My small group is working their way through the book Forgotten God by Francis Chan, which is about how we Christians tend to neglect the Holy Spirit. We watched a video this past week that's with the study, and Chan told the story about a church he occasionally visits in Maui.
He ran into a woman that was acquainted with the pastor who said, next time you visit there, tell him I said hi.
So he did. The pastor asked, did she tell you how we met?
His story was that he'd felt a prompting, which he attributed to the Holy Spirit, to go talk to a woman at the end of a pier.
I guessed the punch line before he even said it: he ended up saving her from suicide.
It could be that I'm not being fair here, because I don't know the people involved and probably will never meet them. It could very easily be that the Holy Spirit DID prompt the guy to go talk to the woman and she ended up not killing herself as a result.
But in a discussion with my husband on the way home, I told him, "My question is, did the event even happen?"
It just sounds too neat, with too many loose ends tied up too neatly.
I'm finding myself questioning a lot of "preacher's stories" lately. I wonder if we're really being told the truth about something that happened, or if it's just a packaged story that's meant to make God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit look good (when really, they don't need our help at all!)
On the flip side, I can tell you of a baptism that happened a couple of weekends ago, because the baptism was videoed. It happened down at the Gulf during a youth group retreat from my church. A young man with autism was baptized, and the reason I knew he had autism was because I know the young man. When he was asked if he was ready to be baptized, he said, "Oh, yeah!" I know some of his family's story and I was able to congratulate him when I saw him in person.
If that story were told and someone like me said they didn't believe it, that would be hurtful.
I fear my experiences in an abusive church and my observations of abuses in the evangelical world have turned me into a total cynic.
Some time back, I was in a Bible study group where one of the participants said something to the effect of, "Well, we just need to step out on faith, get out of the boat, and learn to walk on water!"
I didn't say anything, but I thought, "Do you even know what it is that you're saying? Do you even know what all of that means?"
This is my problem with what we call "Christianese". These are the words and phrases that we throw around that make us sound spiritual, but in reality, when pinned down for a definition, we couldn't give one.
My number one "beserk button" is the phrase, "God is in control." Before the 2008 Presidential election, I said that I was really scared, and immediately, two people chorused, "God is in control." I thought, "Of COURSE you can say, 'God is in control.' Your candidate is going to win!"
"God is in control" is one of those phrases that people say when they want to sound spiritual. I agree to an extent that "God is in control," I believe he will watch over us and work things out for good, that my needs will be met somehow and that we will be taken care of. But sometimes, I think it's used as a throwaway cliche, or as a "thought-stopper". It's what people say when they're not comfortable with our questions, our doubts, and our pain, but they know they need to say something that sounds encouraging. So they'll say, God is in control, and they have fulfilled their Christian obligation and they don't have to acknowledge the pain that the other person is dealing with.
"Give it to God" is another one. I mean, what exactly are you doing when you do that? The picture I get is of someone opening their hands and holding them up to God, saying, "Okay, God, I give it to you." Then they sit back and do absolutely nothing while God magically solves the problem.
And "The Lord will provide" also lands on the list. I read a FB thread about working on Sunday, and at least one poster didn't believe that people should take a job that would require them to work on Sunday because it would interfere with "the assembling of the saints". When asked, what is the person supposed to do if the only job they can find requires working on Sundays, the poster responded with, "The Lord will provide." I nearly saw red. I understand the need to be with fellow believers, but is the person saying, "The Lord will provide," willing to contribute to the financial support of that believer just so they can worship on Sundays?
If anyone has any other "Christianese" examples, feel free to share!
Everyone believes they're right.
Everyone can prove it by Scripture.
But too often, people use Scripture to come to diametrically opposing conclusions.
So who's right?
I don't know.
It's impossible to figure it out.
And I'm afraid of getting it wrong and going to hell.
With Christianity itself, I'm rather orthodox/traditional in my beliefs. I believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ as His Son, I believe in the Holy Spirit. (I explain the Holy Spirit to my son as "the part of God that lives inside us to help us do what he wants".)
I don't understand how it all works. I don't understand how God can be "three in one", how Jesus can be both God and God's Son. I also don't claim to understand how God works. I've long given up on there being a formula on how I can please God, or a formula for the perfect prayer. I don't always understand evil, why evil happens to people that did nothing wrong; or why those who are evil do not "get theirs".
But I do believe in God because I believe He is bigger and smarter than I am, and I do believe there will come a day when all will be made new, when wrong will be righted.
I may have problems at times with what God does, but I don't believe that I resent God.
What I do resent is how people have used the name of God to hurt and abuse people. I resent how people use God to justify their bad behavior.
And I also resent the shallowness of how faith is presented. I resent simple explanations and simple formulas, of "this is how God works, if you do A, he will do B". I resent the explanations of, "Oh, if such-and-such didn't happen, you must not have had enough faith." It's all on the backs of the believer. You know, sometimes God does say "no", for whatever reasons He has, and it's really unfair to blame people for "not having enough faith" when things didn't work the way the believer wanted.
I also thoroughly resent "Christianese". Anyone who tells me, "God is in control," does not value their life very much. There's a sense in which I believe "God is in control," as in, He will cause things to work out for my ultimate good. I just resent it when "God is in control" is used as a throwaway Christian cliche.
I also resent, "the Lord will provide," being used as a throwaway Christian cliche. It falls along the same line as "be of good cheer, keep warm and well fed" from the book of James. I read a social media thread about, what happens when you're a Christian out of work and the only job you can find is on Sunday? Someone answered, "The Lord will provide," in the context of, you shouldn't work on Sunday because that would interfere with you attending church. I guess that person forgot about the first responders, the doctors, nurses, soldiers, etc. that work on Sundays.
I've experienced abusive faith and I've read about it, and sometimes, those experiences have left me with more questions than answers. I want true faith.
I am a new member here. My name is not really Fran, this is my non de plume here. I'm a Christian who's appalled at the abuse I see in conservative Christianity and I don't always feel safe to talk about my concerns with others. I don't believe Jesus would treat women the same way that certain Christian leaders have.
I think the Baptist church I grew up in may have been influenced by Bill Gothard. I remember hearing the saying, Jesus First, Others Second, and Yourself Last spells J-O-Y. I also remember hearing a class about rock music, especially about the backward masking and how if you listened to songs with a particular drumbeat, it would cause your heart to beat irregularly.
I went to college in the '80's and got involved with an offshoot of the Church of Christ known as the Crossroads Movement. They eventually morphed into the International Churches of Christ. I learned some good things there, such as methods of Bible study; but there was a lot of pressure put on members to "perform", and I left there after graduation feeling like I could never measure up. I deliberately moved to another city that had a church which was trying to get away from the bad things of that movement . . . and eventually, that church splintered into independent house churches which turned out to be just as bad as the group we were trying to leave. We went from "you must believe this" to "whatever you want to believe is fine, as long as you believe in God and in Jesus".
My husband and I are in a Church of Christ now that is considered "progressive"; e.g. we have a service with instrumental music on Sundays and we don't believe that we are the only Christians. We've been part of this group for many years, and even with that, I wonder if I've really fully come to grips with the unhealthy teaching I learned. I hope this will be a safe place to explore.