Archive for Saturday, January 29, 2011

Faith Forum: What, other than religion, defines how you see yourself?

January 29, 2011


The Rev. Maria Campbell, pastor, Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Mass.:

Family has always been integral to my self-understanding.

I was raised in an immigrant family, learning to find its way in a new country. Gathering as a large extended family was a weekly occurrence and critical to maintaining our traditions in the new world. As a child, I thought that was how all families were because we lived in a neighborhood of immigrants and first generation American children. My family tried to incorporate American traditions into our holidays. It took decades for the new celebrations, such as Thanksgiving, to become family traditions.

I was raised with a deep appreciation for the freedom that we enjoy in this country because my family fled from a fascist regime. I was taught to be proud of our new homeland and that it was a privilege to live in America. As a teenager, I wanted to be “freed” from some of our traditions. I rebelled against the absolute demands of our family togetherness.

When graduate school took me across the country, I came to realize how deep my familial roots are. My family contributed greatly to defining who I was and how I viewed the world. As clearly as my understanding of unconditional love comes from my relationship with God, my understanding of loyalty and familial responsibilities come from being raised within a close-knit family.

Family members stand by one another in good times and bad. Family members hold one another accountable so that the good of all family members is considered in decision-making. Most importantly, nothing changes your being part of the family.

With family, no matter how long you are gone, you will be always be welcomed and embraced upon your return. I know that my ability to love and to accept others was woven in the heart of God and given expression in my large Italian-American family.

— Send e-mail to Maria Campbell at

The Rev. John McFarland, pastor, Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2312 Harvard Road:

First, a word about the funny word “minister”: Who is “the minister” at your church?

Which Christians are involved in “ministry”? In their cases, when do they cease “ministering” to take up something else?

I hope these questions point those who are united to Jesus by grace through faith toward the much-neglected concept of vocation (“voca” from Latin, having to do with the mouth or voice). Vocation = calling, and with every calling comes a caller. God creates, equips, then calls all of His people into service.

So next time somebody says that they are in “full-time Christian ministry,” respond: “So you are a plumber, an engineer, a nurse?” I get paid to preach, pastor and teach (I’m glad of that). But when I am “off the clock” (a tough challenge for all pastors), I am still “on call,” not so much by a flock as by the great Shepherd of all sheep.

If you are in Christ, then so are you. “We are not our own!” I am a husband, father, grandpa and friend. I like to read (history and current events). I fail often, but there’s this house on some land, crying for my daily attention. I take my turn at dirty dishes and laundry. I care too much about televised sports; I must keep that in balance, but this does not mean a “man of God” eliminates entertainment altogether.

Yet I’m certain, all things were created by, through, and for Jesus, and are thus to be administered by his stewards for his glory. Like you, I am constantly challenged about the lordship of Christ over all things. I rejoice to have this template by which to judge all things, most specifically the daily stewardship of my own life and times.

— Send e-mail to John McFarland at


WHY 7 years, 2 months ago

Sometimes I like to think of my life on a cosmic time line. Just a blink then its over. No need to worry or panic. Other times I prefer to think of my life as the only time that will ever exist. Since for me this will be true. Perspective in the universe should inform who you are.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 2 months ago

A mirror.

And sometimes my gut blocks me from seeing myself.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 2 months ago

"Your gut is your self, your mind just makes opinions about it." === Good point. We are probably programmed for 'spirituality,' a skill that helps us socialize and work together in groups. This tendency separates us from most of the other animals and has fueled our successes as a species for the past million or so years. We had a developmental phase, starting perhaps 20,000 years ago, that ritualized this spirituality into forms that served us well and helped explain the unexplainable. About 500 years ago this changed (see the Renaissance) and the path towards rationality began. We are all 'athiests' in the sense we pick and choose which 'gods' are 'real' and which are obsolete. In time, all the gods will go obsolete and we will mature as a species. In the short term the Three Jewels of the Tao, compassion, moderation and humility, should suffice as a guide. If you think about it, most laws, particularly criminal and property law, support these concepts. We get into trouble when one skygod is arbitrarily chosen to help mere mortals write laws that distort these concepts. Faith is a good thing, as long as we direct it towards rational governance and not towards efforts to suppress and exclude others.

FloridaSunshine 7 years, 2 months ago

When I read these four posts, all I could think of is the word, "WOW"...I feel SO very sorry for you...and please believe me when I tell you I'm not saying that in a condescending way. Truly. It seems (to me) that you have such an empty existence. I don't understand how you all face a new day.
I wish you all the very best.

WHY 7 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for understanding how hard it is. Some people thing being an atheist is just a way of avoiding the rules of religion. It is more complicated though because not only do we not have a moral guide book, but we are forced to develop all of our rules from scratch based on our own education and understanding of the world and we only have 70-80 years to get it right. As one of my favorite bands says it is hard to remember that we are alive for the first time and it is hard to remember that we are alive for the last time.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 2 months ago

FloridaSunshine (anonymous) says…" I feel SO very sorry for you...and please believe me when I tell you I'm not saying that in a condescending way. Truly. It seems (to me) that you have such an empty existence. I don't understand how you all face a new day. I wish you all the very best. " === Thank you for your concern. I do not, however, believe I need an imaginary friend left over from desert tribes to feel fulfilled. I see each new day as an opportunity to love, live, learn and understand. Utixo (A Hottentot sky god who speaks with a voice of thunder) bless you and all the followers of your skygod.

WHY 7 years, 2 months ago

Imaginary friends are fun, just not ones that send others to hell.

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