This I believe…
that we find our way when we speak our belief–our credo–out loud, in community.
When I was a kid I was a Girl Scout. At the close of each meeting we stood in a circle facing one another, raised three fingers of our right hands, and said, “On my honor, I will try to do my duty to God and my country; to help other people at all times and to obey the Girl Scout Law.” We repeated this ritual week after week until the difference between right and wrong wasn’t so fuzzy any more. Then, just for reinforcement, we sang it:
Girl Scouts together, that is our song,
Winding the old trails, rocky and long
Learning our motto, living our creed,
Girl Scouts together in every good deed.
Likewise, my brother recited The Boy Scout Law around a ceremonial campfire with an imposing Indian totem pole at the head. Who would dare violate the oath with that spectre staring down at them? When my sons came of age, I suggested that they join the Boy Scouts. Nah, they weren’t interested, they said. So, being the free-thinking progressive that I am, I regret that I let it drop. Not that they’re criminals, of course. They’ve grown into fine young men. But when they hit hard times and moral dilemmas, where will they turn for that concise, collected statement of values? I think the ritual, shared with one’s peers, cements the bond to the belief and would enrich all young people.
Although I’ve never been present at the hangouts of youth gangs, I imagine they take an oath of loyalty to their group and their motto, too, but with a far more perverse outcome. It might be a good idea for parents to provide a credo of goodness before kids are hit with the increasingly confusing messages aimed at adolescents.
At my church we recite the Nicene Creed every week to get our heads all on the same page before receiving communion. My understanding of these ancient words has evolved over time. For some years I rattled it off without fully taking in the depth of Christian belief that it outlines. Then came the years of doubt. (What, he really was born of a virgin and rose to life after he was crucified?) It wasn’t until I joined the choir and had to sit up front in the chancel week after week that the Creed gradually took root and became part of the very fiber of my heart and mind. I came to believe every word of it. (After all, this story is so preposterous that nobody could just make it up. Therefore, I reasoned, it must be true.)
As our nation has prospered and made efforts to include sectors of the society whose basic rights were being ignored, believing has become complicated. If we could all just come together on the basics of what gives our lives purpose, we might find the peace and freedom that we all desire.
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