Affirmation of faith and thanks giving

November 19, 2007 at 12:00 pm 18 comments

A year or two down the line from my re-birth some things really start to look fantastical as I look back inside the self contained bubble of god-faith. It’s not the big things like heaven, hell, salvation, belief in miracles or fundamentalism – it’s the ‘Jesus is great – he really loves me, and is amazing!’ stuff which stops me in my tracks. I have friends, close friends and family who I love dearly who give thanks to Jesus and attribute ‘grace’ to pretty much every positive thing that happens to them. The interesting thing is that I also know a lot of non-Christians, whose lives are no better or no worse, who aren’t more or less lucky in their day to day. To both sets of friends sometimes positive stuff happens, sometimes negative stuff happens but my normal rational Christians friends attribute the positive stuff to Jesus’ love (incidentally they don’t blame god for the bad stuff, of course… that’s the other guys fault).

I’m coming to the conclusion that this ritual is key. Thinking about the object of your faith at times when good things happen and attributing that positivity to him, gives a strong sense of god being in control, and ‘looking after’ you.

The more they share with each others, these stories of god ‘touching’ their lives the more it re-affirms it to other Christians in their circle. It’s vital, and it’s were the phenomenon of ‘worship’ comes in to play – gathering together every Sunday to communally sing songs about how great Jesus is and what he’s done for you continues the cycle. If you’re down and not having a happy time, or going through a rough patch… well that’s because you aren’t giving your life over to Jesus enough, of course. Jesus loves me, this I know, because the bible tells me so.

- Question Monkey

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d-C Blog: Heartbreaking, sad, frustrating, but thought-provoking The Myth of Bible-based “Family Values”

18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HeIsSailing  |  November 19, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    I am becomming more and more convinced that Christians gain their theology from Worship songs rather than from Scripture. Not that I blame them, nor is this a bad thing, just an interesting observation. Getting your congregation to memorize Scripture is like pulling teeth, yet everyone remembers the lyrics to their favorite songs, and lyrics have an impact where Scripture does not:

    We crown You with glory, we crown You with honor
    Jesus we crown You with praise
    We crown You with song and dance, we crown You with lifted hands
    Jesus, we crown You with praise

    Sing allelujah to the Lamb
    Sing allelujah to the Lamb
    Sing allelujah to the Lamb of God

    Jesus we crown You with singing, the instruments lift up Your name
    with all of our hearts
    Jesus You are victorious, righteous, Redeemer
    We crown You with praise

    Canta aleluya, Canta aleluya, Canta aleluya al Senor

    Worthy, Worthy, Worthy
    Worthy, Worthy, Worthy
    Jesus we crown You with praise

    Allelujah, Allelujah, Allelujah

  • 2. ESVA  |  November 19, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    QM:
    I think you’ve articulated one of the key points of worship: mutual reaffirmation of some Christians’ beliefs in the ceaseless benevolence of their good buddy, Jesus. It is crucial to hold on to that belief at all times and to be reassured, on a regular basis, that plenty of others belief the same thing you do.

    HIS:
    I believe you are correct and that the personally held theologies of many believers can be summed up largely in their favorite songs and hymns. As the song you posted illustrates, this theology is not just shallow, it is absolutely empty. (At least the hymns of Charles Wesley contained doctrinal nuggets, mistaken and misguided though they were.) Is it any wonder that many Christians know less about their scriptures and their denominations’ doctrines than do many non-Christians?

    There was a time when I thought using “scripture choruses” was a good thing because at least that way Christians would be learning some content to go along with their tunes. I realize now, however, that setting isolated verses to music probably does more harm than good. It does not present the verses in their context, nor does it present them as part of any coherent body of thought. Thus, Christians can hold a profusion of contradictory beliefs and never be aware of their incoherence, because they’ve never laid out the ideas side-by-side to examine them.

  • 3. Rachel  |  November 19, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    “The more they share with each others, these stories of god ‘touching’ their lives the more it re-affirms it to other Christians in their circle.”

    May I point out that this is what you all are doing on this blog? You’re sharing your respective de-conversion stories and affirming that you’re better off now than you were as a Christian.

    “If you’re down and not having a happy time, or going through a rough patch… well that’s because you aren’t giving your life over to Jesus enough, of course.”

    Do you really think that all Christians piously gloss over the difficult times in life? Bad things happen to everybody because the world is not the way it’s supposed to be, not because of anyone’s lack of faith. Many people would consider happy-clappy Christianity a counterfeit, as a matter of fact. Christ told his followers that they would suffer.

    HIS and ESVA,
    You are right to say that a lot of Christian theology comes from worship and tradition and not scripture. Early Christians were worshiping Jesus as God way before scripture was canonized, for example. The problem with a lot of worship music today is that some denominations extract their own meaning from scripture without the witness of the Church as a whole. And then they water it down or make it all fluffy and emotional. So regrettably, a lot of folks walk around with some pretty soapy theology. But don’t patronize those of us who have studied creeds and confessions, sing hymns with doctrinal content, and wouldn’t be caught dead with some of the praise choruses that are out there.

  • 4. HeIsSailing  |  November 19, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Rachel says:

    May I point out that this is what you all are doing on this blog? You’re sharing your respective de-conversion stories and affirming that you’re better off now than you were as a Christian.

    I’ll be fair. Yes, that is what I am doing here anyway. It is a form of expression and affirmation that I, as an apostate from Christianity, cannot get in the outside world. I cannot easily talk to my friends about this stuff, not even my old Christian friends, because they find it deeply disturbing. I am not going to force any of this on them, and at the same time, it is very difficult to go this alone. That is why I am here.

    Do you really think that all Christians piously gloss over the difficult times in life?

    No. However I have seen friends of mine, when undergoing terrible times, turn their problems over to God or ‘lay them on the alter’. Praying about them, gaining strength from that prayer and forging ahead and dealing with it is one thing. But sadly I have seen some people who habitually pray, ”lift their problems before God’, ‘Let Go and Let God’, then just leave it there. They don’t know how to pick up the pieces and move on.

    My old pastor used to gently chide people who thought the phrase “God helps those who help themselves’ was found somewhere in the Bible. Rather, he emphatically taught the opposite, that God helps the helpless, or those who cannot help themselves. And I have seen many Christians who use this as an excuse to pray over their shambled, messed-up lives, and their lives never get any better, because they don’t know what to do beyond prayer.

    I commend you for facing life’s difficult problems head-on. Sadly, many Christians just do not know how to do that. Mind you, this is not a criticism of the Christian faith. This is just reality as I see it.

  • 5. LeoPardus  |  November 19, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Rachel:
    The problem with a lot of worship music today is that some denominations extract their own meaning from scripture without the witness of the Church as a whole.

    Really curious here. Are you in one of the churches that practices or believes in the majesterium of the Church (e.g. Catholic, Orthodox)? I wonder because that’s not the sort of statement most Protestants would make.

    But don’t patronize those of us who have studied creeds and confessions, sing hymns with doctrinal content, and wouldn’t be caught dead with some of the praise choruses that are out there.

    WORD! For a whole lot of years I’ve hated ‘praise choruses’. Matt Redman especially makes me want to hurl.

    Studying creeds and confessions sounds like the old churches. That’s where I went when I couldn’t stand the direction nearly all of Protestantism was going.

  • 6. ESVA  |  November 19, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Rachel:
    I apologize if my comment was perceived as patronizing. I tried to limit the range of my criticism by speaking of “some” or “many” Christians because it is impossible to lump “all” Christians into one box, particularly for specific criticisms.

    If you’ve read a good number of the posts here, you’ll know that we come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some of us are from traditions that are theologically simplistic, while others come from some very structured traditions. We are well aware that many believers study creeds and confessions, sing hymns with substantive doctrinal content, and join us in rejecting trite “feel-good” choruses. Some of the posts and comments here simply apply to broader segments of the Christian community than do others.

    I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we don’t believe that Christians simply gloss over life’s difficulties. They feel the pains of loss, suffering and injustice just as deeply as anyone else does. Many of us have sat beside them as they lay dying in hospital beds, we’ve prayed with them, we’ve babysat their children while they made funeral arrangements and we’ve ministered in countless other ways. We know that their faith has often brought them consolation in such times. My faith brought me consolation in such times as well. To echo your phrase, don’t patronize those of us who devoted years of our lives to Christian ministry and endured heartrending struggles in our efforts to better understand ourselves and the foundations upon which we build our lives.

    You noted that one purpose of this blog is to affirm each other in our de-conversion experiences. Is there something wrong with that? The fact that we no longer believe in Christianity does not negate our need to align with a community of like-minded people. The sad fact for many of us is that we have few people with whom we can share our questions face-to-face. We have few people who can understand the intellectual, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual longings that cause us to question or reject the beliefs that sustained us over a lifetime. It’s important to us to have people who can connect with us because they’ve been through or are going through similar struggles. Perhaps the point that the original poster wanted to make is that Christians, if they haven’t done so already, should acknowledge that a significant aspect of “worship” services has little to do with worshiping and lots to do with building community. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Christians might benefit intellectually and spiritually if they recognized that this is the case.

  • 7. Rachel  |  November 19, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Leo,
    Good question. I grew up bouncing around fundy/non-denom churches, and I currently attend a Christian Reformed church. It’s not a typical protestant church, though, because the liturgy is made up of a lot of creeds and confessions and we have communion every week. I’m taking Ecclesiology right now with a prof. who went to a Catholic university, so I’m developing a more high-church bent. I don’t know if I could ever make the switch to Catholic or EO, but I’ll probably end up Lutheran, Anglican…something like that. Matt Redmen makes me gag too. And Chris Tomlin.

    ESVA,
    No, I don’t think it’s a bad thing you all support each other on this blog. I was just pointing out the irony in QM’s original statement that made it sound like Christians got together every week to further their brainwashing.
    I do apologize for not considering that many of you have experienced significant amounts of pain. Again, I was reacting to QM’s statement that seemed to imply that Christians only face suffering with trite cliches.

  • 8. LeoPardus  |  November 19, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    Rachel:
    I’m taking Ecclesiology right now with a prof. who went to a Catholic university, so I’m developing a more high-church bent.

    Ooh. Dangerous stuff. Studying church history and liturgy is what finally got me, wife, and family out of Protestantism and into the EOC.

    I don’t know if I could ever make the switch to Catholic or EO, but I’ll probably end up Lutheran, Anglican

    We did make brief stops at the Lutheran, Anglican, and Catholic churches. We didn’t think we could ever handle the EOC either. They are weirder than 3-headed cats. But we got used to it and grew to love it. (I still go to the EOC and quite enjoy the Divine Liturgy.)

    Don’t mean to frighten you with the thought that you might be a similar path to mine though. :)

    Re: Christians facing suffering with cliches – I’ve seen that happen, but I’ve also seen them face suffering with stoicism, bravery, smiles, tears, anguish, placidity, and everything else.

    My family had some very hard times and we hated the cliches that some offered. Thankfully there were those who offered more.

  • 9. Rachel  |  November 19, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    Well get this: we have a January term at my school and I’m taking a whole class on Eastern Orthodoxy. My mom’s worried that I’m going to convert. ;) I visited an Eastern Orthodox church once, and it did feel very strange. At my church, liturgical though it is, the service is very participatory. At this service people kind of just wandered in halfway through the liturgy…looked like the guys up in front chanting were having all the fun.

    Don’t worry…I’m not worried. :) I’ve read your posts and can relate to many of your beefs and doubts. We’ve just come to different conclusions, I guess.

  • 10. LeoPardus  |  November 19, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    Try looking up an EOC full of converts instead of “cradle Orthodox”. Aside from looking more alive and participatory, you’ll be able to get folks to explain things to you. Beware though. EOC converts are sometimes every bit as enthusiastic as evy/fundy converts. Don’t let them smother you. :)

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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