It’s a Matter of Faith

Isn’t it always?

This is nothing new.  This is a conflict I’ve hinted at but decided to clarify for you intelligent people.  Then I am inviting you, “Please advise.”

I haven’t been to church in ages.  My church background is this: My family was Methodist, where I was confirmed.  In high school, I hung out with and attended church with my closest friends, some Presbyterians.  Their parents worked at the colleges in my hometown, and I appreciated the willingness of this particular Presbyterian church to tackle the big issues.  In fact, they would dissect and debate church issues no end.  Cool!  Those issues can stand up quite well to inspection.  My high-school boyfriend was a very traditional Irish Catholic, and his faith education shaped our relationship to some extent.  Sex = No.  I respected that, despite (of course) tons of temptation.  (A side note: my sweet very Methodist grandmother, who didn’t approve of me dating a Catholic, once commented that “those Catholic boys are so cute!”  My right eyebrow shot up a mile.  “Really?!!”  I mean, he was cute, but I hadn’t realized that denomination affected cuteness.  I was enlightened.)  In Sweden (exchange student time), I frequently attended the Lutheran church with my little sister.  She was going through confirmation and was required to attend church a certain number of times.  She begged me to go with her.  It was beautiful!  The church was an old village church, and the service seemed more traditional (probably was) than the services I’d grown up with.  Then came college.  My truth-seeking heart led me to hang out with two conflicting parties–what fun!!!–Baptists and Catholics.  It was both educational and frustrating.  I took away from the Baptists these things: We are equal, so get over yourself being superior and show a little humility; every single one of us is faulty (“has sinned in the eyes of God” sort of thing); and forgiveness comes from and is between you and God. However, the Catholics had a different take on the matter of forgiveness.  They seemed more likely to live fully as they felt certain of their forgiveness, instead of walking around looking sullen and carrying a big ol’ nasty chip on their shoulders.  (Later, I learned that the act of actually verbally confessing to a priest is–surprise!–quite a wonderful, thrilling thing.  It is so freeing!  Yeah, forgiveness comes from God, but a priest is a wonderful tool, in the old-time sense of the word.  Not as in “you are a such a tool!”)  Oddly enough, I know the Baptists often gathered to pray for people who were “in danger” of joining the Catholic church.  I’m sure I was mentioned in the Baptist prayer group at some time.  That must have had a positive effect on my faith formation.  Cool, and many thanks to them.  I met the man who became my husband while in college.  He was raised Catholic, though I’d say it was more of a tradition than a choice.  That’s often the case–no criticism here.  As you might have guessed, I’ve forced him into inspecting his faith a whole lot more because my mind lives often in that world.  I eventually joined the Catholic church, learning about the whole tradition and everything the church was willing to officially share with me.  I fortunately had a very liberal (go figure) priest to deal with at the time.  He was willing to answer honestly any weird question I threw at him because he’d been a priest long enough to know where he stood, and he had no fear of repercussions.  One of my favorite things about the Catholic church is their official (again) willingness to accept the fusion of science and faith.  I’d come to the conclusion ages before that science discovers–slowly and minutely–the work of God.  To me, science only confirms God and doesn’t act as a replacement for God.

So this makes me a Methopresbyluthebaptiscatholic.  That looks like a good drug, doesn’t it?  It is a good label for me.  I am a Christian, and a very liberal one.  So why am I not at church (which would be the Catholic church, at this point)?  My main problems with human church organizations in general are these: (1) the lack of joy, and (2) the limitations.  I know there is little I can do to start a fire under the ass or in the belly of those people who aren’t wired like I am, who attend church out of habit or a desire to gain good fortune (“We went to church last night, Mabel.  That’s why we won big at the casino!”).  At least they are taking time out of their week to tune in to the greater part of existence.  However, the songs sometimes sound like dirges and the prayers like compulsions.  Where is the joy?  As far as limitations, I don’t think that any particular denomination is wrong, but is rather just a small part of the big truth.  That’s probably a reflection of human nature.  We all can’t agree as we are so diverse, so it’s natural to cling to others who believe the same as you do.  The Catholics (sorry, I love this church as well as the rest) seem to have boiled Christianity down to algebra equations.  This particular value of sin (x) = these certain prayers and acts of contrition (y).  I guess I could add a number 3 to my complaints as well: the judgment of people and assessment of their value.  Even though I’d learned and believe that we are all the same in the eyes of God (all faulty), there is a tendency in every church to judge the value of certain people or types of people, and then to judge that they are of lesser worth.  This makes those in the church elevate themselves, inflate egos…Again, human nature, but I have higher expectations of those in church than I do in, say, the office.  The Christian church is supposed to be about love and acceptance and personal humility and reaching to God and being joyful…right?

So why, besides those things, am I kinda sorta disturbed that I’m not attending church? For one, it’s nice to share discussion about faith, God, and the truth of things (as far as our little human minds can discern).  I also believe strongly in prayer and in the power of people praying together. My daily and weekly routines hold God close, and they work!  I begin each day with prayer and a reading from Jesus Calling (a devotional that really gets what Christianity is about) or one of Sarah Young’s other devotionals.  After lunch, I refocus with prayer and reading Joyce Meyer’s daily online devotional.  I do a bit of yoga every morning, one class, and one extended podcast a week.  You might be wondering about that, but as a human, it seems that my soul and my body are entangled. The physical practice of yoga seems to loosen those ties a bit (the ancient people got that right), and it allows me to do a bit of meditation/savasana/shavasana afterward that really helps me let God in.  Nicey nice.  No, no yoga instructor worth their salt is pushing a particular religion, so I have no altar set up to the elephant-headed goddess or anything of that sort.  (Just thought you should know.)  I read about other faiths, and I read the gospels on the weekends.  I pay particular attention to the words and actions of Christ, and I go slowly enough to stop, digest, and re-read as necessary.  Most importantly, I take long walks with my dog.  Sundays mornings are full of outdoor adventures for us.  These, above all, fill me with joy about God’s work–in her, and in everything I see.  (I sure hope I don’t get conked in the head and molested when I’m out doing this–that would be a downer.  For the most part, I feel a whole lot safer out in the woods with Killer the Puppy than I ever do walking the streets of a town).

All in all, I think I have Unitarian Universalist leanings.  There is one big truth out there, and God reaches to his people–ALL his people, no exceptions–in the way that speaks best to them.  Every person is of equal value.  I am fine in NOT having all the answers (like the God-algebra equation) because I think I’d be fooling myself.  I’m happy to be human and let God be God.  If I ever understand God and his work, it would be a miracle.  I don’t think I’m wired for that.  Sooo…

Please advise :-).


~ by rebuildingholly on January 18, 2014.

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