Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Believe it... Believe it...Believe it

In my Orson Scott Card posting, SocietyVs had some great points about belief. He asserted that mere belief is almost pointless; it is the resulting action that counts. If a belief has no practical impact (i.e. it doesn't cause you to love your neighbor, or feed the poor) then he now places it in the category of "non-belief".

I resonate with that, because I was brought up in a Faith community that was all about having the "correct" beliefs lined up; but had little impact on those around us.

I forget what it is like to be in those circles, but I had a reminder today. I keep a channel on my reader open to Mormon Coffee. I rarely see eye to eye with these folks, but it can be an interesting read. Today their post brought home again how, to some Christians, it is all about the right checklist. Here is a passage from today's post. The blog author is responding to a question about how to share your faith with a Mormon without being offensive.

"In that kind of situation I think the best thing you can do is start asking simple questions. “What do you believe about the afterlife?” “What do you believe about the nature of God?” “What do you believe about sin and salvation?” “Do you believe your sins are forgiven?” “Do you have an assurance of eternal life?” You can read the full article here.

This is my opinion, and feel free to chime in, but I think a more effective mode of discourse is for the two people to ask questions together. In the above example, the questioner has the answer and the listener is being led (or coerced) down a given path to a set result.

Hans-Georg Gadamer argued that conversations that do not contain the element of surprise are not really conversations at all. When we begin a truly open dialogue, he said, we let go of the destination; we are not sure where we will be when we are finished. If one party is in control, then no exchange is taking place.

It would seem to me that if you are going to truly converse with someone, then the question must be self-reflective at the same time it is asked. Therefore, instead of asking questions intended to lead or pin someone, might I suggest these questions:

  • Does my love for God cause me to love those around me, regardless of religious status, more or less?
  • Does my faith cause me to become irritated with those who do not share my views?
  • Has my faith caused my associations with those not in my faith to broaden or shrink over the years?
  • Are my studies of scripture challenging any of my imparted views of justice, mercy, and kindness?

Evangelicals are so caught up with what people believe. If we want to change the world, we have to put away our formulas.

It is for freedom's sake that Christ has set you free!

6 comments:

Yael said...

Well, your guy didn't do a thing for me much less set me free, but I will comment anyway!

I admit I have a bit of fun with the people who approach me asking what I believe.

The questions I usually get are from Evangelism Explosion. Do you know what will happen to you when you die? Yes, I will be buried in a Jewish cemetary. And after that? I'll rot. If questions come up about heaven I tell them I don't want to go to heaven.

Would you like me to tell you...? No.

One guy was very persistent. He told me, "I don't think you're hearing what I'm asking." I told him that I didn't think he was hearing what I was answering!

I will talk with pretty much anyone about anything, but as soon as someone tries the question thing with me, they'd find the winters of Siberia more balmy than the warmth eminating from me!

How incredibly arrogant to try to change the religions of already religious people. Why not leave people's relationships with God between them and God?

If someone really wants to know what I think about anything, they can get to know me, they can read my blogs. Otherwise they can get lost.

The type of conversations you mention, Andrew, are the ones who will draw people in to converse with you. But, you can't switch back to evangelizing along the way or you'll lose them and any credibility. I look at it this way: why not use conversations to help all of us make our own connections to God and not worry about what those connections might consist of? If people want what someone has they'll ask for it. If they don't ask, they're probably not that interested.

Andrew said...

Yeah, I think "evangelism" tends to have bad assumptions and it leads to bad practice.

I do have a technical question for you. I notice you changed your site to Pharisee's rock, but if you do not believe in an afterlife, doesn't that make you a Sadducee, not a Pharisee? Or do I just have a fundamental misunderstanding?

Andrew said...

"I admit I have a bit of fun with the people who approach me asking what I believe."

I think that is the key problem with Evangelism. You are not being approached to find out what you believe because the questioner is interested; you are being asked to state your beliefs so the questioner can tell you what is "wrong" with them. It is a dishonest motivation from the beginning.

The problem is, the rejection the questioner receives never causes him or her to re-evaluate anything they did or said. The rejection is just another justification to keep at it. YOU were rejecting the "truth" they were offering. There is no mechanism for correction in this flawed system.

Yael said...

I don't know what I think about any afterlife. Mostly I don't think about it at all, but if someone is trying to evangelize me I tell them I believe in nothing. That ususally derails the whole thing because the assumption that everyone values what the evangelist values. Since Christians are concerned about what happens when they die, then everyone else must be as well, right? Only we're not. And that's just one assumption of many.

Anyway, Sadducees are long gone from this earth. They were the keepers of the temple and all of the sacrifices. The Pharisees survived and still survive. Most definitely I am a Pharisee! And proud of it, too, since that's what Pharisees are supposed to be, yes? :>)

Judaism doesn't require belief in any creed; Judaism isn't about what we say, it's about what we do. So, it doesn't matter what I think happens to me when I die, it matters how I live right now.

I have worked with many who have tried to save my soul at some point in time. I tell them I don't believe in anything which usually leads to the question of why I lead a religious life, "Because it's fun." They go away and leave me alone, but since we work together we end up interacting quite often. Eventually they realize I was leading them on, but by then we are usually on quite friendly terms so we can laugh about it. And by that time they've usually come to the conclusion I'm fine just the way I am.

societyvs said...

I left the greatest comment ever - and guess what - poof - gonzo...then I cried (lol).

societyvs said...

Thanks Andrew for mentioning me in the blog - I appreciate that! I also see Yale is here - good to see you around!

Okay here is what I tried to post earlier but it vanished. I think I will write a blog on this.

I think the church is confused with what 'belief' actually means. The church uses the definition of belief as 'what you think on something' - I think this is in fact mis-guided and misses the way it is used in the gospel.

I think the gospel writers used 'belief' as something you do because you value it. It's not that works defines faith, but works are done because of your belief set. To me, a belief without an action to it - is not a real belief - it's like smoke and mirrors - magic - because you think with that belief you did something when in fact you did not (ex: Trinity is real).

Our faith has become severely mis-guided and wants to point fingers at people that don't 'think' like them - dividing people up. Problem is, this is exactly the opposite effect Jesus actual teachings actually have - so I am not sure most people in churches aren't turning schizo on some level.

And this a real problem right now - since people are misguided in a lot of arenas by the idea 'thinking right' is of more value than 'acting right'. But for me the teachings are all about 'living right' and that's where I will rest my foot.

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