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Having A Hard Time With Christianity


skyseeker
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Hello there,

 

I hope I am not a bother but I am having a hard time with my christianity. It's not so much to do with the church but with the actual tenets of christianity.

 

I think I must add that I suffer from schizophrenia, and in the past evangelical christians tried to tell me that it was caused by demons. I am still unsure about this, though my doctor says that all my symptoms are like textbook examples of schizophrenia. I get strong medicine against the illness since recently, and although many symptoms vanished I am not very happy. I live in a group home now which is fine so far because I can pursue my hobbies and enjoy the other people and in the future when I am better able again to handle life I can move out and live on my own again. Though I wouldn't even mind staying here because I'm not lonely here and can partake in some activities and have good quality social contact.

 

Spiritually speaking, my problem is that my faith is rather reactive than active. I am in this religion because I am afraid of God and of death, not really because I want to be in it. It is all so confusing and consuming for me. I had been told by other christians to fully pursue Christ lest something bad would happen to me and that I would have a firm solace against death and illness. But the teachings of the bible are so harsh at many places. I have tried to read up on human-friendly theologies like those of Universal Reconciliation, and I also read up a bit on liberal christianity, but I can't get the harshness out of me. And as a result I am often anxious, sometimes outright panicking in the evening, and because I am so anxious, I am sometimes becoming harsh to other people myself, only in my mind so far, but still, it's frightening for me. My dad died three years ago and I had serious problems feeling anything. I'm not sure if this is the illness or my own sinfulness, but it's a big problem. I used to keep myself diligent by giving myself up to the fear of God, but that strikes me as so unhealthy now.

 

What exactly does Jesus mean when He says things like that we have to deny ourselves and all that? If I don't pursue my hobbies I'd die from boredom here. And although I try to practice kindness with the others here, I am often on my edge because of all the inward turmoil in me. I don't hear voices most of the time anymore, but I have strong thought disturbances. For example, I want to think of something and just can't do it, I mean, for example, I can't think of my mother and see here face before me, it's all a distorted mess. I can only rarely imagine something correctly now, and I don't know if it's because of the illness or because of the strong medicine I must take (Haloperidol).

 

I used to dialogue with an american charismatic who told me I needed to embrace Jesus so that I would have a help against my illness, and if I wouldn't embrace Jesus things would become bad for me in a short time. I had a friend in my city who was a christian too, I met him at the hospital and he was pretty much the kindest man that I know. He gave me another idea of Christ, that of Him being a friend throughout life who may not heal me from everything but whom I'd never have to fear and who would welcome me in the afterlife along with everyone else that I love, ie my dad, an uncle that I had, my mother's other brother that she loves very much, my first love...

 

These are beautiful beliefs for me but I don't know how to reconcile them with the judgment verses in the bible. Since I talked with these evangelicals I've succumbed frequently to adoping their view that the world is terrible and only getting worse. I don't want to see anyone as my enemy so I avoid reading davidic Psalms and other parts of the bible that I don't like. But I have the nagging suspicion that these hard parts are true and that God is a harsh master whom I normally couldn't trust if he came to me in reality. I have tried to believe that the Old Testament doesn't exhibit the true spirit of God most of the time, even in the places where the book records God's own words, but the New Testament writers frequently quote from the Old Testament and seemed to believe in many of its messages. St. Paul who at some places writes really beautifully, at other places writes harshly and aggressively, and, as it appears to me, high-mindedly and self-centeredly.

 

The compromise that I am trying to explore now would be the idea that the bible writers used another language and had a whole other mindset than most of us moderns have, and that I am allowed and maybe even encouraged by God not to adopt the ancient mindset even when it was very devout often. After all the ancient times were times of fervent religiousness, and I don't just mean christian religiousness, and it took centuries for people to wake up from this nightmare. But then again if I don't accept the bible, then I have problems finding a secure foundation for my own faith and knowledge.

 

My gut instinct tells me that zeal and devoutness are not good things and that life proves that people can be good men even when they are not very devout, or not devout or pious at all. But what haunts me is what I'd call my evangelical period which was from 2006-2010. I just can't forget the things that I "learned" in this time, even when I read my german bible I get flashbacks of thee and thou language spoken in this ridiculous dramatic style. And even right now I am afraid that I have sinned when saying this and that God would punish me for this. After all the bible says God struck Zacharias mute just because of some unbelief that he had. Or was this more to make him believe?

 

Before I became a christian I had some thoughts about Christ too. I was not fond of some of christianity, but I did have respect for God and sometimes thought of God, the afterlife, Jesus, angels, etc. I didn't like blasphemies, enjoyed the church's desire for social justice like Martin Luther King stood for, and so on. But now I am not at peace anymore, and constantly check myself and sometimes I don't know anymore if the religion is troubling me or just my illness. My mother, a kind and simple christian old lady tells me it's all my illness and that i don't have to be afraid of God. And a few times I have felt joy in God for example when I was camping in the mountains with a very laid back church group I had found in 2009. But now I can't go to that church group anymore because they are in another city and I don't have the money to use the bus to go to them. My group home is led by the christian deaconry and I can't say anything against the people here, they are pretty nice and so on.

 

The struggle is two.fold, on the one hand I have doubts that God is not good and that the bible cannot be trusted, which is enough difficulty for me as it is. But then I have my struggles with the schizo and I don't know if it's just illness or actual demonic assaults as the evangelicals made me believe. (I even had an exorcism done by an evangelical lady I had seen on TV and it didn't make things better too, I remember shivering in fear as she did her stuff to me, over the phone.)

 

So I'd like to look into progressive christianity and what it can give me to replace my evangelical "introduction" into christianity. I'm grateful for any book you can recommend to me. I'm not so deep into the Spong business but maybe there are other books which can help me more get into the love of God and find peace for my life.

 

Greetings from Germany,

 

Daniel

 

 

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Daniel,

 

It seems to me that peace can be found through a sincere process of deconstruction, followed by reconstruction. By deconstruction i mean tearing apart by reason , logic and other means at your avial all that which has been taught us or force-fed through organized religion and others. Sort of an erasing of all that is seen as false followed by self knowledge construction.

 

I am of the view that truth is available and intrinsic to all and that if we take the building that we have allowed others to build for us and bring it to the ground ( a painful process for most) and then allow the very life force that sustains us to teach us we will find our way. Others may inspire you and be vessels that assist you in your journey but ultimately truth is within you. It is always there even as the sun is always there on overcast days but the obstacles (cloulds must be removed for the truth (sun) to appear. How long is the process? In my view, it is not important. Focus on the journey in this moment and the destination will take care of itself.

 

Just thoughts triggered from reading your post,

Joseph

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You are not a bother at all, Daniel. You are certainly facing some tough times with your mental health and we all need friends and people we can share with/bounce things off.

 

Firstly, please know that your schizophrenia is NOT caused by demons! It is a health issue, much like demons don't cause cancer, or strokes, or heart attacks, or leukaemia. I think Christians who try to tell you otherwise are like the ignorant people in Jesus' day who attributed epilepsy to demon-possession. Ignore them and seek help from your medical professional please. It's great to hear your medication is having some affect - further refinement may also help. Sometimes it can be a 'baby steps' process.

 

If it is of any assistance, I went through a 12 month period of what for me was extreme anxiety concerning God & Hell and it seemed impossible to shake it. I was scared of God & Hell, but I just couldn't make myself believe the things that many Christians would say you need to believe to be saved.

 

Like Joseph alludes to, it was the slow process of deconstruction that helped me better understand my intuition for not believing in the first place. Whilst I haven't really reconstructed any particular theology in it's place, I slowly came around to feeling that no God of love would ever subject his creation to demons, suffering, torment and eternal agony. That's enough for me. I also satisfied myself knowing that as Hell wasn't eternal, it probably couldn't be all that bad anyway because it doesn't kill you! I know - not very logical probably, but for me it helped.

 

I think it might be good for you to read some Bart Erhman, Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong and other PC authors. For me personally, I found that they helped me better understand the Bible as a man-made document, written (and edited) by various people throughout time who often had different views of the world and God. The whole book is subject to cultural bias and understandings of the day and should not be read as a rule book set in concrete for time immemorial.

 

Our minds are amazing contraptions and they can do some very strange things to us that may have us question what we regard as 'natural'. I am firmly convinced that the things we can't explain are only waiting further investigation and understanding of how our human brain works.

 

I believe that if there is a God of love, then that God loves us all, regardless of our mental health and contrary thoughts at times.

 

Be at peace, Daniel. You are safe & you are loved.

 

Cheers

Paul

Edited by PaulS
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Thank you for your kind replies, Joseph, Derek and Paul. I'm glad I wrote here and got some answers.

 

Have any of the fathers really advocated Universalism? I'd love universalism to be true, but I just don't know. For example, muslim fundamentalism is just as bad as christian fundamentalism. Or hindu fundamentalism. Or pagan fundamentalism.

 

And what exactly is deconstruction? Is this the stuff Degeuze wrote about? Taking things apart when they don't fit?

 

Thank you again for your kind replies.

 

Daniel

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"Have any of the fathers really advocated Universalism? I'd love universalism to be true, but I just don't know. For example, muslim fundamentalism is just as bad as christian fundamentalism. Or hindu fundamentalism. Or pagan fundamentalism."

 

Universalism has its origins in the early church fathers Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa. The term they used is "apocatastasis" which is a restoration of all things to its original state. The concept is used in other ways by pre-Christian philosophy (the Stoics mostly - who the more I read up on the more I agree with on many things).

 

The notion though of Christian Universalism is diverse amongst Protestants. Some think that Hell doesn't exist. Some think that Hell does but is a place of purification of one's sinful nature that once completed will lead to salvation.

 

Of course, universalism is a theory, like all the other theories which fall under the heading of "theology." If you go to the Eastern religions, specifically Hinduism - which is not really a religion, but more of an umbrella term for a diversity of religious and philosophical movements, there is the notion that all religions are true and lead to god. All religions also have some level of error inherent in them. The Hindus also believe, more of less, that the universe will end, all the gods will die as well, and everything will start all over. Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, is the only eternal thing - but Brahman's not even that. Buddhism seems to reject the notion of Brahman, more or less, but some forms of Buddhism incorporate concepts that resemble Brahman.

 

It seems that the whole theory of universalism is engrained in a theistic worldview, where the Supreme Being is so loving and merciful that all its creation will be reconciled to itself.

 

I personally see no reason why it can't be true, though it is not something that can be "proved" unless there is empirical evidence in the form of love, mercy, compassion, justice, peace, gratitude, selflessness. To me these things, these qualities which make us human are built into to the material universe in a way, despite the seeming opposites of these that we experience.

 

​I would stick to whatever works for you, sky seeker, and live your life accordingly. If you don't deliberate hurt others or yourself, it doesn't really matter what you believe.

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Hello Matteo,

 

yes, it makes much sense to believe in a big and loving God who would reconcile everyone to Himself. But this obviously depends on faith and it's not always easy to have faith. For example, I live in a group home and there are struggles here about basic things like the cream for coffee. And this is Germany, not some third world place. I would welcome God warmly if He were to come back to this world and reconcile it wholly to Himself, but sometimes it's not looking like it. Which is, I think, a motivator for people not to believe in universalism, because we never had an universalistic embrace of all mankind by God. It seems more probable that God is peeved with us, at least as long as God is like us though of course He isn't. I have had my small encounters with God where He would show me love in small ways so that I'd feel mentally refreshed or that a kindness happened to me or something like that. But this is hard to analyze logically ... did something I do warrant such kindness (lordship salvation), was it all unmerited love (free grace), was it mere chance and God was not even involved (deism) or did I conquer for myself a share of goodness (selfish atheism)? I regularly osscilate between believing all of these, and none of them. I never want to be cynical but sometimes life ain't so easy, especially in the psychological experience of it in certain times when you're not strong. That's why I still think there is some malevolent entity around that causes damage, and while God often repairs the damage with us (or sometimes without us), the damage gets done at first. It's like in world war 2, first the war and all its atrocities happened, then Hitler was defeated and we enjoyed some peace again. I never want to blame God for history, but the story of man is not always a nice story. And that is exactly why we have a need for Universalism, only it should be better equipped and have more evidence to itself, so it's not just a theology but an actual power in the world that is to be reckoned with by the "forces of evil", ha.

 

In my country actually many private people have universalistic notions in this way or the other. Everyone takes it for granted when they speak of human rights and such, really. And even atheists often believe in some kind of principle or love or benevolent factor in the cosmos that looks kindly at them. I guess in modernity the difference between atheism and theism is that theists believe there is a person in this benevolence that we're after, while atheists treat it as something impersonal. At least as long as we're having a spiritual mindset and actually embrace things like virtue or goodness. But many people do that in their conscience, also in my group home and everywhere else.

 

Which also shows a need for people to stand up against the evil of evil beings like the devil or other evil factors in life. At least that's how it looks like here.

 

Greetings,

 

Daniel

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Daniel,

I agree with Matteo that you are a chosen fellow. Relax and enjoy your grace and bliss if that means giving Christianity a rest and just enjoying the present moment of love do that. You are being guided what ever you choose. Christianity is a tool, a means, but there are many tools for us to choose from. I chose Christianity, but I know it has hurt many very deeply and understand they need to find another way to enjoy. You are enjoyed the way you are just being....................................

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