UC Irvine students have been trying a relatively new thing called “speed faithing.” The idea, much like speed dating, is to get as much information across to another person in a set amount of time, and hopefully make an impact.
Religious students and two atheists gave their 10-minute talks to groups of UCI students, trying to distill their belief — whether Catholic, Mormon, Islamic or none — in a concise way, yet still making it understandable to those outside their faith.
Q: Could you distill your belief into a 10-minute talk?
Ten minutes should be plenty of time for most active believers to explain the basic message of their religion and, if appropriate, bear witness of their personal faith.
In the LDS church we get a fair amount of practice discussing religion before an audience. Sunday speakers are usually members of the congregation. The opportunity to stand at the pulpit is given to everyone from time to time and begins at an early age. In separate meetings children recite short messages to their peers, usually with help from a parent. Many church members also get used to distilling the message of our faith as full-time missionaries.
Personally, I like the idea of giving people a chance to share their beliefs in an open, public setting such as UC Irvine's speed faithing event. It appears that participants shared their messages with a friendly, non-confrontational spirit and learned something about one another. Too often we judge in ignorance. These types of events may help at least a few people overcome that tendency.
In our church's early days, members were subjected to violent persecution, often because of ignorance about their religion and their intentions. In 1842, church President Joseph Smith wrote a letter to a newspaper editor summarizing our beliefs. Portions of the letter were adopted as the Articles of Faith, a concise official statement of doctrine. The 13 articles don't provide a comprehensive explanation of all that we believe, but they cover the bases pretty well, and can easily be read aloud in less than three minutes.
I wouldn't suggest that anyone read the Articles of Faith in lieu of delivering a personal message about our church, but they demonstrate that much can be said in a short period of time.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Everyone ought to be able to present the most significant reasons for their faith and provide its primary details in a brief amount of time. That's why pastors are forever trying to distill Christian theology into memorable bites so that our parishioners can keep a handle on what they believe, and so that they can properly share with others when provided opportunity. I remember as a neophyte trying to explain Christianity to a co-worker by laboriously starting at Genesis. I quickly lost the person's interest. Since then I've learned several ways to convey the fundamentals, and I'll share one of them. It's called “the Gospel ABCs,” and it takes less than a minute. With 10 minutes, this basic presentation could be easily expanded to answer questions and fill in details, but Christianity is not that complex to grasp; it's as easy as ABC:
A — Admit you are a sinner. The Bible says “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). “All” includes you, me, Billy Graham and Mother Theresa. Everyone.
B — Believe in Jesus; not just his existence, but that he is God incarnate and the savior of mankind. The Bible says that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Are you part of “whoever?”
C — Call upon him in prayer. The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). This is where you admit to God you are a sinner, that you believe Christ is the Savior, and that you want his salvation for yourself. Do this, and the Gospel, ie, “good news,” of salvation is yours, and Heaven is assured.
Now you've said your ABC's, won't you serve the Lord with me?
The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
“Always be ready to give, to anyone who asks you, an account of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). So here you go:
1. The universe is sacred; anyone can sense that its life is larger than what can be observed.
2. Christianity, like many other religions, believes that this sacredness of the universe is not a “what” but a “who” — not just a neutral force or power, (to be joined with in meditation), but a personal, relational entity, whom we call God, who meets us in prayer and interacts with our lives.
3. Unique among other religions, Christianity believes that the invisible, infinite God became visible and finite in the person of Jesus. While he lived, he embodied the soul of God; and we believe that after he died, he was resurrected, and continues to have living power and presence with us.
4. The resurrection of Jesus is, for us, a promise: that we too, after we die, will enter eternal life in God, returning to abide within that larger sacredness of life. And we believe that even before we die, God is able to bring new life out of deaths and losses and endings of all sorts.
5. While it's possible to be a good person without religion, Christianity addresses what happens when we're not good people; it deals with big things like evil and sin, and smaller human failures and weaknesses and woundedness. We believe that God's benevolence bridges the gap, offering us forgiveness, mercy, redemption and healing.
6. We feel called to offer these same things to others; to do good works of charity and service, and in our everyday lives to be compassionate and forgiving.
Though no one lives the faith perfectly, all these beliefs add up to a different, more grace-filled way of seeing and being in the world. You make actual progress in becoming a person of humility and reverence, compassion and forgiveness, healing and redemption, peace and prayer, even in the face of hardship and suffering. That's a life worth living, and a faith worth having.
(Was that 10 minutes?)
The Rev. Amy Pringle
St. George's Episcopal Church
La Cañada Flintridge
The best answer I can give to the question, “Could you distill your belief into a 10 minute talk?” is yes, and no. The basic tenants of the Christian faith are so simple and straightforward that they can easily be expressed in 10 minutes or less in language that anyone can understand.
In fact, Dare 2 Share, a Christian interdenominational organization that focuses on outreach to teens and young adults, has done just that. They have produced a video that presents the essentials of the Christian faith in an original and unconventional format in just four minutes. To view it, Google “Life in 6 words.”
The problem with distilling the Christian faith to an explanation of its principles is that Christianity is a relationship, not just a set of beliefs. It is the experience of living in a dynamic and personal relationship with God through the transforming indwelling power of Christ Jesus.
Summarizing the experience of a vital relationship with the living God can't be accomplished in 10 minutes, or even a lifetime. In fact, it's a relationship that can't be explained. It must be experienced firsthand. It's like the difference between seeing a 9-inch-by-12-inch glossy photograph of the Grand Canyon and actually standing on the rim and viewing the incredible majesty of the canyon in a living three-dimensional perspective. The photograph pales in comparison and can't begin to capture the actual experience.
There's no way to describe the incredible joy, peace and fulfillment that come from living in ongoing contact with Father God. At its heart, Christianity is not a religion of rules and rituals, but a life of personal faith and relationship with God that deepens and becomes more profound every day.
Pastor Ché Ahn
Probably not. That's not to say that such an exercise is a bad idea; any thought processes re: one's faith have to have something good to be said for them, because I think it's God's will that we use these wonderful thinkers with which he has provided us.
When somebody asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is, he says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). I love it that Jesus said “mind,” because for me, Jesus was saying we don't leave our minds at the door when we enter church, and when I preach, I take pains not to insult anybody's intelligence, especially my own. But getting back to the question....
I simply feel it is unjust to try to put into 10 minutes anything, whether I'm trying to define myself, my faith, or somebody else, or somebody else's faith. It's just not fair to put such a limit on something so important.
You got 24 hours? I'm not sure that amount of time would be enough, either. But keep thinking.
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge
I believe that I could. I might take a big breath and say: Scripture, tradition, reason and experience preaches that the strongest evidence of a limitless, yet immanent, ever-near, God is the power and potential of people coming together, and regardless of their histories, theologies, saviors, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and heroes, realizing that in their warm reception toward, respectful treatment of, and promise to always look out for each other, God is most fully realized.
The dictionary defines faith as confident trust in something, someone, or some deity. Confident trust takes time to grow, so speed faithing, from which the contemporary model of distilling one faith in a 10-minute talk springs, literally defined, is an oxymoron.
However, Dr. Gene T. Harris, retired superintendent of the Columbus Ohio city schools, has noted that speed faithing (like speed dating) seems to serve as a strong methodology to get people to positively encounter each other, perhaps for the first time. Part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denominational history involves speed faithing of a sort when in August 1801, between 10,000 and 20,000 people gathered at Cane Ridge, Kentucky. Reportedly, at that Cane Ridge meeting, seekers wandered as they heard female, male, white and people of color preaching continuously for approximately six days and nights. The listeners were free to absorb as much, or as little, as they cared to hear.
Closer to home, Pastor John Wells, one of the founders and builders of Burbank's Little White Chapel, uttered a memorable statement, which certainly qualifies as speed faithing. He is credited with saying, the entire Bible distills down to two phrases: “Love Jesus, be kind.”
The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel
I believe the central message of the Christian faith can be expressed within 10 minutes. In Scripture, God has already given us a number of concise passages that do the job well. Among the most beloved of them is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
There is only one God. He loves us all. We all need to be reconciled to him because of the separation from him that our own sin (disobedience to his law) created. Because of his great love for us, God gave up his son, Jesus Christ, who willingly died on the cross on our behalf to pay the price for our sins. Everyone who has faith in what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross will be adopted into God's family and given eternal life. Those of us who have believed in Jesus follow him as Lord, and seek to please him in everything we do. We have the assurance that our sins are forgiven, that we have an eternal home in Heaven, and that eternal rewards are waiting for us there. We don't have to earn God's approval or do anything to make ourselves more acceptable to him. All we need to do is receive by faith his gracious gift of life through Jesus Christ, his son.
Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church
Interestingly enough, people in our tradition are encouraged to develop what are sometimes called “elevator speeches.” That title comes from a scenario in which you are getting on an elevator at the 14th (or any other) floor and being asked what Unitarian Universalists believe. Your job is then to describe your understanding of our beliefs to the questioner before the elevator door opens on the ground floor. Probably the reason we are encouraged to do that is because we are often asked what we believe by those who find out what our religion is — since we are not as well known or understood as many other religious groups. This technique is not as formal or as lengthy as speed faithing, but it has a similar purpose. And elevator speeches can develop into longer conversations.
I believe it is important for people of all religious traditions, or none, to articulate their beliefs clearly for others. In fact, it is something that I am doing tonight at an interfaith forum for those in the community where I live. I expect that I will learn a great deal about neighboring faiths, and I hope that my presentation will be informative to others. If we had more of those kinds of activities, we might not have so many misconceptions about the religious beliefs of others.
The important thing for me about any of these types of dialogues is that their purpose is not to proselytize. We are simply exchanging ideas for the sake of deeper understanding. And if we are in a safe environment, we can express our ideas without the fear of argument or conflict. I believe that if our communities had more of the kinds of conversations encouraged by speed faithing, we might have fewer disagreements. In fact, we might even have fewer wars. Now that would be something truly worth speeding for.
The Rev. Dr. Betty
Stapleford Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills
I like to see diverse young people interacting and questioning. As for me, the thought of speed anything makes me glad I'm not in the market for a date or a faith.
If I talk fast and skip the jokes, I can probably distill my spiritual belief into 10 seconds.
I believe in rational thinking and that this Earthly existence is it for us. I embrace a humanism that requires us to care for each other and for the universe from which we emerged. I recognize that some religions follow human beings who often were, or are, exemplary, and that both good and evil are done in their names. I appreciate the role of myth and fantasy in our cultures and in our minds. I know that all fiction can reveal truth; however, religious beliefs have no place in our governance or public policies.
In Theory: Can you explain your belief in 10 minutes?
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