Friday, December 7, 2018

Advent Reflections: Show, Don't Tell
At the recent funeral for President Bush, critics pointed out that, unlike the other former White House executives in attendance, Donald Trump did not recite the Apostles’ Creed. Putting aside my personal feelings about the current president, I find it curious that the recitation of a creed would be of such great national concern.

I was raised in a church that made a weekly practice of reciting the Nicene Creed, which was based on the Apostles’ Creed and came out of a pair of fourth-century councils to unify Christian belief and combat heresies. It was of great importance in terms of shaping the Christianity we’ve been handed down.

But let’s be honest about this. Reciting the creed doesn’t make you a Christian, nor does failure to recite it mean you aren’t a Christian. Many, many evangelicals refrain from using creeds and rote prayers. So the evangelicals who supported Trump in the 2016 election wouldn’t care a bit that he didn’t recite the creed at Bush’s funeral. Many prominent evangelicals, in fact, have already chimed in to say just that.

My point is not to defend Donald Trump but rather to address the implicit suggestion that words are more important than actions when it comes to faith. This is how Christ gets buried under dogma and his message obscured. Let’s recall some of the things he told his disciples:

“Not all who say to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven.”

“Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do as I say?”

Whatsoever you do for the least of these, my brethren, you do for me.”

The Quakers have a saying: “Let your life speak.” What we do is far more important than what we say. The Quakers have backed up that saying for centuries, by being active in helping to bring justice, equality, and mercy into a world sorely lacking it. And all the while, Quakers have steadfastly refused to recite oaths, including religious creeds.

The closest thing to a creed Jesus left us was the Lord’s Prayer. But what he did – healing the sick, embracing the outcasts, giving up his life for friend and enemy alike – carried far more weight than anything he spoke. He led by example. And so ought we, his followers, do the same, by letting our actions speak louder than any creed or prayer we could ever recite.

Let us focus on what our leaders do, rather than what they say — or don’t say. And let us strive to live our own lives the same way.

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