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What dogma were you taught that you now understand differently?


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I'm curious how many people have radically different ideas from what you were taught, and if you struggle with them, or even keep you true beliefs between you and God. 

A quick background about me: I was raised in a very religious Lutheran family. My brother got his MDiv and became a pastor. My oldest sister did missionary work for several years, and met her husband at a bible study group. My other sister married a missionary and moved to Peru. One brother was a bit of a rebel, but his belief in God is very important. I went to a Christian Rock retreat, and ended up being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and have spoke in tongues ever since. But because I am gay, I was turned off by the callousness of Christians offering judgement rather than empathy or calling AIDS God's judgement, and the church saying that gays should not be allowed in their church to worship. But, I spoke in tongues, i couldn't deny, and left the church, but spoke to God daily as I have since I was a little kid. 

And what did I find? 

A better understanding of God once I dared to question what I was taught, and pray about it. 

What I was taught: Man sinned. The price was death. The payment for our sin was Christ being sacrificed for us, and rising again. If we admit our sin, ask forgiveness, and ask Christ into our heart, we have salvation and eternal life. 

What I believe at this point: Christ came to teach us how to love. He taught us how to forgive, and to humble ourselves to ask forgiveness. He showed how to love a neighbor whom we don't know with the story of the Good Samaritan. Christ said that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and when we do that, we love God ("when you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me.") 1 John 4:20 
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

So, inho, if you don't love your neighbor as yourself, you don't follow Christ, thus, not a Christian.  If you don't understand that none of this has ever been about sin, and trying not to, but in actively loving others - being kind, praying for your enemies rather than retaliate, having empathy, understanding, patience. 

It's not about sin. It's not about begging for forgiveness, unless you want to ask forgiveness from the person you harmed. You don't have to become perfect for God to love you because he already does unconditionally. Christ died to show to what length he would go, and that was death.

Above all things, it is God's wish that we pray for love, and it is given freely. 

Christ said that all mankind will know you are his disciples by the love you show others. We aren't. We are known as modern day Pharisees, thinking ourselves morally superior, often using the bible like a lawyer to condemn others while ignoring our own imperfections, using laws to burden others, and often full of fear of anyone outside of our denomination. Even I feel like once someone tells me they are Christian, I get into a defense mode, wondering if they will sell Jesus as a used car salesman "well, if you die tonight..." or the "love you just hate your sin" folks that make your "sin" the focus. And I think Christians as a whole should be asking why we are not known for our love. 

I believe the Christian concept of "tough love", an excuse to abuse people and call it disciplining, is not tough at all. It's tough to forgive someone who hurt you intentionally and has no remorse. It's tough to admit you were wrong, realize how your thoughts, words, or actions harmed another, and ask forgiveness you don't deserve. It's tough to not feel superior in a world that is about being number 1. It's tough to feel empathy to someone begging for money or food when you worked hard for your money, and tough to have empathy, to realize you don't know someone else's situation. That is tough love. 

I teach English as a Second Language, and have taught many Muslims. They take their religion much more seriously, stopping class or whatever they are doing to pray at the same time in unison. I saw love from my Muslim students. I have met many atheists that have a stronger moral compass than Christians who believe, for example, that posting the 10 Commandments in school or outside the Courthouse will remind people lying, killing and stealing are bad, like you have to refer to it as a cheat sheet. So, maybe there are many paths up the mountain. 

When Jesus said, "I am the Light, the Truth and the way; no one comes to the Father but by me", he didn't have an asterisk that said *pending my upcoming crucifixion, resurrection, and you asking forgiveness, and for me to be your saviour. I believe he meant that no one comes to the Father but by love (for everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.) So, if you love, regardless of your religion, not only do you know God by whatever name you call him, but atheists by far deserve heaven, because in not believing in a heaven, those who live in love simply because it makes the world a better place, not expecting a reward of heaven, deserve it. 

I don't believe priests, nuns, or any clergy are any more close to God than any other. God is constantly trying to get our attention. I assumed everyone understood your conscience is God's voice within you. 

And I believe that Christians have done a huge disservice to the glbtq, harmed many of us spiritually, and will receive harsh judgement for daring to tell anyone that God believes we are an abomination, or wants us dead. It won't be pretty. 

I studied Buddhism, and find that Buddhists are often more in line with Christ's teaching than his followers. For example, most lay christians think saying something is bad, and doing the action worse, but see the thought as a temptation, while Buddhists believe thought becomes word becomes action, so you meditate and purify your thoughts, at the root. 

And comments, or radical thinking that would probably get you burned at the stake at one time? 

 

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This is a random comment, but here in the San Francisco Bay I will see billboards, and because of the file size, couldn't post the pic, but it says

Jesus is the only way to God.

555-TRUTH

First of all, what is the point of the billboard? I can't imagine a nonChristian jotting diwn the number. 

And second if all, shouldn't it read:

Jesus is the only way to the Father?

Because Christians believe Jesus is God. 

I teach English as a Second Language, so it's like seeing "your welcome."

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I wasn't raised Christian, but I was exposed to a few wildly different sects of Christianity and the main impression I got was that there a lot of ways to interpret this whole Christianity thing. 

I think the biggest change I went through was a re-interpretation of sin. 

I always cringed at the notion that we're all "bad" and need to ask forgiveness to be accepted into the exclusive Jesus-club in the after life. 

I was like "eff that", I left home as a teenager, there was no way I was subscribing to a father figure who was telling me I fundamentally wasn't good enough and that only he had the power to forgive me for how crappy I was, but I wouldn't know the reward for sucking up to him until I died. 

Yeah right, bite me "father". If I could reject my own parents, I could definitely reject this imagined self-righteous asshat. 

However, that was seeing it through a very literal and human lense. 

Over the years, through my total and utter rejection of the church, I came around to a far more esoteric understanding of "sin", "forgiveness", "God", or the "afterlife". 

I don't really use those terms. I don't see "sin", instead I have a sense of humans being fundamentally vulnerable and prone to destructive behaviours. 

I see "forgiveness" more as understanding and acceptance of everything we are, not despite our vulnerabilities. We are all part of the whole of existence, no matter who or what we are. No one deserves a place in it less or more because we are all part of the same thing. Like cells in a body that all make up the life. 

While some see it as asking for forgiveness, I see it as recognizing that the whole values all of us as part of it, no matter who we are. 

I don't see a "father" or a dude called "God", I perceive a concept of divinity that permeates all existence. A connectedness greater than the sum of our individual selves. 

I don't see an "afterlife" that is a place we go after our trial time on earth, where we get to live with our grandmas until our kids die too and we get to hang out with them again while playing card games with Jesus and Paul or some nonsense like that. 

Instead, I see time as a human construct, a limited lense through which we perceive existence. So I don't have any concept of existence before or after or corporeal life because I don't see time as relevant beyond that. 

So basically, I grew up hearing very human-organization type interpretations of concepts that I now don't feel should be interpreted in such limited, and human ways. 

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11 hours ago, Beanieboy said:

So, maybe there are many paths up the mountain. 

Totally agree with that. And everything else said here.

A bit envious of the "speaking in tongues" bit. OK, I know in some respects it's  a "New age" (or Old Age") aspect of Christianity that's come back to the forefront in the last century or two, in the charismatic communities, the ecstatic experience where you're at your happiest dancing in the aisles/whatever....but it never happened for me. Even when very senior members of the Full Gospel Business Mens' Fellowship laid their hands on me and prayed for the Spirit to enter me (that was a very long time ago). 

The notion of "sin", particularly "Original Sin" - I'm pretty sure the first century Christians would not have believed in it. It runs contrary to the teaching of Jesus, who goes out of his way to affirm people as good rather than bad. The people he condemns are the religious leaders who say the opposite. He says you have to be like a child to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:17).

It runs contrary to our understanding of human development today. There is grounding for the idea of inherited traits, sure. Many psychologists say that around half the variation in personality and behavior is inherited, the outcome of our genetic makeup. But the idea that we are all condemned before we start, through an action that had nothing to do with us, goes against common sense.

I remember arguing with my mother about it, as a youngster. Brought up in a Baptist family I hadn’t been christened or confirmed. Baptism was an adult choice (or rather teenage, in my case). I didn’t feel convinced enough. In fact, the closest I’ve some to any kind of religious initiation was being blessed by a tribal witchdoctor in Sudan (I still have the cow bracelets).

Anyway, I pointed out that if I wasn’t baptized into the Elect I was going to hell. Did she really believe that? She replied that she’d go to hell with me. Love beats doctrine, or should do. That was probably the point where I started to think for myself. But nobody today really believes their child is born evil, unless they’re mentally disturbed. The idea is obscene. It’s also immoral.

 

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On 2/20/2021 at 1:59 AM, John Hunt said:

Anyway, I pointed out that if I wasn’t baptized into the Elect I was going to hell. Did she really believe that? She replied that she’d go to hell with me. Love beats doctrine, or should do. That was probably the point where I started to think for myself. But nobody today really believes their child is born evil, unless they’re mentally disturbed. The idea is obscene. It’s also immoral.

I tried to help my mother understand why I don't believe in Hell, with similar logic.  But she couldn't process it.  I told her that by her understanding she should expect me to go to Hell as I didn't believe Jesus died for my sins or that I needed to believe that. In fact, I said I would want to go to Hell simply to demonstrate solidarity with all those poor wretches that other Christians think deserve eternal torture!  That being the case, how could she be happy for all eternity in Heaven, whilst knowing her son was suffering eternal torment.  Luckily for her, I was baptized at 14 when I 'chose' to accept Jesus (like a 14 year old can appreciate such with all of their life experience!) and that's all she needs to satisfy herself. 

As for "... nobody today really believes their child is born evil" I beg to differ - there are plenty of Christians still believing that message and passing it on.    Today I see teaching children this harmful message as child abuse, but because it is 'Christianity', people are free to harm their kids with it.

I was raised in a bible-believing, Jesus-accepting household.  I was taught that I was born a sinner and that if I didn't ask God or Jesus for forgiveness and accept Jesus into my heart, I would be condemned to Hell for all entirety and forever separated from my family.  My sister stayed true to the faith, married young and moved to Mexico as a missionary (they run a cafe there and convert Mexicans if they can).  I on the other hand joined the police force at 18yrs and learnt about justice, mitigating factors, risking your life for people you don't know, etc, and from that experience, I could never understand 'God and Mercy', as I had been taught, ever again.

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See, for me, I wrapped my mind around "sin" as being a fundamental human capacity for destructive behaviour, of which we are all capable. 

I worked with children for years, they are capable of incredible cruelty. We all are. 

So if I conceptualize that we are "born with sin" meaning we are all born with the capacity for cruelty, destruction, etc, then I'm actually pretty okay with teaching young children about being born with sin.

It's pairs with the concept that none of us are perfect. If sin is the thing that is imperfect in us, then it's something that we can know about ourselves and care about without feeling like we're not worthy of love. 

If it's reframed to everyone, including children, that they aren't perfect, they can never be perfect. They are capable of hurting others, and in their lifetime they *will* hurt others and themselves, but that even then, they are still wonderful and worthy of love. 

That love is not conditional upon being perfect. Sin does not make us unworthy of love. 

It can be quite in line with what most parents already teach their children. It doesn't have to be a toxic construct of "you are born with sin therefore you are bad!". 

Do we teach children that they don't deserve to be loved just because they did something mean to their classmate and made them cry? Of course not. 

We teach them to recognize that they are capable of cruelty and to try and give love and receive it themselves. 

Edited by Kellerman
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5 hours ago, Kellerman said:

So if I conceptualize that we are "born with sin" meaning we are all born with the capacity for cruelty, destruction, etc, then I'm actually pretty okay with teaching young children about being born with sin.

Yeah, that seems pretty harmless.  Unfortunately, I don't think that is the Christian position in the main. 

I would also teach children that the human capacity for destructive behavior, of which we are all capable, is just as fundamental as the human capacity to love.  The former is not a default behavior that we are inherently ruled by.

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1 hour ago, PaulS said:

Yeah, that seems pretty harmless.  Unfortunately, I don't think that is the Christian position in the main. 

I would also teach children that the human capacity for destructive behavior, of which we are all capable, is just as fundamental as the human capacity to love.  The former is not a default behavior that we are inherently ruled by.

In the main?

What does that mean?

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Wow, where to begin. So much has changed, and I feel like I'm constantly in flux. So, I think I'm just going to go with my understanding of the role dogmatic theology itself. 

I'm not saying dogmatic theology is bad. I think it's a great way to help people connect with others who are similar so that they can grow together. But it can also become a tool to nullify spiritual growth.

I used to look at dogmatic theology as an attempt to be "right". And I back in the day I looked at different theologies to see which one was more "right". 

Now, I look at dogmatic theology as a dialogue partner. It's not always right, and neither am I. In the places where I agree, I find it's good to talk with a friend who gets me. And when I disagree most, it can inspire me to pursue my own disagreement and develop it more, and as a result come to understand myself and my relationship to the Divine better. The power of that relationship comes not through submissiveness to dogma as the final word, but through honest conversation that is open to inspiration and growth. 

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22 hours ago, Kellerman said:

In the main?

What does that mean?

image.png

So, in general (in the main), I don't think Christianity stops at just teaching children they are born with the capacity for cruelty, destruction etc, but worse, that this is their base nature as 'sinners', born into sin.  They are not worthy of God unless they believe certain beliefs.

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3 hours ago, PaulS said:

image.png

So, in general (in the main), I don't think Christianity stops at just teaching children they are born with the capacity for cruelty, destruction etc, but worse, that this is their base nature as 'sinners', born into sin.  They are not worthy of God unless they believe certain beliefs.

I wonder if this is a global Christian thing or particular to certain sects or regions or cultures. 

I participated in two churches as a kid and the atrocious evangelical church in my hometown definitely taught that we kids should feel extreme shame about sin, but the Anglican Church taught us none of that, and the United Church ministers I know don't teach that. 

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7 hours ago, Kellerman said:

I wonder if this is a global Christian thing or particular to certain sects or regions or cultures. 

I participated in two churches as a kid and the atrocious evangelical church in my hometown definitely taught that we kids should feel extreme shame about sin, but the Anglican Church taught us none of that, and the United Church ministers I know don't teach that. 

Undoubtedly there are strains of Christianity that don't teach this (yay!) but I doubt it is the majority of the Christian religion.  The largest denomination for instance, Catholicism, will preach how Jesus is the required salvation if one should wish to live in Heaven (the alternate not so much promoted but very much insinuated).  Of course, that said, there are progressive Catholics too - they're just a minority.  Anglicans are possibly more progressive with a slightly better acceptance of homosexuality for instance, but many of those branches still believe in Hell as a place of justice for those that didn't make the right choice in this life!  But Anglican doctrine still promotes the Nicene Creed which promotes the belief that Jesus is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.  There too belief is required as they believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  I think the United Church is probably the most progressive among that lot, but they number less than a couple of million worldwide.

Anglicans aside, who make up about 110m of the +2.5billion Christians in this world apparently, there are still the Baptists (100m), the Lutherans (90m), Calvinists (80m), Methodists (80m), 7th Day Adventists (22m), and the some 500m Modern Protestants, who do believe in this narrative of one being condemned to Hell unless they make a certain choice.

I think the tide is turning, and Progressive Christianity is contributing, but it is a mighty sea.

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3 hours ago, PaulS said:

Undoubtedly there are strains of Christianity that don't teach this (yay!) but I doubt it is the majority of the Christian religion.  The largest denomination for instance, Catholicism, will preach how Jesus is the required salvation if one should wish to live in Heaven (the alternate not so much promoted but very much insinuated).  Of course, that said, there are progressive Catholics too - they're just a minority.  Anglicans are possibly more progressive with a slightly better acceptance of homosexuality for instance, but many of those branches still believe in Hell as a place of justice for those that didn't make the right choice in this life!  But Anglican doctrine still promotes the Nicene Creed which promotes the belief that Jesus is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.  There too belief is required as they believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  I think the United Church is probably the most progressive among that lot, but they number less than a couple of million worldwide.

Anglicans aside, who make up about 110m of the +2.5billion Christians in this world apparently, there are still the Baptists (100m), the Lutherans (90m), Calvinists (80m), Methodists (80m), 7th Day Adventists (22m), and the some 500m Modern Protestants, who do believe in this narrative of one being condemned to Hell unless they make a certain choice.

I think the tide is turning, and Progressive Christianity is contributing, but it is a mighty sea.

Funny you mention Catholics, because I'm from a French Catholic area, and a lot of them take it pretty seriously that Pope JP2 said that hell wasn't a place, but the consequence of sin itself, a state of separating oneself from God. 

There's a big difference between how a child is taught about the concept of sin for themselves vs how the church is used as a tool of oppression against those who are different. 

I've met ultra conservative Orthodox Greek Christian leaders with extremely regressive social values, but who taught their own congregants a very compassionate version of sin, where sin is just part of being human and God loves them no matter what. 

I remember in the evangelical church in my hometown, it was all about personal shame. A deep sense of fear was instilled about how people should fear judgement for their sins from God and from others. Incidentally, that church was actually quite politically progressive. 

I absolutely see a correlation between repressive social values and how the concept of "sin" is used to promote hate, but I don't necessarily see a correlation to how sin is taught to children with respect to themselves. 

Perhaps there is in the US, I know that evangelical Christianity correlates with being conservative, so if it's the norm that American evangelicals teach really shame based "sin" concepts, then the correlation makes sense. 

But where I live, we don't have that obvious correlation of a dominant religion with a political alignment. Our Catholics are our largest religious group, and they're often very left wing here...which incidentally doesn't necessarily correlate with progressive social values. 

So the mix of religious affiliation, political affiliation, and social values is very muddy here. There is no "main" pattern. 

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9 hours ago, Kellerman said:

Funny you mention Catholics, because I'm from a French Catholic area, and a lot of them take it pretty seriously that Pope JP2 said that hell wasn't a place, but the consequence of sin itself, a state of separating oneself from God. 

Yes, but he also said that in that state the person suffers the pain of the deprivation of God - eternally.  He calls it eternal damnation and self-inflicted punishment.  He blames the individual for it as he says they deserve it because they have freely and definitively separate themselves from God.  It's just a softer version of the fire and brimstone version of hell.  Maybe it helps them feel better about their loved ones suffering eternal damnation.

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On 2/23/2021 at 5:25 AM, PaulS said:

there are plenty of Christians still believing that message and passing it on. 

I have two kids (well, adults now), they're good people, I love them very much. I'd do anything to stop them having to spend a minute in Hell/burning lake of fire. The idea that there is a loving God who would condemn the vast majority of the 100 billion or people who have lived on the earth to trillions of years/eternity of torture because they haven't accepted His son as their savior - I just think that of all the teachings,of all the world's religions, this is the absolute worst.  

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On 2/25/2021 at 9:16 AM, PaulS said:

Undoubtedly there are strains of Christianity that don't teach this (yay!) but I doubt it is the majority of the Christian religion.  The largest denomination for instance, Catholicism, will preach how Jesus is the required salvation if one should wish to live in Heaven (the alternate not so much promoted but very much insinuated).  Of course, that said, there are progressive Catholics too - they're just a minority.  Anglicans are possibly more progressive with a slightly better acceptance of homosexuality for instance, but many of those branches still believe in Hell as a place of justice for those that didn't make the right choice in this life!  But Anglican doctrine still promotes the Nicene Creed which promotes the belief that Jesus is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.  There too belief is required as they believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  I think the United Church is probably the most progressive among that lot, but they number less than a couple of million worldwide.

Anglicans aside, who make up about 110m of the +2.5billion Christians in this world apparently, there are still the Baptists (100m), the Lutherans (90m), Calvinists (80m), Methodists (80m), 7th Day Adventists (22m), and the some 500m Modern Protestants, who do believe in this narrative of one being condemned to Hell unless they make a certain choice.

I think the tide is turning, and Progressive Christianity is contributing, but it is a mighty sea.

I think mainstream Christianity, uniquely today amongst the major faiths, is it does teach that humankind is basically lost, damned, in original sin. We’re condemned from the time we’re born, unless we accept God through His Son by faith (for Protestants), or through the sacraments (for Catholics). The logic is inevitable. If there’s no original sin then no savior is needed, no sacrifice by God to save humankind, no need for a literal resurrection. Conservatives are right in that once you start to pick the thread it all unravels – maybe God doesn’t live up in the sky any more, but then why did Jesus ascend from the earth like a space rocket? If he didn’t really do that, why believe he physically rose from the dead? If hell is not actually a lake of burning fire, why should heaven be a real place? If the devil is not a real, personal entity, why should God be? Once you start to pick and choose what you’re prepared to believe it’s hard to know where to stop.

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6 hours ago, John Hunt said:

....The logic is inevitable. If there’s no original sin then no savior is needed, no sacrifice by God to save humankind, no need for a literal resurrection. Conservatives are right in that once you start to pick the thread it all unravels....

I think this is why Christians (in general) have fought/do fight tooth and nail to decry evolution as a scientific fact - it destroys the original sin story of Adam and Eve.  Those who do accept evolution (but still believe in Jesus being a sacrificial savior) then have to come up with a new narrative, such as original sin coming into being when human beings developed self-consciousness, but still, that eliminates the whole Satan as a fallen angel story too.

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  • 1 month later...

Hey, BeanieBoy!! I liked reading your post, but I believe that you have to receive Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life to get to Heaven. I believe that people who don't want to spend eternity with Christ will not be doing so. But I also suspect that there are many death-bed conversions that we will never know about because they happen privately between the person and the Lord. I have really  struggled with the Christian Church's (as a whole) beliefs about homosexuality. I believe that it is not a choice, it is a way some people are born, their truth. Just like I have the height, sight, eye color, etc the Lord gave me, some people are born as homosexuals and I can't comprehend how if they were born that way, and created by God, how that can be a sin. Anymore than the original sin we are all born with. I can't process it all, but I need a local Christian fellowship that doesn't condemn people. The thought of Christians making a public scene to shame others makes me physically ill. The idea of Christians screaming at people that God hates them it the antithesis of Christianity and they should be called out on such behavior publicly and consistently by all other Christians. So that those who are not Christian don't get the wrong message. I am a Christian woman and in my younger days I made a choice to get an abortion. I believe it was a wrong choice, I'm not sure if it was murder, but it was a sin. However, I had to pass thru protestors who were yelling and screaming at me at my lowest point. I was traumatized, but it did not change my mind about the abortion. It just made me terrified of those types of "Christians".  A few years ago I was in a women's Christian Bible study and another woman commented about how sad it is that they don't protest like that anymore; That Christianity was better when they did. I spoke up, (voice shaking) saying that I disagreed and that I felt it was hypocritical to behave like that. That if they were so anti-abortion, their actions should prove it by supporting free or low-income access to birth control, by establishing more support for adoption, by adopting kids themselves rather than horrifying those who are in the middle of one of the toughest decisions of their lives.  I am disappointed that Christian churches are not more focused on Love than hate. I entirely agree with what you are saying about that. "they will know we are Christians by our love".  God Bless you in your journey!!

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