What I believe

A little bit of backstory (over an imaginary cup of coffee):

My faith background is a little out of the ordinary: I grew up in a Reform Jewish home, in a conservative Christian town outside of Cleveland, Ohio. I didn’t have much of a religious upbringing, since there weren’t any Jewish youth groups or schools nearby. Consequently, God, as I understood him, just wasn’t personal enough to me.

From a young age, I had an interest in saints (Joan of Arc in particular) and church history. In time, I became attracted to the idea of God in the flesh; an all-powerful king who chose to be born into poverty (to a woman stigmatized by out-of-wedlock pregnancy, no less), and somehow managed to turn the world’s concept of justice upside down. The weak become strong; the powerful, weak.

It wasn’t until sophomore year of college that I “officially” became a Christian. Following graduation, I attended a conservative seminary for a master’s in divinity, which later got changed to biblical counseling. A subsequent faith crisis caused me to drop out after a year. That crisis only worsened when my father learned he was dying of cancer, and some of my Christian friends pressured me into making sure he was “saved” before he died. As you can expect, this caused a great deal of anxiety.

I started dealing with hard questions I never let myself contemplate before: what kind of God punishes people forever? How can that God still be considered “loving”? Is having “correct” theology more important than how you live your life?

The evangelical church groups I was involved in at the time did not respond well to these questions and doubts. I didn’t need answers so much as a safe place to ask these questions, without judgment or condemnation. I needed reassurance that my chronic uncertainty was okay.

During the summer in which I moved back with my parents to help care for my father in hospice, I sporadically attended synagogue with my mother, and realized that Judaism still had much to offer me – particularly when it comes to wrestling with doubt. The branch of Judaism I was raised in actually encourages questions, and wrestling with challenging biblical texts. It was this method of study that ended up saving my faith.

Once I permanently resided in Colorado, I discovered the Episcopal church, a denomination that mirrors the Jewish tradition of asking hard questions, and is similar in its liturgical patterns.

You can read more about this journey in my memoir, Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter.

On God: I affirm the Nicene Creed

On the Bible: I believe it is a collection of ancient writings, written by different people in different time periods, cultures, and circumstances, and reflects the history of God’s relationship with His people in addition to His plan of salvation. I don’t believe in inerrancy or a literal six-day creation. As an English major, I don’t believe that every story must be literally true in order to contain truth (a good example of this is the parables Jesus told).

From Genesis to Revelation, I believe the Bible has an arc that bends toward justice, which helps me reconcile some of the more disturbing parts of the Old Testament I’d rather not dwell on too much. I believe that our understanding of God and His will has constantly evolved throughout history, and continues to do so today.

On heaven: I believe Jesus died for everyone’s sin, and agree with C.S. Lewis when he wrote in Mere Christianity (paraphrasing) that many people who don’t call themselves Christians have a better understanding of Jesus’ heart and teachings than many who claim to follow Him. We should allow ourselves to be open to the possibility of being very surprised by who we see in heaven.

On hell: While my beliefs on this aren’t set in stone, I think the annihilation theory makes the most sense – that is, ceasing to have eternal life. I do not believe in eternal conscious torment for a variety of reasons, but mainly because the concept did not exist in the Judaism that Jesus knew – nor would a loving God allow it.

On Messianic Judaism: I’m asked about this a lot, considering my background. I have met and respect Messianic Jews, but I do not agree with their theology and thus do not identify as such. More on that in this post.