Last night I was sitting on the couch reading a book when I heard a knock on the door. It was around 8:30pm and I wasn't expecting any visitors. I set my book down, went to the door and looked through the peep hole.
There was a middle aged looking white woman and a slightly younger looking black man. Hmm I was pretty sure they weren't from my apartment building. I opened the door and the guy stepped forward to introduce both himself and the woman and then began to tell me about a Bible study class they were having on Thursday nights. They had a little postcard sized flyer with a map of where the meetings were and info about their church. It just said Church of Christ so I'm not sure if that was the actual name of the church or just the type of denomination.
I grew up southern Baptist then un-converted when I was 25. I say un-converted because I've come to believe that "religion" and "denominations" are one of the main problems with Christianity and "the church" today. If every denomination reads the same book and alleges that their goal is to live Christ-like then how come they all have different beliefs and messages? I'll get more into what I think about that in a minute.
Not being very familiar with what particular denominations stand for I asked if their church was a charismatic church. Meaning Spirit Filled. The guy goes "No, we're a Christian church". I'm sorry huh? I told him that charismatic churches WERE Christian churches. They were just Christian churches that celebrated the presence of the Spirit of God, sometimes worshipping with raised hands and the evidence of tongues. Now I know there are many many people who believe that church should be a very staid, serious organized event.
Welcome, sing welcoming hymn, announcements, sing offering hymn, take offering, sing hymn, pray, message, alter call, closing hymn, go home.
I grew up in that kind of church and unless it's because someone I care about invites me and I go out of respect to them and their type of honoring God you will never ever find me in one of those type of churches again. I'll explain more about that in a minute as well. But back to my late night visitors.
So I tell the guy that I go to a non-denominational charismatic church. They ask the name of it and Lord forgive me I went completely blank. I've been going to this church for a good 6 months and if knowing the name to it at that particular moment was the only thing stopping me from being hit by lightning, I'd have been fried. Well I'm sure this made me look like I was just full of it and didn't go to any church at all. I mean seriously, who doesn't know the name of the church they go to? Apparently at that particular moment in time.. me. I knew I had an e-mail from my pastor's wife in my yahoo mail so I asked them to come in for a moment. I'd been standing with the door open talking to them out in the entry way of my building. I didn't want my cat to get out while I went to my room so they came in and I shut the door and ran to my room to find out what church I went to. Mount Hebron Christian Ministries. Yay e-mail! They'd heard of the church, the guy said he worked near by and heard they were getting ready to start on a new building.
So he starts talking about how people look for answers from everywhere but the Bible and how their Bible study was about showing people how to get back to what being a Christian really meant. I read the Bible. I've read it completely through on more than one occasion. I don't profess to know everything in it, I've never been one for memorizing verses but I do have a pretty good general recollection of what it says and feel somewhat comfortable enough in my knowledge to be able to question someone else's interpretation of scripture or explain my own.
He says he's going to show me some examples of how Christianity today has strayed from the direction and teachings of God and asks me if I've ever seen children be baptized. I grew up in a Baptist church, of course I have. I was baptized myself when I was 13. I'm pretty sure that's still considered a child. Then he asks if I can remember anywhere in the Bible where it talks about children being baptized. I said off the top of my head no, I couldn't recall any. He said that's because God didn't intend for them to be. God says only for adults to be baptized. I just look at him, raise my eyebrow and wait for him continue.
He goes on to tell me that children have no knowledge of what it means to serve God. That they are not emotionally or mentally mature enough to understand what it means to be a Christian and that while they may have some general understanding of right and wrong they simply are not capable of being able to fully comprehend what it means to sin and repent of that sin. He says that they, children, are unable to give their lives fully to Christ and resist the things of the world as Christians are supposed to do.
It was at this point that I raised my hand and said "I'm sorry but I'm going to have to disagree with you here." I explained, "I was saved and baptized at the age of 13 and knew very well what I was doing and what it meant." I went on to explain that my belief, understanding and relationship with God had kept me from most everything my peers had participated in. I'd never drank underage, I'd never smoked even one cigarette, I'd never tried any drug of any kind and I'd not been promiscuous and had in fact abstained from any type of intimacy until a much later age. (24) "So", I said, "I'm living proof that what you just said is not true". In some cases sure, children may not understand what it means, but I've seen entirely too many teens and children even younger accept Christ and from that moment on live their lives accordingly. I've in fact seen some children so in love with and on fire for God that they preferred going to church and worshipping over most anything else.
Brick wall. He acted like I'd not even spoken and continued on about how children weren't meant to be baptized and if I went to the Bible it says so very clearly. So I ask him, does God not say that the children are the future and that to enter heaven we are to become like them? Does the Bible not in fact say in two different places, Mark 10:15 and Luke 18:17, "I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” But you're telling me that children don't know what it means to believe in God and have faith??
I told him that this very example was the reason I left a "denomination" and chose to instead follow Christ as simply a Christian. Not a Baptist or a Methodist, or a Lutheran, or whatever. Denominations, all calling themselves "Christians" take bits and pieces of the Bible and preach the parts that fit with what makes themselves feel comfortable, conveniently skipping over those that don't and dare to tell others that they are right, that they are the chosen and that those who don't follow, pray, believe, dress, worship the way they do will go to hell.
I took the issue of homosexuality as my point. I am completely against any kind of labeling. I appreciate beauty, male or female. I believe you love a person for their heart and soul, not their eye color, height, gender, religion, sexual preference, etc. By society and the world's definition, that makes me "bisexual". By most Christian's definition, that makes me an abomination and doomed to hell. Now I didn't tell them my personal preference, I just picked this particular topic to make my point. One of the church's favorite verses for condemning homosexuals is Leviticus 18:22 "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."
When I mentioned this verse you could just see their expressions light up. Like they were thinking oh yes.. we love that verse. "So you'd agree with that verse?" I ask. They both nodded their heads in agreement. Here comes the part I love. "Ok, well Leviticus 20:9 says 'If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head.'" They look at me like they're not quite sure where I'm going with this. "Are you going to kill your child when they talk back?". No answer.
I asked him if he believed that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever, never changing. He agreed that he did. The woman nodded her head too. I said so... If God never changes, then the things of the Old Testament are still valid today right? We should still stone people, sacrifice animals, have slaves and heck.. some Godly men in the Bible even had multiple wives! I mean God even ok'd incest. After the flood Noah and his family were the only humans left. They, per God's instructions, were responsible for repopulating the earth. Don't tell me you don't believe some cousins had to be hooking up for that to happen. Maybe even some brothers and sisters! But today incest is absolutely wrong. No one would disagree with that. So that means something had to change right? Was it God or was it man. Or rather man's interpretation of the Bible as it was written, translated, rewritten, reinterpreted, etc and so on.
This is where most Christians who use the Bible to bash get caught. These two were no exception. "Well that's why Christ came" the guy said. "What did people do about sin before Jesus?" he asked. "Nothing, they did nothing.". "Well" I replied, "Actually yes they did, per God's instructions they sacrificed animals at the altar as repentance." So he tries to tell me that this is where God changes. But didn't you just say that you agree that God never changes? He tries to explain that God didn't change, He just changed His laws. Ya because that's so different.
This goes on for about fifteen minutes, with me pointing out places where the Bible contradicts itself and Christians contradicting the Bible and him valiantly trying to show me where I was wrong, but failing miserably. In some ways I felt sorry for them. I have a very very firm hold on my faith. I believe in God, I have a very close personal relationship with Him. We chat on a pretty regular basis. Granted it's not always been that way, I mean I've always believed, but there have been times in my life, when things weren't so great that I questioned His position in my life. But even through the times when I didn't talk to God or go to church, I never stopped believing. My belief has however evolved and changed as I've grown and opened my heart and mind to a more full and complete relationship with Him. Things I once believed simply because it was what I was taught in church, I've learned to question and take my own steps to read, study and go to God to find out the truth about.
I'm not quite sure how the final part of the conversation came about, but I was telling them again that the things he was trying to tell me were part of the reason I un-converted and came to go to a non-denominational church. I was telling him that I loved the Lord and had a very close and personal relationship with Him. What I said next was something that he apparently was not prepared to hear or counter with some ready made script. "God and I talk daily." I said. He looked at me and said the saddest thing I've ever heard. "God doesn't talk to us like that anymore, not directly."
He then apologized for taking up so much of my time, said it was nice to meet me and they left. They didn't mention the Bible study as they were leaving and didn't follow up with a "we hope to see you there."
I grew up believing the very same thing he said. I believed that you really had to pray "to Jesus" and that "through" Jesus God would hear your prayers and maybe answer them. I thank God daily for showing me the truth. Jesus was sent not to "save us" from sin and an eternity in hell. He was sent to save us from a life without God. He lived in a way that showed us that we too can have a close personal relationship with God. Jesus told the disciples that after He left, they would do all that He'd done and even greater things. Yet we act like we're bound, gagged and unable to so much as lift a finger unless our pastor or priest or whoever says it's ok. God isn't some angry vengeful being who's going to smite us for slipping up. He's not so "above us" that we're not worthy to talk with Him.
I mean think about it. The Bible, which every "Christian" church in America uses as it's foundation for teaching says we were created in His likeness and image. He created us to be LIKE HIM. Not servants, not beggars, not lowly sinners who might get lucky enough to one day glimpse His face if we do everything just perfectly like some Sunday school class teaches us. He's God for crying out loud. He created the heaven and earth and everything above, below and between. Do you really think there's anything He needs from us, anything we could do to anger, or hurt him? Do you really believe that the Creator, all powerful, all knowing, perfection itself was so angry at man that rather than just "fixing" how we were "messed up" that He said ah screw it, this batch turned out rotten, I'll just wipe them out and start over? Then left it up to a man (Noah), his wife and their 3 sons & their wives to repopulate earth?
If people would just think, really think about some of the things they thought they believed I don't doubt for a second that at least a few of them would begin to question what they'd been taught. I think God wants us to question what the church is teaching us. I believe he wants us to read the Word on our own, pray, talk to Him and let Him show us our own truths. What is true for one person isn't necessarily true for another.
Now don't misinterpret this to think I'm saying the Bible isn't real. I believe the Bible is, to quote a really smart guy I once was friends with, "perfectly imperfect". I believe that it is Inspired by God, but not Written by God. The Bible was written BY man, interpreted BY man, translated BY man and as such is susceptible to the flaws of man. I mean if you do your research you'll learn that a council of people came together to decide which books they thought should be included in the Bible. So that in itself shows us that there are parts missing and that the parts that are included are a part of the Bible because a group of people "thought" they should be.
I guess the main point I'm trying to make is that while I'm all for "blind faith", I think we need to make sure we're having that faith in the right thing. God, rather than "the church" and I think we need to be more open to questioning things and researching and searching for God's truth for us rather than just buying what a pastor or priest tell us. Teachers aren't always right. Most importantly I believe with all my heart and soul that there are too many people out there searching for God who aren't finding Him because all their lives they've been told that He's inaccessible and that my dear friends is a flat out lie. God speaks to us all, directly. We just have to choose to open our hearts and ears and listen. :-)