Making A Statement
Lately, I have been thinking about going back to church. For me, this current pushing me towards change is a big deal, as I have not known for ages if I would ever be able to go back. I feel like the journey I have been on has roughed me through waves of shock, hurt, indifference, anger, grief, and we are finally arriving on the shore of acceptance and forward motion through the waves and into whatever is next.
Well, I thought I was ready.
The process of speccing out churches on the internet and through friends’ word of mouth is tricky, to say the least. I have had about ten different internet encounters where I thought we had found “our” church and they have run the gamut of super traditional to even more progressive to home church to nothing and back to the start again. I am always hopeful until I find that collection of confident writings somewhere in the “about us” section - something I have come to encounter as a heart-wrenching experience. Yes, I am talking about the ever-intimidating “statement of faith”.
No, I am not against knowing what you believe and having clear rallying points. I take no issue with modeling our lives after Jesus or believing that God exists. I love how churches help the poor and aim to see reconciliation in the world. For me, there are not even any problems with believing the Holy Spirit still works in our lives today.
No, I struggle with the unwavering adherence to and sureness in these finely typed points of the faith. I struggle with how many things are not open-handed, but are close-fisted in their rightness. I struggle with the lack of openness.
A recent church website assured me that “The distinctive leadership role within the church [is] given to qualified men” and that “Since the body is a creation of God, the Church holds sexual identity to be biologically determined, and associated gender norms are to be observed as appropriate to biblical standards.” This statement also unblinkingly asserts, “all human beings are alienated from God, corrupted in every aspect of their being”.
When I read these statements of faith across multiple church websites, I can only think, is there no place for the person with questions? For the serial doubters who struggle, in faith, every day to even accept the basic points of the christian faith, these extra add-ons to our christian tradition seem to forever deem us “un-churchable”. For those of us who want to be able to live with who God is and who we are, we cannot with good conscience be part of a congregation that has every belief neatly typed and has told us exactly how we must believe in order to become a permanent part of the community. It is not because we are difficult or prideful, it is because we physically, emotionally, and spiritually feel as if we are not being true to the call of God in our lives if we accept some of these “statements of faith”.
After all, isn’t the word “faith” rooted in trust? In believing in a God that does not clearly outline a map for life? Isn’t the bible a living book, full of conflicting stories about God and his people that, together, give us one beautiful, difficult, and even confusing picture of who God is? Isn’t part of being a christian believing that there is a lot that we cannot see, and that God is working even in those places?
Actually, it seems like having easy answers and clearly outlined points of the christian faith is exactly what God is not. God is huge, mysterious, limitless, beginning, and end. Statements of faith are limited, worldly, finite, and made up by us - fallible human beings.
I would rather shape my life around an infinite God than a cold list of beliefs. I would rather be open to what I do not know rather than excluding others with what I think I know. I would rather welcome everyone in and see what kind of beautiful kaleidoscope results when we are open.