Yes/No Questions

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading included these familiar words from John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

The priest spoke about how this passage seems to be over-used, with “John 3:16” plastered on bumper stickers and billboards without any context.

John 3:16

It is often used as a lead-in to prostletyzing: “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?”

The priest brought up the difficulty of yes/no questions that are framed so that either answer is not satisfactory–the classic example being, “Sir, have you stopped beating your wife?”

He said that “Do you believe in God?” bothers him, because it seems to give power to the state of our own believing or unbelieving, while God’s existence is unaffected by our doubt or disbelief. He explained that a more relevant question is “Do you have a relationship with God (or Jesus)?”

The sermon didn’t phase me much because I do believe in God and I feel like I do have a relationship with Him, so neither question bothers me.  I also know that my Dad believed in God, and his strong faith was very much a part of my upbringing. 

The next day, though, another yes/no question came to me, that his sermon helped me see in a different light: “Do you believe in life after death?”

(The Cross and Crown seal of the Christian Science Church)

Since my Dad died, I have been dealing with the differences between our faith traditions. He was a Christian Scientist, and I have been an Episcopalian since my early 20’s. While the Book of Common Prayer that we use in my church has several beautiful “burial” services, the Christian Science Church does not do funerals. We, of course, will honor my Dad’s wishes, but I was (and still am) feeling a bit “adrift” without a service, ceremony or ritual to mark his untimely passing.

But when the yes/no question came to me, I saw it in the bothersome way that my Dad might have. Christian Scientists don’t mark death because they don’t believe in death. Life is eternal, and the material trappings of this life that are not eternal are not real. I know I am oversimplifying things, but that is enough of an understanding for me to make peace with my Dad’s wishes.

Do you believe in God?

Do you believe in life after death?

Do you want fries with that? 😉

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12 Responses to Yes/No Questions

  1. MizFit says:

    ooh I will take me some sweet tater fries with that.
    no G-d discussions online for this opinionated misfit.

  2. steena says:

    tater fries! 🙂
    I don't know.. I'm not good at this topic..

  3. We had the same Gospel reading & a similar sermon (Episcopalian also). I've known Jesus most of my life, so I am confident in my answers. Also, I love the burial service in the BCP for so many reasons. One being that it offers the psychological bookend that we need. It recognizes our need to grieve, our need to say good-bye, our need to have hope.

    An older friend of my mom's passed away a few years ago, she was agnostic and the family didn't have any type of memorial service or funeral. A year later, the adult daughter of this woman came to my mom telling her that she wanted to have a service of some type because she didn't feel any closure.

    And another story (since I'm hijacking your comments! sorry!), a dear friend of mine passed away about 18 months ago. She was 42 and had a 3 month battle with cancer. Her funeral was an amazing celebration of her life and faith. And afterward, we had a birthday party to celebrate her birthday into heaven. It was wonderful and healing for those of who were grieving her loss but celebrating her home-going.

    Prayers for you as you grieve the loss of your father. Even if you have confidence of his eternal life, missing him in this life is still tough.

    • Coco says:

      Heather, thanks so much for your comment. Interesting that your sermon has a similar theme. We actually had a guest priest who was not Episcopalian, so it’s not like it was a church-wide message for this week. 🙂

      I think I may sit down and read myself the burial service, so I do get to experience those words of comfort and hope. Today I found that the 23rd Psalm really hits all the main points too.

      Thanks for the prayers.

  4. Do you believe in God? Yes, but in a non-denominational way. All religions and none.

    Do you believe in life after death? Yes, but I don't know how to define or quantify it. The closest I can come to a definition is to say that I believe that in every human is a bit of energy/spirit that is unique. When the body dies, that bit is released and waits for another body to inhabit.

    Do you want fries with that? Huh…I just realized that if I never have another fry again in my life, that is fine with me… LOL!!

    So much for "yes" or "no" 😉

    But you know what Coco? I have to say that even though I've had "closure" with my father's death, I know that there's another part of me that is waiting until his service on May 10 to be complete…if that is even possible. I know that the service will be another step along the way…

    I've been thinking of you a lot…

  5. Vicki says:

    Nice post, and thanks for the simple explanation! I didn't know that. Yes that makes sense, though as has been said funerals are for the survivors. I also (like Karen) believe in God but in a non-denominational way. I don't want to shock you, but… I was brought up Episcopalian but struggled with believing in Jesus. Well, not that I didn't believe in Him, but I didn't think he was the only One. I tried to find a religion more in tune with my personal beliefs and converted to Hinduism when I was 20.
    I believe in life after death but have a lot of questions about how it all works! (Questions that can wait for an answer! That uncertainty is ok with me.)

  6. Tara says:

    Yes, I most definitely believe in God. I don't try to understand the How's and Why's of his existence, I just believe. I've had too many **strange** confirmations of his existence. I feel very close to him. Although not a subject I outwardly talk about, next to politics.

    I do believe in life after death. Again, I don't try to understand it… well, yes, I do, but I can't. I'm very confident it exists. Again because of some crazy experiences I've had. I just can't believe it's "all in your mind". I also believe we are connected to life after death in our current state. We are together, just in different states. If that makes any sense. But really none of it makes much sense that's why so many have a hard time believing.

    And I'm with Karen on the fries. no thanks! I never have been a fan. But chocolate is another topic all by it's self!

    Thanks for the post, Coco! I love "listening" to you.

  7. Tara says:

    wow, this post is very old! LOL!

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