ap·o·lo·gi·a [apəˈlōj(ē)ə/] noun: A formal written defense of one’s opinions or conduct. Synonyms: defense, justification, explanation.
I was always a passionate Christian. I considered my motives pure, my interpretations objective, and my behavior consistent. I based my life decisions on the authority of scripture as I had always been taught to understand it. Then one day I had to admit that my appeal to biblical authority was, too often, a way to justify my prejudices.
Today I am still a passionate believer. I still appeal to authority–scripture, tradition, creeds–but two things have changed. One, I am no longer afraid to admit that I could be wrong. And two, in addition to traditional authority sources, I now rely as well on “inner authority” (Holy Spirit?)–things like reason, intuition, common sense, and the lessons learned through painful experience and struggle.
I am also guided by the foundational values of compassion and forgiveness, a commitment to restorative and distributive justice, the need for honest questioning, and the willingness to pursue truth wherever it can be found. (All truth is God’s truth.) As a result, and it pains me to say this, I sometimes find myself more aligned with compassionate humanists than with some conservative Christians.
Of this I am confident: Compassion and forgiveness trump doctrine and dogma. Or, as I repeat at the beginning of every service of worship–“Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ says. ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the first and great commandment. The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’”