When it Comes to Belief, You Can Pick and Choose

When in church, I would frequently hear calls to "the truth." The truth of God's Word, the reality of God's work in the world, the truth of whatever theological positions happened to be held by the person with the microphone. I used to be baffled not by the claims to truth but the different truths that were claimed by different people. People with a high degree of certainty that I respected were saying different things, and though I would do my best to immerse myself in their system, their truth, there would always arise complications and questions for me within that belief system.

Each of these systems had things to offer. Each context I have been to has added value to my life and my spirituality. All of them had their limitations. 

In the church I grew up in, I learned that God loves me. I learned some rituals and routines of worship. I learned to value and read the Bible. In the prayer groups and church that Courtney and I began attending together, I learned about an experience of God, about listening to the spirit and about healing prayer. I learned that God's love can be felt and can be shared in more than words. In college, I learned that there is greater diversity of thought and tradition as well as experience of God, particularly within Christianity. College was also where the major work of deconstruction began for me as I examined the underpinnings of my "faith" (belief system). I was able to see how the different movements of Christianity I had experienced each had their own systems with particular emphases. The challenge I experienced from my college education had to do with me still trying to find the truth and looking for it on the outside. At an intuitive level, I knew that there were ideas and experiences that resonated with me and others that didn't, but I still spun my conscious mind to try to find the system or create the systemic synthesis that would relieve me of my wrestling and free me from cognitive dissonance. It didn't work.

What followed was a prayerful letting go of theology, of church, of God. I still have deep belief in God, though less clear of an idea how I would articulate those beliefs. The way of Jesus still matters to me and the metaphor of God as Trinity is embedded in my image of God. But as for how I know what I know about God, what the "basis" or certainty anchor is for me... My working answer is that it is what I pick and choose. I can acknowledge that I have paradoxical views and contradictory beliefs. I tend to hold dialectic tension fairly well and I don't see that changing, what has changed is my need for a system or an affiliation to ground me with confidence. I still have intuitive moments that guide me to pray for people. I still believe in a personal (but also an impersonal) God. I have embraced what I learned from charismatic/evangelical/biblical literal/conservative Christianity. I also know that no tribe can manufacture beliefs that will fit me perfectly. I've learned to eat the meat and spit out the bones. I will continue to do listen deeply. I will appreciate differences and particularities. I can build common ground between groups. I can embrace a God who is deeper than our well-crafted images even as I've got a library of my own. 

Despite what you might hear from a platform or a pulpit about that being a scary, evil thing, it isn't. Everyone picks and chooses their belief. Some just do it with more fear and less intention than others.

I'm not suggesting that it is preferable to stick your head or heart in the ground to avoid truth, I am saying that your beliefs are vast and varied and need not conform to someone else's system to be right for you. I'm not saying that you don't study, that you quit learning, that you stay comfortable in lazy thinking. I'm saying that you can trust your intuition. I'm saying that you can listen to different people without fear. 

In short, when it comes to belief, you can pick and choose. 

Don't worry about what everyone else thinks. Take stock of what you believe deep down and let the chips fall where they may. Enjoy the freedom of not having to fit into a box, and just remember that God won't fit in your box either. Happy choosing, everyone!