In this corner of your mind, weighing in at 195 pounds, is Mr. Creed. In that corner, weighing in at a mere 125 pounds, is Ms. Deed. Make no mistake. This seemingly unequal fight for the future of the world has been going on inside each of us since time immemorial, the battle between the Better and the Worse Angels of our nature. Which side the majority of us are on will make all the difference. To be sure, there are right and wrong actions as well as true and false beliefs. But, in the end, beliefs form the neck which turns the head of action. For example, if you agreed with Donald Trump that the 2020 Presidential Election had been stolen, as many Americans still do, you might have been moved to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Beliefs lead to actions.
Consider the Nicene Creed, the fourth-century statement of belief that even today is recited in Episcopal Communion services and Roman Catholic masses. When I was accepted into the Catholic Church—full disclosure: I’m now an Episcopalian—I was required to stand in front of the congregation at a Mass and state the Creed. Here are the relevant lines from that Creed: “…For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again…” So, what’s remarkable about the lines just quoted? Specifically, that the details and example of Jesus’s life are totally omitted. He was born and he died. Like the dates on a tombstone, his life has been reduced to a hyphen.
The useful corrective can be found in that question which had a short but important life a few decades ago: “What would Jesus do?”—WWJD? After all, the Son of Man didn’t say go and believe likewise. His parables were all about what Buddhists call right action. Think of the Good Samaritan. He may have believed that helping people in trouble was the right thing to do. If so, the thought was parent to the deed. The important thing, the bottom line so to speak, was that he actually helped the man who’d been beaten by robbers and lay in the ditch, something the priest and the Levite had failed to do. Ditto for the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The former lovingly accepted his wayward son back into the family after the latter had gone off and squandered his patrimony through “riotous living.” So, to summarize, creeds are only valuable when they lead to deeds and are to be criticized and avoided when they eventuate in bad ones. Flat Earthers may be harmless cranks, but Never Vaxxers can be lethal in a world still beset by Covid. Right thought plus good will lead to right action. Go ye and DO likewise.