Saturday, 30 July 2011


"The Latin credo means literally "I give my heart." The word believe is a problematic one today, in part because it has gradually changed its meaning from being the language of certainty so deep that I could give my heart to it, to the language of uncertainty so shallow that only the "credulous" would rely on it. not about propositions, but about commitment. It does not mean that I intellectually subscribe to the following list of statements, but that I give my heart to this reality. Believe, indeed, comes to usfrom the Old English belove, making clear that this too is meant to be heart language. To say, "I believe in Jesus Christ" is not to subscribe to an uncertain proposition. It is a confession of commitment, of love."
-- Diana Eck, Encountering God, quoted in another book I'm reading.

This seems at first a comforting sort of quote. I don't have to defend the cold hard historical facts, I don't have to say "This definitely happened." Belief is about love, about commitment, not about what can be proven to be objective reality.

But commitment is exactly what makes this sort of belief difficult. Commitment requires action. Every Sunday I go to church and I say the Nicene Creed along with the rest of the congregation, and I'm not so sure of the cold hard historical facts, honestly, but I say it because I have given my heart to this concept, to the concept of God-with-us, of God loving us more than any of us can ever imagine, of love triumphing even over death. And that's all well and good. Then at the end of the service the Reader says "Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord" -- with all that entails in terms of serving others, loving others, even when it is not easy -- and I know I will fail before I've even walked out the door of the building that houses one part of the community I now call home.

But I keep trying.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small,
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
--Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

How can I not keep trying?


Anonymous said...

So essentially you've set up an image in front of yourself to worship?
And you think this is a sane way to spend your life? Pretending so that you have a reason for what tens of thousands do anyway?
Do you just enjoy singing the weird songs and wearing the weird clothes?

Song in my Heart said...

Dear Anonymous,

I didn't set up any image. I even avoided Christianity for years. I suppose you could say that the Cross is a symbol, a reminder, of the concepts I mentioned: God-with-us, and God's love for humanity. As I was trying to say, that truth goes deeper than whether it is a depiction of historical reality (which I am not going to argue about here).

I have always had a strong belief in God. Pretending simply doesn't come into it.

As for "what tens of thousands do anyway", so what? If some people possess the fortitude and compassion to act with unconditional love toward everyone they meet, with no reference to any theistic worldview, great, I've no wish to stop them. I am not arguing that religion or spiritual beliefs are generally necessary to right action; just talking about how my beliefs affect me. But my experience and observation is that a great many people act, most of the time, for their own advantage or gain without even considering the impact their actions have on others. Of course people who would identify themselves as Christian do this, too. Challenging such behaviour is necessary, of course, but rubbishing people's beliefs by accusing them of pretending or making fun of them isn't going to make them want to change their behaviour. You might want to re-think that approach, if your goal is a more caring and compassionate world.

Weird songs, weird clothes -- what of it? Sure, I enjoy some aspects of liturgy, and you don't have to be theist to enjoy a good choral Evensong on an aesthetic level. You don't have to be atheist to think that traditional worship is stuffy or strange. So what?

Why does this bother you so much, dear Anonymous, enough to come and comment so pointedly on this blog without even identifying yourself? What brought you here?

Is this a sane way to spend your time?