As I have thought about my theological project over the past several weeks and months, I have found some clarity about the essence of the task. What I am reaching for is a credo, a statement of what it is that I believe about God and what I value in life. I want to express and articulate my perspective as an individual trying to understand self and world. Mortals have dedicated lifetimes to such expressions, and still there is more to say and more ways to say it.
The Nicene Creed is one such expression of belief that is valuable to many Christians all over the world, a statement of what is essential to the faith. Yet, there are still hairs to be split about precise understanding of the affirmation, not the least of which is if it should start with “I believe” or “we believe.” This depends quite a bit on cultural sensibilities. Western individualism has a hard time surrendering the ego of “I” to the community of “we.” An individual from a heavily communal culture has a hard time standing up and claiming self from a herd mentality.
“I” or “we” could also depend on social strata. It requires some privilege to claim beliefs and values for oneself, or to speak for others in a kind of royal “we.” For lower classes, the understanding may be that these things are dictated. Creeds can be as much tools of the elite to keep inferiors in their place as they can be affirmations of religious freedom. Theology is often written from such a place of privilege in order to dictate the correct answers for others who may have things wrong. This is a theological model that I hope to avoid in my writing.
For my own purposes, “I” makes more sense than “we” in my writing, since I write from an individual perspective. Sure, there is communal impact on what I believe and I do come from a tradition with a strong community emphasis. I do tend to us “we” language in pastoral activities like preaching and in more devotional writing. This may be a choice I will have to think about a bit more as I write.