Confessions of a Questioning Christian

Posts Tagged ‘religion

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.


Matthew 3

Posted on: January 31, 2012

Enter John the Baptist! Someday I’ll tell you all about how John the Baptist caused my brother to hide behind a vintage soda machine for a month.

I have two thoughts about John the Baptist: 1) This guy is crazy and reminds me of the creepy people who used to come to my college campus, stand at every corner, and hold signs up saying we were going to hell if we didn’t repent, and 2) How did he become this powerful, radical person? He seems to be an outsider to the norm as far as whatever Judaism was at the time. Enough that people were coming out of the woodwork to see him. What’s his deal?

John was somewhat reclusive. Jesus once said: “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a demon” (Mt. 11:18). “Eating and drinking” stood for socializing. The prophet was not a party-goer. His ascetic life-style appeared almost demonic, like those possessed of evil spirits who apparently frequented the desolate areas (cf. Mk. 5:2-3). He did not seek out the multitudes; rather, somehow, he attracted them.

The citizenry of Jerusalem and all Judea went out unto him as he moved about in the Jordan Valley (Mt. 3:5; cf. 13; Jn. 1:28; 3:23). The imperfect tense verb, rendered “went out” (Mt. 3:5), suggests a stream of auditors gravitating to the rough prophet. His influence was phenomenal. Hundreds, if not thousands, were immersed by him. And his success was solely in the message he proclaimed.

The multitudes said that he performed no “sign,” though they regarded his message concerning Christ as true (Jn. 10:41). This passage appears to indicate that John did not perform demonstrative miracles, as Jesus and the apostles did (cf. Mt. 10:1ff). It is certainly the case, however, that his message was from God, and thus infallibly true. The power of John’s preaching, together with the void in Israel’s hearts, was a winning combination. (christiancourier)

I can’t get a firm answer on where John got his instructions or why he did what he did. But Jesus wanted John to baptism him.

Now, to me, baptism is a very Christian thing to do, but Christianity as we know it today wasn’t even a thing yet. John was a Jew, Jesus was Jewish, and Jews were waiting for the Messiah. So why was John baptizing at all?

Background in Jewish ritual

Main article: Mikvah

Although the term “baptism” is not used to describe the Jewish rituals, the purification rites in Jewish laws and tradition, called “Tvilah”, have some similarity to baptism, and the two have been linked. The “Tvilah” is the act of immersion in natural sourced water, called a “Mikvah”[80][81] In the Jewish Bibleand other Jewish texts, immersion in water for ritual purification was established for restoration to a condition of “ritual purity” in specific circumstances. For example, Jews who (according to the Law of Moses) became ritually defiled by contact with a corpse had to use the mikvah before being allowed to participate in the Holy Temple. Immersion is required for converts to Judaism as part of their conversion. Immersion in the mikvah represents a change in status in regards to purification, restoration, and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community, ensuring that the cleansed person will not impose uncleanness on property or its owners (Num. 19 and Babylonian TalmudTractateChagigah, p. 12). This change of status by the mikvah could be obtained repeatedly, while Christian baptism, like circumcision, is, in the general view of Christians, unique and not repeatable.[82] (wikipedia)

So maybe John was putting a new spin on the Mikvah – he was cleansing people of their sins. Or maybe John was just doing the Mikvah, and then when Jesus showed up asking for it, that’s what started the whole thing?

Baptism has been part of Christianity from the start, as shown by the many mentions in the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles. Christians consider Jesus to have instituted the sacrament of baptism. How explicit Jesus’ intentions were and whether he envisioned a continuing, organized Church is a matter of dispute among scholars.[22] (wikipedia)

Later in Matt 2:11, the Holy Spirit is referenced again. And again, the Holy Spirit is a Christian thing – not Jewish, right?


Main article: Holy Spirit (Judaism)

The term “holy spirit” only occurs three times in the Hebrew Bible. (Found once in Psalm 51:11 and twice in Isaiah 63:10,11) Although, the term “spirit” in the Hebrew Scriptures, in reference to “God’s spirit”, does occur more times. In JudaismGod is One, the idea of God as a duality or trinity amonggentiles may be Shituf (or “not purely monotheistic”). The term Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is found frequently in Talmudic and Midrashic literature. In some cases it signifies prophetic inspiration, while in others it is used as a hypostatization or a metonym for God.[16] The Rabbinic “Holy Spirit,” has a certain degree of personification, but it remains, “a quality belonging to God, one of his attributes” and not, as in mainstream Christianity, representative of “any metaphysical divisions in the Godhead.”[17] (wikipedia)

and also

Fire was often a symbol of wrath, and so linking the Holy Spirit with it superficially appears to clash with portrayals of this Spirit elsewhere in the New Testament as a gentle thing. Some translations avoid using the word fire due to this, but when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, it appeared that several of its texts make the connection between Holy Spirit and wrath, and so most scholars now see the wording here as original, and the other portrayals as misinterpreted. (wikipedia)

Matt 3: 15 – I think we already discussed that.

Matt 3:16 – What can I say, there seems to be no information affirming or refuting this from happening. It must simply come down to faith as to whether and how this happened. It is said that Luke is emphatic that something like a dove came down, while Matthew leaves things vague, and therefore perhaps something “dove-like” happened.

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.