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Finding My Way


DoubtingThomas
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Greetings! I have much to say but I'll try not to do it all here. First off, my name is actually Thomas, and that's reason number one for choosing my screen name, DoubtingThomas. I guess the other reasons are a bit more vague, but I'll try to sum it up quickly. What has actually led me here is my situation with my wife. We've been married for 8 years, known each other for almost 12 years, and though we were both raised in overall Christian households, we did not attend church or services. We would sometimes have conversations regarding our religious beliefs (or non-beliefs) that would generally end with a big "eh, I don't know" and move on to something else. We live in the southern US and really about all you have to choose from here is conservative, fundamental, and more conservative and fundamental.

 

We have two little ones (5 and 3) and about a year and a half ago she decides that we need to "get them in church" and begins looking for one that she likes. Although I did not grow up in a particularly fundamentalist household, my grandmother and mother were both raised Pentacostal and I attended a non-denominational Christian private school for 5 years (5th through 9th grade). As a result of that and several other factors, I often find myself being quite "anti-church." My wife however has ended up at a conservative Southern Baptist church, whose main goal of course is to supposedly "spread the good news" and save souls. There are many nice people there, but I find myself quite at odds with many of the sermons and teachings, and my discomfort grows as my wife has gotten more and more involved with this church. She was actually baptised a couple of weeks ago, and while the service was nice and I am happy that she believes she is doing the right thing, it has caused a rift between us (the church attendance in general, not necessarily the baptism). Her new devotion has caused, at the very least, several arguments, and at its worst, several outright fights and some passing thoughts of divorce (from both of us).

 

What it has done is truly caused me to re-examine my beliefs, lack of beliefs, and whatever falls in amongst them. I don't have to go into them all now, but I have actually come out of all this and discovered that I am as much of a spiritual person as I thought I was, but certainly not the conservative Christian that I thought I was raised as. I find myself believing more and more of the things Jesus taught (or at least the things we think he taught) and less and less about the things people taught about Jesus. As I have come to this realization, some of the bigger tensions between my wife and I have eased, but several things still remain. Mainly she now attends, is an official member of, and seeks counsel from a church and pastor that not only believe that there way of thinking is right, but that of course it is the only right way to think. What surprises me most about this situation is that my wife was generally always the more "liberal" of the two of us. Granted, I have been to churches that are even more fundamental and conservative than this one, it's certainly not over the edge or anything, but I still don't feel at home there (if I can actually feel at home at any church). There is much more to tell of this story but I don't quite have the time now.

 

Anyway, DoubtingThomas fits me as best it can - I am a natural skeptic, but I am also a natural believer. I do my best to enjoy life, love my family, and live with a thankful and giving spirit. I am not perfect and I do not have all the answers, nor do I expect to be able to find all the answers. I am glad to have found what appears to be an open group, where I can speak my mind (respectfully, of course) without a fear of chastising, anger, or anyone trying to convince me to think the way they do. I am hoping to find a little guidance, first and foremost in my dealings with some of the new people that I now have in my life. I understand that they believe they are doing the right thing but often they only lead me to shut off my spirituality and completely reject their ideas instead of actually thinking about them.

 

As a precursor, let me say that I often have very sarcastic thoughts, especially regarding some church practices and beliefs. I am trying to fight my own internal anger and knee-jerk reactions to some things with more compassion and understanding, but please forgive me if my responses ever seem disrespectful or angry. I have been angry a lot over the last year or so. Again, there's much more to say but it's quite jumbled, and even my "short" intro is obviously not so short - so for now I'll stop with "hello." :)

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Guest billmc

Greetings! I have much to say but I'll try not to do it all here...

 

Welcome to the TCPC forum, Thomas! I'm glad you found your way here! Must be a "God-thing"! :lol:

 

Your OP could be my own, almost verbatim. I was raised Baptist, Pentecostal (Holiness), Southern Baptist, Bible church and I'm now a flaming liberal whom my friends and family suspect is headed straight for hell. ;)

 

If you want to read my own story, or if you want something to put you to sleep, you can find it here:

http://godetc.wordpress.com/

 

I moved to being more progressive about 8 years ago. My wife is devout Southern Baptist (as is her family). Most of the time, we are able to talk about our differences because we have both agreed that the primary mark of a Christian is love. But we occasionally have our squabbles and see, thankfully, gives me the freedom to be who I am. We have two children, ages 13 and 10, and she wants them raised Southern Bapist (the one TRUE faith, ha ha!). I have mixed feelings about this. Generally, Baptists are better people than the theology they hold to. At the same time, they are so damn good at indoctrinating children that it is almost impossible to get out of that mindset as an adult. My wife, bless her heart, has reminded me that when we married 21 years ago, I promised to raise our children as Christians and she just doesn't accept my liberalism or progressivism as being Christian. :( Ouch! So we discuss what we can. We try to focus more on the "fruit of the spirit" rather than on theology. And we try to keep our disagreement private and away from the children. I currently attend a more liberal Methodist church in Fort Worth, Texas. But even the Southern Baptists down here are convinced that most Methodists aren't even saved!

 

Anyway, welcome again, Thomas. I look forward to hearing more from you and to getting to know you better!

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Welcome aboard, I'm new to this site as well.

 

I was a long time fundamentalist. I eventually rejected several of their more dogmatic beliefs, as did my wife. Unfortunately, she did not reject as much of the fundamentalist dogma as I did. We left an ultra conservative fundamentalist group in 2005 and affiliated with a somewhat more moderate group of believers. Although they are more moderate, they still embrace much of the fundamentalist thinking and some of the dogma.

 

My beliefs continued to evolve to the point that my wife of 43 years and I are no longer on the same theological page. We’ve talked about attending different churches but I’ve rejected that option, at least for now.

 

I have come to accept that it’s possible for me to worship in my present environment without either accepting or arguing about the issues I see differently. Part of that was accepting that members of the congregation are not comfortable with my beliefs and interpretations and, frankly, don’t want to hear them.

 

We eventually came to the realization that one of us was going to have to submit to the needs of the other one, because there was no way both of us were going to end up happy.

 

The compromise required me to become totally uninvolved in the congregation and their activities. I attend worship service, a few social events, and nothing else. My wife has become very involved and I’m okay with that. We’ve come to understand and accept that we are in different theological places now. This solution will only work if one of you will submit to the needs of the other one. It came down to me as the one that was going to have to make the sacrifice and I’ve found that I’m quite comfortable with that role.

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Thank you for the welcome, both of you. Bill, I would like very much to read your story and risk going to sleep and I will try to when I can.

 

Javelin, I find myself in that very similar situation now - I have always been ok with being the one who apologizes first in a situation (and I have done so with my wife - as in many of our arguments I have found myself being quite uncaring and at times cruel). I basically attend worship services sometimes, but the fact is I don't always feel the desire, or more importantly (I believe), the need for services. I go to some of the social events, and I am a good host when we have people over. But I don't consider myself a "member" (here in the south everyone is very concerned with "being a member, finding members, adding members" - it's probably the same everywhere though), even though my wife is. But, because of her I am indeed quite connected to this group. At least half of the money she gives on Sunday comes from me (which I personally find to be a big issue), and my two children are learning this doctrine.

 

I often simply bite my tongue. There are confrontations coming, although confrontation hopefully is not the right word. For example, when I overhear Bible study that "shows how much God hates homosexuality" I am compelled to give a tongue-lashing. The other night the pastor came over for dinner (he has been over a few times before), but this night my wife supposedly had some questions to ask him - but they both kept wanting to draw me into the kitchen with them... I was asked things like "so what did you think of the Baptism last week" and "when are you going to come and see us again?" Baited questions, in my paranoid opinion. I gave some kind, amicable, short answers and moved on. The point of all this is I haven't actually had many theological conversations with anyone at the church besides my wife. I do not like telling people that I think they are wrong or that I don't agree with them - especially in these situations where we all know things can get heated quickly. I often feel like I'm slowly becoming a "project" - someone who needs to see the light, as it were. My wife will always say "well why don't you ask the Pastor this or that question" and the fact is, as I've told her, I simply don't care what his opinion is. Mostly because he believes it is fact and not opinion and interpretation. Again, he is a nice guy, but my wife wants me to be best friends with him or something, and it's just not going to happen. And as I've said, "Church People" just make me wary. No offense to any "Church People" here. ;)

 

I have begun to accept that she is in a different theological place than I am. Also, I have not really done a fair job of communicating some of the new things that I have found about myself. When this all started I was simply against it - Christianity in general, but especially the literalist, Bible is divinely written attitude. As many of you here have, I have fluctuated between Atheist, Agnostic, and whatever else. As a result many of our early arguments damaged our communication, to the point that now if the conversation starts heading in the "religious" direction, we both start to get on edge and gear up for a fight. I am at least partially to blame for this. I believe we're doing better, but there is still a ways to go.

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Welcome to the forum, Thomas. Glad to have you with us. What you're describing sounds frustrating, though not insurmountable. I think that I would be reacting the same as you were I in the same situation.

I hope that you and your wife find peace even if you don't see eye to eye theologically.

 

Take care,

Mike

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Guest billmc

Also Bill, I have read some of your blog and I find it quite interesting, and very similar to many of my own thoughts and musings. I see you mentioned the "Bible belt" - may I ask what area you're in?

 

I'm in Fort Worth, Texas, Thomas.

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I respect all of you on this thread because you all have traveled a long way and have great ideas. It is funny the experiences we have had to go through to meet here. My wife is Korean, when we would go up in the mountains and happen upon a Buddhist temple she wouldn't even go in the courtyard because she thought it was worshiping false Gods. We love each other and worship the same God, but in different ways. I think our children have benefited spiritually and culturally. I raised my kids the Eastern way and she raised them the western way. I am American. I always encouraged her to go to church and get involved. Her major was Classical music and when I met her she conducted the choir at her church. I live in the states and the conservative ministers from the Korean Churches come over regularly to converse. They don't try to get my wife to go to their churches anymore. She doesn't go to church now because spiritually she sees no reason. The ministers have stopped pushing and one even asked for help getting his doctorate at a Christian University. My wife respects my daily meditations, and other spiritual practices. I respect her way also. I think the key is we are spiritual to each other, but we don't talk about it unless asked. I think words limit and cause friction in the lower layers of the mind, while when I reflect on unity in the higher layers, I get acquainted with different spiritual aspirations and endeavors realizing that there are different upward paths in a variety of religions. It seems as my wife and I climb and scale our minds from the lower layers to the higher layers the differences in our experiences with traditional religions diminish because all paths that ascend lead God's pure consciousness. Evolution of knowledge comes from inside and then is built into the life outside in a life of love and unity. It is hard, but I think it not the words that bring us to God, but the stillness. I am 61 and hope I am still progressing. Every once in awhile I stop and look at the view and it is so beautiful and peaceful I can't stop. May we help each other in this journey and find peace and love.

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