Over on Keep Changing, L recently did a series of blog posts about the things in which he believes. I recently had an e-mail exchange with my brother-in-law in which we shared with each other our beliefs. He is still a faithful and devout Mormon and he was wanting to understand how my beliefs have changed.
This is relevant to me today because this morning I took a definitive and concrete step away from the LDS Church. My family and I joined a new church, a well established congregation in our town that is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Among other things, the UCC is open and affirming of gays and lesbians.
So on this day of the Christian sabbath, I share my beliefs.
I still consider myself a believing Christian, though I don't know if Jesus Christ is/was a real person. Nevertheless, the idea of Jesus is real and is something that I believe in--in fact, the idea of Christ and what the myth of Christ represents to me is more important than the question of whether or not he did/does exist. The story of Christ is empowering and comforting, which has more meaning to me in my life and struggles than whether or not a man named Jesus ever actually lived.
I also think the idea of atonement is real and powerful and I draw comfort from the idea that I can be reconciled in my imperfection--in my sins, for I do believe in sin--to a perfect God through the vehicle of atonement. I have felt the power of the atonement in my life and I have felt what I believe to be a small element of what Christ experienced in offering himself for us. I have experienced it as a way of healing myself, reconciling with those who I am close to, and in feeling God's love and acceptance. But these things exist in the realm of faith, and I have always struggled with faith, even when I was "strong" in the Church. I do not know any of these things for certain. All I can do is have faith in the power of the idea to transform my life and the world in which I live.
I take the scriptures seriously, but not literally. My faith does not rest on the historicity of the Old Testament (which I believe is mostly metaphorical) or the New Testament descriptions of Christ's ministry (which I believe to be historically unreliable) or of the Book of Mormon (the historicity of which I have doubted for many years). As historical documents, they fail. So I think it is important to place them in context and use them as one pillar that upholds my belief system. And so again, I come back to having faith in the ideas and principles of Christianity and Mormonism without having any real certainty of their basis in empirical fact.
On a more personal level, I believe God--whatever he and/or she is (for I am not certain)--loves us without condition; that nothing we can do will make God love--or bless--us any more or any less. Indeed, if there is anything I do believe literally these days, it is that God is love. God is the love I have for my children and my family--the love that has sustained my wife and me through the most challenging time of our lives.
I also believe in exercising faith in the idea/person of Christ, but my experiences--including the feelings of spiritual alienation I have felt over the years because of my homosexuality--tell me that the process is unique to each of as individuals. I do not believe that there is one true church--churches are creations of men. I do not believe that there is a universal formula for exercising faith; no universal formula for true happiness other than that which comes from integrity, honesty and faithful and compassionate commitment to others.
Sometimes--often?--our exercise of faith is tenuous and unsure even when it is profoundly sincere.