“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” Joan Didion said that.
So I’m going to write. I will start a series today called Finding My Religion. Because I feel I must find out what I’m thinking — questions about God, faith, religion, spirituality.
I have more questions than I’ve ever had.
I’m going to being using three little marks (* * *) in this series to separate chunks of thought.
Because my thoughts on this are not synthesized. They are like all these old bricks swirling randomly around my mind. And I’d like to someday build something with them. Build something beautiful, something that might even protect others from danger.
But right now the thoughts ain’t beautiful.
* * *
I’ve been reluctant to write about my faith journey because it’s been a bit wobbly over the past couple of years.
And I don’t want that particular species of religious people to assume that I’ve backslidden.
I do care about what they think about me. I say “I don’t care what they think about me.”
But I do care about what they think about me.
* * *
I’m not sure if I’ve backslidden.
And I’m not even sure of the metaphysics of basksliddenness — I don’t really know where “wrestling with God” (questioning, being frustrated, fed up, restless, repulsed by a version of Christianity I often see and hear) stops, and “backsliding” begins.
Was Peter backslidden when he denied Jesus three times?
Was Solomon backslidden? Because he sure sounds like it in the book of Ecclesiastes.
And David in some of the Psalms.
Heck, Mother Teresa nearly lost her faith a few times but didn’t feel she should share her journals with the public.
Maybe she cared about that particular species of religious people, too.
* * *
I’m reluctant to say this.
I’m working with Muslims more and more. So, I go to mosque from time to time.
I find deep peace during Muslim prayers. During those prayers, I believe we are all praying to God. The same God. Because there is just one God.
* * *
I wonder why certain behaviors are usually considered criteria for being backslidden (profanity, sex, booze, being “secular,” expressions of liberal political ideology), and others (greed, legalism, pride, hypocrisy) aren’t.
I wonder why certain measurable sins (again, profanity, sex, booze, being “secular,” expressions of liberal political ideology) are used to deem one backslidden, and other sins of the heart (greed, legalism, pride, hypocrisy) aren’t.
Who decided which list to use to measure backsliddenness?
* * *
Sins of the flesh versus sins of the heart. Animal sins versus heart sins.
Sins that produce in our bodies physical pleasure (food, sex, drugs, alcohol) versus sins that give our ego pleasure (spiritual pride, judgment, gossip, slander, envy, the whole issue Jesus had with religious people).
Religious people thought Jesus was a glutton (sin of the flesh).
* * *
Kanye in Ultralight Beam:
Father, this prayer if for everyone that feels they’re not good enough. This prayer’s for everyone that feels they’re too messed up. For everyone that feels they’ve said I’m sorry too many times. You can never go too far when you can’t come back.
What if you feel you are good enough, Christians?
Or, better, what if you feel you’re better than the ones from broken homes? I took this picture of this broken home a few weeks ago. Someone wrote “broken home” on it. Clever. The broken home made me think of those of us from broken homes. And it made me think more of many I know from intact homes, mom and dad still married. But the home is still broken. But you get points because you show up to church and you’re still married.
Why do certain religious people feel they are better than the ones with wayward children, or than those LGBT people?
Why are those guilty of the sins of the heart (spiritual pride, judgment, gossip, slander, envy, the whole issue Jesus had with religious people)… why do those people always feel better about themselves than those who commit sins of the flesh?
Why do they not think their own sins make them as messed up?
Why don’t they say sorry for their sins of the heart — sins that it seems Jesus had far more trouble than sins of pleasure?
* * *
Religious man in Luke 18:11: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers…”
* * *
I took a break from church last August. No, not last August. August of 2015. I still visit Sunday services here and there.
This was the first time in my life where I didn’t attend church virtually every Sunday.
I went from weekly Roman Catholic mass (ages 0-15) to weekly Calvary Chapel (God help me, 15-16), to weekly Vineyard (16 to somewhere in my 30’s), to weekly Soul Survivor Church (the church I led, for 7 years), to weekly Anglicanism (where I almost became a priest and was a pastor), to a local non-denominational church.
Anglicanism still makes the most sense to me.
It was while I attended the non-denominational church that I became especially confused with church and with Christianity. It wasn’t that church, per se. But it was during my time there that many of these thoughts came to me.
* * *
Few evangelical leaders are willing to stand boldly in their sermons against sexism, racism, and xenophobia. They are not willing to challenge the sexism and racism and xenophobia that grips the hearts of those in the pews.
I think it’s because of money. Most of the major givers (tithers) are Republicans. And speaking against sexism and racism and xenophobia makes many rich, white, Christian Republicans uncomfortable.
Those topics are what Democrats talk about so they must be bad.
Many of these pastors would be screaming loudly if their mortgage payment didn’t depend on appeasing those with the money.
Those pastors are in tough positions, and many of them are very good people.
* * *
When the church leaders are not defending those oppressed in this country because of the color of their skin, or their gender, isn’t that a problem?
Why only men in leadership? That’s a problem for me.
* * *
The millions that supported Donald Trump during the primaries over good Christian people like John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio.
These people who supported Trump during the primaries do not have the same religion as I have.
I’m not their kind of Christian.
Maybe it’s because I’ve just backslidden.
Or, maybe I am, as some told me during the campaign, I’m just a liberal.
But if I’ve backslidden, I hold to my Christian faith.
And if I’m a liberal, I’m the lifetime Republican who voted for John Kaish kind of liberal.