Humans have this need to summarize and simplify our belief system. When you ask people what they believe in, at the core of their being, you get very concise answers. You hear things like God, Jesus, Energy, Love, Peace, Being Good, The Universe, Nirvana etc. Of course, when you unpack those terms, they come completely loaded with nuance and hidden agendas and hopes. But at a surface level it is helpful to see where people are at. Why is it that no one answers this question with Evil, Satan, Hate, Destruction? There is something interesting in the fact that people’s core beliefs are always summarized in some sort of positive term. (This isn’t to say that some people’s answers might be pleasure, or power – which opens up another can of words – but rarely do you hear people express that).
There is also something interesting in the Christian response to some of these terms. Christian’s have always been repulsed by this idea of “being a good person.” We have this convoluted theology about salvation not through works, and so the idea of an atheist or non-Christian saying to just be a good person, or that being a good person is at the core of their being, or being a good person will get you to heaven is like the worst thing you can say to us. Which is just ridiculous. As if being a good person is a bad thing or something.
Jesus was asked this question too. What do you believe? What is at the core of all this stuff you are talking about? How would you describe this faith? He answered – Love God and Love Others. Thank goodness he didn’t answer with “the bible” – what a nightmare that would be right? If an entire religion was based on 66 books that were written over the course of thousands of years! Can you imagine? I’m really thankful I’m part of a religion that believes that loving God and loving others is the only important thing to do.
I was asked the other day if I was a Christian. I said yes. And then the conversation progressed. As it did, I realized that by saying yes to that question I was actually saying yes to a whole lot of assumptions about what that meant. Theology about salvation, heaven and hell, sexuality and the list goes on. So I had to keep saying “well I’m not that kind of Christian.” The complexity of a label tied to a religion with that much history is just awful. No wonder people don’t use them anymore. It’s no wonder that Jesus didn’t answer with long winded theological rants and refused to use labels to define the foundation of his belief system. By the end of the conversation I just had to say – OK, well maybe I’m not a Christian, but I just want to be a person of love, and continue to grow and improve in that. If that doesn’t make me a Christian, then I guess I’m not one.
When we get way to deep into our dogmas and religions we forget about where everything starts. Then we actually ridicule and look down upon simplistic understandings. It would be common to hear a religious person get frustrated in a conversation and lash out that “you need more than just love!” I’ve been called a hippy with a simplistic understanding of faith many times.
But this is sort of what Jesus did. He just simplified everything to two basic things. Just love people. So then why in the world do Christians get all hot and bothered at other people’s simplistic versions of their faith? What is wrong with saying just be a good person – that is my mantra. What is wrong with saying that being in tune with the universe is the core of their belief system? Nothing. Nothing is wrong with it. Being a good person is a good thing! It fits quite well with loving people, so why would I ever criticize that? Complicated religions of theology and dogma are exhausting and don’t help anyone. True, mature and healthy faith is one that can be simplified down to the bones and remove all the exceptions and footnotes.
Turns out, that most of us are the same. We long for the same things. Our simple answers are a sign of maturity, not a shrugging off of the important things of life. Simplicity of faith and thought is much harder work and should be affirmed wherever we see it.