Posts Tagged ‘Evangelicalism’

Apparently I think. At least, I think I think. Also, Kay of Songs Of Unforgetting thinks I think, and so does Brendan of Off The Beaten Path. I am, of course, flattered. Since my natural tendency is to be an arrogant sonofabitch, I’m trying to not let it go to my head. The flattery, that is, not the thinking. Thinking belongs in the head. For the most part.

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As a thinking blogger, it is now my duty to tag five other thinking bloggers. My geas, if you will. My onus. Kay and Brendan are of course thinking bloggers, but in honor of playground rules, I observe the ironclad law of “no tagbacks.”

Thus, I chose the following five:

First, my favorite thinker is my beautiful and sexy wife, Katyjane. Is that rank favoritism and perhaps nepotism? Sure it is. I make no excuses. Also, my wife is brilliant, and her opinion means more to me than anyone else’s. I sometimes get frustrated when she doesn’t think exactly like me (did I mention the arrogant sonofabitch part?), but she definitely thinks. I hold her in the highest esteem.  Her blog is funny, offbeat, and thought-provoking.

Second, is my friend Bryant over at Make Me A Commentator!!! It’s a liberal blog where he mostly just pokes holes in conservative columnists’ arguments. But he’s dang good at what he does.

Third, I tag Halcyon over at Halcyonedays. She doesn’t post as often as I do, but I admire her for being willing to think through some scary, imposing, difficult stuff. She’s got guts. Regardless of what conclusions she ultimately comes to, the fact that she’s really, honestly trying to work through life, the universe, and everything instead of just going with the flow and taking the easy pill impresses the heck out of me. It must be her good genetics.

Fourth, I tag Adam over at Daylight Atheism. His analysis is incredibly incisive, and it makes me sit up, take notice, and seriously think things through. He is both reasoned and reasonable, in a way that would make any honest reader take serious stock in what they think and believe- and he tackles tough issues while remaining sensible and nonconfrontational. I would be lying if I did not admit that his essays at Ebon Musings had an incredibly profound effect on me.

Fifth is tough. There are probably a half-dozen other bloggers I would like to tag (and part of me is tempted to give the fifth award to all of them simultaneously as joint tenants, but that’s just the part of me that is taking a Property exam right now). But instead, I’ll give the fifth to Dando at Mormon and Evangelical Conversations, for his even-handed and thoughtful religious dialogue.

In the meantime, I shall give a general shout (and very honorable mention) out to the very worthy Peter at For Peter’s Sake (for always having a thoughtful point of view, and having good taste in women), WhoreChurch at Whore Church (for boldly tackling the ugliest bits of religion while maintaining a close relationship with God and a love for Jesus Christ), Jonathan Blake at Green Oasis (for generally being good at what he does, and always being interesting) Bored in Vernal at Hieing to Kolob (for being feminist and Mormon, and brilliant), and Random Goblin at The Goblin’s Lair (for being one of the most intelligent human beings on earth, as well as a cruel, arbitrary, arrogant sonofabitch- of course these days he writes abject nonsense instead of politics). There are probably plenty of others that I am seriously offending by not mentioning. Oh well. I am cruel and arbitrary (much like many people’s conception of God). Really, though, everyone in my Blogroll and/or Links is worth reading. But if somehow getting two thinking blogger awards justifies me in handing out two sets of awards, then they get them. You may decide for yourself. Blogging Law is not one of the classes I have taken at law school.

Normally, I try to keep away from this kind of thing on my blog and stick to the substantive stuff. But hey, like I said- I’m cruel and arbitrary. I do what suits me at the moment. What can I say?

(oh, also- don’t forget Jeff over at Druid Journal. He’s good enough to have gotte nmy third thinking blogger award twice! But I think he’s gotten one before).

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So I have issues with Christianity.  Last night, while I was out grocery shopping with my lovely wife, who is a committed Christian, I tried to articulate them as well as I could.  I felt like I was able to get it all out in a satisfactory way, but now I’m not so sure I can remember them all.  I’ll do my best; here they are in no particular order:

1. The Jack Chick problem.  Encountering Fundamentalists and many Evangelicals and other Christian-Right-types and their viewpoints completely turns me off to Christianity in general.  Without going into too much detail, there are some popular and vocal approaches to Jesus out there that I find actually repulsive, not to mention preposterous.  When I read such a viewpoint, for example, it sours me on the whole of Christianity.  I do not want to have anything to do with a movement or a religion that spawns that kind of garbage.

Intellectually, I know that those apporaches to Jesus are not exhaustive, they do not by any means necessarily represent the  bulk of Christianity.  I also know that just because people do ugly things with Christianity, that does not mean that Jesus was wrong or a fake (in fact, there is plenty of scriptural evidence that just saying you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you know Jesus).  But those are intellectual qualifications, and my reaction to ugly Christianity is an emotional one, so the intellectual justifications don’t dispel my reservations.

2. Exclusivity.  By most accounts, Christianity is exclusive.  Jesus is literally God, and he is literally the only way to return to the Father.  All other approaches (whether they be Christian heterodoxy or a completely different religion orspiritual path) are either lies or tragic mistakes.

I am of two minds about this.  On the one hand, I grew up Mormon, so a literal and exclusive approach to religion is a familiar one, sort of my default setting, and not easy to break out of.

On the other hand, it just doesn’t feel right.  For one, the weight of opinion is against Christianity- far more people are and have been something else as opposed to Christians, both now and throughout history.  Now, if Christianity is True, then that theoretically shouldn’t matter.  If there is such a thing as objective truth independent from peoples’ minds, then that objective truth would probably not be subject to majority decisions.  However, it seems a little convenient that the One True Way just happens to be the majority view of the culture I grew up in. Especially when there is no real decisive objective evidence to commend Christianity over any other religion.  Maybe there is an objectively True Way, but who says Jesus is it?  I feel like claims of objective truth should be backed up by some kind of objective evidence, at least to differentiate them from competing claims of absolute truth.

I also have this sense that applying Christinity to the whole world is not just like trying to make a square peg fit a round hole, but it’s like trying to make a multidimensional polyshape peg fit into a round hole.  It seems preposterous.  It imposes a simple worldview on an incredibly complex world.  I have a hard time swallowing it.

3. Personal Exclusivity.  This one is trickier to explain.  I want a religion or a faith system that fits all of me.  I don’t mean that I am unwilling to change- I certainly would go to great lengths to change my behavior for what I believe.  However, like all humans, I am extrordinarily complex.  I feel like a religion should speak to every aspect of human existence in a fitting and compelling way, without oversimplifying that which is in no way simple.  What I am not willing to do is to abandon entire facets of existence that are irrelevant to a belief system.  I will change, but I will not amputate.

I don’t necessarily feel like Christianity “explains it all.”  I don’t feel like it fits me like a puzzle piece.  Of course, I haven’t found anything else that does, either.

4. Not feeling the Jesus.  Finally, I do not feel spiritually compelled to follow Jesus.  I find Christianity intellectuallyand even emotionally appealing, and I even find Christianity reasonable, but to me that is not enough.  I want to feel a spiritual pull, and I don’t feel it.  Furthermore, I do not want to purposely cultivate a spiritual experience in the pursuit of Christianity, because that’s what I did with Mormonism.  Having already decided that Mormonism was true, I then went about specifically seeking a spiritual confirmation of that truth.  They say “once burned, twice shy,” and that is appropriate here.  In the end, I fell away from Mormonism.  The connection that I built was not a lasting one.  Honestly, I don’t want the same thing to happen ever again.  I am not about to head in any direction that I will just abandon in eight months or eight years.  And so far, I have nothing to indicate that a decision on my part to commit to Christ and to Christianity will indeed be a lasting one.

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Last night, I prayed,

God reveal yourself to me, and let me know You. 

If that means to know You through Jesus Christ, in the pages of the Bible, in the communty of Christians, or in the ritual and liturgy of the Church, then let me know You that way. 

If that means to know You through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, then let me know You that way.

If that means to know You in silence, in peace, in integrity, and in lisetning to the Light, then let me know You that way.

If that means to know You through the trees, through magick, the awesome power and majesty of nature, and through the beliefs of my most ancient ancestors, then let me know You that way.

If that means to know You through His holy word as revealed through his prophet, be it Moses of Muhammad, then let me know You that way.

If You are the Tao, or Brahman, or  Ahura Mazda, or simply the consciousness of the cosmos, let me know You in whatever way you would have me know You.  If that means to know You through whatever path or faith or religion You might choose for me, then let me know You that way. 

If You exist at all, I pray that I might know You.

But I did not get an answer.

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Well, I might have lots of problems, and maybe one of them is bigger than this one, but for now this feels like my biggest problem.

It is this: I am still holding out for a Testimony of the True Church.

I have already concluded at least for the meantime that I believe the Mormon church is not at all what it claims to be, and thus is not, at least in the way it claims, “The True Church.”  So that’s not what I’m talking about.

This is hard to articulate, and I expect that I will miscommunicate it terribly.

I have this mental block.  I can tell myself all I want that it doesn’t matter what church you go to, as long as it brings you closer to Christ.  I even believe it most of the time, intellectually.  It makes sense to me, in light of the way I understand Christianity and the teachings laid out in the Bible.  I can accept it into my schema.  In fact, it actualy makes a lot more sense to me than any kind of denominational claim to exclusive Truth.

On days when I am feeling less Christian, I can apply the same reasoning to religion in general.  What Jeff Lilly and Malaclypse the Younger say about it seem completely reasonable to me: that all religions are “true,” and that it is simply important that you commit to a belief system in which you grow and draw closer to God (however you choose to personify him/her/it).

The idea that one religion, much less one denomination of one religion, has a singular claim to absolute truth seems immeasurably unlikely, if not naïvely arrogant.  I just don’t buy it.  No religion seems universal enough to be universal, and those few that do are generally not very credible anyway.

So my course should be obvious.  Depending on whether I decide for Christ or not, I should pick a denomination or religion that rings true to me, that meets my needs and seems closest to the truth as I understand it, and go with it.

So why can I not do that?  I have several good candidates in mind (Episcopalianism/Anglicanism, Quakerism, and emerging Evangelicalism are all comfortable and appealing in different ways, and if I wasn’t going to be Christian, I’ve got Asatru, Druidry, and perhaps Buddhism after a longer more serious look); why don’t I just pick one?

I feel like I have a mental block, a stubborn thing laying around in my brain that I can’t get rid of.  It’s like a little goblin in my head that insists on Absolute Truth.  It won’t let me pick a good religion; it will only let me pick The True Religion.  I try to tell this stubborn mental block that there is no True Religion, but this stubborn mental block doesn’t seem to care.

Even worse, this stubborn mental block will only be convinced of Absolute Truth when it is presented with some kind of Incontrovertible Mystical Experience.  And it can’t be logically flawed, either.  I try to tell the mental block that logically airtight Incontrovertible Mystical Experiences are not only really hard to come by, but in the end they aren’t as good a foundation for religious belief as deliberate faith and commitment are anyway.  But the mental block does not seem to care what I say or think.  It stubbornly insists on only accepting a church that is proven Absolutely True by Incontrovertible Mystical Experience, with no logical flaws.  End of discussion.

Do you see my conundrum?  What am I supposed to do?  I have a standard for religion that is completely unrealistic, and one that not only guarantees that virtually all churches will fail, but that probably won’t result in a lasting commitment anyway.

Why is the mental block there?  Why won’t it go away?  It clearly smacks of Mormonism, which is no surprise since I have been a dedicated Mormon for most of my 28 years. But what does it mean?  Am I simply so conditioned by Mormon-logic that I am more or less ruined spiritually, since Mormon-logic ensures that no other church could ever possibly pass its rigged and biased “test” for authenticity?  Or does it mean that something in my soul, deep down, knows that Mormonism is true, and will thus never really be satisfied until I come back?  But the problem with that is, now Mormonism even fails the mental block’s test, since my mystical proof is not at all incontrovertible, and I feel like Mormonism is completely  full of holes, a veritable theological/philosophical swiss cheese.

When I was still an active member but my brother Racticas was in the process of leaving the Church, I supported him on the grounds that since Mormonism is absolutely and exclusively true, he would not find spiritual fulfillment anywhere else and so he would eventually come back.  Is that what this is?  Am I proving my own hypothesis?   Or is spiritual fulfillment waiting for me somewhere (or even everywhere), as soon as I’m willing to take a leap of faith and plunge in instead of perpetually wetting my toes in the shallows of religious commitment?

Or is it merely a case of “once burned, twice shy?”  After years of Mormonism followed by the life-changing crash of walking away from it, maybe I’m just too timid to easily pick a new religion and start again.  Is my mental block really a Mormon-flavored manifestation of a very reasonable fear of religious commitment?

In any case, what do I do?  I know I have no reason to rush things, but the more I think about religion, the more frustrated I get, and I’m afraid that if I don’t pick something and stick with it, I’m eventually going to throw my hands up in frustration and walk away a “committed” agnostic.  And I don’t want that.

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