One of Thousands
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Kirkwall/The Free Marches
Current Game: Dragon Age II
Losing My Religion (LONG!!!)
(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"!!!
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. 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.
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.
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.
This next example might be the most insidious of all.
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:
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.