Finding Myself in Church

This was originally posted at EpinoiaCafe.com

I’ve been looking for a church I can stand.

It’s been a long time since I set foot in a church. But Jesus has been tugging at my heart, so to speak, for quite a while. I couldn’t resist anymore, so off we went.

And wow, did it ever suck.

In Reading the Bible Again For the First Time, Marcus Borg says:

Postcritical naivete is the ability to hear the biblical stories once again as true stories, even as one knows that they may not be factually true and that their truth does not depend upon their factuality.

Surely, that must apply not just to bible stories, but to doctrine and stuff, too, right? (Right?!) What about bumper-stickers and t-shirts? I *want* to go with it, be relaxed about it, but in the heat of the moment, I can’t seem to.

It’s not just the people, and their weird-theology cliches (like “God showed up!” or “In case of rapture…”), either. It’s the hymns… It’s one thing singing “God, make Your presence known to me,” “remind me why I’m here,” and “how wonderful You are!” When you get to stuff that suggests that God would love to make us all burn in hell, but is forced to accept Jesus as a sacrifice instead, I don’t do so well. Or when they talk about how when things go well for us, it means God’s on our side.

It felt very much, again, like Christianity is just not available to me. Withheld. I spent the whole day after that in a depression, feeling stuck, alone, like God refuses to let me be comforted. (The nice part of that, I suppose, was that I definitely felt like I had God’s attention. I even found myself saying “He” when I usually refuse to use pronouns at all for God. I felt like He was afflicting me on purpose, wanting something from me, though I couldn’t quite figure out what.)

Later, though, it did start to clear up. I realized that once again, this was about me knowing who I am. How else can I help Jesus get his religion back? We can’t let them own God. That’s what I’ve been doing for all these years. I’d talk to Christians, and they’d say “burn in hell yada yada,” and somehow I thought I wasn’t qualified to have an opinion.

It turns out I do have an opinion! Other people don’t have to agree with me, but I have to be sure *I* agree with me. Otherwise I go crazy, or spend the whole service sobbing. (Yeah, that was me. Fourth row.) And otherwise, I don’t stick up for God.

And I want to do that. I want to stick up for God.

In case someone’s curious, here are some of the things I came up with, when I asked myself what I believe.

  • God is Love, and never angry.
  • Everything is spiritual.
  • Jesus brought a message of hope. Peace, love, acceptance, redemption and healing, and a beautiful, glorious vision of what is possible if we follow him. “The kingdom of God is within you!”
  • The Bible is our story.
  • Christians are (mostly) missing the point.
  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
  • This Good News is cause for loud, raucous celebration, as well as reverent centering prayer.

Since that first service, I’ve gone to three others, and it’s gone much better. I don’t get so (mentally) squished in them. Instead, I worship and sing and pray and get irritated. Much, much better.