This I (Don’t) Believe

Some friends are throwing around a novelty stating what they believe in 250 words or less. Here's my feeble foray into the madness. One caveat: I think belief is rigid and fluid all at once, meaning that one's "theology" (or whatever you want to call it), if it's worth anything, is always changing, shifting, responding, LEARNING. We can see as much in Paul's letters (yes, I just made a grandiose claim without providing any evidence whatsoever). That being said, this is where I am as of today: I believe that, in many respects, the god (little "g") of my understanding has utterly failed, which subsequently means that my understanding of God (big "G") has also failed -- I have not believed in God, but a god of my own creation, although I believe that there is overlap between the two.

I believe that I have yet to fully grasp the Kernel of who God truly is, but I also believe that this is no excuse to stop trying, reaching, grasping, praying, reading, talking, listening, laughing, crying, and thinking -- because while I believe this God is completely Other and Unattainable, I also believe that the Incarnation shows how Immediate, Near, Loving, and Un-Other God truly is.

I also believe, unequivocally, that God (big "G") is perfectly fine with me eating my steak medium rare.

By Darryl Schafer

Darryl Schafer is 6'7" tall. Because of this, he tries, albeit unsuccessfully, not to take himself too seriously. That's about it.

This I Believe: God on the Threshold

I believe that what I believe is beyond words, thus making a 250 word definition unfortunately limiting. I believe that things like this are both necessary and unfaithful to describe our experiences with the Divine (as is associating such experiences with some Thing known as the “Divine”).

I believe that the words we spill in the name of “faith,” “theology,” and “orthodox” are the least faithful, theological, or orthodox things that we do when we believe they give us answers and the most faithful, theological, and orthodox things they do when they bring us to endless questioning.

I believe that the only things capable of being are unbelievable.

I believe that my belief is mostly a choice, while at the same time something that I mostly inherited from my upbringing and surroundings in the Bible Belt—even if such an inheritance is the direct result of somewhat violent reaction.

I believe that tradition is vitally important but isn’t static; it tells me where Christians have been and lights the way for where we might go without telling us what will be.

I believe that the actual act of the Eucharist is the most profound theological statement Christians ever make.

I believe that Jesus incarnated all of these ideas.

And I believe that my saying so at this digital table is meaningless compared to the fact that all who read it are “sitting” together to share silly, unfaithful, and limiting words.

And it must be said--though it will cause me to violate my 250 word limit--that these are the stumblings of a person with a cycloptically singular and blinded eye, the catches and snafus of a cane searching for the next step, and the scratches of wildly swinging hands against the harsh edges of a dark cave. In other words, these are the unwelcome and unfaithful speculations of a short-sighted and recovering addict of the Enlightened Eye or I.

And God stands alone on the threshold.

by Matt Gallion

Matthew Gallion is a graduate student at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, where he is pursuing a Master’s degree in Religious Studies. He studies responses to American evangelicalism in postmodern contexts, particularly the emerging church and the emergent conversation, and the intersection of faith and culture, particularly in crossing the “digital divide.” Matt recently presented a paper called “The Body Disrupted: Homosexuality and the Body in Emergent Christianity” at the 9th Annual Graduate Symposium at Florida State University and at the annual Midwest American Academy of Religion meeting at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. He is also the author of “The Price of Freedom: Bribery, the Philippian Gift, and Paul’s Choice in Philippians 1:19-26,” which won the prize for best graduate paper at the annual meeting of the Central States Society of Biblical Literature. He received his B.A. from Southwest Baptist University in Biblical Studies and recently served as a campus minister in the United Methodist Church at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

Credon't: Reflections on What I Believe (most of the time)

I believe because I have to believe.  I have to believe because life doesn’t make any sense to me otherwise. To say I believe, however, leaves open the question of the object of my belief.  That is to say, what do I believe?  I believe that God is behind all of this in some way that makes sense to God, even if it escapes me.  I know I’m supposed to have it all together, to have it systematized in some way that will hold up to scrutiny.  Yet, I’m secretly afraid, I suppose, that if I interrogate my reasons for belief too vigorously, those reasons will remain just enough beyond my reach to make me wonder, in times of darkness, whether they make sense, or even ought to be considered reasons at all.

Even so, let me venture into the fray with a few things that do make sense to me. These are neither systematic nor exhaustive, merely suggestive (and close to 250 words):

I believe that the Jesus we encounter in the Gospels has only a passing acquaintance with the Jesus we encounter in popular Christianity.

I believe that much of popular Christianity (mesmerized as it is by the atomic individual) is designed to distract middle-class white Christians from the fact that they drive Mercedes Benzes, inflict violence on people who happen to be born under different flags, and ignore the cry for justice from the margins.

I believe that Christianity operates more often than not as a mechanism for affirming what people already believe—before they ever encounter the subversive Jesus of the Gospels.

I believe that the ministry of the Jesus who died abandoned and alone is a terrible model for what most people think of as "church growth."

I believe that heaven is God’s jurisdiction; my responsibilities require me to be present and to work here and now.

I believe that if what you believe doesn’t make somebody mad, you’re not doing it right.  Jesus wasn’t killed because he was nice.

I believe that in a world concerned only with saying yes, being taught to say no is the most loving thing that can happen to us.

I believe the church needs to quit clinging to its life as if its life were an end in itself, and needs to start getting comfortable with the notion that the church belongs to God—and God always gets what God wants.

I believe that Christian belief is only intelligible, only interesting, if it is embodied in a community of people committed to living and, if necessary, dying like Jesus.

It’s not much, but it helps me hang on.

by Derek Penwell

Derek Penwell is senior pastor of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Louisville, Kentucky and lecturer at the University of Louisville in Religious Studies and Humanities.  He is the author of articles ranging from Stone/Campbell history to aesthetic theory and the tragic emotions.  He is a graduate of Great Lakes Christian College (B,R.E.), Emmanuel School of Religion (M.A.R.), Lexington Theological Seminary (M.Div. and D.Min.), and currently a Ph.D. candidate in humanities at the University of Louisville.     Penwell once wrestled a rodeo clown while the bull stood by in stunned amazement.
He currently blogs at The Company of the Eudaimon and on Twitter at @reseudaimon.