I have been asked by (challenged by) a reader to expound on my faith.
Seems he's sort of put off by my "overt expressions of Christianity." I think I'm psyched to have a reader other than Smitty or Scott in Chicago! Woo hoo! Thanks for finding me, my brother!
I totally understand. I'm put off by "Christianity" on the whole also.
So before anyone is overly offended by my mentioning that I believe in God or that I prayed with someone in my office, let me just say that just because I've accepted God into my life and I actually believe in Jesus, doesn't mean I want to force, cajole or pressure you to do so as well.
I read a lot of journals by people who aren't into God at all or who are outright angry or against any organized religion (one of my favorites is actually comedian Joe Rogan who went on a TEAR about Christianity recently. I found it kind of gross, but he's got great and valid points! I'm all for those points being expressed!)
No more than I would want to forcibly convert someone, I firmly hope others will be as respectful and not try to convince me that God sucks, or berate me for thinking he doesn't. I believe that if you've heard the message and have chosen not to believe, it isn't my place to try and win you over to our team... It isn't my place to be a "tool" for God to make you see the benefits of salvation. You've heard, you've rejected, or you aren't sure... whatever. It's all good.
if you change your mind someday and want to talk, let me know. Otherwise, it is what it is and you're okay by me...
After all, religious and social intolerance seems to have gotten us into a jihad with some Muslim dudes. I'm not trying to convert anyone. My faith just is what it is. I'm not trying to witness and say "oooh, you need to believe because God loves you! You're going straight to hell otherwise! Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour Now!" If you've heard it and it doesn't jive with you, that's quite alright. Okay?
A little background on where my head is it while we are here, while we're on the subject. I went to an evangelical Christian college. I was there from 1984 to 1990 (it took me 6 years to achieve my BA because of lack of money... it was an EXPENSIVE evangelical Christian college). Before college, and the reason that I chose to go to a Christian college, I'd been a few years in an intervarsity group called Campus Life/Youth For Christ. I got invited by a girl named Kate Falvey, who I always thought was just a rich snob, like all the people I knew because everyone WAS rich in comparison to me. But Kate was in my homeroom, she thought I was bright and funny (really? what ??? you're joking!), and invited me.
The very first youth group meeting I attended was at the home of Jenny Higgins, another girl who I believed was just another wealthy girl who would never be my friend. I couldn't believe I was sitting there in her house! Another long time friend, Mare Hemli, was in this group too, so I was surprised to see her. I had no idea she was part of this.
The Higgins Family had a baby grand piano in their living room. They had two staircases in their house. I had a bedroom that was 7x8 in dimension, and lived in a co-op project in the "station."
If it wasn't so far from my house, I think I would have walked away. But I stayed. The people were really friendly, the discussion turned God related, I started to panic. I turned to someone sitting beside me and said "what's this some kind of Jesus group or something?" Um, yeah. Duh?
I was kind of mad. I'd been suckered into a youth group meeting. But I kept coming back. Eventually I made the leap of faith so many teenagers do and committed my life to the Lord and I've believed ever since. (See below for the belief thing)...
Some say that's how cults work. They pull in the stupid rejected poor kid and brainwash them into believing stuff. Sure. It is true. But I was being offered something I needed, which was a group of friends, and salvation. No one had really spent the time talking about God in any way shape or form with me, so I'm glad this was an on the level group instead of the Heaven's Gate people or something. I'm a lucky gal.
When you are fifteen you are touched on a more visceral level by God than you are as an adult I think. I "accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior" and was fully involved with the youth group. And through life I've faced a LOT of challenges and crisis, and I honestly believe my faith kept my head on straight and kept me from wigging the hell out and flying off a cliff.
On the scale of 1 to 10, I am probably in the 3 to 4 range for what you'd "expect" a "christian" youth to be like, especially a girl. I am into the Grateful Dead and a lot of British art rock music instead of Amy Grant and Keith Green. I am brash. I don't go out to convert the heathens. I was satisfied with the level of faith I had achieved personally, I knew then as I know now that most of the people surrounding me already had been offered the same option of serving the Lord through their lives and actions, so I knew any conscious attempt at me "saving" them would be an out and out fraud.
When I told my fellow Campus Lifers I was going to aforementioned expensive evangelical college they all laughed. They said it would be kind of like Jerry Garcia going to the Pope to offer him a bong hit.
I met a lot of people who were really far to the left, and a lot of people who were fanatically conservative. It was at college that I realized how middle of the road I was in my religous faith, and I was really happy with that.
I liken my Christian experience to the history of the band U2. You all know I'm a great big fan. If you listen to their earlier albums, there is a lot of sincere, youthful, very religous content. Over time, they grew and their faith is still there but not in your face.
I think their strongest faith statement comes in the song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" when Bono sings:
"I believe in the Kingdom Come
When all the colors will bleed into one, Bleed into one.
But yet I'm still running.
You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains,
Carried the cross and all my shame. All my shame.
You know I believe that.
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for."
I think there is still a lot out there that is unanswered. I believe at the core of my being that I hold very few things to be unalienably true, so one might actually classify me as an agnostic...
I believe in God.
I believe in Christ.
I believe in the Spirit that moves among us.
I believe we are all born into sin, and no one on this damn planet is truly innocent. I hence believe in the New Testament, the New Covenant. Christ was born, Christ Crucified, Christ risen.
And that's the hard core, non-negotiable ground level foundation of my faith.
Other beliefs that grow out of the above mentioned are:
I believe that God also has other methods of communicating with and challenging people on earth. I accept people who believe in alternatives: I think that it is better to believe in something as opposed to nothing. If you are into Wicca, Space Aliens, survivalism, Islam, homosexuality, whatever... That's fine. As long as you've put some thought into where you are and are kind and grounded, I'm happy to meet you.
I think that faith in anything is much better than a lack total absence faith, and I believe on the whole that people who have some connection to something other than this mortal coil have something good going for them.
And if you want to sit and break bread with me, be you a Gay Methodist minister, a divorced Catholic woman, a searching for something Chinese national, a Jew, a Buddhist -- come on over. I've got some nice sourdough and wine here. We can also eat cake or a pizza. Whatever you like. It is what it is. And I'm glad to know you. I think that even though I'm politically conservative on a lot of levels and yeah, that whole Christian thing, I'm still open. I was open at 15 when I accepted, and at that time I never closed my mind.
If after reading all this (and congratulations to you if you've made it this far and haven't wandered off or gotten pissed at me or something) you think that I'm some sort of hypocrite because I swear, or I drink, I've got news for you. I'm human. I've got blood that runs through my veins, I have a emotions, sometimes negative, and a kind and giving heart. I think that overall my deeds and actions are good, although I may say something here that may contradict what YOU think a good Christian is. As I mentioned before, that's been the perception of me all along. Like Jerry Garcia meeting the Pope and offering a bong hit. Jerry Garcia had his flaws, but overall, I think he was probably a really kind guy. Better than any overtly zealous biggoted Christian, and I'd rather hang out with him (if he weren't dead) any day instead of Jerry Falwell.
Joe Rogan writes in his journal that "There are three kinds of people in this world: Morons, Assholes and People You Want to Hang Out With." I hope I find myself in the later category for most of you. I know I'm all set with God. For you to accept me, I shouldn't have to wear certain clothes, act a certain way, drive a particular car. If you don't like me, that's all fine and good. But if you've made it this far into my diatribe, I guess you're at least interested or care and for that I thank you. Welcome. Glad to know you.