and things we believe in

a reflection by Dea Podhajsky (Reflections are the opinion of the author)

Pronouns are one of the eight parts of speech in the English language along with nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, articles, and conjunctions. The number of words in the first four categories are always expanding which is not so true in the other eight. In fact, there are only two first person subjective pronouns – I and we.

The title of this essay is “things we believe in.” Examining the lyrics of the John Denver song the reason Denver chose we over I becomes apparent. He is talking about conversations with friends around a campfire.

I have to say it now, it's been a good life, all in all
It's really fine to have a chance to hang around
And lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire
While all my friends and my old lady sit and pass the pipe around

Talk of poems and prayers and promises and things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care
How long it's been since yesterday and what about tomorrow?
What about our dreams and all the memories we share?


What isn’t as apparent is whether the things believed in are individual beliefs by the friends or shared beliefs of all. I think that the beliefs are individual and cover a gamut of topics from the mundane to the sublime. I can hear the conversation around the campfire as the flames turn to embers.

Hawaiian pizza is not really pizza.”

“Michael Jordan is the best basketball player that ever lived.”?

“Joan Baez’s music is really heavy man.

“King was right when he said ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.’”

“Look at those mountains and tell me there is no God.”

The pronoun we can also express the shared beliefs of a community. The United States constitution begins with the words “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The Declaration of Independence also has a “we statement.” “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Both foundational documents represent the shared beliefs of a community. Community has been defined as

Being a member of the Episcopal Church means being part of a community. Each Sunday as a community we state our shared beliefs in the form of the Nicene Creed.

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
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
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer, pp. 358-359)

During Holy Week we should take time to consider the words in bold and what having them as a shared, communal belief means in our lives.

A recent Pew Survey found that for the first time since it began polling the number of people saying they were not a member of a faith congregation was over 50%. Studies have revealed that attending church on a weekly basis can be beneficial to your health. Though the most obvious benefits are spiritual and psychological; there are health, physical and mental benefits as well.

So, I end this series of essays where I began with poetry that beautifully proclaims the benefit of, we.

No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were.
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

John Donne  

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