Thursday, June 29, 2006

Christianity doesn't really work for me.

That's the simple truth of the matter. I guess I realized it the most deeply when I read Peacebang's post on the word "Lord." Her love doesn't come from the meaning or even really the symbolism, but from the affect the word has on her. For PB, the word "Lord" resonates.

I guess I'm immune.

The words in Micah PB frequently quotes do stir the soul a bit. But lots of things stir my soul.

"Cowards die many times before their deaths,
but the vailant taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,
it seems to me most strange that mean should fear,
that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come"*

Stirs my soul just as much, to be honest.

And even less dramatically phrased sentiments,

"It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier."+

The bible, and biblical terminology, has no special ability to move me.

I've known that for awhile, though. Linguist Friend had never been to a Christian Sunday Morning Church service before, so a few years ago I took him to Church of the Pilgrims, the Presbyterian church I grew up in. I really didn't like it. Reading prayers in unison, begging God for forgiveness with dramatic words spoken in a rote monotone. And people constantly talking about Jesus, what Jesus would have wanted, what Jesus expects of you. Nothing wrong with any of that if it's your thing, I've just realized how deeply and profoundly it is not mine.

I'm not angry, I'm even a little sad about it. My grandmother did have me quite scared of hell as a child, and the period of religious fervor I did have came from that. It in many ways had a lot of positive emotions, but that it was basically rooted in fear sort of depresses me. But my grandmother interpreted everything to her own ends, so I don't blame Christianity.

I do have a quiet sort of faith these days, a little stream flowing through my life. But it's not the bucking ocean of salvation and sacrifice that Christianity was. As a kid, I was God's warrior, out to valiantly resist the forces of evil and save my own soul in an epic struggle. Now the holy would like me to pick up a carton of milk on the way home, if that's OK, and if, by the way, I could do a little bit to help the people in my life strive for the highest and best, that would be nice.

I realize that's lacking in passion, but it's where I am.

The Christians I've known did not abuse me, they in the great majority have treated me well. My issue is not that Christians have done bad things, though they have. I do agree with Kim that it is a bit disingenous for the Christians here to pretend that the instutition of Christianity had little to do with that, though I get that people here are going for the good things Christianity encourages without the bad things it also tends to encourage. Kim's analogy that what they are saying is like pretending that the institution of slavery had nothing to do with slavery, slavery was just individual slaveholders is a more inflammatory comparison than I would have chosen, but I still think her basic premise has merit. My analogy would be have been capitalism, but I won't bother to fully sketch that one out.

At the same time, the drama of everybody's reaction to Kim's relatively minor verbal slights at the beginning of this suggests to me that Christians who feel they've been taking grief from athiests for years saw a few more shots across their bow than Kim actually fired. (Though, I have to say that I have a thing about passive-agressive "I'm sorry you took that rude thing I said as rude, a misunderstanding that occurred because you have the following flaws..." apologies, so I do have some sympathy for both sides. I had a boyfriend once who pulled the "saying something obviously insulting, then pretending that if you actually were insulted, you must be oversensitive" routine a lot. He and I didn't last long. If you're sorry, apologise genuinely. If you're not, don't apologise at all. It's just that simple.)

So I don't know what to do. I don't know what UUism should do. I agree with Jamie that I don't want the Christians in UUism to be hurting all the time.
But Christianity as a practice doesn't feed my soul the way a more humanist approach does. I'm OK with a balanced approach, but it sounds like a balanced approach isn't enough for the Christian folks. But what they want I don't think would work for me.

It's not because I'm a Christianity-hater, I'm not. That the Christian approach doesn't work for me just seems to be the way it is.


I would suggest letting people vote with their feet on what kind of services they want, but what people want isn't always what they need. I don't percieve Christianity is what I need, but I'm not going to completely deny the possibility. On beliefnet there was a lady who would occaisionally inform the angrier folks that they "needed Jesus." I always agreed with her that they needed something, though I would have had a different word for it.

So enough bitching at each other already. How do we make this work?


ADDED LATER: LF clarifies that he went to chapel and some Sunday services at boarding school as a kid. He also takes issue with my spelling.

*Shakespere's Julius Caesar, but you knew that.
+Heinlen's Time enough for Love, and yes I know that one's roots in Ecclesiasties, but I prefer Heinlen's take.


Anonymous said...

I ask that you read the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. It helped me get of of the fence and become a Christian. It presents a path, mostly for skeptics, to Christianity. It may also be that the Church you went to was not for you. When I decided to go to church I made a commitment to go to a different church a week, (Sundays of course) until I found one that spoke to me. What happened was at the second church I went to, the pastor did just speak to me, God spoke to my soul. Now I have been going for several months and am a better person for it.

Chalicechick said...

I have read it.


fausto said...

It may be surprising given some of my recent blog posts, but Christianity doesn't really work for me, either. Never has. I can't recite the creeds in good conscience. I deny the Virgin Birth and the Trinity, and can't figure out what to make of the Resurrection except to say that its meaning must be primarily figurative, but that feels like it would be a cop-out for a "real" Christian. I question whether the ego boundaries of the self can survive death as a distinct individual spirit. I'm not baptized. I've considered it, twice, but each time I've concluded that I'm too different to honestly feel like one of "them". I've tried to read "Mere Christianity", twice, and never finished it either time. It just didn't make enough sense to me to keep going. I did get all the way through Lewis's "The Screwtape Letters", in seventh grade, but I liked Mark Twain's "Letters from the Earth" a lot better.

And yet, and yet. Unlike some other UUs, my objections to Christianity are only theological, not moral. I admire Christian moral ideals (but not necessarily the way some Christians apply them) tremendously. And I am absolutely convinced that, however many souls have been hurt in the name of Christianity down through the centuries, it has brought joy and comfort to countless more. Other religions may come nearly as close, but in my estimation there isn't a more ethical or hopeful belief system out there than Christianity.

And I'm in love with the Bible. I can't read it as the infallible Word of God the way Christians are traditionally called to do, but I'm awed by it merely as the record of thousands of years of human testimony of the human encounter with the Divine. It's an incredible compendium of experience, a bonanza of wisdom and insight, that grips me and resonates with me like no other sacred writing of any culture or tradition.

The open secret of the "UU Christians" is that most of them are just like me: they wouldn't be able to pass for Christian anywhere else but within our four walls. They're simply too different. And what's more, for the last 200 years or more, they always have been. William Ellery Channing gave his "Unitarian Christianity" sermon only after 20 years of being refused fellowship by his supposedly fellow Congregationalists, and finally deciding that the rift was simply too wide to be able to repair. The objections to Christianity that our rugged UU individualists are continually discovering for themselves anew today are pretty much all the same ones that our predecessors discovered centuries ago.

I can't pass for Christian anywhere outside UUism, but within our walls, it's the "Christian" camp that I gravitate toward. Why? I think it's because my spiritual orientation and vocabulary is essentially Biblical. On the UU scale of measurement, if you've read the Gospels all the way through once without throwing up, you're one of "them", and if you regularly turn to them and a few of Paul's letters for guidance in life, well hell, you're indoctrinated.

So it's always dismaying to me when other UUs, with whom I share an inability to practice "real" Christianity, speak so scornfully of the faith that spawned our own as being nothing else but corrupt, evil, harmful. I don't see it that way. I see it as a treasured, invaluable legacy -- one with which we have always had our differences, but without which we have no foundation whatsoever. And when they imply that all Christianity is irredeemably corrupt, and fail to draw any meaningful distinction between "real" Christianity and the peculiarly distinct UU variety in delivering that verdict, and seek instead at every turn to suppress and bury our own authentic denominational heritage, it feels a lot like the same unwitting, self-righteous oppression that Christianity's critics ascribe to Christianity. Yes, it hurts.

Mystical Seeker said...

I think of myself as a "post-Christian". I actually have no use for the "Lord" language that Peacebang talks about, and I elabored on this in my blog entry here.
My point is that I would not confuse the question of using Lord language or the language of "salvation" with the interest in purusing a conception of a divine reality that emerged out of the Christian tradition. I think that the ideas of Spong and Borg have influenced me a great deal, although my biggest complaint about both of them is that they are trying to put new wine in old wineskins--the old wineskins in this case being the traditional Christian form of worship with its outdated creeds that even Borg and Spong don't believe in.

I have been searching for a middle ground between UUism and traditional Christianity (or the ideas of Peacebang's conception of Christianity). I have been participating in a discussion at the tcpc message board with someone who feels as I do.

Anonymous said...

Mystical Seeker -- are you aware of the American Unitarian Conference ? They are like Unitarian was 150 years ago. They probably have a website, but I know about them from Beliefnet In the UU section). You should go and have a look.

wolverine said...

i can give you reasons why is it better to be a deist than a christian . here is what we believe.

1. you rather believe that a creator lives somewhere outside our universe and believe its impersonal. you will never meet the creator or talk to him/her (prayer).

2. you rather believe that earth and universe would stay like it is and that the creator will never intervened in it to save you or to talk to you or to save the world from something bad happening like economic collapsed. theres allot of evidence of this as you look at the reality if someone want to challenge me with this reason bring it on.

3. you rather believe in afterlife but not like christianity told.
4. you can believe in a creator and afterlife without going to church.
5. you rather believe its good to say thankey for the creation of the universe to the creator without hearing him/her or meeting her/him.
6. you rather believe that the film bruce almighty is fantasy and it won't happen in reality .
7. you believe that jesus did exist but will never return . that means if you believe in jesus.

conclusion: if you don't want to be a christian believe this than it will still make you a better person and a normal human being. it won't effect your lifes such as mine.

im a deist and will be like that until i leave earth in peace and maybe in afterlife form . if the energy life of the universe is on a level to allowed it .