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This used to be a blog dedicated to one of my interests, dream interpretation. I have decided to expand it to include thoughts about pretty much Everything.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thoughts on Subverting the Norm 2--Layer 4: concentric identity traps

I grew up a devout Christian in the Word-of-Faith movement.  From birth, I was steeped in positive confessions, manifestations, Bible memorization, commanding demons, dancing in church, and healing people.  I remember showing my dad a wart on my finger when I was probably only about 5 years old. He said to "curse it in the name of Jesus," which I did; the wart was gone the next day. This was my world.


In Kindergarten I started attending a Christian school at an Assemblies of God church.  To get a tuition discount we became members of the church.  Once when I heard my parents disparage one of the AoG pastor's sermons about redemptive suffering, I began to realize that it's possible to be Pentecostal but not Word-of-Faith.
Because my grandparents attended churches in mainline Protestant denominations, I eventually realized it was possible to be a Christian, but neither Pentecostal nor Word-of-Faith.
The older and more experienced I became, the more nuanced a picture I had of Christianity.  By the time I was in high-school, I had an image of God's Kingdom that was something like this:

And then there were other religions. (I wasn't quite sure where to put Catholics.)
But around all of these, there was this huge exterior circle.  The World.  That's where people went to work, played, ate, slept... and pretty much everything that wasn't going to church and/or worshiping God. (Thank you, Enlightenment, for separating the sacred and the secular.)
 
My circles pretty much saw the world as evil.  Parts of it, like eating and sleeping, are necessary evils.  But the truly important part of life is Christianity. God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, prayer, evangelism, the Bible, Worship, and so on.  Anything in The World that doesn't prop up the "Kingdom of God" is wholly superfluous.

Along the way, while absorbing these identity concepts, I also absorbed messages of opposition and persecution.  Non-Pentecostals persecute Pentecostals, calling them crazy holy-rollers.
(Of course, they just don't understand; if they would just get baptized in the Holy Spirit and learn to read the Bible right, they wouldn't say such things.  "Forgive them, for they know not what they do.")

Mainline denominations persecute Evangelicals.
(Of course, they are just blind liberals who care more about a non-Biblical Social Gospel than actually saving souls for heaven, which, clearly, is the most important thing in the Bible.)

Catholics (I finally settled on, yes, they could actually be Christians) persecute Protestants.
(Of course, they are just confused by the traditions of men into thinking that Mary actually has ANYTHING to do with Christianity.) 

Other religions persecute Christians.
(Of course, they are just deceived by Satan into believing anyone besides Jesus could save their souls.)

And all of us are persecuted by The World.
 
(Of course, people in The World just want to revel in their pagan lusts, unfettered by the pesky morals proffered by the loving God who weeps when he's forced to send them to hell for their sins.)

That's a lot of persecution.  You can understand why I grew up feeling so stressed out.

Throughout my childhood, lots of people told me "You'll probably become a pastor's wife someday!"  They probably said that because I was a true believer-- earnest, devout, pious, radiant with zeal and knowledge. I studied the Bible deeply, on my own volition (one Christmas I asked for a Strong's Concordance for my gift. I used that thing a lot!)  I was outspoken about my faith, and I was concerned about people. (Yet, of course, being female, I couldn't actually be a pastor!)  Oh yeah, and I played piano. Perfect pastor's wife material.

But even way back then, I vehemently rejected that prediction over my life.  I felt deeply that I didn't want that role, for reasons I couldn't articulate.  At a profound level, what I was really interested in was... The World. The Real World.  Somehow, I just knew that The World had to be more important than The Church--it is bigger! And I intuitively concluded that if I achieved anything in The Church that did not also affect The World, I would have achieved nothing.

My heart knew what it was doing, even though my mind has been confused about what's going on. It's been a long struggle, figuring my way out of the maze, and I feel like FINALLY I'm able to connect with The World.
I'm here.
In the flesh.
I'm not separating myself, psychologically, hoping for a better existence after death, or some kind of divine protection from the realities of existence. I don't believe what I was told so often, that "nothing that happens here is of importance except for spiritual things."  Contrary to a beloved Christian song, this world IS my home.
 
I see all those Christian identities as mere constructs of human imagination, stories people tell themselves, robes they wear. For varying reasons-- many of them, I'm sure, very good reasons.  But still... Constructs. Fictions.  A math friend of mine once said, (mostly) tongue-in-cheek, "I was never able to go into the humanities because I get the sneaking suspicion they are just making everything up."  That's where I feel I am now, regarding religion. There are so many other ways to interpret the phenomena that Christians hold up as "proofs" of the "truth" of their fabrications. (Imagine my feelings a few months ago when I heard a doctor who studies the mind-body connection say that warts are one of the easiest things to cure using placebo.)

I've dated a few atheists in the past few years, and I find their groundedness so refreshing. When faced with the solid perspective of naturalism, it's easy to look at religion and think "they are freaking making this all up!"

I'm not giving up on spirituality.  But I've decided not to put my identity into a religion.  It took too long, too many tears, too much anguish, to disentangle myself from it.  I feel like my decision is firm.

So why did I decide to make the large sacrifices necessary to attend a conference concerned with how postmodern theology could live in today's churches?  Why bother with churches at all?  Let them die of natural causes, the lot of them, as far as I'm concerned! (...The institutions, not the people!)
To be honest, I'm still wondering that myself.
To be continued... this post is already too long.

2 comments:

  1. Awesome reflection! I would venture that such a conference - STN2 - speaks of and to that which remains, even after we have dumped (freed ourselves of) the dead carapace of religion. Do we sense that there is nonetheless something more beautiful and worthwhile to live for, toward - that perhaps could still be possible with church? But if so, then it must be a church subverted, one of a whole new and different iteration. I ask myself similar question as you...

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  2. Thanks, Xochitl. I'm just wondering why "the church" would even be "necessary" to a process of living a beautiful and worthwhile life. I'm glad to know there are others out there asking similar questions. It was great to meet you at the conference, if only too-briefly!

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