As you may have noticed, I think quite a lot about faith and how that relates to our lives as individuals and as a family. I don't write about it anywhere near as often as I think about it, but it does crop up from time to time.
I've been thinking about it a lot lately, as I've been trying to get my head and heart around certain things and I have been reading quite a bit too (whenever I've had the time). I've been wondering how to nurture faith in our family, especially in terms of introducing the idea of faith to Little Man and encouraging him to explore it in his own way.
I consider myself to be a Unitarian and as I wrote in this post, "The Unitarians believe you should actively seek your own experience and understanding of the Divine". But how do I do this with Little Man whilst he is so young? At this age they want clear and specific answers, not ones that ask them to consider deep thoughts they are unable to really comprehend right now.
But even more confusing is how do I explain to him that I read the Bible but that I interpret it in the way that I feel guided to inside my own heart which doesn't always tally up with the more typical interpretations? It makes using a devotional very challenging and so we haven't got any of those.
So I was really happy to find and read the book "What God Wants" by Neale Donald Walsch and find that it talked very deeply about what he calls "Separation Theology" (the theology that we are separate from God and one another and that there must be one true religion) and went into detail about how he feels a theology of Unity would work. After all, this is what Unitarian thinking is all about.
The following two quotations are ones that I want to keep in my mind and heart as I work on nurturing faith within myself and Little Man, and I hope you don't mind me sharing them.
"There is only one God. Whatever we think God is, most of the major religions of the world would agree: there is only One of That [...] From "There is only one God" to "There is only One Thing at all" is a small shift. It's not a rejection of doctrine, but an enlargement. It's not an abandonment of traditional religious teaching, but an expansion [...] This is not about rejecting religion. It is, in fact, about reinvigorating it, enlivening it, refreshing it." (Chapter 18)
"Humans will understand that God's words are found in all of the world's Holy Scriptures, and that no scripture is more authoritative, more complete, more accurate, or more authentic than any other, but that each contains great wisdom and each leads to a greater understanding of The Only Truth There Is" (Chapter 23)
These two verses speak to me so much and make me feel so much more at peace with how I approach the Bible and other sacred texts in a way that has previously been described by many as a "pick and mix" approach without much substance.
But nothing could be further from the truth, as I am constantly exploring God and my relationship with him. This is currently now being explored through another book I found at our local library, this time a Christian one, "What the Bible Really Teaches" by Keith Ward.
Although I have found the beginning of this book rather hard going, it is in fact helping me to explore things in ever more detail and depth and I do believe that even though a book may be hard to read, that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it!
The reason I find it so hard is that actually the author is rather forceful in his "challenge" to fundamentalist thinking and beliefs and though I completely agree with an awful lot of the points he makes, I don't appreciate the style and force behind his words. It was a fundamentalist style of Christianity that pushed me away and so it is good to read a book that focuses on it, but even so it could have been toned down (in my mind, at least).
That being said, I am enjoying reading his "six principles of biblical interpretation". These include:
The Principle of Contextualisation
"We cannot read a biblical passage as though it has just fallen out of the sky and was addressed to us personally. We have to try and see who wrote it, when, why and for whom".
"What the Bible really teaches is usually not very clear, and it is often widely misunderstood. In other words, what the Bible really teaches is not one thing, clearly stated, which it is faithless to doubt or deny"
The Principle of Comprehensiveness
"In reading any passage of the Bible, we must consider all relevant biblical material, and not take passages in isolaton and out of context".
These both make me want to explore the Bible in much more detail than I have in the past and work out what it meant to the people at the time and what it means to me now.
Essentially, these two books have made me feel more at ease with sharing parts of the Bible to introduce Little Man to God and faith and that it is okay to do this and share my own thoughts on what it all means, even if that isn't the mainstream intepretation. I was so worried that I might introduce something to Little Man and then him come across it again at school or something and find himself in a difficult situation if what I have shared with him is different to what is shared with him by another.
But isn't that the point? Faith is personal, I have always maintained that, and yet I worry so much about getting it wrong when trying to explain this to Little Man. I need to let go of some of that worry and trust that he will find his own way in his own time.
Thanks for letting me share this part of my heart with you today. I know that some of you may be very firm in your faith and the way you are raising your children and may find this slightly perplexing. Others of you may have no faith or be quite sincere atheists and may think I am mad for worrying so much about it. Either way, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts in the comment (as long as they are respectful and polite, of course!)