The Amazing Changing Faith of my Dad

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

I Corinthians 13:11

It’s Monday morning and I haven’t talked to my dad in a couple of days. After dropping the boys off at school I call the house I grew up in hoping he hasn’t left for the day yet. There’s nothing on my mind really. Just saying hi. We talk probably 3-4 times a week. Sometimes only for a minute with something silly like “I saw an ’86 Buick Century for sale. You looking for a new car?” (that was my first car and still holds fond memories for both of us).

More often than not the conversation turns to religion. It’s easy really, he being a former pastor and me being actively engaged in ministry. I tell him all the plans, politics, and problems for both my youth group and the greater church and we hash out how the more things change the more they stay the same. Today the hot button topic in our church of Women’s Ordination comes up. He rattles off a few things about scripture (both old and new testament) about a woman’s place in the sanctuary, which I expect.

I rarely fully disclose my full stance in a topic with my dad.  Primarily because I still feel like those opinions are fluid, keeping myself open to new thoughts on the topic.  Secondly, after hearing my dad argue with my grandmother about religion growing up and given he’s been around a lot longer than I have, I assume he’s pretty much decided where he stands.  I just don’t want to argue with him.  But as we talk he catches me off guard.  “It’s not that the rules don’t apply anymore, but that the rules have changed” he says.  WHAT!!!

He starts in the book of Exodus with a young nation removed from slavery and now trying to figure out their identity.  They know who God is, but do they really know what it means to serve him and be a separate nation?  My dad and I make the comparison together; it’s like raising kids.  When my boys were very little, everything had to be black and white.  Meals, bedtimes, what they could touch, etc. all came with a fixed “yes or no” rule.  But then they get older.  Cognitive reasoning develops and they can understand that you can touch the stove, but there are safe ways to do it.  And like a child growing, as we develop our spiritual journey and build our relationship with God, the rules change.

He talks about spiritual discovery, growth, and the changing doctrine that goes along with it.  He explains that even in the early church, if you disagreed with Peter and went to John’s church you were excommunicated from Peter’s congregation.  Each congregation had their own spirituality based on where they were in their Christian development.  Their beliefs fit their lifestyle and the Bible was written with those varying groups based on where they were in their spiritual journey.

As you grow older and gain life experience, your worldview progresses.  For some black and white lines become more distinct, but for many those same lines become checkered and fade.  Why would your faith be anything else?  I would have never had a conversation like that with my dad 20 years ago.  I couldn’t.  I didn’t have the knowledge and understanding to be able to express my thoughts or questions.  Had I told my dad I was reading “The God Delusion” or “Gnostic Gospels” in high school he would have been concerned.

I’m amazed that my pastor father at this age in his life is still evolving his faith. There was a day when I thought we wouldn’t see eye to eye on matters of religion.  He prefers hymns and liturgy, I prefer a band and creativity.  But in the end, unlike so many people who have made up their minds, he doesn’t see anything wrong with where I’m at or the direction of many others still seeking God.  He sees faith as personal, progressive, and ever changing.  He is open to change.  Times change.  People change.  And Christianity changes.

We never answer the question “should women be ordained by the church”.  We don’t need to.

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