Hello everyone and happy holidays. It’s been a while since I’ve updated the site. I’ve been taking a bit of a break and focusing on some personal stuff here lately. With the new year I’ll be starting fresh and hitting the keyboard hard and I hope to be updating something here on a fairly regular basis again. I decided to break my silence today because I received a message earlier letting me know that someone had left a comment in an article I wrote back in July: Struggling With Faith and Belief. The commenter’s name is Rebecca, and she said that she had stumbled across the article this morning. I’ll go ahead and post her entire comment:
It’s Christmas Day. I found this page after a discussion with my agnostic husband. I was raised in the church. God seemed to “bless” me with an exceptionally analytical mind. I’ve been careening down this path towards unbelief for a few years now, asking those hard questions, trying to let go of the faith safety blanket. He gave us a thinking brain for a reason. I hold onto a thread of belief. This has taken me down dark roads. And many terrible things have happened over the last few years that add to the questions. Thank you for your honesty. My deeply spiritual mother has been the only “Believer” I’ve been able to be honest with about the depths of this struggle. I don’t know where I’d be without her. But even then, I need my own footing for when she’s gone. I hope you’ve found answers.
Rebecca’s comment really hit me where I’ve lived in the past few weeks, as I’ve had this very subject on my mind a lot lately. I’ve found that there are a LOT of people struggling with their faith. Most are afraid to talk about it with friends and loved ones because it’s not an easy subject to discuss. Most believers tend to go on the offensive whenever the subject is brought up, and most people who are struggling with these types of issues really don’t feel like getting into a heated debate where they’re bullied into toeing the line by well-intentioned people doing “God’s work”. It’s hard enough trying to figure this stuff out without feeling like you’re being interrogated or a lawyer fighting a court case. It’s a deeply personal thing. It’s a very difficult thing, especially if your spiritual beliefs have been a cornerstone of your life for a large period of time, as mine have been. My beliefs were more than just my religion, they’ve been my entire life the last fifteen years as I’ve went to school to study theology, psychology, social sciences, etc. in order to be a more effective minister, and as I’ve served in ministry both as a volunteer and full time as a licensed professional.
I’ve struggled with things off and on for a few years now, but it wasn’t until the last year when I started seriously questioning things and examining what I believe and why. I’ve come to terms with some things, as I mentioned in my previous article. I’ve both seen and experienced far too much to question whether or not there is a higher power/God. I know that there is. Where I still find myself struggling is in the day to day things. The finer things. The technicalities. I’m not sure what I really “identify” myself as anymore. I find that the more I think about what Christians as a whole believe, why they believe, and how they live their lives and express those beliefs (and more to the point, how that affects those around them) I’m not so sure the label “Christian” fits so much anymore, or more to the point, I’m not so sure I like what it’s come to stand for to people. I find I have difficulty in judging my own life and the lives of those around me based solely on the Bible- a collection of books that were found, translated thousands of times in throusands of different ways, and that we can’t prove that is the “infallible Word of God” no matter how much many people may believe that it is. The entire Old Testament is completely suspect, given the historical inaccuracies, contradictions, and the fact that many of the earlier “origin” stories (such as the flood account, for instance) were lifted from other, older cultures.
The New Testament has more going for it in that we at least have a good portion of letters that we can pretty much confirm were actually written by apostles of the first church, namely Paul and Peter, but we also have four Gospels, the only accounts of Christ’s ministry while He was on the Earth, that weren’t written by those who were actually there, but were written close to a century after His death and named after apostles to lend credibility. Two of the four Gospels (Matthew and Luke) actually lift a good portion of their text word for word from a single unidentified source, Q, and the rest from the influence of the book of Mark, among others. John doesn’t even bother to do that. I guess he didn’t have the same cheat sheet they did. That’s not to mention all the other apocryphal books that have also been found, often written by the same authors as those in the Bible, that didn’t make the cut for various political/spiritual/whatever reasons.
Anyway, it just doesn’t seem to be a very firm foundation to base an entire belief structure on- especially when said belief structure is used to determine how one should live their life and judge others by how they live theirs (even though the very texts themselves say specifically not to judge others, but then they kinda do, and so on. No wonder no one can freaking agree on anything). Personally, I just got tired of being down on myself and feeling guilty for being a normal human being. I got tired of being worried all the time about what everyone else would think of me and how I live my life and feeling like I had to put on this mask and be “perfect” for fear of losing my job. I got tired of seeing people passing down judgements on others, shunning them, shaming them, simply because they’re acting like the people God made them to be (God forbid! Don’t you know you must be like us?! One of us…one of us…). Its exhausting and disheartening and after well over a decade of it I’d just had enough of watching groups of people who profess to exemplify the love of God turning and feeding on each other like piranha.
That’s not to say that all Christians are that way, or even the majority. There are many who really do try to live good lives, that try to help others and be an example. They do very good works for those less fortunate than themselves. They try to live with integrity and compassion. That’s awesome. I also know quite a few non-believers who do the same just because they want to be decent human beings and don’t need God or a book to tell them to do it.
So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m still struggling to find the truth for myself. It’s an ongoing process and it’ll continue to be for the rest of my life, no doubt. I’m always open to a guiding hand or a word from On High, but until then I’m going to focus on living the kind of life that I think would make God proud- doing the best I can for my family and loved ones, treating others with respect and compassion, and always keeping an open mind while seeking the truth, not just jumping on the bandwagon and believing what’s easiest, the most popular, or the most comfortable. As before, I’m writing this not to goad anyone or to start a flame war/debate in the comment section. I’m writing it so that others like Rebecca can know that they aren’t alone and that there’s nothing wrong with using the brain God gave you to figure things out for yourself. It’s okay to doubt. It’s okay to ask questions. If it’s the truth and you are honestly seeking it, then you’ll find it (hey, that’s even Biblical!). Anyone who vehemently tells you any different is just afraid to do the same for themselves for fear of popping their spiritual safety bubble.
Have a safe and happy holiday everyone.
Update: I wanted to clarify something. In my little rant above I didn’t mean to imply that I don’t believe in any of it or that the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater, so to speak. We have evidence that shows Jesus was a real person. We can historically back up events of His life, death, and the early church. We have a pretty good idea about what He taught, and it was all good stuff. The point I was making is the same one I’ve been making for a while-where I’ve really been struggling with my faith is not with God/Jesus, but with the church and the accuracy/authority of the Bible itself and where I belong. I believe that Jesus is who He said He was. I believe that the events depicted in the New Testament, specifically the Gospels, are probably a solid place to start. What I do not believe is that they are word for word accurate, infallible, and should be used like ammunition against other people. I do not think that they give people the moral authority to lord over other people. I absolutely do not believe that Jesus would want His followers to do so in His name, especially to the point of harming others. It goes against the very thing that Jesus exemplified in the Gospels that those same people love to quote to validate themselves. “The Bible says…” is not a valid excuse for hate or intolerance, and if you can’t think for yourself outside of what a book says and check with the inner conscience God gave you to tell whether something is right or wrong then I believe you shouldn’t open your mouth in the first place. I believe that a relationship with God is so much more than what’s on a piece of paper and where you plant your butt once or twice a week. I believe that my beliefs are just that- my beliefs, and that every single one of you reading this right now should examine things for yourself and make up your own mind, worry about your own relationship with God, and mind your own business as opposed to being more concerned with how other people are living theirs. That’s what I believe.