religion vs. faith

Whenever I talk about my belief questions with a select few people, I am reminded to separate those two things: religion and faith. Faith is personal, it is the quiet interior of your belief practice. While religion is the man-made structure or organization that creates the rules, gathers the money, and declares the wars. I get the difference. I understand why people want to separate the two. As a believer I was very outspoken about how religion was not my cup of tea. I preferred faith and the personal, self-defined system of beliefs that I had decided on. Ah but there’s the rub.

I may have had my own faith, my own system, and my own personalized structure of beliefs while I was attending church. But I was still in the church. I worked for the church! I was a part of the organization. I was clearly in the religion. As much as I did not want to call myself a Christian, (because of the way people would perceive me) I was still a Christian! What about people who believe but don’t go to church? Well, do they believe in God, the God of Abraham? Do they identify as Christians? Even a weird, vague, watered-down version? Then they are in the religion.

I think aversion to being part of the system is partly due to our American individuality coming out. We all want to be individuals, originals, unlike anything else, special. And we are in many ways. And in many ways we aren’t. And when someone decides that they believe even part of a system of beliefs, that has been decided on by a group, and called Christianity, then they are part of the religion.

Some Christians seem to think that if they are odd or different or outcast enough, then they are no longer part of the system. They have the impression that by not “being religious” they are not participating in the system. I thought the same thing. And I was wrong. Being a believer, even if you are a different kind of believer, automatically puts you into that club. Whether you like it or not. People might chafe at being in the “in crowd”, but that doesn’t make it less true. And rest assured, if you are in, someone else is out.

I am not sure why this bothered my suddenly. Maybe the fact that I saw myself buying into this disordered thought process. Maybe it’s the prevalence of it. But when I am trying to be bluntly honest with myself, learn more about the world and how it works, and put names to things that I have never bothered with before- I really want to see other people taking a more rigorous look at what they are saying. I don’t want others to buy into comforting half-truths, or self-delusion- I want them to be thinking critically about who they are and what they believe. And if it is still Christianity- okay. But just be honest about it. Stop fooling yourself into thinking you are a rebel when you are part of a hugely powerful organization.

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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?