Tag Archives: Jesus

*Updated* Rant Alert: The Narrow Road- A “Struggling With Faith” Follow Up

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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.

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Rant Alert: Struggling With Faith and Belief

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The last six months have been very interesting for me, in a slightly scary and life-changing sort of way. I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions that, over the course of the last 16 years, I’ve not really allowed myself to seriously entertain. They’ve been questions about my faith and what I truly believe.

I’ve been a professed Christian since I was sixteen years old, participated in ministry of some form from that very first moment, spent over three years of college with a focus on theology, and have been a licensed pastor for the past seven years. I am, by nature, a very analytical person, so these questions of faith and belief are not new questions that I’ve never thought of before. However, when you’ve spent a great deal of time in the church, it doesn’t matter what denomination, the collective belief of those around you and the information you’re indoctrinated with tends to drown out a lot of these questions with faith-based responses. It doesn’t wipe the questions away, it just makes it a bit easier to write them off or push them into the background. I know because I found myself doing the very same thing when these questions were asked of me:

Q: “If God wants everyone to believe in Him, then why doesn’t He just do ___?”
A: “Well, He wants us to have free will and for us to freely choose Him so He doesn’t want to have to convince us by doing ___.”
or “Because God already gave us evidence of Him, now He wants us to have faith.”
or “Because He’s God, and there’s some things we just don’t understand. We just have to trust Him and know that He’s in control and everything works out according to His will.”
or any number of other canned responses. The question doesn’t really matter, as some combination of the above tends to do a fun little “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” faith-based jedi mind trick where you shrug and walk away not thinking too much about it because He’s God and you want to be a good Christian and not doubt Him. It’s about having faith, right?

This isn’t the first crisis of faith I’ve ever struggled with. I’ve had a lot of rough times in the last decade or so, and whenever things get rough it’s natural to question. It’s natural to look up and ask “Why? Why is this happening? Why aren’t you fixing it?” But there was always certain lines I wouldn’t allow myself to cross in my head because it was too scary. It was scary because no matter how bad things were getting my faith acted as a security blanket. I always had some hope that things were going to be okay, that God was there and He wouldn’t let things get too bad to the point where I couldn’t handle it. If I started picking away at that foundation I was afraid I just wouldn’t be able to handle what I found- either that I’d been wrong about everything, or that God would be disappointed in me because my faith was weak and I doubted Him. It was easier to just ignore the doubts and convince myself that I wasn’t ignoring the doubts, I just had faith. I wasn’t ignoring the fact that God wasn’t answering, I had faith. Then when something good would happen I’d praise God and give glory to Him and proclaim my prayers answered and hallelujah!

Not this time.

This time I crossed that line I’d never let myself cross. I started asking all those hard questions and wouldn’t allow myself to faith mind-trick them away. I started asking God these questions directly, waiting for a response. Any kind of response. I started going back and thinking about all the stuff I learned during my time studying theology and since, asking those questions I had then and not allowing myself to cop out with flimsy excuses. I started to pull a Descartes and tear down everything I believed, and I’m in the process of rebuilding those beliefs. Only this time I don’t want to “faith away” answers to questions, especially the difficult ones, because there’s just a lot of things that don’t add up for me. Here’s a few examples:

Q: If God wants the world to believe in Him, that He still exists, why doesn’t He continue to move in outright power that no one could deny? He expects us to just blindly believe in the testimony of people who lived thousands of years ago based on fragmented documents we happened to find?

Q: By that same token, why allow His missionaries to be martyred? Wouldn’t protecting those people in a supernatural way go further to show that God is real and he loves and protects His followers? Wouldn’t that be a much stronger witness for God?
Q: Why doesn’t God actively work to dispel all the in-fighting between groups that all claim to believe in him? Specifically extremist Islam, Judaism and Christianity? If we’re using the Bible as a basis of belief, God was pretty adament about people believing in Him, only Him, and went to great lengths to show who He supported. So why not move in a more outright and powerful way even among His own people? Why allow all the fighting, death, and misery- all in His name? Free will, blah blah blah. Well, God wasn’t concerned with free will when He hardened Pharaoh’s heart & unleashed the plagues on Egypt because Pharaoh wouldn’t let the Isrealites go, all according to the Bible. Jesus didn’t have a problem performing miracles to back up His claims. The early church did that kind of thing too. Why not so outright anymore when, because of technology, almost the entire world would be able to see?

Q: Many denominations and believers accept the entire Bible as TRUTH, some even to the point of saying that every single word is God-breathed and inspired and to question it is a sin. But what about the inconsistencies? (Did David kill Goliath or did his servant? Both accounts are in different books of the Old Testament- 1st Kings and Chronicles- for example.) What about the historical inaccuracies, especially when looking at the Old Testament. For example- the story of Jericho. The Israelites march around the wall of Jericho and when they shout the wall falls, right? Well, archeology doesn’t match up with that account. In fact there’s more proof that the fall of Jericho had to do with a class uprising, and that Israelites were already in Jericho as lower-class citizens and were a part of that uprising. That’s just one small example. In fact, how the Bible came to be the Bible we now know is a huge area of concern for me and always has been. We place all our faith into a book that was patched together by various fragments of books that we’ve found, and then it was voted on by multiple councils, all with different agendas- yet we’re supposed to just take it on faith that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and we’re not to question it at all?

To use the popular phrase: seems legit.

I want to be clear, I don’t blame God or Christianity or the church for my problems and doubts. I’m not on a crusade to prove that God isn’t real and the church is crap, but I don’t want to continue to blindly believe things just because that’s what the majority believes or because it’s how I’ve been taught. I don’t want to be willfully ignorant.  I don’t want to be afraid of what people will think of me because I’m asking these questions. I think it’s especially important in times like the ones we’re currently living through, where entire groups of people are being hurt, physically, emotionally, and mentally, because of who they are- often in the name of religion. I don’t care what the Bible says, if Jesus was who He said He was, I don’t see Him ever condoning the way that a lot of professed believers have been treating homosexuals, for example. It’s detestable and not at all the example that Jesus set in the Bible that they profess to believe in with all their heart. We’re supposed to act out of love, not hate; and there’s nothing loving about the attitude and actions I’ve been seeing from the self-professed men and women of God.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at, and I wrote this because I know there are a lot of other people out there struggling with the same thing. You may have questions you’ve always been scared to seriously ask. You may have doubts that you’re afraid to examine. I’m here to tell you that I’ve been doing those things and I’m still alive. I haven’t been struck down by lightning. I haven’t had God show up and tell me how displeased He is with me. It’s okay. I honestly believe God gave us our brain and our ability to reason because He wants us to use it, not just blindly follow like sheep.

If God is who He says He is, then He’ll understand.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions on sale for a limited time for $0.99 as a part of the Independence Day Sale! Be sure to take advantage!

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