wishy washy

I am frustrated. I feel like I should know my own mind better. This faith questioning gig is hard. I need to prioritize my mind space. Finish school, then doubt God’s existence. Also, why do I feel compelled to make an all out, one time only, no going back decision? I need to give myself permission to not know things, and to change my mind. That might help.

can a good person be a bad Christian?

I was reading an article the other day, something about raising Christian children, and I strayed into the comments section. Always a dangerous place. One theme I noticed, and it rears it’s head on Christian articles all the time, is that Christians have this habit of saying, “Well, that person obviously does not believe in God like I do. Their faith is wrong.” Wait… what? 

How in the world do you know that you are being Christian the “right way” and they are being Christian “wrong”? Even when I was certain of my belief in God, I was still not convinced that I was absolutely right. I never viewed my beliefs as infallible, or the ideas I held to be true as universal. Maybe that’s why questioning it all has come about. Maybe my doubt was deeply seeded and inevitable.

But I am still curious. How can someone look at their religious beliefs, their faith, for which there is no empirical evidence, and say, “Oh, I am right. And that person is obviously wrong.” Why? Admittedly, I much prefer my Christian friends who love gay people, women’s rights to reproductive health care, and have a strong sense of social justice; as opposed to Christians who hate gays, oppress women, and talk incessantly about “teaching a man to fish” while children starve and die. But it is those very people that I love who are saying that other Christians are serving the wrong god or being too literal or giving Christianity a bad name or whatever. I think this misses an important point.

Faith is supposed to change you, right? God or Jesus is supposed to change your heart and make you a better person. Unfortunately, in a world where we can personalize everything from a kitchen mixer to our bath towels, remember- people personalize their faith too. I did. I made up my mind about how I felt about the world and then twisted my faith to make it fit my view. Therefore, if I was more conservative, more male, and WAY less tolerant of everyone who was not those things, I could probably tailor my faith to that world view. In short- maybe that person is not doing Christianity wrong. Maybe it isn’t that their beliefs are kind of asshole-ish. Maybe they are just assholes. And I am not convinced that belief in God has ever made someone who is an asshole suddenly stop being an asshole.

*side note- I am not dissing all conservative males, I was just referring to a particularly loud and irritating segment of people who fall into that category.

love

I know it’s been a while since I posted. Life is crazy.

I told my best friend (who is a pastor) that I was questioning my faith. Her response was a bit better than the one I got last time. She asked me a question that has had me thinking. She asked why I love my children. At first I thought she was looking for a biological explanation, so I gave her the reason why we have emotions, etc. That wasn’t what she was looking for. So I described their character and habits and all the things that make them fabulous individuals. That wasn’t what she was looking for either.

She wanted to talk about the gut feeling- the compelling, mother-y, indescribable bond that we feel towards our children or loved ones. Once I understood that was what we were talking about I said I couldn’t really explain it outside of the biological explanation I had given before. She didn’t seem to find the mechanics of how to be a good enough origin for what she feels. She told me that she feels that the depth of those emotions are evidence of God.

I am still chewing on it. I have never, even as a believer, ascribed my emotions to God or anything other than biology. I wonder if people have the impression that their love will be made smaller without God in it? I wonder if I think that? No. I don’t. Because I have been questioning God for months now, and I am still fiercely in love with my kids. I am fully committed and in love with my husband. I treasure my friends and family.

Doesn’t the lack of a deity make it all more precious? I still feel compelled to help people better their lives, even though I might not name this feeling as a “calling.” I do not think the emotional richness of my life has suffered since I began to question faith. Am I wrong? Is God in disguise? I don’t know.

In the end, she was very sweet. She said that life is a journey and that she knew God would be on it with me no matter where I went. Which is nice. 🙂 I think that if there is a God, he will be fine with me reading Dawkins and critically examining my beliefs. And if he’s not, then he’s probably not worth believing in anyway.

look up

There is so much that can drag you down. Stress, pain, tragedy, loss, grief, loneliness, depression… aaaaaand religion. Sitting across from people in my professional life, I have seen the results of years of guilt and shame that religion has inflicted on people. I say religion, not faith. I should think more about that use in this context though, because I think both words apply. Religious structure has a well documented history of wreaking havoc on populations. Faith is more personal though, and less tied to one specific doctrine. But faith can still be deeply hurtful; especially when the negative aspects get turned inwards. It can stagnate your growth and development as a person (as a blogger rightly pointed out in some comments on an earlier post).  

Right now, I am writing for my sanity. I am clinging to my pieces to hold myself together. And it helps. So does this community. I can’t have a community of non-believers in person yet, but I will happily accept the thoughts and input and wisdom of this online community. Gotta keep looking up. And not for a deity to fix something that is inherently broken in me- but at the blue sky, the sun, the clouds, the bigness of this amazing world. Depression lies, and I choose not to listen. I will wait patiently, and it will pass, and I will be stronger.

Personal-God-Life stuff

So I am struggling with my faith. I am not sure that I still believe in God. And the whole thing is quite a shock as I was raised by a pastor, married a man who wants to be a pastor, and he was raised by 2 pastors. So yeah. Can you say black sheep? But tonight, that is so NOT in the forefront of my mind.

Here are a few unasked for facts about me. I am a mom, I am in grad school working on my Masters in Social Work, and my husband is serving in the US Army. He is deployed right now. And that is really when I started to realize that I was in the midst of a full blown “crisis of faith.” My timing is impeccable. You don’t get a magnifying lens on your strength, faith, and beliefs quite like the combo of Graduate level Social Work and deployment. It’s a roller-coaster of fun I assure you. And this was the time when I started to realize that my source of comfort was not God, my peace was not found in Jesus, and my feelings of being lost were not healed by prayer. Crap.

So now, when I encounter a night like tonight (i.e., twenty page papers due, children wired, me exhausted, one too many glasses wine, and a bit too honest with myself) I put on some gloriously sad music (Radiohead mostly) and have myself a good cry at my computer while I look at old pictures. Depressing right? But honest. Or I call my sister, or I hang out with a friend, or I actually DO my homework, or I just watch TV. That is how I cope with the loneliness. That is how I cope with the stress. And it has taken me years to realize that I no longer see God in that. And I guess… right now… that’s fine. Because that works for me.

Cliche… and a bit of a rant.

This might sound cliche but I am diving in anyway. Be warned, I have had a long day and am feeling a bit heart broken and angry. Tread softly and be nice in the comments please.

I have a lot of questions, and a lot of philosophical, big, fancy points to research and inquire about as I figure out my view of faith and religion and God. But I have one big problem that is outweighing them all tonight. And it is such a cliche. If there is a God, why is there so much suffering?

I know, I know- free will, master plan, used for his glory, tests so that we can grow, one set of footprints, I was carrying you, original sin; believe me my faithful friends, if you have an answer to this question, I have heard it. I have probably even said it. But lately… none of that is good enough.

Has anyone else ever reached that point, where they look at the world- the pain, the horror, the ugliness, the oppression, and said… why? The God I believe(d) in is so loving, so just, so powerful… why would God allow that? 

What suffering, you may ask? Ever heard of the missing women, or the missing generation? This term refers to a lot of phenomenon, but I refer to the hundreds of millions of women and girls that should be in the world population and are not. Logic (and math) dictate that the world’s population should be roughly 50/50 between the male and female genders. But it isn’t. Because hundreds of millions of women and girls have been victims of gender genocide. 

This thought overwhelms me. Add that to the hundreds of millions of women, girls, boys, and men who are brutalized, victimized, and oppressed every day… it makes my stomach hurt and my head spin. Want to add more desperate confusion to it? Okay!

It is a fact that the human race evolved into our current state at least 100 thousand years ago. My faith proclaims that God sent Jesus to save us, redeem us, and free us 2,000 years ago. So for 98 thousand years God was… watching? waiting? busy?? If he can watch us flounder as a species for 98 thousand years, and then continue to allow the increasingly horrific oppression and murder of millions of people, why would I think he would take any time for me? And how can I ever find hope and comfort in that God? How can I cultivate a “personal relationship” with Jesus under those circumstances?

Again… feeling very heart broken today… if you couldn’t tell.

God of the Gaps

Let me preface this post. I do not really know what I believe right now. I am questioning everything. I can’t fully say that I am Christian, but I can’t say I am not. I can’t say I am sure there is a god, but I can’t say I am not. This is just me exploring ideas and the belief structure that I was taught, hoping to make sense of it all.

Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is brilliant, he is funny, he is brilliant, he is the kids of guy I want to hang out and watch old Star Trek episodes with. And maybe Firefly too. Hell, we could just have a sci-fi weekend and nerd it up big time! This is an old video, but it was sent to me after a discussion with my sister about my current view of God.

I know it must be irritating to some people to read this and watch me rail against certain aspects of Christianity and then say, “oh I am just questioning things.” But unfortunately that is the truth. The more I find out, the more I see these holes in religion and in my belief structure. I think I am close to saying that I feel like religion is not a good thing, and not for me. Close, not quite, but close. That is a big statement and I can’t fully commit to it. I have commitment issues. Commitment-phobe.

Religion is a man-made structure though, and my bigger question is about God. I think you can let go of religion and still believe in a god and have faith. But my current view of God is so confused.

Is he a big massive authority figure that dabbles in lives as he wishes and yet avoids major social justice needs for change (the micro-manager)? Is he more of a omnipresent, hands-off, distant figure that spun the universe into motion and now just watches the action (deism?)?

I don’t know. Frankly, neither of those are particularly appealing. But what Tyson says in this video struck me. It is an additional question. As I seek information and answers, as I examine my world and my beliefs, is my God going to get smaller and small to just cover the gaps in knowledge? Is that all God is for? To cover the gaps of those things we cannot explain? Have I spent my life believing in a God of the Gaps?

prayer

prayer

Prayer. The power of prayer. It is an odd thing. An untouchable topic. And HIGHLY personal. So blog? Right?

First of all, when I have prayed, I certainly did not look like the beautiful, serene, women in the picture that I found on google. My favorite prayer spot for years, decades almost, has been in the shower whilst having a good cry. Not really a photo-op kind of situation.

I can remember a few distinct times when I would be overwhelmed by life, or depression, or whatever and find myself in that place. Either sobbing or inert. And prayer was something I did- not naturally, but in hopes that it would help; in hopes that I would begin to feel something again; in hopes that it would give me clarity; in hopes that it would just make me less sad and awful.

These sessions ended, inevitably, with me leaving the shower, exhausted, and empty of everything. Then, I would sleep, usually. So… was that the divine calm I was hoping for? Or was I just tired from the sheer exhaustion of the thing. Was I just drained from the depression itself.

I have not had one of those crying/praying/struggling moments in a LONG time. And since I began this journey of questioning and seeking answers, I have been more aware of my lack of a prayer life. But yesterday, I watched my son hop on a skateboard for the first time, and I thought to myself, “oh God, please don’t let him get badly hurt.” Whaaaa??? It would seem that for all my self-aware introspection, I still have a knee jerk reaction to appeal to the divine when something spins out of my control.

Not big things, because there are elements of my life that are wildly out of my control, and I just wait, hope, and anticipate the day when they reach resolution. But there was something about my baby on a skateboard that elicited a tiny prayer to the God I am not sure I believe in… It would seem I have a great deal of questioning ahead of me.

Coming out

I am loving this blog. And I really want to thank you lovely people for reading, commenting, and challenging me with question. It is a great feeling to have total strangers visit here, and then participate in discussions as I examine my self and my world. 

That said, only two people who actually know me, know about this blog. And I think only 1 of them has read it. When I first started to question my faith (years ago) I was afraid to tell anyone. Only recently I started talking about this with close trusted people, an atheist and a fellow preacher’s kid. (Oh yeah, I am a PK). I felt safe disclosing these personal questions to these people, but the idea of openly discussing my doubts is terrifying.

In part, it’s scary because I need a safe place to ask my questions without feeling pressured to “join a side.” And I really really don’t want my lovely and well-meaning friends to try to “save me.” I want to go through this time of doubt and questioning, gather information, and come to a conclusion in my own time. However, I feel like this struggle is normal, healthy, and not something to be ashamed of. I wonder if sharing this experience in an even more open environment will help other people who feel alone when facing a struggle like this.

So I ask you, my little blogging community, should I consider “coming out”? Should I take the risky step of posting my blog on my facebook or twitter, knowing that my friends and family will be shocked by this information? Can I have a time of questioning and doubt out in the open or is it doomed to be an internal and anonymous struggle?