Do you believe? I started writing this entry three months ago and was seven paragraphs in before I simply put it down. Today I read my last post and laughed at how synchronistic things always are. The New Jerusalem-Part 2 could have been an introduction to the Democratic National Convention. Do you believe in moving forward? Do you believe in equality for all people?
The BSF lesson I’ve been sitting on since the end of April posed the question, “Do you believe?” This is the ubiquitous question in the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street (1947). In the movie, Kris Kringle says, “If you can’t believe, if you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.” Do you believe? It’s the kind of question children whisper to each other on the school bus. When was the last time you were asked straight out, “Do you believe in God?”
Does this question make you feel uncomfortable? Perhaps the uneasiness is anxiety about a follow-up question like, “What is God?” or “Would you explain God to me?” or “Are you serious?” Articulating a response with our limited language is difficult. Add to that how little some of us learned in monotonous church services and boring religious classes and it’s easy to just avoid the subject altogether.
Polite people following the rules of etiquette never talk about politics or religion. It’s safe to assume Emily Post passes on my blog. Does that make me impolite?
Then there are people who will respond to these inquiries with something about a bad experience, no childhood exposure, or insufficient scientific proof. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods and supernatural beings. An agnostic just doesn’t commit either way, believing it’s impossible to know for sure. I’ve always had some trouble differentiating between atheists (lack belief) and agnostics (lack knowledge). In these cases, I guess the big question is, “Are you willing to take another look and re-examine past experiences?”
I don’t bring all this up to evangelize; it’s not up to me to judge another’s belief system. I’m just curious. How often, I wonder, does the average person contemplate God? Are their thoughts riddled with myths and misconceptions imposed by others? Balancing our spirits with our emotional, intellectual, and physical selves is tricky and prompts another question. What is spirit?
Where is heaven? Is it a physical place? Is it something we experience? To believe the Kingdom of God is within implies a little of both don’t you think? Revelation reveals a new heaven and a new earth, the New Jerusalem. I learned that when translated from Greek, new connotes new in quality or fresh. Does this mean heaven and earth will undergo a renovation, a restructuring, a revolution?
The class notes had a section describing how heaven is like being home with God. There was one sentence in that section that I kept thinking and thinking about after I read it. Loving your neighbor will be as natural and easy as breathing. Can you imagine a place like that? I know that personally, I’m very far from that place.
The New Testament defines faith as confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). What do you hope for? Do you have faith?
For many of us, we have been conditioned to answer these kinds of questions in extremely predictable ways, but when one is alone and considering these questions in private, the deeper one goes, the harder they are to sort out. We are heavily conditioned by our families when it comes to politics and religion, the two taboo topics in polite conversation. We tend to stick with the party and doctrine of our kin.
Why is that? Is it because we fear abandonment? Is it to maintain the status quo? Is it because it’s just easier to avoid delving into the things that hold us back and keep us divided? In my view, Division and his ugly step-brothers Power and Control are at the root of all the world’s problems.
Revelation ends with the next lesson. I’ll follow-up this post with that final one and wrap up this year’s Bible study. Better late than never. The conclusion of the Bible story, Revelation, is basically about who does and who does not get into heaven and live happily ever after. Do you believe?
John, the author, is a theologian and his description of heaven leaves me with more questions than answers. I do believe heaven is a realm infinitely better than where we are now, a place without poverty, pollution, and passwords for starters. It seems to me that the more hate and fear we remove from our world now, the closer we get to heaven, whatever and wherever that is.
Recently, I was out on the town with my family celebrating my son’s birthday. Since guns are a hot topic here in the south, I got sucked into a political debate with a bunch of strangers. Clearly, there are people here who like me don’t find Emily Post infallible. I think most people would agree heaven to be a place with no need for weapons, but we’re not yet living in heaven. I’ve no problem with the second amendment but I do have a problem with the gun lobby. What strikes me the most about that evening is the unwillingness of people to respectfully listen to one another. Specifically, people who live in fear; it’s like their fear shuts down all their ability to reason.
Do I believe in God? Yes. Do I believe in heaven? Yes. What are they? I still have no idea. Do I have faith? Yes. Do I have hope? Yes. Do I think that together we can move toward a better world? Yes. Unfortunately, loving my neighbor is not yet like breathing for me. The good news is that I’m working on it. Are you?