Controversy, Continued

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Tomorrow will have to be the medical story meme from Doug's place.  I gotta finish this first.

Last night I talked about my spiritual background.  I hadn't really intended to go that long about it, but sometimes these things kinda get away from me.  I think it was good, though.  It made me realize that between myself and Steve, my background might actually be the better one.

Here's why.  [We have to continue my story to do this, so bear with me.]

When Steve and I met, I was twenty.  I was coming out of a really bad time with my self-esteem [ironically, so was Steve].  I had pretty much decided that I was going to stop looking for a boyfriend/husband, and that men were nice, but not too bright.  I decided I could do without if I had to.

Within a month, I met Steve.  We started out as friends.  He was engaged to some one else, and I wasn't interested in him romantically, so we stayed platonic, and that was good.

I knew before I met him that he was a Christian, and while I respected his right to his faith, I was leery of religious talk because I figured he'd judge me.  Steve has never been one to beat people over the head with religion, so it never came up, you know?  

Well, until we got engaged.  I wanted to go to the courthouse and get married, but Steve had done that with his first wife, and the marriage was a freaking train wreck, so he wanted to be married by a pastor, and to let his family know well in advance [his mom made him swear after his first marriage ended that if he ever wanted to get married again and she told him it was a bad idea that he'd listen.  He promised, but amazingly, Linda liked me so she never had to warn him off.]

Steve and I went to 'pre-marital counselling' which was a requirement along with regular attendance of a church [not necessarily his, but a church somewhere].  Since I didn't really have a denomination [wasn't even a Christian at the time] we went to the Nazarene church.

Again there was boredom with the service, but the people embraced us like family, and because I cared about them, we continued going to the church even after we were married.  It was because of the love of those people that I came to Christ and Steve 'rededicated.'

Things got kinda weird then.  The pastor started out befriending us and kind of taking us under his wing.  We had a discipleship time with him where he taught me about fascinating stuff like entire sanctification and various other Wesleyan Doctrines.  

Steve had been raised in a Nazarene home, his grandparents [on both sides] were Nazarenes, so he was never exposed to anything outside Christian beliefs except to be told that they were wrong.  Some were even dangerous and evil and to be avoided at all costs.  He never learned anything about other religions except that which was taught to him by his parents and other church authorities.

I've been struggling with this whole faith business for months [okay, actually it's years now, but I've only been actively searching since November of 2005].

Not too long after Steve and I became active members of the church.

Oh, you remember my tendency to be a 'scream it from the rooftops' kind of girl with my first conversion experience?  I didn't learn from my first time out, and tried to share what was going on in my life with my friends, who were Agnostic and not the least bit interested in Christianity. 

My poor friend Bec.  We went through some really rough times because I wanted her to 'get saved' and she wouldn't have anything to do with it.  We had a lot of religious arguments, and I almost alienated her completely. Bec, if you ever read this, I'm so very sorry for behaving so badly.

After the first blush of religion, I started feeling depressed and didn't really know why.  Our pastor would preach about devoting our lives to God, and becoming 'holy as He is holy,' and then point out things that weren't holy.  Usually it was anything that was selfishly motivated, but sometimes it was specific things that he felt were selfish, that maybe, looking back now, weren't so bad.

There was also an attitude that he couldn't get people to do what he wanted them to do, and if someone refused him, they were refusing God [because God told him where the people of the church needed to be serving].

I ended up 'serving' in a lot of ways that I'm not cut out for, and the things I was good at, were given to others.  I fell into this big vat of guilt and almost drowned in it for several years.

I remember kneeling by the couch at home one night [Steve was at work, I think] and just sobbing because I knew I could never be good enough or truly worthy of God's love [and the guilt of knowing that he loved me anyway  was there, too. I knew that I didn't have to earn his love, but I still wanted more than anything to be worthy of it.  Probably doesn't make sense, but there you go]

So I was praying and I finally said, "You know what?  I give up.  I'm not even going to try to be holy anymore because it's freaking impossible and this sucks, so I give up."

I swear I heard a voice [not out loud]say, "Good, now I can use you."

Before I got pregnant the first time, I started extension classes through the Nazarene Bible College to eventually become an ordained elder [that's what they call the pastors in the Naz church].  I felt called to preach, and I began the process.

There were several things that happened that made me shelve that 'call.'  One was the little weasel who told me point blank that he would feel 'very uncomfortable' with a female pastor, and that he wasn't the only man who would be. [Grrr 😦 ]

Then I got pregnant and it was a nightmare of health problems and depression and I just couldn't concentrate on much of anything besides surviving the pregnancy, you know?

But there were other things as well.  Our pastor [who had been brand new when he married us.  Like two months new] was having serious troubles with burnout.  He was becoming very legalistic and judgemental, and extremely negative about the people in the church.

He finally turned in his resignation, maybe half hoping it wouldn't be accepted, that the people would realize the errors of their ways and fall into line [maybe, I can't say that for sure, of course, but at the time it was the impression I got.]

I was relieved in a way, and when he left, Steve and I left the church as well.  We moved on to a new church, and after I was no longer under the influence of our former pastor, my guilt and depression lessened considerably.  I began the first tentative steps of figuring out who God was.  Again.  

As I studied and prayed, I began to realize that what I'd been taught for seven years wasn't necessarily what God taught. I was moving toward a God that made more sense than the iron fisted god who would never be satisfied, who would always demand more sacrifice of myself so I could become more like Him, and who could never get enough.

[*NOTE* It's possible that I misinterpreted what was said to me.  I had other things going on with hormones and depression, so my perception was more than likely skewed. I honestly don't know what his intent was in some of his teachings, only how they affected me personally.]

So at the new church, I began to question and look for answers on my own instead of asking others what they thought about it.  A lot of Christians think that's a good way to be led astray.  I've noticed that independent study is encouraged, but independent thoughts and conclusions that differ from the party line? Not so much.

Then I got pregnant again, and had two years and eight months more of being miserable and partially brain dead.

Which is when I began this blog [well, the Blogger one] and this spiritual journey.  I don't want any more kids, and we're in the process of permanently making sure we don't.  That's partially because for whatever reason, I can't focus on anything outside my immediate family during the pregnancy and the two years following the birth. 

There are studies that confirm this [for a lot of women, although probably not all].  But I'm definitely one of those who are affected by this phenomenon, and since I really like my mind when it's here, I really don't want to lose it again, you know? 

But, when my mind is fully active, I start to do research.  I stop taking other people's word for it and go find out for myself.  People who have the ability to hear that a religion is evil [or that the president is a good man] from a religious authority and accept it without question boggle my mind.

I think that people who see things only in absolutes, in black and white, are good examples of people who have never done any research [or at least not much] of their own and looked at information about the other side [from the other side… listening to hearsay from someone else who agrees with your point of view doesn't count].

Up until a few months ago, I literally had no idea that you could be a Christian and a Democrat at the same time [I know, stupid, but I believed my 'authorities'].  I had never read anything about 'practicing' gays and lesbians who are also Christians from the perspective of the gay or lesbian who is a Christian, only from religious leaders who say it isn't possible.

I have done some [limited] research into other religions, only to find that they aren't all that different from Christianity [well, the teachings of Jesus anyway].  I've also been truly disturbed to find that Christians, Muslims, and Jews are 'Abrahamic' religions, and that they all worship the same God, but none of them believe that the other two will go to heaven.  

Those people are the more conservative of their respective religions, not all of them believe that way.

When I look at other world religions, either they don't believe that they are the One True Way, or if they do, they are mostly labelled as delusional fanatical cults[esp. by the other ones who know that they are the One True Way].

So I'm wondering here.  The main theme of most religions comes down to loving [showing respect for, whatever] your creator and your fellow creatures. There are probably billions of people in the world who do that every day of their lives.  Yeah, I'd say that's accurate because most people choose to do good, to help rather than to hurt, right?

So I see God in these people, regardless of their religion, and I love them just as I believe God loves them.  And this is the part that scares the hell out of Steve, and probably all of my Christian friends.

Because if you can know God without first accepting Jesus, than what was the point of Jesus's death on the cross?  Where does the atonement come in?  Did he lie when he said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." [John 14:6](hit the link on 'me.' It can mean "That which I possess"  what if JC was talking about his teachings, not his person… then anyone who follows his basic teachings, which, by the way were also taught by a lot of other great teachers, can come to the Father, right? 'What if' is all I'm saying.)

Sorry for the digression.  If we follow the 'what if he lied about being the only way,' thread, then everything he said must have been a lie, right? Then the whole Bible is a big book of crap, and we have to throw it all out, right?

I'm sure there's a logical fallacy in that statement somewhere [anyone who knows which one, please share!]

That's where Steve was coming from the other night.  My questioning Christianity and coming up with some decidedly non-Christian conclusions are freaking him out, because if I'm right about all this shit, then everything he's based his entire life upon is crap and he has to start all over in a quest for the truth.

Yeah, I get that, really I do.  But I can't stop this thing I've started.  And now, I think I've finally reached a conclusion about the other post I wrote that originally freaked him out.

The freaky part is toward the end, the first part is a rant about racism.

I'll change the date stamp so it shows up after this entry [maybe, if I can get it to do it ;-)]

Hey, thanks for listening.  Comments are always welcome, and encouraged, even if you think I'm nuts [but, um, if you do think I'm nuts, please be polite about it, okay?  Being mean is, well, mean, so please don't Thanks, I really appreciate it. ;-)] 

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5 responses »

  1. Shelbi,

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think Crist lied. I think he meant that if you followed his teachings, you would go to God. In the Sermon on the Mount he gives his followers the Lord’s Prayer, a simple and heartfelt way to talk to God. This doesn’t sound like he was trying to make himself the funnel that people had to pass through in order to reach out to God and find him. It sounds like he was sharing his own journey and trying to make people understand that violence and hatred and bigotry were not the way to find peace with God.

    Also, the scriptures were written after the fact. They have been revised many times. By the time you read your Bible you don’t even know how many words were translated correctly, or what parts may have been excluded over the many, many years since Christ lived and died.

    Quakers believe that the scriptures guide our lives but that they are not a static and unchanging testimony of God to be taken literally. We believe that God’s testimony lives, and grows and flourishes in our own lives. We value the scriptures and try to live as Christ wanted us to live, but we know we are not the only way. Just one of many ways, both within our faith and outside of it. That is why we can participate in all faiths and trust their validity. No one religion has the whole answer, and it is up to the individual to keep searching for answers and growing in faith through their whole life.

    I think Christ died on the cross to try to illustrate the truth of what he knew and had discovered about life and spirituality, and to atone for those who could not understand his truth. It was his great gift to them and to God. He hoped that his death would lead those who were distant, closer to God’s peace and forgiveness.

    If that makes me an unrighteous creature, then so I must be. 😉 It feels so right and seems so simple. Christ gave us unconditional love. He taught us that peace and humility and truth would free us from our suffering and let us progress to our spiritual destinies.

    Everything else is what people added and interpreted on their own afterwards. It’s not all bad, but it’s not all good either. We were given free will. It is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, and that means he wants us to question and search for the truth. It does not mean that we are evil and damned if we do so.

    Hedgehog

  2. I’m not sure to say about this one yet. I’ve been thinking about it for days. You’re in my accountability group, but I don’t know what you’re keeping me accountable to when we don’t believe the same things . . . I know you had some bad experiences with “superchristian” folks, but the word of God is not mysterious or hidden. Jesus said what he said, period. I don’t know how to be a Christian any other way than to believe what he said, and if I don’t believe the bible is infallable, then what do I have to stand on? I believe there IS a hell, and it’s not just for the “bad people” who didn’t find whatever way made them happy here on earth. I don’t know where you’re going with this – it seems more appropriate to call it Ba’hai (or however you spell it), and I’m confused . . . we need to talk about this face to face so you can explain it to me.

  3. Hi Lindsay,

    I was beginning to wonder if my real life friends were still reading this thing, and if so, what you thought about this series of posts. Feel free to e-mail me privately about this stuff any time, guys, okay? Putting it out there for the whole world to see can be weird, so I appreciate your courage, as well as your honesty, Lindsay. I’m going to answer some of it here, but I’ll be more than happy to do the e-mail thing, or talk in person.

    My only concern about talking in person is that this is an emotionally charged subject, and words said in the heat of the moment can’t be taken back. With an e-mail, I can edit as many times as I need to in order to get this as coherent as possible.

    I consider you and the others in our small group/accountability group to be really good friends, and I don’t want to hurt you. [And if I’m to be completely honest, here, I don’t want to be hurt by you either]. My intent was not to alienate anybody, but I wondered if it would have that effect on some people. The feeling I got from your comment was that I may have done just that. I’m sorry if that’s the case, and my prayer is that we can reach some sort of understanding while maintaining our closeness as friends.

    So anyway, here goes.

    “If we follow the ‘what if he lied about being the only way,’ thread, then everything he said must have been a lie, right? Then the whole Bible is a big book of crap, and we have to throw it all out, right?

    I’m sure there’s a logical fallacy in that statement somewhere [anyone who knows which one, please share!]”

    My point is, at least with this quote, that to say that if part of the Bible is inaccurate or misinterpreted by mainstream Christianity then we should throw the whole thing out is a mistake, and a logical fallacy [like slippery slope or some such].

    However I think it’s also a mistake to say that one interpretation [or that a strictly literal interpretation] is the only possible one. Some Christians say that the Bible is black and white about stuff, and that anything you want to know about is in there and clear as day for those who want to understand, but that’s not exactly true. Many things in the Bible aren’t clear, and Jesus himself spoke in parables to illustrate the fact that not every one would understand what God had to say.

    There are many mysteries in the Bible, things that even scholars who have studied the Bible their whole lives don’t understand, so to take a hard line approach that it’s all straight forward and absolute gives me the willies [much like my statements gave them to Steve, and possibly, to you].

    I don’t come into these new views lightly. I’ve been praying the whole time like nobody’s business because at first they scared the crap out of me. I don’t believe that Jesus ever lied, but I do think it’s possible that the people who were at the council meeting in 367 AD [or one of the other dates for the different council meetings], who decided what words made the cut to fit into their Bible likely could have had an agenda of their own.

    The Apocrypha was in there [just did some research and learned that Luther took it out in 1536, along with Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation. Catholics didn’t put the apocrypha in as we were taught], and we, as protestants, don’t follow it because it talks about paying alms for the dead and some other stuff.

    If Luther took those books out because they held doctrines that he disagreed with, then what would stop him or others from putting something in there that excluded every one but the ‘elect’ from heaven? Or taking more stuff out to make the same effect?

    Does that mean we should throw the whole thing out? No, I don’t believe so. There are so many amazing spiritual truths in there, and it’s the story of one group of people’s relationship with God. But what if the ‘bibles’ of other religions are their stories of their own [equally valid] relationships with God?

    I think we as Christians have been so indoctrinated to believe that if one thing is inaccurate in the Bible then it all must be, but that is not really true. If I speak for ten minutes and tell the truth 90% of the time, then 90% of what I have said has been true. The problem, for those who don’t have any knowledge of what I’m talking about is figuring out which 10% is false.

    The way to deal with the problem is either to ignore everything I just said, and possibly miss lifesaving information, or to do your own research by looking at other sources. With us, we also have the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts about the truth of what we’ve read. Personal revelation can be shifty, especially if you go into it looking for scripture to back up your personal viewpoint instead of looking at what the Bible actually says, but with a sincere heart, I think listening to what God says to your heart is valid.

    I’ve done some research, and what I’ve found is that fundamentally, the teachings of Jesus [which are still the basis for my faith, by the way]are very similar to a lot of other religions. Buddhism is practically identical when it talks about personal behavior [love your neighbor as yourself].

    And I’m not saying that whatever way makes you happy is the right way, I’m saying seeking God should be your top priority, regardless of the way you choose to do it [that doesn’t involve abusing yourself or others].

    That’s what Jesus himself told us to do. “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Those two commands can be followed by anyone, regardless of their faith. And if they’ve truly sought God, they will find those two commands and know their truth regardless of which faith taught it to them. That’s all I’m saying.

    Like I said in my post, I could be wrong, but again, please know that I have been searching with a sincere heart, asking God to guide my steps all along the way and to move me back in the right direction if I stray off-course. I have to trust that he’s in control of this journey I’m taking because he promised that “You will find me when you seek me if you seek me with all your heart.” My whole heart is truly seeking him, so even if I’m not there yet, I know that eventually I will find him.

    In the meantime, please don’t write me off, okay? The thought of losing my closest friends scares the crap out of me, so please don’t make me go there. I love you and Robin and Sarah very much, so please bear with me in this, okay?

  4. Either you have “faith” or you do not. Either you believe, or you do not. There is no gray area here. Christ did not make this complicated by design nor do I think He expects us to. I say, sister, if you are confused then PLEASE get on your knees and ask for discernment and He shall grant it. He loves you. Period. End of conversation. Christ CANNOT lie. You say you pray but, how can you recieve a proper answer if you cannot have faith to begin with. Please… start there. God is not the author of confusion. With love in Christ Jesus, Ricki

  5. Pingback: An Interesting Comment « Shelblog

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