Doing Christianity

|

Kay has written an entry in her blog about her frustrations with Christianity. She writes:

You probably know what I’m dreading saying - that I just can’t “do” Christianity right now. Maybe never.

I don’t trust the Bible. I don’t find inspiration within its pages. I find some of it horrendous actually. The more I read the Bible the more I want to run away. Sorry, but it’s true. I’ve tried to change my feelings. I’ve tried to learn to do “proper exegesis,” but it’s not working. It’s like trying to do proper exegesis on a Stephen King novel - I might be able to figure out what Stephen is “really” saying with his story, but in the end it’s still a story.

Yes myths can be “true” and meaningful, but I just don’t find this particular story to be true or meaningful. I’ve tried. You guys know I’ve tried.

What I think is significant about her frustration is that it is not for want of trying. She really wants to find a religious home, but she just can't find one. Oh, how I can relate to that.

There are, of course, people out there who are either indifferent to, or actively hostile to, the Christian faith, and naturally they are not even interested in exploring Christianity in the first place. But then there are also people who are drawn to it and yet find that it cannot satisfy them despite their best efforts. I wonder how many people are out there are like that.

When I first felt a strong urge to reconnect with God a year and a half or so ago, it was like there was a tremendous pull that was drawing me back to organized religion. I wasn't sure that the pull I was experiencing was God speaking to me, but I could easily imagine that it was. It really was like an almost irresistible attraction. I suddenly found myself consuming endless books on religious subjects. I found that I really wanted to go to church. I found myself talking to God.

At first, I told myself that when I went to church I would ignore the language and theology that I didn't much care for, and focus on the fact that I was in a community where the word God was used. I had been God-starved for a long time, and so at first that was enough. The God-starvation explains why I wasn't interested in exploring Unitarian Universalism, even though some might think that would be a pretty good fit for me. No, I wanted to hear the word "God" used in service, not just as part of an intellectual deconstruction expressed with ironic detachment during the sermon by a minister who doesn't want to offend the pagans and Buddhists and ex-Christian humanists in his or her audience, but God as an object of congregational worship. So I was willing to put up with some of the trappings of orthodoxy just so I could worship God in a community of faith. And for a time, that was enough. But maybe reading all those progressive theologians got my hopes up and I started setting the bar higher. Or maybe I found that I just wanted more over time and got tired of settling. I visited several churches, and although I've met nice people and progressive pastors, nothing has entirely clicked for me. So disillusionment set in.

The novelty has worn off. Somehow I am feeling largely disconnected from God, and I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for in organized religion anymore.

11 comments:

Kay said...

Firstly - thanks for the link to the post. That is always much appreciated. :)

Secondly - Boy do I hear ya. The past few years have been such a roller coaster ride.

I've tried to make a home within progressive Christianity (via TCPC), then within mystical Christianity (even considered converting to Catholicism for a while), and then within missional / emergent / evangelical Christianity.

Scripture is the basis for all of them though (even progressive Christianity) and I just can't reconcile the discrepancies. Can we really even figure out the "historical Jesus?" The gospels present 4 different Jesuses and Paul presents a fifth one.

Anyway, I'm rambling. I've started to think that I really need to give the UU a chance. I've said it in the past, but maybe now I'm ready.

Grace said...

Hi, Mystical,

I definitely feel that this strong pull is the work of God's spirit in your life.

I've just shared this quote from St. Augustine with your friend. It's certainly been true in my life.

"You've made us for yourself, oh God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee."

Rob Gallion said...

I sense the sincerity of your heart to meaningfully connect with God. You are not far from finding Him.

One of the most compelling pictures painted of God is found in Luke 15. I invite you to read and meditate upon this chapter, and see for yourself how God reveals Himself.

Ultimately, there is only one way to truly connect with God - and that is through His Son, Jesus. In His great love and compassion for you, Jesus came into this world to walk among us in perfect obedience to the will of God, which led Him to the cross to die for our sin. How can one express the measure of such love? How can one describe a peace that passes understanding, a joy unspeakeable, and a hope that endures through trials of all kinds? Yet this (and more!) is what Christ Jesus offers to those who receive Him as Savior and Lord. "Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my [Jesus'] sake will find it." - Matthew 10:39

"I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." - 2 Corinthians 6:2

Please don't miss this moment.

OneSmallStep said...

Here's a random idea, that you might have already done: have you tried Judaism, of the liberal branch? You would certainly encounter a concept of God in those services (this may be the wrong term). Granted, you wouldn't have any of the NT, but there are good things in the Tanakh, as well.

I know it's somewhat of a giant step from Christianity. But if nothing else, it might provide a deeper appreciation for the Tanakh, which would in turn benefit any readying/study of the NT.

Also, you mentioned previously that you went to Quaker services. Did that not work?

Mystical Seeker said...

One Small Step,

In theory you are right that I might find Judaism of interest. I certainly value and respect Judaism a great deal, but it is integrated with a specific cultural and historical tradition, and I'm not sure I feel all that drawn to it for my own spiritual expression.

As for Quakeism, I think I found that it lost its appeal for me at some point. I'm not entirely sure why, except that I found Quakerism a little too insular and self-absorbed. True, Quakers are wonderful social activists, but religiously speaking, they are rather insular, and not very welcoming to strangers within their worship communities, which I discovered when I moved across the country and wanted to find a new Quaker meeting as my spiritual home.

Eileen said...

Mystical -

No organized religion will ever be able to meet the needs of all of God's seekers - they are human institutions, and as such, are deeply, deeply flawed.

Theologically, the world isn't in the same place as ultra-progressive Christians/theists (I'll say it that way, as most ultra-progressive Christians don't believe Christ was divine, so theist is probably a more accurate description).

It sounds to me as if you are craving is a meaningful mystical experience, rather than an organized religion: a way to touch and be touched by God, through music, meditation, centering prayer, etc.

You might actually be better off to do church in your way at home, and supplement it with the occasional "church" experience, for a sense of community. This way, you could ditch the patriarchal language, the problematic Eucharist, etc. from your spiritual life, and you could concentrate on those aspects that do resonate with you.

It would be great if there were a series of national services that were non-eucharistic, prayer and music centered, in a churchy, cathedral-y setting - a weekly Saturday or Sunday Taize service.

I feel for your spiritual struggle. (((Mystical)))

Mystical Seeker said...

It sounds to me as if you are craving is a meaningful mystical experience, rather than an organized religion: a way to touch and be touched by God, through music, meditation, centering prayer, etc.


I think you are right, Eileen. That's a very insightful observation.

You might actually be better off to do church in your way at home, and supplement it with the occasional "church" experience, for a sense of community. This way, you could ditch the patriarchal language, the problematic Eucharist, etc. from your spiritual life, and you could concentrate on those aspects that do resonate with you.

Hmmm, I think what you suggest makes sense. I might need to ponder it a bit, but I am thinking that this may very well be the right way for me to go.

OneSmallStep said...

I like what Eileen suggested. One of the ideas I was pondering was somehow creating your own church with like-minded people (and non-likeminded would be invited). I just have no idea how to go about creating that, other than placing adds somewhere.

At this point in history, it seems that it's going to be hard to find what you're looking for in organized religion. Given what we're seeing from liberal scholars, it's possible that the services will be more like where you are now.

Rob said...

Eileen said:

It sounds to me as if you are craving is a meaningful mystical experience, rather than an organized religion: a way to touch and be touched by God, through music, meditation, centering prayer, etc.

You might actually be better off to do church in your way at home, and supplement it with the occasional "church" experience, for a sense of community. This way, you could ditch the patriarchal language, the problematic Eucharist, etc. from your spiritual life, and you could concentrate on those aspects that do resonate with you.


When I began my search for God I was very clear that I wanted to experience God personally, such that I would experience the experience of God's presence. For me, this meaningful mystical experience came in the form of the Pilot Light.

I don't seek to experience the Light per se in my spiritual life, but rather to maintain as best as possible an awareness of the Pilot Light's guiding presence, sustaining peace, joy, and love. I think this is simply the quest to learn to experientially live in the presence of God.

As for a "home" in which to practice this spiritual experience, I have found I am most comfortable within the Shin Buddhist community, although I consider myself a disciple/follower of Jesus' teachings. I have tried several times to make my "social" home within the Christian church, but that has proven fruitless again and again; I see far more fruits forthcoming from my Buddhist and Muslim brothers and sisters than I have witnessed from many Christians, and it is these fruits I find far more attractive. I have repeatedly found myself being judged by so-called correct theological beliefs, such as for example, the atonement doctrine, than by the living fruits born of being part of the living vine.

But I think it is less important where one find's one's "social" home, as long as one find's one's spiritual home in that living faith which is born of experientially living in co-creative partnership with God's indwelling presence, which I fondly call the pilot light.

May you all have a Happy and Joyous Paradise Journey.

Rob

Mystical Seeker said...

Rob, thanks for your comments. There is a lot about Shin Buddhism that I like. I agree with your comment about finding a social home versus a spiritual home.

Eileen said...

Rob and Mystical - I agree totally with finding the home of your spirit being far more important than where you do or don't find your social community.

I'm Christian, but I'm not a closed Christian. I am open to, and intersted in, other ways and paths.