Posts Tagged ‘ spirituality ’

Seeking Meaning

I’ve been thinking a lot about God lately. What I believe, what’s real, what’s true, etc.

So therefore I’ve been thinking a lot about Christianity and the Christian Church.

Recently, Rick Warren’s son committed suicide. For those of you who don’t know, Rick Warren is a megachurch pastor.

It’s tragic. It’s sad. Suicide is never something that should be taken lightly.

But it’s led me to think about this habit Christians have about assigning meaning to apparently meaningless events.

His suicide certainly had a cause– chronic depression. But was there meaning in his death? Maybe. Maybe not.

We can’t know.

Last summer, I almost died. Two weeks ago, my brother almost died. He was within a millimeter of instant death. (I hyperbolize a lot over here, but that is not hyperbole; I’m being literal.)

Was there meaning in his accident? My friend asked me. He wanted to know that if God is a loving God, why did he let my brother fall off that ladder?

I don’t know.

I don’t know why I almost died last summer. I don’t know what the physical cause was, and I don’t know if there was a metaphysical purpose. I DO know that I’m a better person because of it. There’s something about a near-death experience that puts the entire rest of your life in perspective.

When I die, I’ll probably greet death like an old friend. After facing death, nothing is really scary anymore, except the prospect of losing people you love.

After my brother almost died but didn’t in a crazy inexplicable miracle, I feel like nothing can depress or stress me out anymore, because my life could almost have been so much worse.

Maybe that means that there was meaning. But was there meaning to the bombing at the Boston Marathon today? I don’t know. All I know about that is it’s a tragedy, like so many other tragedies that seem to be piling up lately.

Christians are so afraid to admit that they don’t have the answers to some things, and that is a massive problem with American Christian Culture.

Is it inconceivable to think that maybe, just maybe, God is too big, omnipotent, omnipresent, multi- and pan-dimensional for your little human brain to explain? Is it inconceivable that you cannot possibly look at an event and answer the question, why? Is it so impossible to accept that you cannot know, simply because of the biological limitations to the human mind?

Maybe there is meaning in apparently meaningless events. But due to my extreme lack of pandimensional perspective, I hesitate to assign it.

Sometimes stuff happens and there’s nothing you can do about it but deal with the consequences.

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Some Spiritual Blips

Every experience is one more step toward trading one’s youth for wisdom.

That was an epiphany I had while pondering some of Donald Miller’s thoughts.

I’m glad I didn’t start reading Miller’s books when people first started telling me to. If I had read Blue Like Jazz when I was 15 when I first heard about it, I wouldn’t have taken anything away from it. “Oh yay, goody,” I would have thought, but I wouldn’t really have been needled by his thoughts like I am now.

Needled in a good way.

The sequence in which I’ve been reading books about Jesus or Christianity or Church has been really beneficial. Each book I pick up, I’m glad that I read the other books before it.

I read unChristian  when I was finally coming to terms with my struggles with traditional, denominational church. I can’t do denominational, formulaic church– it severely handicaps my relationship with Jesus. Then God brought me to the Ragamuffin Gospel, which helped me recognize that my struggles are indeed with church, not Jesus. This one kept me from giving up on Jesus based on how poorly his followers represent him.

Then Summer gave me a copy of Sense and Sensibility, which helped me make sense of my relationships with my sisters, both of whom are more important than any church.

Just as I was reaching the low apex of my relationship with God– frustrated with myself and my lack of understanding and wisdom, discouraged about my relationship with God, and lacking social connections– God brought me Through Painted Deserts.

I put off reading it for like a week. “I need to finish The Shack,” I said, but finally I gave up and gave in. I admit I partially started reading it out of guilt– it was a gift from my dear friends Pat and Mandy, and I wanted to read it so I could talk with them about it.

Also, I think I knew in the back of my heart that it would challenge me and needle me.

Which it did.

At first I was like “Donald Miller’s writing style is so much like mine,” but then it switched to “Why didn’t I think of this first?” because one of my biggest fears (as a Hargrove) is unoriginality.

Then, finally, I just finished Blue Like Jazz yesterday morning. Miller’s candor and honesty are so, so refreshing. Most Jesus followers that I’ve met would not be able to air their doubts, share their journey, and chronicle their conclusions like Miller did/does, much less publish them.

However,  I can admit that I agree with Miller without having thought of these things first, because I’m realizing that learning from from people who are wiser than me doesn’t make me unoriginal– it helps make me wise.

And that’s when I imagined trading all my youth for wisdom in one shot, and that’s how I came to the conclusion that life is one long string of experiences which ultimately cause us to trade our youth for wisdom.

I never want to be so drunk on youth that I don’t consider the wisdom of people who know better than me, though.

Dear Church.

Dear American Church and American Christians–

We will care about you as soon as you’ve proven to us that you care about us– not just our butts in the seats at your church or getting us converted. Prove to us that you care about us as people with joy and hurt and we’ll care about you.

Sincerely, the Next Generation.

___

If you’ve read my former post, Church Inc., you’ll know that I hold a pretty dim view of church these days.

Over the course of 2011, I came to a lot of realizations about how Christians in America behave in a lot of interesting ways– especially one.

Christians don’t behave anything like Jesus Christ, whose name they sully with their pride and self-satisfaction.

Christians go to church, sing in harmony, dress right, look right, have the right jobs. They spout little bits of ‘wisdom’ on their twitters and facebooks and blogs. Their families are these pretty little pictures of the American dream.

As I browsed the Internet for blogs, talked with strangers, and read books about Christianity, I realized something horrifying.

Never in your life will you find a group of people more judgemental and hypocritical than the typical group of individuals you will meet in your typical church.

First of all, let me tell you about some of the things that inspired my conclusions. Dan over at Single Dad Laughing wrote a great post about this called “I’m Christian unless you’re Gay.” That was one of the catalysts that helped my actualize what I think about Church.

Second, and as the primary catalyst, I just read unChristian, a book based entirely on research by the Barna group.

I think these are both really important things for everyone who calls themselves a Jesus follower to read. (Come on, people. Don’t be content with skin-deep spirituality.)

Finally, I follow a blog called Stuff Christian Culture likes. On this blog’s facebook, the author frequently points out other bloggers who use Jesus’ name ridiculously.

One such blog (which I won’t link to due to its vile content) the author found it necessary to push for a boycott of the movie coming out next winter based on J.R.R. Tolkein’s book The Hobbit (or there and back again.)

I was bemused. I began to scroll down the blog, trying to understand if it was satire or not.

This blog literally sickened me. Each post was blatant, brimstone and flame condemnation of one or another group of people. Each post focused on how people were defined by their sins. Each post was written with the confidence of someone who believes what they’re saying was God-given. Each post contained no trace of grace.

“For God so LOVED the world that He sent His Only son, that whoever believes in Him will not Perish, but have Eternal Life.”

God loves the world.

Jesus came with a message of peace.

God gave us Grace.

Jesus followers! Why aren’t we crying out in protest against the blogs and the people like the Westboro baptist church who are blaspheming Jesus’ message? Sullying his name?

Because it’s scary.

Yes, sin is wrong. No, we shouldn’t just accept it blindly.

But Sin is a symptom of a hurting heart. Why can’t we look past the sin, no matter how unattractive it is to us, and see the person there?

Why can’t we love?

I’ll tell you why.

Love hurts.

Jesus was tortured to death for His unfathomable love.

Jesus also quit His job to minister to people. He traveled the land, made religious leaders try to kill him with his revolutionary message, washed his followers feet, forgave an adultress and hung out with 12 guys and a prostitute. Jesus was not anything like American Christianity. Jesus loves unconditionally.

Jesus was tortured to death– not just for you, who haven’t committed any “big” sins– Jesus died for the hobo on the corner. He died for the drag queens, for the CEOs, for the middle class people just trying to make a living.

We can’t expect it to be easy, and let’s face it– we’re a society of taking the path of least resistance.

Love hurts.

Church is a fun place to gather with like-minded people. People who hate homosexuals but look the other way at people who divorce and have multiple spouses. People who dress modestly but flirt like everyone else. People who smile and hug you but gossip viciously behind your back.

Dear Church–

I will be associated with you when your attendees start to look like Jesus.

I will not be a “member,” and I won’t have my picture in your little directory.

I might not even attend regularly.

But, Church, I have something to tell you– you have become so skewed by our culture that I found deeper spiritualty through a coffee shop than you.

Church, I haven’t attended regularly in months, and  I’ve never felt closer to God. And Church, without you, I have a closer, more trustworthy community of Jesus Chasers than I’ve ever had.

I find you, Church, to be a hindrance to my relationship with the Creator.

___

Dear American Church,

I don’t need you to have Jesus.

Sincerely, Bethany.

 

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