Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Religious & Apocalyptic Theory

For frequent readers who are not of religious mindset or are generally turned off by religious matters, I assure you that the following post will sound like a bunch of insane blather.

There have been a lot of spiritual queries and observations circulating around in my head lately... It is no secret that my first two decades of life in a fundamentalist/evangelical/baptist background have been both a blessing and a curse. The fundamentalists who I've encountered are mostly of the ilk who do not perceive themselves as being fundamentalists (and are offended if given this label). They think that they are purely acting as a tool of God, not bothering to question whether or not it is wise to follow a literal interpretation of a book which was written as a moral code for an ancient, largely undeveloped society. I frequently consider my past spiritual life and how it compares with my views in more recent times, how it all fits into the big picture, and I continue fighting to keep a clear perspective in order to stay on the right path.

Admittedly, I am not the best or most astute Christian... in fact I can be quite the "Doubting Thomas". I frequently call my own beliefs into question, I sometimes treat my religious outlook with irreverence in mixed company, and I often have a hard time with fundamentalism: despising the mindset while attempting to understand and love those who have been trapped by it. Despite this doubting nature, I still find myself right back at a place of Faith. I've also not cracked the cover of my Bible for almost a decade. One could say that I've developed an aversion to Bible-reading due to all the times that I've seen the Good Book used by cruel people as an instrument of control, an assault weapon, or as a torture device. As of lately, I am cautiously attempting to revisit the Scriptures with a new attitude and different mental framework, without the fundamentalist dogma filter... much of this with the hopes of subverting many of the lies which I frequently encounter within my family and the general Christian community.

This is all very overwhelming and I will confess that I am a bit disillusioned by a large part of Christianity because of it's rampant hypocrisy... People preaching about loving others while happily supporting a war with extraordinarily high collateral damage (and severe long-term repercussions); insecure men who claim to be spreading the love of Jesus while treating all the females in their life with utter contempt and allowing their family to rot and wither from the inside out; people in the church hierarchy who put on an heir of acceptance and love during services but outside of it they cast revulsion and complete disrespect toward women, homosexuals, and other ethnic groups. I've watched churches eject people for simply disagreeing with what the pastor says (wouldn't any pastor worth his salt attempt to gently explain his position?), and observed congregations who tame their guilty conscience by sending a token sum of money to missions overseas while completely ignoring the abundance of physical and spiritual need within their own community (it seems to be easier to look at a few photographs and read stories instead of confronting the problems head-on). I've heard all manner of sermons about the evils of sexual immorality yet the deacons and/or pastor physically and emotionally abuse their wives, keeping them subservient with the vague threat of salvation-loss or even physical harm. When women in some churches become pregnant outside of marriage, they suddenly become an object of ridicule and stigma... yet if it is found out that a man (within the church) had sex outside of marriage, he might get a slap on the wrist or his behavior is tacitly accepted as being just part of the nature of men. There are all these supposedly "Christian" political organizations who have all sorts of lofty spiritual aspirations on the surface, but a strong bloodlust and desire for control underneath it all. Men who claim that women are to be respected, then blame them for being raped or molested by insisting that it was the woman's own fault for wearing immodest clothing or unintentionally leading the aggressor on. Church folks who profess a strict moral code except when it directly contradicts their personal interests. A society of people who greedily consume material goods at the expense of other societies and the earth (as well as all the natural life that it contains). Instances where people who come to God seeking relief from drug or alcohol addiction are warmly accepted, yet are treated like the filthy stray dog who raided the garbage bin if they happen to lose their way and backslide a bit. I forget which blog I read it on, but I recently came across a quote that stated,"Christianity is one of the only religions which shoots it's own wounded." Regrettably, I have to agree with that statement somewhat. Am I sounding overly negative yet? I apologize, bear with me here.

I've read on various Christian websites about what a sorry state the world is in, supposedly because of the decrease in true Believers. Well I ask this: Why should everyone else believe? Would you go to a psychologist who talked to inanimate objects? Would you pay for the services of a doctor who never washed his hands and was always sick? Would you be quick to form an alliance with someone who commanded unquestioning loyalty, demanded complete control of all your thought processes, and severely persecuted or executed anyone who did not follow these requirements? I do believe that all churches and branches of Christianity suffer with the aforementioned problems to a greater or lesser degree. I also firmly believe that we are witnessing the False Church spoken of in Revelation, growing within the pews of our own churches today, feeding off of the ignorance and all of this fake intellectual/moral sanctimony. It seems to consist of the minds of those who would blindly follow a doctrine just because it says so in a book, bypassing all common sense or leadings of the Spirit, and engaging in the hypocritical behaviors mentioned in the last paragraph. In deference to the fact that none of us are perfect, I conjecture that the False Church exists in all of us in some measure, the two sides continuously having a knock-down, drag-out war with each other... the ultimate prize being control of the human consciousness. I confess that I often feel the war going on within my own self and am fighting every day to see clearly past the lies.

On the positive side, there are a lot of good things coming about as a result of this conflict within the religious world... things are starting to polarize... while the False Church spews hatred and punishment, there are Christian groups who are now practicing the true teachings of Christ and embracing areas of society which were previously considered too filthy to touch... with a humble heart (not a sense of moral superiority) taking in those who are broken by drugs, abuse, and ignorance, rebuilding them and turning them into stronger people and continuing to lay a healing hand on those whose struggle is not so easily won, regardless of how many times they mess up. The Spirit is starting to move deeply within the gay community... bringing about a new sense of awareness and spiritual strength to many 'former Christians' who have been ostracized by the teachings of the False Church. There are Many in all religions and walks of life who are mobilizing to fight the corrosive ideologies which have become so deeply rooted in our failing system. I have faith that regardless of how strong or prominent the Beast gets, there will always be a balancing, healing, understanding, transcending Presence that is even stronger.


Anonymous said...

Your search for a less damning side of organised religion may never end, unfortunately. I have troubles with my faith and "my" church for many of the same reasons you've highlighted. I find that many of the elders of the church forget what they preach when Monday rolls around.
Good luck to you on your spiritual search.

nonsequitur said...

Everyday, thank you for visiting, though you may have misunderstood my post a bit... I am not in search of a "less damning side". On the contrary, I do believe that I've found it. I'm mostly just pointing out the inconsistencies in certain areas of my religion... as the reason that I have been driven to the place where I am. I tend to be very critical of the Faith that I follow because there are so many of us who represent it very poorly, myself included sometimes.

Jared said...

That was an great post and it spoke to me deeply. Have you ever thought of going to seminary? You may have the makings of a pastor or religious teacher of some kind.

nonsequitur said...

Jared, how odd... I was just discussing that with someone who told me the same thing. Thank you for the vote of confidence, but I don't believe that I have enough spiritual or mental clarity to be advising people on spiritual matters at this point in my life; though if I ever sensed that it was my calling, I would pursue it.

Steve S said...

You probably saw my comment on Christine's post about her faith.

I've come to the point in my life where the church, (lower case meaning any faith spread to others) is about one group of humans controlling another. You give excellent examples of this in your post. However, I have become more and more spiritual as I get older, I too haven't opened a bible in years, but I talk with Him often, and it's just me and him, which is I think all I need. Any other way, and it just ends up someone trying to tell me how to talk to Him.

For me, that is the 'less damning side' of faith that I have found. You say you have found it too, although likely in a different way, and for that, for you, I am glad.

(You would make a good priest or preacher. If you ever do feel inclined towards it, you should investigate further. I think once you join a seminary you wouldn't be advising people for quite a while still.)

Advising's a bad rub for me, but there is no denying that it really helps others.

nonsequitur said...

Thanks for your comment Steve and I do know what you mean. It has been a bit hard for me to choose between living a life of simple spiritual practice, not tied down to a specific church or congregation or to allow yourself to claim a 'home base'. There are pros and cons to both methods. One also often wonders if they want to allow themselves to be labeled as a 'Christian' being that it seems to entail a very anti-progressive mindset these days (it's even harder to be identified as a gay Christian because you get a lot of rejection from both sides), but it is important to remember that there are hypocrites, obsessive dogma-freaks, and fundamentalists in every religion, who aren't necessarily representative of everyone (or even a majority) within their particular practice.

Peterson Toscano said...

wow, I really like this post. I appreciate how you just let yourself go and share your mind and heart. Thanks for that.

You write, "it's even harder to be identified as a gay Christian because you get a lot of rejection from both sides"

How true. Some time it is harder to come out Christian among queer folks than to come out gay among Christians.

Mike Airhart said...

Your post really spoke to me, Nonsequitur, especially the reflections on the False Church of Revelation.

I was raised by a liberal charismatic Catholic mother and conservative Catholic father, both of whom abandoned the church after their divorce. That left me feeling spiritually lost as a teen-ager, until some evangelicals including doomsday author Hal Lindsey won me over -- to what I only later discovered was the dark side of organized Christianity. You have described their unrepentant sin and spiritual corruption very well, in my opinion.

For a time after that discovery, I rejoined the Catholic faith. But I eventually became disgusted by the church leadership's worldliness, lack of charity or grace, and moral hypocrisy.

In recent years, I have been a fence-sitter -- I know that I belong in a spiritual community, but it's a mental struggle for me to take risks, dive into groups of strangers, and let fate (or God's will) take its course.