Finding Faith: In open conversation, without agenda, divine truth reveals itself
"Much of the trouble with religion is that we’ve convinced ourselves that we can know an infinite God, a God who created the entire universe that is billions of years old and which still reveals mysteries to us that we cannot solve. And in our hubris, we believe we can also know all of the answers about faith, especially about who is right and, more importantly, who is wrong."
This past week, at a press convention in Texas, chatting over a beer at the close of the second day, I had one of the most civil, enlightening and encouraging conversations about faith I’ve had in a long time.
This sounds like the set-up line to a classic “(blank) walks into a bar” joke, but it is all true.
My guests were a Polish man who grew up Catholic but isn’t practicing now; a Texas-born man who grew up Church of Christ but is now flirting with Methodism; a “spiritual but not religious” woman who has lived internationally but now calls North Carolina home; and me, an ordained Lutheran pastor. All of us were in our late 30s to late 40s.
And after a couple of hours of conversation about our faiths, the mysteries of the divine and where religion can go terribly wrong, we all walked away as friends; a couple of them I’ve already made plans to connect with in the near future.
It was a fascinating experience that allowed me to peer into the hearts of three folks willing to share their most intimate thoughts about faith without worry of judgment from a clergy person sitting at the table. And I am a better faith leader for it.
It reminded me that when all the parties come to a conversation about faith, without having to win or to convert or to conquer, there is divine truth that reveals itself.
I recently read in a Center for Action and Contemplation newsletter this line: “... (H)is Divine Presence seeks connection and communion, not separation or division — except for the sake of an even deeper future union.”
Much of the trouble with religion is that we’ve convinced ourselves that we can know an infinite God, a God who created the entire universe that is billions of years old and which still reveals mysteries to us that we cannot solve.
And in our hubris, we believe we can also know all of the answers about faith, especially about who is right and, more importantly, who is wrong.
However, as faithful people, if we set aside our egos, we might be surprised what we can learn about God from those who have varying faith traditions than ours. When we openly and honestly welcome others to share their most intimate thoughts about God and the cosmos, all of creation wins. Because the idea that anyone has to lose is a human concept.
Jesus understood this.
The gospels are full of stories about Jesus interacting with those who were not Jewish. He hung out with everyone from Romans to Syrians to Canaanites to Samaritans, all of whom had varying faith traditions. He didn’t walk away; he didn’t shun them. He engaged with them.
We live in polarized times. The world over is at odds.
But as faithful people we don’t have to be. It just starts with listening to each other.