When Leaving Religion Costs You Everything…

When I read the words in the source article below they rang very true to me. Even though I was not a minister like he was I too felt the cost of being forced  out of a church community for having  different/unacceptable beliefs. I dared, among other things to say the earth was more than 6,000 years old.

After 36 years in the Evangelical Charismatic movement in Tennessee, Dave left his faith. “For me,” he says, “it all started with a critical examination of the Bible and how it came to be…when I quit making excuses for the inconsistencies and contradictions, it started to have some gaping holes in it.”….

After enough time in rigorous study, he says he saw the Bible as a collection of books written by very human individuals. Now he’s a stranger and pilgrim in a foreign land. “I feel like an alien here in the south. It’s all about where you go to church here,” he says.

Dave is not alone.

Source: When Leaving Religion Costs You Everything – The Daily Beast

No, Dave is not alone. There are probably millions of us who dared to critically examine their bible and came to the conclusion that it is very similar to Dave’s. When I quit letting the religious leaders tell me how homogeneous the bible was and discovered many places such as the paragraph that Lutherans base their religion on that works are irreverent, faith is all that matters an then read St James, the brother of Jesus, who said faith without works is worthless. Let’s face it when different men (and I do mean men, no women authors to be found) put out their opinions of religion/faith/morality there are bound to be conflicts. And they are relatively easy to discover if you really look at the Bible in the least bit critically.

I always found it strange that so many in the evangelical circles quote St. Paul much more than they do Jesus especially given the fact that Paul was the only apostle who never sat at Jesus’ feet to learn the lessons first hand. In fact the only direct encounter with Jesus was that  quick flash on the road to Damascus. If you read his words, and he has more words in the Bible than any other author, it becomes pretty obvious that he made up his own rules for what to believe in order to be called a Christian. I’m not sure he ever mentioned any of the words of Jesus in his epistles and that is probably because he had no first-hand knowledge of them.

No, Dave is not alone with his feelings and observations. While the Bible is made up of opinions of different author, that does not take away from its value to those who concentrate on the words of Jesus. It is a great history book and is, along with other writing not chosen to be included, the source of most of our information about Christ.

2016-07-09_17-58-37.pngBut there is also the shunning to goes on when one leaves a faith community. I always thought I made very good friends there but once I left only one couple even attempted to stay in contact. The two we considered ” best friends” never said a word to us after that day! Everyone just dropped us from their contact lists. That devastatingly changed everything in my wife’s social world and that is perhaps the biggest sorrow of all for me…

Everyone Needs A Clubhouse….

I want to bring over a slightly edited archive post from one of my other blogs at RedLetterLiving.net for this Sunday’s post. It is from March 13.

I’m not sure who brought up the concept but it is about how churches are actually more like clubhouses than anything else. They are buildings that are built almost exclusively for their members comfort. Yes that comfort does bring in some to hear the message but that seems to be very secondary at best.

I had a recent round of comments on this topic and it stirred up some heated words. It seems that calling a church a country club strikes the nerve of many Christians.  I think the ounce of truth in it is the reason.  Everyone wants to think that their church is somehow different from the others. They want to think that  what they give in weekly donations is for the greater good of God. But, facts simply don’t bear that belief out.

The majority of what they give stays within the church’s hierarchy. When I was giving regularly to the small church I once belonged to I never deemed that the money I gave actually went to God’s work here or earth.  Being a regular member on the church board I realized that 99+% of what I gave ended up paying the mortgage, utilities and the pastor’s salary.  Did I feel guilty about that? No, not really. I know that this small church was struggling, and still struggles after almost ten years, to keep the doors open.

There is nothing wrong with needing a clubhouse. But what is wrong is when we fail to recognize the fact that we are really not doing much in the community besides holding down a property.  We try to rationalize that giving a few families a turkey and canned goods during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays somehow meets our community obligations.  Being a church is supposed to be about showing God’s blessing throughout our communities. It is supposed to be about others and not ourselves.

When we finally acknowledge that fact and diligently plan on making  community support happen is when we turn the corner from clubhouse to church.  Sadly too many small churches fail to ever reach that point in their congregation’s life. I am often accused of painting with too broad a brush in these types of posts so I want to  recognize that there are many churches out there that are very much valuable contributors to their communities. They run soup kitchens and food banks in the areas.  They open their doors on cold and windy nights for those who are homeless. In other words they act like they are followers of Jesus Christ.

I celebrate every one of those churches.  But at the same time even those churches must be constantly tracking their allocations of funds.  It is impossible to give too much to your community instead of yourself. Everyone needs a clubhouse that you can go to weekly. Where everyone know your name as the old Cheers TV show used to say. That is a valuable part of Christian fellowship but we must constantly remind ourselves that is supposed to be very much secondary to being our brother’s keeper and helping God’s kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven.

The Gospel In Thirty Words…

2014-04-03_13-58-04Here’s one person’s attempt to summarize the Gospel in a single sentence. It’s by Bruxy Cavey, the teaching pastor at The Meeting House. He says “The Gospel is the good news that God comes to us through Jesus to show us his love, save us from sin, set up his kingdom and shut down religion.” Just thirty words, but I think he does a great job of getting to the heart of what Jesus’ message is all about.

SOURCE:  The Gospel According To Who? | Stephen Jarnick | Red Letter Christians.

If you are interesting in the things behind these words check out his book entitled: The End of Religion

Not That Much Different….

Rachel EvansWe want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation. We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

SOURCE:  Why millennials are leaving the church – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

The above quote is from one of the bloggers in my Feedly stream. Rachel is a young religious blogger and author with a pretty large following of which I am one. The list above is part of a longer one about why so many young people  leave the church once they get out on their own.

I am definitely not a millennial as Rachel dubiously claims to be but I am certainly attuned to her list as many of the reasons I no longer attend a denominational service.

But this post is really intended to be about a mini-epiphany I had when I read this article. Almost everything on her list also could be said about the Republican party.  I’m not sure if this is a chicken/egg thing or an egg/chicken. Either way it means lost membership to the associated organization. I really mourn the continuing growing insignificance of both the church and the Republican party. I really want both to stay relevant in world today so I am hoping that eventually they will give up their stubbornness and destructive thinking and start listening to all the Rachel Held Evan’s out there.

God Knows More Than I Do…….

Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do…..

As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.

SOURCE:  Morf Morford: It’s NOT the economy, stupid | Red Letter Christians.

I am going to do a rare cross post here between two of my blogs. I am doing so because I think this post has a spiritual as well as general message.

While the referenced source above is about life being more than just money, this post is actually just about the description of the author.  Besides having a very interesting name the author of this post over at Red Letter Christians has very interesting look on life. I am proud to say I share his views of God and getting older. But I guess I am luckier than hs is in one regard. I still drink lots of milk. They tell me it is good for my osteoporosis. 🙂

I too am currently a free-range Christian and have been for a few years now.  I am no longer instructed weekly in what I am supposed to believe. I no longer feel I need to jump through all the denominational belief hoops in order to be a Christian. I can now believe that God loves all of us and not just those who believe as I do.  Instead I now tend to look at the Lord’s word from a more personal, some might say naive, view. From what I can glean from the Christian Bible I also agree that God expects more from us than almost any of us can imagine or at least willing to put forward.

One of the things that pushed me out of the last church I was in (that is besides being nudged out the door because I did not tow the denominational line closely enough and was probably asking too many question in adult bible classes) was their stubborn insistence  that they have it all figured out and everyone else is just wrong in one thing or another.  In that regard, I also proudly share the belief that  God knows more than they do, or everyone else for that matter.

One of the things that prompted me to start my blog over at RedLetterLiving more than five years ago was that I just grew less tolerant to pettiness of some mainstream beliefs about the current version of church. In these five years I have learned that I am by no means alone in those feelings.

Thanks Morf for reminding me what it is all about….