Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

Why I Fight

In Church, Life, Relationships on February 26, 2011 at 2:14 am

A few years ago, at the end of my 30 year saga with primarily the Evangelical branch of Christianity, I thought maybe I just hadn’t found the right church. So I began trying out different churches and even denominations in order to find a place that I could call my Christian community.

I found myself attending a different church every week for about three months:  Presbyterian, Lutheran, several different Baptist denominations, community churches, seeker-friendly churches, reformed churches and grace-focused churches. Over the course of my entire church relationship, I had also attended a Catholic mass, an Assembly of God college, and one visit to a Four-Square church was all I needed to know about Pentacostalism for the rest of my life. In addition to visiting churches, I researched the Eastern Orthodox denomination, Messianic Judaism, the Methodists, Anabaptists, Brethren, Quakers, emerging house churches and Unitarianism.

I can’t remember exactly when reality hit me, but I finally knew that I wasn’t going to find a church where I fit because they were all essentially the same religion under a different package. And I just couldn’t understand how a genuine community of friendships could thrive under the control of any organized religion.

(Somewhere along the way, friendship became to me something entirely different than a religion; I now understand the two terms as mostly an oxymoron.)

But as they say, you can take a girl out of the institution but you can’t take the institution out of the girl. So, the last few years of my life have been signficantly spent attempting to replace my conditioned mentality with genuine concepts that I can really trust – whatever those might be. It has been an exciting adventure, to say the least.

It would be nice to be able to skip the journey from point A to point B and be over any personal religious inclinations forever, but as I’ve explained in previous posts, that just isn’t possible. I want to dig up conditioned beliefs because they still subconsciously govern my self-identity. I then decide whether or not to seriously consider that tenet as something I want to base my life upon, or trash the ideology altogether.

To be honest, I’ve probably ended up trashing almost everything I’ve dared to examine. Much of it couldn’t stand up under the first question, such as the hell theory, which divides people instead of bringing two people together in a genuine, loving relationship.

There was another surprising factor that I discovered when I began to freely take a close look at what I believed. I thought that my beliefs were based on a traditional, Bible-based set of doctrines. I soon discovered that my beliefs were instead made up of a hodgepodge of many different church denominations, religious traditions, subcultures and who knows where else some of this stuff came from.

Although churches like to warn against the faults of other branches within Christendom, I do not think the divisions and the myriad of ministries realize the extent of how much they all influence each other. The Lutherans contributed to my belief in the doctrine of justification (by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone) while the Presbyterians are largely responsible for my belief in the supremacy of grace, as well as my passion for theology.

The charismatics bring emotions to the table, the orthodox churches add the solidarity of long-standing tradition, Catholicism lends us Rome, the Calvinists preach the sovereignty of God, the Baptists add the ritual of baptism, the United churches attempt to factor in the essence of unity, the Evangelicals throw in contemporary culture, and the Jewish Christians give us some Hebrew culture.  This list could go on for eternity but I’ve thought enough about Christian denominations for today. In fact, I wouldn’t mind a really long nap right now.

Renewing my mind involves much more than just leaving a church. In a sense I’ve had to run the gamut of the entire world of Christianity. I’d like to think that I stopped to pay my tributes and give my final farewells on my way out the door, but it’s been more like a continual “F-you, and I hope this is the last of you.”

You know, I think it’s rather comical when kind-intentioned Christians tell me I need to stay in the church and be an influence on it from the inside. In their minds, I’m probably sitting in some back corner pew twiddling my thumbs and minding my own business. But in my mind I’ve organized a platoon that goes in to rescue all the wounded hostages that want out, and we all barely make it out alive.

Yeah, it’s that bad – at least from my experience after waking up from the cyanide while lying beat up in the gutter. This just isn’t going to make any sense to people who are trying live life under the regime and think it’s heaven. But I can assure you, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes, yet is right in front of and all around us just the same.

Even some of my beloved free believing comrades don’t understand why I have to make such a commotion about it all. “Just get over it and love the Pharisees already, will ya?” But my friend David of really encouraged me this morning. He said that the old way of communicating involves figuring it out and then publicizing “the truth.” But our new way of relating to people is by giving people access to the process of our journey.

And that’s all I’m doing, my friends. I want to live honestly, out loud, without the religious masks. Do I have THE truth? Who knows? That is for you to discover yourself on your own honest journey. Somehow our individual diversity is what connects us – not our conformity to a certain religious standard which only presents us with a communal facade.

Interestingly enough, I think we all have something to bring to the table just like the Christian denominations. But instead of excluding ourselves from those who are different, there can be an intimate friendship when both parties accept our unique capabilities and frailties. Christianity innately does not seem to accept the majority of the world. They can hardly accept those within their own religion.

Personally, I really don’t mind whether Christians accept me as I am, or not. But I no longer want to give the Christian religion my sense of identity. If I am responsible for my own soul, then it belongs to me, doesn’t it? I will not have something substantial to contribute to the rest of the world until I have a soul from which to relate to others anyway.

So in that sense, the only ones we have left to resist are the ones who still have their grip clutched around our necks. Whether intentional or whether I’m simply caught in a cross-fire, religious slavery is not something I can allow to happen – at least as far as I am aware of it. I refuse to give in without a fight to something that attempts to control me and others.

I hope you can understand.

  1. I understand more than you can imagine. My problem is finding people who will listen to me and not shame and manipulate me into thinking their way. I am not trying to convince anyone of following me. Far from it. It is the following of authoratative church leadership that has caused so much of the problems that are seen in the institutional church.

    Wayne Jacobson said it very well in a recent blog. Just relax, develop real relationships, and let God be God.

  2. I have actually been going back to the church that I grew up in and that my dad pastored(It is an Assembly of God church). I have really become indifferent to the theology and the absurdities that come from the pulpit. I am in a line of work that requires I know a lot of people and I realized that there are a ton of people at that old church that I should be regularly talking to. So I guess my reasons for returning were selfish. I figured I would feel more disgust, but I can honestly say that all of what is said just kinda rolls off of me.

    I can even learn to appreciate where they are coming from knowing that they just don’t know any better. These people are just trying to do the best that they can with what they have been given.I have just been able to enjoy the rebuilding of old relationships.

    I will end up in hell though, or at the least oppressed by evil spirits with the things that I actually believe in though based on last weeks sermon. haha!

  3. Double like!!

  4. I posted something slightly similar this morning..about the various denominations, and can’t we all be friends? The continual arguing between them all and isolating people who don’t agree, is rather nauseating to me now. I have found more freedom and grace to walk with Christ away from all that fluff.

  5. Awesome! Awesome!

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