Why Are You Doing This?

Welcome!  If you are here for the first time, I hope you keep coming back and engaging with me on this journey of mine to become a Theologian.

I suppose that one could have stranger desires than to become a Theologian at mid-life (although, if you have a few weirder examples, I am always open to hearing them).  The fact is that I have always wanted to so this, even as a little girl.  But in the 1960s and 70s, when I was young, little Colored girls (yes, we were “colored” then) did not routinely grow up to be Theologians.  Ironically, however, I had a Grandfather that actually WAS a Yale-educated Theologian, and while that was rare enough, it never occurred to anyone to really encourage me to become what I said I wanted to BE.

Now, I don’t blame any of my family for not encouraging me.  One of the things you realize as you get older is that it makes little sense nor a great deal of difference to try to hold the people in your past responsible for the ideas and possibilities in the present…it is a losing proposition, to say the least.  Ultimately, I made the decision for the academic and professional choices I made, and I have few, if any regrets.  I became an Educator, and have spent the better part of 30 years learning, teaching, and in the organization educational programs, especially for those who are most vulnerable:  The poor, people of color, immigrants, folks in Appalachia.  I have earned advanced degrees both in the US and overseas.  I speak several languages.  I have been married (twice), divorced, (twice), and I am a Mother of a wonderful teenager whom I love.  I live in West Virginia, on top of an amazing mountain. I work for a great group of people in a nonprofit affiliated with a trade association, and I do work that I believe in, and that makes me quite proud.  So, at 53 years old, I have a great life.

Why, again, would I want to change all of this and become a Theologian?

Because that is what I feel I need to do with the last third of my life, that’s why!  The discussion around and expression of faiths, the hopes and loves of people on this planet moves me in ways that I cannot adequately describe.  When I see people in the process of their deeply held faith traditions, actively living what they believe, I am profoundly impacted.  I have seen this not just in my own life, but in the lives of people I have known, and those that I do not know.  I have seen faith be a force for good and positive change in the world.  I have seen people’s hopes be bolstered by what they believe, one augmenting the other in a positive cycle of support, and I have seen love (for self, for others, for the planet, etc.) expand as the person expands.  This is an amazing sight to behold, and I am fortunate to have been able to witness it, many times and in countless ways.

I have also witnessed the dark side of faith.  I have seen destructive religious beliefs break down the very fabric of a persons soul.  I have seen groups of people, in the name of their god and under the guise of their beliefs, wantonly maim and kill other human beings for no other reason than the fact that these “other” people were not “them” and did not believe as they did.  I have seen faith traditions grind into dust the humanity of (heretofore) good people, and make them into bitter non-believers who have no faith in anything or anyone anymore.  I have also seen these people, with the weeping scars of their own faith journeys still raw, actively persecute others who have done them no harm.

In short, I have witnessed faith used as a force for good, and as a tool of evil.

It is my sincere believe that there is no other issue in our global trajectory more important that the issue of faith in every day life.  It is more important that equality; more important than natural resources; more important than justice or nearly anything else.  Why is this?  Because faith informs how we ACT (or fail to act).  This does not mean that one has a have a religious believe to comport one’s self well (or not).  It means that what one believes about themselves and the world is often the way one exists in the world.  Thus, in this case, you should interpret the word “faith” for “belief”.  If you believe that people are inherently good, and that their goodness shows up more reliably than anything else, you are more likely to act this way yourself.  There is an abundance of “goodness” in the world, and you actively seek to tap into that.

If, however, you don’t perceive the world and its’ inhabitants as inherently good, you  are more likely to act upon THAT assumption, too.  This doesn’t mean that you will act “badly”, but perhaps your expectation may not be that of being the recipient of “goodness”, and this influences your interpretations and actions in the world.

Now, none of this is written in stone, nor is it given to be an “all or nothing” proposition.  But the role of faith in societies has always been that of a moderator, a mediator, an imprimatur, and a generator.  By this, I mean that faith can and does act as a CONDUCTOR of human lives (a Moderator); a FACILITATOR of those same lives (a Mediator); a PERMISSION-GRANTOR within society (an Imprimatur), and/or an ENGINE of societies (a Generator).  Even the absence of a faith tradition can tend to define individuals and entire societies as being “NOT-them” (that believe x).  I find this really  fascinating.  There are few other self-described orientations I know of that describe themselves as being not-x the way those who do NOT believe in a god or gods do (Atheism).  I mean, is there a word for being not-American?  What about a word for being not-tall, or not-hungry?  (Contrary to popular belief, not-tall is not always short, and not-hungry isn’t always full).

But in our way of understanding faith, there is belief and dis-belief (although I would assert that there is not-belief, too).  There is, of course, “sort-of-belief”, but even this is fraught with no set definition.

So, I am completely enraptured (pardon the pun) with faiths…the belief in something, and even the not-belief (which is different from dis-belief).  I have no quarrel either way with anyone.  I am simply an observer of these phenomena, and perhaps a chronicler of same, but I am not here to advocate for one belief over another, even given my own beliefs (and yes, I do have them.  Check out the page called “Credo” for more on that.)  Many of my co-believers get miffed at me for not being a better proselytizer.  Frankly, I could not care less what anyone believes or doesn’t believe.  I only care what I believe, and that is a full-time job…as long as the faith of others does not impede me, it makes no difference to me.

So, know you know more about me, and why I want to be a Theologian.  I hope we can engage (peacefully) on the concept of belief in a way that informs us all.  Looking forward to the dialogue…

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