Sunday, March 27, 2005

Jesus FREAK?

I went to church this morning for the first time in a longggg time. Normally when I go to church after a long absence I feel that sense of affirmation and the rush of holiness. Today's Easter and I DIDN'T FEEL IT AT ALL! And I'm really upset about it!!!

The church in which I was baptized has grown by leaps and bounds since I started going there at the age of 13...during the thick of my on-fire-for-Jesus'ness. I remember the comfort I felt being in that beautiful building, surrounded by people who started out strangers but eventually became like a second family to me. I loved all the hugs, the conversations, and the feeling of community. Now, the church still has the same pastor (love him), and, like I said, it's grown to be at least 500 people per Sunday. Not a lot if you're from a larger city, but this is a little "country" church out in the middle of nothing. They're building a new sanctuary that basically looks like a gym on the outside...corrugated metal, etc. I didn't recognize 90% of the people, no hugs, no spark.

The Easter presentation is always a "character sermon." Roger dresses up as some character from the Bible and delivers his message in the first-person. It's usually interesting but today it left me cold. There was an Easter Cantata. Also left me cold. I left upset that I felt completely unmoved by any of the goings-on. I didn't feel that sense of wonder and awe and community that usually comes from my church...even if I haven't been in ages!

At one point during the character sermon--the character's name has just left me--lists off all these bad parts of his POV (he was the puppet master behind the crucifixion..Clack, help!) and says, "Yes, I'm what, today, you would call your liberals." OH MY HEAVENS!! Let's step outside!!!!

I consider myself a pretty progressive thinker, and I'm also a Christian. I know down deep that I'm right with God and that I'm not a bad person if I don't agree to the letter, so it irked me to feel attacked in my own place of worship. That started the questions rolling in my head:

  • Can someone as un-conservative as I am in many ways find rest and complete acceptance in a Baptist church?
  • Is this church the right place for me?
  • Is church in general the right place for me?
  • Is this organized religion too static?

These are really important questions that have been creeping up for a while. I'm not scared of the questions or finding the answers, but it really hits hard that I'm not experiencing that same sensation of awe that I did when I was younger. I feel the awe at other times....traveling, seeing people and places, being with my family, scholarly work, teaching. I've always felt like God had a plan for my life, and I know He's with me every day, but I don't know that my spiritual needs are best served in that traditionally accepted environment. I feel more blessed reading my Bible alone and thinking and contemplating and pondering than in a room full of other Christians.

So, it looks like Sojourness and I have more in common all the time. I'm a capital QUESTIONING in Questioning Believer. I'm gonna start looking at some new churches, and if that doesn't help some new denominations....or maybe a non-denomination.

29 comments:

  1. I had the same experience right after college, belonging to a very conservative denomination in my teens and while in college, I looked and looked and looked and looked, and then found out at a punk show (not even christian) that one of my friends had gotten in contact with a guy who wanted to start a new kind of congregation in our city. I went and there like ten people there, but we grew and grew and now we are known as the artsy emo church in town and we planted two other congregations throughout the city. It was tough at first , but we built something that we felt culturally comfortable with. We're liberal, but not crazy, we're accepting but have backbones in our beliefs, we're artsy but back it up with action. I guess I am boasting or maybe encouraging that there IS stuff out there. Keep trying, just keep searching for spirituality and truth, you will find what you are yearning for.

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  2. Thank you!!!! I know it's out there...just gotta find it. Ya even made me smile for the first time this mornin'. :oD

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  3. Was the character Judas?

    Anyway, I think that was an awful thing to say. Sometimes church people think that all Christians share all beliefs, including political ones, but to alienate people like that is wrong. I'm sorry you had an experience like that. Blech.

    The pastor at a church I used to go to often jokingly referred to Ellen DeGeneres as "Ellen Degenerate." I guess he thought all respectable Christians would find that funny. I just found it offensive. There's an example of Christ's love right there! *Rolls eyes*

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  4. Uggg! The Ellen comment was awful!! I was just thinking this morning of some of the churches around here and it was like, "OK, that one raves against Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings...NOPE...that one's pastor has never so much as seen the inside of a seminary...NOPE!" and so on. lol So frustrating.

    And the character was Josephus, I believe.

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  5. i know, it's very frustrating. i've been floating around without a church for years. earlier this year, i thought maybe i had found a place that would fit with me but then i read their "constitution and by-laws" (which i would recommend to anyone checking out a new church) and realized that it wasn't a fit at all. it was their thoughts about divorce that pushed me over the edge:

    "Marriage can only be broken by...marital unfaithfulness involving adultery, homosexuality, or incest. While the Scriptures give evidence that the marriage vow [is] broken by such...[they] do recommend that the most desirable option would be reconciliation."

    ok, reconciliation after adultery, maybe. after homosexuality, i don't know why you'd bother to try and make someone straight, but if you want to try, knock yourself out...it's not going to work. but incest?!? hell no! if that were my husband and he had molested our kids, he'd be lucky to be alive, nevermind fortunate enough to get a shot at reconciliation.

    sorry, that was a bit of a rant...needless to say, i can't, in good faith, be a part of that church.

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  6. I had a similar experience with what Sojourness was talking about with the "Ellen Degenerate " comment, I was talking about it Friday with some friends at a burrito place about how pastor's try to be "cool" or "snarky" (that ain't my version of snarkiness) by making fun of cultural figures in a derogatory way. It just cheapens the words coming out of their mouths and makes them look like someone putting down another football team to make their team look better. If you happen to actually KNOW a little bit about Jesus and love, you don't need to build your team up with cheap shots. Gosh, I am rambling. Anyway, I hear you both. It is a hard thing somedays and though my congregation is far from perfect, they at least accept me as a divorced guy (me and the ex went there from it's inception) and it is my HOME when I did not have one. It is a congregation that applauds all of us out there just trying to find something and not swallowing the tripe that gets thrown out there.

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  7. Ago,
    That's a GREAT idea. I think I'm gonna ask around about that in the future. I'm sure it might curl my hair, but I'm gonna try it. lol

    And, Wayne, I may have to move to Philly next. Jennifer Weiner and a great church all in one place sounds too good to be true.

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  8. Just my two cents:

    Can you find rest and acceptance at a Baptist Church? It depends on what you mean by liberal. If by liberal you mean supporting abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, etc., no. Or at least not a Southern Baptist Church. And not (dare I say it?) at any other Christian Church that's true to the teachings of Christ. Yes, Catholics and Baptists have their differences, but we at least agree on a few points of morality. If you mean labor laws and general social justice, then not in the south. I suspect northern Baptists are a little more interested in social justice. And a lot more prone to vote Dem than Rep. South Baptists are straight up Rep. Now, I don't exactly vote Democrat and don't recommend that others do so (I don't believe in killing the innocent or the elderly - those who really have no "use" - for convenience), but I don't care for the Republican party all that much either (actually, if I could found my own party based on Christian principles, I could say bugger off to the Reps and Dems).

    As far as your second question is concerned, I can't answer it. But I will say that Christianity shouldn't be about warm and fuzzy feelings. It's about worshipping God. It's about giving our love to God. It's not about what He gives us. It's not about how He makes us feel when we praise His name and give glory to Him. It's about the fact that we're giving Him His due. It's like when Jesus asks if a master should thank his servant for doing what he's told (Luke 17:7-10)? Umm. No. The servant just did what he was commanded. And what do we do? We do as we are commanded: we give praise and glory and honor to God. That isn't to say that we won't be given warm and fuzzy feelings, simply that they shouldn't be demanded as though we could demand things of God or as though we should feel them all the time.

    Is church the right place? I say if you're Christian, yes it is. Check out Acts and all the epistles. It is quite evident that Christianity develops in community. In fact, within the Church, it is within the Christian community that a Christian best develops in the virtues. It's also true, of course, that God made all Creation, and so we can find in all Creation great inspiration and awe. I went to Colorado last year, and was just awestruck that the God who created the mountains and forests stepped down into it to become a part of it. Just the same, we are called to community.

    And as for your last question, is which organized religion too static? Christianity? No way! Do you want something that will pander to the latest fads and fashions? Well, then, yes, Christianity is static. Do you want something that is the Truth and presents that which is morally true for all time? Then no. Morality is static. It must be, otherwise it's meaningless and everything is justified. Now, do we come to new and greater understandings of morality and the teachings of God as time progresses? You bet your bottom dollar we do! For instance, the Holy Father published "Theology of the Body" in which he compared the Christian marriage to the Holy Trinity - God the Father and God the Son in their love for one another produce the Holy Spirit. The husband and wife in their love for one another produce another child! It's so incredible and amazing! We humans, in community reflect GOD HIMSELF. Talk about image of God yo. Which is another reason why we're called to be in community, if we reflect the Holy Trinity, then Christian persons must be in community as the Divine Persons are in community.

    Ok, so my husband is bugging me, I guess I should go. I dunno if I said all I was gonna say, but I suppose it will do. ;)

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  9. When I lived in Los Alamos I went to a Lutheran church. It's a small town and I knew almost everyone and my kids knew their kids. The pastor of our church was wonderful. I would leave every Sunday feeling better about the world and the people in it and inspired to try harder in my own life. (He never once mentioned Ellen Degeneres, I think those other guys stole that joke from New Gingrich)

    On Easter he came out with his arm spread wide as if to hug us all and a big smile on his face. He said (as always) "Good Morning. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." His sermon was full of joy and hope.

    When I moved back to Texas I went to Easter service at my mom's (Baptist) church. The people who don't show up all year come to church on Easter, so they actually held the service in the stadium where the Spurs play basketball. Nobody came out at first. They started showing a MOVIE of some poor schmuck fighting with his wife, yelling at his kids, getting fired, there was no sound, just music. It was totally cheesey and stereo typed down to him sitting down with a glass of some kind of liquor and putting his head in his hands looking all hopeless and in need of the Lord as his wife left with her suitcase. It was so cheap.

    I went home and cried.

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  10. Gosh, I am certainly not speaking for Andi and Cherbear, you are definitely entitled to your opinion and I certainly would not label you as "wrong" or some other foolish quick pronouncement of someone I only know in the etheral world. But I felt that Andi's post was not about just wanting warm and fuzzy feelings and Easter is no more a spiritual or mystical calendar day (March 27 in particular is my point) anymore than Guy Fawkes day, but sometimes when we are SEEKING or QUESTIONING or heck, longing for that MOMENT OF TRUTH we crave as fallible beings, the fallible men and women in church leadership sometimes drop the ball. Dragging highly charged labels such as liberal OR conservative seems like a waste of breath on such a day in which the AMAZING story of Easter is told, when a man who broke bread with tax collectors and prostitutes , allowed himself to be executed and then conquered death so that ALL could feel communion with the Creator. At least that is what I came away with when I read her post. Democrat, Republican, Saint , Sinner, forget that, let's remember redemption today, the amazing reach of grace. Morality is important, but I think Christ's forgiveness reaches into places we can barely comprehend.Anyway, no offense to anyone , just wanted to say my two bits. Christ is Risen!

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  11. April, is that you in the picture?? You're so mysteriously beautiful. I'm loving the sepia tone...you remind me of some mournful literary character (or even author) but I can't place who it is!!! I'll get back to you.

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  12. Well, as far as organized religions; and you maybe looking outside Baptist, who's to say what the 'right' one is. As long as you have a spiritual relationship with God and know with out a doubt that he is in your heart and soul. Today in church we talked about the 3 Resurrections and the 4 deaths. Resurrections: Jesus, the Saints and the Day of Redemption where both the living and the dead will rise up to be judged by God in the Book of Life. Not by your peers, so do what's right for you.

    Read I COR. it talks about the church. As far as your preacher, I'm sorry he hurt your feelings. You are supposed to be able to go to church and not be judged, especially by the 'shepard' of the flock. Maybe he isn't the pastor for you. What church did you go to? The church I went to today was my first time, and I loved it so much I went back tonight. I do konw how you feel, though I have stayed in the S. Baptist relm, I have had a tough time finding the right church for me out here. I went to an other church last summer, wasn't for me, so I gave up til today. The thing about it is I have had a strong nudging sensation since that has told me to go to the one I attended today, I put it aside for 10 months, shoudn't have. I had a strong conviction on Friday night that made me realize that I need to get my priorties straight.

    Put God first, and follow your heart and pray for guidence.

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  13. CJ--- Do you know if and where in the Bible it refers to Deaconess', actually written in the text? No foot notes. Loves

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  14. Thanks for your input, Cheryl. A question for you: Did you feel some sort of inner upheaval before you decided to convert to Catholicism? I wasn't around you then, so I have no idea, but I would love to hear about that experience if you wanna share. I feel that I'm going through something of that sort now. Just not fitting where I am. It's not about warm fuzzy feelings....it's about feeling as if I've found my niche....a place where I feel like I'm serving and worshipping the best I can. When you're worshipping God you shouldn't feel like crap because of the church you're in.

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  15. What can I say but, "Ugg," Catherine. I think I would've gone home and had a cry, too. When they whip out the big screen and the alcohol and family crap video I'm running as fast as possible and never lookin' back. Sounds like something we'd find it Sunday School here. That's another issue entirely....I loathe Sunday School...goes back to when I was a kid.

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  17. Thanks, Val! I'm glad you found a good place! I'm gonna give Vansickle a few more go's. I much prefer Roger's normal sermons as opposed to the character sermons. Maybe that just put a damper on things.

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  18. Two things:
    One, I'd love to tell you all about my conversion (if you're ever around me you'll discover that my number one absolutely mostest most favorite topics to talk about have something to do with the Church). 0=) I just can't help myself. I'll prob'ly just post it to my own blog 'cuz it might as well be on there, right?

    And two, if you're ever at a loss to find something in the Bible, you might check out www.biblegateway.org. 'Course, if you wanna look it up in the NAB, I always go there first, and then go to http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/index.htm (not that most of you care to do that). It's actually pretty similar to the NIV. Both excellent translations (except that one is missing something). 0=)

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  19. Sounds great! And I'll use the links. I have a book that does the same thing, but I'm online often, so it's good to know. :o)

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  20. wow. umm...so i havent been by in a few days, so apparently i've missed a lot....

    I don't think Josephus was the puppetmaster behind the crucifixion, Del. I'm not sure who he was referencing, but i can't imagine it was him. Josephus was nonbelieving historian who kept a fabulous record of those times and provides a really good backup to the story of Jesus, because he WASN'T A FOLLOWER and still confirms the story. So...I doubt it was him. Umm..I'm kind of dizzy after all those posts. i'm going to go read your original one again before i say anything else.

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  21. Okay. Now i know what you said again. :)

    First of all, your pastor did make a mistake. He should not have brought his personal political views into the sermon. However, think back on it and make sure that's what he was doing. was he saying it in a negative sense, or just trying to give you an idea of who the character was politically speaking? If it WAS josephus, he probably was a more left leaning person, since he wasn't so involved in the strict religious ideologies of his day, which is not necessarily a bad thing (i think the pharisees would have qualified as die hard republicans in most arenas! :) ) anyway, just a thought. You are probably right, but I just wanted to throw that in for consideration. Your politics will be affected by your faith, but many christians find themselves shying away from us right wingers! hard to believe...isn't it? ;)
    Second- as to where you attend church, you are never going to find a place where you feel the 'warm fuzzies' every time you step in the door. As wonderful as the church environment is, it is filled with fallible human beings who make many many mistakes, so sometimes you are not going to be on the same plane as they are. There are always disagreements and sometimes they are not handled as well as one might like. YOu just have to do your best to be sure you are on Gods side of the issue and leave it at that.
    Third- Christianity is not about 'organized religion', as you well know. Find the church that fits you (they are there- probably in Greenville, although i have several friends who trip over to Rockwall or further on Sundays) and get involved with it, but church is not where you're going to find your contentment or your joy or your peace or any of those other things. Those things are found in a relationship with God. A real one. Not just reading your bible and talking at the ceiling when the mood hits you, but really KNOWING God. He likes you, you know. God's all about people and He LOVES getting to know them. Once you have that, you will not have to worry so much about the church you go to, because you will be making a difference there yourself!
    The last thing is- I do agree with Cheryl about actually GOING to church. Its biblical and VERY important to being a growing Christian.

    Um...Val- Deacons? or Deaconess (as in, women deacons?). there is no verse about deaconess'. unfortunately feminist theology is not very clear in our translation of the bible, although if andi lets me i will someday do a post for you that you will LOVE about women and the bible! as to the part about deacons themselves- i would have to look it up. i know how it goes, but i can't think where it is right off the top of myhead!
    this is soooo long. hope nobody fell asleep....

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  22. lol.. Thanks Dena. 'Mysterious' and 'mournful' are exactly what I was going for.

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  23. Clack,
    I remember later it was Chiaphus (spelling?) the high priest of the Jews.

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  24. OK, lemme clear up the warm fuzzies thing because it's biting me in the tush a lot.

    I know I'm not always going to get the warm fuzzies in church, nor am I necessarily supposed to. Yesterday I was simply shocked at how appauling I found my church. It struck me as almost ugly and wearing a hypocritical face. The liberals comment was supposed to be funny and pointed from the context of the story. A big haha from the congregation except me, who shot a look at my Mom like "oy've gotta be kidding."

    I do have a great relationship with God (remember that question on Aldersgate's questionairre about percentages?? I answered 100 then and I would still do so now), and yes, I believe that church allows one to grow and forge a closer relationship with God as well as learn a ton. The plan as of now is to try Vansickle a few more times, and if I still feel like crap going there I'll look for something new. Might even try Aldersgate again, since the last time I went I was like 17. :o)

    Knock yourself out with the post about women in the Bible. Sounds interesting!

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  25. I'll leave it somewhere less crowded sometime, but i think you'll like it. Its one of the benefits of getting an education at a college wher eyou're required to get a bible minor...
    I had NO intentio of questioning your relationship with God. I just meant that politics and church sometimes dont coincide and other people's views have to be overlooked when they get a little "overexpressive" about them sometimes. I said you knew what I was talking about already, and I meant it! You relationship with God is between you and Him, and i am in less than no place to know what it is!! :)
    So try Aldersgate out. they used to not have much in the way of ministry directed at our age and lifestyle, but they've been working on it, so maybe its better, and you know i'm always biased in its favor!! i would guess, though, that you'll be happy at vansickle of you go there again. Easter sunday is always a weird one to hit. Too many visitors, etc.
    Caiphas (I THINK that's how you spell it, but i'm not sure) makes WAY more sense as far as the "puppetmaster" thing, but really is out of this world as far as the "liberal" thing. It is COMPLETELY ludicrous to call the high priest of the jewish religion LIBERAL by any means! Good night. people just say the dumbest things....

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  26. CJ- Yes I was speaking of the females, deaconess', at church last night(very informal) we were discussing being a servant of the Lord and he made mention of the deacons' and the deaconess'. Someone asked where it actually said the word deaconess. Bible hunt for about thirty minutes. I got the closest in I Timothy 3:8-11 with footnotes referencing wives to deaconess. Came home and read for hours, and figured who better to ask than you!

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  27. Romans 16:1 is basically as close as you get for deaconess.

    But there actually were women who were referred to as "deaconesses" in the early Church. But they didn't have the same authority as deacons. (Women have never held the same "authority" as men in the Church. This goes back to men and women are DIFFERENT. We are of course equal in dignity. And moral norms naturally apply across the board.) Anyways. They were basically women who were important in the Church for organizing and moral/spiritual support w/e.

    But something you should think about when you're trying to look for something in the Bible is that the early Christians used terminology that we don't use today. So the word we're thinking of might not be the word that's used in our translation of the Bible. And, of course, just 'cuz it's not in the Bible doesn't mean it didn't happen that way...

    Here's an article you might check out: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04651a.htm.

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  28. Oh yah...
    Here here about the fuzzies comments from the ex-Clack.
    *wonders how she can post like that*
    *is scandalized*
    0=)
    *goes to do the dishes like a good little wifey*

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  29. Cherbear- thank you for the help and link.. I didn't ever remember hearing it, but I got curious since the question was raised. Thank You!!

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