Deconstruct or construct?

It was torn down in less than four hours. The nearly brand-new home on the corner where River Road weaves its way towards the booming metropolis that is Freeport, just outside of town, the house that took contractors seemingly forever to build just two years ago, was there when I left in the morning and only a hole in the ground by lunchtime when I passed by again.
 
And so it goes. It’s easier to deconstruct things than it is to construct.   The same goes for our faith. Like that house on the corner of our neighborhood, it’s much easier to deconstruct faith, bit by bit. It seems so much easier to talk about what we don’t believe than it is to say what we do believe.
 
I thought about this at a funeral recently. When the congregation began to recite the Apostles’ Creed, I laurafound myself wondering, “Do all these people in this room really believe this? Do I really believe this?”
 
Maybe you know the words of this or other creeds. Or maybe you’re like me and aren’t all that familiar or never memorized it. I am a product of my denomination, the United Church of Christ, and as such I tend to have to resistance to formal creeds. Maybe because I can’t say with honesty that I believe all of what they say or maybe because I’m inclined to edit each creed like a high school English paper, crossing out phrases with red pen and writing “word choice?!?” in the margins.
 
I’ve heard some folks talk about doing something similar when it comes to creeds. I’ve heard some folks express their hesitation at having to recite creeds and for other folks a downright hostility at being told they have to subscribe to any kind of particular belief.
 
I remember overhearing a conversation at coffee hour once. Someone new to the church I serve asked a long-timer, “What does the church believe?” And the long-timer gently laughed. “Oh,” she said, “we won’t tell you what you have to believe.”
 
And it’s true, mostly. We strive to be followers in the footsteps of Jesus for sure, but while other denominations have clear creeds, confessions of faith, and catechisms that tell people in detail what they should believe to be faithful members, the UCC does not. The UCC will not tell you what you have to believe. But it does ask you what you believe. AND the UCC expects you to live out what you believe.
 
In other words, it is understood that what you believe matters deeply because what you believe is the foundation of how you live and breathe and have your being in the world. Thus, it is not enough to simply recite or follow the words of others, nor is it enough to deconstruct faith or cross out lines in creeds. Instead, the task is much harder. People are invited and even expected to be in the construction business, and it is expected that what you believe and the way those beliefs sculpt your life be always under construction.
 
So the invitation offered here is this: carve out space and time for yourself and sketch out what it is you believe, what it is you have faith in, or what it is you trust. In churchy words, this is a time for you to wrestle with what lies at the core of your own faith and to write a statement of faith. The task is not to write a creed by which others will be tested but a statement of faith, a statement that reflects what you believe, today.
 
I think this is an important and life-giving exercise. For by writing out a statement of faith, you have the chance to wrestle with words and ideas and distill what it is you really believe at your core. With clarity about that, it’s easier to discern how your faith and your beliefs ought to sculpt your way of being and action in the world.
 
Laura Arnold, Pastor at Decorah Congregational UCC and Program Support/Adjunct for Iowa Conference Lay Education
 
For more history and background, visit http://www.ucc.org/beliefs
 
For the UCC’s Statement of Faith, http://www.ucc.org/beliefs_statement-of-faith
 
To learn more and view resources for teaching about the UCC’s tradition and our Statement of Faith UCC:http://www.ucc.org/exploring_ucc_polity.  Lesson is located in Part One.  “The Statement of Faith:  A Testimony, Not Test”

One comment on “Deconstruct or construct?

  1. Jonna Jensen on said:

    Amen and thank you, Sister Laura!

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