Do you ever get gripped by the knowledge that you are way too selfish to really love your neighbour? To actually follow Jesus? That we've been advised by our preachers that God wants us to be comfortable? That if we are really in line for the "blessings of Abraham"; that we'd better take another look at how many years he spent in the wilderness with a couple of hundred brats eating the exact same lunch for forty years? Only to be denied entrance into the promised land?
Did you ever think about all the evangelicals in our continent; and that if every single one actually got gripped by the idea of social justice and ending poverty and feeding the hungry and seeking justice and loving mercy...... that we could actually change the punishing inequality of people sharing the planet? That we wouldn't need celebrities on tv to convince us to sponsor a kid somewhere? That we'd know that this kid is our flesh and blood?
I'm getting freaked out by what it really means to be a Christian. I don't really even like that word anymore because it is way too loaded with culture and ideas that I don't even believe in anymore.
Insulated. Warm. and comfy.
"Christian" IS a loaded term with really bad press. Just looked it up and it's only in the Bible twice, three times if you count the plural in Acts 11: 26 where it says '...the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.' Disciple = Christian/Christian = Disciple - translated from the greek for learner or pupil.
That makes us essentially school kids - fresh insight into the expression 'all God's children', huh?
I want to acknowlege that I appreciate the faithfulness of your struggle with conventional church and how it fits into your faith today.
Also, I really wish for you to be able to break free... to be whatever you want to label it and not worry about what family/community think. It shaped you but it doesn't need to be you. Do you feel like you are disappointing anyone? I know that struggle.
A lot of people are Christians but not evangelical, there are many faith communities for non-evangelical Christians. I have to say I don't like Christians being lumped into one pot. Growing up Mennonite as well, I did not have the same experience that you have described in past posts. There are other approaches.
I forgot to add...
I don't know what to call myself either, words are loaded but it's all about context and someone's perception. I don't find the word to be as loaded as you because of my experience. That said, I'm influenced by people who might perceive me as being hyper-evangelical/right wing if I call myself a Christian. It's frustrating so I don't label myself anything very often. Sometimes I change the label depending on who I'm speaking to, so that they understand what I believe and how I strive to behave.
Sometimes I'm a beer drinking person who prays a lot. Sometimes I'm a "person of faith". Sometimes I'm a "christian". Sometimes I'm "a child of God". Whatever. It's all just words. It's not a direct reflection of our lives. Our hearts/actions are the reflection of our beliefs.
just to clarify....
I am more passionate about CHRIST than ever. I question Christian culture, and that's the main struggle.
I tend to say : person who follows Jesus, or something along those lines.
"Our hearts/actions are the reflection of our beliefs."
That's sort of the crux of the struggle: if we say we are Christian, that means our life patterns after Christ.
But does it?
So, it is way more about being transformed by the renewing of our minds. The behaviors flow from that. You can't decide on a set of behaviors because it fits into Christian culture. You get wrecked inside and rebuilt as you're being wrecked. You begin to see things differently. You begin to question why our cultures use up 80% of the world's resources. Why we wear diamond wedding bands while people kill each other in the Congo to get at diamonds.
My passion for a life transformed by Jesus, God's son is a blazing reality. People around me walk, run, and creep away (daily? it sure feels that way) seeing no logic to living life that involves "God". (some think God is just a human idea).
This process, while painful, has opened my eyes to how much of what we call "faith" is actually culture. And that I want FAITH. But losing ones life to find it has got to be way more brutal than comfy cozy churchy padded pewsies say it is.
(not that I want to diss church. I actually love church. I just mean that I crave MY OWN transformation. MY OWN authenticity.
As for breaking free? Oh, this is all part and process. The little chicky who has to bust out of his egg just about kills him/herself in that struggle. But that struggle is vital to its survival.
Thank you for your insights. I deeply appreciate you making yourself vulnerable in this way and putting some words down.
That was a lovely, generous response to what I was trying to voice.
Yes, faith and culture is tightly woven together- there are so many cultural approaches to the same thing. Truthfully I don't think culture can be taken out of the equation, it's about creating/finding the culture that works. Redefining, reinventing as needed...
From what I've read here in the past, your faith is alive and very well.
The uncomfortable bit is to decide to act out your faith where you don't have a lot of like-minded people (always feeling out-of-place) OR to roam further and find your "fit" where you can be this Joyce with others who get it OR option three is to go it alone. My reading is that you love to worship with others, you love being with others, you are also the kind of person who can gather people together.
I feel confident that you will find what you seek.
I've been immersed in some Christmas tune-age as of late.... thinking about the one line from "O Holy Night"....
"His law is love and his gospel is peace."
I want my faith to be that simple... It's so hard to bring it back down to that when the Christian sub-culture swirls around you and threatens your belief system. I just want to love others and bring peace where I walk. God help me.
Love your response Karla :)
Joyce, did you pick up that book? This post is like reading a page from it.
I totally understand where you are coming from on this. I've undergone the same questioning and transformation of my beliefs in the last five years or so. I think mainstream "christianity" is totally missing the point and that if we would all just do what Jesus told us to, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in.
I had a very disturbing and brief conversation this past weekend with another christian. We were at an event and making polite conversation around a table. I was relating an amusing anecdote to someone with regards to my daughter's shopping habits and how she had responded to me that as she was preparing to live a life of poverty, it was ok for her to buy this sweater right now. I followed that up with "because she's planning to do missions in third world countries when she graduates". This person then joined the conversation with a comment to the effect of 'as long as they don't leech off the rest of us like missionaries do'. Not exact words, but that was the gist. Because people in missions don't work as hard as those in industry?
I get so tired of people with money looking down on those who don't subscribe to that way of living. Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile endeavour. The world needs ALL types to continue running and if the people with the money want to give it to the people who are trying to take care of the sick and poor, why is that a bad thing?
Great post Joyce. No one has it all figured out, but the more you simplify it, the easier it gets.
I am a christian and am bothered by the fact that the "bad" actions of christians always get labelled with christianity. EVERYBODY whether religious or not is a human being and is susceptible to human actions. Go figure! I don't go around saying, You know what that non-christian, buddist, atheist, etc...said to me? It's the person acting as a human, not the human acting as a religion.
I think we do say that. If someone who's an atheist says "There is no God." We dismiss it with, "well, he/she is atheist so what do you expect." It think the issue is expectations. We expect Christians to act Christ-like. Isn't that what it's all about anyway??
Actually, I think we all DO judge one another, all the time. Sometimes in the context of "Christian" and often in the context of "right and wrong". It's impossible not to. The great challenge, and the one that I believe we ought to spend our energy on- is to listen anyway. (I suck at this) To hear what the person is REALLY saying. Understand that it really might not be personal.
I used to be taught that "judge not; lest ye be judged" meant that if you sat on a jury, you would also sit before the judgement seat of God and get your shins smacked. I think its simpler than that- judge not lest ye be judged..... = if you are hard on other people's behaviors and thoughts, and presume to have a "better way"-- then Look Out! You'd better be right prepared for people criticizing you as well. Don't give out what you don't want back.
Any Body can only take responsibility for their own actions. Sure, people irk people. That's a constant. But when we react to someone criticizing a Christian, or any person whatsoever- it is wise to investigate where that defensiveness comes from. It may offer a window into one's own soul and mind.
I wasn't reacting to someone criticizing a christian. I was reacting to someone labelling all bad actions of christians onto christianity. They're saying...that christians shouldn't do that. Well...we're only human and surprise, surprise, we do wrong too!
Defensiveness is the humans way of protecting something they believe in or love. No need to examine my soul or mind! They're doing just fine!
Ok... My theoretical ramblings have not come across as such...
Just fine! (tick, tick, tick, tick......BOOOM)
Brian... I have a hard time believing that anyone is capable of judging the mind and soul of someone whom they know nothing of.
I hate it when things go off the road like this.
I'm sorry for misunderstanding your comment, and for misunderstandings in general. They always make me sad.
No appology necessary! The thing that I dislike most about syber communication...you can't tell the emotions behind the words.(whether they were said with kindness or anger) Mine definetly were not in anger.
... I have a hard time believing that anyone is capable of judging the mind and soul of someone whom they know nothing of
I must say that I agree completely. Steer away from anyone who offers to judge your mind and soul for you.
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