Christian Labels

I am in love with hand lettering. I’m obsessed actually and have a bit of a spending problem when it comes to new markers. I love creating art with quotes. And I’m often trying to improve. 


I was recently on Amazon (because of said marker addiction) and saw a book on hand lettering. I think it was called “Lettering for the Lord”. I can guess the book was a how-to letter bible verses or use lettering “for the Lord”. I didn’t click on it as my natural first instinct is an eye roll.

The Bible tells us that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31. One of my favorite verses is in Deuteronomy 11 and it says:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

From these passages, I can conclude that everything I do and say should be “for the Lord”. 

It baffles me how we try to put things into categories. If I create art, but don’t use a bible verse in it, does that mean it’s not “for the Lord”? Don’t misread me, I’m not saying it’s wrong to use a bible verse. By all means, do! But I find it kind of silly to say “I quoted this verse so I’m doing it for the Lord”. 

If everything we believe — our heart and mind is after the things of God, then our lives are a testimony to His goodness whether we preach at someone or not. Art can be “for the Lord” even if we use no words. Hand lettering and beautiful drawings can show our love of Christ even if we aren’t quoting a scripture. Of course, I love writing out the verses too but often I don’t. But my heart is still thankful and happy to leave others with the beauty of a pen. 

We like to say things are Christian or not. We think certain music is Christian. We think certain books are Christian. We even judge people as Christian by if they attend church or not. But how do we really know something or someone is Christian? Is it simply because they look the part? Is it because a bible verse attached to it? Even Satan quoted scripture so by that definition, Satan was a Christian.

I’ve concluded that wherever I am, whatever I’m doing…no matter what it is, I am always guided by the loving hand of God. Even if I come across an evil show or hear lyrics that aren’t great, God is still with me, guiding me in His wisdom. So I no longer read books, watch movies, or listen to music that is labeled Christian. I decide that based on measuring it against God’s word. Even so called “christian” music and movies can’t measure up because of the false doctrine and manipulative style of the message. So I don’t trust the labels.

Every moment of my day and everything I do is aimed at being “for the Lord”. I don’t need to be a certain way or change into a bible quoting robot. He sees me where I am and uses me how he sees fit. It’s not up to me or my good works. It’s who God is and how He loves me that I can be used at all. There’s nothing I can do “for the Lord”. Jesus paid it all so I could walk in freedom and when I do that, He never leaves me but uses me as I am. 

Advertisements

Who is Wise Among You?

We do a good job of muddying the waters of Christianity. We seem to complicate things that don’t need to be complicated.

I’ve been following a trend lately and trying to figure out what I think about it. I noticed on twitter women speaking about things they have heard while in church (#thingsonlychristianwomenhear), most of which seemed to be anger at not being able to pastor or lead in a church setting. There is also the “submission” topic in marriage too. Then there is the Jen Hatmaker incident. She wrote a Good Friday post about it:

This year, I deeply experienced being on the wrong side of religion, and it was soul-crushing. I suffered the rejection, the fury, the distancing, the punishment, and sometimes worst of all, the silence. I experienced betrayal from people I thought loved us. I felt the cold winds of disapproval and the devastating sting of gossip.

I see a trend that I don’t really like though. It’s some sort of power struggle which pits men against women. It demands rights for women to preach and teach, but stomps on men who do. Men and women have the gloves on, going head to head with one another. Men bloggers like Matt Walsh take their stance on women, and women like Sarah Bessey come out in droves to fight back. And rightly so. Most of what men leaders say is total BS. But I still find it all ugly.

These tweets and blogs remind me of why I have shaken off the church. Not just because of things said to me. Not because at one point I was hurt. I feel I’m past all that really. Yes, it still rises up sometimes when I’m triggered, but the main reason I stay away from the institutional church system (IC) is because I don’t like the idea of it at all. I don’t like what it produces. All these things point to what the church is doing, what it will always do, and how people tend to react to it in order to stay there. Jen Hatmaker was on the “wrong side of religion” but religion has only one side: evil veiled as goodness.

I told my husband the other day that I no longer read books by famous authors, listen to celebrity pastors and their sermons, or keep up with well-to-do churches or their members. He said “Well, they aren’t all bad or all good”. He’s right there is truth in what most preach and teach. They aren’t all bad or all good. Yet, I don’t want to weed through their sermons to find the tidbit of truth. I’d rather go directly to the Bible and see what God says for Himself. If I have questions, I know God can lead me to places where I will find those answers. If not, I know the mystery isn’t mine to know.

James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

It’s a simple faith I try to lead. And sometimes I do feel lost in it. The quietness of my faith can sometimes resemble the feeling that something is missing. It can sometimes feel void of conflict. It can feel drama-free. But I think that is the point.

I’m not saying my life has no drama and I don’t deal with conflict. I certainly do. But what is missing is the added drama. This clawing to the top, this vying for a role in the church. Who needs it? Just go out and be the church. I don’t have to ask permission to show love and kindness to someone, to speak about Christ to someone, to be a light to someone. But in the church, there will always be that power struggle. Systems are made for someone to control it. 

Jen Hatmaker’s words are words I can understand, even if I don’t agree with her in other ways:

This year I became painfully aware of the machine, the Christian Machine. I saw with clear eyes the systems and alliances and coded language and brand protection that poison the simple, beautiful body of Christ….My mind knows the difference between the Christian Machine and Jesus, but this year it feels hard to separate. The whole system seems poisoned, and I struggle to drink any of it.

And so the ones rejected and spit out by the church will be hurt because they didn’t follow the rules exactly, but expected to be treated like they did. What they really want is for people to tow the line and regurgitate niceties and scripted language. They want polish. They don’t want questions. They don’t embrace doubts.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

James 3:13-18

I guess all I really know is that when you allow Jesus to be your King, not other people, you let Him guide you into truth. We battle against others when our fight should be in ourselves. It’s one reason I dislike social media. It’s much too easy to wage war online. I think my time is better spent pursuing peace with those who need it. There are some who have no interest in thinking, only spewing their rhetoric, and for me, that’s not what God made me for.

It’s easy to get sucked into what the church is doing. I’m not saying to ignore it or not bring light to it. I’m just saying I don’t want to be defined by it. “She hates the church” shouldn’t be what people know of me. “She loves Jesus” should be. And while I have no plans to step back into a church building experience, I do love the church — the real church that embraces others in love, speaks the truth in kindness, and shows mercy to the weak. This is not something that requires a systematic approach and a building. It requires a heart that loves Jesus and longs to be like Him.

There’s nothing complicated about that.

Churchianity: The God of Fear

The other day, I had the unfortunate encounter with a blogger who interprets the scriptures much differently than I do. We butted heads on the issue of church. Her post went out of the way to shame people who didn’t go to church. So I commented that she was victim blaming and that I took issue with her idea that going to church equals salvation. Her response to me was this:

Elle- Your argument is not with me, but with Scripture. If your argument were biblical, you’d be able to back it up with chapter and verse Scripture. There’s nowhere in the Bible that says it’s OK to reject the church because you’ve been hurt by it. You are judging me by making the assumption that I’ve never been hurt by the church and am therefore heartless to those who have. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. My family has been hurt deeply by more than one church. But your experiences and mine still don’t serve as an excuse to rebel against God’s word. People who are genuinely born again obey God’s word despite their experiences and feelings.

I would strongly encourage you to examine your heart against the measuring stick of Scripture not your feelings, experiences, and opinions, to discover whether or not you’re actually born again, because the fruit you’ve exhibited in your comments here and previously indicates that you do not understand the gospel and are not saved (1 Corinthians 2:14, John 14:23-24, 1 John 2:4-6). I’m not saying that to be mean, but because I’m concerned for your eternity. Simply saying or feeling that you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you are one.

Please, repent of your sin and place your faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to save you and set you free from the things that have hurt you. You don’t have to live life as a victim any more.

Triggered Emotions

The thing was that I had been on her blog before and I had given her scriptural reasons as to why we shouldn’t put a church building up on a pedestal. We are not to hide away from other Christians or neglect getting together to talk about Christ, eating together, or just enjoying each other as we have a common bond, but that to me doesn’t mean sitting in a church pew and staring at the back of one’s head.

I hate to admit it, but her comment got under my skin this weekend. It wasn’t “her comment” exactly that bothered me. It was something deeper. It triggered past experiences and hurts and judgments that were made against me in the name of Christianity…in the name of “speaking the truth in love”. This is a typical cop-out for having to be held accountable for things you say: “I’m not saying that to be mean, but because I’m concerned for your eternity.” If you have to preface something with “I’m not saying this to be mean…” guess what? You already crossed a line.

The Judgmental Church

How easy it is for one to make judgments about another’s faith based on a simple fact: I don’t go to a church building. There have been judgments about me in other ways in the past. I’ve been judged by a statement on facebook. I’ve been judged because I don’t spank my kids. I’ve been judged because I question. I’ve been judged because I’m a woman. I’ve been judged for working. I’ve been judged because I don’t fit into the “perfect wife” scenario. Judging someone without really getting to know them and then telling them they are hell-bound is damaging. Especially when I’ve fought so hard to break down lies that prevent me from experiencing the joy of having a relationship with Christ. To be brought back to the point where I question my salvation and God’s love for me is destructive.

Honestly, this is what the church produces though. This is why I’ve left the church and will not return. I did question my salvation after reading this post. I questioned if Jesus wants me in the church. I questioned if I was wrong. I wondered if I was making a good decision by staying away.

She’s right. I’m not saved. Not in the way she wants me to be. I’m not saved by church attendance, rituals, traditions, and man made rules. I’m not saved by what people think of me or lacking belief in God that says He is for me and loves me. I’m not saved by pot lucks, passion plays, and phony interactions on a Sunday morning. That’s fine if you find comfort in those things, but I do not. I have outgrown the need for such things. I see things differently now.

Telling me my experiences and feelings don’t matter is yet another form of invalidation. If I didn’t feel things, I wouldn’t love God. If I didn’t look at my experiences and see how God was using them in my life, I’d be stuck in bad patterns and lost. Yes, the Bible is the Word of God that guides us into truth, but it is not a weapon to use to smack another human being over the head with nor is it a device to silence them when you don’t like what they have to say. It’s a gift you give to others to share the grace, forgiveness, and love in the person of Jesus Christ. If you can’t offer that, you aren’t offering the gospel.

The institutional church experience promotes fear and shaming. It is a weapon of invalidation, which says you aren’t allowed to think, act, speak, or be different and if you question that, we’ll make you sorry. It uses dysfunctional forms of communication and tactics to spread it’s message which it calls the gospel, but it is nothing like the gospel at all. It’s message is to scare people into coming to church so the church system can thrive. Without people, it will die. Which it should, if you ask me. But the institutional church needs money, volunteers, and “yes men” to keep itself going so it spews these words from the pulpit and the attendees in turn regurgitate it to anyone who would dare question the system. Instead of producing peaceful Christians, you end up with a bunch of fear-mongering cowards.

The art of leadership… consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention.

Adolf Hitler

This thing will always anger me until I die. If you serve a God of fear, I suggest you fire him.

Being Katniss in a President Snow World

I have watched the Hunger Games like a zillion times now. I’ve not read the books. It’s on my to-do list for when my kids are gone and I have nothing better to do. But the movies I’ve watched and have found a little bit of a correlation to myself trying to live as a Christian.

Katniss, The Protagonist

Katniss is the protagonist in the story. After her father dies in a mining accident, Katniss becomes a mother-like figure to her sister, although her mother is still alive. She hunts for food and is a natural with a bow and arrow. When her sister, Prim, is chosen as a “tribute” for their District, Katniss takes her place, saving Prim from a certain death in what is known as “the Hunger Games”.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is where children from each district are chosen to fight each other and only one is supposed to survive. That survivor wins the hunger games. Katniss and another character, Peeta, embarass President Snow by joining forces and through a series of events too long to explain, force him to let the two of them be the winners of the games instead of just one. Throughout the movie, Katniss is defying the rules, breaking down control, and basically pissing off the leaders. She isn’t simply a rebellious person, but one who can’t conform to what she views as evil. And evil it is. When she is told to get in line, she never does. She has her own sense of what is wrong with the world and she feels its her duty to right that wrong. She doesn’t care what everyone else is doing. Instead, she can only see the world in which she is living as becoming more and more terrible, and instead of just going with it, she fights against it.

President Snow, The Antagonist

President Snow is the antagonist of the story. He’s the ruler of the Capitol and all of Panem. In the movie, he emotionally terrorizes Katniss. One of his signature moves was leaving behind a rose so she knew he had been there. He’s basically a psychopath but is so laid back and relaxed, he comes off as a huge creep. He wants to kill Katniss, but because she is so popular and well-liked, he instead threatens the people she loves. He is an oppressive dictator who is power hungry and will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. He seems to target Katniss because she refuses to obey the rules and she causes a following that also starts to think for themselves.

The Church Today

Today’s Christians often remind me of President Snow. I’m referring mostly to the ones who use shame, abuse, manipulation, and control to get their point across. The ones who victim blame and do little to try to understand those of us who’ve left the church. We are just simply tired of dealing with evil. It’s not that we are hurt and have to go coddle our feelings. It’s that we are tired of the games. We are tired of the roses you leave behind when we know the message behind that rose. They might not threaten us physically (although some can), but they threaten our spiritual walks when they spread lies about if God can really keep us since we left the church.

The President Snow types are the ones that seem bent on making anyone not in the church feel bad about their relationship with God. They assume that because we have left, we don’t love God and we can’t fellowship. They can only define “the church” one way and any argument in another direction brings them to conclude that we are lost and we never were saved to begin with, which is another shaming tactic to make us doubt our faith. Good thing I don’t put my faith in other people or what they say. I believe Christ has saved me and nothing, NOTHING, can separate me from Him. Not even manipulative church members and their abusive words.

Fixing a Broken System

How does one fix such a broken system? Can it be fixed? I’m reminded that Katniss didn’t try to fix the system. She fought against it. She merged with others who were on her side (and some she later learned weren’t, but that’s besides the point) and fought with all her might to take it down. There was no fixing of something so corrupt. You tear it down and start over, but not with the same rules, ideas, and thinking in place. You must rid a “society” of such things if it is to prosper. But people in the institutional church would rather guilt and shame a person for leaving because we are “tearing down the church” and “creating discord” by leaving. It’s our fault the church is dividing, causing in-fighting, and has corrupt rulers.

The Sacrifice for Truth

Katniss lost friends and loved ones in the process. In the same way, I lost people I thought were my friends. I lost relationships and my reputation, to some degree. I’m still fighting for truth. If the church is a place of love, why does it shun people when they leave? Why does it label them (incorrectly) as heathens and chalk it all up to “hurt feelings” or “you were never a Christian to begin with”? Why does it silence the hurting? Why does it use shame to make those of us who’ve chosen a different path to try to get us to see the “error of our ways”? The only error I see is inside the walls of the church where this manipulation and shaming is bred. The church system is good at rewiring a person’s brain to see anyone outside as evil and everyone inside as good. But the truth is, it’s the exact opposite! The evil exists behind well clothed pastors and their cronies who ooze nice sounding theological arguments and words, but their hearts are intent on control and conformity. That’s why every single church person who has decided I’m a heathen has said the same exact crap — it’s all regurgitated BS that’s been passed down from the pulpit to the sheeple. They can’t think for themselves and don’t want to.

Maybe it’s too hard to see anything different when you are inundated with brain washing tactics inside the church walls. It’s too hard for you to think that one can possibly live “in Christ alone, by faith alone” or that we could even be saved if we don’t submit to a pastor figure with a seminary degree. I think the only way one would see the truth is to spend some time actually reading the Bible for themselves, trying to understand God for themselves, without any man telling them how to think. Then, go speak to people who have left and see for yourself if we actually are a bunch of heathens all deceiving everyone and sending them to hell. And when you’ve walked alongside those people, then you can come back and tell me if they are hell-bound and disobeying scripture or not. But I’m afraid you will not even try because you are much too busy sitting on your high horse to come down and see what really is going on. It’s easier to sit on that horse and judge. And yet you think we should come back and ride on that horse with you. No thanks. I really have no interest in being with people who victim blame and shame in the name of Christ. I don’t want to drink from a poisoned spring.

My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me.

John 15:

 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

In the future, I’ll write a more in-depth post based on the arguments that people have against not being in the institutional church, but for now, I thought the Hunger games comparison was something to think about. Here are some posts to check out about the institutional church and it’s evils.

What is the Danger of the Church System – Bryn Jones

Christianity and the Spiral of Silence – Jayson Bradley

10 Ways to Spot Spiritual Abuse – Mary Demuth

 

Walking Away

Whenever you end something, it can feel hard at first. It’s hard to see past today. It’s hard to know if you’ll be ok.

About a year and a half ago, my family walked away from the church we were in for 3 years. It felt like I was betraying God. I wondered if I’d lose my faith. The problem was the church had misused its power and caused my family much grief. We tried other churches after we left but they all had hints of manipulation: guilt trips, key phrases used to shame you, and verses taken out of context. I couldn’t sit for another service in a place that used tactics to preach Christ.

We now meet 2x a month with a family and we do a home church, although it’s not like church at all. There is no pastor. There is no paid worship team. No leaders. We are all equals and all given equal time to bring up or address things from scripture. It’s much more peaceful. I don’t have to be quiet the entire hour and listen to someone talk at me. I get to engage and make points and raise questions with the text. I get to hear others and they get to hear me.

I never felt free to do that in church because it wasn’t welcomed. Even in times where discussion was promoted, it became a pissing match to see who could kiss up to the pastor and have the best answer. It was a huge turn off listening to all the theologians in the room discuss things that had no meaning for me personally. I got tired of being told what to think, how to worship, how to pray, and who to be friends with.

I realized that these things will flow naturally out of a heart that loves God. I don’t need to force myself into a pew, be told to raise my hands in worship, be expected to pray out loud, or be forced to like a creep just because we were in the same building together. In real life, relationships exist and we can live in them. In real life, I can worship in my car while dropping my kids off at classes. In real life, I can let the Holy Spirit guide me to those unlovable people that need a kind word. I don’t need a guilt trip from a pastor. God leads me everyday.

After I left the church, it took time to get my wings again. I ended up pursuing my creative side which was stifled inside the church. I’m slowly growing into my own because I feel real freedom in Christ. When I was in the church, I felt bound by rules and religion. Outside of the church, I am bound only by my relationship with Christ. It has freed me to pursue my God given abilities instead of being told I’m just here to serve my husband. In using my gifts, I am more peaceful and joyful than I ever was in a church building.

I have not neglected the church because the church includes all Christians, not just ones in a certain building. Further, not all people who attend church are actual Christians. The church attracts toxic people, many of whom aren’t saved. The church is no more Christian than people at the grocery store or those at a county fair. Sprinkled throughout are real Christians, but a whole lot aren’t saved at all and are merely trying to prey on others or mark off their “do good” deed for the week. This is why I find it laughable that anyone would chide me for not going to church. The church is a toxic place to be.

While I could say so much more about all of this, I will end here. I hope to write what I’m learning, not just bring up issues with the church. Stay tuned.