“At any moment, you have a choice, that either leads you closer to your spirit or further away from it.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
I attend a very traditional Presbyterian church, a church I have been a member of for over thirty years. It is a large church, a wealthy church, with an old pipe organ and a fabulous choir. I am comfortable here. There is order. I understand our mission. I am comfortable with the message and how the message is delivered. I don’t agree with all the theology but I don’t agree with every aspect of Christian theology and I certainly don’t agree with how many Christians act or use their theology against others.
My church has a few members that rub me the wrong way. We have people who are pious on Sunday but will screw you anyway they can on Monday. But the thing is, I know who they are so I can treat them accordingly or simply avoid them altogether. In the case of my Church, I don’t allow a few bad apples to spoil the whole bunch. We deliver a message of compassion and love. We are inclusive and try to help the world beyond our four walls. No, I may not agree with all the Christian symbolism, or myths but helping others is a mission I can accept above and beyond the dogma.
I realize many years ago there is no such thing as the perfect Church utopia. Why? Because Church’s are filled with humans and humans are the most imperfect creatures walking on this earth. We are guided by greed, ego and lust and that’s just the nice ones. We tend to put our welfare and those closest to us above everyone else. It is simply human nature to be selfish. In Christian parlance, it is easier to be of Christ than Christ like and there in, at least for me, is the rub.
When I hear someone in business tell me, “You can trust me I am a Christian” or “We don’t need a contract I am a Christian” I grab my wallet. I have been burned more than once by someone who touts their faith as their bond of good business dealings. Sadly, among many people, Christians have a bad rap because they follow the “rules” so long as the “rules” benefit them or their endeavors. Yes, they can screw you, even be ugly to you but all they have to do is ask for forgiveness in their bedtime prays and they can go to sleep with a clear conscience, ready to screw us again the next day.
Sounds pretty cynical doesn’t it? Sadly it is. For the longest time, because I live in such a tight little conservative bubble, I thought is was just me, my problem. And unfortunately I had others that told me the same. I heard that my faith wasn’t strong enough, my beliefs were misguided or I that I simply had trust issues. All fingers were pointing at me. I heard that my fascination with other faiths was wasted energy. That my curiosity would simply get me in trouble. I needed to focus on Jesus and accept the Bible at face value.
Well if you have read my blog for anything length of time you know that I am still curious and exploring. I have found other kindred souls to fill the empty spaces in my “tight little conservative bubble” even people I share pews with. People with more questions than answers as people of faith should be. Non-judgmental people who don’t divide the world into us and them. People who view the Bible not as a book of rules and laws but as guide to create a compassionate and loving world.
Unfortunately the end results of all my “questioning” has made me, at times, very skeptical of some very good people and churches. I very much adhere to what James wrote (2:14-17) “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” But it seems to many Christians find the words of Paul (Romans 4:1-4) easier to live within “What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.”
I am convinced that if more Christians showed the world their faith by their deeds rather than the forgiveness they believe they are entitled too, if they had more questions rather than acting as if they had all the answers, folks like me wouldn’t be so leery of them. Christians who believe theirs is the only right path to enlightenment are my issue. But it is their hollow issue too, we sadly just get dragged into it with them.
“Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.” – Garrison Keillor