Monday, April 13, 2009

Rebuilding/Restoring My Faith

(I heard the choir sing this song last Sunday, and I was deeply moved. It prompted me to journal about my personal experience with religion)
There is something I have wanted to talk about, and it is certainly always a controversial topic. This of course is religion and faith. I should first say I went to a Catholic private school for eight years, my dad's side of the family is mainly missionary baptist (the default negro religion of choice), and my mom's parents are Jehovah's Witnesses. My parents took me to different churhces of the years, including Kingdom Halls. But I was not raised strictly one denomination. In retrospect, I am thankful for this. Because of this, my spiritual journey has been independent and thoughtful. I never did anything out of pressure or force, it was all my own desire to want to cultivate a faithful and spiritual relationship with God. I have sat in many congregations for many different Christian denominations, and for all my observations, the main problem with organized religion is that it (much like anything else in this life) can only be as perfect as the men who form them. "God loves, Man kills," was one of the titles of one of my favorite graphic novels growing up. And this about sums it up. Speaking specifically about Christianity, I do believe in God and Jesus. I do take the Bible as both a spirtual and historical document. Furthermore, the principles Jesus teaches us are great morals for one to live by. Jesus spoke to everyone. He did not discriminate, he told us the greatest commandment of all is to love one another as ourselves, second to loving God with all our heart, mind, and strength. And yet today, Christian congregations discriminate, judge, they are often racially and culturally segregated, and they have problems with hypocritical leaders. The last straw for me, was when I was told that I should wait to be bapitized, three times. Moreover, I was never given any guidance on what I was doing wrong or how I could be better prepared for baptism. Ultimately, I took this rejection to be a rejection from God. I made a mistake that many make. You cannot throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water, right?
It does seem silly for any one person Earth to have sole authority to say who can get baptized. We are all sinners in need of salvation, in need of hope. After the latest incident, I became complacent. I found baptist pastors with their screaming and shouting just as ineffective as the solemn dictator priests of the catholic church. I really don't think I need to go over the highly documented malevolent acts carried out worldwide by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has been at the route of some our global history's most inhumane attrocities. And the missionary baptist church, the black church, has it's problems too. Sometimes there is a very thin line between a pimp and a pastor. And sometimes, the way preachers get the congregation "high" on the spirit to "prepare" them to give "God's ten percent" is very silly. I mean, if you read the Bible as true and believe the one scripture everyone can recite (John 3:16), we know that God's sacrificing Jesus established a new covenant doing away with Old Testament traditions such as blood and animal sacrifices at an alter. I don't thing "ten percent" equates with Jesus' crucifixtion. At any rate, and understandably, the Church does need to take in money to keep things going. That's fine and legitimate, but making it a matter of a specific obligation to God is kind of odd. I am sure God is hip to and can make good use of our currency.
Needless to say, I suppose, I could always find something wrong or something that I don't agree with. But I think I had to come to accept that I shouldn't expect perfection in a church. Churches and congregations are made up of men and women trying to do the best they can. People want a place to go, a sanctuary. People want to believe in ultimate good, in salvation, and that there exists a power greater than man's intellect. The most beautiful thing about life, is also the thing that can make it very difficult and painful. War follow peacetime, loss is inevitable, and pain is impending. We have to take the good with the bad, and we learn to cherish the good times by experiencing hardship. So, understandably, we want to go to a place where we can leave all of that pain, all of that sorrow, all of that guilt, and all of that doubt.
I spent so much time trying to be perfect that I completely missed the point. We are not perfect, but we are beautiful and all bound as a human species. We desire love, fulfilment, and the space to pursue are separate kind of peace and happiness. Once I let go of this, and accepted my own imperfection, I was able to rebuild my faith from the ground up. So, folks, I was very much humbled. Life has humbled me, and love has helped me to find my way back to God. The people that scream and shout in church: that is their way of coping. That is how they find happiness, that is how they acheive their peace. Who am I to judge? We all have to work out our own salvation. And as far as hypocritical priests and pastors, more often than not, those people reap what they sew. I will always encourage people to read the Bible (or whatever they read) and to put their faith and trust in God, not men. My desire is to cultivate a genuine and real relationship with God and Jesus. And I try to let my christianity manifest itself in how I deal with others: with kindness and respect. There are many Christians, there are less who are actually Christ-like.
"I am at peace, because I am free"

6 comments:

george.arnett said...

Amen to that, brother.
We are called to be witnesses, not lawyers and certainly not judges.
And it's good to have a diverse background to give you a better understanding. We value things more when we search for and find them ourselves, not when they are given to us.

The CPA Doc said...

I agree, excellent and truly introspective analysis. Some of life experiences cause us to have the space and time to make such reflections as this. I remember trying to live the life I was "supposed to" live because the pastor said the bible said it and it was what the church "expected." Though I strive for perfection on a lot of levels.....I'm resolved in my own self to know that I can never reach it unless I wake up as God one day. LOL

"Life has humbled me, and love has helped me to find my way back to God." --- that spoke right out of my soul.

Aristocrat said...

Thanks guys...I guess I had to get that out

D. Donald said...

I inquired about you a few days back and decided to look you up. Most who are honest about their faith can authentically relate.
It reminds me of young Samuel, who served God faithfully. Yet, upon initially hearing the voice of God, he thought he heard a man... Eli (one with religious authority, yet corrupt in his old age, seemingly blind and indifferent to the injustices committed by his own sons).

"One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called Samuel.
Samuel answered, "Here I am." And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down. Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. (1 Samuel 3:2-8)

Samuel, perhaps, was disappointed... having heard a calling of some kind, a call to service, a call to act... Inwardly, he knew he heard something. He rose with expectation, only to be told, "No one called you." The old man, perhaps, could no longer hear the voice of God himself...

Samuel returned to his place, only to hear the same voice again; he rose with expectation, only to face the same disappointment.

I suppose we all have some sort of disappointing encounters with man before we realize that our calling is not from man, but from above.

Eli was some sort of distraction, I suppose. He had the authority. He had the title. But He didn't have the voice... not the voice that Samuel was hearing.

Samuel could have decided to give up. If he were around today, ear plugs could easily fix the problem. At least with ear plugs, he could get a good night's rest without having to try to go through the struggle of figuring out who was calling him and what He was trying to say...

But, instead, he finally responded with an answer that opened the portals of heaven. He didn't get it right the first time. He didn't even get it right the second time. And, ironically, he didn't have to move this time. No, this time, from his "place," he would hear God speak... right from where he already was...

The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." (1 Samuel 3:10)

Right from where he was. Without the distraction of "Eli" this time... And, it turned out, there would be something that he would have to tell Eli...

God bless you, bro. I'm long-winded. But I'm proud to read about your successes in D.C. I was curious as to what you were doing now, and I'm pleased to see that you're doing well. Continue to do so.

Blessings,

Derrick Donald (Ole Miss)

D. Donald said...

I inquired about you a few days back and decided to look you up. Most who are honest about their faith can authentically relate.
It reminds me of young Samuel, who served God faithfully. Yet, upon initially hearing the voice of God, he thought he heard a man... Eli (one with religious authority, yet corrupt in his old age, seemingly blind and indifferent to the injustices committed by his own sons).

"One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called Samuel.
Samuel answered, "Here I am." And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down. Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. (1 Samuel 3:2-8)

Samuel, perhaps, was disappointed... having heard a calling of some kind, a call to service, a call to act... Inwardly, he knew he heard something. He rose with expectation, only to be told, "No one called you." The old man, perhaps, could no longer hear the voice of God himself...

Samuel returned to his place, only to hear the same voice again; he rose with expectation, only to face the same disappointment.

I suppose we all have some sort of disappointing encounters with man before we realize that our calling is not from man, but from above.

Eli was some sort of distraction, I suppose. He had the authority. He had the title. But He didn't have the voice... not the voice that Samuel was hearing.

Samuel could have decided to give up. If he were around today, ear plugs could easily fix the problem. At least with ear plugs, he could get a good night's rest without having to try to go through the struggle of figuring out who was calling him and what He was trying to say...

But, instead, he finally responded with an answer that opened the portals of heaven. He didn't get it right the first time. He didn't even get it right the second time. And, ironically, he didn't have to move this time. No, this time, from his "place," he would hear God speak... right from where he already was...

The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." (1 Samuel 3:10)

Right from where he was. Without the distraction of "Eli" this time... And, it turned out, there would be something that he would have to tell Eli...

God bless you, bro. I'm long-winded. But I'm proud to read about your successes in D.C. I was curious as to what you were doing now, and I'm pleased to see that you're doing well. Continue to do well.

Blessings,

Derrick Donald (Ole Miss)

D. Donald said...

Oops, forgive the double post. I obviously got a little too crunk talking about the prophet Samuel.