Beliefs affect actions. That, simply, is a universal truth. Therefore, what we believe, on just about any subject, affects what we do.
Such a correlation begins early in life. For example, my parents were proponents of corporal punishment. In fact, nearly everyone in my generation discovered that their parents believed that to “spare the rod” was to “spoil the child.” I grew up with the belief that disobedience brought with it the prospect of pain.
There were two levels of spankings in my house: (1) Mom’s and (2) Dad’s. Mom spanked more frequently than Dad, possibly because she was a stay-at-home mother, and made use of the switch and the fly swatter. They were unpleasant but tolerable. Dad’s spankings, which were at the end of a belt, were nuclear.
Dad’s spankings were reserved for the most egregious of infractions and, for the most part, involved three “licks,” as they were known. Dad’s three licks were roughly equivalent to 25 of Mom’s. One learned quickly not to commit egregious infractions. Dad didn’t spank often but nearly all of them are worthy of remembrance.
To this day, I believe that breaking the rules, the law, or a moral code will be followed by some kind of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, cosmic, or psychic pain. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
The beliefs of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and their ilk, has resulted in actions that caused untold suffering, despair, and death. The beliefs of Islamic Jihadists lead to the actions that civilized people find to be barbaric and savage. The beliefs of whites resulted in the near extermination of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans.
On the other hand, the beliefs of the Founding Fathers brought forth a revolution that saw the creation of arguably the greatest nation on earth. The belief of John F. Kennedy that the nation could put a man on the moon led to that actually happening — several times.
Political beliefs are important, not for their theoretical implications, but for what actions follow. The division in this country stems from polar opposite beliefs that lead to the actions, many of which are ignoble, that we see every day on the news and on social media.
There may not be a “civil war” in the United States but there is most assuredly an ideological war which has led to uncivil behavior and attitudes on all sides.
Theology, or the lack of it, guides and drives actions as well. Even within Christianity, differing theologies prevail and, thus, there are differing attitudes and actions. It is belief that informs the church’s actions which is why correct belief is so important.
In orthodox Christianity, there are two standards: The scriptures and the Creeds. One’s views determine one’s beliefs which determines one’s actions and behaviors. This is precisely why some denominations hold to “traditional marriage” and others support “same sex unions.” It depends on how the Bible and the historic teachings of the church are to be viewed.
It is the competing belief systems that lead to the competing views that result in conflict. No amount of screaming, demeaning, or bad behavior will convince the other side of anything.
Years ago, a Peanuts cartoon saw Charlie Brown walking home from school with Lucy. Lucy said, “I convinced a kid at school today that my religion is better than his religion.”
Surprised, Charlie Brown asks, “How did you do that?”
Lucy replies, “I hit him with my lunch box.”
That’s what we now see on television, on social media, in the government, and in the streets — partisans wildly swinging their lunch boxes at people with whom they disagree. All of which adds to the division, the distrust, and the angry conflict.
Of course, the problem is that ideas and beliefs really do matter. Wrong beliefs, erroneous beliefs, lead to actions that have terribly negative results. Correct beliefs lead to positive outcomes. Both sides cannot be right.
Hitler was wrong, slavery was wrong, genocide is wrong. History will reveal what was right and what was wrong. History will tally the results and make its judgments.
Democracy or totalitarianism? Anarchy or rule of law? Pro-life or pro abortion? Capitalism or socialism? Whether we were on the right side or the wrong side? History will judge.
In the meantime, it’s vitally important to lay down our lunch boxes, stop screaming, listen to other people, open our minds to other viewpoints, and allow our beliefs to become informed beliefs. Our beliefs affect not only our actions. They affect our futures and, indeed, the future of our world.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]