Christianity Co-existing with Christianity

god-questions

Where else can an average person truly express their opinion but their own blog!?  This is the point I think, when something on the news or Facebook…whatever be the hot topic, you can hop onto your blog and post your opinion about it.  Since my opinion is rarely relevant, and often inappropriate outside of myself and my children. Few places do I feel free to write about how I feel, and to hell with anyone else or what they think. Outside of my own blog, I’ve learned life is easier, when I mostly keep opinion to myself, unless asked directly to give it. I used to always want to chime in, and I still get myself into trouble on Facebook and elsewhere doing so. Not real trouble, but I end up beating myself up, either because I regret what I said, or who I shared it with.  If this sharing becomes debate, as it often does on Facebook, it ends one of two ways; I feel like a jerk because I won, or I feel inferior because I lost.  What’s the point? The best solution for me, is to remember that what I think really doesn’t matter, and it’s importance ends at the tip of my nose.

However, this is my blog and today want to share a few things.  Few if anyone will read it, but I’ll feel better putting e-pen to e-paper, instead of just the actual paper in my bedside journal.  Maybe, just maybe, a couple people WILL read this. And if anyone is offended, or if this did turn to debate and I were to win….then the reader brought it upon themselves.  This is my blog, I can share my grocery list if I want, and you can choose to read it, or to ignore it.

First I’m a Christian, at least I consider myself one.  And I’m going to attempt to verbalize my religious beliefs in less than 3,000 words….or somewhere around there.  What makes me find this relevant is this business with Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner.  And why some people insist on trying to impose on this person what she should feel, do and believe.  To impose THEIR beliefs….on someone else.  Which to me, is the ultimate problem with all religion today, from Southern Baptist to Wahhabi Muslim. Does anyone else ever look at Judaism and admire that about them?  That they don’t impose their beliefs on others?  That in fact, they don’t want to convert you, and they will make it very difficult for you to do so if you choose. I dig that about the Jews….it intrigues me, and at one point in my life, I wanted to convert to Judaism.  Mostly, because they didn’t want me…it made them seem elite, and like maybe they knew something I didn’t?  Maybe it’s my ego, but I prefer to join a religion that doesn’t want me, or at the very least will make it very difficult for me to join if I choose (but if I run their “gauntlet,” will then welcome me with open arms). Than one that shows up on my doorstep to try and convince me why I should buy a book, sign on a dotted line and call myself a “believer.”

As far as my own status as a “believer,” here’s where I stand and what I believe to be truth:

  • I believe Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins.
  • I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
  • I believe we are all children of God.
  • That I should strive to live as close to a reflection of the example set by Jesus Christ during His time on earth as is possible.
  • That these ideals are both what God wants from me, and what will bring me peace, contentment, and happiness.

If you need more specificity than that, I’m definitely not the person to ask.  That’s as far as I go into specifics, and I’m at peace with that.  There are more things I believe such as that we shouldn’t judge others, and that we should try to love all our fellow men, focusing on helping and giving, and that the more I do for others, the more God will do for me.  If I literally live 100% of my life for you, and completely ignore my own desires, then God will take wonderful care of me, giving me more abundance than I could ever provide.

I realize that some Christians will see some of this as blasphemy,  but what they believe is irrelevant to me, and vice versa.  I’ll settle up when I meet God, not before, and certainly not with them.  Some of these Christians will believe this out of a true concern for my soul. But the majority will believe this to feel superior, and because it will allow them to marginalize everything else I say.  People want to feel good, and for many unfortunately the surest way of doing so, is comparing themselves to others and believing they are better.  I used to be the same way, and struggle daily to not be.  A wise man once said “a life spent keeping score is exhausting!” (if I’m wise to anyone other than myself….yep, irrelevant) Today it helps that I’ve been taught that for every person I believe myself superior, there will be someone else, that I applying the same standard, inevitably I’ll come out lacking.  My ego, which is out to get me anyway and I wish would just go away, is best served by just focusing on what I can do for others, not how I measure up.

I think it’s important to add another belief I hold.  Although, unlike some beliefs, this is more like fact, less like my own personal view.  That is that the foundation of any religious belief is faith, and faith is the same thing as….OPINION.  Personal religious faith has no more bearing on fact, than a discussion of red vs. white wine,  Jordan vs. Lebron, or who to vote for in a presidential election. All are simply opinions we have, developed over time based on our intake of factors (some of which may be facts), experiences and education. Whether faith or opinion, neither will be agreed upon by all, and cannot be proven to be the unbiased truth. You can argue until you’re blue in the face that Lebron would best Jordan in a game of one-on-one, if both were in their prime.  If you present it well, I’ll be glad to listen and I may even admire your faith in Lebron. But if I listen to another person present the argument for Jordan, then I may lean that way and I may switch back and forth several times!  On that topic, just like anything else that is a person’s faith, or opinion….you will never be able to prove yours is right and someone else’s is wrong.  You may feel different, but if so, then you’re not using the educated part of your brain, in fact probably not any of your brain, but your heart.  I respect that deeply, but it doesn’t make it any more factually accurate.   Opinions, and their relationship to accuracy is in the eye of the beholder.  This is a real problem today in the world, and the source of much strife, hate, and disagreement.  People are so fervent in their zealotry for their chosen religion, that they gloss over the fact of what that zealotry is.  It’s not truth, except in their own heart and mind.  Not fact, except in their own home and as they relate it to others that agree and are able to put rational thought aside for it.

Why do I get the feeling that “opinion,” is such a bad word, and may inspire much zealous disagreement as to it’s relation to faith? When a Christian (and I will mostly refer to Christian because I live in the “bible belt,” of the United States, and I’m by far the most exposed and knowledgable of Christianity. And as I stated above, I am a Christian) speaks of their faith, to me that’s such a beautiful and envious thing to have.  Before I had it myself I was jealous of those that did. I wanted to have something I believed beyond doubt, that gave me answers and helped me find the peace that I saw in many believers.  But I didn’t for a long time, and considered myself a skeptic at best and a full on agnostic at worst.  I was never an atheist, which doesn’t even matter to some, many don’t understand the difference.  But I believe few people are truly atheist, believing there is no God.  I think for the most part, you either have faith in a God, or you aren’t sure what you believe.  That was me, and I suppose that’s also the definition of Agnosticism.

Part of the reason for my doubt and being “on the fence,” was I felt so turned off by most religions I was exposed too.  The only one I thought had much saving grace was Judaism.  I embraced and was interested in converting to Judaism because of it’s open ended “many paths to the same goal,” belief.  In other words, Judaism could account for one of my biggest hangups with many religions, and certainly with Christianity.  The exclusion from a positive afterlife, of anyone who didn’t believe the same as they did.  I REALLY had a problem with this.  I love the example “so you’re telling me that the Dali Lama, Ghandi, the Buddha, Confucius, or essentially anyone who lived B.C, is either burning in hell or has that in their future?”

Who can accept that?  Who wants to accept that?  And why in the world would anyone want to associate with a religion that believes that?  I sure as heck didn’t….and for a long time, I found my only reconciliation in Judaism.  They were the only one’s that seemed to have it right.  However, there were also some facets of Judaism I didn’t like, such as Kosher living, the irrelevance of women (in many ways), and that it’s just so dang old-fashioned!  My religion will need to adapt and have flexibility as time progresses.  I want an “elastic clause,” in my religion, because as I’ve learned throughout my journey with life, and as I believe is the case on a broader scale than my own personal existence….more will be revealed.  So I rejected Judaism, and settled in to maintain my existence as an agnostic.

Moving through life, I had some pretty hard falls….many bruised shins, a lot of skinned knees, and repeatedly wounded pride and self-image. I kept risky behavior and pushing things to the limit even though it wasn’t working out for me. Ever time thinking it would finally be different. Finally, I reached an impasse and knew it was time to change or slide on down the drain, so I reached out for help and look toward the future, no longer living in the prison of my past.  I didn’t run from my past, but I embraced it, learned from it, and now use it to help others that came into my life that had made similar mistakes.  I found recovery, from myself…and in recovery I discovered a way of living that was tolerant, open, and assumed to know as little as possible, and instead acknowledged our own ignorance.  Because we knew little, and because most people who end up in recovery tend to be “seekers,” we are taught to embrace our own ignorance, and stop pretending like we’ve got life figured out!  This was really refreshing, relaxing, and I found much irony in that fact that I’ve met some of the most enlightened people I’ve been exposed to in recovery, and the most enlightened amongst them, would tell you they don’t know a thing. Some truly humble people, that in their acceptance, found great wisdom and the ability to help others.

When I got there, I was pretty deeply rooted in a “no religion,” worldview.  I felt that all people of religion were aggressive warmongers, anti-diversity, and simple-minded and scared, seeking comfort by looking down their noses at others as a default setting.  However I was taught in recovery that people of all persuasions may have something to teach.  And that if a person found peace and tranquility in ANYTHING, then good for them, and I shouldn’t judge them and should remain open-minded to what they had to say.   I found a lot of peace in this outlook, and it allowed me to take a deep breath!  I remember lots of phrases related to God and religion, that I’d never really been exposed to, and that I found appealing.  “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” and “I wasn’t angry or anti-God, but I didn’t like many of His ‘representatives,’ on earth.”  These phrases opened my mind, and thus opened me to religion.

Growing up in the “bible belt,” I’d been exposed to church a handful of times, but that exposure was overwhelmingly to a certain evangelical branch that shall remain nameless. I don’t mean to knock anyone’ s beliefs, because these folks have apparently found something they’re looking for.  But it sure wasn’t attractive to me, and it didn’t appeal.  They just didn’t seem to have much that I wanted, and I suspect that many non-believers and people on the fence have the same reaction. This group has a loud voice, and often drowns out any other that tries to explain or be an example of Christianity. Thus they end up being what people feel “Christianity,” is and they just don’t know any better. Effectively monopolizing the religion with their fiery interpretation of faith. What’s interesting is as much as I heard from these folks in my lifetime, even attending some of the related churches, I didn’t know that much about what they believed.  What I did know…is the consequences they promised for non-belief. Which is so unfortunate, because Christianly is a beautiful, tolerant, loving religion, with so many faces and things to learn about.  But these extremists, with their fear-mongering message of intolerance of diversity and consequences to those that aren’t like them, it may appeal to some.  But the number of people that are open to it and will want to become a part of it is growing smaller with each passing year.  Modern generations don’t want hate and intolerance, and have trouble accepting a God that is focused on anything other than love.  At least this is my observation and belief based on what I see happening today.

So these folks, and their extreme version of Christianity, it doesn’t represent all of us.  It’s simply become a stereotype, as relevant as saying that asians are all short, or african-americans all like rap music, or white people can’t jump or dance! It’s unfair, and it’s ignorant, but it comes back to the loudest voices getting the attention. This denomination believes they have it right, everyone else has it wrong, and not even other Christians will be getting the benefit of the doubt in the hereafter.  God is draconian, unforgiving, and judgmental…breathing fire and damning sinners to hell.  The motivations of these believers often were suspect to me.  It didn’t seem like they showed up on Sunday to learn and seek happiness, so they could go out to the world that week, and be better people, more tolerant and tolerable for their fellows that came into contact with them. They just seemed to do whatever it took to ensure an afterlife on streets covered in gold.

A few years ago,  I had a boss that explained to me how his church opened a medical clinic to treat the less fortunate, and as he was explaining this to recruit me, he ended by asking where I went to church.  I told him, and explained how we too,  had just opened a gorgeous state of the art clinic available pro bono for those otherwise unable to afford it.  He replied that he had heard about it, and asked if I knew that my church had accepted government grants to supplement donations (by the way, this is probably the largest and nicest free clinic in the state), and that because of this, agreed to not preach or attempt to convert patients who visited. He stated that his church had considered and turned down grants, opting to have a policy that if a patient were unwilling to listen to a sermon, then they could seek help elsewhere. I didn’t know any of this, and so I couldn’t retort, and he kept on me and badgered me about my beliefs and my church and implicated that we should be ashamed of ourselves.  I wasn’t sure I knew why they took the grant, but I had an inkling.  So the following Sunday I sought out my pastor and asked him.  He explained  “the point is to offer help and reach as many people that need it as possible.  Studies show that many of the less fortunate would rather remain sick or ill, than seek help in a church sponsored clinic. The elders decided that maybe it was because they just wanted to feel better, and didn’t want to be preached at, and further that  Jesus taught that help should include no strings.”  (Matthew 10:8) On Monday I returned and explained this to my boss.  He mumbled something about believing in the healing of the mind, body and soul (as if my church didn’t), and unlike before, when he wanted to discuss it thoroughly since I had no reply as to why they accepted the grant, he quickly moved off the subject. No wonder so many people on the fence are turned off by Christianity!  “We’ll help you, but on our terms”  Umm, which verse is that in the bible?  Where does this ignorance come from? And why does the loudest and most noticeable denomination of christianity in America spew it?

Anyway, thanks to recovery I decided to open my mind to religion and to see if I could find some things in common with believers, instead of focusing on the things I didn’t like. Lo and behold, this strategy worked really well for me!  I must give credit to the church I reference above, as they taught a version that I was immediately drawn to. Since my beliefs may not exactly reflect all of theirs, I won’t name names, but the head pastor preached of tolerance, impartiality, love, and lack of judgment.  I can honestly say that in almost four years of attending said church, I’ve still yet to hear the man utter the word “hell.”  Also, he stressed the fact that he’s just a normal human being like you and me, very little different. That he made mistakes, wasn’t always a great example of a “godly person.”  One time they had a series on the 7-Deadly Sins, and for the sermon on lust, when he walked out and got started, the background music playing was Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.”  Everyone was kind of looking around at one another like “what,” but he came out and had a mischievous smile on his face, and the first thing he said was something like “c’mon people, it’s just a song.”  I will say, this isn’t a Unitarian or Congregational church, or anything outside the norm.  In fact, it’s the largest congregation in my hometown, and we’re one of the dreaded “mega-churches,” that I was certain I’d be so turned off by.  But found myself pleasantly surprised, that they did things their own way.

I’m not totally sure what my pastor would say about my “Jesus is the son of God, and so are all of us,” belief.  He may tell me that isn’t specific enough, and that I need to believe Jesus is the one and only literal Son of God, and the rest of us are only figuratively such.  But honestly, I think he’d tell me that as long as I believe, accept Him as my Lord and Savior, and am comfortable and get the benefits of living the life of a believer…that I’m doing alright.  It’s certainly what I believe.  And furthermore it allows me to stop debating in my head and stop asking so many dang questions! And just focus on the things I do believe, and gain the benefit of that.  If I were debating a skeptic and he brought up “water turned into wine,” or “lepers healed by touch,” “fish magically appearing in a barren sea,”  I don’t know about those things….the bible says them, and I tend to believe what I read in the bible, but overall I just don’t really care or focus on them.  My opinion on those aspects of my religion, doesn’t have to settle the question of whether or not I’m a “Christian.” If you want to discuss Christianity, then let’s talk about turning the other cheek, loving thy neighbor, generosity, and a life lived for others.  I don’t care about the specificity of the other stuff and have accepted that some mystery pertaining to my God…is just fine, and probably should be embraced.

Having laid out what I believe, brings me to my original motivation for writing this post.  I’ve read so much lately about Caitlyn Jenner; very hateful, very judgmental things, written mostly by Christians.  I ask, how is this a reflection of the teachings of Jesus Christ? Why does Caitlyn Jenner wanting to be a woman, have any impact on anyone else?  I read posts and articles about how she’s “not a hero,” and comparing her “hero status,” to that of troops overseas.  Why do we insist on doing this? Who cares? Why is calling her a hero a bruise on the hero status of overseas troops?  What is a hero?  Isn’t it someone that a group of people look up to and feel inspired by?  I have faith that many people in the LGBT community, probably feel inspired and look up to Caitlyn Jenner.  She may not be a hero to evangelical Christians, but if she absolutely is to LGBT people…at least some of them. Why do Christians get to marginalize her, and have the final say on who is or isn’t a hero? Is it because one group has heroes who matter and are important, while another doesn’t.  “Christians,” that want to say she’s not a hero, and get caught up in bashing her, certainly feel she is less than they are.  That because of her transgender status, she is a sinner and a person of poor morals.  This one fact about her, overshadows any good deed, or positive thing she’s ever done…it’s all washed away and now she’s a dirty sinner who’s turned her back on God.  She says she’s a Christian…HA!  Obviously she’s not our type of Christian.  (I wonder what you say about me?)

I know the bible says homosexuality is a sin.  But I also have zero doubt that homosexuality and transgender people have no control over how they feel, and they were born feeling that way.  For every example of a man or woman “saved,” by the church from homosexuality. You’ve got an example of a person with a polished veneer, but a tortured soul.  I don’t know if they’ve been brainwashed, but I know the “gay wasn’t prayed away.” (I believe in the power of prayer, it works for me and I do it multiple times a day for relief, but I don’t believe for one second you can “pray away the gay.”) There are powerful tactics people can use to bend the minds of people.  You may bend a person’s mind, but there soul is and always will be, what they were born with.  And in Caitlyn Jenner’s case….it’s the soul of a woman.

So when we want to impose our morals on others, ask ourselves just how “perfect,” we are ourselves.  When we say a person is a “good Christian,” or “comes from a good Christian family,” remember that Christians don’t have a monopoly on goodness.  And in fact, they have just as much of a relationship with evil, as any other religion.  In fact, in many cases more so.  Religion is, unfortunately, the basis of a majority of evil in this world.  Many deeds throughout history that shock and appall, have been done in the name of religion.  Further, I’d venture to guess that 75% of these deeds are split between Christianity and Islam.  Chew on that for a bit, and ask if you’re propagating a version of your religion that turns it’s back on this fact, or embraces it?

When you see an abortion clinic was bombed, behind the closed doors of your home, do you privately think “well they had it coming?” and thus keep their mouths shut instead of speaking out against extremists. Maybe even subconsciously? I’d venture to wager, that just as many evangelical Christians, deep inside harbor a feeling like this. But would criticize Muslims for seeing terror acts and not speaking out.  Instead of relating to them if they thought “well they poke in our business and view us as barbaric,” and thus keep their mouths shut.  So many Christians are up in arms that the Muslim world hasn’t united to decry their own people, misguided as they are, when they haven’t done so either.  Neither vehemently speaks out against violence done on behalf of their faith?  Hypocorisy abounds in the religious world, and it’s one of the biggest turn offs to those on the fence.

So today, I will try to live in the image of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I’ll pray for my enemies and those that I question how they live their life.  I’ll refrain from passing judgment on anyone, lest I find myself being judged (SCARY!)  And I’ll do my best to live for you, and let God worry about me.  Because I’m happiest when I do so.  I hope others can consider some of what I said, and not just dig in their heels and fall back on the accuracy of their religious opinions. Open your mind and your soul, love thy neighbor…and pray for Caitlyn Jenner. And while your at it…please pray for me too.

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