Godspeak - Conversations on Faith

sasinfrank Issue: Section:

why christianity?

because i thought it would be nice to play on a winning team for once in my life. because chicks dig it. because WWJD ball-caps alert the general public that i am way better than they are. i like the smug assurance that i am IN and you are OUT. because if i get tired of thinking about something, i can always find a pat answer or vague platitude in the bible and end any argument on an unimpeachable note. because if i conspicuously open a bible on a plane, the people next to me ignore me strenuously.

because i have to get up earlier on sunday mornings and whip the hangover before most of my fellow sinners have rolled out of bed. i figure i gain at least two productive hours each week. because i want my son to have all the answers before he knows there are any questions. because if i play this straight enough, i might get to go on a mission trip to morocco--on the church's dime. there is surf in morocco.

because christians have the coolest vans. because christians have the coolest music. because christians have the coolest costumes.

because i am too stoopid to resist. because christians have killed more people in the name of god than any other religion, and i admire terminal conviction. because i'm getting old and contemplating death and what follows, and though i kinda like the smell of sulfur in a perverse way, i'm no fan of constant heat; i've spent plenty of summers in the ohio valley.

because i am uncertain and crave certainty, even if it is a narrow, fabricated, half-assed certainty that is dangerous to the planet.

actually, none of these are my reasons for calling myself a christian. that's the baggage i had to learn how to haul if i could in good conscience say that i attempt to follow christ.

and, actually i do.

turns out, i have been trying all along. i just didn't know it...

you are perhaps the most intelligent and thoughtful person i know as well as being extremely tolerant of all lifestyles, why christianity? as hippy spawn i'm totally down with personal spirituality, and have always thought you were a deeply spiritual person, but organized religion? have you found the perfect church? is this your perfect time of need?

by your questions, i think you're inferring from what i have said that all religions are basically the same.

at their root, i believe they are. i believe they all begin from a divine impetus. and i believe that that divine impetus is universal and indistinguishable.

but the forms and influences of the culture that these religions spring up in color the religion the second it enters the world. eventually the culture itself becomes encoded in the beliefs and practices. god is perfection, perfect. humans are far from it. and it's the humans who make the rules for religions.

so, it would seem logical that if i had a yearning for religion, i would select the one whose culture i was most closely aligned with, right? so that's why i'm a christian, right?


i'm way too contrary for that.

first off, i had no yearning for religion. i wanted to go behind that. i wanted to tap directly into the divine. i didn't want to be told it. i wanted to know it.

i wanted to french-kiss god against a lamp-post before i'd even taken her to dinner. i wanted to name our babies before i knew her name. i wanted to stick myself into the cosmic socket with naked wires, sans plug...

direct current, as it were.

rationality and the academic approach were the first casualties. no regrets.

tried drugs. mainly hallucinigens. there was promise. pretty sure i stuck my tongue onto the divine schematic a few times. i became convinced that there was something divine behind it all, at least. but the ratio of signal to noise proved far too great.

sex was a fantastic avenue to explore. i still believe that during intimate relations with another human, you approach as close to the holy entity inside us all as you'll ever get. even if the person on the kitchen floor with you suddenly does not seem to be the one you thought you left the bar with. i swear. make no mistake, you are in the presence of the divine at those moments, too.

but these were just glances.

i wanted to look her in the eye.

yeah, i get that but i guess what hangs me up is the whole judgement of others thing. 
judging yourself or opening yourself to be judged by a higher power i can get and in fact did get briefly in high school, but there was a girl involved.
the moment the church started in with damnation for homosexuals it was like someone turned on the light.
have you found a interpretation that that encourages the goodness in all of us without needing to exorcise anyone else?

this is what jesus says about homosexuality in the gospels:


as in nothing? but are you sitting next to someone shouting hallelujahs in togetherness knowing that they are feeling heaven is just for them and their "kind"? or is it an opportunity to subvert that singular, self serving vision?

man, there are so many passages in the bible, words attributed to jesus himself, that warn against judging others. this character, jesus, is at his most punk-ass and revolutionary when he's addressing the pharisees, the accepted arbiters of law and morality in his day. he reams them out at every turn. he illuminates their hypocrisy and delivers some of his most withering, critical quotes at their expense.

almost anything judgmental or harsh this jesus character is recorded as saying is directed at the pharisees.

and who are they? the in-crowd. the establishment. the people hung up on the niggling interpretation of the laws moses handed down, which they used to oppress and disenfranchise the folks on the margins. they were excluders. finger-pointers. holy-rollers. trap-setters, bean-counters and score-keepers...

sound like anyone we know?

to me, the pharisees are the present-day conservative goons who have hijacked christianity and made it into an arm of the consumerist culture. as a rule, the church as it operates today means only to support the status quo and solidify its position & power within it. they merely reflect and reinforce the wrong-headedness of the dominant culture, at the peril of forgetting/ignoring what's in the book, in quotations, as having issued from the mouth of christ.

but the church is changing, i have found.

there is a movement to reclaim the message of jesus. there is a loose affiliation of theologians and thinkers, often referred to as "the emerging church," that wants to return to the core of the gospels and have it apply to the situations of an increasingly post-modern world. where modernism and the existing church rely on dogma and rigidity, this emerging church and post-modernism espouses dialogue and flexibility. exclusivity is replaced by inclusivity, and correct answers are supplanted by good questions. being able to apply the party line to complex life issues becomes less important than being able to entertain contradictory ideas simultaneously. a spot light is turned on the church's complicity in the death-spiral of consumption, greed and and commodification of all things, and new counter-cultural models are developed. for me, there is promise.

but having said that, i have to admit that on the subject of homosexuality, i haven't seen anything too revolutionary coming out of the emerging church. two of the leading lights, brian d mcclaren and tony campolo, wrote a book called ADVENTURES IN MISSING THE POINT. in it, they tag-team major issues of christianity in dialogue fashion. they cover a wide range of topics, from environmentalism to the role of women in leadership positions, and mostly just tear the status quo a new asshole (with biblical citations) in every chapter.  home run after home run. i found myself giving a black panther salute to them a number of times.

but then, in the chapter on homosexuality, they fucking strike out looking at three pitches. inexplicable. granted, their views may seem pretty scandalous to the average shit-heel goatroper in laramie, wyoming, but i was stunned.

"this is all you got for me?" i asked my copy.

i felt betrayed.

both of these heavy hitters soft-pedal around the subject, dancing to the same "hate the sin, love the sinner" garbage that has allowed sanctimonious pricks to judge others for so long. one of them--and i fear it was mcclaren (the nominal face of the emerging church)--goes into this convoluted semantic jitterbug where he decides that being homosexual MAY be genetic, but then, it's the business of thinking, feeling christians to help these poor afflicted souls TO NOT ACT ON THEIR BIOLOGICAL PREDISPOSITIONS. he advises homosexuals that it is possible to live healthy, loving, committed monogamous relationships with a person of the same sex, AS LONG AS THEIR NAUGHTY BITS DON'T TOUCH. just crazy-talk, as far as i'm concerned.

so, even at the most progressive edge of mainstream christianity, the seeds of tolerance find some barren ground at present. it gives me pause.

but, then, i figure it's not going to change until people infused with the love that christ demonstrates start holding the feet of people like campolo and mcclaren-- and yours and my local minister--to the fire. i find intolerance absolutely incompatible with the message of christ, and i am comfortable telling people about it.

i'm driven to fight from the inside this time because of my own peculiar conversion. the guy i signed up with has a heart so big, he can love everybody all the time. even me. and that's who i'm emulating...

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