A congregant came to me today stating they were experiencing a crisis of faith. A good conversation followed. Without going into to the details one of the comments in the conversation referred to the various doctrines that are out there. Who is right? Who is wrong? Each claim to have the correct doctrine. What is one to believe? What if they are right and we are wrong?
Unitarian Universalism is a creedless faith. We do not claim that one doctrine is the correct one above all else. Instead we covenant to support one another in the living of the question, to support each other in their quest for meaning and truth. The question will always be asked. It might be a different question that arises but a question will always be asked. A crisis in faith will always occur at some point in our lives.
Jesus was once asked the question what was the greatest commandment. He answered according to the Christian scriptures,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37-39 NIV)
The rest as another wise rabbi once stated is commentary. Now Unitarian Universalists may have a hard time with the phrase “the Lord your God.” But if we consider what is being stated with this phrase is not just a divine entity who rules over all of creation with a firm and heavy hand but rather that which is ultimate, that which is the greatest good, that which is worthy of our devotion, that which is honorable, that which is just; then the phrase “the Lord your God” takes on a different connotation. To live our lives with that level of passion in what we do is a transformative act. It will shape everything we do with our lives in the here and now.
The rest indeed becomes commentary. It no longer matters if I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, died on the cross for my sins, or even if he rose again from the dead. Nor does it matter if I believe that God is One or if God is three in one or if there are many Gods. Nor does it matter if I believe in reincarnation or if this is the only life I live. The doctrines becomes commentary.
The essence of all religions using slightly different words perhaps boil down to these two commandments. For the Buddhist, for example, it is to be mindful in all things; to be awake to this present moment. When we are awake in the Buddhist sense then we are engaging our whole heart, mind, and soul.
How one goes about living their life in this manner is open for debate. For some it may be by embracing Christianity. For another it may be in embracing Buddhism or Islam, or Hinduism, or Wicca. But to do so with passion, with ones whole being is to love the Lord your God with ones whole self. To express this love to others is the second part of this mystery.
I told this person a bit of my own travel through crises of faith. When I was still a conservative Christian and still in the closet, I worked with people living with AIDS. There was one man who I would visit and bring dinners to him almost every night. He had been excommunicated from his church and from his family, except two of his 13 siblings, because he had HIV/AIDS . The church believed that this meant he wasn’t sincere in his repentance because if he had been, then he would not experience this dreadful disease.
Our doctrines sometimes narrows our lives rather than expand them. Our doctrines should expand our understandings of love and not narrow them.
Anyway, I would visit this man who had become bed bound. This was in the days when hospices would not accept HIV/AIDS patients and he was not so sick that he needed hospitalization. So he only had these two siblings who would visit and several volunteers. This one night, I brought dinner over. He was asleep. So I decided to stay and sit with him and pray. As I was praying, I looked over at him and in the dim light of the room, I saw in that bed not Jesse (name changed) but rather Jesus lying there. Or what I would have thought Jesus would look like lying there.
I was entering a crisis of faith as I was beginning to wrestle with my identity as a gay man. Here before me was another gay man who appeared to me as Jesus to me at that particular moment. How do I love someone who is gay and the antithesis of the doctrines I embraced? How do I love myself enough to be able to love another? How do I reconcile the doctrine with my experiences? The answer in that moment seemed so simple.
To see everyone as worthy of devotion, worthy of love, worthy of service, worthy of life. It was shortly there after and a few more eye-opening experiences that I came out of the closet. And entered another crisis of faith with my Christian community regarding what I was finding true and what they taught as true.
There will probably always be a crisis of faith that will release new questions and new wonderings about the nature of this world. But I believe if I hold to the standard of loving the utmost highest good with my whole heart, mind, and soul then the rest will be commentary.