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Finding Fran

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About this blog

Musings of a questioning Christian.

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Anyone besides me hate "Christianese"?

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!




Did it happen

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.




What I resent

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.




What should I believe?

I truly do not know some days what I am supposed to believe anymore.

I believe in God, and I believe that Jesus is the only way to God, which will probaby get me into trouble with certain people.

But people can, have, and do use the name of Jesus to lie, to manipulate, and to exploit.  I've been there.  

People use the Bible to "prove" that they are right about everything. 

I am supposed to support immigrants and open borders .  . . Or I am supposed to support border security.  

I am supposed to support women in ministry . . .  Or I am supposed to follow the versesthat say "women can't preach"

I don't dare post this onFB because I don't want to get into an argument with people there.  But even here, I'm afraid of coming off as too conservative or too fundy.  

And it just seems that to know what the Bible really says, I have to do university-level study.  And I am just too overwhelmed at the moment to do it.  

News these days is fake.  I don't know what fact-checking sites to believe. And even when I share fact checks, there are the people that scream that "they're liberal and they're biased!"  All news seems biased and I don't know who's telling the truth.

"Think for yourself" carries the undercurrent of "as long as you come to the same conclusions I do".  

"Let love lead" translates into "you don't love me if you call me out on my behavior, so you have to agree with everything I do/say."

There's no one I can really tell everything to, except for God.  There's some subjects I don't want to delve into even with my BFF even though she's assure me that I won't lose her friendship.  

It has become exhausting just trying to live from day to day at times.  I don't know who to trust.  And the day in, day out of living is just exhausting.  I have to do work for pay this afternoon.  I can't keep the house clean.  I'm trying to write and I'm stalled.  I'm 55 and running out of time to write everything I want to.  I have a son with a disability that needs to be provided for and the mechanisms of doing so are just plain overwhelming.  And the longer I put stuff off, the harder it's going to be for him.  My husband talks about "We" doing this stuff, but it usuall ends up being "me" because I'm the one with the time to do it.

And I haven't done any sewing or knitting or crocheting in months.





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.




The Loop

Here's the loop I find myself in:

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.




What is truth?

Pontius Pilate asked the question, "What is truth?"

More and more, I'm finding it impossible to figure out what the truth is.

Of course, Jesus IS the way, truth, and life, but I have problems figuring out what that means for me in day-to-day living.  (Note:  I speak from a Christian world-view.)

But when people lie, and everyone seems to have an agenda, it's impossible to figure out who's telling the truth.

Either we want to make ourselves look good or the other person look bad.





Wanting to be right, but . . .

For the life of me, and I'm sure I've said this before, I want to do the right thing.  I don't want to say yes where God has said no, and I don't want to say no where God has said yes.  But I keep feeling like I have to have some sort of degree in Biblical Studies in order to figure out what the Bible "really" says.  I can't just open it, read it, and do it.  

A friend suggested that I study the gospel of Mark and get to know Jesus.  How is that supposed to answer the question of whether or not women can preach?




The most important thing

(This is a cut-and-paste entry from my public blog.)

"Dad molested me when I was a kid."

Those are hard words for anyone to say, hard words for anyone to hear.

When preacher Jimmy Hinton heard those words, they punched him in the gut.

Because the person who said those words, Alex Howlett, was Jimmy Hinton's sister.

So when Alex said, "Dad molested me," she was saying that it was their father, Church of Christ pastor John Hinton, who'd preached for the Somerset Church of Christ in Pennsylvania for 27 years, who'd done it.

Jimmy Hinton did two things.

First, he told Alex, "I believe you."

Second, he reported his father to the police. 

That report prompted an investigation which resulted in John Hinton pleading guilty to the sexual assault of four girls, ages four to seven.  John Hinton is now in the Rockville State Prison, serving a 30- to 60-year sentence. 

Contrast this with an incident in the Uniontown Church of Christ in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.

When a judge sentenced volunteer youth minister Clyde Brothers on charges of "corruption of minors and indecent exposure", part of his ruling was to order Brothers not to attend the church "until and unless there is a signed waiver of this provision . . .by the governing authority of the said Church."

Soon after, the elders met to consider granting that waiver and to allow Brothers to continue worshiping with the congregation.

A mother of one of the victims told the Christian Chronicle, "It's almost like Clyde is more important than the victims are."

(The judge's decision was reversed on appeal due to the fact that the statutes of limitations had run out.)

Les Ferguson, pastor for the Lake Harbor Church of Christ in Mississippi, is tragically familiar with the subject of sexual abuse.  A member of his former congregation, the Orange Grove Church of Christ in Gulfport, Mississippi, offered to babysit Les' son Cole once a week.  Cole was severely disabled, and Les' wife Karen badly needed the break.   The member used that time to rape Cole, and he threatened Cole with death if he told.   Cole eventually did tell, and Les and Karen reported the predator to the police.  The man was arrested, released on bail, and while out on bail, he murdered Karen and Cole before committing suicide.

And just last week, a Church of Christ minister in the Sarasota, Florida area -- a registered sex offender -- was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography.

I've deliberately picked stories from Churches of Christ because they are my "tribe" of believers.  The news media, over the last several years, has covered the abuse of children by Catholic priests, and more recently, they've covered widespread sexual abuse in Southern Baptist convention churches and in other evangelical churches.  But this is not a problem that exists only in "denominational churches".  Churches of Christ deal with it, also.  We are no different. 

I grow weary of the continual reports of sexual abuse among people who claim to be Christians.  Jimmy Hinton grew up admiring his preacher father, and it was because of him that Jimmy, himself, entered the ministry.  Christians tend to be trusting of other people who claim to be Christians.  We love a good repentance story and we love a good story of forgiveness.  God does forgive.  People do repent and change and stay changed. 

On the other hand, sexual abuse is a crime that stays with the victim for life.  I don't think we appreciate just how shattering the crime of sexual abuse is.  Too many of us treat it as a "sin" and tell the victim, "the Bible says you must forgive," and demand immediate forgiveness.  I don't hear the same emphasis on telling the offender "you must repent and prove your repentance by your deeds".

Jimmy Hinton still preaches.  He also is an advocate for victims of sexual assault and consults with church leaders on the topic of abuse. 

Alex Howlett no longer goes to church.  She said in an interview, "I don't like the idea of God as a fatherly thing.  If that's who He is He wasn't there for me.  If my dad was supposed to be someone who was spreading His word -- that's not the case at all." None of the victims from the Uniontown Church of Christ remain in church.  One victim is in jail, and two of them have committed suicide. Les Ferguson has remarried, and he preaches, but he is still without his first wife and his son.

(Snark alert here.)

But go ahead, let's keep arguing about instrumental music, and whether or not women can preach, and whether or not we can have kitchens in a church building, and whether or not it's a sin to turn in your contribution to the church early because you're going to be out of town on Sunday.

Because we all know that we are saved by the five-step plan of salvation in order to perform the five acts of worship -- preaching/teaching, singing, prayer, taking up of a collection, and taking the Lord's Supper -- on Sunday, and only on Sunday.

After all, that's the most important thing. Isn't it?




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