Do you ever get frustrated by politicians who seem to define themselves by the “other guy”? They will tell you all the things they are opposed to that the other parties are doing, but never tell you what they would do if elected or what they actually stand for themselves.
People often approach their religious beliefs that way. When people tell me they don’t believe in God, I will ask them to tell me about the God they don’t believe in. Usually it turns out, I don’t believe in that guy either! Once we start talking about what we do believe, we share much more in common than they first thought. Often their understanding of God, churches, and what it means to be a Christian, has come from the media, not from ordinary people of faith like me.
Unfortunately, it is often the negative groups that get publicity. When a church says they don’t believe in evolution, or vaccinations, or homosexuality, that’s what gets attention. The rest of us churches are just quietly living out our beliefs in the miracle of God’s constantly changing creation, God’s gift of science and medicine, and the love of God for all people, but who reports on that? We’re out here, though you wouldn’t know it from most news.
Of course, there are noticeable differences between what different types of churches believe, and it is worth finding out what those are, if you are looking to be a part of a faith community. We have differing opinions, for example, on how to interpret the Bible and what authority it has in our lives. Focus differs, too. Some might focus on the afterlife, some on our lives here and now. Some might focus on personal piety, some on group action rather than individual behaviours or beliefs.
Most churches do share the common values of welcome, community, and caring for one another. We believe there is value in spending time together sharing in worship and supporting one another through life challenges, or we wouldn’t bother gathering. These aren’t the things you would know if you only watched news reports or TV shows. Hollywood producers are seldom knowledgeable about or interested in the real lives of faith communities.
What are some things you believe in or wonder about, thinking in positive terms? Chances are you are not alone. Chances are, there’s a community waiting to welcome you.
Robin Murray is pastor of Castlegar United Church.
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