January 5, 2013 in City

Beliefs best explored with a healthy respect

Paul Graves
 
About this column

Three times a month, community columnists weigh in on matters of faith and values. The Faith and Values column features artist Donald Clegg, of Spokane, retired Methodist minister Paul Graves, of Sandpoint, and Steve Massey, a pastor from Hayden.

What would you do if you came upon a hummingbird with its beak stuck in the thin wooden veneer of a door? That was exactly the dilemma faced by Philip Gulley one day. He tells about it in his thoughtful, respectful book, “The Evolution of Faith.”

He carefully pulled the bird free and gently held it in his hand as it recovered. His wife took her turn holding the bird tenderly until it stirred. Then it flew away.

Gulley reflects: “I’ve often thought revelations and insights about God (and religion) ought to be handled much the same way, loosely and softly so as not to smother or harm them.” I feel the same way. I hope to deliver that careful touch in my 2013 columns.

But first, a few guidelines that I will extend to you and trust you will extend them to me: Respect and humility. Sadly, I find they are not always easy guidelines for us to embrace. I will respect your right to believe as you believe. Please respect my right to do the same.

I will recognize that “my way” is not the only way, because God and how we experience God are so complex and, well, mysterious. I hope you can do the same. Remember: Not all the God-questions have even been asked, let alone answered.

This is primarily how I want to communicate with you in 2013. What I write will hopefully push us all to consider that our perceptions of God and things religious are best explored in both/and terms, not either/or terms.

One word that describes either/or thinking is “dualism” – where the universe is dominated by the opposing principles of good or evil, where humanity is seen only in terms of body or spirit.

In today’s highly contentious religious climate, I tend to spell the word “duelism.” It’s like we duel to defend our positions rather than discuss our opinions.

I will explore a few of the more obvious religious perceptions and beliefs in more-inclusive terms than many of us ordinarily use to embrace them. My premise: There is more to (fill-in-the-blank) than we usually settle for.

These are spirit-questions outside the ortho-box. So if you stay with me, expect to go beyond “orthodox” (correct) thinking to consider other views.

Part of communicating with you – and to you – about spirit-questions outside the ortho-box is to hear from you. If you have questions of your own you hope I will touch on, please write to me. If you have insights on a topic I wrote on, please let me know.

If we write each other with respect and humility, I think we can have a fruitful conversation. It’s all I ask.

For now, in the word limit I have for today, I want to introduce next month’s “simple” topic: There is more to God than we usually settle for. We won’t get far in 600 words – or even 600 pages if I had that luxury!

I suspect the images we have for God are too plentiful to count. But seemingly, the two most spoken of are of a fearful, angry God and a loving, compassionate God. I also see people who deny the angry God with their words but who aren’t ready to let go of that image even as they yearn for the loving God in their lives.

People who reject God as a concept, even as a reality, usually talk of that angry God or an impotent God who can’t stop disasters like the horrible Sandy Hook school shooting.

So where do we begin? Find out in February.

The Rev. Paul Graves is the founder of Elder Advocates. He can be contacted at welhouse@nctv.com.

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