Tell me all your thoughts on God

I’ll be honest. I’m not really sure what I believe about God most days. I grew up in a charismatic church, married a Lutheran, and then attended Baptist and Calvinist churches until we decided to leave. We’ve tried a few other churches, but our beliefs have morphed and changed. Since we experienced a lot of spiritual abuse at the hands of the leaders of our last church, it’s been hard to go back. And at this point, we are pretty much done with the church.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Over the past few months,  I will say, I’ve thought a lot about my relationship, or lack thereof, with God. I still feel as if I have one. I often will pray prayers in my head and I think about verses I’ve learned and I still try to be kind, loving, and forgiving even if I don’t know where I stand some days with my faith. I still desire to know the truth about God. I find him even more mysterious than I ever have, but I haven’t written him off as uncaring, unloving, or not hearing me. I just feel as if this journey requires me to dig my heels in and decide. It calls out to me and asks, “What is it that you really believe about me?” And that question is something I keep asking myself and fine-tuning as I go.

I am a very observant person. Growing up rather sheltered and withdrawn, I learned early on to watch not what people say, but what they don’t say. And to keep an eye on what they do. People tend to say all kinds of nice sounding things, but it’s what they do and what they don’t say that interest me.

When I tell people I don’t go to church, they automatically assume I’m going to hell. They can’t believe I’ve walked away from God. When I try to explain myself, I am faced with a lot of odd looks and strange body language as if I birthed an alien.

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The look I get when I tell people I don’t go to church. Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

I’ve noticed over the years something about Christians, especially those who religiously attend church and swear by the tradition. They say a lot of nice sounding things, but if you end up not agreeing or have doubts, they quickly turn into people that become hurtful and angry.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the past week. A friend of mine decided to attend church and then wrote an email to the pastor about some things he found that went against the scripture. The pastors reply was more or less “I don’t like what you said, so don’t come back to my church. Signed, Pastor, PHD”. Interestingly, I was out on the lake looking at God’s beauty in creation while thousands of people were sitting in pews “going to church”. I told my friend, “This is what church really is: Admiring God’s creation instead of playing dress-up and trying to impress people”.  It’s true I feel more connected to God in nature than I do sitting around his so-called people.

But after I read the Pastor’s response to my friend, the thought occurred to me that the church itself–I mean, buildings of people gathering to watch a Pastor perform every Sunday–is in and of itself Satanic. And maybe I don’t trust that word anymore either since I don’t always buy into the entire idea of Satan, but the church could be defined as something evil. It’s idolatry, really.

Got Questions defines idolatry this way:

The definition of idolatry, according to Webster, is “the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.” An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God.

Exodus 20 states, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”

Yet, what is a Pastor these days? Nothing more than an idol. And when you try to point out how corrupt and evil this is, you will see the way you are treated. It’s pure evil. Most Christians I know treat their pastor as they would Jesus Christ. They see him as the messenger between God and themselves. They see him as a person who is granted some sort of special powers and has the ability to be called. This is hogwash. And it’s idolatry.

In my last church, people asked the pastor if they should get this or that car, how to parent their kid, if they should go on a special diet, if they thought certain diseases were real, how to spend their money, mental health issues, marriage problems, abuse problems, and on and on. They wouldn’t look outside the church for help because to do so was frowned upon. The Pastor was seen as the guy with the answers.

frida-bredesen-317281-unsplashTo go against the pastor is to go against Jesus himself. And to go against the pastor is to be treated as the enemy of the church. I recently read a comment about people who write posts such as this one and they said that anything that is divisive is of the devil. If that’s the case, then so is Martin Luther, Galileo, or in modern day, Rachel Denhollander.

Are Christians really demons? Are they really filled with Christ or with the power of Satan? It’s as if they can’t search the Bible, if that’s what they claim to believe, and realize that most of what they say and do is not even in the Bible! The term “Pastor” is only used once and the term “shepherd” is not defined by ruling over a group of people and having their unquestionable loyalty. I appreciated this video by Servus Christi:

Most churches are run by marketing and business efforts. Pastors go to seminary to be a tool of change in the hands of God, but money corrupts the best of us. And so does power. I don’t believe that Jesus really wanted his church to be defined by the love of money (which is the root of all kinds of evil) or by commending ourselves with titles and status. If you read scripture, you will notice how Christ sees those who are outside of prestige and popularity as the ones who will inherit the kingdom, not the proud and boastful who flaunt their professions and call themselves “Pastor, PHD”.

Of course, I’m being a little cheeky when I say that they are demons. I know most Christians are not. But I wonder about their reactions. It’s this put-up-your-dukes-and-lets-fight attitude. It’s accusations and name calling and assumptions about salvation and hell. To argue against a pastor or a church’s ideology is to be shunned and treated as Satan himself. It makes me wonder if these people are truly of Christ, or of the devil himself. Because to love Christ is to be patient, kind, and respectful. What I see is a bunch of rude, prideful people who claim they are defending the faith but really are defending their choices. To question those choices is to place doubt into their minds about the very thing they believe and put their hope in–their church and pastors. It has replaced their need for Christ, although they falsely assume they are still loving and serving Him by going to church and defending their beliefs to the death.

Of course, most Christians won’t want to hear a thing I have to say. Steven Hassan, an expert on mind control, uses the term BITE to describe how people can be sucked into cults (including pastor worship and church worship). Cults seek to manipulate our Behaviour, the Information we access, our Thoughts and Emotions. You can see a bigger version of these images here.

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Most times, it’s not this obvious or in your face. Sometimes it’s subtle and elusive, but when you step back, you can see exactly what it was. Some churches are cults by definition. Some are toxic. Some are “cultish” and exhibit some of these behaviors, but not all. In any case, why would anyone want to be associated with such things? Even if you only exhibit one thing in this entire list, it’s too much.

It’s why I can honestly say the church is evil. And I won’t be running back to the same place I escaped from. While my relationship with God still hangs in the balance, the church won’t be the place where I find him again. The church did so much damage to my thinking, my emotions, my sense of self that I can not imagine what my life would be like if I had stayed and kept enduring their lies and control.

It might look ugly right now where I’m at, but it’s my ugly. I’m free to think, be, and make my own choices which aren’t influenced by some dude with a suit and a narcissistic personality disorder. I’m not sure why Christians call themselves “free” or claim they have “freedom in Christ” when they are so wrapped up into their churches and what their leaders or pastors have deemed important. So many Christians lives consist of serving in the church, giving all their extra income to the church, and attending church. They can’t imagine life outside the walls of their church!

There is life and joy outside the walls, the people, and the events in a church building. I’m learning to enjoy the real world and each person I encounter. There is no line of who I can talk to or not talk to, where I can go and can’t go, or what opportunities I can join or not join. My calendar is not booked up with church events and my mind if not bogged down with guilt, shame, and sorrow from being manipulated by the teachings of the church.

If the Bible is lovely and pure and holy, I sure never found it in the church.

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God, I just don’t know

My stance on God these days is, I just don’t know. He might care about me. He might not. The Bible might be true. It might be a giant lie. God might be doing something but he also might not be doing a damn thing. I just have no confidence to swing either way. I’m not done with God nor am I a believer, at least not a wholehearted one with no doubts. I’m not ready to say he doesn’t care or doesn’t exist, but to the level he is in my life, that’s up for a ton of debate. I clearly have not decided what to believe.

My entire life has hinged on this God thing. When I was growing up, I was not lovable enough unless I was doing things for God. I needed faith and a sinless life. I never really read the Bible but the church we attended pushed this “works based religion” and I believed it. I was young and brainwashed and grew up pretty angry at God.

Then I found myself in my late 20’s still trying out this God thing. I couldn’t just walk away. So I sat in churches of a different kind that told me that God loved me no matter what. That he paid for my sins. That I only needed to believe. So I read the verses and thought I knew exactly what they meant.

Later, I attended a church that took this a step further and claimed I couldn’t even take credit for my belief. God had elected me to believe and no one could snatch me from him. But I was to be so thankful and grateful that I’d only ever want to love him and serve him. So for years, I felt guilt that I couldn’t love God. It wasn’t that I didn’t try but that my love felt forced. It was an obligation. A duty.

So we switched churches and I was told more of the same but this time, I sobbed in the pastors office. “If God created me, why am I supposed to be different? Why didn’t he just make me how he wanted to begin with?” I still felt as if who I was would never be enough.

I heard stories of changed hearts, growing in grace, loving people who were abusive and cruel because “that’s what Jesus would do. ” I knew people who adopted children, took in criminals, and didn’t press charges when stabbed by a criminal. This was how a Christian lived. Do not take revenge. Give up your dreams and be an orphanage. Or go on mission trips and start up a church. I wanted to do none of it. It all made me cringe. It just wasn’t something I felt born to do. But there was guilt associated with this because the vast majority of church people felt called. Why didn’t I?

I’ve always been a bit of a lone ranger, a person who questions the culture and societal norms. I’ve never been much of a follower. This has put me in positions where I’ve been shamed for not going with the flow. I’ve been told I need to be more humble, to love more, to try to have grace for others, and to fit in. But I don’t want to. So then I am treated like I am an evil hearted person. More shame.

I wish life was simple. If God was real, he makes himself utterly elusive and distant and only some have managed to hear from him, or so goes their stories. It seems a hard thing to swallow. Just read the Bible… Everything I need to know is in there. A bunch of verses that have been disputed over the ages. But I’m supposed to figure it out? And honestly, couldn’t have God made the text a little more clear? If he knew thousands or millions of people would rely on it for ages to trust in Him, why make it so difficult and a source of conflict? Didn’t he see that coming?

Let’s not forget how women are treated…nothing more than sex slaves and property. But within the pages is a story of God’s love for me. Why can’t I see it then?

And his people are reflections of him but they are horrible. Some use Christianity to hide evils. Abuse is rampant. Power trips are seen in every church you attend. Mixed in with the good stuff is a whole lot of brainwashing… Everything from sexual and spiritual abuse to theft to hiding criminal activity from the authorities. Yet this is who Christ called to represent him? It’s embarrassing.

I want to believe there’s a power that loves me. I want to believe my life doesn’t just end and that it matters what I do today for eternity. But I’m struggling to know it. To feel it deep in my bones. To live it and breath it. Maybe it’s because it’s just not true. Or maybe it’s because I’m not one of His. Or maybe the answer lies somewhere I haven’t seen yet.

If I just believe just doesn’t cut it anymore.