Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rubicon

I've reached the point of no return with my exploration of Christianity - I'm going to have to see it through to whatever end -- stay or go -- I don't think I can just walk away at this point. Well, I can walk away but it won't be just fading away without saying anything, I'll have to talk to people about it before leaving  because I've made real friends now. As for the journey itself, I'm just trying to rely upon God for guidance - I pray and ask what I'm supposed to do and everything points to sticking around Christ Fellowship for now, so I'm sticking. Boy, I would love to just disappear.

Its the gay thing, plain and simple. I cannot reconcile what I personally know to be true and what is written in the Bible and that's where the insanity begins. If the Bible really is the word of God, if it transcends everything by virtue of that fact, if I am to disregard the drastic cultural changes since the words were written, if the words about women having sex with women are written exactly, literally as they are intended, then I'm done in. If I choose to live my life like I know is right for me, then I'm conciously choosing sin. I want to live in a way that pleases God, so there is nowhere for me to be in this entire universe.


If its true, what am I supposed to do? Be alone the rest of my life? Not have someone to share my life with? Never have sex again? Constantly wonder why God would make me this way but not want to actually be it. Am I to just blindly accept this dismal situation and try to find ways to adjust, be content with my lot (ha! Lot), work at being contentedly celibate? Am I to pray and pray for a life I can stomach hoping God reveals a new purpose that doesn't include a home life? Wait to miraculously receive a miracle that will render me happy with all this? I don't want to pray about this because I don't want it. 





What really, really bothers me is that there are so many "interpretations" of the Bible. If it is God's word, it should be self explanatory, no wiggle room, easy to read and be understood by all. In this world of constant updates and new versions, it would be nice if we could download Bible version 2000.1


And another thing that bothers me is that my friends have told me about other churches right here in this little town, that openly and happily accept gay people just like they are, not expecting them to change or be celibate...they'll take me just like God made me, no questions asked. I wonder why I'm not at one of those churches, where this would not even be an issue. 



And now that I've said that, some readers will be thinking something like "Well, Judy, God has another plan for you. God is going to work great changes in you, just wait and see. You're going to be amazed when you read this blog entry again next year. God can do anything, including changing a confirmed, determined lesbian like you." And other readers might be thinking "Have you lost your mind, Judy? Get out of there."


So, once again, I fall back on what Bruce Miller, the pastor at Christ Fellowship told me - Is God real and is He completely trustworthy? My answer is yes. So, that is all I need to know for now while I'm on this extremely uncomfortable journey. 

The preacher talked with me 
and he smiled.
He said, come and walk with me,
come and walk one more mile.
Now for once in your life you're alone.
You ain't got a dime, 
There's no time for the phone.
                                      - Robin Gibb



More will be revealed. Let it be sooner than later, please.






Monday, February 03, 2014

I Wish Things Could Be Nailed Down and Stay That Way

Some pretty pervasive and tenacious doubt has crept into my mind. I wasn't expecting it, but its really okay. I'm familiar with my brain's propensity to wild bouts of thinking one thing then thinking another - and never knowing which to really believe. I don't like always coming to the conclusion that I don't know and it sure seems like you don't either, but that's where I usually end up. Most of the time I'm fine with it, but sometimes it bothers me.

I made a decision, I guess its coming up on maybe two years ago, to suspend the beliefs I've always had or never had, and put my attention and heart into learning about Christianity. For the most part I've been successful at it, but lately I've wanted to hear something besides what people at Christ Fellowship have to say about God, Jesus, the Bible and such things. It started with Bishop Shelby Spong's  books from the '80's about rescuing the Bible from fundamentalism - he loves God and Jesus and is not into disrespectful bashing and separatism. Since I haven't yet bought into literalism when it comes to the Bible, his thoughts were easy to incorporate into my quest without derailing it. He raises valid questions that I have put on a list to investigate when the time comes. I especially want to avoid argument and I want to avoid, as much as possible, being told that "The Enemy" is at work on me if I bring up certain topics. Its not wrong to have legitimate questions and its not wrong to expect decent answers from people who say their entire lives are all about Jesus.

I was looking at the list of religious programs - movies, documentaries and other productions that kind of defy classification. I've watched a bunch of lackluster shows about various Bible characters and stories - they lack any real depth and many of them fall back on some kind of strange emotionalism and bad acting that make me feel a little foolish for watching them all the way through. I've watched several interesting National Geographic shows that attempt to combine Biblical claims with archaeological finds interspersed with learned professors giving their opinions.

A nice thing happened at church - everyone who signs up has access - as a gift from Christ Fellowship - to a website that seems to have some very good studies, videos, etc. on various Christian topics. So far I've gone through and made a list of the ones I plan to watch first, but haven't had time to delve into them.

Late one night last week, though, I was looking at various shows on Netflix and came across two documentaries - The God Who Wasn't There by Brian Flemming and the somewhat famous Religulous by Bill Maher. I'll just say up front that I like Bill Maher - he is smart and cynical, unafraid to ruffle feathers. I don't always agree with him, but I like his "in your face" way of presentation. He started out as a stand up comedian, so his style is at once offensive and appealing to me. Brian Flemming's piece seemed to be a product of a smart, but disillusioned young man who had the misfortune to attend a very strict and guilt driven Christian School for his early education. He took it seriously and he was hurt by it. He's turned against Christianity in a understandable but belligerent way.

Leading up to this, I also saw two episodes of popular animated shows - Seth MacFarlane's American Dad and Futurama by Matt Groening - both were spoofing religion. American Dad's episode was on the Rapture and Futurama's was about the robot character, Bender, getting religion in a robot version of Christianity - and then, of course, going back to his old ways.

If I had watched any of these shows at another time in my life, they wouldn't have impacted me very much. But coming during my Christianity Quest Period, I was stuck by the abject disrespect and disdain of the stories. I will admit that I did laugh during both of them - I mean, funny is funny.

Religulous focused on the obvious ridiculousness of modern religion that I think almost anyone, even real, practicing Christians would have found a bit silly. It deliberately avoided interviews with any serious and genuine people and organizations engaged in endeavors like I've found at Christ Fellowship. He didn't go out of his way to find anyone credible who able to speak intelligently about their faith. Those people do exist.
The upshot here is that I'm filled with skepticism because of the parts of each of the shows that just rang true to me - unavoidable facts and inconsistencies. There are times when I've noticed and consciously chosen to ignore, for now, things that just don't seem right or ring true and several important things that are just down right avoided, skipped over or explained away with a few pat words. I've been dismayed with the absolute lack of knowledge and the inability of so many Christians I know, to talk intelligently and with authority about Biblical things I find sketchy and can only conclude that they find sketchy, too 

I've noticed that many lifelong Christians have not explored the Bible on their own, much less read any further. Right now my conclusion is they are afraid - maybe afraid of stepping away from the status quo or by straying too far from what they've been told just in case they might sound wrong in the ears of their peers. That will only bring on choruses of "I'll pray for yous" and warnings that Satan, the Enemy, is at work. 


I think it is very difficult to stand up for something you believe in when the world is so ready to laugh at you. The Christians I've met are for the most part intelligent, well meaning, good people who lack the ability to stand up to criticism with responses that don't make them look, well, at best misguided and at worst, just plain dumb. I don't know why churches don't educate their members and spend the time to insure that they not only have a full and factual understanding of what the Bible says and what they believe, but the heart and courage of their convictions. As it stands right now, from my point of view, most Christians, when challenged, can only parrot back what they've been told verbatim, without much real understanding of what they're saying. They just know they believe and think that you should to.

I know the absolute barest minimum about Christian apologetics, I admit I didn't even finish the class I started at church. This is a topic for a whole other post, but from what I could see, the state of apologetics right now is part of the problem. To my untrained ears and sensibilities, the curriculum was full of smugness, tactics and strategies that encouraged a superior, condescending attitude that would be an automatic turn off to anyone being witnessed to. There was a lot of teaching about typical often heard arguments from non-Christians and exactly how to counter them - just shut those unbelievers down cold - always immediately followed by "but be sure to say it with love and caring". It was not presented with actual, real love and caring, so I could only conclude that the attitude was basically an act.

I, for myself, know there is a God who knows I'm here and is always ready to care for me when I ask. But, I tell you, the majority of Christianity just does not fit with my personal experience at this point in my understanding.

May All Beings Be Happy. Peace.




Sunday, January 26, 2014

Life Goes On in the Bible Belt

This is a quote from the book "Multiply" by Francis Chan. 
"Throughout history, humanity has not been able to shake the feeling that there is something wrong with the world. People have tried to blame God, political leaders, religions and just about everyone and everything else for the disappointment we feel about the state of the world. We see the problems in the crimes we hear about on the news, and also in the injustices and frustrations we experience in our daily lives. The problem even permeates the very thoughts that pass through our minds. There is something fundamentally wrong with the world and it pervades every aspect of our existence."
I, of course, can't say this for sure, but if I were to guess what my first coherent thought was as a child was, it would be SOMETHINGS WRONG! I've had that feeling my whole life right up to this very minute. I've had theories over the years but none of them turned out to be satisfactory. The closest I've ever come to developing a useful attitude about it all began when I started reading the works of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. His wonderfully ridiculous
stories explained to me how to survive without always wanting to punch people.


Yet the feeling, the sure knowledge that something is really wrong continues. I've had many reactions to this feeling over the years - bewilderment is the main one, accompanied by fear, anger, resignation -- fist shaking, pot smoking and general self-destruction -- then with a tiny bit of maturity on board, I just began to pay attention to what I can do to make things better around me and the practice of lovingkindness.

One thing that has come out of my exploration of Christianity has been a pretty clear cut reason for that pervasive feeling of why it feels like something's wrong. I can't say that I'm entirely on board with it in a literal way, but it is a deeply interesting story that resonates with truth, and when I look around me I see evidence of it everywhere. I'm talking about what the Bible has to say about what happened to people and God's incredibly long-range, basically incomprehensible and convoluted plan to set things right. 

In Romans 8: 19-22, Paul says that all of creation is groaning to be set free from the bondage of corruption. That is just profoundly true - I think I'm in tune with that groaning - for my own corruption and for everybody elses. And, I think this is what God's plan of redemption is basically for - to end all this mess we live in and, I'm not sure on this point, but make things like they were originally supposed to be before Adam and Eve asserted their humanity and messed things up. Only better.

I want to say that if what the Bible says about End Times is true, I find it very hard to accept that some people aren't going to get to be in on all the good things that are going to happen because for whatever reason, they were unable to believe what God want's them to believe. To cast unbelievers into a lake of fire seems pretty harsh to me - but I don't understand what motivates God and I don't understand his solutions - its just my job to believe it or not and then live accordingly. I have a very strong faith in God and I'm doing my best to understand and accept Jesus and how He fits in my life. I pray about it all the time and continue to study and listen to people I trust.


Bruce Miller, my wonderful pastor, put my mind at ease about all of this confusion and misunderstanding. He told me that no one, not one of us, understands everything about God and His plan. And, (this is me paraphrasing here) the way to stay somewhat sane while I'm going through this learning curve and period of misunderstanding and doubt, to ask myself these questions: Is God real and is God completely trustworthy??? My answer to both questions is absolutely yes. So, if those things are true, then live inside that knowledge while I continue to read, study, listen, explore and pray. I felt a huge weight lifted off my questioning mind when he told me that.

I'm so grateful for the knowledge and experience I have of Buddhism. The basic teachings (The Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path for starters) lay out a simple plan for living that closely resembles the teachings in the Bible, yet it just says it outright. "This is the problem, this is the solution". The problem with it for me is the fact that I had to do it all under my own power, and frankly, I just don't possess the kind of power it takes to really effect the right changes in my life and maintain them. With God, I can.

May all beings be happy. Peace. 









Friday, October 18, 2013

Blog Art

In the Sky by Judy Simon

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Jesus Falling

Jesus Falling by Judy Simon

Friday, October 11, 2013

Apologetics in the Bible Belt

I'm using the book "Defending Your Faith" from the Centers of Church Based Training a lot in this post.

The apologetics class I'm taking - Defending Your Faith - has been a challenging experience so far. I have to pay attention and concentrate when I read the materials - it usually takes me two or three hours to read, look up verses and think about it all. I usually start reading on Monday and then spend Tuesday afternoon really preparing for class Tuesday night. I talk way too much in that class and I get excited and talk over my classmates. I leave there every week telling myself that next class I'm going to be polite and let other people talk, but we'll see. I'm really into this class.

The point of the class is to give us an overview and a beginning to understanding what Christians believe, what other people believe and how to speak with kindness and knowledgeable authority about the Christian faith. I have been finding the materials really hard to read and understand - the first lesson took me hours and hours to read and comprehend. So, and this is an example of how God is working in my life, I prayed before I began studying the second lesson. I told God how hard it was for me and asked Him to help me have a clear mind and to understand whatever it was He wanted me to learn from the lesson. Since then, I pray before I study, and even though the lessons are still challenging, the difficulties and struggles I've had are gone and I can relate what I read to my own life. I'm grateful for this help.


Since 2005, I studied, practiced and immersed myself in Buddhism. I went to the Kadampa Temple in Arlington, TX, went on their retreats, took some classes, ate meals with the people there, talked to the monks. Meditation is difficult for me. I like myself and the way I am in the world when my head is full of Buddhist thinking - loving kindness and mindfulness. The Five Precepts, the Noble Eightfold Path, The Four Noble Truths. Its all real and its all true. I've spent time at the Southwest Vipassana Center and now I'm an old student there with privileges. This shift to exploring Christianity has really messed with my mind. It is such a complete and total shift in thinking and being. The things I learned from Buddhism are valuable tools that I will keep. I may go back, I don't know right now. I won't go back to the meaningless world of existentialism. 


I love the Bible and The Holy Spirit. I love God. I like the people at Christ Fellowship. I'm not sure I like Christianity.

"The Christian Mind" was the first lesson. When God created the world and all the living beings on it, he gave human beings a brain and a mind to use. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the garden bringing about the Fall, our minds fell, too. That, however, should not stop us from using our minds, such as they are, to seek and understand God's word. God reveals Himself to us in several ways. All we have to do is look around us and see what God has done. "God speaks to man through the created universe and proclaims His divine glory, although it is a message without words." Christians believe that the common rationality between man's mind and observable phenomenon is due to the Creator, who has expressed His mind in both. This is known as The Doctrine of Revelation. 

The Doctrine of Redemption holds that with salvation comes a renewal of our minds. However, there's a problem. Ideally, the  christian mind should be trained and informed, ready to handle the barrage of secularism in today's world. Harry Blamires said it well:

"The Christian mind has succumbed to the secular drift with a degree of weakness and nervelessness unmatched in Christian history. It is difficult to do justice in words to the complete loss of intellectual morale in the twentieth century church. One cannot characterize it without having recourse to language which will sound hysterical and melodramatic. There is no longer a Christian mind. There is still, of course, a Christian ethic, a Christian practice and a Christian spirituality."


Turn on the TV and you'll see what he's talking about. Christians almost always come off as ridiculous and shallow. Westboro Baptist Church doesn't help. Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy and American Dad) is constantly poking fun at Christians, the bible, God and Jesus - his work is hilarious and cringe worthy at the same time. The point is, most Christians cannot defend themselves or their faith against the prevailing scorn against them. God's Word and the Christian message has somehow gotten lost and this inability to articulate what Christianity is has really hurt the reputation and credibility of the faith. 

The Doctrine of Judgement. "If one thing is clear about biblical teaching about the judgement of God, it is that he will judge us by our knowledge, our response (or lack of response) to his revelation." The bible makes it clear over and over again that He expects us to know what he wants us to do and to set about doing it. Not a lot of people are up to the job. 

So enter Christian apologetics - a "growing and vibrant disciple will be someone who values an intellectual life and works at developing his mind carefully." Christianity is on the decline. Islam is rapidly replacing Christianity in Europe. Mormonism is making remarkable advances all around the world. The United States is more of a melting pot than its ever been. Diversity is the word of the day. If Christianity is to make a comeback, a dramatic change must take place right away. 


When I read my lessons for this class, I struggle with what I'm doing. When I concentrate on reading the bible, I make a connection with God. The Christians I meet at Christ Fellowship are great people who are generous and loving. They are sincere and willing people who want to do right and be good. Sometimes, though, they cannot talk about the Bible, their faith or why they believe what they believe. The church is dedicated to turning this around. I have a profound sense that I'm in the right place, at the moment, to do what I'm doing and I know that God is at work in my life. 



Friday, September 27, 2013

Confusion in the Bible Belt, Part 5

Ideas come from strange places sometimes, but I've asked God to give me answers to my questions so I'm trying to pay attention to everything. Of course, some amount of filtering is required, but in my experience, when I ask God for something an answer follows. I'm not talking about woo woo stuff and I don't mean it always happens immediately. I don't hear voices. It usually comes in the form of unusually clear thinking on my part that gives me a good, solid answer and I feel I probably wouldn't have come up with that answer on my own. Its nothing like a magic eight ball and I don't think I'd get them if I asked for the winning lottery numbers.

I've been successful at not inciting myself to riot over the gay thing for quite awhile now and I'm glad of it. Getting soooo upset over it didn't' help me or anyone else. But I'm still bothered by the absolute denouncement and negative message the bible delivers about homosexuality. It just doesn't jibe with my experience. Other sin's are obvious. Murder, adultery, stealing, lying, judging, idol worship...its obvious to most people that these things lead to problems. Gay doesn't fit. It just doesn't. I still don't agree with what the bible says. I know what I know. 

This afternoon I turned on the TV and Grey's Anatomy was on. I've never watched it, but it got my attention because a gay character on the show was about to come out to her very religious father with a priest there to referee. It was an intense scene because the father immediately freaked out. He said he couldn't figure out where he went wrong, that she was going to hell and then started to quote the usual anti-gay bible verses. The daughter was shocked by his reaction. I don't think she was expecting such unrelenting hostility, although I don't know why. Parents don't often take the news very well.

The daughter's response to her father was very interesting to me, though. He was throwing bible verses at her so she started throwing bible verses back at him. I looked them up...here they are:

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

John 13:34 A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another.

John 8:7 Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. 


Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And here's a brief recap of the other verses:

Matthew 19:1-8Romans 1: 18-32, 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11,  Galatians 5:19,  
Colossians 3: 5-7, Titus 1:16,  Jude 1: 4, 7, 19, Revelation 21:27

What bothers me, the thing I can't get past is if, to God, sin is sin, why is everyone picking on "the gays"? Why all the focus on us? Straight people are sinning, too. What's up with that?