In the process of the past 2 or 3 months, I've been challenged by multiple people to search for what I truly believe. The most recent challenge in the same vein asked me what my core theological commitments are.
Whoa. Hold on. What?
I thought about it for a while, and here's what I've come up with. It was actually written in essay form (albeit a slightly imformal), so what you are reading is an actual work submitted for a scholarship with some additions that wouldn't fit into the three page limit. And, obviously, it has been slighty edited so as not to sound too academic--where's the fun in that?
Let me know what you think.
“Go without hate. But not without rage. Heal the World.” –Paul Monette
Deciphering one's core theological commitments is tough. We each have a set of values and beliefs—many that can be summed up in one word—about our faith. While these traits and aspects are vital to our spiritual livelihood, finding our core theological values requires one to focus their lens on the smallest of details, but also broaden the scope of their lens to question where such traits come from. The word “core,” in this case, asserts that these commitments are the very substance of what one believes in. Of course, I believe in hope, forgiveness, kindness and love. The question does not lie in if these ideas exist, but rather where do those ideas find meaning in my faith?
After much contemplation, my thoughts kept settling on three words—grace, justice, and reconciliation. Each one is different, yet each is connected with threads that seem to run through humanity.
Grace was the first of these notions to appear in my mind. It is a simple word, and quite beautiful in its pronunciation and meaning. I define grace as the goodness of God. This is my ultimate theological commitment because it is the wellspring from which the rest of my faith flows. It is the grace of God that offers hope, joy, love and peace, reconciliation and so on. From the seemingly inconsequential (like waking up in the morning) to the life altering (the promise of eternal life), we are able to see God’s grace.
Earlier in a class, I wrote this about Grace:
I believe in Grace--the unlimited, encompassing goodness of God that embraces me in my doubt, hurt, pain and celebrates my joy. Grace flows into my wellspring and gives me life. It erases my guilt and renews my hopes.
What is particularly astonishing about grace is the implied knowledge that those who receive it (humanity) are not deserving. I state this idea with some caution. I am weary of defining the recipient as evil; it is our imperfections and errors that make us unworthy, not an inherently evil nature.
Justice is my core theological craving. It is what I pray for, what I search for, and what I know I can find. The notion of justice is fascinating in that it seems to break down into two basic forms, easily identified as human justice and divine justice. The first of these, human justice, is the form we are most familiar with. Television shows like the popular Law and Order and CSI franchises, have created a sense that justice is a form of retribution. It seems that we live in a society that repeats the mantra “you hurt me, so you must suffer.” For many, the fulfillment of this mantra equates to justice.
In order to more fully understand the idea of grace, we must search for the meaning of divine justice. The inherent problem with searching for anything on a divine level is that we can only begin to grasp the ideas and notions that surround the Divine. As humans, we think as such. This is not to say that our thoughts are erroneous, but rather, limited.
Divine justice swirls around God’s capability to offer unconditional compassion and love. We claim unconditional love, but to not recognize our incapability of attaining it would be folly. While humans can muster magnificent and tremendous amounts of love and compassion, we are unable to mimic such devotion. We love, but only to a point. We open our arms with compassion, but find our arms growing tired. God does not falter like humans. God keeps loving; God keeps his compassion flowing. Where humans insert a “but,” God insists on “regardless.” We have God’s love, regardless; we have God’s Grace, regardless.
God wants each of us to find rest in the Divine. God’s justice is exactly that divine desire being realized.
I am often asked where my position on justice leaves those who do wickedness in this world. Such questions are asked assuming human justice—people did wrong; therefore, they should be punished. I assert that it leaves them where we all will be—Heaven. “Why,” they ask “should we even try to be good? Why should I put up with the rules?” We follow the rules and strive to live Christ-like lives, because in doing so we are able to open the doors of reconciliation. If one only attempts to follow Christ in an effort to walk through the gates of Heaven, that faith has gone sour. Christianity, when soley concerned with an eternal outcomes, shifts from the foucus I believe Christ had (focusing on others) to a selfish religion focusing on the self. As Christians, we are called to reach beyond ourselves, searching for justice through reconciliation.
I consider reconciliation to be my core theological purpose. As I have become more aware of other interpretations of Christianity, it seems there is an implied sense of exclusion—Christians either exclude or people feel like they are being excluded. While many Christians are appalled that some might feel shunned by them, it is not hard to find how many people do not see the warm embrace that Christianity claims. Our purpose, as Christians, is to reconcile these emotions. In God, we search for unity. If God’s Kingdom surrounds us and calls us to strive to act like God, we must heed that calling. We must act as agents of reconciliation.
Jesus’ arrival brought new realizations of what role humanity should take. Through his words and deeds, it becomes clear that we have a responsibility to reconcile—to bring comfort to the hurting, rest to the weary, and hope to the downtrodden.
As a member of the gay Christian community, I see hurt all around. People who have been forced away from their faith search desperately for the inclusion they’ve heard about throughout their lives. Others have given up the hope for such reconciliation. A Christian’s call is to reconcile these searchers to the God that loves them. We are to make them aware of their status as Children of God. Christianity is not about “saving our own souls and those of others;” but rather, is about craving God and interacting with the Divine by helping others do the same.