Creed: This I Believe
by Derrick G. Jeter
Creeds—simple statements that declare, “This I believe”—are out of fashion these days; from a bygone era. They are just too dogmatic in our post-modern culture. But creeds are important because they clearly state what one actually believes; what one holds to be important in life.
Many years ago—too many to recall—I was perusing through William Safire’s Lend Me Your Ears and came across a speech by John D. Rockefeller Jr., that riveted my attention. JDR, Jr., as he liked to be called, delivered a radio speech on July 8, 1941, in which he laid forth his family’s creed. His opening words that evening:
They are the principles on which my wife and I have tried to bring up our family. They are the principles in which my father believed and by which he governed his life. They are the principles, many of them, which I learned at my mother’s knee.They point the way to usefulness and happiness in life, to courage and peace in death.
If they mean to you what they mean to me, they may perhaps be helpful also to our sons for their guidance and inspiration.
No only did reading this speech capture my attention, it spurred me into following his example—if not exactly in word as least in deed. I determined to write my own family creed—a family statement of belief. I offer my creed with the same confidence that, if followed, will guide one into a useful and happy life, and will give courage and peace in the face of death. So, in the words of JDR, Jr., “Let me state them.”
“I believe the foremost fidelity, highest happiness, purest purpose, and ultimate usefulness of man is to love God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength.
“I believe the root of peaceful living is for man to love his neighbor has himself; that the greatest achievement of man is to be a peacemaker; that meekness is not weakness, but strength under control.
“I believe the Bible is the very Word of God; that it is the rule and guide of faith, holiness, and wisdom; that it is the benchmark of all truth; that through it we know the nature of God, ourselves, others, and the world.
“I believe love is indomitable; that it alone will fill the abyss of loneliness, will heal the broken heart, will overcome hate, and will cover a multitude of sins; that forgiveness is its preeminent illustration.
“I believe the family is the bedrock of enduring nations; that the sanctity of marriage be cherished; that sacrificial and unconditional love is the cornerstone of all family relationships; that children are given as a stewardship to parents whose holy responsibility is to wisely train them in godly virtue; that it is a joyful duty to honor your father and mother.
“I believe every person is created in the image of God and is of incalculable worth; that his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is inalienable; that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that the state is the servant of the people and not their master.
“I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that a man should not humble and dull himself by having the state look after him; that all men should dream dreams and risk failure and success; that supreme satisfaction comes through seeking a call not a career.
“I believe character and a good name are of paramount value; that they are greater than wealth, power, or position; that they shape the destiny of an individual’s life; that they are made public through word and deed; that they hallow the bond of a promise and a handshake.
“I believe truth, justice, and grace are fundamental to building an abiding nation, state, city, and family; that truth will set men free from the bondage of sin and ignorance; that justice be impartial and balanced with mercy; that grace—though undeserved—be extended to all.
“I believe a man’s life is not his own; that it is a privilege to spend it in the service of others; that every right implies a responsibility to self and others; that every opportunity an obligation to service; that ever possession a duty to usefulness.”
The Rockefeller creed can be read at the entrance of the Rockefeller Center skating rink—it’s carved in granite there.JDR, Jr., quote: William Safire, Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992), 489.