More On That
Did you think I was going to break my NaBloPoMo, 30 posts in 30 days, promise? Well, I almost did. My computer will no longer turn on. I guess it didn’t like my last blog topic. I’m using our outdated upstairs computer that we use to store back-up data, etc, for now. Hopefully it won’t crash!
I wanted to thank all of you who left thoughtful and respectful comments on the last post. I wasn’t looking to be scolded for my irreverance or lack of faith, and had hoped people could explain their perspectives without using the words “wrong,” and “only 1 way,” etc. I was genuinely interested in how people could answer those questions from a Christian perspective, so thank you for doing that so well.
As always, I found Amanda’s comment to be beautifully written and very enlightening. J also always amazes me with the way she practices Evangelical Christianity, a religion many people admitted in their comments to thinking is purely intolerant, yet she approaches everything with admirable openness, and her message is always love and tolerance. I have to admit, J breaks a lot of my stereotypes. I joke with her all the time that her church really needs to hire the PR group that works for the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon church). Of course, there are ALWAYS exceptions to every rule, but Travis and I have found LDS members to do a pretty incredible job of praciticing the preachings of their church. There’s something about demonstrating the teachings of your religion without ever having to actually speak of it that impresses me. [Amanda, do you think your sensitivity and acceptance of other cultures and religions has to do with doing missions overseas? Is it just you and Sterling? Or is it your church's attitude as well?]
As for my where I am, personally, with religion…I guess I would describe it as an aversion to organized religion. It stems, in part, from the place in which I was raised. A wealthy town that seems to be a volatile mixture of hardcore Fundamentalist Christians and a sizeable Jewish population. Travis and I grew up in families that didn’t fit into either of those categories until recently, but now both of our families fall towards the former. I am very hyperaware of the religious tension, and I have a hard time with it when we go home. The last time we were down there, Travis and I were really disturbed by the planes flying overhead, writing “Jesus Saves,” in the sky. Prosthyletizing is one thing, but that kind of in-your-face, we-own-the-sky, all-out relgious warfare is just too much for me. And the church service we’ve been attending each year at Christmas with our families always has 1 person, who they call a “completed Jew,” stand up and give his testimony, which is incredibly offensive to my Jewish friends since the automatic inference is that they are “incomplete” if they are still practicing Jews. The rest of the service is full of talk of hell, gnashing of teeth, and reminding us all that there is only 1 “right way.” It’s a hard pill for me to swallow, especially at Christmas, and I just end up feeling so turned off by it all because the message is so harsh and so abrasive.
I went on a medical mission trip the year before I started medical school with a doctor from this church. We went to Haiti and worked in a church-run, very makeshift clinic. It was my first exposure to patients with serious infectious diseases, like TB, as well as people dying of malnutrition. The doctor I worked with would often use the lure of medical treatment and nutrition supplements to draw people into the church, which I found hugely morally objectionable. It was manipulation of the most vulnerable people. But she used a very Machiavellian logic, and however she got people to Christ (even through bribery) was ok so long as she got them to say “I accept Jesus as my savior.”
I had other earlier experiences that shaped my stereotypes and my opinions into less than positive ones as well. But for me, whenever I get curious and ask questions, I get lost and tune it all out when I start hearing those words again: “wrong,” “the only way,” “hell,” “eternal damnation,” etc. It just ends up leaving such a bad taste in my mouth and makes me feel so negative. And as several of you pointed out, the harsh reality seems to be that Christianity is a very exclusive religion. It makes no room for others because the foundation of it is that Jesus is the only way. But it was nice to hear that exemption clause for people who have never had the chance to accept or reject it, like our kids’ birthparents if they’ve never heard the Bible preached. That God does give them a chance in the afterlife to make a choice.
Not to go political on you, but I’ve also had a really hard time the last 8 years with the seemingly inseparable church and state issue and the Evangelical / Fundamentalist Christian = Republican movement, which has just pushed me further and further away from ever wanting to expose my kids to religion. I’m truly not trying to offend anyone here, I’m just talking about the experiences I’ve had and how they have shaped where I am with religion today. It may seem weird, but that affiliation is one of the biggest turn-offs of all to me.
I know that intolerant, judgemental, hateful, self-riteous people are not truly practicing Christianity, and the really amazing Christians out there (like J, Amanda, and the others of you who wrote comments that were loving and non-judgemental) remind me of that. But the associations are so ingrained in my head that I can’t separate the majority of people I see practicing their idea of Christianity from the true religion. Does that make sense?
And moreover, I don’t want a religious affiliation with people who practice intolerance. I know the relationship is supposed to be about me and God, and that part I am good with. I do pray. If she’s reading, my mom just fell off her chair. But I do. Not to Jesus, because the jury is still out on whether I think he was a really sweet schizophrenic man, or something more (I’m kind of joking here - it was a reference to your comments in the previous post:). But I do pray. And if there is a heaven for good people, not exclusive to Jesus-loving good people, that’s where I want to end up:) I did get a kick out of Tongguu Momma’s comment that heaven isn’t just a place where good people get to hangout, heaven is a place where all beings there spend 100% of the time worshiping Jesus, so people who aren’t interested in a relationship with God / Jesus wouldn’t care to be there anyway. From the first part of her comment though, I got this hilarious mental picture of a party in the clouds with some dude in a cool garb was playing the acoustic guitar while the rest of us mingled with champaign glasses! Hahaha.
OK, PHEW, that was mildly therapeutic. Anyway, thanks for another good discussion guys. Tomorrow’s topic will be light and fun, I promise! That is, if the mac store can fix my computer. All my pre-written posts are stored on that machine…lots of wasted marshmallow brains if that thing can’t be salvaged.