Saturday, June 28, 2014

Is God Real and Is He Completely Trustworthy?


This post is about sin. It rabbit trails around like my writing usually does, but its about sin. And the Bible and salvation.

Is God real and is He completely trustworthy? For me, that's an easy question to answer. Of course God is real and absolutely He is completely trustworthy. Overall, are people completely trustworthy? Historically, no. Sometimes its not deliberate to be untrustworthy, it just works out that way. When I think about the Bible, I always think about that kid's game of where you all sit in a circle and the first person writes down a sentence. Then the first person whispers the sentence to the next person and then the next whispers it, and so on around the circle. 



100% of the time, the sentence the first person wrote down does not even resemble the sentence the last person in the circle speaks out loud.

I'm not a bible scholar. I am studying the bible, but it is slow going because its really hard to understand what's going on. You have to understand the context, who's talking to who, cultural references and sometimes you need to know that the original Greek word or Aramaic word has several meanings depending on the situation. This leaves the meaning up to interpretation and its people, human beings, doing the interpreting.

I'm not saying the bible isn't the word of God. It certainly has a magical quality to it, it comes alive at times when I read it and the people in the stories are oddly, deeply relatable. There is something very special about it. I think God speaks to us through the Bible. (That's not my thought. I had a wonderful conversation with the priest at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Father Michael, and he said that to me - God speaks to us through the bible.)

This is where I am in my understanding now: If I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he died on the cross and was resurrected to life, and that this act saved me from my sins, then I will be with God when the end times come. That is THE bottom line in Christianity. The thing that seems to be a huge source of confusion is SIN v. GETTING INTO HEAVEN. People tell me all the time that I'm not getting into heaven because of the gay thing!!

So, why all the preoccupation with sin? I think we are hurt by sin and it hurts God when we hurt. God doesn't want us to be hurt - if you read the Old Testament you might find that statement hard to believe, because God did some awful things to people and expected them to do some pretty gross things. Life was very, very hard for Old Testament people. I don't understand the big change in God's demeanor from the Old to the New Testament -- maybe Jesus' horrible experience and then the coming of the Holy Spirit tempered God a lot. I sometimes think people have PTSD from the Old Testament. That would help explain the knee jerk reaction I get when some people find out I'm gay and then proceed to tell me I'm going to hell.



But life got a lot easier for people after the coming of Jesus Christ. We have a way to deal with sin and be forgiven. I want to be forgiven for my transgressions and I want to stop sinning as much as possible. But sin and salvation are not connected. A good friend of mine told me that sin is like dirt on a window between us and God. The more you sin, the more dirt gets on the window and the less we can see God. That is a fantastic visual analogy about the way I think about sin. I want my window to God to be as dirt free as possible. Jesus gave me the incredible gift of salvation, now in return I want to live my life in a way that would be pleasing to Him.


I was reading a book of the bible called Galatians. Paul was speaking to the people in the church in Galatia, who had strayed back to the old way of life they were living before Jesus came. Paul was really trying to live in the freedom Jesus gave us.
Some of the Jews who did not believe that Jesus is the Messiah had infiltrated the church and convinced the members there that they needed to start living under the old laws like they had before. These laws were very strict and limiting. Paul was kind of astonished that anyone would want to go back to the old ways when the new freedom that Christ had given them was so wonderful.
 The take away from the story in Galatians for me is there is true freedom in following Jesus. He saved us from our sins, he released us from the old laws of the Jews, and he set us free to live our lives. I don't think there was ever any doubt that human beings would continue to sin, but now there is a way out. Forgiveness. But its easy to go back to the old ways of thinking, being rigid and uptight. 
Sin and salvation. Why is it such a confusing concept? 







Monday, May 19, 2014

Broken Record in the Bible Belt

I cannot begin to tell you how tired I am of the whole gay Christianity what does the bible say, should I stay or should I go, debate going on in my head. I don't want my church experience to be about this, but it is. I told my Life Group Friday night that I'm having a lot of trouble with continuing to attend Christ Fellowship. I feel like a hypocrite every time I walk through the doors. I feel like a traitor. I feel like I'm constantly compromising my integrity as a gay woman. And, I'm worried about having some level of dishonesty with the people at Christ Fellowship - my presence there implies a conformity that doesn't exist.

God has given me some peace about all of this. I'm not overly emotional and I'm not angry. My thinking is not in turmoil and I'm not miserable. When I talked to my Life Group, I felt sadness and wanted to cry, but that's not an inappropriate way to feel. I love my Life Group friends and it would be so nice if I didn't have this going on. Going in, I was afraid, but at the same time I was confident they would not freak out and get mad at me or turn me away. I knew they would be concerned and want to help me. That they would be kind. I was right, that is exactly what happened and I appreciated it.

Several people have told me that I might have an incredible ministry in the gay community because I understand them and know where they're coming from. That idea hurts me to my core.

Here is the hard thing for me to say because I don't want to be hurtful or seem ungrateful. People don't understand why gay people have such a problem with all of this. They think this is a choice. Its not. If it were a choice, I could certainly see how a behavioral change would be necessary and desirable if you were a person who believed the Bible literally. But its not a choice. Its not a choice. God made me, I am gay. The only right thing for me is to find a partner of the same sex to spend my life with. Its RIDICULOUS to say its not a sin to be a homosexual, but it is a sin to act on it sexually. To me, that's like saying its not a sin to be black, but it is a sin to sit at the front of the bus.

This is what I believe, I'm not a spokesperson for all gay people. This is just me talking about my thoughts.

I'm going to Sunday services less and less. My Discovery class, that I  love so much, has reached the section on preparing for telling others about Christ. I have a huge conflict going about telling another gay person about Christ because I don't want to drag another innocent gay person into this mess. I know that's not the attitude or commitment I should have, but there it is. I don't know what I would have done had I known about the Homosexuality Clause before I became a follower of Christ, I don't know if I would have walked away or not. But I will not be responsible for introducing another gay person to Christianity as it is practiced by the Christians I know.

I have to tell the truth about what I know to be true and believe is right. I've had a relationship with God for years and years, a strong, good and wonderful bond. An unbreakable trust. There's never been a problem with my sexuality before this past year. Its been a non-issue. This voyage into Christianity should be a joyful thing and I should be preparing and praying about telling others about following Christ. There has not been a lot of joy and I've already said I'm not going to talk to any gay people about it.

It blows me away how a few sentences in an old book has the power to crush so many lives and break so many hearts. 
Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-10


Maybe my personal choice of not getting into anymore intimate relationships going forward from here is a confusing factor to some people I've talked with at church and Life Group. I made that decision for myself, with God, for me, because it's what right for my life and my walk with God. It is not a statement about same sex partners, homosexuality, gay marriage, whatever.

I don't know what I'm going to do.


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