As more and more people opt to exit the conventional, weekly church model, notice is taken. At the moment, it’s little blogger types like me who speak against little blogger types like me because the big guys, the leaders that Christians put into place to rule over them, are allowing peer pressure to do its job.
But in time, they’ll speak. (Right now they’re busy with homosexual marriage, Islam, and everybody’s favorite, the presidential election. Has one of them made an automated call to you yet, telling you to vote the way Jesus would vote?)
Among my peers, however, chatter is chittering, and I have run across more than one blog, or Facebook post, that denounces those of us who leave man-made church services as prideful, arrogant because we feel like we’re smarter than the rest of the herd, and don’t need to be told what to do.
Well, while there is something intellectually desirable about a resistance to blindly accepting everything we’re told, many of us who jump the fence don’t do so because we can’t handle people thinking differently. What stifles us is the level of mediocrity to which we are encouraged to reach.
Awhile ago, I ran across an acquaintance from church days, and in the course of conversation, it came about that this generous, kind, good-hearted woman is undergoing yet another surgery to correct a condition that she was told, after the first surgery, should be resolved.
It wasn’t, and there is no guarantee that this latest procedure, which she sort of needs to continue living, will do the trick either.
“I don’t know what God is trying to teach me in all this,” she said. “I’ve thought and prayed and asked Him, but these things keep happening.”
“Maybe it’s not that you’re bad or wrong,” I offered, “but that the technology isn’t as good as what the medical establishment says it is.”
“Well . . . maybe,” she replied, “but I think Satan is in all this. You know how God allowed Satan to work in Job’s life; well, I think He’s given him a hand in mine.”
Where Is the Love We Hear About?
I honestly didn’t know what to say. This woman — did I mention that she was generous, kind and good-hearted? — exudes compassion to the underdog because she spent a childhood as one. Like many, the draw to Jesus was His unconditional love, something she struggled to grasp simply because she — like most of us human beings — had never seen it put into place in the world market around her. The promise of genuine, worthy, honest, real love sounded too good to be true. And apparently, within many religious systems, it is.
Does God show unconditional love to His damaged children by saying to Satan,
“Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life” ? (Job 2:6)
Okay, He said it in the book of Job, in which, while it may or may not be historically true (come on, English majors, it reads like a story), the person under attack is a man who had everything: houses, kids, cattle, fame, esteem, both Boardwalk and Park Place with hotels on them. The book of Job is an expository on the fallacies of our various teachings about God — expressed through the words of Job’s “friends” — and there is no need for us, our Father’s precious children, to walk around in fear that God will toss us, like a piece of meat, to the dogs.
And yet we do. And we continue to do so because we know so little about the Bible, and Christ’s teaching, and this mind-blowing concept of unconditional love that many of us — after 10, 20, 30, 40, years of attending man-made church services, socially segregated Sunday School, and thematically inspired small groups, hang our head and say,
“I’m just a sinner. I deserve everything I get.”
For all that we quote John 3:16, do we ever take it seriously?
The god Worth Avoiding
Throughout more than 25 years of my existence as a Christian, I kept my distance from God, because I didn’t find Him a particularly trustworthy guy: He spends His entire day determined to shake me from my comfort zone, punishes me for unworthy thoughts, insists that I awake at 4 a.m. to spend Quiet Time with Him; specifies certain ministries as acceptable but many others as not; and has laid down a bunch of rules and regulations concerning what I should eat, whether I can imbibe, how low the front of my blouse can go, how far I can push swearing (“dang,” is okay, “damn” is not, unless I’m talking about the status of the majority of humanity), and, according to celebrity religious leaders whom I dislike and distrust because their fruit reeks but apparently He has put into place to direct my life, how to vote.
In 25-plus years of church attendance, I didn’t receive any significant message to the contrary. Surrounded by people whose major interpretation of the good news is that we won’t go to hell, even though many people we love will be there, I did not find my faith challenged and growing so much as apathetic, and desperate to maintain the status quo.
As long as I showed up, raised my hand when told to do so, and volunteered for the ministries God was “leading” me into, my Christianity, I was assured, was fine.
But it wasn’t, something I never knew until I eventually left, and began seriously reading the Bible with a willingness to ask questions about the things I didn’t understand. I found out that God didn’t get mad when I stopped at a passage and said, “This doesn’t seem like you, God — it seems mean and irritable. Is there another way to look at it?”
Often, there was — and never, was it something I had heard from the pulpit.
Leaving a religious system is a lot like no longer watching TV or movies — you don’t feel superior about this; you feel free. You don’t look down on the people still trapped — you just wish that they could see.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I encourage all God’s children — whether they attend church or not — to take seriously this concept of our Father’s love.
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