There was a time in the history of the church that it was understood that first you believed, and then you belonged. But that simply isn’t true for today’s mainline Christian churches. Now, you bring all your doubts and questions with you and still belong, just the way you are.
In fact, in my denomination, the United Church of Canada, it is unlikely you will ever hear someone tell you the church has all the answers for you. Our job as church-goers is not to find definitive answers, but rather to journey together and help each other live into our questions. Church gives us a safe space to share our doubts.
In case you are concerned about how God (assuming you do at least sort of believe there is one) will respond to you and your mixed feelings, you should know that many before you have had similar worries.
There is a lovely story about Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, in which the disciples brought him a boy with epilepsy for healing. Jesus said, “All things can be done for the one who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And Jesus healed the child.
Another thing to consider about whether your unbelief is a barrier to joining a faith community is to ask what role doubt plays in your other relationships. Do you have any other relationships that are completely doubt free? Maybe in terms of the reliability of the other person or maybe in your own ability to always understand them?
As I said in my last column, the universe points to God as being fundamentally about relationship. Relationships are always works in progress. If you wait until everything is perfect to even begin a relationship, you will never get anywhere as a human being.
So, I encourage you to let go of that perfectionism. Let go of the idea that there is a giant single “truth” that you must learn before you can start on a life of exploring your faith. Let’s release our past expectations about believing, and learn, explore and grow together, finding ways to share light and love in the world.
Let’s be the church together, doubts and all!
Robin Murray is pastor of Castlegar United Church