19 August 2014

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God

I was raised in a family where going to church was important and expected. In fact my family still believes this. So of course I have the belief instilled in me that it is important to bring up my own family in a good church and give them the opportunity to learn about God. Unfortunately, over the years, I have found it more and more difficult to "get with the program" and I know that I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings. Donald Miller, a best-selling author, wrote a blog earlier this year about why he doesn't attend church very often. After reading the initial blog and the follow up blog I was relieved to discover that I am not alone. In fact, although there was a lot of people who disagree with Miller, there are many who confessed the same thoughts and feelings. One thing he said in his follow up blog really stuck with me. He said,

 "Theologically, I find myself in the evangelical camp in many ways, but as for the “one way to do life and church” I’ve gone a different path. And I’m  hardly alone. While I love the traditional church, I love it like a foundational part of my past, as though it were a University I’ve graduated from to join a much larger church those still in the University program are quite suspicious of."
You can read his blog here: Why I don't Go To Church Very Often

In my case I feel like my "different path" has caused me to feel like an outsider of the traditional church. Because I don't adhere to the "one way to do life and church" belief I am forced to the fringe of most evangelical church communities and I am left feeling alone and unfulfilled in my experiences. So what do I mean by "different path"? Well I will admit that what I am about to say may surprise some of you, while some of you may just think, "yeah, so?, but I feel like it is time for me to be completely honest about where I stand and to also clear up why I feel like I don't really fit in the church anymore. I completely understand that it might be that I just haven't found the right church, but in all honesty I'm not sure how you really find out a church's beliefs on the following subjects.

1.I have questions about the Bible . I went to a Christian University and I was a religion major. Many of my courses were about studying and interpreting the books of the Bible. I have learned, through my education, that there are a lot of uncertainties about dates and authors of many of the books of the Bible. Do I believe it changes the overall meaning? No, but I believe that the Bible is not black and white and there is definitely room for discussion on many topics. I enjoy open dialogue about the Bible and Christianity, but I don't feel like there are a lot of opportunities for that discussion in the church setting. 

If I question or disagree with something a pastor says from the pulpit what can I do? Should I email the pastor? Do pastors really have time to deal with all the questions and disagreements of the congregation? Do I just sit there and agree to disagree? Most of the time I just wait until I am in the safety of my own car and completely unload all my frustration on my husband who also has no idea what to do.
2. I believe that women are capable of doing more in the church than just working in the nursery, teaching toddlers, and playing the piano. It's 2014 people!! Women's role in the church does differ between denominations, but evangelical denominations are the worst. The latest Barna research shows that there has been some growth in the number of female senior pastors but still accounts for only about 10% of the overall population. The report also shows that while most of the women pastors are more highly educated they are paid less than their male counterparts. This research was only about females as senior pastors and didn't really go into the overall leadership of the church. I would like to see some research on how many women sit as elders in churches. I can bet those numbers are pretty low. 

3.I voted for Barack Obama. I recently had a coworker ask how I ended up being a democrat. I was surprised at why she was asking me that but then I figured it was because of my religious background. I realize that I live in the south and that I also happen to live smack dab in the buckle of the bible belt and I honestly believe that I had reason to be nervous about driving around with an Obama bumper sticker on my car, but I really struggle with how religion and politics get muddled together. It seems that the assumption is that if you are a Christian than you are automatically a Republican and you adhere to all of their beliefs and ideals. I must have missed that chapter in the Bible. 
Politics are very tricky right now. I try to stay as informed and educated on the issues that I can. When election time comes I will vote for whoever I feel is best suited for the job at hand. I don't expect politicians to govern by the Bible. That is not their job. 

4. I drink Alcohol. This is a contentious point for evangelical Christians. I grew up believing that people only drink alcohol to get drunk and that is a sin. Drunkenness may be a sin, but I do not believe that drinking alcohol is. I enjoy drinking a good beer or a glass of wine with my dinner. I shouldn't feel guilty if I am caught at the local Mexican restaurant enjoying a beer with my Mexican tacos. There is also this whole thing about being a "stumbling block" to your brother. Yeah, I think about that. If I knew you were a recovering alcoholic and I invited you to my house for dinner or out to eat I will not sit there and drink a beer in front of you. In fact I probably would't drink a beer in front of you if I new that you feel strongly about abstaining from drinking, but if I am with my family and you just so happen to spy me across the restaurant drinking a beer I should not have to feel bad or guilty about that because I don't think it is wrong. 

Now I could go into why I don't believe it is wrong and argue all the points and verses in the Bible, but I will spare you all that for now. Maybe I will write an entire blog post about it in the future, but this is something I have been struggling with for a long time now but I'm done feeling guilty about it. 

5. I listen to secular music. My favorite band is not Third Day or Skillet.  I also let my kids listen to secular music.  My husband and I are very careful about the content and language in any song and we typically do not let them listen to "top 40" music, but my first son's favorite band when he was 2 was the Beatles. He had a Beatles birthday party and he could sing all the songs. There is a lot of great music out there and I am not going to limit my children's experience with music because of the belief that all secular music is sinful. 

On the other hand we do have a favorite Christian channel that we listen to. My kids and I love listening to Air1 and they also know all the songs they play and it is great hearing them sing about God and God's love. 
After sharing these points I am having a hard time ending this blog. I'm not so sure what to say or where to go from here. All I know is that I am having a hard time finding a church where I fit in and can feel like part of the community. I long for dialogue and open discussion. I long for community-a community where I am loved and not guilted into living a specific way to fit the mold. I have more often found this type of community outside of the church walls and have started to wonder, like Donald Miller, if it is easier to connect to God in my own ways and my own time then relying on a spiritual institution to do it for me. Just typing those last words feels so against everything that I was taught growing up ,but I am confident in my relationship with God and I am okay with taking time to find or create a place to build a community of believers that want to interact with God in a more organic manner.