I have had a crisis of faith. Oh, I haven’t gone completely heathen, but there have been drastic changes about how I believe and express my faith.
Losing some of the simplistic, clear beliefs that I embraced for most of my life is a kind of loss that has been really challenging to process. I have not completed the journey by any means.
I don’t look down on people who still practice their faith in a conventional manner. So, many people I love still do. However, a rapidly increasing number of people have opted out of these traditional expressions, but not the faith. That’s where I am.
I can easily tell you what I do not embrace in these matters, but I am finding it a slow slog to firm up my new beliefs and practices.
Here is what I have turned from.
Church as an institution. Church is the idea of a community of people representing Christ in their greater community. That sounds great. An institution that demands support through attendance, involvement, and finances, not so great, and sadly too self-serving. A religion that demands its own way and wants to hold sway over a nation, its government and culture doesn’t sound anything at all like Jesus. An organization with a big budget for staff (to do what ordinary followers of Jesus should do), an expensive building to use a couple of times of week for internal purposes (when we can meet anywhere), and lavish services (focused upon the already convinced) is not so impressive when I step back and look on objectively.
I do not believe that the church was ever intended to become an institution. In so doing, it became internalized, overly organized, political, and relevant only to those joined up.
Here is what I am pursuing.
Blended faith and life. Sounds like something you would get at a coffee shop. Throw out the baggage of Christianity for the simplicity of following Jesus. The politics, the fancy buildings, the superstar professionals, the theological terminology, and the programs are the baggage. The simplicity: being a regular guy or gal in the regular world who loves God and loves people, one whose life has focus and meaning because of Jesus. No special language required, no fancy building, no superstars, no programs, no secret handshakes. Lots and lots of love.
I still have a lot of questions.
“The blend” sounds good to me, very simple, very idealistic. But is it enough? Should people trying to follow Jesus huddle together sometimes? The letters of the New Testament describe that. But was it descriptive or prescriptive? Hard core religionists see it as a model or pattern to be followed today. Seems to me to be hard to do, without messing it up and becoming like the institutional church all over again. Does this blended life leave Jesus lovers too lonely. Maybe. I have felt that way at times. However, if you begin to see God outside of the church building, maybe not. If you find him in nature, in art, and in people who are not religious at all, you don’t miss the drum beat of religiosity.
I have lots of questions.
How to regard the Bible? Is it divine down to very word choice or is it a record of how man has understood God?
How does one enter into a relationship with God? I think it is believing Jesus is who he said he was and not trying to be good enough to get God to love us. I think that changes how we live and the trajectory of life now and forever.
Do good people go to hell? Did they really believe?
Is it okay to be gay? I just know we are supposed to love people. Period.
My way of believing sounds simple. There are so many answers that I do not have. But that’s where I am. I am beginning to get more comfortable with it, but am still exploring, still asking questions, trying not to be smug, trying to learn to love.