Confessions of a Questioning Christian

Hmm… interesting thought…

Ideas

Do you like feeling good without having to act on your feeling? Boosting your self-esteem no matter your competence or behavior? Then I’ve got the religious program for you.

According to the latest Pew report, almost 1 in 5 Americans identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” In other words, they have some feeling, some intuition of something greater, but feel allergic to institutions. Yet as we approach Passover and Easter, it’s important to remember that it is institutions and not abstract feelings that tie a community together and lead to meaningful change.

(MORE: Empty Pews: Everyone Is Misreading the New Numbers of Religiously ‘Unaffiliated’)

All of us can understand institutional disenchantment. Institutions can be slow, plodding, dictatorial; they can both enable and shield wrongdoers. They frustrate our desires by asking us to submit to the will of others.

But institutions are also the only mechanism human beings…

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I’ve lived abroad for three years, and spent about half of that time questioning everything I grew up believing in.

At first it was scary, then it was frustrating, then I got mad, and I think I just passed through apathy.

Apathy may be where I stay for a while. Something about apathy appeals to me. I may not be much of a Christian anymore, and I may not be questioning much. I feel I would best be classified as an agnostic at this point.

Agnosticism is the view that the existence or non-existence of any deity is unknown and possibly unknowable. More specifically, agnosticism is the view that the truth values of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, as well as other religious andmetaphysical claims—are unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable.[1][2][3] Agnosticism can be defined in various ways, and is sometimes used to indicate doubt or askeptical approach to questions. In some senses, agnosticism is a stance about the difference between belief andknowledge, rather than about any specific claim or belief. In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of a deity or deities, whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively.[2] In the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that humanity does not currently possess the requisite knowledge and/or reason to provide sufficient rational grounds to justify the belief that deities either do or do not exist.

Source: Wikipedia

The last time I was in the States visiting, my mom asked me if I still believed in God. I said that I did, but I didn’t know what else I could promise her as far as supernatural beliefs. Surprisingly, she took comfort in this response. She is comfortable in her belief in God and specifically in the Christian lifestyle. That’s fine – my mom is a good person. She stand behind some things that I find repugnant, but I assume she feels the same way about things I believe in. Even things I believed when I still called myself a Christian. And I’m sure she’d see some of those beliefs as the slippery slopes that sent me sliding into this valley. But I don’t feel like I’m in a valley, I think I climbed out of one.

If there was a god, and if that god was like the one I grew up learning about, then he’s too callous about the millions of people who will never get to “know him” (as if we could ever have a firm understanding of a supernatural entity). Good for missionaries, but why leave salvation up to a group of sinful humans to save? It’s not fair, and it’s not a doctrine I can throw myself into. I think there are a lot of beautiful Christians – I have met many, in fact, and their lives are beautiful and generous and committed to humanity. That’s awesome. If they like the way their lives are formed by Christian living, that’s cool – it’s working for them. But even discounting all the Christians that are just going through the motions and patting themselves on the back, it’s this idea that we are made faulty, and then depend upon other faulty people to prove something unprovable in order to be seen as worthy. It’s impossible.

I like the idea of a god who cares about all humans, but I don’t see that. I stopped believing in heaven and hell a long time before I stopped believing in everything else. So, why would I need religion? Morality and religion are not synonymous – and that idea in itself is laughable. I believe in many things that religious people do – love, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and other “fruits of the spirit.” If anything, religion was the fire that got my ass in gear to “bear” those fruits. That was a good thing. But I can’t cling to religion to do that for me; I need to take responsibility to do those things because they are intrinsically good and right.

I don’t care what people believe – if they are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, atheist, whatever – as long as they do good in this world. Maybe I think they are wasting their time with religion, but who cares, if they treat others with respect and try to make this world a better place? We all waste too much time – whether in bible study or on Reddit or watching too much TV or playing basketball. So those things don’t bother me. What can I say… I’m a secular humanist, which once meant I was one step away from a Satan-worshipper and surely damned. I didn’t walk away from Christianity lightly, but I can’t believe in something if I have lost faith in it, no matter what anyone else may want from me. So I will do as much good as possible, because that is right, and that’s what I believe I’m here on earth to do.

Maybe after I die, I’ll get an answer. But I doubt it.

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The Great Fundamentalist Hoax <– Why I don’t call myself a Christian. I don’t know what I am. But I am not this.

Because God has such a great interest in forcing us into his matchmaking choices. Because God doesn’t want us to learn how to be responsible or learn from our experiences, because he’ll just puppeteer us into doing what “his plan” was all along. Because no girl would ever be single in God’s plan (all of those verses in 1 Corinthians extolling singleness must have just been for men). Because women shouldn’t learn to be happy, productive humans unless they know that God has promised that the singleness isn’t forever. If a woman were to ever think that God DIDN’T have someone in mind, she would go insane or lose her faith in God.

Calling this bullshit Christian misogyny of autonomous women.

 

Acts 2

Posted on: September 4, 2012

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 Andall were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Here are the tongues. I’ve spent so long on my life talking and pondering about tongues. What do tongues mean, do they do any good, and if so, what? I know lots of people who truly believe that they work, and they speak in tongues a lot. I worked for a summer with people who spoke in tongues on a regular basis, and even had a prayer session where someone spoke in tongues and another person translated prophesy to me. I don’t know if I consider the prophesy fulfilled or not.

Anyway, here it seems to mean simply being able to speak in other languages. Truthfully, this would be what I would wish for if a genie showed up. It’s my superhuman power. To speak all languages. I am moderately fluent in Spanish and getting better with Korean every day. I want them all.

I don’t know what the answers are to my questions. Maybe I never will. Most Christians I know fit in the spectrum of scared-to-death-of-tongues to closet-tongue-speakers. Northern protestants are fairly conservative and shy about this topic. If tongues are so great, why aren’t we all doing them?

Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[b]16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants[c] and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—23 this Jesus,[d] delivered up according to the definite plan andforeknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyonewhom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Things are getting religulous up in hurrr. What does that mean, three thousand souls were added? Ugh, Jesus didn’t seem to keep tally marks when he was around. Boooooo.

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[e]came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Sounds like a big ole’ hippie party. Commune or something. Good for them. Get on with the good work.

Jesus Said

Posted on: August 30, 2012

Since I proclaim to love on what Jesus said and did and told people to do, I sometimes need a reminder of what that actually was. This portion of the blog, “Jesus Said,” will be just straight up Jesus quotations.

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? (Matthew 5:43-47 )

 

Acts 1

Posted on: August 29, 2012

I didn’t realize I’d finished Matthew already (I kept trying to look up Matthew 29). I had initially planned to go through the gospels, but to be honest: I’m bored. I decided to jump forward to Acts.

I’m not making any promises about updating daily like I did (for the most part) with Matthew. Especially because Acts has always been a more trippy book to me than some of the others. It’s like, whoa, let’s take what Jesus said and mix it with some unicorn magic. Presto! We have a new religion! I don’t really understand much of what’s happening in Acts, and I still don’t have a firm grasp on the Holy Spirit. I remember asking my Sunday School teacher once, “We pray to God, and we pray to Jesus, but we don’t pray to the Holy Spirit. If they’re the Trinity, then why don’t we? What’s that about?” She didn’t know how to answer me, so that’s still frustrating me.

Al’ight. Let’s go.

Acts 1

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Who is Theophilius? Wikipedia says

Theophilus is the name or honorary title of the person to whom the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are addressed (Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1). It is unanimously agreed that both Luke and Acts were originally written in a refined Koine Greek, and that “θεόφιλος” (“Theophilos”), as it appears therein, means friend of God[1] or (be)loved by God or loving God[2] in the Greek language. No one knows the true identity of Theophilus and there are several conjectures and traditions around an identity.

Luke writes that he’s been with Jesus from the beginning. Sometimes people tell me they don’t trust the bible because all the books were written like, 50 years after the fact. But is it possible that the books were written sooner, and we only found the copies that were around 50 years later? Just curious.

The Ascension

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

So, up until Acts, Jesus is kinda like, you guys all suck, stop being stupid, just love each other and help make society better. And he also says things like, “I’m the son of god.” And that’s cool, because what does that even mean? I guess what I’m trying to say is, you could certainly interpret the Jesus parts of the bible as this amazing Jew who was like, a prophet or genius or someone like MLK, Jr. But Acts makes him into a super hero, flying into the sky.

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.[c]

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers,the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;

and

“‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22  beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

First he’s like, Judas’s actions happened for good reason. Does that mean he’s forgiven? But then he’s like, that field is cursed. Kay.

Okay, the last part is really crazy. Because we would NEVER use something like lots (or dice or cards or whatever else magical-seeming) in modern day Christianity. We’d say it’s evil, a window to demons, or something like that. When did it suddenly become wrong to pray and then ask God to let his answer be however some dice roll? Kinda don’t know what to think about all of this.

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