Thursday, February 25, 2010

To Tell the Truth

When I was in a liberal seminary, we spent a lot of time discussing what was not true. The Pentateuch was not written by Moses. The gospels were not really written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The atonement theory is really a cleverly designed plan to keep women in oppression. Revelation is not a prediction of the future. And the hope of heaven is overemphasized.

Furthermore, we should be open minded but we MUST agree with what the professors taught, if we could figure out what that was. And don’t anyone dare ask the wrong question or say the wrong thing.

It got so I refused to even pray out loud at mealtime with them because someone would get upset with my terminology.

They’d die if they heard me say that they sound much like the arch conservative Christians I grew up with, but they do. Only the rules are different:

You can’t be saved just any ole way or believe just any doctrine. You can’t just be a good person. The Baptists are wrong. The Methodists are wrong. The Episcopalians are really wrong these days. The Catholics are super wrong. The atheists are going to take over. And if you dare disagree or even ask a challenging question, you should get on your knees right now and beg forgiveness for doubting God.

I’ve walked in both these camps and I’m amazed at how often I could unintentionally say things that shocked, offended, or frightened them. The liberals wanted to fight. The conservatives wanted me to surrender.

I was amused most of the time. Sometimes I picked a fight just to entertain myself. Other times I didn’t want to fool with them at all. Still other times I wanted to tell them all to go to the hell the conservatives threatened me with and the liberals didn’t believe existed.

Then there are the discussions I’ve had on some atheists blogs. Most of them are very smart and morally responsible. Some of them I’ve grown to love and depend on (you know who you are). Many of those blogs focus on the absurdities of the church, which I admit is hard not to do. But shouting about what is false does not go very far in finding truth.

I’m tired of discussing what isn’t true. I want to hear about what IS true.

I want to find goodness and become a more loving person. And I long for more glimpses of God. I assume that goodness, love, and God are all part of truth.

For the most part, I’ve had to make my own way in this search—maybe that’s true for everyone.

Here’s what I’ve decided is true: If I have extra, I need to share. If someone near me is in pain, I need to help. If someone is grieves I will hug them. Lonely people need love. The fearful need encouragement. Battered people need defending. Enslaved people need to be free. Hungry people need to eat. Sick people need healing.

I can see Jesus, the real Jesus, muscle his way past the scriptural verbiage and cultural bias into my consciousness. This Jesus emphasizes the need to help the hurting and harassed. They were his greatest priority. If it made him unpopular, created scandal, and ticked off the professional religious guys, he didn’t care. He helped others.

He had no patience for religious and/or intellectual banter of the day.

He fought with those who oppressed others with their religion.

That’s why, in spite of my doubts, disillusionment and confusion, I am still his disciple.

And that’s the truth.


  1. ...And this post is why I don't throw all Christians into one lump of theist garbage. It gives me hope.

    You will find my next speech in your email box shortly. I think you will find similar content. I've already won at the club level. I'm hoping to take it to the top.

    You, sir, are wonderful!

    Now if you'd just come up here so Mike and Jag and I can take you to a strip club...

  2. I have often thought if Buddha and Jesus, and Mohammed and the Rabbi Maimonides had the opportunity to break bread, they would have must to discuss and little to disagree about. To my way of thinking, religions are man made, a reflection of man's desire to commune with the Divine, but not god;y in and f themselves. God being God surely would not need religion?

    What follows then in my line of thinking is how 'my religion, my way' is really a product of man's narcissism, and alack of godliness. What would Jesus do? Would he damn those who do not follow him, his way? I don't think so. It seems to me rather he might reach out and try to touch them, where they stand, and to love them for who they are, looking for goodness.

    Good and wise men (and women) are good and wise. God is God. I know I can't speak for God, and it sure is not my place to condemn others in the name of God either. Be good, do good, follow the lead of many great spiritual leaders...way does it need to get so freakin' complicated? ~K

  3. BRAVO on all counts! Did you know that the book of Acts was not written by Acts, and neither First nor Second Corinthians were written by Corinthia?

    Sistermoon, we ought to start a new unchurch movement for all the disenfranchised but spiritual people out there called "People of Good Hearts," with no other criteria than that. Strictly grassroot, autonomous cells, with no central authority or bureaucracy. If we gave this war, I wonder if anyone would come?


  4. Sistermoon, thanks for the offer of being taken to the strip club. Exactly what kind of establishment did you have in mind--male or female? Nevermind.

    K--I think you're making a good point. As I sift through the stories of Jesus, I never see him condemning the outsider, rather he reaches out to help without passing judgment. In fact, his harshest words were always directed toward the "religious" guys who were in the condemnation business. I wonder how he would feel toward most churches that claim to follow him.

    I think you're right. Why does it have to be so complicated?

    Jag, how knowledgible you are in these things. Did you gain your insight in the 1st book of Hesitations?

    'People of Good Hearts." I like it.

  5. "Still other times I wanted to tell them all to go to the hell the conservatives threatened me with and the liberals didn’t believe existed."


    "But shouting about what is false does not go very far in finding truth."

    I find myself fighting the temptation to do just that. I agree with you, but I feel like I have had to do that, at least for a season, shout about what is false, in order to get a little breathing room from those who would say I need to think (or not think) a certain (conservative) way. I visualize it as pushing people away when pressed in by a crowd, a little breathing space please, let me think!

    Nice thoughts, perhaps I'll get to your conclusions one day in another season. Thanks for posting, and thanks for the comment you left on my blog.

  6. ATTR: I remember several times in my life when I needed to shout against indoctrination: "IT AIN'T SO!" And it wasn't for their benefit, but mine. Everybody's got to have that breathing space.

    I think you are very brave to do that.

  7. Great post. I like your decision and agree with it. This post reminded me of this quote:

    "When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion."
    Abraham Lincoln, (attributed)

    I also saw another quote just today:

    "...if in a certain moment or place you adopt something as the absolute truth, and you attach to that, then you will no longer have any chance to reach the truth. Even when the truth comes and knocks on your door, and asks you to open the door, you won't recognize it. So you must not be too attached to dogma - to what you believe..." - Thich Nhat Hanh

  8. Mike (don't know how I missed replying to you). You always mention a quote or reference that I was not aware of. Thanks for keeping on my toes.

    It's always a balance with me: holding my convictions vs. searching to grow.

  9. one of my convictions is that I must search and grow. It's one of the toughest ones to keep sometimes, but ultimately I am satisfied with where it has taken me.