Your Theology is Meaningless If . . .

Your Theology is Meaningless If . . . July 20, 2021

I’ve said it before but it probably bears repeating: Theology can be vitally important. However, I’ve come to a place in my life where I don’t believe it is primarily important. How we see ourselves and others is. Our theology, then, plays second fiddle.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve sort of grown tired of the theological debates. It seems wherever you look, two “ivory tower” theologians are debating ideas without even talking about how said ideas impact real-world people. They’ll debate the eternality of hell, for instance, and not stop to think that they are talking about actual people with actual lives and actual loved ones. Or they’ll debate the question “Is homosexuality a sin?” and not even consider how their discussion hurts those of us in the LGBTQ community who have spent decades questioning our own sanity.

But I’ll admit: these debates are all fine and well so long as people come first. Too often though, the impact of our theologies aren’t even considered. The Calvinist, for example, with his monstrous doctrine of limited atonement, never stops to consider how detrimental being on the outside of salvation is. They are always included; others are not. And the Bible, like their God (read: theology) is always on their side.

What I’d rather see are discussions and debates on how to LIVE as a Christian. How does one “love their neighbor?” How do we take seriously the Sermon on the Mount? How do we treat our enemies? Who are the “least of these” and how do we lift them up? Who are the most oppressed and vulnerable among us and how do we honor them and help them out of poverty without exerting power over them? But questions like these are too often peripheral. What is so often on the tongues of Christians are questions like “What is sound biblical doctrine?” and “What is orthodoxy?”

Well, who the hell cares?


What harm is there in diverting from so-called “sound biblical doctrine?” What are the so-called orthodox doing for the good of humanity that the unorthodox aren’t also doing? Again, it’s just so tiring, having to defend doctrines from people who seem to care less for other humans than they do their own theologies and ideologies.

At the end of the day though, their theologies are meaningless. The real question is, “How do we care for others?” That’s all that really matters. What do you do for your fellow human? What do you do for the earth you live on? What do you do to alleviate suffering?

This is why I’m so attracted to Buddhism. And look, Buddhism has its issues, too. There are violent Buddhists. There are Buddhists who put so-called doctrine before actual humans. But at the core of what is taught in Buddhism is how to treat yourself, your planet, and your fellow person. Show compassion to everything that exists and take the path that leads to the end of suffering. That’s it in a nutshell. It’s so simple yet such a difficult path, but one worth walking along.

Now, this probably sounds like humanism to some, and to a large degree, it is. I still believe in God, but because everything I say about God is fan fiction (read: theology), the concept of God is secondary. Humanity is primary.

At the end of the day, though, this posture has led me to be a better human. Life is still a struggle, but instead of fixating on this doctrine or that doctrine, I’m more oriented toward alleviating suffering, which is the main point of my existence. If we take seriously the Buddhist concept of the bodhisattva, that is the main point of everyone’s existence – elevating others out of Dukkha.

If this is not your posture, that’s on you. To me, though, your theology is then meaningless. If it doesn’t bring life to people . . . meaningless. If it doesn’t help, in any practical sense, in alleviating suffering . . . meaningless.

That’s my view, anyway. To quote my good friend Derrick Day, “your mileage may vary.”

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About Matthew Distefano
Matthew is a best-selling author, blogger, podcaster, long-time social worker, and hip-hop artist. He is an outspoken advocate for nonviolence, happily married, with one daughter. Outside of writing, his interests include gardening, hiking, and European football. He lives in Northern California You can read more about the author here.

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