This I Believe

Barbara - Junction City, Oregon
Entered on July 15, 2007

This I Believe

I believe there are never any winners in the battle over God.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend two weeks traveling in Turkey, that beautiful, fragile country that seems to offer a microcosm for the world—in its landscape, its architecture, its culture and its history. I found myself immersed in antiquity where the battle over God has played out for thousands of years. Even before Greco-Roman times, people adopted a faith and its practices, only to find themselves over-run by others, who wanted their land and brought, by force, their God. The roots of such battles run deep and are entrenched and entangled. The battles continue even now.

It was in this setting that I came to a new and deep resolve to stand in my faith and act from that faith without defenses– refusing to participate in any war over God—whether it be a war with weapons or a war of words. I see that nothing about my life as a Christian requires me to persuade you or defend myself or win anything. It is clear to me now that all such efforts never move us forward, but leave us wounded instead, with great divides that take generations to heal.

As I keep revisiting my understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus, I see this is how he lived. He cared for people and taught about the love of God. He did not argue or try to convince anyone of anything. He did not try to prove that he was right or best or even a little better than anyone else. He simply loved others without conditions. He did not run nor did he fight when facing danger or the threat of death. When no other action was possible, he simply stood in the love of God. In these ways, I want to follow Jesus.

This is, however, much harder than I expected. In Turkey, I saw several Mosques that were once churches and I felt a cry rise in me that said, “These places belong to MY faith!” Such feelings are battle cries!! I also felt the shame and grief of standing in grand places like the Haiga Sophia– where centuries ago, Christians demolished a goddess temple in order to erect a cathedral (which later became a mosque and is now a museum). I see now that in order for me to end my part in this long-held pattern of battle, I have to be clear about the teachings and practices that ground my path as a Christian. AND, I see that when I simply love, having nothing to defend or prove, I can open my mind and heart and listen with genuine appreciation to others—to those whom history has taught me to hold as my enemy.

I have been, in ways great and small, a foot soldier in the battle over God. I now seek sincerely to be a conscientious objector.