Perhaps this yet another post that was a ‘long time coming’ (That seems to be the start of a theme of posts for me.)
Things I yet again thought I had dealt with are still coming up and bugging me to the point where I finally have to start writing…AGAIN. And while with this particular subject I would normally just start writing in my personal journal and not post publicly, I’m starting to believe the subject matter needs to be discussed more openly, and thus, has become another blog post.
The subject is Christianity.
I’ve written quite a bit about Christianity lately. I’ve frequently shared articles on my Facebook page regarding the work of Pastor John Pavlovitz, more specifically, about some of the shared truths that he and other Christian pastors write about. I’ve also gotten angry and written posts about how broken Christianity feels like to me (a post that upon retrospection, feels more like a rant than anything, but it still needed to come out at the time).
I was happy when one of my posts sparked discussion, and something from that discussion stuck with me. It was a Facebook post where one of my other friends, a Christian gentleman, started to speak about how frustrated he was that he couldn’t speak about his religion and the comfort it gave him without being bashed about the ears by people who were expecting the next words out of his mouth to be ‘come to my church and see..’
So I guess I’m not the only one who feels oppressed.
I think the deep introspection of the past several months has caused me to realize that I need to speak my mind, but not just throw words at the topic to vent, like I did in the broken religion post. I need to talk about how I still hurt, how I have issues thanks to someone’s interpretation of Christianity, but how I still recognize that Christianity as a whole isn’t that bad. And maybe my being public about things might allow someone else who has some of the same issues to at least think about it.
Yes, you read that right. I’m a non-Christian that doesn’t think Christianity is that bad. Seriously. The concepts of loving another as yourself, not judging another, taking care of the poor, even the discipline of going to a church and prayer are all good things. In fact, the concept of faith is something I learned in Christianity that I keep with me even now.
But just because I don’t think Christianity is bad doesn’t mean that I don’t still have a lot of anger to deal with because of my upbringing in the church. The fact of the matter is a great majority of people today were born into some semblance of Christianity. Many of these people have issues because of that upbringing, and they still carry a lot of anger and resentment toward the entire religion because of said issues. And I’m still one of them.
But – confession time – I don’t WANT to be someone who has issues with Christianity. I want to be able to say that I can dismiss the stupidity of certain Christian followers and accept that which is good. I want to be able to sit down with the gentleman I spoke about above, have a pint and enjoy a good conversation about how our lives are so much more enriched because we BOTH have faith in something more powerful than we are. There is common ground here that I think is rich with opportunities for bridge building, and I’d love to have those conversations to see what specifics we do have in common.
Although I long for conversations like these, I wonder frequently if I will ever be able to have them. A good conversation means egos, anger and any suggestions of ‘conversion’ need to be in check. But still, many Christians I speak with find it their duty to convert heathens like me to the ‘one true’ way.
Come to think of it, now that I am someone who just opened myself to the possibility of sitting down with a Christian to talk about religious practice, or how I read the blogs of Christian leaders, did I just open myself up to people who think I am ready for conversion? Possibly. (And if so, I’ll give you the same response I’ve given throughout my life; No.)
Now I can’t do anything about people who feel like it is their duty to convert, but I do know that if someone whose underlying belief is to convert people because their religion is the ‘one, true way’, then you will never be able to have an open heart discussion with them. The fact is that if someone believes truly in conversion, you will never know if what they say is from their heart, or if it is in the attempt to make you a convert. And it makes everyone who opens their mouth to say the “C” word in any form or fashion suspect.
And the main sticking point of my anger is right around that ideal of conversion. I call the root cause of that conversion issue the ‘fear of God’ syndrome. People feel like they need to convert because the fear of God is something that is instilled in every young Christian in school. You get raised with this idea that God is so nice, supportive and gentle until you do something wrong and don’t apologize. Then this God becomes a vengeful being that shames you to eternal pain for the rest of the existence of the world because you dared to do something he didn’t like. And when the young Christians get to the ripe age where they start to think for yourself – everyone goes through this crisis of faith and either learns to conform, or become like me and recognize things can be different. And if we truly believe in our heart that things can be different, we now get to deal with this fear of angering this vengeful God. And that was the thing that screwed me up the most; This fact you could be doing the exact same things that the Christian God teaches AND STILL go to this eternal frying pan because you don’t do it in his name.
(Images flash in my mind of the South Park episode where the kids freaked out every time they did something they thought was a sin and had to run to church to confess it. Poor Kenny!)
Perhaps some Christians are aware of how conceited it sounds that some put the Christian faith above others. But many don’t. Instead, they relish in it. It’s a perfect place for their egos to thrive and grow; as NOW they have a GOD GIVEN RIGHT to put everyone underneath them because only THEY and THEIR friends and family are CHOSEN ones. And it’s those people that have poisoned it for everyone. For me, who wants to reach out, and for others, like my friend who is tired of being punished for crimes he didn’t commit.
And people wonder why some of us go out of their way to avoid anything that has any Christian leanings. It’s because the true reason for the speech or action regarding Christianity will never be known. Are you one of the idiots trying to gain power? Are you someone who’s trying to ‘hook’ more souls for your Christian God? Or are you someone who is just sick and tired of the whole mess some people have made of the Christian religion and want to just have a good conversation about faith and how it can truly move mountains no matter what you believe in?
In short, “Are you a Good Christian, or a Bad Christian?” I ask, as I hold my ceremonial drinking horn. (I gave up the wand – and the athame might scare people.)
I jest. But if I don’t jest I might get mad again. And I don’t want to be mad. Sure, I’ll have to talk about my hurt for a while longer. And perhaps I’ll have that pint and hear about another’s hurt and how they feel just as oppressed. But what is more important is that I want those good Christians to know that my anger isn’t directed at them. There will be things I post – Stuff that needs to be said, to use the title of Pastor Pavlovitz’s blog – but I don’t do it to directly make someone else feel uncomfortable. I do it to heal. I do it to express how much anger I still have left within me. I do it because someday, I don’t want to have that anger. I want to shed that anger and pick up that pint and talk about how excited I am to share my practices with another person. I want to share about how my faith in my Gods makes me feel connected to everyone around the world, how we all need to respect each other. I want to talk about how when I make a mistake I have to do more than just confess it. I want to talk about how I don’t bow to my Gods, just as I don’t bow to my boss, my mentors, my teachers or my husband, but instead I show respect in other ways. I want to share how my vows to be a better person mean I have to push myself out of my comfort zone and force myself to do more to raise my energy and understand my fellow human being better.
Now, more than ever, I truly believe we need these bridges built between communities. Bridges are the only way we are going to understand each other, and once the understanding is there, compromise is possible. We see every day how non-compromise is causing trauma and pain and fear. And if it means having more semi-open conversations before we can get down to business, then I am all for it.