Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Being a questioning Christian and our friend Holly

We have a young friend, Holly, who is a college student in Sacramento.  Lori and I have known Holly since she was very tiny. She lives in an intentional Christian community connected to an Episcopal Church in our old neighborhood. 

Holly is currently in a place of spiritual discernment about many things, and, I believe, she has a healthy skepticism about churches and religious despots. She recently wrote a lengthy essay which she shared with her friends, including us.  

And so with Holly's permission, I am sharing some of her essay with you. I especially like her questions. Here you are, from Holly ...

I wonder about the term “Christian” because it seems as if it's used a bit loosely as of late. … But what gets me thinking is this, "We all believe in the same God." Do we really?

The understanding of God, by Christians, is based upon multiple things:

- Your Bible. What translation do you have? This is something very important to consider - one changed word, can change the meaning of an entire passage. Do you listen to it literally or metaphorically or do you just pick and choose? Is it a guideline or a lifeline? Does the Old Testament and it's old Covenants/Laws apply with the New Testament? Have you actually read the whole thing?

-Your teacher. Who is teaching you? Do you take what they say blindly or do you look into things yourself? How many pastors/churches have you experienced? Do you take the word of any "holy" person as fact, or simply something to consider? Who else influences you? Has your learning only been within the church, or have you taken outside theology courses, and the like.

- Your experience. In church, outside of church, family, etc. Life experience greatly impacts how you interpret God. You can ask one person, "what reflects God for you?" The answers vary. Every time.

-Your personality and also the way it applies to your intelligence. Now this one may seem like a stretch to you, but it's true. I'm not calling Christians naiive or stupid (trust me...that would insulting myself, as well) but just that our interpretation of God, the depth of our faith, etc, is determined by what we understand and how we understand it, and what we don't understand and how we deal with that. If a person contradicts us - are we going to be open minded, or completely biased? Some people are, some people aren't.

I suppose what this boils down to, is that, if you consider all those things, your God and my God may both be based on what we've read in the same exact book, but I believe in something completely different from you...

Perhaps because my experiences have been far too vast and different, and I suppose it's just weird for me to think that one religion is broken up into so many parts, with so many people claiming they've got the right one. And what I think is ironic is that, when the church formed - the same thing happened, and that's how we ended up with Paul's letters. Now, people still use those letters for a large portion of their beliefs...and yet we still have all these conflicts and confusions! Which God is the one we are meant to believe in? And how can we keep using the word Christian in such a way?

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