View Single Post
Old 02-13-2011, 04:16 PM   #4
Exiled Jedi...
jonathan7's Avatar
Status: Moderator
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Ivory Tower
Posts: 3,680
Contest winner - Modding  LFN Staff Member  Veteran Modder  Helpful! 
Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
(NOTE: This is an open letter that I first wrote to one of my best LF friends.)

I went to church this morning, mainly to spend time with my mom and dad and to cry out for help to the higher power/God in which I believe. However, the time in which I thought I'd be free to do so without fear, guilt, or condemnation was poisoned--ruined--by a rather Orwellian sermon. What I mean is this: In his novel 1984, George Orwell talked about the concepts of doublethink and doublespeak--thinking and saying two completely opposite things while believing in them both, completely. As a teenager and young adult, I didn't understand this at all, but now that I've experienced a bit more of life, I feel I have a good grasp of it. Again, let me explain. This whole THING is hard to explain, as shown by my use of the word "thing"!!!
Hey Tysyacha I'm sorry to hear this, and I will respond, I hope what I say will be helpful.

Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
Our church's pastor is doing a sermon series entitled "Losing My Religion". He's encouraging us, meaning the church congregation, to have a genuine relationship with God instead of focusing on "religion"--the do's and dont's, the rituals and prohibitions, the doing of specific things to win God's love instead of being--living--in God's light and love. Granted, I don't really know what it means to "live in God's light and love" anymore, but our pastor kind of takes it for granted that since we're all Christians and have been to church for years, we do--or should, at least--know what this means.
The statement "I'm in a relationship not a religion" is actually an idiom, I am a Christian, but being a Christian means I am "religious". I hear a lot of Christians say that "Christianity is a relationship and not a religion" but in truth I think they haven't really thought about what the statement entails and are just parroting what others have heard. I am a Christian, I have a relationship with Jesus, and that means I am part of a religion; belief in God is a religious belief, despite what others may try and say to the contrary.

Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
Anyway, that's the point of his sermon series on the surface. However, at least in my mind, if a sermon provokes far more questions, objections, and fear in me than peace and understanding, then something's wrong with it. Something's wrong with its premises.
Please feel free to forward the contents of this to your "pastor" should you wish... You may also wish to think about discussing it with him, I can't say if he would be helpful or unhelpful or if he is a "good" pastor or not.

Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
1) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about love--specifically how (God's) love is sacrificial and unconditional. This is consistent with what I've been (doctrinally) taught about God's love.

-1) On the OTHER hand, along with this message of love, he talked about the bad news--what I call "the catch": "Some people are condemned already, because they don't believe in Jesus."

If God's love is supposed to be unconditional, and "condemnation" means an eternal withdrawal of God's love--that's what I believe that Hell is--then isn't "belief in Jesus" a condition of God's love? If you don't believe in Jesus, say my pastor and church, then you will be judged guilty and separated forever from God and His love. How, then, can they honestly say that God's love is unconditional? To me, this is a crystal-clear example of what Orwell called doublethink.
In any discussion it is helpful to clarify terms, in this case what does your pastor and you think the phrase "unconditional love" mean? For me, I don't think "unconditional love" exists, in fact I think it a meaningless phrase.

A couple of observations, firstly Jesus said not to judge, while I would say there is both heaven and hell, it is not mine, or any other humans place to say who will be in either. If you believe in a loving God, then it is far more traumatic to the said deity that some of the beings he created are going to hell. What is the need for hell?

But, I ask you, you have a criminal who has committed a crime, lets say any of armed robbery, rape or murder; what do you do with the said individual? Do you leave them among the said populace? Lets say you have a serial rapist or a serial killer; what do you do with them? Lets say its a serial killer that psychologists say has a 100% re-offendal rate (most serial killers have a 99% re-offendal should you think this unrealistic). It would seem to me if you apply what your saying here, then they said above individuals should be allowed to continue in the general populace...

So I also ask you a simple question; where should individuals like Hitler go when they die? It's upto you, if you were God, what would you do with them? I mean should he be in the same place as the millions he killed?

It would also seem to me that if we are going to account for what is known as "Sin" in Church circles or more commonly "Evil" then it would seem to me God thought our freedom of choice was so important that he would no stop it, even if the consequences are drastic; see the state of the world, with millions dying etc etc.

Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
2) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about the very beginning of John 3:16. It says, "For God so loved the world..." Meaning, God loved all the people in the world, from the beginning of time until the end of time. Fair enough, say I, because as my pastor also exclaimed, "God IS love!"

-2) On the OTHER hand, he talked about how WE, as HUMANS, not just as Christians, are "born bad". If God despises evil--things that are bad--which I'm sure my pastor and I both agree that He does, then how can God love US if we're BORN bad/evil? If God loves all the people in the world, from the beginning of time until the end of time, and yet such people are every-single-one-of-them BORN evil, then the concept of God's love makes no sense at all. It's utterly contradictory, and another brilliant example of what Orwell deemed doublethink.
Is the above actually an accurate summation of the truth, or what some standard doctrines are? Another question can also be asked can two seemingly contradictory things be true at once would be my first question? I would dispute that all individuals are born evil, there seems to be a great over-emphasis in certain Christian circles on the "evil" of man, which seemingly forgets we are also made in the image of God. The said above also ignores that certain individuals such as Abraham, Moses and various others where seen to be "righteous" in the eyes of the Lord. I cannot know where others stand with God; it's upto Jesus, but will there be Muslims in Heaven? I don't know that's upto Jesus; I certainly hope so!

This next example might be the most insidious of all.

Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
3) On the ONE hand, my pastor talked about how living in God's grace and mercy means "you have nothing to lose (because you've gained salvation through Christ) and nothing to prove (because you don't have to try and win God's love anymore. Jesus did all the 'proving' for you)."

-3) On the OTHER hand, his view on salvation is called the "perseverance of the saints," meaning that if you not only continue having faith, but also if "your life reflects your faith in Jesus" (meaning you do enough good deeds and don't swear/don't drink/don't slander or gossip/don't cheat, etc.) THEN you will be saved. He made the point that "you can't just pray a prayer that invites Jesus into your heart and then live your life sinning all you want." Fair enough--I hate hypocrisy anyway. However, isn't this another condition of God's supposedly unconditional salvation? I'd hate to be on my deathbed worrying if I'd been pure enough, and done enough good deeds, to be authentically saved. Underneath all of my pastor and church's pious words and rhetoric, is it REALLY the truth that I have everything to lose (my salvation) and everything to prove (myself and my "genuine relationship with God") through my good deeds? I was wrong--there is a fourth example that blows the previous three away:
Lets swap this point around though, I have friends who were drug addicts and gang members, and having become Christians, they have totally turned their lives around. They don't do good because they have to, or that they are force or to prove themselves. They do good, because they are thankful for what has been done for them, and they want to make a difference to others. It would seem to me that is very different to having to do something for Salvation.

Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
4) On the ONE hand, my pastor made the point that God wants a real relationship with us.

-4) On the OTHER hand, he also made the point that "our response, and our relationship with God, must be genuine (in order for all of this to work)." However, he never told us who decides what is and is not a "genuine" relationship with God. Supposedly, God should and does, but he never said that explicitly. That worries me. Thoughts? I have a knot in the pit of my stomach...
I think it another meaningless statement myself, what is a genuine relationship? Is the relationship between a loving father and a loving daughter any more "genuine" than the relationship between an abusive father and a fearful daughter? In my experience God is faithful regardless of the way we act, and there are various examples in the Bible of God being faithful to those who are acting very differently towards him.

Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
Note: Why have I done the 1) -1), 2) -2) enumeration that way? As you can probably tell, it wasn't just to list my points, one by one. What is 1 + -1, 2 + -2, etc.? That's right, zero, and that's why I feel so empty inside instead of full right now. I don't really understand--about God's love, about Jesus, about salvation and condemnation/going to Hell, and especially about what a "genuine relationship with God" is. I also don't understand what "losing my religion" would free me from--at least as much as my pastor understands the concept of "losing my religion". Do I make any sense at all? Perhaps not, but that's about as much as I can explain it.
Forget all of this discussion; Jesus loves you, right now, he loves you if you are a Christian or not. Now many Christians to me, do not actually really soul search and evaluate their lives or what they believe. I think you are doing that right now, with regards Jesus, do I think I am deserving of his love? The answer to that is complex; as I think it both yes and no. No because I sin, and am deserving of punishment, indeed, I think I am more guilty as I am far more aware of my actions as I am a Christian, than those who do not know what they are doing. (Think about Jesus statement on the Cross "Forgive them farther for they do not know what they are doing). I also think yes I do deserve love for a variety of reasons not least because I am a Child of God and made in HIS image.

Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
Right now, I feel lost. Used up. Discarded. Thrown away like trash. I lost my job--I was used and expended as any "human resource" would be, and then laid off when there was no longer any money to pay for my continued usefulness as an employee of my workplace. I was forced to move back home, which I did NOT want, because I'm running out of money and my parents are the ones supporting me right now (along with unemployment and government charity). I have no right on Earth to ask such questions, and no right to feel this way, because of my circumstances and my supposed status as a Christian. At least, that's how I feel right now.
You have every right to question and think things through, the Bible speaks of people "wrestling" with God. And I think this is far more honest than a lot of so called Christians I know who have never dealt with such questions. At the Churches I have attended I have often been told that I should read Nietzsche, and other atheists as I would loose my faith. However I want to believe what is true and as such if what I believe is true I shouldn't fear anything else, if that is true then I should want to know it.

Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
I feel abandoned, and like no one understands. I feel like if the people around me knew what I really thought, and how I really felt, then they would judge me negatively, and condemn me (withdraw their friendship/love/etc. from me, because I'm "supposed to be a Christian" and not the way I am right now). Am I an ungrateful--er, female dog in heat? Perhaps, but I keep feeling guilty because I KNOW I shouldn't feel this way, and yet I do. I also feel guilty because I keep suspecting that the "love" I'm experiencing from others comes with strings attached.
I think that if people really love you then they won't withdraw from you for being honest, I can only speak of my dads love, but his love doesn't come with strings attached; with my mum it is far more complex. A problem that I think exists in the Church is people being unable to be honest, for my, I would not judge or condemn, it is not my place but I would help where I can. If that is the case where you go I don't know.

Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
If my pastor wants me to "lose my religion", then I have good news for him: I already have.

I've lost a lot more than that, too, and I find it absolutely impossible to "get over it" and "deal with it" like every good Christian should. I feel a void inside of me, a "zero". This is MY truth.

I don't think real Christians ever "get over it", "deal with it" - I don't think those are actual tenants of the Christian faith, they may well be tenants of the west and the so called protestant work ethic. But I don't think they are something Jesus would ever teach - where do you see him saying to people "get over it" or "deal with it"? He doesn't as ultimately I don't think that is a loving response.

I hope that this has been helpful!

GB j7

Originally Posted by Pho3nix View Post
I think your problem is that you're trying to be logical with something that is inherently not.
Originally Posted by Tysyacha View Post
^^^ This. However, another problem that I have is that I find it difficult to turn off my brain and just go with my emotions when it comes to this sort of thing. I find it hard to just BELIEVE something without wondering WHY or IF it should be believed. I'm weird! :P
Are any of us entirely logical, I try to be logical but we all have our cultural biases, utlimately perhaps Darwin expressed it best; “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

Tysyacha, I think you should be encouraged to always thinking about the WHY and IF of any belief. It maybe not the norm, but individuals such as yourself do not commit acts like the Holocaust, to many individuals go about their lives without questioning. And if God exists do you think he wants mindless followers? I think not, especially when you consider the disciples Jesus chose, think of Peter, he continually got it wrong.

Perhaps I should leave you with a quote;

"While spiritual insight or faith is one valid measure in spiritual matters, true spiritual insight never directly contradicts valid intellectual insight or facts in the physical world. Faith may go beyond reason, but does not go against it. It never blatantly contradicts the facts which we perceive with our God-given common sense. Faith and fact point in a single direction. Whey they do not, something is seriously wrong…A willingness to accept facts as they exist, and to learn to use them to test the views one holds rather than falling back on subjective experience or rationalizations, is the first step towards discovering genuine truth." (Charles Larson, By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, pp. 177-178)

"Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation." - Rabindranath Tagore

"Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see truth through it but it divides us from truth." - Kahlil Gibran
jonathan7 is offline   you may: quote & reply,