Sunday, May 15, 2016
Losing my religion
I can’t remember the exact moment I lost my faith, or for that matter, why I even began searching. But I did, and once you start down that treacherous path, you can never return. Oh, you can try. Hell, You may even convince yourself it was all just a trick of the enemy, but deep down inside you’ll know the truth, and the truth is there are no answers….. just questions. And that’s the damnable thing about losing one’s religion, the loss of absolute truth, and the emptiness it brings. But out of that initial emptiness, there is a hope - at least in my experience - that transcends the feelings of loss and replaces it with wonder.
You know the fear and anxiety that take over the moment the roller coaster reaches it’s peak, and no amount of wishful thinking can postpone the inevitable. Well, it’s a lot like that, but if you’re a believer, and you get it wrong - in your subconscious at least - there’s hell to pay! But for some reason unknown to me, despite all the years of teaching and indoctrination, I was willing to take that risk, and begin a journey of the soul that would change my life, and how I view the world forever. And like all good journeys of the soul, this one began with a book. Well, sixty-six books to be exact……. the Bible.
Yeah, you read that right, I said the Bible. But if you’re going to question your faith, or anything for that matter, you need to go the source, and for a born again, fundamentalist Christian, it’s the Bible. Of course, I was aware of the contradictions contained within it’s pages, but I repressed any real inquiry because that would be considered a lack of faith, and a lack of faith, like I stated earlier, is tantamount to eternal doom.
Now you have to understand, I was taught the bible was the literal, ineffable word of God, and if a story could be taken literally, then it must. So, Jonah and the whale, David and Goliath, Adam and eve and Noah’s ark, along with countless other stories were, in the church’s teaching, actual historical events. So, what should have been read as a great metaphorical story, was turned into a declaration of God’s character.
And God’s character it seems, is a little schizophrenic. Well, to be honest, it’s not God’s character I’m questioning. It’s religion’s. So when I speak of losing my faith, what I really mean is I’m losing my faith, or more precisely, I have lost my faith in religion, not God.
And like I stated earlier, it was the Bible itself that began my journey from fear to hope. And though I’ve never claimed to be a biblical scholar, I’m not ignorant either. Besides, it doesn’t take a scholar to figure out the bible is full of violent, misogynistic, homophobic stories that if taken literally, not only glorifies humanities travesties, but downright endorses them. But, and this is an important but, there are many, many verses that speak of God’s unconditional love, grace, mercy and forgiveness, and it is in these verses that my soul found solace.
But many a well meaning, legalistic, Christian, upon hearing my heretical thoughts, would inform me - with the wild abandon of a child left unattended in a candy store - that I couldn’t pick and choose which scripture verses to follow. Yes, God is a loving God, they would say, but he is also a righteous judge, and you can’t just dismiss that, Chris. God needs to be feared! After all, if God went about forgiving everybody with impunity, where would the world be? Later on I came to realize that what they were really saying was this: If God forgives and loves everyone unconditionally, where does that put me and my self righteous indignation? It’s a good question, and the answer is fully in the arms of grace.