Posted by: Marie | June 14, 2010

(334) Sorting through it all – Part 3 of 3

Post #334
[Private journal entry written on Friday, January 22, 2010 – continued from previous post]

Here is my last thought before I go to bed . . .

In all fairness, I must admit I haven’t ever boldly declared to Mark that I’m no longer a Christian – because I was afraid of the firestorm it would create between us. I have sidestepped the issue multiple times. So, I can see where he could have been easily confused.

That single misunderstanding seems to be the genesis of the vast majority of the subsequent drama and hard feelings. Wow.

I have sidestepped boldly defining my faith to Mark – and to other people – for a number of reasons:

1) I can’t say that I belong to some organized religion. Marks believes my belief structure doesn’t deserve respect because it wasn’t crafted by some famous church founder. I think the misunderstanding would not have occurred if I could have made a statement like, “I’m a Buddhist”. He has repeatedly stated that, when he counsels people of other faiths, he respects their faith and works within the constraints of their belief system. I think he believed couldn’t do that for me because my faith is not oriented around an organized religion.

2) I am still figuring out what I believe – I can’t really debate someone on the validity and strength of my faith when I’m unsure of its parameters myself. Right now, it is more about what I don’t believe in.

Skyline Drive in Taiwan by Martin Chen

3) I don’t like saying, “I’m not a Christian” and “my faith is not Bible-based” (or “I don’t ‘believe’ in the Bible”) to Christians (especially passionate ones like Mark) because they turn on me like wild banshees, tackle me to the ground and try to cram Christianity down my throat – they try to convert me. I learned to sidestep that experience a long time ago.

4) I don’t like boldly stating that I believe my religion is “right” because it could seem like I’m saying another person’s religion is “wrong” – to me, that feels disrespectful towards that person. I think we all are “right”.

5) I still fear getting “struck by lightening” by God when I say I’m not a Christian. It is less scary to say it when I’m around other non-Christians . . . maybe because, when there are others who have arrived at the same conclusions about Christianity, I feel the chances are less that I got it wrong and less that God will stike me dead for getting it wrong.

6) I guess I have trouble speaking the truth because, as a kid, speaking the truth would earn me a stunning slap in the face and other methods of punishment for being non-compliant. It is hard to speak boldly on such a controversial topic without remembering the punishment of my childhood in my body – that fear is deeply ingrained.

7) I think spiritual beliefs are very personal. I don’t think what I believe is anyone else’s business – it is something I can share if and when I determine I have a good reason for sharing. I don’t feel a need to wear my spiritual beliefs on my chest like a badge.

8) It is debatable if I am a Christian or not. I believe all religions are valid and all honor the same God. It would be acceptable (comfortable even?) to worship God using the traditions of worship associated with any religion including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc. I believe I’d be worshipping the same God regardless which worship tradition I utilized – I’m not attached to using any particular methods of worship. I don’t think God is defined by the trappings of any specific style of worship.

For example, I am comfortable going to church with my mom and worshiping God while sitting in her church, listening to her pastor. I’d be just as comfortable in a Buddhist service. The methods of worship associated with Christianity are the methods I grew up with and the ones with which I am most comfortable and the ones I most associate with worshipping God.

Does that make me a Christian? I’m not sure. While I believe Christianity is a valid religion, I don’t believe it is the only valid religion. Does that not make me not a Christian? I’m not sure. Who has the authority to determine that? Maybe me, maybe God (if he really cares which method of worship I use), but not other people.

I think it is arrogant for another person to declare me a Christian, or not – I think they are treading on very dangerous ground when they do that. If a human is laying out the rules of being “saved” and feels he or she has a fool-proof way of determining when someone is on the only path to God, then that clues me in that the rules are humans’ rules, not God’s rules.

So . . . with that, I’m shutting off my computer and climbing under the covers.


Responses

  1. It actually sounds like you’re a Unitarian. They basically believe that nobody has a monopoly on truth about God and people there are encouraged to figure out what feels true for them. They also seem to see the Bible the way you do. Different congregations vary in exact flavour, between leaning toward very liberal Christian to leaning toward Secular Humanist, but they bring in content from other faiths into their services. I’ve attended some of their services, and they’re not my cup of tea but they might be a fit for you. Here’s the wikipedia article about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism

    • Hi, SDW –

      Thanks for the great suggestion! I have dabbled in the Unitarian and Unity churches . . . as well as the “Science of Mind” doctrine housed by the Religious Science Church (which has absolutely nothing to do with Scientology except an unfortunate similarity of names).

      I have felt very comfortable worshiping in any and all of those churches because of their open tolerance of all belief structures. I have felt free to speak of my beliefs openly in informal discussions with members.

      I have learned that they each have their own doctrine . . . and the doctrines are all based on “doing it right” so that we can be closer to God. So, the philosophies are interesting . . . I agree with some parts . . . but, I still feel a pressure to “do it right”, which is very frustrating for me. I don’t think God makes it that difficult. I think it is organically simpler than that.

      I don’t know if that makes sense . . . but that is my current struggle around this issue.

      Thanks for your input!

      – Marie

  2. It’s hard when a counsellor has very decided beliefs (religious, ideological or therapeutic). Especially when there may not be many counsellors to choose from.

    With some, like you, I’ve just avoided the topic.

    I think finding our way in our spirituality can be very difficult. Even if you see yourself in a tradition (as I do), it is hard to find your own path – usually departure from the group line isn’t encouraged (to put it as kindly as possible).

    I’m thinking of doing a blog post or two about this and inviting some people to do guest posts about it.

    For me the crisis in the West (economic, ecological, social) is a spiritual crisis. Oops, think I’ve gone off on a rave so shall shut up now.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I always appreciate your gentle and kinds input regarding religion and God and spirituality. I think you have some well-thought-out concepts rolling around in your brain and I enjoy hearing them.

      I have noticed that you tend to be part of a certain tradition but you also have given yourself permission to depart from the group. I value that about you.

      Thanks for the sympathetic comment!

      – Marie


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