Friday, December 24, 2010

The Transition: Part 1

I can split into three phases, my gradual transition into agnosticism/atheism. For this post, I will be focusing on the first phase, which was liberal Christianity. In Liberal Christianity, I had decided that the angry Christians (those that focused more on sin, judging others, and seemed to have a fetish for the Old Testament) were going about it wrong, but that the message Jesus brought to the world was beautiful and real. In this phase, I sought connections with loving Christians; those whose personalities mirrored my idea of who Jesus was.

One Christian in particular was there for me when the angry Christians really had me down (I'll get to her in a moment). With them, emphasis was always on my sin. I was a terrible witness for living with my boyfriend, as new believers could become confused by this, thinking premarital sex was okay. Next thing I know, it is thoroughly assumed that I am indeed having sex (which I eventually chose to do, but was not in the midst of all the assumptions) According to my highly respected uncle, a 70-something "graduate of Bible college who had been preaching for 40 years, many more years of experience than I had", God was probably going to give me cervical cancer for my sexual immorality. I might also die young for having dishonored my parents (it's all in the book).

Did anyone care that I was in a beautiful relationship with a man that I loved with all of my heart? Did anyone care that in spite of his depressing childhood, he came out strong, sane, and caring? Did anyone even care to get to know him? No - apparently, his background was more important than all of that. He was 'unchurched' (I don't even know if that's a word) and his family didn't have a lot of money. Even when he showed interest in being born again, he still was not accepted by these types. My mother had her eyes set on pastor's sons and missionaries. This guy was scum, and he had no business being associated with me, let alone my boyfriend. Well, that's how the angry Christians viewed it.

I didn't blame Jesus or Christianity for the actions of these angry Christians. I knew that God was perfect even though man, having a sinful nature, managed to screw up what God meant for good. At some point, I got in contact with a former youth minister's wife. I never knew her well, but her husband was the kind of Christian that I looked up to. Even though they no longer served in my church (although, it wasn't my church anymore - my membership was suspended and eventually terminated due to my sinful lifestyle), I knew they were in ministry together at another church in South Carolina. Being his wife, she probably held similar views.

This wishful thinking gave me the courage to open up to her about my life; I needed a mature, loving Christian to talk to and she was the only one within my reach, at the time. As expected, she was very understanding - she even said that she thought D (my boyfriend of the time) and I were 'the real deal'! It meant so much to have another Christian say that. She did not judge and in fact, was kind enough to share her own experiences in the early stages of dating her husband. From these conversations, I learned that she engaged in premarital sex, had mommy issues, and shared a similar frustration with those angry Christians. Not only could I relate in general, but these characteristics also set her apart from the unthinking 'bubble' Christians I was used to in my peer group - she had a 'dark past'.

Now, she was technically against premarital sex; in fact, she and her husband became 'born again virgins' at some point before they married. Of course, she gave reasons as to why it would be a good idea for my boyfriend and I to do the same. She also encouraged me to try and find a church that was 'alive' - she did not necessarily agree with my disinterest in organized religion and believed that a church alive with the true spirit of Christ was worth the search and a wonderful (and important) thing to be a part of.

Even though there were many things we didn't agree on, I enjoyed our conversations because they inspired me to look a layer deeper within myself. She didn't push anything on me and never treated me as though I were foolish or evil for questioning her words. She made points that were interesting on the surface, but it always came down to interpretation of scripture and, more importantly, whether or not the Bible was even true. Conversations involving this theme were what eventually led me into phase two: spiritual explorations.


ex-minister1 said...

"According to my highly respected uncle, a 70-something "graduate of Bible college who had been preaching for 40 years, many more years of experience than I had", God was probably going to give me cervical cancer for my sexual immorality. I might also die young for having dishonored my parents "

That is f*ed up. I had a similar thing done to me. My mother has had medical problems her whole life. My parents joined the church, but I held back. My mother finally told me that her current sickness (bad back, surgery and in traction) was because I hadn't joined the church and Satan was attacking her.

I grew up with many of those angry Christians (Good label by the way). I encountered very few "loving" Christians. But even I think your encounter reveals that they ultimately judge. I think the fire and brimstone part always creeps back in. It is hard to not let it happen. Even the loving Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible. It was one of his main themes. Reminds me of that redneck bumper sticker. "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's meant to be. If it doesn't, hunt it down and kill it."

Good article.

Tai Bee said...

Ugh, yes it's really disgusting the way some will feed on a person's vulnerabilities. I'll bet someone like my uncle was partly responsible for your mother's assumption that you were to blame; as a pastor, he would visit the sick in the hospital. this is an excerpt from an e-mail he sent me:

"I can testify that I know of someone who was a believer and someone else who was not a believer, both died at a young age very likely because their lifestyle was dishonoring to their parents. Also I have been talking with a young couple that was living together unmarried. I say were because he is now in Hospice dying of cancer. When he was first diagnosis with cancer I visited them in the hospital. Both professed to be Christians and acknowledged that the cancer could well be from God because they were living in fornication and refusing to quit. The mother of the man (his dad died a few years ago) has been a member of my church for years and is a dear sweet Godly Christian. There is little doubt that she is sitting by the bedside of her son watching him die because he has dishonored her for years."

The loving xtians were rare in my experience too, but I do still appreciate the kinder approach. I know what you mean when you say "the fire and brimstone creeps back in" though - it was part of my experience with the former youth minister's wife, one that i'll probably mention in the next post.

basically, I've concluded that xtianity requires you to see people/the world in black and white, which in turn causes them to judge more harshly than someone aware and accepting of the many shades of grey.

I think as to how a xtian expresses this mindset depends on his/her personality. C (youth minister's wife) had been emotionally (and maybe physically) abused by an authority figure of her past and therefore, the aspect of the Bible that she latched onto was the unconditional love of Christ. She is less prone to judge, but will do so if you try and point out the flaws in her argument for God's love.

I have another friend who always felt that she was mediocre in everything she attempted. It was clear to me (she practically admitted it) that all she ever wanted was to excel and shine in something. She was involved in so much ... karate, drums, guitar, college, dance, etc etc. She had also been getting more and more 'spiritual' over the years. I think this is where she chose to shine, in light of all the attention she received for it. She wants to be a spiritual inspiration, as she currently goes as far as to report apocalyptic dreams she's had, ones that she believes to be visions from God.

I don't know for sure what would cause her to judge (as I have never/would never go there with her), but I imagine it would be if anyone suggested she was not special and/or pointed out that her 'fans' consisted of kids (young teens) and simple-minded adults.

Angry xtians vs loving xtians: human desires are not evil, but they all need to be controlled. The problem is, religion serves as an excuse to let some go unchecked. Certain desires, like the one to be loved, are less harmful to others (hence the loving xtians), but as you probably know all too well, desires for things like control and attention can cause so much pain for everyone involved ...

ex-minister1 said...

Yes, religion and in particular judeo-xtian thinking is binary. It is so good to see all these crazy behavior for what it is. Look forward to your future posts.