I want to take a mintute to just say that I really do love my current church. In the comments of previous posts I tried to clear this up a bit, because I think I implied at some point that I hate going to church, but that isn't really what I meant. My problems with American Christianity come mostly from personal experience in two past churches and a LOT of mainstream television/book preachers. My own church isn't perfect of course, but for the most part it is awesome and I am happy there.
When I was speaking of the American version of Christianity, or the church of 'me' as I sometimes say, what I meant was the theology you hear a lot these days: that God exists to serve us, to make us happy and make our lives easy. Even though no one really comes out and says it like this, it's pretty much taught that we pray to give God His marching orders and He does what we tell Him to do. You know, like a genie in a bottle, He is there to do our bidding. The message you hear often is that God wants us to be rich! God wants us all to have fancy cars and better jobs, and a nice McMansion on a hill...we never have to be sick, we never need to struggle, even the best parking spots will be ours...all we need to do us plug into God!
Can you hear the voice of a certain TV pastor saying all of these things? Not naming names...but maybe you know who I'm thinking of...
Sigh. I could go on and on about the various things taught and those who are teaching it. The TV pastors aren't even as bad as our old churches were, however. They taught if you pray the right prayers (over time even getting to the point of saying you don't actually ask God, you just remind Him of His promises and TELL Him to deliver on them...if you actually 'ask' then it shows a lack of faith), if you have the right amount of faith (because even the slightest doubt means no goodies for you!), if you are in the right church (which was theirs, of course), if you speak aloud the right scriptures over yourself and your life (very magical, almost incantation type stuff), if you worship with the right amount of volume and intensity...then God will HAVE TO bless you and give you this almost perfect life. You'll be the head and not the tail. Above and not beneath. The windows of heaven open with blessings ($$$) pouring down. All you had to do was figure out the right 'formula' for spiritual success and all this can be yours!
Ugh. There is so much more, but you get the idea, I think.
Even though I've been out of that mess for a couple of years now, I am frankly still so messed up by it all. I was so brainwashed that I still cringe when I say the word 'sick' out loud, for fear of bringing the curse of sickness onto myself. (Yes, they believe that. If you say "I have supernatural health" despite how you feel, you will be healthy. If you say "I feel a bit sick" then you'll be sick. How did I not see the witchcraft of it all?) The entire message of these churches is what God will DO for you and that if you struggle or have any hardships, well, then YOU did something wrong. (How did I miss the many verses that say we WILL have troubles?) A real Christian who has real faith should simply be rich, healthy, constantly full of joy and peace, and that was that.
Mind you, they even have scriptures to back their message up (mostly taken completely out of context, I now know) which really makes the Bible hard to read even after you stop believing the way they do! I still to this day find myself filtering my Bible reading through their theology and it is infuriating. Especially when I see that, in context, these verses sometimes mean the complete opposite of what I was taught! One day I'll blog about this specifically. You'd be shocked at how they twist and distort the Word of God.
Sigh. This is getting too long. Maybe I shouldn't try to say this all at once.
Basically what I want is a Christianity that focuses on not only seeking God Himself (and not just what He can do for me) but also on how I can best serve HIM. Helping others, placing their needs above my own, sacrificial living, not trying to have the most prosperous material life, but the most prosperous spiritual life. Not treating hardships as un-christian, but realizing they are actually a big part of actually being a Christian! Mindfully humbling myself instead of trying to exalt myself and my needs. Making prayer about a relationship instead of a laundry list of wants and commands.
This is probably something so obvious to you, because you are all already practicing this Christianity, but it something I am struggling to find, mostly due to all those years of false teaching and self-serving gospel. The biggest key is that I have to somehow find a balance. My default since leaving those churches has been to go to the far opposite extreme of what I was taught, which has resulted in a complete failure to have any faith in God to move at all on my behalf. I've been afraid of asking Him for anything, for fear of either 'using' God or being disappointed by Him not moving on my behalf at all.
You see, the theology of 'THY will be done' is something I was never really taught, so I'm having to find my way to it myself. Sovereignty is another message they stayed far away from, as it doesn't fit with the 'my faith and my words decide what God will do in my life' message. That's why when things don't go the way I think they should go...my spirituality suffers. I was taught that since God's word says we are healed, then by-golly if I 'speak' healing over my body GOD WILL HAVE TO HEAL IT. Unanswered prayers have no place in this theology.
Why can't I seem to wrap this up already? The biggest thing I wanted to say was that my current church is not the one messing me up. Sure, there are a couple of areas in which my beliefs differ from the beliefs of my church, but nothing major. They teach the Bible in context, the praise and worship is genuine and spirit-filled, the vision of the church very outward and missions based, they don't teach that God is going to give you a perfect strife-free life or that you simply need to 'speak' a truth into existence and then God is obligated to move on your behalf. They are helping me...but my deep distrust of all things religion just creeps up every now and then and I start to wonder if doing it on my own would be safer. I think with time and a lot more de-programing, I'll be just fine.
Okay, I'm stopping now. I still have more to say, but for goodness sakes this is long. Sorry to go on and on! I'm sure I didn't explain certain things right and I'm sure I'll end up having to clarify, but for now, this is it. Phew.
One more thing. I know that there's a good chance that some of you believe some of the things I scoff at or call false teaching in this post. Please know that I am very much on a journey here. I haven't even come close to figuring any of this out yet. I am probably wrong on way more things than I am right! Bear with me and please don't be offended. My intent is not to down-talk anyone's beliefs or talk anyone out of a certain theology. This is about MY journey and nothing else.