To Infinity and Beyond…Then Back AgainApril 5, 2012 at 5:55 PM | Posted in Political | Leave a comment
Tags: church, God, religion, spirituality
Just a friendly warning to anyone who may have stumbled here via a tag about faith, religion, and God: There is some bad language in this. But it’s real and it’s true and it’s about my struggle, and if you can get past these indiscretions, I hope you will find it an enjoyable, thought-provoking read.
I’m not sure what this has to do with, and I’m fairly certain that this will require extensive editing before it gets to the viewing public. The reader. To you.
I am…I’m not religious, in the strict biblical sense. And I’m not going to go that that tired old “but I am spiritual” route because I’m not a 20 year old college girl exploring her new found freedom by getting piss-drunk and letting a fraternity gang-bang her.
In fact, I might be the opposite: I’m not very spiritual, but I am religious. I believe in God. I’m a Christian. I believe that Christ is my savior, and everything else that goes with it that atheists and secularists love to make fun of. But there is something else that goes with it, something that the atheists have been missing out on that I think they are just in recent years starting to catch up on.
My good friend is Catholic, and active in her church. In fact, I’ve helped her with some functions and events, and some of the catering, and I see something wonderful. It’s not–listen, you hardcore militant atheist assholes who just want to deride everything church-related and read subtext and subterfuge into everything, no matter how harmless and innocent it is: It’s not all about fairy tales.
It has to do with the sense of community and society. The common thread–church and belief–is what brings them together. But the togetherness–friendship, comradery, fellowship, and sense of community–is an end unto itself. These things are important. People seek them out. Most people, anyway, but I’ll get to that later.
In general, most people want to belong. Are you with me so far? I hate to generalize, and there are exceptions, but the misanthropic segments of the population rarely stand together to be counted, or have rallies. *MOST* people don’t choose to be Tom Hanks in 85% of “Castaway.”
And so, here come the atheists, proudly boasting about their intellectual superiority, their inner strength that has no need of a fairy-tale support system, and the fact that they have never killed millions of people in a holy war. (Well, to be fair, neither have I.)
But here they come, knocking what they don’t understand.
Don’t understand? *Don’t understand?* Ha! Why, most atheists are very well-versed and scholarly and learned in all aspects of all religions. They have to be so they can intelligently refute and mock them against the ignorant masses of primitive, mouth-breathing believers…
Yeah, I hear you. You’ve read. You’ve bowed at Richard Dawkins’ feet. You belong to several atheist websites. There really isn’t a way for me to say “good for you” without it sounding sarcastic–but maybe it’s just me.
But you don’t understand faith. Don’t tell me you do, because it’s obvious you don’t. If you *UNDERSTOOD* faith, you’d have some. I’m not wrong. And this is my essay, so I get the last word. Get your own fucking soapbox (or blog–same thing.)
My point being is that atheists are missing out on the larger sense of community and fellowship. Compound that with the fact that, much like homosexuals or Scientologists, their numbers aren’t as great as they like to boast. So that’s the crux of it: Atheists, besides having a hole in their hearts where Christ should be, also have a hole in their heart where their connection to society should be.
(BTW–notwithstanding that I am a Christian, I do have a sense of humor. A biting, harsh, and sarcastic sense. I phrased that last paragraph exactly the way I did because I am a dick. If I offended or pissed off any atheists–well, I guess it worked.)
I used to say this, “I know I’m not the best example of a Christian–”
And for that reason I wouldn’t usually divulge the denomination of my church because I am NOT the standard by which to measure.
However, like other things, I have given this up for Lent. I won’t review all of my sins here because this not the place and they are numerous. But I think that is the very same thing that makes me a g–
Ha! I was going to say, “good.” No, I’m not a “good” Christian. I’m not a “good” example. But I am an example. A real-world example. The kind that atheists can point to and sneer: “See? He’s not living his Christian values and tenets! He should just give up and become an atheist!”
I’m also the kind of Christian that fundamentalist would point to and whisper about and judge behind my back, all the things that atheists think all Christians do. The Fundies would say that I have not truly taken Christ into my heart.
But I say to all of them: It’s not really for you to judge me now, is it? It’s betwixt me and God. God and I. What a great road-trip, coming-of-age, buddy move that would be: “Me and the Big G.”
I’m not perfect, and have never professed to be–other than to pick up chicks. I live in the world. I drink, I smoke, and I cuss. I fornicate. I fornicate like a mother-fucker, in fact. I have, on occasion, lied. I’ll lie to your stupid face if it’ll get you to leave me alone.
None of these things make me a Christian. The fact that I believe in God, and the fact that I have taken Christ as my personal savior is what makes me a Christian. I try to be a better person. Most days, I don’t try very hard.
But I try. And that’s the point.
I haven’t been to my Church in a dozen years or more. I’m what they would term “inactive.” And since then, I’ve gotten divorced, I live in sin with a woman, I occasionally drink and smoke–albeit lightly, and I’ve had occasion to view a provocative website or two. Combined with my various other indiscretions, I’m certain that if/when I do go back, I would be excommunicated. At the very least, I would be disfellowshipped.
I always thought there would come a day when I would go back. A day when the doors wouldn’t necessarily swing wide for me, but at least they would unlock, and perhaps creak from disuse when I pried them open.
A day when my fiancé’s divorce would be final (I said don’t judge me), and she could make an honest man out of me. A day when I might quit smoking and only drink in secret. A day when my browser history might be proudly displayed. A day when the light of Christ would shine through me and I would stand as a pillar to uphold all that is good and pure and decent.
A day when I wouldn’t have so many dirty thoughts going my mind. All the time. Constantly. Really, it’s non-stop.
Many people that leave The Church or stop going have had some kind of falling out over some slight, real or imagined. Often, it’s not the doctrine, but rather the misapplication of it by people, or the mishandling of some social situation–again, by people. People, after all, are imperfect creatures. Except atheists, of course. Atheists, ironically, are the highest, most exalted and perfect of God’s creation, who have evolved to a point where they no longer need him.
My own experience was nothing like that, the leaving. It was just a gradual waning of the light of my faith. I don’t “blame” God, and I certainly don’t hate him. Nor do I blame or hate anyone in the church.
I don’t mean to generalize, and of course I can create a lengthy disclaimer–in fact, I believe this entire essay is a disclaimer–if I really need to so that it will protect your delicate baby feelings, but *it has been my experience* that *in general* the *typical militant* atheist is *least likely* to get this:
This is about forgiveness and acceptance. It was my fault and mine alone, and I accept responsibility for my actions. I blame no one else for creating the circumstances unduly influencing me. This is not an affidavit for the admission of guilt of any crimes. I also acknowledge that despite the atheists’ view, I do answer to a higher power, and while I may have done nothing wrong in their eyes, I know that I face judgment from a higher power. Even if they think it is my own conscious, there is harm and there are consequences from my actions.
As I am imperfect, I understand also that other people are imperfect as well. I have forgiveness n my heart for people who are careless with my feelings and thoughtless with their actions towards me. I forgive people that are too stupid to function in the world and I accept that no matter what I do, I can’t fix them and probably shouldn’t kill them.
Likewise, since I’m not perfect, I ask that Jesus–and you people–forgive me when I’m not as tolerant and patient with all the idiots, dumbasses, fuckballs, assholes, bitches and bastards as I should be. The world is full of them, and chances are real good that you’re one.
I know I am.
When I was active in my church–
You know, it was a long time ago. But I remember that it was pleasant. It was fun. It was a good experience. It wasn’t like everyone was wretched and evil but put on a fake face to go to church. It was more like we were living our lives, every day being dragged down a little bit. But when we finally made it to church, it was like crossing a finish line. Made it! Safe, for another week. The smiles were real. Once you crossed the threshold, all the problems of the outside world slipped away, and only the important things remained. The important things are family, and love, and God. The rest didn’t matter.
We had activities all the time. Before we got married, my wife and I gathered with the singles group. Every week we went out together. We would meet at church, have a prayer and a spiritual lesson, plan some activities, then play volleyball and go out for pizza.
There was always something going on. Big Christmas and other holiday plans, excursions, activities for the kids that needed sponsors and volunteers, dinners and other things happening. The thread that brought us together was our faith. The Velcro that bound us was the fellowship.
And so now I have a question–a question that I didn’t know I had when I started this, but I think it was inside the whole time, the impetus and purpose of this whole exposition.
First, Given that there is some importance to the fellowship aspect, and I miss that and I want to be a part of something like that again;
Second, as painful as it is for me to acknowledge, if/when I choose to (or feel called to) return to my church, I know I would face some kind of disciplinary action.
And an atheist or just a regular non-church going bloke might wonder why, or how would they know about my misdeeds? Well, I would have to tell them. Why don’t I keep my ridiculous pie-hole shut? Well, that’s dishonest. I have to tell my [local church authority]. I *have* to.
So what are my possible courses of action?
Is excommunication permanent? There is also disfellowship, which allows a member to return, after a period of…probation and censure. Could I ever be re-instated? If not, would I then be forced to join another church if I wanted to go to church?
Would it be better for me to remain inactive (but still a member, at least on paper) than to go back, only to be kicked out?
Could I join another church, with a different doctrine and different beliefs, knowing what I know and believing as I do? Would I merely be paying lip service to this new church? The gist of our beliefs are the same, although some Christian churches are vehement about the differences, no matter how nuanced. One doctrine from my old church is that we believe in worshiping according to the dictates of our own conscious, and believe that people have that right–let them worship who or what they want, in whatever manner they want, or not at all. This I firmly believe.
Another doctrine is more of a reminder: even if we don’t agree on all things, we know we agree on many major things, and let us use those to join us, rather than allow the differences to separate us. All beliefs possess some part of the truth. (Of course, my caveat is, “all beliefs…within reason. I’m sorry, but I swear to God, calling Scientology a religion is like calling date rape a sport.)
Would I be betraying my inner core of beliefs if I joined a different church? And how firm am I, really, in those beliefs, when I’ve been inactive for so long and not living my life and conducting my affairs according to Church Doctrine anyway?
It’s almost but not quite like I had applied to MIT, and by some fluke I got in. Then I flunked out, of course. Of course I did. Then I hung around the campus and wore an MIT sweatshirt for 20 years, proudly. But they don’t like a scruffy-looking dropout hanging around, wearing their swag, bragging about the glory days. If I go to re-apply, they will look at my transcript and say, “Not on your fucking life.” I’ll end up going to the local community college, where the classes aren’t as tough and you don’t learn as much and it won’t help you get a good job.
As long as I don’t push it, I can still say I went to MIT. But I’ll never finish–I’ll never get my degree.
So, what do I do? I think I have myself talked into at least going and talking to my church leader, informally. And I guess–the thing that should have occurred to me first–I guess I need to pray about it.