Sunday, April 25, 2010

always the questioner

Here's the back story on what I'm thinking about...

I have always been intrigued by logic. In college, I loved my Logics class and the use of the "If, then" statements in arguments. i.e. If my paycheck arrives, then I can buy food. The whole concept of logic just helps me to make better sense of the crazy world I live in. At least sort of.

I was raised Catholic. I come from a LONG line of Catholics, such that it was considered "racy" to marry someone NOT Catholic. I have always considered myself to be a Christian, though I question many facets of Christianity and uphold, even celebrate, the value and integrity of those who are not Christians. I attend Lutheran church services fairly regularly. I share Bible stories with my children and talk about my faith in God, along with my own questions. I pray so often it could be considered an almost constant conversation.

So at my latest mother's group meeting (which is held at my church, thank you very much) a mom shared her testimony about how God has touched her life. To shorten it a bit, she shared how her family of origin failed to give her love, support and hope for her future. She shared how people outside of her family reached out to her and shared their faith in God, and gave her the chance to find her own faith in God through Christianity. Her testimony was beautiful. But she made a few comments that have put my mind to work on this logic these last few days.

She read a passage out of the book of Romans that spoke to how reading the Bible and living by the Bible made you a Christian (along with taking Jesus as Lord and all that). She said that if you didn't study the bible, and just lived by your own interpretation of God, then you were worshiping idols or false gods. Hmmm...

Now I haven't read any large sections of the Bible in years. I have read the entire Bible a few times, so it's not like it's foreign to me. But I have never studied it and find that thought a bit abhorrent. My parents fought over many, many things before they divorced, and religion and the Bible were a common favorite. And I think parts of Catholicism go against putting all your "eggs" in the basket of studying the Bible. (There are all those cool religious traditions and high holy days and confession and venial and mortal sins and limbo and penance...that might get lost in the varying translations of the big book.) So I think I have a bit of a grudge against the book. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. There have been plenty of "books" not published in all the bibles that were there in the beginning collections and each "version" paints a different picture of how life was and now should be. So who am I to say that the book I currently have on my bookshelf is everything God wants me to know about life?

So I question, Am I really a Christian?

I do believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and for all humans. But I know that, if I were born into a family of another religion, I would live by that religion instead. I believe that Buddha also had a divine connection to bring understanding and enlightenment to the people on Earth. I pray to God each day, but don't believe that those who are not Christians will not be allowed into whatever wonderful afterlife there might be. I believe that Muhammad was a divine prophet and his message connects everyone on Earth to the goodness and hope that faith in God brings. I also hold valuable the concept of reincarnation - the chance to come back to Earth many times and work towards a better life. And I believe that humans are fallible. That even those who seek to bring joy, hope and love to others through the messages of a religion should be questioned and never taken as a divine messenger.

So does my open heart and mind mean that I am not a Christian?

Can a Christian study or think about only the Bible passages that come up in church services or other discussions and not the whole book?

Can a Christian know in their heart that being a good and honest person; being one who works a lifetime of service toward others; being a person who shares ones gifts and talents; being a person who takes time each day to appreciate and protect the beauty that surrounds us in both nature and in other people, that these qualities are more important than reading and studying a book that has so many versions, and so many conflicts within its pages?

I walked away from Catholicism because of the falsehoods I found in the religion and the contrasting realities of life. I will always be a Catholic as a sort of birthright. I now practice Catholic-light, or Lutheran Christianity. Maybe I'm really just practicing, but even if I'm not really a Christian, I am a blessed child of God, in whatever form that it is.

And I know in my heart, that the woman who shared this path of thought was celebrating something good in her own life, and not condemning something in my own. But damn it, it sure felt like it.

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." ~Buddha

Ah, Buddha. He must have had a divine connection to God, Jehovah, Allah, the Creator, to share such wisdom. His words always give me peace. Not always direct answers, but peace none the less.

So Christian or not, I am always thankful for today. Thankful for the beauty that surrounds me. Thankful for my ability and opportunities to share love with others. Thankful that I have a strong connection with my Creator. And someday, to have a joyful connection to all the books written in God's name.

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