Bring Your Brain To Church
Originally published in the Katy Trail Weekly on October 12
For many people who wish to participate in faith communities, one of the most significant stumbling blocks is often the lack of intellectual rigor. To be a part of many churches, faithful members often feel as though they have to check their brains at the door. This certainly does not mean that faith practices in those churches aren’t rigorous, but in conversations with those I meet around the city, many find that critical thought is ignored.
The Bible forms the foundation of my way of life. But I believe the Bible should be interpreted. A literal understanding of the Bible is problematic for many reasons. The Bible is a group of books gathered together to tell the story of humanity’s experience of God throughout centuries. Yet in recent history, the incredible, true story the Bible tells has been reduced to a litmus test of literalism for anyone wishing to find and follow God, and that misses the point. The Bible is the story of humanity’s experience of God and was never intended to be scientific or literal.
As a Christian, I choose to seek and follow Jesus Christ and to be transformed by God’s way of love. This way of life helps me answer the questions of why we are here and how we are to live. This goes hand-in-hand with the intellectual discoveries that help us know how the world works, the essence of science. Both can be spiritual experiences, and both help us achieve our created purpose.
Churches should not ask you to ignore what you learn in the world, but allow our knowledge of the world to teach us more about God’s reality. It’s the rare person who hasn’t considered the fundamental conflicts between our intellectual experience of the world and the teachings of many religious groups. These stories of the Bible are true, but some are not historic. In other words, the stories communicate a deep truth about God, about us and about our world, but they are not meant to be a replacement for intellectualism. Yes, God is the creator who loves us and loves us enough to give us the gift of curiosity and discovery, including the scientific way our world functions.
Whenever I teach or preach, I often have the opportunity to place our sacred scriptures into historic and cultural context. Just as disciples have done since the very beginning, churches should take the old stories, in context, and apply them to our current day in ways that make sense and can be applied to our lives. Time and time again, as members and friends of Saint Michael and All Angels hear the sacred scriptures interpreted in context, they respond with such energy!
I believe in God’s continued participation in the world. Although the Bible is part of God’s story, this story continues to be revealed to us in and through our churches and we need our hearts and minds to remain open to that revelation. Our world has changed and continues to change, and so should our church. That change can scare us, especially those who are grounded in specific traditions that seem fixed. Yet God is alive, God’s story is true and God wants us to be part of that story that continues to transform our world.
When we gather to worship, we should be reminded of our sacred opportunity to witness to the love that passes all understanding. We should be reminded that through our own transformation, we can help transform the world for good. God loves you, no exceptions. And if you don’t know that, or your church doesn’t believe that, then find a church that does. We need to be reminded of that truth every day, and reminding us of that truth is what a church should do best.
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