"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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Children's Creed: What More Needs to be Said?
One of the joys of my ministry is
leading children's chapel for our Day School every other Wednesday (Rev. Cathy
and I take turns).
About 11:30 each Wednesday, the
children - about a 190 of them, ranging in age from 18 months to five years of
age - file in with their teachers, take their places in the pews in the
Historic Church, and wait for Mrs. Thomas, the Day School Director, to start
The service is simple: Mrs. Thomas
welcomes everyone, brings us to order with a short prayer, and introduces Rev.
Cathy or me.
We give a short message based on
the theme of the week ("David the Shepherd," "Mary and Joseph Go
to Bethlehem," "Jesus is Born," "Jesus as a Little
Boy" and so on.)
After the homily, we stand and say
what's called "The Children's Creed."
in God above,
in Jesus' love
His Spirit too,
tell me what to do.
that I can be
That's 35 words.
Now as you know, it's the custom
in most Episcopal Churches to stand after the sermon and say the Nicene Creed.
The Nicene Creed, dating from
about the mid-4th Century, is a classic summary of orthodox Christianity. It is
a bedrock statement of our faith and a reminder of what unites Christians
worldwide and throughout time. Its importance in Christianity is impossible to
It is also 134 words long.
And (unlike saying the Apostle's
Creed in question and answer format in the context of the Baptismal Covenant as
is our norm at the 9:00 service), the Nicene Creed is all about what we believe
- what we give our assent to, put our faith in - while saying absolutely
nothing about the consequences of that belief, what we DO with what we believe,
or why those beliefs matter.
Here's the thing:
If our criteria is Jesus'
criteria: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and
strength, and love your neighbor as yourself,"
if our "mission
statement" or reason for being church is Jesus' mission statement -
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor," (see Luke 4)
then my question is,
"Is the Nicene Creed
an improvement over the Children's Creed?"
I may not be on very solid
ecclesial (Church) grounds here, but I daresay I'm on solid Biblical grounds:
"People were also bringing
babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw
this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said,
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the
kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom
of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18)
"Why do you call me 'Lord,
Lord,' but do not do
what I say?" (Luke 6)
"Dear friends, let us love
one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God
and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is
love." (I John 4)
Now lest someone accuse me of
advocating "dumbing down" Christianity: I know full well the need for
us to grow in faith and in spiritual and theological maturity - to wean
ourselves from the milk of the basics and grow into the meat and potatoes, the
"full stature" of Christ. For Christ's sake (really!) I'm a
philosophy major; I appreciate the intellectual life; I believe strongly in
lifelong Christian education; my blog isn't about cooking,
family life, social justice, sports, or comedy, it's a theological blog; I wish
everyone was reading Bonheoffer, Kierkegaard and George Lindbeck and William Placher and even the
contemporary brilliant-but-nearly-impenetrable theologian Peter Rollins.
But I'm quite serious: Sunday by
Sunday, why shouldn't we (at least occasionally and perhaps regularly) stand
and say the Children's Creed instead of the Nicene Creed?
What would be lost?
What would be gained?
Because really: someone has to tell
me how we're going to improve on:
For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year. What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…
So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…