So, I live on the Gulf Coast. Right now, a malstrom of destruction named Gustav is pointed straight at the heart of the Gulf Coast. Straight. At. Me. Now this is bad for a lot of reasons.
(1.) We are probably going to have to evacuate, which is a pain.
(2.) My sister moved. Since I can’t list my evac address there, I have to find someone to live with. The only person available is a very long drive.
(3.) This means the international trip I was going take is probably going to go down the crapper with post Gustav clean up.
(4.) If our international trip is not canceled, we will have at least a week taken out of our too short thirty days to prepare.
But two good things. One, I am getting a pretty good raise. Two, even though I admit I am a Deist, I still view the world around me in atheist’s terms.
Why would believing that there is no God involved in this storm make me happy? Thanks for asking. Because there is NOTHING I can do about it.
See, before, I would have felt that there was some higher purpose. I would have thought the beautiful morsel of this oversees assignment dangled in front of me and then (probably) yanked away to break my heart on purpose so that God would have a chance to deal with my prideful heart.
Then, I will feel awful for being so selfish. I mean a hurricane is heading straight for me and I am not even thinking about what this means. It’s the wrath of God, you know.
I would be desperately praying that the hurricane wouldn’t hit, then praying that I would accept God’s will, and praying that God would forgive me for being so attached to what I wanted, and forgive me for setting my heart so much on this plum assignment I wanted instead of what He wanted. Guilt. Frustration. Fear. Self loathing. Pretty much a whole gamut of negativity.
So, you know what I am doing now? I am chillin’. There is a hurricane coming and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I don’t feel any guilt for not somehow relating to this hurricane in a morally correct manner. I am not responsible for this in any way. If it hits and destroys my apartment, it’s not my fault. If it hits and doesn’t destroy my apartment, that’s not my fault either.
Since I don’t trust God to deliver me if I do the right things, there is no way I can “fail” this hurricane. I have total peace with Gustav.
To those who may have only read the last few blogs, and did not read the 2 years of blogs which detailed how I went from a dishonest, unhappy Christian, to a Christian who was still unhappy, but honest about it; then explained my struggle to not believe; then finally, how I stopped struggling to believe; lastly, I detailed how by not fighting to believe, suddenly the peace and joy I had always wanted just sort of showed up in my life.
As a person who doesn’t fight to believe, I don’t know what to call myself. Not fighting to believe doesn’t mean that I don’t believe. I still view the world through a lens of good and evil. I still believe in sin. Though, I feel I must define the terms somewhat differently than I used to.
Do I believe in God? I don’t know how to answer that.
I grew up believing that God could be your friend. That if I believed the that the Lord Jesus Christ had shed His precious blood to save me from my sins, then Jesus would accept me, and He would change my life.
Well, I did believe. I believed with everything I had. To me belief is shown in action, so I took whatever actions I could to believe. And my life sucked. Sucked hardcore.
Finally, I was living in the projects in Kansas City. My neighbor got shot in a botched crack deal. The girls two doors down were prostitutes. I woke up every day wondering what new way I could find to fail God, and suck more. I thought about suicide often.
One day, I stopped trusting God to take care of me. I got a real job. I got a house where no one was getting shot. I got a car that didn’t leave my wife stranded all the time.
Getting out of debt rather than getting deeper into. Not having neighbors who got shot. Not having to wonder if my wife was getting shot. In result, not feeling like a failure. In result not wanting to kill myself. These are good things. These are the good things that I got by not trusting God to take care of me.
I don’t know how to respond to this. I want to believe in a personal God. I want to believe that good is rewarded. I want to believe that evil punished. My life shows me that trusting God to help me made things suck, and not trusting God made things not suck.
I don’t have a problem with God, I just don’t trust him to take care of me.
Maybe He will take care of me in the afterlife? But if I believe that, then I have to ask myself how I need to act now. What actions must I take that will let me know that my belief is real? And I will end up back where I was.
I don’t know how to believe in a personal relationship with God, and still be happy.
If Christianity means believing that a person should model ones life on most of the teachings of Christ, then I am a Christian. But I don’t think thats what the word Christian means to most people. It think, to most people it means belonging to subculture. I don’t belong to that subculture.
An atheist is a person who doesn’t believe that God exists. An agnostic is someone who believes that God may or may not exist. But a Christian is someone who believes that God loves them and wants a relationship with them. And personal relationship means give and take. Communication, and prayers answered.
So with in the context of Christianity, an atheist is person who doesn’t believe in a personal, in your space, changing your stuff, helping you make it God.
And I don’t believe that God pays my bills. I believe I pay my bills by working my ass off. So I guess I am atheist. Make sense? I hope so.
Once, many years ago, I fell head-over-heals, stupidly, destructively in love. I thought that the object of my love was the young woman with the thin, silver glasses and blue eyes, but alas, it was the idea that she represented to me and not the girl that I loved. I’d sold my life to get that girl and then found that it was the idea of the girl that I had wanted, not the hard work of loving a fellow human being. I didn’t have enough emotional stability to love and care for myself, let alone creature as fragile as I.
I tell that to illustrate this: my whole life I wanted to really understand scripture, to truly know it and have a ready answer for any question. Now, I am almost there. I am no theologian, but I am beginning to have a functional understanding of the Holy Bible. And like that college freshman I once was, I again find that it was the idea that I loved. The reality of knowing scripture with a holistic understanding of the whole thing is really quite awful.
Scripture, you see, is chock full of enormous contradictions, which you never notice as long as it is spoon fed to you by someone who has pre-chewed it for you. I thought that this little project would close the remaining holes in my patchy faith, instead it is pulling it apart. All I want is truth, and truth doesn’t contradict itself does it?
Perhaps a quick explanation is in order. I grew up fundamentalist. From the fundies I inherited a somewhat critical mindset particularly of that dastardly rebel sect, the Pentecostals. Despite this redeeming feature, the Fundamentalist approach to the business of living is pure crap. No one ever obeyed themselves joyful. No one ever learned so much scripture that he spontaneously started actually doing what Christ said. Despite my misgivings, I stuck with Christianity, so I wouldn’t burn in hell. At college, I met a very charismatic young speaker, and resolved to set him straight on his absurd Pentecostal belief, that his charisma might be used to bring people to the true way and not seduce them down the road of non-critical thinking, rampant emotionalism, and constant fear of demons that stereotypically characterizes the Pentecostal realization of faith. A proud graduate of an uppity Christian high school I knew the Word like the back of my hand, and would soon have him straightened out. But since pride goes before the fall, I made sure to do my research before I spoke to him.
Imagine my chagrin! There is no evidence whatsoever that the gifts have stopped! Abandoning all pride to believe truth, I delved into scripture by topical analysis, finding that all the wacky crazy things that are required in the New Testament are never said to have stopped! I had a new answer to the question of “If my religion brings peace and love why am I so full of strife and hate?” I wasn’t obeying scripture! I joined a carpet-chewing, roll on the floor, speaking in tongues, vision receiving church. For 2 years, this church was my family. For 2 years I heard people speak in tongues, prophesy, roar like lions, laugh in the spirit, etc. I’d seen people slain in the spirit, manifesting demons, seen them flop like fish on the floor, and cry with wild abandon. You know the one thing I never saw?
Change. The holy kept wailing and lost kept dying. Once upon a time I had possessed a pretty sharp mind and I began to apply it to what was happening around me. I saw every trick in the book. The speaking in tongues was never translated (which is NOT in accordance with the teachings on tongues in Scripture). The prophecies were nothing more than standard cold readings, the radical method of giving we were supposed to have ended up looking a lot like the leadership putting money where they saw fit. Apostle in the scripture is an advisory position, but it just seemed to gradually turn into a command position. We seemed to have a revolving door of broken people coming in desperately hoping to get better, not getting better, and leaving. They didn’t try enough, faith enough, weren’t vulnerable enough etc. Never was the system at fault, always the people the system hurt were at fault. Always there was a revival in some distant land that none of us could verify. I knew my Orwell and it was high time to get out, so I did.
It left me lost, dazed and confused. So I quit everything. Quite doing whatever it is that Christians do to be Christians. After about a year I made right with some old Christian friends. If felt so good to be loved again that I decided I would not rest until I read the scriptures! And thus brings you up to speed.
In a nutshell: Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism are the right and left of Christianity, and are nearly totally alike in their total disregard for scriptures that don’t suit them. Both are crap. The first offers a religion so devoid of anything that feels anything at all you wonder what could possible induce anyone to stay in it. Pentecostalism on the other hand offers a cornucopia of religions experiences! Of course they don’t really listen to the teachings of Jesus, so if that is what defines “Christianity” (you’d sure hope so) then both missed the boat.
But, really, if the Apostle Paul doesn’t have to obey Jesus (I can site evidence if that interests you) why the hell should anyone else? I get to the point where I wonder, REALLY wonder, if this is what we are supposed to be doing at all?