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What should I do about faith?

Question & Answer

 

Q: By A Reader

Not long ago I discovered the facts provided by Rev. Spong about the Bible being interpreted in its correct historical context. It was information that I knew was the vital missing piece to my faith that I didn’t know how to find until that point. I had been trying for years to find the facts and he provided them in an accessible way besides going to a seminary school. It felt like I had been starving and finally found food. Also I understand his call to not abandon faith, but to see it in a new light. However this is easier said than done. I don’t feel too comfortable in Episcopalian services because it feels like that same old, literal view again being pushed onto the parishioners. I don’t know what my faith can be anymore and a part of me wants to give up. In the past I was constantly praying, going to church, and made faith a cornerstone of my life. Now I don’t know what to call myself, if anything, because I’m not sure what Jesus is besides a kind Jewish rabbi who was impactful to a group of Jews who wrote his life as propaganda to support their cause to add him to the list of prophets like Moses and Elijah. Should I look into Unitarian churches? I don’t know what to do. Thank you for your time.

A: By Rev. Aurelia Dávila Pratt

Dear Reader,

Reading your question, I am filled with compassion for you because the nature of your faith has shifted significantly. First, you must allow yourself space to grieve the certainties you have lost. This acknowledgment of grief is as important as any spiritual practice. But take heart! You have gained much by choosing to take hold of the reigns in your faith journey.

I can remember having similar questions about faith in my first semester of seminary.  All the new information overwhelmed me, especially with regards to the Bible and its historical context. I felt like I was being tossed about in an ocean of doubt. Every new piece of knowledge was like another wave crashing over me. Meanwhile, my faith floated further and further away.

In these moments, I would remind myself that I had traded certainty for freedom, but living into this freedom took years of work and still requires continuous upkeep. It requires a non-dualistic mind, and a lifetime of wrestling. This is the life of faith: it is allowing facts, doctrine, and interpretations to inform your inner work, but ultimately learning to trust your own instincts. It is learning to embody the belief of imago dei: that you are made in the image of God and the Spirit of God dwells within you. This means you not only have permission, but it is absolutely essential to become well-practiced in listening to your Spirit. No mentor, podcast, pastor, or book can do this for you. It is the road less traveled to be sure!

Personally, two things have helped me along the way: going back and going forward. First, I have had to go back and reclaim the faith of my childhood. This is not to be confused with the faith I had at the start of seminary. I am talking about the mystical, wonder-filled, imaginative faith of my child-self, before all the indoctrination. I believe this is the posture Jesus was speaking of when he told us to be like little children. Going back to this place requires a lot of unlearning and deconstruction, but it also means we get to reimagine and create anew.

I have also needed to move forward by finding community who engages faith in a way similar to me. I cannot learn to trust myself if I lack the safe environment to do the hard work involved and the people who are committed to this work. One reality resulting from COVID-19 is that a lot of churches have moved online, making the possibility of finding this kind of community more accessible. Our church has, and you are always invited to come find us on social media if you need more support on your journey.

Finally, please take this as less of an “answer” and more of a “response.” It’s difficult to not get the answers we seek, but I take comfort in Jesus, who often answered questions with a question. It was as if he knew the life of faith couldn’t be sold so short as an easy answer. This is the kind of truth I wish to be held in. It’s not certain, but it’s free. It’s hard as hell, but it’s so, so good. I pray the same can be true for you in time. Blessings on your journey.

~ Rev. Aurelia Dávila Pratt

About the Author
Rev. Aurelia Dávila Pratt
 is the Lead Pastor and a founder of Peace of Christ Church. She is a licensed Master of Social Work and sits on the Board of Advocates for the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. Aurelia is President of the board for the Nevertheless, She Preached conference and co-chair of the Religious Liberty Council for the Baptist Joint Committee. You can follow her on Instagram @revaureliajoy to keep up with her sermons and writings at the intersection of justice and theology.

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