Monday, July 1, 2013

Church yesterday

Well, I decided to go to church yesterday for the first time in a few weeks. BIG mistake. I just ended up having this running dialog in my head, countering some of what is being preached and remembering Bible verses that countered others he mentioned, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't turn it off.

The biggest question here for me is: Should I even be trying to turn it off? 

Here's the thing. One of the lessons I've been taught as a Christian is to silence doubt. Not to question anything in the Bible. That the questions in my head are no doubt put there by the devil, so to entertain them is wrong. Just go to the Bible for 'truth' and replace all doubt with faith.

Only...that isn't sitting right with me anymore. (Did it ever? I don't know.) What I do know is that constantly shutting down my own thoughts and feelings has become what feels like self-brainwashing. Constantly going against what FEELS right for what I'm TOLD is right feels wrong. I feel like I'm having to choose between being true to myself or being true to God, and I know I'm supposed to choose Him, but why does that feel so wrong?

So anyway, about halfway through the sermon he hit a note that was just one too far for me to handle so I went out to the car and proceeded to have a chat with God. Not that I got any answers, mind you. I never do. Then I tried not to make a big deal out of it to my family, but of course eventually I ended up making comments to both of them separately, and they both got mad at me. Sigh.

I just don't want my daughter to be PROGRAMMED. I want her to CHOOSE this, if it's what she wants, but also to be fully informed. I also want her to be strong enough to question what she's taught, to weigh it within herself, to not just regurgitate what she hears from other people. To not only HAVE a belief, but to be able to articulate why she believes it, and able to defend it with more than just 'that's what I was taught' or whatever. Not to swallow every word that is ever served to her, but to examine both herself and the word and decide what she finds palatable. 

But. To say these things to her sounds like I'm trying to program her to MY way of thinking, and that's wrong, too. So what to do? I don't know. I do know that I'm going to just have to shut up about it though. I don't want to upset her, or take away her faith. And my husband is over it, too. He is frustrated with me, to say the least. 

So I guess I'll try to keep my thoughts to myself, or put them here. In the meantime, I have to decide what to do about attending church. I wanted to go in the name of family unity, but it might end up doing more harm than good.


  1. Hi Missy,

    I want to encourage you to look into other ways of being Christian than the ones you've mostly known. We have been finding a surprising home in the Episcopal church, for example. I'm sure there are a ton of congregations where nearly no one, including the priest, believes much... but there are others like ours where the priest and at least some of the people are serious about following Jesus, but are comfortable with different ways of looking at the Bible and dealing with doctrine. I have another friend who has found a home with the Quakers.

    You might like N. T. Wright's books and articles. Or Peter Enns. Or Rachel Held Evans' blog. Or Kathy Escobar, who has a lot of stuff on her blog devoted to spiritual transitions. I think RHE even has an interview with a couple in which one spouse has rejected the faith and the other still believes, and how their marriage works.

    Giving up on inerrancy or other doctrines that no longer seem reasonable doesn't have to mean giving up on the whole thing. Maybe you will end up giving up on God altogether -- or maybe you will find that faith is still reasonable given some adjustments to the ways you've been taught.

    C. S. Lewis has a beautiful picture in The Last Battle in which the dwarves, desperately afraid of being deceived, fully believe they are still in a dark dank stable eating rotten turnips, when the reality is Aslan (God) has brought in the new heavens and the new earth and prepared a banquet. My late therapist Joe said that, if you've been told you're eating a banquet but it SEEMS to you like it's really rotten turnips, it's NOT your job to pretend you taste the good stuff. Perhaps one possibility is to say to God, "I've been told that X is really good and true and beautiful, but it smells, tastes, looks, and feels rotten to me."

    I hope you find some resources to help you on this journey -- you need people who can listen to you without frustration and judgment and criticism.

    1. Thanks so much, Marcy. I'm not sure a new church is the answer, since 90% of my problem lies with the Bible itself, but I haven't ruled it out, by any means.

      I LOVED the C.S. Lewis snippet and your friends comments on it. I haven't read that story, I'll have to check it out.

      I must say, most of the time these days God and the things that surround Him truly do taste rotten to me. it is nice to admit it finally.

    2. ...problem with the Bible, or with what you've been taught that it means? A sucky church can put such a bad spin on things, in part by doing what you said happened at church yesterday-- emphasizing a particular verse in a way that it doesn't harmonize with others. If what someone is saying a verse means doesn't jive with what the rest of the Bible says, then they're just plain wrong in their interpretation.

  2. Partly that. Absolutely. I had to tear down my whole spiritual makeup a few years back over screwed up preaching and interpretation! But mostly it is just plain old reading it myself over the years and always having crazy issues with what I read.

    Just a quick one for example, one of the verses that bugged me this past Sunday was when Pastor was talking about abortion and quoted plain old 'Thou shall not kill' and immediately I think to myself '...except if you are an innocent child in Jericho, it's apparently okay to kill you'

    (One day not too long ago, I realized the real implications of that cute Bible story we share with our children and I was horrified! How have I never thought of the children who died before? Because we've vanilla-flavored the Bible and that's a problem.)

    I have MAJOR Old Testament issues. Huge. While everyone is busy ranting about gay marriage, they are ignoring verses saying a rape victim should marry her rapist, or that you can kill a woman if she lies about being a virgin, etc. I could go ON and ON. The OT is JACKED UP in about a million different ways.

    The NT is also problematic to me, but in different ways. How about the various verses promising healing? I truly used to cling to them, until I realized I was very rarely (and perhaps never) seeing them actually come to pass. Oh sure, occasionally someone says God healed their head cold but we don't speak of so-and-so in the next row who has a five year old still dying of cancer or the poor single mother struggling to care for the boy in the wheelchair. Sigh.

    My issues with the Bible are so extensive that I'll probably be working on a blog post about the subject. It'll take time, but since its such a major factor in all this, I'll most likely try to tackle it.

  3. PS. I know I sound horrible and mean and ugly sometimes when I talk about this stuff. I have a TON of anger right now on top of the confusion and I'm finding it hard to repress. Please forgive my tone! :)

  4. The Bible has been a major theme in my spiritual transition, too. There are other ways of regarding the Bible as authoritative without going for inerrancy and literalism. N. T. Wright has been especially helpful on this one --

    Also, Rachel Held Evans has a series of book reviews and other posts on letting the Bible be what it is instead of trying to do literalism and inerrancy or whatever with it.

    You are absolutely not the first person to get angry or confused about these things. And there is a wide range of possible responses to these issues.

    I wonder if you would be interested / willing to arrange some meetings with area priests and pastors to discuss their take on the Bible and these particular concerns. Maybe you'll find some who have interesting and helpful things to say, and that not all will start the whole 'slippery slope' fear mongering.

    Here's a bit on my own journey:

  5. You know, I really should start reading Rachel Held Evans again, I used to love her blog. I actually stopped going there because I was afraid she was negatively influencing my own walk with God, and I wanted this to be because of ME and my thoughts alone. Although quite honestly her book (Monkey Town) really was a catalyst for me finally admitting my feelings about all of this.

    As for meeting with Pastors...not right now. Maybe I'll speak with my own pastor one of these days, because we have a friendship and I trust him a lot, but for now I need to flesh this out on my own for a bit. I'm still not sure how I feel or where I stand on much of anything, so I need more time to find my footing.

    I will definitely check out your own post on this matter later today. I am finding it interesting that I'm not quite alone on this matter as I feel. It feels incredibly isolating.

  6. Two things: I don't think it's biblical to teach that you can't question what the Bible says/means. Perfect example-- the Berean church. They were commended for not just accepting everything Paul said, but searching the Scriptures to see if what he said harmonized with what they knew to be true. If something your pastor teaches doesn't sound right, or you know of verses that contradict what's being preached, you need to be able to voice those concerns. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Also, I think it's important for everyone to have someone older, wiser that they can talk to about their questions, when something in the Bible just doesn't make sense. Whether that be the pastor or cell group or Sunday school teacher or whoever. God's Word can handle the scrutiny. We ought to have an intelligent faith, not just believe whatever we're told. Shame on anyone who has told you otherwise.

    Secondly, as far as your daughter is concerned and her making up her own mind. While your approach sounds open-minded, if you don't find out the truth and pass that on to her, you will be letting her down big time. I understand that you don't want to "force your opinion on her". But if you don't try and lead her down the right path, you'll be the only one. She doesn't live in a vacuum. EVERYONE else is going to step in and try to sway her one way or the other-- from media, to kids and teachers at school... No one else is going to withhold their opinion, trust me. The mind she makes up will not be her own; it will be made of bits and pieces of others'.... except yours.