BE WHAT YOU BELIEVE (And Let Others Do The Same)

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I think that each of us would be a lot better off if we simply worked for what we think is right, and behaved in the way we think is right, instead of trying to get those who believe differently that they should believe like us and behave the way we think they should behave.

DECLARATIONS OF UTRECHT list eight pronouncements about what Old Catholics believe and the role of the Church and clergy. Based on those statements, I conclude that Old Catholics believe…

…in teaching what the whole church has always taught everywhere. We do not teach theological speculation, new and controversial doctrines, neither do we believe in debating or arguing them with anyone.

… that the church cannot compel anyone to believe anything and that it is not the role of the church to impose “faith” on anyone, in and out of the church.

… that the role of the clergy is to guide morality and faith by being examples, not by being authoritarians–the clergy serves the church, they do not impose their will on it.

… that the Catholic Church combats unbelief and religious indifference by faithfully professing the doctrine of Jesus Christ, by refusing to admit human error into the teaching of the Catholic Church, by weeding out any abuses of the church, and by the clergy living simple lives of faith that serve as examples to others.

Old Catholics have felt that much of the abuses of the church in the Middle Ages and later were the result of a Church imposing its will on others, trying to compel and control believe through force of will, and of course, a Church that had very real political power as well as spiritual power.

So Old Catholic clergy who are true to what they believe will not argue about theology. They will say what they believe the Catholic Church has always taught and leave it at that. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with it. That’s your choice. This also means that clergy adopt the stance of living the way they believe they are supposed to live. As clergy, it is not my job to convince you to live a certain way; it is my job to know how I am supposed to live and live that way – in front of you. If you ask why I am doing or saying what I am, I will tell you, and you can either agree with it or not.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, this is all good stuff for running and being part of a church. It’s a simple rule: BE WHAT YOU BELIEVE AND LET OTHERS DO THE SAME.

The problem is, like so many thing things, the principle gets left in the church when the people go back out into the world. We agree not to argue controversial issues, or impose our faith on others, or use our position of leadership or status to threaten others within the church, or when talking with other denominations, and then some of us go out and get drawn into political debates and argue controversial issues, and try to impose our beliefs on others and force them to believe as we do, and some who have power want to use that power to impose their beliefs on those who do not believe as they do.

So what is the point of following a good set of principles in certain areas of our lives, but ignoring them in other areas? If they are good principles to live by, then they are good principles to live by anywhere and everywhere at all time.

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This brings me back to my original sentiment:

I think that each of us would be a lot better off if we simply worked for what we think is right, and behaved in the way we think is right, instead of trying to get those who believe differently that they should believe like us and behave the way we think they should behave.

Let’s all make an agreement that we will spend more time just living and speaking and doing what we think is right, and spend less time trying to impede others or stop others from living, speaking, or doing what we think is wrong. If it is wrong for us, then we should not do it, but we should never decide that just because something is wrong for me, then it is wrong for everyone. None of us should have that kind of power – because as soon as any of us do have that kind of power, we tend to start determining what is wrong for everyone else based on what we do not like and then start punishing and persecuting people for being different.

So just live the way you think is right, and let others live the way they think is right, and see if some of that anger and fear and stress doesn’t begin to wither away.

Be the example. Frankly, nobody wants to hear about what any of us believe, they want to see us doing it. Show people what you believe, don’t tell them unless they ask. But all times, SHOW THEM. This of course requires you to actually know what you believe at all times, and it also requires you to really believe what you say you do. The rule is a simple one: YOU DO WHAT YOU BELIEVE. I know what you believe by watching how you live, and vice versa. What we say is nice, but I can say I believe stealing is wrong all day long. The way I prove that I believe that stealing is wrong is by not stealing and by being honest and trustworthy with peoples’ things.

So what all this means is from this point on ARGUING IS AGAINST MY RELIGION!

I’m not going to change what anyone else believes, and it is not my job to do so. No one is going to change what I believe, and it is not the job of anyone to do so. When I find myself trying to change someone’s beliefs, I’m wrong. If you find yourself trying to change my beliefs, you’re wrong. The way we are both right is that we just decide to live what we believe among each other and serve as an example to each other. The only way you are going to change my mind is to show me by your example that you are right. But if you never show me anything, and if you’re all talk, then you’re never going to convince me of the merits of what you say you believe – because the fact that you are doing what you say you believe is evidence that you don’t really believe it for you, you just believe it for everyone else.

Someone of course is going to counter with justice. It is our job to stand up to injustice and to speak truth to power. Yes! It absolutely is! And I can speak truth to power when power is asking me why I am living the way I am living. And there may be times when I have to get out there and face down an injustice. But let’s face it. Most of us, most of the time, are not speaking truth to power or righting an injustice, we are merely trying to get others to do and say what we want them to – we are not speaking truth to power! We are being opinionated! We are not righting a wrong, we are being obnoxious!

So let’s try it for a week and see how we feel when it is over. For the next week, let’s agree that we will not argue with anyone about anything. That we will show people what we believe instead of telling them – unless they ask us directly. If someone does ask us directly, and we tell them, then we immediately get back to living the way we think we should and do not let ourselves be drawn into argument. If at the end of the week, you do not find that your emotional life has improved, or if you do not find that your stress level has been reduced, or that you are happier or if your life has not improved in any way, you can always go back to imposing your will onto others.

What do you say? Who is game to try?

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