Feb 032008

As much history as we have, and despite both of us growing up in practicing Christian homes, the very first time Lea and I sat in church together was less than six months ago.

We are enjoying a local Methodist church, which came recommended highly by several of our neighbors as well as my aunt, very much. It is a warm and positive place, with engaging, practical teachings and a marvelous music ministry. We’re also pleased with what the boys are learning in their respective environments. (They’re having fun, too.)

Also, I’m pleased to report that no one has assured me—gleefully, gravely, or otherwise—that my gay friends are damned to hell as abominations, so it’s imperative I try harder to save them.

(All right, I also like stuff like the fact that I can have a cup of coffee during the service, and that I’m as likely to hear a Crosby, Stills, and Nash or Jeff Beck song as I am “Amazing Grace.”)

Next Sunday, Lea and I will attend a periodically-offered class called Christianity 101. It is a prerequisite for membership, which we are seriously considering.

As I’ve occasionally mentioned, I have all sorts of beliefs (and “unbeliefs”) that some significant percentage of Christians don’t have:

  • I believe the existence of God cannot be proven. (I choose to believe in Him anyway, hence my self-identification as an “agnostic Christian.”)
  • I value the Bible highly, but I don’t believe it is a valid scientific account of anything.
  • I don’t believe in a fire-and-brimstone hell, nor do I believe in Satan, nor do I believe in demons.
  • I don’t believe in angels, either.
  • I believe that the Christian God is in fact “the Way, the Truth, and the Light,” but I also believe that some people call Him different things, and still others might believe He is embodied in the natural world. Indeed, I believe there are many belief systems in which He is worshiped validly, though they differ substantially from my own. My God doesn’t damn the bushman in the outback because he never completed an altar call or prayed the sinner’s prayer, dig?

These differences aren’t what many, many people expect when they hear “Christian,” which is why I’m sometimes hesitant to identify myself as such, depending on the audience.

There are others, I’m sure, but do you see where I’m going? I’m out of step with mainstream Christianity on several things, so it’s a slam-dunk that I’m going to hear things in my class next weekend that I think are false.

The biggest difference between the 15-years-ago Bo (fresh off a two-year-long consideration of atheism, actually) and today’s Bo is that such doesn’t bother me anymore. Though I occasionally enjoy discussing such things intellectually, I’ve lost any motivation to bring anyone who holds opposing faith-based views to my thinking.

I’m not jettisoning my salvation when I refuse to believe that the universe is 6,000 years old, so it doesn’t really matter, does it?

A major motivation of ours in resuming church attendance was providing that environment for the boys. When we began attending, we were content to visit indefinitely. I am embracing the idea of joining because I believe our church acts in productive and meaningful ways in our community—ways with which my service and gifts are consistent.

It’s a better fit for me—the early middle age me—than I thought possible.

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 Posted by at 5:53 pm

  8 Responses to “Church”

  1. I am so glad that you’re finding a good fit in this community. Please remember that as I say what I’m going to say here:

    Personally, I have a strong and deep-seated mistrust of religious organizations in general. ALL of them. I fully agree that there are many (the church Mr. Chili and I were married in, for example) which embrace the ideas of inclusion and compassion, but I have found that, often, these are just the taglines for advertisements. When the proverbial rubber hits the road, too many people get left behind for my comfort.

    It is entirely possible that EVERY FAITH ON EARTH is a true faith – that, in the words of a friend of mine, there are an infinite number of paths that all lead to the top of the mountain. The fact that most faiths don’t believe that, though – that it’s their way or the highway – makes me profoundly uncomfortable. The arrogance that’s required for someone to say that they have the answers frightens me,and I tend to avoid things that scare me that much.

    Remember, though, that MY faith tells me that YOU (the general “you,” not necessarily you specifically, Bo) may believe anything you want with no detriment to me. I have thumpers coming to the door all the time; I smile pleasantly, tell them that I appreciate their time, take their fliers and wish them a pleasant evening. Most of the time, their paperwork goes right into my recycle bin, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect their right to believe what they believe.

    What I’m saying, in my long-winded and disjointed way, is that I’m happy for you and hope that this works out well for you and your family, even if it’s not right for me.

    love ya!


  2. I suppose, in my more open-minded moments, my opinion is that the existence vel non (that’s a cute lawyer way of saying, “or not”) of a deity (or deities) cannot be proven either way. My personal slant after that initial position is that “religions” which insist that a state of belief (faith) about the subject is all-important are bogus. I cannot fathom how a being (or beings) which created the whole universe (and maybe all universes) is so petty as to bother looking into individual minds and planning bad stuff for those who do not have an abiding belief in the being (and in the man-created rituals and hocus-pocus which seem to accompany most religion).

    Basically, I find thoughts of god(s), faith and religion to be irrelevant to my life, and consider that organized religions have caused much more harm in the world than good. I”ve been mistreated by professed Christians.

    However, if some mindset (faith) gives someone a measure of peace, that cannot be all bad.

  3. I almost included a little bit about why I don’t use the Bible as a “final word” during the rare occasions on which I discuss my religion with someone who wants to hear about it. The reason is that I believe that sort of witnessing is unnecessarily contentious and ultimately ineffective.

    The rest of my thoughts on witnessing, however, are germane to your comments: When I think of myself as a witness for Christianity, I believe that the most important ministry I have is the day-in, day-out demonstration that Christianity, intellectual rigor, and social acceptance can reside harmoniously in the same person.

    I confidently claim to be standing peacefully in all three of those tents.

    Perhaps I am not as loud/boorish/what-have-you as other Christians whose behavior has helped to shape the negative views you have. But rest assured, I am not alone.

    That may be something to think about.

  4. Would you mind emailing me with the name/location of said church?

  5. Nope. Done.

  6. Bo, I really DO want to have this conversation with you because, as you rightly point out, I’ve not been given a whole lot of opportunity to interact with people who can stand, as you put it, in all three tents. *I* attempt to do that (though my first tent couldn’t rightly be labeled “Christianity;” “Spirituality” would be a more fitting moniker), I find myself in a decided minority in the effort. My faith, though it may not follow any particular doctrine, really DOES inform my life and so I understand that concept. What I have trouble getting past, though, is the idea that someone ELSE’S faith should inform MY life….

  7. Gerry, I have been mistreated equally by both Christians and non-Christians. The problem I find is that some people who claim to be “called” to witness are so confrontational and stone cold rigid, that it hides the light that shines from the ones I really believe are called by God/Goddess/Spirit. Mother Teresa is an example of that kind of Christian.

    As an aside, my daughter (9) had to do a biography report at school this week. She chose Mother Teresa. It was a toss up between her and Ben Franklin for some reason. She has to dress up and be “in character,” so we spent the better part of the weekend learning to tie a sari. 7 yards of white muslin later, I know more about Mother Teresa’s childhood than I ever dreamt I would.

  8. Mrs. Chili: I’m not sure what you mean by “inform my life.” I don’t approach my spirituality any differently from anything else, in terms of the collection, evaluation, and acceptance/rejection/further consideration of new information and insights. Some people have something to say that I want to hear, and some don’t.

    But that’s true whether that person is talking about politics, work, or whatever. On the one end of the spectrum, someone blows our mind with an insight we’d never considered. On the other, we smile, close the door, and laugh our asses off.

    I don’t know whether I’m right. How can anyone? I do know that I’m more at peace with my spirituality than ever before.

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