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Bill M's (Alias Wayseeker's) Journey


BillM
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This is my story - how I came to faith, the kind of faith I had as a young adult, why my faith changed, and where I am now. As my journey is a long one, I’ll post it in three parts.

 

Part 1 - I fell in love with Jesus when I was 12 years old. On the back wall of the baptistery of the Chemung Baptist Church in upstate New York, there was a mural of a meadow stream flowing into the tank, the centerpiece of the mural being a life-size picture of Jesus as a shepherd. He had a crook in one hand, was cradling a soft, little lamb in the other, and around him were other sheep, grazing on the grass or drinking from the stream, safely guarded by the Great Shepherd. As I looked at the face of Jesus, I felt that his eyes were gazing right into my soul — kind eyes, eyes of love. Though I’m now in my fifties, I can recall that picture of Jesus like it was yesterday.

 

When I turned 12, my father decided that I needed religion. Whether this was due to my behavior or just some rite of passage, I don’t know. But he said, “It’s time that you start going to church.” I suppose this was his way of providing for my religious training because, to be honest, my family never talked about religion much. So my sister and I were sent off to Vacation Bible School in the summer of ’72. I was enraptured by the story of how he came to earth as a baby born of a virgin, did miracles to prove he was God, died for my sins so I could be forgiven, and rose again to make a way so I could go to live with him in heaven forevermore. The VBS teacher said all I needed to do in order to go to heaven someday was to tell Jesus I was a sinner, was sorry for my sins, and ask him to come into my heart to live. Of course, being in a Baptist church I was also warned about the consequences if I refused to believe in Jesus, namely, going to hell. But it was the love of Jesus that drew me and I responded to that love by becoming a Christian. A few weeks later, I was baptized in that baptistery and began my life of faith.

 

Things at home were rather rocky. As far back as I can remember, my parents were always fighting with one another over something, and I can remember thinking that they were the ones who really needed to go to church. They never did go with me that I can recall. Maybe they thought that religion was something for children, something that would keep them from messing up their lives later. Growing up in the farming countryside, I spent plenty of time exploring the woods and nature around me. I was fascinated by all the variety found in the great outdoors and felt close to God there. There were many occasions when I took my Bible with me up into my tree-house and just spent time reading, learning everything I could about God and Jesus and God’s plan for my life. As I read about God being a deliverer, a protector, a rock, and about Jesus being a savior, I prayed that God would heal my parent’s marriage and stop the abuse at home. But despite my prayers, things continued to get worse.

 

In ’75, my parents divorced. About a year later, my Mom “found Jesus” and she and I started attending a Pentecostal church together. We were both “on fire” for Jesus. I took my Bible to school with me throughout my high school years and witnessed to anyone I felt God was leading me to. I hung out with a group of Christians at school, but noticed they tended to argue a lot with each other over doctrinal issues. Sometimes they even thought other members of our Christian group were either not really saved and were going to hell. This began to bother me because I felt deep down Christians should be known by their love for each other, not by their arguments over doctrinal differences.

 

My last year of high school, I decided to go to Bible College as I felt God was calling me the ministry. The year in Bible College was both a joy and a trial for me. It was a joy because I felt really close to God there, like I was doing what he wanted me to do, and I found I had an aptitude for theology. I also really enjoyed going out with the ministry teams to different churches, trying to raise money for the Bible College. But two things happened during that year that made me realize, once again, Christianity was no Pollyanna world. The first thing was that even though I was a Pentecostal, I had never spoken in tongues and was therefore considered to be a second-class Christian. Therefore, the school decided to pull me off the ministry teams. They wanted representatives that were “Spirit-filled.” I thought this was judgmental and hypocritical because I knew a few kids on the ministry teams who, in spite of speaking in tongues, had wandering eyes and could tell the most offensive jokes. The second thing that happened was that a senior there whom I had a good friendship with, someone who had been a homosexual before getting saved, was denied a license to preach by the college because of his “past life.” I felt like if people were really considered to be “new creations in Christ” after becoming Christians, who should judge them according to the past? And with my inability to speak in tongues, the school dean asked me to consider whether that school was really the right one for me anyway. I became disenchanted with the Bible College and decided not to return. I again noted that people who claim to be Christians, who claim to follow Christ, can be very judgmental and exclusionary. Christianity, for me, was beginning to tarnish.

 

I had responded to Christ’s love for me in my youth - perhaps a naive love, but a love nonetheless. But three things from this period in my life became pebbles in my shoe:

 

1. The first pebble is the efficacy of prayer. Despite all the promises that God answers prayer, my prayers, especially for good things like the healing of my family, were not answered. And it didn’t seem to matter whether other Christians agreed with me in prayer or asked in Jesus’ name. “Prayer changes things” just didn’t work in a practical way in my life.

2. The second pebble is the judgmental attitudes of Christians. I read the gospels, I knew that Jesus said not to judge or that, if we judge, we should judge ourselves first. But the Christianity I grew up in seemed to be obsessed with judging everything and everyone, and I simply couldn’t see how that fit in with Jesus’ teachings.

3. The third pebble, probably the most harmful thing that I experienced from this period of my life, is the constant guilt of sin and the threats of going to hell. I was told that I was guilty because of what Adam and Eve did; guilty for sins I committed; guilty for the sins of not doing what I should have done; and guilty for killing Jesus. Add to this the notion that I was never sure if I believed all the right doctrines to keep me from going to hell. My life was dominated by guilt and fear, and I doubt anyone can be psychologically healthy living under that kind of religion.

 

With these pebbles in my shoe, I began to hobble in my walk of faith.

Edited by Wayseeker
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Part 2 - After that year of Bible college, I married a Christian girl I had met in high school. Though we both came from rocky home backgrounds, we felt like we could make it because we were, after all, Christians in love with each other with God on our side. In order to support my family, I decided to go in the Army to get electronics training. But our marriage proved to be a struggle. We both came from broken homes where problems had been dealt with, not by the hard work of communication and compromise, but with holding grudges and getting divorces. So neither of us was really equipped to work out our problems and all the going to church and praying we did just didn’t seem to help. After five years of marriage, things between us fell apart. Because we had no tools available to us to help us work anything out, we divorced. Due to the fact that I was still in the service, she got custody of our two children. I was decimated. In a short period of time, I had lost my wife and my children, or it felt that way. And I wondered: despite many things in my past and in my life that may have been stacked against me, didn’t God have “a wonderful plan” for me? Didn’t Jesus come to give me an abundant life? I was disillusioned – with myself, with my life, and with my religion. So I stopped going to church as I tried to recover from the shambles my life was in. The truth of the matter is that life is simply messy, Christian or not. We and our world are complicated and there are no magic bullets.

 

Upon exiting from the service, I went to work for an electronics company. I was bitter about my divorce and some of the things I had gone through. I felt God was done with me. This is one of the things that can drive someone in Christianity nuts: though Christians say that God is in control, it is never really God’s fault if something goes wrong. If things go right, God is thanked and given full credit, but failure is always attributed to personal sin or to original sin or to the devil or to a sinful world. God always seems to be blameless where human suffering is concerned. Of course, I didn’t dare think this way back then; I just felt the failure was mainly on my part because I was, after all, a sinful human being. Church reinforced that notion to me every Sunday.

 

An older technician at the company where I was working helped me readjust to civilian life. I soon found out he was a Christian and found I could talk to him about most anything. Eventually, we talked about my divorce and my felt estrangement from God. He assured me that God could and would forgive my sin and restore me if I sincerely repented. And that is what I did. In Christianity, this is the “formula” for staying in fellowship with God: almost constant confession and repentance of our sins. But I found some healing and restoration through my co-worker’s counseling. His belief in God’s ability to restore was tested when I began to show an interest in his daughter. I knew she was special from the moment I met her and she was very accepting of me and my two children. We began dating and married almost a year later. My wife and I became very involved in our local churches. We made quite a few friends there and felt loved. But I continued to grow agitated with the kind of Christianity that I was involved with. Maybe because of my past, coming from a poor, broken family, going through brokenness myself, I felt like Christians ought to be doing more to help the poor and broken instead of just sitting in pews singing, “I’ll Fly Away.” I began to wonder, “Why is Christianity so focused on leaving this world instead of on changing it for the better?” I wondered why Christians weren’t doing more to follow Jesus’ teachings about helping the poor, setting captives free, healing the sick and broken, and living out the Sermon on the Mount. After all, didn’t the Lord’s Prayer mention God’s will being done on earth? I found that most of the songs and sermons I heard were not about what God could do through us here for the sake of others, but only about what Jesus has done for us personally in order to take us to heaven later. I began to see that despite claims to the contrary, Christianity can be a very self-centered religion, all about what God or Jesus does for us with very little about what we could do for others.

 

The “straw the broke the camel’s back” came for me one day during a church service. My wife and I were called out of the service to come tend our 4-year-old son who was in Children’s Church. When we got there, he was in the hall, crying hysterically. Between sobs, he repeated, “Daddy, why would Jesus burn me? Why?” I assured him Jesus loved him and would never burn him but he was simply too scared to really listen to what I was saying. My wife took him out to the car and I went into the Children’s Church room to see what had happened. The teacher had shown the kids an artist’s rendition of a man engulfed in flames, his arms raised to heaven, his face contorted with agony, crying out to heaven with a plea for mercy that would never be heard. She told the kids that this is what would happen to them if they did not accept Jesus as their personal savior. I reminded her that Jesus never once threatened children with hell, but she insisted that she did not want God holding the blood of these children on her hands. I was struggling myself at this time with the question of hell, but I knew for sure it was inappropriate to foist this doctrine upon young children. We left that church shortly after that.

 

The Christianity of my young adult life was putting more pebbles in my shoe:

1. The ruse of the evangelical call that God will fix our lives for us if we just get saved.

2. The claim that God is in control but somehow unwilling or unable to do anything about suffering.

3. The notion that Christianity is not about making this world better, but about escapism - leaving it in order to go somewhere else.

4. The threat of hell used against almost everyone, supposedly coming from a God who is love.

 

With all of these pebbles in my shoe, I was finding it impossible to walk.

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Part 3 - In 2004, I admitted that I had lost my faith in Christianity as an institutional religion. I felt that I could no longer live with the ugly side of Christianity - the empty promises of prayer, the judgmental attitudes, the constant guilt of sin, the desire to escape the world instead of trying to compassionately help it, the constant threats of hell, and the adherence to ancient superstitious worldviews as reality. All of this cognitive dissonance was too much for me to ignore.

 

I found many things attributed to God in the Bible to be immoral or unethical. Things like God killing women and children in the flood. Things like God commanding the Israelites to kill their enemies, including women and children, and keeping virgins as war booty. Things like God testing people (remember Job and Jesus?) when he is supposedly omniscient. Things like God wanting his people to show their devotion to him by mutilating their sexual organs. Things like the notion that blood can somehow remove sin. Things like God sending evil spirits. Things like God hardening Pharaoh’s heart and then destroying him for having a hard heart. Things like God commanding genocide. Again, is this the God that created the world? I don’t think so.

 

And reading the apostle Paul’s writings just made things worse. Paul wanted women to be quiet in church, to never have any authority over men, to never teach men anything. Paul supports slavery in his writings. He thinks that government officials rule by “divine right”. And Paul puts forth this offensive doctrine that everyone is born into this world as an evil human being, deserving, not God’s love, but God’s wrath and destruction in hell. According to Paul's understanding, even babies go to hell because they have not believed in Paul’s gospel. This is “good news” to the world? This is the plan of the God who so loves the world? Again, I don’t think so.

 

Some might think that I had a crisis of faith because I didn’t know enough of or believe enough of the Bible. In reality, my crisis in faith didn’t come about because I wasn’t reading my Bible and praying, but because I was. The more I read my Bible, the more I saw how contradictory and nonsensical a lot of it was, not only about God and humanity, but about the nature of reality. To me, the Bible is a record of what ancient peoples thought about God, the world, and their place and purpose within it, not God’s revelation of what he thinks. The Bible is not God’s record of himself; it is a record of human accounts of their experiences and concepts of what they called God. They were doing the best they could with the light available to them, but we have so much more light today. I needed a faith that wasn’t so much calling me to the recapture the past, but inviting me to live today and to walk bravely into the future. The religion of my youth could no longer do that. I had to leave that kind of Christianity or no longer consider myself to be a Christian.

 

Nevertheless, I think that traditional Christians are, for the most part, good, caring, and loving people, especially towards those in their own “flock.” Christians have helped me when I needed help, been there for me when my own family wasn’t and, in many ways, showed me a great deal about grace and forgiveness. It is the doctrines and control of Christianity as an institutional religion that I am against. IMO, many of these doctrines have no direct bearing upon how people act, upon forming good character; so I don’t find them to be very pragmatic. I am letting go of a lot of religion, but I don’t want to let go of the relationships.

 

So where am I today? Well, I still believe in God, the Creator behind the universe, the One who was the first cause and whose laws continue to sustain things. And I’m still drawn to Jesus, my first love. I appreciate and try to live out the best of Jesus’ teachings because I think he was 100% right that we should love God and love each other. This, to me, is what my religion comes down to – living in right relationship with God and with others. My faith is not about perfection, but about finding meaning and experiencing life. Therefore, I can acknowledge that the Bible is not a perfect book, that it does not give us a perfect view of God, and that Jesus was not a perfect man. He was just as human as all the rest of us, a product of his time, his religion, and his worldview. Yet, I find that there is something in his life and teachings that is transcendent, that is still relevant to us today. It is still a good idea to care for the earth, to be compassionate toward others, to feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, care for the poor, even to forgive our enemies rather than destroying them. These things are still worth consideration and practice to me, especially when I have the freedom to reinterpret them or understand them from another point-of-view. I admit that I am no longer a traditional, orthodox Christian. I’m just trying to separate the chaff from the wheat in my life and my faith. Both my head and my heart are involved in this sifting, so it is not an easy undertaking and it takes time. This isn’t only about my beliefs, but about pragmatic changes in my life, hopefully for the better.

 

With all of this being said, am I still a Christian? Probably only insofar as I try to follow the best teachings of Jesus. After all, he never talked about Christians or Christianity. He only spoke about following him or being a disciple, someone who is learning his “way” of living and loving. My kind of Christianity is more linked to what I do than to what I believe. I want to spend my remaining years enjoying the life that I know I now have, and trying to make life and our world better for my family and friends in whatever ways I can. To me, following Jesus is a wise and compassionate way to do that. He showed us that God is our source of life, love, and being. And he told us and lived out the truth that it is loving one another that really matters. That is the Way that I seek.

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I am deeply humbled - what a beautiful way to tell, what could have been, a tragic story. Your journey touched me deeply. Although the details are different of course, your journey mirrors my own. I hope you use this in your book. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Wow. Apart from really minor differences in childhood family history, and that I never really found or developed any viable or meaningful relationships with a church community, your journey sounds so similar to my own its uncanny.

 

I have sometimes found myself wondering, hearing others whose stories would also so closely align with yours and mine....What are we? WHO are we? I mean those of us that share such a similar pattern, of having totally fallen in love with Jesus as very young children, an idealistic love, yes, and yet an enduring, persisting love, that actually led to our questioning and ultimately rejecting the very religion in which context we were introduced to Him, carried us through our disenchantment with that religion, yet still to come out onthe other side with that total, enduring,and yes still idealisitc, love still there, perhaps even strong than before. Those of us that may even say, and truly feel, I ALWAYS knew Him, I ALWAYS loved him, it seems, even before I knew the Earthly details of who He was...That KNEW His voice the first time we heard it....and resisted all efforts to teach us a "different Jesus", one that was judgemental and demanding perfection and willing to send us to hell....this has made me feel so "different" at times in my life I've wondered if I really weren't born to my supposed parents at all, but found in a cabbage patch somewhere, where I'd been dropped by a passing alien space-craft!

 

Jenell

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Wayseeker,

 

Terrific biography. I was rooting for you the whole way!

 

In many ways, your path has paralleled mine. I think all of us in this forum can relate to just about everything you mention in your journey.

 

It's sure sweet, isn't it, to leave all the guilt and self-doubt behind.

 

Thanks for sharing your story.

 

NORM

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Yvonne, Jenell, NORM, and Javelin, thanks for the nice comments.

 

Jenell, you wrote: “Those of us that may even say, and truly feel, I ALWAYS knew Him, I ALWAYS loved him, it seems, even before I knew the Earthly details of who He was...That KNEW His voice the first time we heard it....and resisted all efforts to teach us a "different Jesus", one that was judgemental and demanding perfection and willing to send us to hell....this has made me feel so "different" at times in my life I've wondered if I really weren't born to my supposed parents at all, but found in a cabbage patch somewhere, where I'd been dropped by a passing alien space-craft!”

 

I could really relate to that. It’s almost more like a “remembering” than a new knowledge, isn’t it? I love the story Marcus Borg tells of the couple who brought home their new baby boy, put him in the crib in the nursery, and introduced him to his older sister. The couple proceeded downstairs but listened closely to the nursery monitor for any signs that might be disconcerting. After a few minutes, they heard the little girl whisper to her new brother, “Please, tell me about God, I’ve almost forgotten.”

 

There was, I believe, a timeless germ of truth planted in my heart at that young age that God does love the world and that Jesus came to help us remember what God is really like and what true love can and will do. But religion, because it is often based in the fear of God instead of in his love, made the truth so complicated and segregated that it left my head and heart spinning and often opposed. For me, Jesus is my brother who helps me remember.

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  • 1 month later...

To all my friends here:

 

For reasons that I can't currently explain, let alone fully comprehend, I'm experiencing some sort of shift in my soul at this point in my journey. I've tried to pinpoint the cause or reason for my sense of disquiet, but I haven't been successful in doing so...yet. I suspect (and hope) that it is because there is something God wants to teach me or something he wants me to understand better or deeper. He's never left me during these times of shift before, so I trust that he won't now. But neither do I know exactly what is behind this feeling that I am currently experiencing. Therefore, I'm at a loss to explain it. :(

 

What I do sense, however, is that I need a time of sabbatical in my life right now. Not from working (my wife would be rightly-concerned) or from raising my family (though my children might wish I would), but from religious involvement (church, Bible studies, forums, etc.). I get these from time to time, periods where it is just me and God sorting things, talking things out, sometimes even arguing. These times are not usually "enjoyable" for me, but they also seem to lead me to some new growth or in a new direction that helps guide my life and my journey.

 

So, therefore, I won't be active here for a while. Okay, keep the clapping and 'hallelujahs' to a minimum, please. :P

 

I appreciate all the great conversations, the openness, and the encouragement in my journey that I've received here. I especially appreciate the gentle disagreements because even those help me to grow. This is a wonderful community and I wish it nothing but the very best for now and the future. I thank God for each of you. May each and every one of you be blessed and be a blessing to others and to our world.

 

'Til we chat again...

 

Still in His care,

Bill

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Thank you, Bill, for letting us know...I will be glad to see you when you come back, hopefully, refreshed and renewed. I can fully understand, i've experienced plenty similar times myself, and yes, very often after we've taken in a lot of new input, a lot new to consider, and it needs to just 'simmer' for awhile.

Take care,

Jenell

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Bill,

 

I wish you much soul Peace and enLightened understanding on this “sabbatical” phase of your WaySeeking.

 

While quiet since around the time you joined this list, I’ve been sympathetic with your observations and insights and have derived much pleasure from your contributions. I’ll look forward to when your possible future participation will evidence a deepening progression of the wisdom which, with your active consent, God is bestowing upon you.

 

May your cup overflow with our Father's blessings,

Thanks brother,

Brent

Edited by Brent
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  • 4 weeks later...

Well, my friends, after much consideration and contemplation, I think I’ve pretty well pinpointed my sense of restlessness and what I need to do about it. The problem is, well, me. As many of you know, I came to this forum around 2006. It was through progressive Christian authors such as Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong, and Brian McLaren that I discovered a "new way" of being a Christian that was, in fact, an old way -- a way of simply loving God and loving others, of doing whatever I can to make our world a more just and compassionate place. Many of my conversations here have helped me grow in this new way, especially as related to the Eight Points of PC. For that, I am and always will be thankful.

 

But based upon what I’ve observed in many conversations here over the years, it’s my opinion that this forum is generally leaning more and more into the Buddhist tradition, which essentially takes an atheistic view of God and a detached view toward the world. This leaning, to me, renders many discussions of God, the teachings of Jesus, and the problems of the world essentially useless. Based upon numbers alone, I have no doubt that Eastern religion works well for many people. Blending these religions with some concepts from Christianity may offer some a spiritual path that they enjoy and find satisfying. But this is not the path for me. I suppose I am too much a creature of the West and of the Enlightenment (of the scientific reasoning and rationalism kind, not of the mystical or supernatural kind).

 

I've experienced the reality of God and I believe that Jesus was right that we should love God and love each other. And I continue to seek and work for God's kingdom of compassionate community because I believe it can and will change us and our world for the better. While I’m thankful for the many conversations that I’ve read and participated in here that have helped me further along in my journey, it’s become clear that my own views and convictions put me at odds with the leadership of this forum and with the general direction I think this forum is taking. Being a good progressive Christian, this doesn’t mean that I think that someone or something here is objectively ‘wrong’, just that it is not ‘right’ for me. Therefore, it’s best that I simply wish everyone well and move on to whatever or wherever else my journey will take me. Thanks to all for allowing me to be part of this community for a time and for the understanding and support that I’ve been given over the years. I wish all of you the very best.

 

If anyone wants to contact me, you can "Private Message" me through this forum's Messaging service.

 

Sincerely,

Bill

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Thank you, Bill, for having walked a ways along the path with me. You've helped me learn and grow, been I feel a friend, and hope I've helped serve the same for you.

 

Godspeed on the next stretch of your path, the next leg of your journey! I trust the next place for you is ready and waiting for you now....

 

Jenell

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  • 1 year later...

Life's a journey. So it's about change. And I've changed a lot since first coming here. No doubt, more changes are coming. But here's the latest in my life:

 

Am I a Christian?

This is a question I've been asking myself a lot these days.

Does it even matter whether I call myself a Christian or not? Should I even be concerned with labels?

After all, I think I reject most of what Christians believe and what Christianity, as a creedal religion, holds to. I don't believe in a literal 6-day creation, or that God punished the whole world for Adam's sin, or a worldwide flood, or that the conquest of Canaan was moral, or that God gave the 10 Commandments, or in Jesus' virgin birth, most of his miracles, that he had to die in order for God to forgive us, that we are made righteous just by saying a Sinner's Prayer, or that Christians go to heaven while everyone else goes to hell. I don't believe, as Jesus did, that epilepsy is caused by demons or that, as Jesus taught, we should hate our families in order to follow him. And I have very serious doubts about the resurrection, which the apostle Paul, who swears his theology came from Jesus himself, said is absolutely necessary to our faith. But I just don't believe this stuff any longer. I'm tempted to take a pair of scissors to my Bible and remove the things I think are superstitious, immoral, and nonsensical.

Can I use the "Jefferson Technique" on so much of the Bible and so much of Christianity, and still consider myself to be a Christian? If anyone was ever a cherry-picker when it comes to the Bible and Christianity, it would be me.

Shouldn't I just confess that I am no longer a "believer" and move on to...what? After all, I no longer believe God is going to torment me (or anyone else) for not having all their beliefs right. And why cling to a label that Jesus himself didn't even use?

But where else would I hear the teachings about this God-filled man from Nazareth except in the Bible and in Christianity? Why am I so drawn to him, his life, his teachings, his death? Why can't I, as others have, just chalk it all up to childhood fairytales, much like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, and just wave good-bye to Jesus? Why can't I give up on this simplistic, warm-and-fuzzy theology that all we really need is love?
All I know is that I can't give up on love. Life has taught me that. Often the hard way. But then, Christianity is not love. It has taught me that. So I will no longer be a Christian.
But I still like Jesus and think he was right about many things.
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hi Bill, your post really spoke to me, as i have had the same thing on my mind.

 

Like you, I have shed all of those beliefs you listed above, but still felt inclined to hang onto the term 'christian'. My motivations for doing so have been:

1. if i may quote you, i'm 'drawn to him, his life, his teachings, his death'

2. for the benefit of my family

 

I have felt that I could be an 'agnostic christian' who follows the path of christ but without any supernatural beliefs. But the more i look into the history of the new testament, the more I see a set of writings created by groups of people who wanted to push their version over someone else's version, who had many ideas that don't sit well with my 21st century worldview, and who likely put words into Jesus mouth to associate him with their own cause.

 

So I also have thought about performing my own 'cut and paste' on the writings on Jesus. But what this throws up is - if I only pick out the bits I agree with, why do i need the bible to remind my of my own worldview?

 

keen to hear any more thoughts you have

 

Jonny

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  • 2 years later...

Hi all. It’s been two years since I’ve been active on this forum. I’ve missed it. Not just the content, but, mostly, the people. People here are almost always kind, understanding, and supportive. They challenge me in good ways, in how I think and in how I act. This forum is, in my opinion, a fairly safe place to share where we are in our journeys, to follow the journeys of others, and to encourage one another along the way.

 

My beliefs and values have not changed that much from when I was here last. I do need to apologize for a statement I made in my last update. I wrote:
“All I know is that I can't give up on love. Life has taught me that. Often the hard way. But then, Christianity is not love.”

I still can’t give up on love. But I was unfair to classify Christianity as unloving. Christianity is, of course, a religion made up of all kinds of people. Within that religion, there is a lot of diversity. So, as might be expected, one can find many loving people within Christianity…and others who may not be as loving as they, perhaps, should be. I have been guilty of this myself.

 

The death of my 5-year-old granddaughter in a car accident last Christmas Eve has caused me to reconsider my theological understanding of God and God’s relationship/interaction with us and our world. Though I am in no way thankful for her death, it has lead me to think of and possibly relate to God in ways that I haven’t before. I’m still in the midst of this and I hope it will ultimately be a good thing for me. Process theology is of special interest to me right now (though much of it is over my head).

 

I wrote in my last update: “I still like Jesus and think he was right about many things.” This continues. He fascinates me and I’m drawn to his teachings and way of life. But I also realize that I have to walk my own spiritual path. In that sense, Jesus is, for me, more of a companion on the way than someone I have to blindly follow. And, at my best, that’s all I wish to be for others also – a friend along the way. Peace to all.

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  • 6 months later...

All good things...

 

I've been on this forum for a number of years now. There's been a lot of good and challenging conversations here. And, as would be expected, people have almost always been kind and considerate of my journey. Thanks to all of you for that. But I've found it necessary for me to move on and I wanted to say good-bye, wish everyone here well, and share, from my perspective, why progressive Christianity no longer works for me.

 

These days, I'd consider myself to be a positive humanist, which means that I'd rather focus on talking about and living out the positive aspects of humanism rather than critiquing or criticizing other religions/philosophies. But sometimes things need to be said for the sake of clarity and truth.
I began "coming out" of Christianity about 10 years ago. For about 5 of those years, I was what is called a "Progressive Christian." Humor me while I give you a "working man's definition" for it. PCs don't take the Bible literally. This is their main difference from other Christians who believe that the Bible is the Word of God. PCs believe that humans, not God, wrote the Bible (a belief I still hold to). So they don't believe that God created the universe in 6 days. They don't believe that God flooded the entire Earth. Or that God killed all the Egyptian children 2-years-old and under. Or that God commanded the killing of women and children during war. Or that God commanded that homosexuals should be put to death. Or that people are sent to hell if they don't accept Jesus as the only way to God. Or that Jesus' death was necessary in order for God to forgive sins. Or that we are born sinners. Or that Jesus was born of a virgin. Or the Jesus physically rose from the grave. Or that Jesus will return to destroy God's enemies. As demonstrated, I could go on and on. Although there are certainly variances, suffice it to say that PCs don't "believe the Bible." They don't believe that God is really as the Bible portrays him to be. They usually don't believe that Jesus is really as the Bible portrays him to be or said or did the things the Bible claims that he did.
Yet they still claim to be Christians. How do they do this? By making up their own versions of what God is like, what Jesus is like, what salvation is like, which parts of the Bible are true. I did this. For about 5 years. But then I had to face the truth that what I had was not really Christianity as the Bible teaches it or as the Church or Christian doctrines teach it to be. By the time I threw out all the dirty bath water that seemed nonsense or immoral to me, there was no baby left. The "God" I believed in was NOT the God of the Bible. The "Jesus" I believed in was NOT Jesus as the Bible portrays him to be. And I'd thrown out so many biblical doctrines and teachings (because they were nonsensical or immoral to me) that I couldn't say, in any way shape or form, that the Bible was still the Word of God to me. I was just another book written by fallible humans about their ideas about God. Humans giving divine status to their fallible ideas.
So, in my opinion, as soon as you say that the Bible is not correct about something (and it certainly isn't), none of it can be believed. If you're not a "Bible-believing Christian", then you simply aren't a Christian, because Christianity is based upon what the Bible teaches, even if it is nonsense and immoral. So I found that I couldn't, with any integrity, be a "progressive Christian" either. If the Bible said to pick and choose, according to reason and conscience, what parts of it were God's Word, then, perhaps, I could have stayed in Christianity. But the Bible says that ALL scripture comes through God's inspiration. We don't get to pick and choose. We either have to believe in talking snakes, or we don't believe the Bible. We either have to believe that epilepsy is caused by demons, or we don't believe Jesus. If this is really the Word of God, then we have no right to pick or reinterpret the parts that we want to. Progressive Christians are trying to "save Christianity" by attempting to bring it in line with modern understanding of humanity and the way the world works. This simply can't be done if it is God's Word that the Earth is immoveable or that the Sun can stop in the sky. It's not God's Word...unless that God is an immoral idiot. I couldn't believe in the God of the Bible any longer. And even progressive Christianity couldn't offer me convincing answers for the nonsense and immorality found in the Christian scriptures. Religion, to me, is more about a search for comfort than a search for truth. I'd rather know the truth about myself, the world I live in, and the universe, than in holding to a belief system that is designed to offer me comfort at the expense of sacrificing my reason and conscience.
Nevertheless, as I've said before, most Christians, including progressive Christians, are good and kind people. But I suspect this has nothing to do with believing in God as the Bible portrays him, or believing in Jesus. I suspect it is just because being good and compassionate is our best way forward, our best way to progress as the human race. There is no doubt that progressive Christianity works (and will continue to work) for some people. I wish them nothing but they best. But it ultimately didn't work for me. As I've said before, we each must find our own path in life. I wish each of you nothing but the best. Live long and prosper. :)

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Safe travels Bill.

 

While a death pushed me to question my beliefs as inevitably these things can, it is sort of a gift as I said before. An unwelcome gift but a gift nevertheless.

 

Part of me agrees with your assessment of PC, another part not.

 

Death in my case shed me of my belief in dualism in its various forms.

 

One day I will become ordinary star dust, if there is such a thing.

 

May the wind be at your back.

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