Christianity and beliefs

Rather than replying to the previous comments on the previous post, I just took the time to write a follow up entry.

This part is a bit of a refresher.
For as many generations, Christianity functioned as a religion in which you first believed, then you learned to behave and then you became a Christian (belonged). This three-fold sequence of believing, behaving and belonging is still how much of Christianity functions today. You can find a number of church websites with a link to explain what they believe so you know right away what that "entire" community believes. If you are kosher with the beliefs then you learn to behave in the community. You learn when to worship and when to be in small group you learn what imaged to use for God and what ways to behave among one another. Finally, when you have all that in order you are counted as one who belonged to the community.

Recently the conversation has turned to invert this process. That is to create Christian community is to first create places where people belong, then as a member of the community they we learn to behave together then we get to the stuff about beliefs. This comes from Diana Butler Bass who said that if she were to join a knitting in order to learn to knit, the first thing she would do is walk into that group and belong. The group does not ask her about her thoughts on knitting philosophy, but they teach her how to knit. Finally, after time has passed, she will develop her own thoughts, which have been informed by the community, on what she holds has her beliefs on knitting.

Not only am I advocating that we need to invert the sequence of believe-behave-belong but it has been my experience that when that sequence is inverted that by the time we get to the third phase of "believing", the specifics beliefs/dogma/orthodoxy matter very little. I have friends that I would go through hell and back with because we are that close but when it comes to beliefs we could not be farther apart on a number of issues. I would be willing to be most people have someone in their lives who they belong to but have disagree about beliefs but continue to remain friends. Because the relationship is greater than anything.

If Christianity is a religion that is about relationships, then relationships are what we work at getting "right". Unlike almost every other outlet in our world, Christianity is a movement that says it is more important that we belong to one another as children of God than what we believe. It is vital to the God's vision for the world that we are in relationship with one another, because a person is more important that a set of beliefs.

Richard Rohr's book Falling Upward I think is helpful here. Rohr argues there are two stages in life and:

"when you are young, you define yourself by differentiating yourself; now you look for the things we all share in common. You find happiness in alikeness, which has become much more obvious to you now; and you do not need to dwell on the differences between people or exaggerate the problems."

Rohr goes on to say:

"In the second half of life, we do not have strong and final opinions about everything, every event, or most people, as much as we allow things and people to delight us, sadden us, and truly influence us. We no longer need to change or adjust other people to be happy ourselves. Ironically, we are more than ever before in a position to change people—but we do not need to—and that makes all the difference."

When we discover that Christianity is less about beliefs and more about relationship then we are moving into the second stage of life Rohr writes about. If pressed to express my "beliefs" it would be this: The Biblical witness and the message of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit is clear - God changes the world by establishing relationships built around shared trust rather than shared beliefs. This is the Way of Christ.