Two summers ago, I was looking for a new job. A position opened at a college in my region–a college with a reputation for its strong athletics, underground Christian parties, and service-minded interpretation of faith. I was not looking to work in any institution of faith, but I was interested in higher education and getting back into a classroom environment. So I applied.
In the application process, I had to submit a statement of faith. Which put me in at an ethical crossroads, or at least that’s what I felt. I really needed a job, and having grown up in a very religious home, attending a very religious high school, and spending countless hours of my childhood in youth group, I could write the shit out of a Protestant statement of faith. I could sell my faith hard and well.
But that would be a lie to my current self. And if you know me at all, you know lying is antithetical to who I am. Authenticity is one of my top three values consistently.
Instead of writing what I thought they likely wanted to hear, I wrote what was true. And today, I stumbled on that document, read it, and was so glad for the decision I made back in 2017.
I have a wonderful job that offers me immense purpose, opportunity, and challenge. I have a statement of faith that still rings true. Authenticity, in this case, wins the day.
Statement of Faith: July 13, 2017
My maternal grandfather was a Methodist pastor and my fraternal grandmother was known to witness to fellow long-haul truck drivers in every truck stop from Pennsylvania to California. My parents chose to homeschool me for four years and then send me to Lititz Christian School for my final high school years. I was on the Bible quiz team and a die-hard regular at youth group from grade six until graduation. My life was filled with Bible stories, Joshua Harris, Christian summer camps, and purity rings.
As an adult, I began to struggle with the black-and-white nature of the theology I had been trained to accept. The Roman road only takes you so far in a conversation with a new person, and my mission trips to Hungry put me face to face with those who I had labeled “unbelievers.” Their faces often smiled more than mine even as their life circumstances gave them less to smile about.
The church I attended was lovely. Had a nice coffee shop, beautiful building, great worship band. I loved volunteering in the nursery, and I interviewed one of the pastor’s for a graduate course project on organizational leadership. Yet, one Sunday every attendee was handed a piece of cloth infused with a heavy smoke. We were told to use this smell to remind us of our neighbors and friends who were headed for hell. This was supposed to motivate us to save them by inviting them to church.
That was my last Sunday attending church.
The legalism of my childhood church, the absolutism in the apologetics of my high school Bible class, and the focus on hell and damnation of my adult faith community had brought me to a place where I needed to make my faith my own and reject the dogmas that no longer served me.
I have spiritual guides in my life who are fierce believers and defenders of their faith—Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Melton Doyle, Rachel Held Evens. These women remind me that faith is more than dogma. It lives on in the Christ-like actions and choices we make on a daily basis. Faith is acknowledging that there is a bigger story than our own and a bigger story than we can ever fully know. Our job as humans is to pursue that story, deny our baser instincts, and take care of those around us as we do. True faith does not require you to shy away from tough questions, but instead dive in and rigorously seek truth. Truth can handle my questions. Christ can handle my doubts.
My statement of faith is this: I’m seeking to find and I know the door will always be open to me. I believe it is my job in life to defend the marginalized and serve those around me. I believe love is stronger than fear and Christ gives us the best example of how that can be actualized in our every day lives. I believe that my spirit is more valuable than my physical body, yet my body should be cared for as its vessel. I believe that all religions and faiths inform our understanding of the world.
I know this statement of faith is not neat or tidy, but it is authentic and true. I am a collection of my life’s learning and experiences.