A fellow progressive pilgrim, Shirley Lundin, recently reminded me of a column I wrote some years back stating my personal credo (literally, “I believe”). Asking “What do I believe?” is a good exercise, not just for ourselves but to pass on to others — what you actually believe, that is, as opposed to what a particular religion tells us we have to believe in order to maintain our membership creed-entials.
I’ve never liked the various creeds of the Catholic Church, my faith community of origin — the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the current Latinate bastardization, which tells us that Jesus was “consubstantial” with God, whatever that means, and that Jesus wasn’t “born” but “incarnate of” Mary: the wording of bureaucratic dweebs.
But my main complaint is that, incomprehensibly, the word “love” appears nowhere in their statement of beliefs even though the very essence of Christianity is love, the two greatest commandments being love God with your whole heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
In the Unitarian/Universalist “covenant,” meanwhile — their version of a “creed” — which is read aloud each Sunday at Unity Temple, love is word one.
“Love is the doctrine of this congregation, the quest for truth is its sacrament, and service is its prayer. To dwell together in peace, to seek knowledge in freedom, to serve humanity in fellowship, to the end that all souls shall grow into harmony with the divine, thus do we covenant with each other and with God.” Personally, I would make it “service is its sacrament and the quest for truth is its prayer,” but then I’m a quibbler.
The point is they get right to the point and give “love” the immediacy and prominence it deserves in a statement of any faith community’s beliefs. Because without love, you don’t really have a religion at all. Catholics need to ask themselves why the word “love” fails to appear in their creed. It’s a much better word than “consubstantial.”
Anyway, Shirley, who happens to be a Unitarian, said she saved my personal creed and still looks at it from time to time. Which is a great honor.
So I decided to go back and look at it myself. Here’s an updated version of what I wrote on Aug. 17, 2005 (beliefs, after all, should evolve and the wording refined) though most of it still holds true:
- I believe we are never alone.
- I believe that God is the Great Mystery, whom I think of as love personified and love magnified, beyond my poor powers presently to comprehend the entirety of what it means to love.
- I believe that science and religion are necessary partners in probing that Great Mystery.
- I believe that if the Great Mystery requires anything of us, it is not worship, praise or devotion, but “to love and be loved in return” as the song (“Nature Boy”) puts it.
- I believe when two people love one another, the divine presence is felt. In other words, where love is, there God is also.
- I believe human beings are only beginning to tap the awesome power of love.
- I believe loving one another better is the challenge and purpose of our existence and what creates meaning in our lives.
- I believe that life is good and a great gift and worth living.
- I believe that human beings are inherently good and capable of greatness — individually and collectively.
- I believe all human beings are redeemable, however damaged they might be by their own choices, life’s circumstances, or heredity.
- I believe our true nature is compassionate, and unhappiness comes from denying our true nature.
- I believe when we finally achieve universal compassion, humanity will take the next step on our evolutionary journey.
- I believe all of life is linked in a way we don’t fully understand and that our experience of ourselves as separate entities is an illusion.
- I believe the more disconnected and isolated we are, the unhappier we become.
- I believe each of us, figuratively speaking, is a bottomless well that connects with the deep stream of collective consciousness — which could also be called “living water.”
- I believe we reconnect with this life source momentarily through our dreams — and ultimately through death.
- I believe that this collective consciousness is what we call the afterlife.
- I believe Earth is the Garden of Eden, that I am one of its gardeners, and it is my moral responsibility to tend this garden.
- I believe that humanity will eventually leave Earth and, looking back from space, will more fully comprehend the fragility and sanctity of life.
- I believe we are capable of happiness, which is not a state of perpetual bliss but a series of pearl-like moments.
- I believe that without equality, there is no justice.
- I believe that without truth, there is no beauty.
- I believe the soul is our sixth sense, which detects what is beautiful and therefore true.
- I believe that what we call “extra-sensory perception” resides in the realm of the soul.
- I believe the measure of any religion is how well it facilitates its adherents’ spiritual growth.
- I believe that, in order to grow spiritually, I need to pursue the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom more than power, pleasure or material possessions.
- I believe humanity’s spiritual childhood is coming to an end and that we need to regard ourselves as apprentices of divinity and someday as partners in divinity.
- I believe humanity’s spiritual journey is just beginning.
We believe a lot of things that we may not even be aware of, but making our beliefs conscious, they become more real and allow us to examine them, challenge them and refine them so they can more effectively serve as a guide.
I believe writing your credo is a worthwhile exercise.