|3 years ago :: Nov 24, 2009 - 1:56PM #81|
Wow, what a spectacular thread! I came to Beliefnet yesterday, hoping that I would find even just ONE person out there who believed similarly to me. Now I've found a whole bunch of you!
When I was a small child (an only child being raised by a single mother), my mom would take me to a Congregational Methodist church. Funny thing, I knew that was their denomination, even though my mom never noticed/remembered it, because I was thrilled by the challenge of learning the huge word 'congregational' as a child. Haha... Anyway this church was wonderful. There were only a few hundred members, and some of them drove almost an hour to get there, because it was out in the country. They were so down-to-earth and loving, welcoming everyone, not judging. No one cared that my mom was divorced and raising me alone. What should that matter? They were our family. When she was laid up with major surgery, they brought her food and company. On Halloween, we had costume contests for the kids and hayrides. I remember the pastor sitting on the front steps, casually strumming on an acoustic guitar while he waited for everyone to arrive Sunday morning.
Then we moved across the country and there were no churches like that. I tried a Baptist school one year, thinking it might be similar. It was the complete opposite. Forget costume contests - Halloween was "the devil's birthday." I was treated like a freak of nature to be pitied and kept at a distance because I came from a "broken home." Everything from television to blue jeans was evil. They were the coldest people I'd ever met.
Unfortunately they turned me away from Christianity completely. I went from loving God to hating anything having to do with him. I had learned that the people at that school represent a big portion of 'Christianity' in this society, and that the people at my hometown church were the rare minority. It was a crushing realization. So I wandered around as a teenager and young adult, learning about different religions. One of the first things I found was Taoism (the Lao Tsu philosophy, not the religion). I'd already had thoughts about its principles, on my own. It felt like instinct to me, but I knew it was so different than anything I'd heard before, people would probably think I was nuts if I tried to express it (plus it's a very hard thing TO put into words). Then I read the Tao Te Ching in a bookstore one day and started crying because I was so shocked to find it all right there, in black and white!
Of course I bought the book, as well as The Tao of Pooh, and adhered to the philosophy immediately. I later got involved in Wicca and some Celtic pagan traditions, and I still have a fondness for the latter. But then in 2002, I started feeling a draw toward Catholicism. I started researching it, and thinking about it, and then when something big and personal happened in my life, I found comfort in Christ's teachings of forgiveness. I though, "Okay so maybe all Christians aren't like those Baptists were." I watched the mass on EWTN and thought it seemed so peaceful and nice. So I converted.
My local priest is a wonderful man - very sincere and loving. But he is the minority, I've learned AGAIN. I feel like deja vu, like I'm learning the same lesson I learned when I was 12, all over again. My world is being ripped apart, everything I thought I knew is poofing in front of me like a magic act. It was all smoke and mirrors. All empty. It's too much about judgment, and "right and wrong," and who's worthy in their eyes and who's not... As a last resort, I reached out to a big catholic community online, and the second response I received was from someone whose screen name started with "fr," indicating he's a priest, which honestly frightens and sickens me. His reply was full of name-calling insults, mockery, and derision. He basically said I wasn't a real Christian anyway and good riddance. That cinched it for me, definitely the last straw. Now the 'rock' on which I built my faith has crumbled like a house of cards, until all that remains is a little pebble.
That pebble is Christ and his teachings. That's the ONE thing I never - even when I was militantly anti-Christian - never ever lost belief in. It's like that bumper sticker that says "Lord, save me from your followers." Or like when Ghandi said "I like your Christ. But your Christians, not so much." The past 24 hours, I've felt like I was falling down the rabbit hole in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I didn't know when it would end. How much was I going to lose? How much was this going to change my life? What was I going to do now? I have suffered from depression for years, and boy did this REALLY send me into a sudden spiral of depression. I felt so hopeless, so alone, so lost. The dust is finally starting to settle, and that pebble is still there, even though the rest has vaporated.
Yes there was a man named Jesus, who lived in Nazereth. His mom was named Mary and his father Joseph. His father was a carpenter. That's about all I will consider fact, as far as 'history'. How the heck am I supposed to know whether Mary was "ever virgin"? How can we know whether Jesus ever had a wife or remained celebate? Those things were never included in the Bible, and even if they were, like so many things that ARE in the Bible, they're irrelevent to Jesus' teachings. And those teachings are the only thing that REALLY matter, at the end of the day. People can - and have - debated the abstract questions of the trinity, purgatory, literal interpretation of creationism, whether the Eucharist is Christ physically or only symbolically, and so on and so on. Countless people have died over these arguments. How sad...
I recently volunteered several times to ring the bell for the Salvation Army's red kettle drive. Within the first half hour of my first night doing it, a guy came up and started preaching at me, quoting the Bible, telling me I'm supposed to go out and preach to other people. Well, I thought that's what I was doing - through my actions. I can't remember Bible passages word for word, and recite their chapter and verse. Does that make me a 'bad Christian'? I'm out there volunteering my time in the cold and rain for a charity that actually DOES what Christ taught us to do - feed the hungry, clothe the naked... That says a lot more than words can ever say. I'm grateful that man preached at me because it reminded me how important sincere action is, and how empty words can be.
I felt so sad, giving up the Catholic faith. I'm going through a grieving process, just like if a loved one had died. But I'm starting to feel more and more free. I feel like, whatever you want to label my faith now, it's more pure than ever. There are no trappings and hypocrisy to cloud it. Maybe 'progressive Christian' is the most accurate label, now that I've read the explanations here (that 'letter' was awesome, btw). But to the original poster, I'd say you don't need a label. You know what you are, God knows what you are, that's all that matters. Live your faith, and people will see it more clearly than any word you could attach to it. Unfortunately, like a couple other people here have said, there IS a negative connotation to the word 'Christian' in our society today. That's why I avoid it myself. The word literally means 'little Christ', so it's accurate in and of itself. But when you say it to the common person, they have their own mental associations with it, and I'd like to be free of that. I'm still finding my path, but I think I'm heading in the right direction now.
My thanks to you guys for having this forum. It's so comforting to know there really are other people out there who feel the way I do. God bless you all.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
"Be the change you wish to see in the world."
"It is not our differences that divide us, but our inability to accept and celebrate those differences."
|3 years ago :: Nov 24, 2009 - 2:15PM #82|
WELCOME to the Progressive Christian Forum (Community). Yes, there are plenty of people who think outside the boxes. My early church experience was Southern Baptist. I discovered a lid on the box and jumped right on out as an adult.
Unity was the first Progressive Christian church I attended. Lately, I am my own church, since I am not attending a building any more. Our bodies are temples, so therefore we take our church with us every where we go. IMO.
Thanks for a great post. At times the forum can be slow, but please return and feel free to start a thread.
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|3 years ago :: Feb 01, 2010 - 12:36PM #83|
The priest at the Catholic church I attended was quite controversial. I would say a little like Bishop Spong - quite fearless in the face of hierarchy. He was very progressive and taught us such a lot about Jesus and how to live His way.
He said things like ;"To be a follower of Jesus is to walk with Him through all the problems and sufferings of life."
"Being a follower of Jesus means that where I was intolerant before, I am more tolerant now; where I couldn't show compassion before, I can be compassionate now; where previously I would be impatient and judgmental, now I must be filled with understanding and with patience."
"This is how we know Jesus is Lord of our lives: It is when we see with His eyes. It is when we hear with His ears. It is when we have a vision of His vision for other people.His love is without limit or prejudice or nationality or colour. It is for all people. And if we call ourselves Christian then, we too, must love like He did/does."
So I actually prefer to call myself a Follower of Jesus. I want to be like Him and Him alone.
I cannot call myself by any denominational name any more. I must be true to how I feel.