What You Believe Doesn’t Matter

What you say you believe doesn’t really matter does it? At least not in words… How you live is way more interesting, revealing, and truth-telling.  Why, then, do we say things to students/youth like, “You have to decide what you believe for yourself.  That is the most important thing.”  Shouldn’t we encourage them to practice their faith instead of practicing their defense of their faith?

What You Believe Doesn't MatterFor example, spending hours and hours explaining what “inerrancy of Scripture” and what an “errant view of Scripture” is seems less helpful and less worthwhile than helping a student understand why bullying other kids at school for believing differently is out of line with the teachings and ways of Christ in whom they are deciding to “believe.”
It’s the connection that seems to be missing in Sunday School and other such teachings.  Do some concepts have to be explained in words?  Sure.  But what are we spending our time on?  Are we ever addressing the lives of our students?  Did we address the fact that when the students came into the classroom they were extremely rude to the boy who looks different from them and that’s why he left the classroom never to return that Sunday morning?
There’s a laziness I see in teaching students about the ways of Christ.  There isn’t thought involved and no prophetic voice.  Using prefab curriculum isn’t bad, but it shouldn’t be a crutch for a lack of preparation and forethought and love for the souls that come through the door in a church to be pastored.
Perhaps it just takes a leader who is living it out to be able to teach it.  Teachers are supposed to be held to higher standards, not simply volunteers who are too worn out to care if the students can understand and apply what’s being said.
More care is needed or else we reinforce a words-only “Christian”.  Laziness of mind is a plague that has affected me too.  It’s just worth it not to be lazy minded and not to be lazy in general.  Let’s tell stories from our lives, let’s let students go out and have something to practice like considering others better than themselves like Christ did, and let’s let them come back and talk about how hard it was or how it made them see someone differently.  Let’s not talk so much about how much we know about our religion.  Let’s live together and love together and not only debate together.  And they will know that we are his disciples by our love.
This is not something many would disagree with in principle, but it seems to get played out by teachers who only read and study and never go outside of their offices.  I’m tired of hearing what you think about things/what your -isms and -ians and favorite authors and speakers are … i want to know how to live and i want you to care about me and i want to get to know you and maybe in that way I can get to know Christ in myself, in you and in the world.
Don’t talk so much. Live a little.

7 comments

  1. Love the practical theology emphasis. We do need to priorotize prophetic voice and sanctified life. Nice piece.

  2. I appreciate the reminder that we need to focus on action and how our beliefs might inform our action (and conversely, how our actions and experiences inform our beliefs). I think we have to be careful, though, about saying “teachers are supposed to be held to higher standards.” For me there are two implications of this comment. First, we have done a poor job of letting volunteers know that we have standards in the first place. Having a warm body in place because no one else will do it, is not necessarily a good decision.

    But we also have to be careful about trying to put teachers and leaders on pedestals. I believe we should all be held to the same standards and that we will all fail due to our humanness. It’s important to leave room for grace in the equation, not as an excuse for laziness but simply as an acknowledgement that we are called to try, not to be perfect.

    • Agreed. Yeah, “not as an excuse for laziness”. I think I just see this tendency toward laziness in “church culture” where people know that everyone will be “kind”, “gracious”, and nice about it if we try, so we don’t commit in our efforts to the job we have. Of course, no one is perfect. That’s understood. Grace is a beautiful thing, but critique is a good thing/helps us get better right? If I love my brother and don’t want him to continue messing up, I don’t “give him grace” and not correct him. I correct him because I want him to get better. There is a heartiness about grace that involves correction. There is a strong love that disciplines. We need to do more than try I think. I don’t want someone to try to teach me how to garden, I want someone who knows from experience how to garden to teach me how to garden. Does that make sense?

      • I appreciate your comment that you don’t want someone to try to teach you how to garden but that you want to learn someone who knows how to garden. What do you think it means to know “how to be Christian” and who is the judge of that?

        • I think a person knows when they’ve experienced something and can speak to that. I think to say someone “knows how to be Christian” is too limiting/general maybe. Maybe we should put it more specifically. Someone might know how to approach infidelity/counsel through it because they have dealt with that. Perhaps someone can walk someone through death because they’ve experienced dying. Maybe someone knows why loving one’s enemies is better because of having practiced it. I’m just thinking out loud here I think. Perhaps this debate is frustrating because of the context we’re speaking in/the fact that we don’t know each other and we’re speaking in such general terms. Kierkegaard talks about how the crowd is untruth. I think that’s why we get hung up. We teach people in mass, whereas a conversation between two people is more honest/more true. Maybe if we had more conversations and taught in a more gritty life-kind-of way it would be more helpful. Teaching through life instead of in a classroom or through a podcast. That’s idealistic–sure–but it’s just a thought. Anyway, “The Crowd is Untruth” is a good essay by him. I changed the subject a bit, but yeah, I don’t know, Kate, when I talk to someone about my faith, I need someone who can help and understand, not a general teaching. Maybe that’s the problem with general curriculums, etc…. ok, i’m getting off subject/rambling. Oh, that’s why I like this book called On Our Way that’s written by all these different authors who have experience with the different subjects of the book like “Creation Care” by a guy who works with environmental studies at University of Montana, “Living in Community” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove who lives in an intentional community, etc. It’s written specifically by different people who have different experiences/specialties/gifts. Does that connect?

          • Becca,

            I really like your response. I agree that we should have more conversations that are more individualized and personal. You also make me think maybe in addition to asking what are you good at/what gifts do you have to share, we might reframe our thinking to include- what experiences do you have to share. This can still be problematic if a person thinks they have the answer for another – but I agree that having people who have been through what you are going through or who have done what you want to do to talk with and work with is preferable to generically plugging holes or teaching in a mass format. Thank you for this conversation.

          • Surely, Kate, thanks for the confrontation and conversation–it’s healthy I think 🙂 ! Why not, right?

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