Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Calling Bullshit on "Religion"

I've had this vision to write a book or to have a blog for a very long time. In my mind It's a journey of self-discovery, of figuring out this place we call World, and of understanding my place in it.

I'm really good at procrastination, call it a gift, but I've finally decided to take this journey. My disclaimer to this blog is that these are my thoughts, my opinions, my enlightenments, etc. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. In fact, I hope you all don't. When there is some disagreement it forces us all to think a little more about our beliefs and about our personal interpretations of reality. Working through our differences helps us be to be understood.

One value I hold very highly is that of HONESTY. I've never been that good at sugar-coating my words. Those of you who know me well know that if I am in a situation that requires dipping my words in honey... I don't say anything at all! What I am going to talk about today is a touchy subject and may hit close to home for some of you. If you can't handle that, please stop reading now! My goal isn't to hurt any feelings. My goal is to talk out my personal mind chatter in my journey to become closer to God.

"Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned."
Author Unkown

That quote is so true, isn't it? I think that every single one of us has questioned our faith at some point. Silently, I'm sure, because if we were ever to admit it or to talk about it we were shunned for doubting God. Fear was instilled in us at a young age. We are directed to take the preacher's interpretation of The Word as The Word, and to march blindly into existence. Why? Because if we question or doubt we are accused for lacking trust in our leaders and in God.

I call bullshit.

That's right. I said bullshit in a blog about religion.

I grew up in the church at a very young age. I remember asking Jesus into my heart. I remember making the choice to become baptized in water. I remembered making all of these decisions and knowing that there was something so right about God, but feeling like there was something so unsettling with what I was being taught. I was scared into becoming a Christian. Hell sounded horrific, especially at the age of five! I didn't want to go there and I was told that all I had to do was accept Jesus into my heart, publicly, in front of hundreds of people. So I did it.

I knew God was real. At the age of seven I prayed for nights to win a Nintendo at my school raffle. I bought three tickets when my classmates bought tens, and I won! And when that game became an idol for me the lord intervened through my Grandmother. After a night of binge gaming she fried my Nintendo at 4am during a game of Tetris. There was also the matter of my hearing, or lack of. None of my memories have sound in them until the age of five or so. After some prayer and a lot of faith, I was able to hear. To this day I still read lips!

As I grew older I began to question the interpretations of the Word more and more. I remember one night in a youth small group we were all delegated topics. The objective was to find a coorelating verse in the Bible that supported the topic we were given, and to speak about it the next week. My topic:  "Homosexuality is WRONG."

I remember searching for days trying to find something that specifically aligned with this belief. I asked for help. The direction I had been given was to quote verses that to me seemed to have nothing to do with homosexuality at all. It seemed metaphorical and I was met with anger when I challenged to take the bigger message or context or timeframe into consideration. It was at that point that I realized how much of The Bible was left up to interpretation. 

I know now that this was a life changing moment for me. I had such a negative viewpoint on everything my church did. When we were in need and I suggested going to the church my mother told me no, they wouldn't help us. That upset me. When they called "names" to the front and prayed over people during service, I saw it as a production. When we were denied membership to a church because my father smoked, my heart was broken. When the altar calls took twenty minutes and people were influenced to the front by way of fear I saw it as manipulative. When people were shunned for what they wore, what they had been through in life, or what they believed I judged the church as judgemental. When we were promised prosperity and checks in the mail, fundraised for a bigger building, sat through half hour tithe and offering fear messages, and let people starve who were in that very body I accused the church of being self-serving. When my sister was going through a tragic event we were forced to stay silent because we didn't want people in the church talking... I spit on the idea and said if they talk instead of love and help, they aren't a church at all.

I know now, in my older years, that this was a part of me trying to understand. I believe wholeheartedly that God was on my heels and in my heart. I believe I was feeling convicted and passionate for what was right. Jesus didn't change the world by acting in hate, inflicting fear, and judging those who didn't walk a perfect path. He changed the world by acting in love and forgiving the unforgivable. He didn't scare the unbelievers and he wasn't scared by them. He walked with them, washed their feet, and died for them.

There are far too many "Christians" out there today who push non-believers and believers alike further away from Church. My experiences pushed me to take a ten year hiatus from attending church, and my heart was always feeling pulled. I continued to study His Word. I continued to do my best to live a life like Jesus. Did I backslide, of course, but I always got back up.

I do feel that being plugged into a church is a neccessity. I am so happy that God has led me to where I am in my life and to where I currently attend church. Each week I feel recharged and energized. Each week I want to make a difference. I'm proud of my church and the eclectic body that attends. We are in desperate need of a new building as we are at max capacity with three services. Do we have a building fund? Yes, well, we try to. Last year we chose to give over $400,000 back to the community in serving the city. If someone comes to the door in need they will never hear, "we don't have the funds." If someone smokes they will never be told, "you cannot be a member." If someone walks through the door with a lifestyle different than Jesus' no one will ever turn away, but hug and embrace them like everyone else. That's a church to me.

Don't be afraid to ever question what you are being taught. If I were a minister, I would be pleased to have someone seek me out with questions about what I am teaching in my ministry. It's not a lack of trust. It's a desire to strengthen trust. Don't let your mind-chatter cause your heart to grow cold and hard. Give your leaders an opportunity to open your heart and your mind to understanding and getting your questions answered. And if your curiousity is met with aggression, a lack of empathy, and an impatience for understanding, maybe it's time to find a different church.