Yesterday I wrote about my background in Christianity. Today, let me tell you what that actually looked like during my adult years.
I attended church regularly, went to Bible studies, was part of the dance ministry and worship team (singers). I read books, blogs and articles on religion. I was very active in online religious communities. Via email and Livejournal, I developed deep and meaningful friendships with a small group of women and a slightly larger group of men and women – we all shared faith.
I was a mixture of a fundamentalist evangelical, and a very liberal hippie. The fundamentalist part was that I considered the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. I did not believe it should be read literally, without context, though. For example – my take on the 6-days creation story was that yes, God started it all. He created it all. But did it only take 6 24-hour days, the way we measure days today? Most likely, no. There are a variety of translations of the language used in the creation story that indicate the word for “days” could have meant much longer periods of time, and if you follow the creation story you’ll see that the sun and moon and earth weren’t even invented in the beginning, so who was measuring these 24 hours? Ultimately, I believed that it wasn’t the sort of thing we should divide over or argue with non-believers over. I believed God made it happen, however it happened. Even if he did it through evolution! *gasp* So – I was the “Every part of the Bible is relevant and beneficial to us today but that doesn’t mean we have to read it without context of history, translation, etc.” type of Christian. I considered this pretty reasonable and I patted myself on the back for having the perfect combination of common sense and respect for scripture.
I believed strongly in the Nicene Creed, a statement of major Christian beliefs.
For 8-10 years, there were three main areas where I held very conservative beliefs. I am going to write about these in this series, so I’m not going to detail them much now (which kind of freaks me out me as I hate for you to spend days knowing of my old beliefs and not my new ones). I will say that my views on each of these issues has changed – some moderately, some radically.
The first area: homosexuality. The second: abortion. The third: Men are the head of the household, women are to submit.
I did not hate anyone because they were gay, had an abortion, believed in abortion rights, argued with their husband, used birth control, wore pants, etc. I have never cast a vote in relation to marriage or abortion rights. My voting record is almost all Democrat, and in recent years, Green. I have voted for Republicans in local races, mainly where they are the only candidates. In my pro-life stance I was also anti-war and anti-death penalty.
My liberal side came out in social justice. Feeding the poor. Justice for the oppressed. A disgust for the co-opting of our faith by politicians and lobbyists who guilt Christians into voting a certain way and have convinced them that capitalism and ethnocentrism is a tenet of faith.
I focused a lot on personal holiness. To some, this means “following the rules”or “not sinning”. To me, it meant actively dying to my selfish nature in an attempt to be more and more like Christ. It meant offering forgiveness when I wanted to hold a grudge. Praying for those in turmoil. Learning when to share my faith and when to be quiet and just be a friend. Turning over every rock in my life and looking to see what needed to be cleansed and made new. Supporting my church, local and larger communities with my time and money. And yes, I also focused on personal sin. I feel I was lucky to have been raised without a fear of sin, without fear of the torment of hell. I believed that once “saved”, always saved. I believed that being inhabited by the Holy Spirit meant that there was no reason to fear losing my salvation and that from that point on, my life was to be about serving Christ and becoming as much like him as I could. It was not meant to be spent punishing myself or anyone else over sin. Sin was inevitable – repentence and growth were necessary and the goal.
Spiritual matters were mostly matter-of-fact in my eyes. The commandments, mandates or rules God gave us in the Bible were not to kill our fun, they were to protect us and to help us grow as we struggled through hardship. For example, not having sex outside of marriage? This was to protect us from disease and unwanted pregnancy, but it was also to protect us from heartbreak. From those days when you’re driving down the street, a song comes on the radio and suddenly you remember someone you gave yourself to, who totally mistreated you. Like I said – I wasn’t concerned with being “bad” because I’d sinned. I was concerned with the fallout from sin. I saw sin as bad because it was bad FOR US. Of course, you can experience disease, unwanted pregnancy or heartbreak inside a marriage – but it’s hopefully less likely . . . and hopefully you’ll be better equipped to handle those struggles with your partner by your side.
Don’t think, though, that I was skipping down a flower-lined path, holding hands with Jesus, perfect in my ambition for holiness. I never did any of those things above consistently. I went through periods, sometimes long ones, where I wasn’t praying, studying scripture, examining myself, serving others, etc. Additionally, I had my own little set of pet sins that seemed impossible to overcome. One was pride. I was a strong believer that all sin results from focusing on self above God, in any given situation. Putting my desires – right or wrong – ahead of what God wants for me. So there needed to be a daily effort to “die” to myself (a scriptural concept). The funny thing is that you can become prideful in that. I’M really good at sacrifice. I was also prideful in my scholarship. I know scripture and like to study it. I don’t think scripture is boring. I would love to learn Greek and Hebrew. I know what that scripture is saying and what other scripture it’s referencing. And? I was prideful in my strength. I am willing to examine myself to eradicate sin, but YOU are weak and unwilling to do the hard work of admitting you need to change. I am willing to acknkowledge the authority of scripture even if it means I have to support things I don’t understand or agree with, because I can admit I don’t know everything and am subordinate to God but YOU are so self-centered and immature that you won’t acknowledge that you’re not in charge. I mean, can you get any more ironic? Of course, I kept these thoughts to myself (well, mostly). I might refer to something like that when discussing a problem someone is having, with a mutual friend. It was all done with the best intentions, of course. I say that sarcastically now but the truth is, I did believe that. I was concerned with the struggles others went through, but I also had pride, deep down, that I was strong enough to overcome those struggles.
Monday: Me, Christianity, Homosexuality.