What’s your credo?

Within our particular cultural experience, we all have some form of evolving faith-position. And every once in a while the question about the truth of that position is challenged, or for what ever reason, begs attention. For me, it’s the question about the "truth of Christianity" that asks entrance to my inner office and compels me to assess my inner manifesto, my personal credo.

MazePaul Getty Center(sm)

I’m a haggard Christian, my belief has been torn, and stitched together, only to be torn once more, it’s a bedraggled thing. And every time I come across an honest quester, I again prepare to look for needle and thread.

I suppose what keeps my faith looped together, to the best of my lights, is not so much theology, sermons, prayer, fasting, meditation, but human exchanges–heart swaps if you like. Sitting across a table from someone so obviously at peace with herself and truly caring about those around her, while at the same time, angry at injustice, is, well, a kind of existential verification of faith that gets me all desirous about being like that.

And this has lead me to an anthropological Christianity, which I’ve been told isn’t real Christianity at all. I’m okay with that. But in fact there is a organic connection between anthropology and theology.

Remembering that all myths have their roots in an actual event or series of events, I see the gospel story as a very bad myth in the sense that it undermines the way myth is supposed to work. Myth that "works" is told from the point of view of the perpetrator at the expense of the victim. Myth clears the oppressor of all charges and hides the truth of the victim by either making her a god, or by dehumanizing her.

I see the Bible as a collection of "mythical" stories with this supra myth-destructive arch that eventually culminates in Jesus, who exposes our violence and our cover-ups by not resisting our lust for sacrificial violence. And the resurrection, if you’re inclined, is like having someone you’ve malevolently excluded, so you could be part of the in-group, seeing you on the street and approaching you without any resentment at all, and hoping you just might want to hang out. The whole Jesus drama was an act of "active nonviolence" understood clearly enough, and reenacted, by the likes of Bacha Khan, Gandhi, and King but not so much the majority of Christendom.

Christ-Carracci-PaulGettyCenterLAsm About the Bible: Is it inspired? Yes, like a combination of Emily Dickenson and Sylvia Plath and Dostoevsky. Is it Divine? Well not in any objective Dr. Charles Stanley-esque way. (The brother can take it.) But like others, I’ve had some bubbling up moments that have lead me behind the text to a heart. But I’ve also had that with Ann Sexton poetry, and a few Leonard Cohen tunes. Is it infallible? (Almost a silly question.) Suppose it was. What makes us think we could infallibly grasp it? No, we are all on a boat and all we have is a sea-anchor. The fundamentalist delusion is that we have an anchor that goes all the way down. The relativist delusion is that we don’t have an anchor at all, that nothing attaches itself to the text, or that any meaning at all attaches itself to the text.

Whatever our position, we are incurable meaning makers. For me, I’ve found some dawn-light in extricating myself from the sacrificial God, the wrathful mythical god who clears out this special place that people can get into as long as they agree to cover themselves by the blood sacrifice.

If we can manage to reread the gospel and leave off our inherited substitutionary theory, the reverse is revealed. That is, our crap is exposed. All our–from petty to war-like–ways of scapegoating victims to keep our little group, ideology, church, temple, tribe, nation together, are disclosed and we either retrench or undergo a kind of restorative excision. That is, we either re-tribalize–seek the security of the clan, or volunteer to undergo the mercy of a Disarmed Heart.

If Jesus is about anything, he’s about grinding to ash all those dividing lines that keep us continually finding the problem in someone else. And because there are some people out there living this out, the story’s still true, and I’m still rag-tagging along.


  1. I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful;
    but I have never read in either of them:
    Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.
    And I will give ye rest.



    I don’t have a credo…or a theology…or a doctrine.

    I just wait for God to show up.

    And then the party begins.

  2. The honesty (and beauty) of this post moved me…it reflects a kind of Christianity that holds out some real goodness, some hope for people like me, unwilling to be public about a spirituality that sometimes still hangs on to some version of Christianity, but equally afraid to be public about my rejection of most of it, my anger with literalism, the unbelief it has grown in me, my disillusionment with the idea of a personal god that looks out for some and not others. Afraid to be public because this kind of honesty disturbs and devastates many who believe, and has the potential to badly damage ties to family and friends still very much Christian.

    Craig, I know the invitation you quoted, it’s a beautiful one, but alas, some of us have come, and expected rest, and not been able to find it.

  3. In 2000 I experienced a break-down. It was precipitated by my society (the church) and my own mistaken notions of what God wanted from me, which was fostered by modern corporate notions. It worked its way out in fibro-myalgia, which was undiagnosed for two years. There were times when I seriously thought about taking my life on a several occassions. All this even after training as a professional in psychotherapy. I did not know much at the time, but I had a notion that things might be better living some other way. I walked away from my former life and count myself lucky. Don’t really know how I did it. But I do know that God does show up, and I am not speaking metaphorically. It’s not meant to be a judgement on others who have not experienced this. Our epistemologies vary widely. What do you seek? What are you willing to give up to make it so?


  4. I loved this post Dad. Thanks for being open to doubt and questions. I always appreciate the way you draw out the meaning of the Christ story. The idea of undoing anger and fear by loving the one who has wronged you is remarkable. But I wonder how possible it is sometimes… I don’t think we can do it until we are strong ourselves and are in a place where we feel protected. I certainly don’t think that the victim, while still being abused, can do that….

    In my mind, the only way that the victim can honestly return violence with an open heart is if they have had the opportunity to heal and learn something and become stronger in some way than the abuser. For example, the victim sees the weakness and the fear in the person or the group that has hurt them and in this way maybe they can forgive? I don’t know. But I certainly don’t think we can “turn the other cheek” indefinitely without suffering deep harm. Every person has a breaking point. For example, if you open yourself to peace and you are consistently dehumanized, subjugated, starved and confined and the oppressor does not want peace, then I don’t see how you can stay non-violent.

    I think of the Palestinian’s in Gaza who are constantly on my mind these days. I certainly could not counsel them to lie down and die and submit to continued abuse and occupation. The problem is that the Zionist leaders within Israel do not want peace. They only want complete control and complete submission and preservation of the hegemony of their sovereign state without a second thought for the rights of Palestinian’s.

    Sorry for getting off topic. Thanks again for the post.

  5. You’re right Teryl. Outside of the strength an experience of being a forgiven victimizer, or the strength of a model, that is, a devotion to a Gandhi figure, or perhaps an aquired embrace of nonviolence by way of a relatively privileged peaceful life, it is irresponsible to suggest “cheek turning.”

    Those, like so many of the Gaza people, who all their lives have had only violence directed at them, who have never known liberty, cannot be asked or expected to do anyting other than defend themselves with force.

    Might there rise a Palestinian Gandhi or King? It’s not outside the realm of possibility. But in the mean time, it is up to me (us) who can “afford” to act and protest nonviolently, to do so.

  6. Bingo Teryl, with “the victim sees the weakness and the fear in the person or the group that has hurt them and in this way maybe they can forgive?” Forgiveness is understanding the weakness behind the behaviour, but it doesn’t mean pretending you haven’t been hurt, or that the hurt is gone when it isn’t, or that you’ve forgotten, or that you’d willingly to put yourself in the perpetrators path again, or that you’d sit in the same room and smile and pretend it’s all okay…and that is exactly what far too many Christians ask of the victim. Forgiveness means understanding the fear behind the behaviour, but doesn’t involve white-washing of the truth. Nor does it mean not venting our feelings, or venting in whispers only.

    As a kindred spirit said to me today, in response to my suggestion that I was a tad bitter, “bitterness is just a complicated flavour when it’s coupled with insight, humour, and forgiveness. Like fine, fine chocolate.”

  7. Craig: What do I seek? That invitation to rest becoming reality for the desperately hungry, sad, terrified, angry, driven, paralized, addicted, sick and in a million other ways marginalized. They’re seeking it, don’t kid yourself. What would I be willing to give up for it? Not much, anymore. I found a greater measure of rest in leaving promises like that behind, in accepting that rest is, for too many and too often, elusive, no matter how unjust, or how much some of us are willing to give up for it. (Jaded, I know, and I’m sorry!)

  8. ‘rag-tagging along’

    a moving metaphor concluding a moving confession of faith

    I’m happy to be rag-tagging along with the likes of you

    thanks for this post and so many more that go unacknowledged

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