A few years ago I wrote this piece for my church’s newsletter. It was an explanation of my personal creed and how it had come about. It is still true today.
It is August before my Senior year in high school. I have spent most of the summer working at Scout camp by a lake surrounded by forest and mountains. Now after six days on the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra I sit quietly. Rays from the late afternoon sun slant silently through Cartridge Pass across a canyon. I begin to think about who owns the mountains in this national park. I realize that, through the federal government, I legally share this ownership. Surrounded by beauty, I also recall what I have learned in church and Sunday school—God’s presence and creative energy in nature, God’s and Jesus’ love and presence with us. Suddenly I realize: these mountains are truly, personally mine at the deepest level through God. TOTAL OVERWHELM!
I am in graduate school, finishing field work for my Master’s thesis in the vast desert ranges and valleys east of the Sierra. On a free weekend I have climbed to the shoulder of a peak on the Sierra crest. Marveling at the scene of green forests and blue lakes at my feet, jagged peaks, and the view stretching off forever, overwhelming emotion overtakes me. I realize that, in spite of my shortcomings, I have been made a full member of these mountains and of the entire earth with its unspeakable beauty and wonder. I have been given the greatest blessing imaginable. GRATEFULNESS! THANKFULNESS!
As I sit on the summit eating lunch with a celebratory can of V-8, I think: We are each of us part of this, together—why then do we continue to kill each other and to have wars?
Such deep spiritual experiences have shaped my values and beliefs. I believe each person, having been given this gift of intimate membership in God’s world, has infinite worth, with something of God in him or her. Though I have problems with some traditional Christian doctrines, I have deep faith in the central things: God’s blessing, grace and presence with us; and the validity and value of Jesus’ life, teachings, and example.
Although I cannot accept literally, have doubts, or disagree with some doctrines, I know I must respect the sincere beliefs of others, as well as the individuals themselves. The same respect applies to social, political and economic beliefs and worldviews—we are all together as creatures of God with infinite worth. The key for each of us is to recognize this and to remember it.
These basic values and beliefs, deeply shaped by my spiritual experiences, have in turn influenced my attitudes toward social and political issues. For example:
- War and violence must be avoided. They have proven to be counterproductive in terms of human suffering and the never-ending chains of cause and effect which they create.
- Capital punishment: On balance, I feel we need to abandon it. (1) Who am I or any person, through a law created only by humans, to deliberately take the life of another? (2) What message does it send to our society and to individuals who may be tempted to take a life, when our society condones and does this very thing?
Job, personal responsibilities, and everyday activities easily fill up my mind. I find I need to remember to open my eyes and observe the beauty that is everywhere—in the sky, in the trees and flowers, in grass growing in a cracked sidewalk, in the people around me. I also need quiet times in which to free my mind, and to be open to God. I need to worship with others and be stimulated by Bible study and discussions on religious matters. In these ways I maintain the spiritual connections that I have found, and I can consider my responses to life.
For more information and for organizations working on these issues, scroll down in this blog’s “Resources” page https://mountainandspirit.wordpress.com/resources/ .