First, before going into this topic, I need to link the other two blog posts that have similar thoughts. That way, I can mention it without going into detail:
As I've reread my blogs, I keep going back to the idea that, as I see the people walking into the churches in the area, I see herds of cattle that seem not to be interested in the lessons that they would learn, but rather the social aspect of the hour, or maybe they walk along the same paths that they traveled as a kid, doing so for years but not really knowing why, accepting that they had always gone to church, and that to not do so would be unfathomable. And the questions they are asked are the same, and the answers they give are the same, and nothing is learned. My stepdad, for all his faults, always asked us upon returning from church, "What did you learn today?" I was always annoyed with that question... but I think that was the reason for asking it. Because the answer is "nothing." It frustrated me that I would go to the church and walk out the same as I came in, with no new revelations about the nature of God or of my relationship with Him. My stepdad, especially towards the end of his life, saw that not going to church was as beneficial as going to a church which taught you nothing. And while his reasons for not going to church were ones of self-esteem (he had his teeth pulled, too.), it should not be for others that you appear in Church, but rather for yourself, for the continuation of a journey towards understanding of eternity, of God, of the progress toward the greater good (Aristotle).
So as I was thinking of this blog entry, I went back to a verse that my stepdad always quoted, Hebrews 11:6:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (KJV, bold emphasis added)I totally question those who went to the church I went to earlier in my life, whether they were actually diligently doing anything. It is as if, satisfied with the walls of beliefs that they had constructed (or had constructed for them) as children, they were quite willing to believe that there was nothing else. Comforted and sheltered by those teachings as a child, they had no real reason to learn anything else as it pertains to their spiritual beliefs. So they went into adulthood, college, real life, marriage...etc... believing the same things they did as they were children, allowing nothing of life events to change it. And while, if the teachings were sound, this is acceptable, I think there's something to be said for finding those beliefs on your own, seeking (diligently) and understanding the relationship between God and man as individual thinkers. Would God, with me standing before him, be pleased that I had learned nothing all my life than the lessons that someone had taught me when I was in Kindergarten, and then applying (or not) those lessons during my life, had learned nothing? Would it be better to struggle up that mountain to reach the pinnacle and see the heavens by ourselves, and appreciate them that much more, rather than being taken up in a carriage built by our parents and family and not feel the bumps in the road and the sweat and blood as we climb ourselves up to the apex? I would think that God would want to be proud of us for the lives that we have lived, and not that he had been the God of a herd of cattle that believed unquestioningly and chewed on the cud that we were fed. Is it not better for us to step off the road traveled so often by our elders and climb the mountain ourselves?
The most obvious example of this occurs in the Amish practice of rumspringa, which is usually just a relaxing of rules because of adolescence, with the full knowledge that an adult can only join the church and be baptized of his own free will. It is an appropriate exercise, with some communities even letting Amish teenagers visit "the real world" and see what it actually looks like. (As an off topic mention, Neal Stephenson uses the same idea in his science fiction tome Anathem. Excellent book!)From Wikipedia sources, most teens that participate in this "discovery" period actually return to the Amish community and join the church, rejecting the freedoms and temptations they found in the outside world. In other words, they come home.
A friend of mine that is now in the cold, frozen tundra of Bangor, ME, once said that, in raising her child, that she raised him with all the knowledge and morals that she knew to give him, and then she let him go, hoping that it was enough. I think it was. Letting go, to let the children of our time find their own paths, that is the greatest gift parents can give their children today. Yes, they need discipline, and structure, and guidance, but there comes a point when they have learned all that they can learn, that the parent has to have faith that their child will eventually return to the beliefs they were brought up with. When they leave the nest, to use another metaphor, they will fall, but only until the wind picks them up and they spread their wings. Then anything is possible. Proverbs 22:6 :
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (NIV)Note, it's "when he is old," so the Bible gives people room to question, to explore, to discover. It's also proven that, given time, those same people will come back to approximately the beliefs in which they were raised, but wiser because they will have reached it themselves.
Parents don't want their children to fail. They don't want to see their children go through the pain of discovering what is right and wrong through heartbreak, through pain, through jail time. And that's understandable. But sometimes, it's necessary, even valuable, because lessons are learned better that way. I sometimes think that we live in a society where failure is not even to be felt, from the economy, to sports, to grades on tests....but that's another blog.
One thing I don't understand is the Christian communities insistence in making us seem so bad. Yes we sinned...yes, we've come short of the glory of God.... but there's something to be said in experiencing the joy of Christianity, of striving to be the best people we can be, instead of wallowing in self-pity. Even the most covered song in the world, "Amazing Grace," reminds us that we're all wretches. And the thing is, after a while, I don't want to sing that line anymore. I mean, we are children of God, we have to want to be like God. We want God to be proud of us, not constantly reminding us of how original sinny we are. That's why He sent Jesus. And everyone says in sermons how rotten they are, it just doesn't gel with what I think God would want for us.
If you look at my Facebook profile, you'll see, under Religious Views, the word "Libertarian." This means that, while I might go to one church or another, or not, I will pursue my relationship with God on my own. Martin Luther believed that each individual could develop their own relationship with God, and he developed the Protestant denomination around that principle. This is, at its very core, what Christianity is all about. All the rest of the stuff, like not being able to dance, and giving to the church, and the politicizing of the Christian faith when it comes to our government...etc... all that means very little. I will live my life as I think God would approve of, based on my knowledge of the Bible. If I am wrong, then he can correct me in Heaven. That is what His grace is all about. It's self-regulation, based upon the beliefs that are inside me, not about following the laws of this church or that. And it's certainly not about showing others that I am a Christian or not, but rather that my relationship with God is known to Him, and me.
[Well, not the best blog, but it's needed to glue the first two blogs into this series. Better next time.]