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Where Does My Tithe Money Go? (Kelly takes a vacation)

When you give to a church it's usually understood that the money goes to support the church's finances and keep it running.  Being a...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bible Interpretations and Truth

As I've said before, this blog is simply my thoughts at the moment.  If you're looking for a hardcore theology debate then please go elsewhere because you will only piss me off.  That said; I've been thinking a lot about all the various interpretations of the bible and how amusing it is that each group/person believes their interpretation is the correct one.

The study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the bible is referred to as biblical hermeneutics.  There are many principles involved such as: Historical, Grammatical, Breach, Moral, First Mention and Predictive, to name just a few.  If you're into it then go study it.  There is enough written to keep you occupied indefinitely.  Frankly, I'm not interested.  From my vantage point, no matter how much you study, look into history, understand the language it was written, compare it with other verses, it's still nothing but your human interpretation and view.  Your knowledge, degrees and agreement with others in your field of study don't impress me; or should I say they are impressive but this does not translate for me to ultimate truth.

It is estimated that there are 4,200 religions in the world.  There are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations.  But your interpretation is the right one?

I am completely done with religion.  I can no longer listen to man's interpretation of the mysterious, the unknown and the divine.  My path is unknown but it is free.

“Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.”

~ Walt Whitman

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Comfort of Belief

As I looked at my annoyance and animosity towards those that cannot explain their beliefs, or never explored why they believe what they believe, I want to try and look at it from their point of view.  As dear Dr. Phil says, "If you keep doing something, then you are getting something out of it."  So I'd like to look into what these people get out of remaining uninformed.  

I first have to ask myself what I got out of my ignorance.  I had a pattern, from childhood, of asking a question and then when the person's answer still left me with more questions I'd get angry.  Sometimes I'd keep asking until I usually exasperated the person I was asking, as they didn't have a real answer, and they'd then rebuke me in some way.  I was told I caused dissension.  I was told I had a spirit of rebellion.  Lots of shaming but still no answers.  

As an adult I stopped asking after awhile and simply tried to ignore the growing cognitive dissonance.  I comforted myself with John 3:12-  I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?.  I tried to believe I didn't see the entire picture.  I decided I didn't see the big picture, since I wasn't God, and tried desperately to trust there was a reason for it all.  I was tired of the questions and was desperate for "the peace which passes all understanding".  The peace never came and the questions got bigger.  I screamed into the nothingness the words of Mark 9:24 - ..."“Lord, I believe;help my unbelief!”  But did I even believe?  Truly believe?  Not really.  But I sure didn't want to burn in hell so I pressed forward.  

I started going to The Crossing Church as a last ditch effort at Christianity which I briefly detail on my first post.  They had a class called "Ask Anything" which was supposed to be a bit salacious and edgy.  I came with a list of questions and verses that troubled me.  When I asked my question I was extremely agitated as this meant a lot to me.  I pointed out a specific verse that I couldn't reconcile in my brain with a God of love.  I said, "Why should I worship this God?!"  Pastor Eric laughed and said, "Then don't!" and proceeded to get the crowd to laugh at me.  I kept on until he finally became annoyed and told me they had to go to other questions.  Break time came and I was still seething.  My head was screaming for me to leave but I sat motionless.  Eric came to me and dropped the belittling demeanor and said, "There are verses in the bible I don't like also.  You just have to lean into the love of Jesus."  Leaning into the love of Jesus was something I couldn't do as I'd never felt that love.  I'd prayed "the sinner's prayer" more times than I could count.  I begged to have the emotion and feeling others had of this love, grace and mercy.  Yet I felt nothing.  

After leaving the church I was numb and didn't know what to do.  I began speaking to people of all faiths and no faith.  I started to research all the biblical things that caused my mind to explode and that was where my world fell apart.  There were no pat answers.  There was no perfect solution.  I could no longer hide behind ignorance or unknowing. There was nothing left to comfort me and I had to face that I was agnostic.  It's only been in the past few months that I have vocalized being agnostic.  

So coming back to those that cannot explain the origins of their beliefs, why they believe or even what they believe.  I recently heard someone say, in reference to challenging beliefs, that "when people's anxiety gets trumped up they start behaving badly".  I've seen this time and time again.  When I confront or dispute long held Christian beliefs, even in the form of questions, people get very agitated.  Their faith, in whatever form they make it, comforts them.  For me to put their long held beliefs up to scrutiny is like pulling the spiritual rug out from under them.  I want to own my part though.  I also recently heard on this same subject matter, "we want to be affirmed by them and are angry they aren't affirming us".  Ouch.  Yes, I can definitely own those feelings.  

This brings me to a bigger question: Why do I feel the need to make them understand their own beliefs?  There is anger and jealousy there.  Whether they are living a fantasy or reality, they appear to be skipping merrily down the land while I drown in doubt.  I miss the days of believing (or trying to believe) God would take care of everything.  There is a lot of comfort and security in the ignorance.  But I had seen the man behind the curtain so I couldn't go back.  So where does this leave us?  Do I demand they affirm me?  Do I smile and nod when they throw out a "God is good, all the time" statement, while shoving down my disdain?  Is there room for dialogue and conversation while maintaining the relationship?  I hope so.  We all deserve respect and safety in these issues and questions.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why do you believe what you believe?

This post will finally be true to the title of this blog.  This isn't a post on The Crossing Church, though I may mention them later, but simply a thought from the back alley of my mind.  The past two years have been a troublesome awakening for me as I dissect what I've been taught and tried to determine what I truly believe.

Most of my Christian indoctrination came in childhood.  I wasn't told why we believed these things but simply that I had to believe them.  Believe or burn in hell.  No other option was given.   As I grew I found the contradictions in the bible, and in Christians behavior, rather disheartening.  The cognitive dissonance was overwhelming and I'd check out only to come back to the church again years later.  I'd been taught that the church and Christianity was the only way so while hating every minute I came back in hopes there could be something there for me.  My last church experience was at The Crossing Church, which I gave a brief overview in my first blog post.

Leaving the church, I went deep to explore where Christian beliefs came from and that's when it all fell apart.  I would continually find myself saying "Why the hell did I ever believe this!?"  It amazes me how many Christians I find that don't even understand the basic tenets of their faith.  It also astounds me that they don't seem to care.

I typically find three groups:

The first group is what I'll call your Basic Christian.  They 'accepted Jesus into their heart' as a kid, check the Christian box on surveys, show up for Christmas, Easter and maybe even once a month.  They'll enroll the kids in VBS, do the confirmation thing, throw a Jeremiah 29:11 magnet on the fridge and then pretty much do whatever they want.  Feed the poor?  Well that might take too much out of the vacation fund and those people should get jobs anyway.  Help the orphans?  They are pretty sure the few bucks they throw in the Salvation Army can will suffice.

The second group is a tad more down and dirty with their faith.  They belong to a church, go regularly, are part of a Small Group and volunteer for activities.  Life decisions are made according to the latest book at Lifeway.  They question nothing, and when pressed as to their beliefs they can't explain much.  They gush about Jesus, are very happy to be part of the privileged that get into heaven but aren't exceptionally concerned about reaching people who they feel will be boiled in the lava of hell.  They just don't think about it much.  Jesus died at the cross and now they feel there is nothing they need to do.  Yes, I hear predestination all over this but again, nothing that concerns them.  God is good, life is great and everything is going to turn out fabulous.  Uh huh.

The third group is pretty hard core.  They know their bibles, hermeneutics, eschatology and understand how the bible was put together.  They tend to be on the legalistic side though they'll typically say they aren't.  They believe fully that the bible is the inerrant word of God, lean towards being Republican, feel gay marriage will ruin the country and want to get back to old school bible teaching.

I actually have the most respect for the third group; though I sure don't want to go out for coffee with them.  I respect that they truly know what they believe.  Though I disagree, I get it.  The other two groups make me completely insane.  It annoys me to all hell when people basically take what they like and make up the rest.  It's so self indulgent, and from my view, not at all what Jesus talked about.  Not to mention; if you're going to make shit up then at least make it good!  Why not also throw in Tinkerbell and wishes?  Why not believe God wants you to have extreme wealth?  Why not believe God wants to make all your dreams come true?  Why not believe God will never let harm come to you?  Oh wait...

So my personal dilemma is trying to not let my head explode around people that don't get it.  I feel, strongly, that you should know exactly what you believe, where this belief came from (originally) and why you believe it. I feel you shouldn't follow a person (pastor).  I feel you should back up, with action, what you say you believe.  Not saying works based faith; but put your money where your mouth is.

Shall we do some therapy talk now?  Yes, I think we should.  Just because I feel people should behave a certain way doesn't mean I need to put that expectation on them.  Accept people where they are at - which frankly, is what I expect people to do with me.  Oh dear, this just got messy.

Relationships are messy.  Religion is messy.  The bible is really messy!  Life is messy.