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Hi, From Mike


mike9999
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hi: In the last few years I had no places or Christians to share my views, mostly my rejection of being put in a frame of literal interpretaion of bible. I don't want to take away my Christian friends' faith when they are facing their personal challenges in their lifetime by arguing with them; on the other hand I don't want to force myself into something I don't believe in. I have been driftting away since. Everytime I showed up in my church when I had to, I just keep my mouth shut. The weeky Q&A from pastor John Shelby Spong is my only source of consolation. As a matter of fact I knew him for the first time in my life when I read his book Why Christianity Must Change Or Die, when I was browsing books in our local library and I was thrilled that finally I had someone who shared similar thoughts. It's nice to be among people who I can share my thoughts.

 

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Hi Mike,

 

Welcome to the site. I'm perty new here too, my intro post is the one just before yours.

 

My experience with having no one to exchange or express ideas with is somewhat similar to yours, both in the churches I've been to and with the people I know. It's because they are either too traditionalistic or too new age or because they don't have much faith or real Christian beliefs either. They are all good people, it's just that there's no one really to talk to in this regard.

 

I had a similar experience regarding John Shelby Spong. For me it was his book "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism" that really will always be a remembered experience.

 

I hope you find at least a good piece of what you're looking for on this message board.

 

Cheers and Smiles

 

Elen

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Something very different from the majority of your is that I came from a Chinese background (not China though) and there might be less than 5% of us who are in Christianity. I have different issues that are very unique in one way that I seldom find answers among discussions. On the other hand the core of the conflicts are simliar: science vs religion, religion A vs Christianity, family values, homosexuality, death sentence etc. It is rather unique that I felt pretty at home when I attened our church at my home country with a pastor who didn't stress too much about the "fundamentals" of Christianity; he spelt them out but didn't try to use them to negate a lot of other thoughts or values; and I felt connected and included in that environment. On the other hand when I came to another Western country here and attened our church, I began to feel an outcast from our group. In our pastor's sermon he constantly picked on science and derided evolution; he would compare one scientist with another, concluding one being real great just because he was a Christian; he would cast down a great Chinese intellectual in the Chinese history just because at a certain point of time this person happened to express a different perspective about Christianity. I ended up with when I had to sit in the sermon I would use my mobile to read articles, books so I can endure the whole session. I still go to our church when necessary because my family go there and I stopped any spiritual conversation with our family after a few heated exchanges I had with them; they are with the fundamental teaching from our pastor, at least my wife is, and I don't know for sure about my grown up children since they didn't share too much about what they thought.

 

There was one point in time, probably 3 years ago, when I had to assume that I was wrong and the fundamental teaching was right, to continue the discussion. I realized very quickly that I should not step back when I am not convinced. I am very open to different ideas, perspectives, experiences, and not insistent on me being right; yet I cannot blindly force myself into something that I don't think right. Even tough I am science trained I considered it is just one perspective of our understanding of our life, and I would listen to both sides of the argument and do not jump into any conclusion and even not consider it's possible to get a clear cut answer for these BIG questions of our life. But the fundamentalists will blame me of being too proud and they would tell me "you have to be humble and you have to accept what was taught in the bible, 100%"

 

After reading articles/interviews and books from pastor Spong, I once thought he might be too strong and too firm on what he believe in, that he might be wrong in some points he made. Even though I don't totally agree with everthing he said, I have the highest respect of him because his view and his willingness to stand up in front of the fundamentalists. More and more I realize he has to be strong considering his journey through the so called main stream Christian thoughts and their fierce attack on him. One thing I change about myself is that I will stay firm on what I understand and what I believe in, no one will push me around, and that I will open up more to others' experience and perspectives, and empathize with them and walk with them through our journey.

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Hi Mike,

 

Welcome again to this website.

 

I can in my own way identify with what you’ve written about having to focus on something else just to get through a sermon. In one church I was visiting, I ended up in the back row with the old timers, who would say things like, “I just had a good nap”, after a sermon. In another I’ve tuned out everything the preachers were saying and just listened to the music, (I don’t always go with all the lyrics either, but if I can tune in with most of it I figure it’s ok). I’ve sometimes watched religious programs on TV, here I’ve really made up my mind to sort out what rings true and sane and sensible for me and what does not. Sometimes I just have to turn it off, other times I feel like the show was perty good or at least ok.

 

I’m lucky in the fact that my immediate family hasn’t given me any or much conflict about not being a “fundamentalist” or traditional type Christian. I’ve never been married and have no children, but there is my siblings and my mother. When I came out as a non-traditional or non-literalist Christian, they weren’t too much surprised. I also have a friend who is a dyed in the wool French Catholic, with a heritage that goes back at least 1,500 years in the Catholic faith. She’s really great, and is really supportive of different ideas, of different types of Christianity and new perspectives on the spirituality. I figure if I’m ok with her, with her upbringing and long heritage, then I can’t be that far off the right or clear track. Still however, I can only bring up nontraditional ideas with her every so often, there’s still a feeling that I might be rocking the boat too much or too fast. We haven’t known each other that long, so I still have to see how it will go. Like you, I’ve been very much in need of a place where I can express, share and exchange non-literalistic ideas. I finally felt so in need and alone that I googled Dr. Spongs website and that led me to this website and message board, that was just about a week ago. It probably also explains why I’m very likely writing and posting a bit too much. I’ve had to be silent for a bit too long. (apologies for this)

 

When I first discovered Dr. Spong, I became a bit of a follower, for about a year or two. That was sometime back, now I find there are number of real points and ideas that I disagree with him about. I still really appreciate him and can even say that I love the guy. Like you say, being brave enough to challenge such traditional beliefs and hard set ideas takes real courage and some real doing. I met him once after a lecture he was giving, he signed one of his books for me and even let me give him a hug and gave one back in return at the same time. The first thing I said to him was, “I don’t agree with everything that you say”. He smiled and said, “Neither does my wife”. Then I told him, “I want to give you a hug”, and he said, “Go ahead”,… then he signed my book.

 

You should never be afraid to think what you think or be who you are or where you’re at in terms of your faith and beliefs and ideas. Especially if you are doing it for positive ends and are really trying to help others as well clarifying and getting to the truth concerning things, for yourself. This has been hard for me too, and many times feel that I have hold back or not express too much or too fast. I guess I’ve also been lucky in that I practically cut my teeth on ideas from our Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Freedom of religion, of speech and of the press and writing are things that I’ve learned to consider as inalienable rights and I’ll be danged if I’m gonna let anyone take them away from me or curtail them. I actually often feel like I’m sometimes fighting for two things, my ideas and insights and those of the others that I agree with, and also my inalienable rights to express them. It has been a struggle and sometimes even been a bit scary at times but I’m sticking to my guns/points so to speak. Also being a 50 something year old woman, I’ve been kept quiet too long, I think when I was younger the guys took up the idea that they would speak for us, which they didn’t really, and so for a lot of us, ideas went unsaid and a lot of needs went unrecognized, unseen and unaddressed.

 

I don’t mean to be taking away from the fact that this is your introduction post thread or to be replacing your story with mine and me. I’ve written most of this to let you know that you’re not the only one with these challenges and injuries, and also hopefully offer a few ideas on possible ways of solving them or getting through them. I’m hoping that writing all this is ok and that it’s not too much or too soon on your post thread.

 

Good Luck in and through the Future

 

E

 

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Greetings Mike,

 

I'm certain uou will find this community friendly and respectful to your views. We are all on this individual journey and each at different stages. I find we can all learn and better understand each other by sharing and questioning without holding too strongly to our own assumptions. i think we learn most from our own experiences and also from the experiences of others that have come to similiar conclusions as you have expressed. Uncertainty is not a bad thing here and sometimes admitting we don't know seems like the door that opens us to even greater truth. Looking forward to your participation and personal perspectives concerning threads here. Also feel free to start any topic that is of interest to you.after reviewing some of our ettiquette and individual forum rules.

 

Again welcome,

Joseph

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Dear Elen:

 

I cannot thank you more for your sharing your thoughts and your time, among others like Joseph and Paul. One thing similar in my situation and yours is that I decided to hold myself to the conviction that I will live my life to the truth as much as possible just a few years before I approached my 50; it seemed just a short time ago. As Chinese saying by Confucius: People should be independant by 30, without confusion by 40 and knowing their destiny by 50, I was keen to take on that attitude when I was turning that 50. I stay gentle but I am firmmer, and it has been turmoil and ecstasy at the same time. The hard thing for me was that was the time when our family were trying to fit into a new country setting, with my children still in their teens and I was not happy about the way the preaching was done too the children; I have total respect with other's views, like my wife's, but was utterly opposed to the ideas that children/teen agers were put in a wash-out preaching that I considered not fair to their minds. That was the source of conflicts during those turmoils. Luckily my wife and I sensed that we each holds very different views and our commitment to our marriage encourages both of us to step back to respect each other, meaning not to talk about it; and I was able to take it lightly that my children would develop their own judgement in their future what's they believe and what not. It was lucky that in just a few years that they turned young adult and I have a sense that they might not be as zealous as we older ones are and that's good for them. I would rest my faith on that their early years of good values and learning would steer them through any challenge ahead of them and they can be as different as I am and I will be all proud of them anyway.

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Hi Mike,

 

I’ve often thought that if I ever did have a child that I would not bring them to church until they were at least fifteen years old. Even then I would instruct them to have their full discretion, full cognitive abilities and acute sense of reasoning going, full time, even before they walk in there. Surly I’m being way over cautious, but all the same,… I have thought this way from time to time. I’m glad to hear that you feel that your children, now young adults, are doing well and are not “going overboard” so to speak, concerning these things.

 

I would like to encourage your wife and you to try to be able to talk at least once in a while about these things and even about your differences regarding your beliefs and Christianity; but maybe I’m putting my words in where they don’t belong. I may be a good thing to talk about what you do believe in common first. I once dated/saw a man who was into very different music from myself. If we had been younger this probably would have been a dividing point, as it was we were able to deal with it with a sense of humor, even if we did make faces at each other from time to time.

 

I like the ideas that you’ve shared from Confucius, I might only subscribe to them 80 or 90% but I still think they are insightful and informative. I’m thinking 80 or 90% is being perty favorable as things go in the realms of philosophy and ideas. If you ever want to share more philosophy from the east I would be most interested in hearing about it. There I a topic heading for “Other Wisdom Traditions” on this forum where ideas from Buddhism and other traditions are discussed.

 

I want to thank you so much for liking my previous post to you. I was so afraid that it was too, too long and too about me. Even in this post I am explaining some of my own experiences so maybe you or someone else can get a little something from them, and hopeful not to be just about me.

 

(Think of however Confucius would most respectfully say good bye and good wishes and imagine that being typed in here)

 

Elen

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There were things that I had in mind or expected when I brought our children to the sunday school or sermons for youth: Just had a listening of a story or some emphasis on loving or lending hands to others in need. Of course later when I believed that they must have instilled the anti-science teachings into the session I do not like my children to be there. When they were in high schools, I want them to learn how to be independant in their thinking; not to be fooled or silenced. The steps that I always take is to tell them, after the session that this is just a particular view from someone and I, as your father, do not believe it because of so and so. I believe when they have a love of persuing knowledge and the truth, and they are working hard toward them, and with a person to walk with them through the process, they will come up with the best answer for themselves.

 

I felt amazed when some of the parents boasted that their young ones who were only about 5 to 7 were able to memorize the verses from the bible; I did not approve of that kind of teaching but what can I say? that's their children.

 

Another thing that I learn through experience is that don't believe 100% when the something is quoted to support the sermon. It is often quoted in our sermon that, as I mentioned before, that this scientist is great and he believe in Christianity, meaning believe in our pastor's literal interpretation of the bible. One example is Einstein. I happened to have this blurred memory that Einstein made some good comments about Buddism and he might not like the literal interpretation of bible, so I went to the web and found out I am right. Newton is another one he would quote as being a great scientist and a good Christian. I was very keen to find out why it is possible for such a great mind to lean on literal interpretation. The few things that I found out, at least from a few articles, was that like Einstein, Newton may believe there is a "God" or just for the sake of attributing something of that enormous power and unlimited wonder that have our universe and life working, to such a tiny detail beyond our comprehension. I don't think Newton will subscribe to the literal interpretation. Of course I am not these two scientists and I do not know everything they believe, but that's what I read after researching an hour or two.

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Maybe I am too lazy as a scientist. But it is easier for me to accept the idea that everything is not beyond "God" and I have no problem to appreciate others who consider themselves atheists. Even with revolution I can see it is a theory yet it is the best human beings come up with and there might be pitfalls, shortcomings but it is formed with due diligence. I don't see conflict with the notion that I hold of "God"; He is beyond everything and humans are acting humble when they are exploring in His playground. It is only when the literal interpretation that holds on to their power and rigidity that won't change their understanding.

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Hi Mike,

I've been meaning to get back to you but I've been so busy.

Try expressing and sharing some of your ideas on one of the post threads here on the site. Get to know people a bit and see if this message board is really what you're looking for and if it will fill the need you have to be the kind of Christian you are and be able to express yourself concerning it.

Apologies that I can only write a short note.

 

I hope everything is going well for you and yours

 

E.

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It is pretty ok and cool that someone is willing to get back to my post not very soon. I am, and I expect many of you are, consumed in the daily making-a-living efforts. To me no matter how much we achieve materially matters only in terms of enough for passing-by, but the thrill of feeling a little closer to "I have lived my life thoroughly," is what is worth awhile.

 

At this point of time in my life I am taking my thoughts seriously, yet I will walk around lightly and expect nothing to come to me. Just a sharing of fellowship, even a disagreed one, can light up a day. Wish you all well today, especially who may come to this message much later.

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Hi Mike,

 

Apologies again that I’ve not had more time to write and post.

 

from one of your earlier posts:

“I believe when they have a love of persuing knowledge and the truth, and they are working hard toward them, and with a person to walk with them through the process, they will come up with the best answer for themselves. “

 

I think that you really have the right idea here. You’re doing the right thing and your children will turn out well and do well because of it.

 

“I felt amazed when some of the parents boasted that their young ones who were only about 5 to 7 were able to memorize the verses from the bible; I did not approve of that kind of teaching but what can I say? that's their children.”

 

I think that here I would tell people to take one verse at a time. To pick and choose and pick and choose carefully. There can be some great ideas and insights in the bible, there can also be some so-so ones and some rather ugly ones also.

 

“Another thing that I learn through experience is that don't believe 100% when the something is quoted to support the sermon.”

 

I would say that I don’t believe 100% of what anyone is saying. No book, no bible, no poet, no president, no preacher, no pope, no parent, no prophet, no principal, no one – and that includes myself too. I try to tune into Christ and God through personal experience and not through a book/bible or church services. I can’t say I’m always perfect at this, or that I’m the best example to follow,… but the more I keep trying the better it seems to go. I’m starting to see that it’s more about love (as God means love), then having an intellectual approach or something like that.

 

I like your paragraph about Einstein and Newton and think that you’re right on there. I’ve seen similar ideas like yours here on this website. I think that science can sometimes be a great reflection of God and even a kind of proof of Es/His/Her existence. I like you have as you say “no problem with people who consider themselves atheists.” As far as revolution is concerned, to me that is a big subject so I won’t go into it here, but as you say people were doing the best they could with what they had to go with. I wouldn’t legislate people not being able to have religion though, but I can also understand how they got there in the first place,… the way that religion used to be so mandatory and absolutely required no matter what and so forth.

 

I’m out of time, maybe I can get back to you about the rest of your posts contents at another time.

 

I hope you and yours are doing well

 

E.

 

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Elen1107 said on Oct 25:

 

I realized people are different in their portions that they put into different subjects with different priorities. I had been on one side of a polictical preference because of my own experience and was resentful to the other side; I was thinking the other side was too critical of some small shortcomings and let them overshadowed the majority goodness. That was then.

 

I then realize that similar situations applied to my not letting go of the shortcomings that I see in the traditional Christian teachings; maybe to my fellow church firends they think I am letting some small portion of the negatives overshadow the majority of goodness. I would think people of different backgrounds, experiences, capacities,and propensities focus on different spots in different ways. I would just say that because the ones that I cannot accept happen to be the ones the fundamentalists stress as the essentials and therefore I have no way of expecting them to look at those differently.

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