Confessions of a Questioning Christian

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

I already know why. This article says it exactly.

Click on the image to go to the article.

I remember this article going viral a while back, but I didn’t read it – because based on the title, I knew exactly what the writer was going to say, and I already agreed with him. Then I read it yesterday.

Here are a couple of my favorite parts:

I’ve heard it, and I’ve heard it over, and over, and over again.

Hell, in the past (and to some degree in the present) I participated in it. I propagated it. I smugly took part in it. I’ll admit that.

And I did so under the blanketing term “Christian.” I did so believing that my actions were somehow justified because of my beliefs at the time. I did so, actually believing that such appointments were done out of… love.

and

“Oh, but you’re not gay? You’re clean, and well dressed, and you have a job? You look the way I think you should look? You act the way I think you should act? You believe the things I think you should believe? Then I’m definitely a Christian. To you, today, I’m a Christian. You’ve earned it.”

Then yesterday, a friend of mine posted this article, which is by the same author and is a follow up to the first article. It broke my heart, but it gave me hope.

I started crying and couldn’t stop for the longest time. I don’t know why I was crying exactly, just so many emotions came over me. I didn’t know what to do or how to respond. I finally stopped and went and read your article once more only this time I tried to read it through my son’s eyes and the whole thing was so different than it was a couple hours before. By the time I finished I felt as big as an ant and I realized just how much hatred I have in my heart toward others.

You see, Mr. Pearce, you are right. It’s not about what other people do. It’s about whether or not we are loving them. Nothing else matters at all. And it took all of this for that to finally sink in.

Now, I posted both of these articles on my Facebook yesterday, and I actually made the original article viewable by all of my friends (I have some pretty strict privacy settings, because I don’t like doing a lot of debating on my wall with people who I know I won’t be able to see in person in over a year or more). But I have a lot of very conservative (both politically and religiously) friends from back home, and I really wanted them to see this article, because I actually used to think a lot like them. It took some pretty emotional encounters, just like it did for the woman in the second article, for me to start to see this issue from a different perspective. And looking back on that time, I still feel so sad that I used to think that my hatred and disgust for gay people was just my way of showing them God’s love. What a laugh! What a bunch of bull shit! Love gets very specific responses from people you are showing love to – the responses I got actually shined a mirror on my own heart. I saw heartbreak in the eyes of both friends and strangers; my heart was finally broken, too.

Anyway, I posted these articles because, although they aren’t the most well written articles on the subject, I think they both cover something important and something that is severely wrong with the modern American church: love is absolutely conditional. Which is about as far from what Jesus preached about as you can possibly get, I think.

If Jesus DOESN’T conjure up a feeling of love, then Jesus isn’t anything at all.

So if you follow Jesus, you should hope that the image you are sharing is one of love. If it isn’t, you have failed, and nobody will be interested in becoming a Christian. It seems simple, but somehow, it’s gotten totally warped. It’s been broken and crudely taped together and then repackaged as something completely different. Something heinous. Something blasphemous.

These articles articulate that pretty well. I hope you read them.

Anyway, since it was there for anyone to read, I got a response from a woman who I greatly admire. She is very godly and has always been someone whom I respect. However, the argument she had was a little disappointing. For one thing, I can only assume she didn’t even read the article, since her problems with it are pretty baseless if you have read it.

I question if this is a bit …one sided…why is it OK to lump all “christians” into one category? and how is the “lack of acceptance(tolerance)” described different than what the writer is doing to “christians” in this blog ? the writer wants to come off as tolerant of all…yet he is not tolerant of those who don’t believe like he does.(or maybe doesn’t LOOK like him…or act like him…or dress like him…or take care of their children like he does…etc)Its like saying “If you don’t accept the same things that I think are acceptab le, then YOU need to change” and when you do …then i’ll accept you because you’ve earned it. I know that there many people in the church today who are wonderful, loving , accepting people . not saying the “gist” of the blog is wrong…just saying that you can’t preach acceptance and not be accepting of those you don’t agree with

My short was response was as follows:

First, the article doesn’t lump all Christians into one category. The title does sound like that, but once you read the article, you find that it isn’t the case. Second, the theme of the article is that people of all religions are guilty of saying that they are doing something because of religious beliefs, but if their actions aren’t loving, then they are lying to themselves and only hurting people/giving people a negative view of their religion. It isn’t about tolerance or intolerance of beliefs, but the hypocrisy of people who say, “I’m a follower of Jesus! (or whoever)” but then they only show Jesus’ love to people who look or act like they do. The reason I love Jesus is because he loved EVERYONE, the outcasts and “sinners” of his day. So why are today’s Christians so selective about who they love?

I wanted to go on, but a comment on a FB status just isn’t enough room. Like I said, some of her arguments don’t make any sense if you’ve read the article. And then, of course, is the old fall-back apologetics argument I’ve heard my whole life from Christians.

“How can people say they are being ‘tolerant’ if they aren’t tolerant of me being intolerant?”

Now, I’m not even going to try to unravel that mindfuck right now, but bare with me. This article has NOTHING to do with telling people to be more tolerant. The author doesn’t say anything at all about what people should or shouldn’t believe. He simply says that IF you say you believe in Jesus (actually, he broadens it to any of the major religions, which are all based on a foundation of love and doing good to people from all walks of life), and IF you say you want to follow his example (which was loving everyone, without exception – except, you could probably argue, those people who wear religion on their sleeves but miss the point entirely), THEN you MUST love people, even when they don’t meet any of your expectations. If they are gay. If they are deadbeats. If they are homeless. If they are addicts. If they have stolen from you. If they have cheated on you. If they have a weird look about them, or if they pray to some other god, or no god, or they say they believe the same things that you do but they don’t act like it (that last one is where I fall short), THEN YOU HAVE TO LOVE THEM ANYWAY.

And, as the author says, if you’re not willing to do that, where do you get off saying you are a Christian at all?

That’s not about tolerance. That’s not about telling Christians they can’t believe this or that interpretation of the bible. That’s not about telling Christians anything; it’s only reminding them of exactly what it is they are proclaiming to believe in the first place. That’s simply calling a spade a spade.

But, just like the woman who wrote to the author in the second article, sometimes you can’t see a spade very well. Sometimes there is a plank in your eye that obscures your vision.

So I’ve been a bit AWOL recently. I should explain myself, right? Well, school started up again, so I’ve been busy (really busy) with writing brand new lesson plans and getting into the new schedule. I’ve been literally exhausted by the end of each day – I drag myself out of the school, onto the scooter, and usually collapse onto the couch right away. When I’m AT school, I’m working from when I arrive until when I leave; not much spare time, lately.

I’ve also got to say that the more I read of the bible, the more confused and discouraged I get. While I still hold to my previous belief – that Jesus was who he said he was, and what he said was awesome and worthy of note and a following – I have come to believe that a LOT of what I’ve been told about how to interpret/act upon his teachings is just a lot of surmising and postulating, mixed with a healthy dose of cultural and political nonsense.

Of course I want to continue to read the bible, but it gets harder and harder to know exactly what is “important” and straight from the mouth of Jesus, and what information and historical/cultural referencing has been lost along the way. For one thing, I have some deep misgivings about Paul and his additions to the New Testament; don’t even get me started on how the modern American church has carried his speculations out into a monster of its own. For another thing, ideas like how “Christianity” was founded, who it was created for (Jesus seemed strictly to be interested in his own people, the Jews), and what that means for humans in this day and age are all murky and grey to me. Anyone who seems to think they have it all figured out seems to be suspiciously naive and/or sanctimonious. If you have it all figured out, I have a feeling you wouldn’t act so self-righteous.

Anyway, like I said, don’t fear for my soul: if being a Christian means believing in Jesus and his miracles, I’ve got that covered. If being a Christian means anything other than loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God more than anything (because I have a hard enough time with those, and I happen to be a lot more loving and tolerant than most Christians I know), I have a feeling you need to go back and check yourself.

This was posted to my personal blog about a year ago.

On Friday I arrived back to school and was surfing Facebook before my first class.  I came upon what is probably no news to most of you: New Jersey Student Suicide.  Then I heard about this: Raymond Chase suicide.  Then I saw this: Ellen Degeneres with An Important Message (you may need to be signed in to Facebook to watch this).

After reading the first article, I was somewhat shook up.  But throughout the weekend, I feel like I’ve become more and more distraught.  Today, after Steven headed off to meet some friends, I began listening to this sermon by someone I highly respect, Josh Miller, of Harvest Vineyard Church in Ames: The Question of Homosexuality. I think Josh makes the point very clear that it’s not anyone’s job to judge – we all fall short [and as Christians, we see the world differently than non-Christians anyway, so judging becomes irrelevant <– my thought].  Our job is to love love love love love.  Love your neighbor, love the Lord.  Period.

These men didn’t feel love.  They probably felt things like scorn, judgement, pain, longing, loneliness, betrayal, embarrassment, neglect, and fear.  We let them down.  We’re letting fellow humans down every day, in every way.  But to the point that strangers across the country are feeling so much animosity for the same thing, whatever it is, that they think the only option is to take themselves out of this world?  Where is the love?

I don’t find myself really crying out of a broken heart that often.  But that’s what I did for a little while today, sitting here alone and feeling so broken over the loss of their lives.  The truth is I try to hold off my true emotions or thoughts on hard subjects by freezing them out.  But this was so much at once.  And it also penetrates to my own questions and my own doubts about what is right or wrong about homosexuality.  I’ll be totally honest: I don’t know.  I know that the bible, which I try to use as a means of finding my way through this life and treating people around me, says that any sexual relationship needs to reflect back on who God is – meaning it should be holy.  Meaning it should be complimentary – which I think most Christians consider one man and one woman.  But the bible, as well as all of us, is marred by historical and cultural implications, and it’s hard to cut through our own modern culture and history, our geographical location in the world, and the same goes for things that are no longer culturally or historically relevant that the writer wrote way back then (i.e. I don’t wear a hat to church and as a woman, I’ve even spoken at church – unbiblical?  What if the relationship is two women, but they are faithful to one another and both love and honor God as any other Christian?  I just want to know – why is that wrong?).  So I can honestly say that I don’t really think homosexuality is always wrong.  Any more than I believe that every heterosexual relationship is right!  Because nobody’s got it figured out.  I think any relationship or action or thought can be wrong.  And I think most things in this world can look wrong, but they aren’t – I don’t know anyone’s heart; I barely understand my own.  Maybe I just don’t want to believe it’s wrong.  Maybe, because I do find woman attractive and I’ve allowed myself to consider what my life would look like if I were to follow that path, I don’t want to think I’m wrong.  And maybe I am right – I know most people who read this will think I’m blasphemous.  Or maybe they’ll think I’m gay (or bi?).  Maybe I am.  I don’t care.  Maybe Jennifer Knapp’s words will put it better than I could.

“I would rather be judged before God as being an honest human being,” she said. “If I am in any way unpleasing in his sight, I can only hope and pray that he gives me the opportunity to find who I am supposed to be.”*

*You can read a great interview with Jennifer Knapp and Christianity Todayhere.

I wrote this on my personal blog about a year ago. This explains the issue I’ve had with the Christian church becoming political – and the toll it’s taken on my life.

A while ago I wrote something like a confession of faith, where I explained my beliefs about God and my beliefs about Christianity.  You should read that if what I have to say next doesn’t make sense.

I am going to talk about something now that some people won’t like.  I’ve been terribly scared to mention it or bring it up because I think what I have to say will make some people so angry or upset or bitter or disappointed in me that they’ll write me off for good.  I yearn for the support of so many people, but I have been afraid to show them what I really believe because I think I’ll lose their support.  But I realized that I don’t really have their support if they don’t know who I really am.

Here I go.

I grew up believing that if you are an American citizen and you choose to vote for a Democrat, then you could not possibly be a Christian – or you were a very misguided, stupid Christian who didn’t understand anything about the Bible.  I don’t think anyone actually ever said these words to me (actually, I do remember a time they were said to me almost exactly like that, but it was when I was older), but they didn’t need to be said.  They were implied: when I was praying at church, when politics came onto the television, when politics were brought up (albeit rarely) at my house, etc.  And it usually, obviously, came down to two planks in the party platform: abortion and homosexuality.

Abortion was called murder and homosexuality was called an abomination.  Of course I was never told to say this type of thing out loud (it’s kind of rude), but it was certainly what was taught.  And how could these two glaring topics be ignored?  The other planks in the party platforms really did not matter – we had to abolish abortion and prevent gays from marrying (after all, marriage is created for one man and one woman).

As you can see, religion and politics went hand in hand.  In many ways, politics became a form of religion – sometimes the loudest part of Christianity.  But where is the grace, love, kindness, and mercy in politics?  Although we didn’t know what the circumstances were behind the individuals who were getting abortions or coming out of the closet, we were prepared to judge them and argue with them and call them sinners if they didn’t change their minds.

I went to school to study political science, and proudly declared myself a Republican when people asked – although the only parts of being a Republican that I was familiar with were these two topics.  I didn’t care – I decided that nothing else mattered; if my vote would save unborn children, I didn’t care what the rest of the planks were in the platform.

Of course, after a few years of studying politics, I realized that other planks in the platform do matter – politically.  And more importantly, as I studied the Bible, I realized that Jesus wanted nothing to do with politics, and what he really cared about was showing people love – especially, perhaps, to the types of people who got abortions or were shunned for being gay.  I didn’t see a lot of love when it came to the way Christians were using these two topics to ostracize and demonize people.  There was no compassion or mercy, let alone consideration for the consequences of what would really happen if their political ambitions were realized.

I won’t go into all the revelations I had that moved me across party lines, because there are many, and some are heartbreaking.  However, at some point I realized that, looking at the total sum of political topics I agreed with (now that I actually knew what they all were), my political beliefs more often sided with the Democrats than the Republicans.

This was a very scary revelation to make – and still is today.  Because some of the most important people in my life are born and bred RepubliChristians, and questioning the Republican Party was literally like questioning my faith in God.  And that’s exactly what happened.  My best friends, family members, family friends – they all began to tell me that I was wrong.  Gravely wrong.  That I had been lead astray by false prophets, that I wasn’t being smart or that I needed to read the Bible and pray more.  Nobody would listen to my reasons, nobody believed that I was reading the Bible and praying every day, and if they did listen they went back to the old standby reasoning: abortion and gay people!  That’s wrong!  Ignore the rest!  Nothing else matters!

STOP THINKING AND FALL INTO LINE.  It’s all I really heard them say.

The worst thing is that I really couldn’t get anyone to separate politics from religion, because I see them as separate entities, dangerous when woven together.  Nobody would consider that God didn’t have a political preference.  Nobody could think outside of these two topics, let alone the American two-party system for that matter.  Nobody was willing to let me question.  Many Christians decided independently that I could not be a Christian if I didn’t agree with them politically.  I was a misguided, lost soul, a goat among sheep, because I didn’t vote Republican.

After a while, I decided I couldn’t bring up politics with people.  Everything was black and white, except it wasn’t.  In one breath I would be told that you could be pro-life and pro-war/pro-death penalty, or that gay marriage should be regulated by the state, even though Christians were legally allowed to get divorces.  They had loopholes in their reasoning, but if I tried to point them out I was once again condemned for being too liberal, and therefore no longer a Christian.

As you can see, I still have some bitterness about this – mostly because I’ve lost people I love dearly over this subject.  And absolutely not by my choice.  I’ve been deeply, permanently scarred by the ease in which I’ve been cast out by people who say they follow a God who loves everyone.  It’s not all that much different to still be in the lives of some people but know that they dismiss my opinions and thoughts completely because I was brain-washed by a liberal state university.

Today I was again reminded that some people think that my voter registration will also be requested when I get to the gates of heaven – and if it doesn’t say “Republican,” I will be surprised when I’m turned away.  Except that I believe God isn’t Republican or Democrat, and that the laws of our countries have nothing to do with my salvation or faith.  If you believe in Satan, I find it ironic that you don’t realize that this is one of the easiest ways he could use to divide Christians and turn them against each other.  Jesus didn’t say to vote, let alone tell us how to vote, because he wasn’t political!  He said to work with the widows and orphans, hang out with prostitutes and others dismissed by society, and show love to even the lowliest people we know, including our enemies.

So the truth is that I follow Jesus – that’s my “religion.”  And the truth is that I usually vote liberally (American liberal) – that’s my politics.  And I fear who will turn me away in this round of Kim v. Religious Right.  Because God knows I don’t want people to stop caring about me or loving me, and God knows that my heart literally breaks because someone always does.  But God knows my heart, and he knows yours too, and I hope that this will be enough for you to keep loving me.