Not beliefs or actions, but love

Here’s an interesting and complicated study by the Public Religion Research Institute looking at religion, politics, and economic views of Americans. It has too much information for me to analyze here, but you are encouraged to give it a read.

I do want to share one quotation that interested me:

Religious progressives and religious conservatives also hold different views about what being a religious person means. Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) religious progressives say being a religious person is mostly about doing the right thing, compared to 16% who say it is about holding the right beliefs. By contrast, a majority (54%) of religious conservatives say being a religious person is primarily about having the right beliefs, compared with less than 4-in-10 (38%) who say it is mostly about doing the right thing.

The numbers are not surprising, but as someone who reads a lot of John Wesley’s writings, I notice that both categories miss what Wesley argued was most important. Indeed, he often wrote that religion was hardly at all about right beliefs or doing the right outward actions. Religion, he said, was about loving the right persons (God and neighbor) and being transformed by that love.

I wonder if the survey had categories for that kind of response.


3 thoughts on “Not beliefs or actions, but love

  1. You know, this is very apropos with what I’m preaching about tonight. We have become an un-eucharistic church in both the original Greek sense of “thanksgiving” and in the concrete sense that we view God’s table as a stressful inconvenience we have to live through once a month when the sermon has to be 8 minutes long to keep church an hour or under. Some of us major in missions; others in correct doctrine; but who truly longs after the heart of God and actually wants to meditate upon His great gift to us every week?

    I had a very strange and beautiful encounter with God at our provisional elders’ retreat this week that was part of a reflection I wrote on the a-historical concept of “holy conferencing” that Kevin Watson has been dealing with: In any case, it’s sort of had me thinking about God in terms of eros in an attempt to truly get beyond the rationalistic abstraction that agape can become when it’s defined against eros. I think part of being made into agape by God is through loving God erotically in the highest sense of eros.

    I’m not sure I will say this tonight if there are little kids in the room, but one way to think about Eucharist is that it’s the place where Jesus makes love to his bride, the church, in the same way that healthy sex provides two people within a marriage with the ultimate safety and intimacy of a consummated love. I imagine this all sounds pretty bizarre, but it seems like what I’m being given right now.

      1. That’s kind of the route God has been leading me. The question is how to help others taste God’s love without trying to measure and rank my encounter with Christ against others. I need to learn to better appreciate the different giftings that others have and what they have to teach me.

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