entertainment” format) stories that are subtle and challenging enough to become part of their ongoing imaginative life. Start with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and anything by Tomie DePaola, and from age 4 or 5 onward, give them C. S. Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Winnie the Pooh, E. Nesbit, Lloyd Alexander, The Wind in the Willows, Brian Jacques, Madeleine L’Engle, Susan Cooper, Joan Aiken, Arthur Ransome, The Phantom Tollbooth, Watership Down, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin, and whatever else seems good at the public library. (Harry Potter and The Hunger Games won’t hurt them, but won’t do much all by themselves, either.) The three Christian virtues are faith, hope and charity: to believe in the invisible, to go forward when all seems lost, and to love the unlovable. A child nurtured on good kids’ books will know these three virtues intuitively, in his or her bones. Nothing on TV comes close.”
DISAGREE About Hunger Games and Harry Potter (hello Hallows not Horcruxes anyone?) but the reading advice is right on (note what percent is fantasy?)
Would add Andrew Lang and my Fairy Tale list https://katyandtheword.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/fairy-tale-addendum/
Church is not a building, a faith or a people–it is nothing more or less than urge for humans to meet together, discuss the theological ramifications of human life and to offer support. Therefore church can happen in all manner of times and places
Why do I go to church?
You know, most people my age don’t go to church
Most of them don’t even believe in religion
They may believe in God, but if they do it tends not to be the “standard” version of God
These people are usually identified as “nones‘ (which is kind of a detrimental name, even though I know it isn’t meant that way…maybe we should be calling them/us something else) Something like 75% of people my age don’t affiliate in their religion
(for more about why I include myself, a pastor, in this at times, please read my post “I don’t Know What I believe”)
But I believe in God….Life is just too short to be meaningless…
Meaningless is just too hopeless to be believed
And people are just to wonderful to give up on….
And because of these truths, I believe in God….I know that not everyone believes what I believe, and I don’t mind (usually). As long as you aren’t preaching hate as gospel, I’m pretty ok with most beliefs…after all I’m not the one who is going to judge whether the fig tree is bearing fruit. That is up to the boss.
What I do worry about, is my generation in terms of willingness to try to religion. Have we given up? Do we truly think it has nothing to offer? Does the bad really outweigh the good? Do we think that we can only find our own spirituality outside of church? (What does that have to say about church, but what does that also have to say about us).
I recently learned that millenials are those of us born between 1980 and 2000. Here is what we have in common.
We grew up in a boom, but came into maturity in a economic downturn/depression
We are the children of baby boomers
We tend to be called hipsters
We don’t have a lot of life opportunities: jobs, marriages, having children–>we have to put these things off
We were all born in a pre 9/11 reality
We grew up with Harry Potter
We like individuality–but tend not to rebel, but instead go off our own way
We are thought of as ungrateful and lazy
We don’t have a strong religiousity
Yet here I am: mother, fairy tale enthusiast and pastor. Here I am, trying to figure out if I have a strong enough call to conduct a ministry via sci-fi and fantasy that I need to invent something to do this.
In a lot of ways I am “old-fashioned” for my age. I am young, married, have three children and an “old-fashioned” kind of job that carries with it healthcare and a pension (at least for now). And yet, I feel the pain of those around me. I too am physically weighed dow
n by student debt that I’m terrified I’ll never get rid of, I too understand that completeness and fulfillment will not fully come from my employment (hmm…that should be on the list above).
So I guess I’ll keep at it, hang onto the understanding th
at my concept of religion and my relationship with God is helpful to some of the people in my life, and that people will or won’t join churches on their own, and its not my responsibility.
Still–and take this for what its worth–I like church and I believe in God…
Katy likes it! Hopefully if/when you are interested you can find a place that fits you too!
Faith is a journey, and sometimes that journey isn’t an easy one.
But as we learn more and more about Jesus, here is what we learned
1. Jesus did ministry on the move. You notice that Jesus is almost always making his way between cities? Sure Israel is the size of the New Jersey but the journey from Jerusalem to Galilee is about 240 miles, and Jesus walked that more than once.
2. Jesus believed in packing light, but he also believed in good traveling companions—Jesus asks us to take no extra baggage, but to always remember to take a friend, so if you are considering going on a visit for church, pursuing ministry or just doing something new in your spiritual life, Jesus recommends doing it with someone else. (which is why I advocate Co-Pastorships)
3. The Holy Spirit guides us—just as it guided Jesus Christ, we need to remember that we are following Christ’s footsteps, and we have the best guide, we just need to take the time to listen to what God is doing.
4. Its called walking in “Jesus’s Footsteps” not “Sitting in Jesus’s Pews.” My Church’s Farmer’s Market has been a giant step outside of our sanctuary (which is sad that this is a big step, nevertheless its great we’ve done-so) , but we need to figure out where Christ is going, and how to follow him there (as opposed to say, staying where we are and assuming that God wants us to stay there forever)
5. Jesus took Sabbath: Jesus escaped the crowds, he rode boats, he ate with friends, he prayed alone. He found ways to take a break for himself and his ministry, so that he could recharge for the next one.
6. Jesus did not have a checklist. Jesus did not have any requirements for following him—he did not require gold, food or certain characteristics. You can bet one of the disciples was the person who always complained about everything, and another one was that nice but not too bright person, and that one of them had a mental illness, one of them was socially awkward and one of them talked incessantly, while another wouldn’t talk at all. Yet Jesus invited them all to journey with him. He didn’t even require belief (instead he fostered it). He just asked people to come exactly as they were.
What can we do?
Recently I’ve been thinking about how to better meet and get to know the community. What are their needs? What are their prayer concerns?
Maybe we should have a prayer concern board out at the farmer’s market. Maybe we should have projects to thank all those who serve the community (nurses, EMTs, police, Firefighters), maybe we should fundraise for the poor, maybe we should give out free meals, maybe we should grow our own garden to donate fresh food, maybe we should provide a space for people to pray—as you can I’m full of ideas. In fact, at times I get carried away, and it can be overwhelming for others. But, I am confident that we have important things to do, and we are capable to do them!