Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yet Another Question Pondered

What is your view of God?

A seemingly pretty straight forward question, but one that I believe comes with the implication of curiosity of just how my brush with hyper-fundamentalists has impacted my view of God and my personal relationship with Him through Christ. There are several facets to the answer, but I'll address the most personal and significant to me. My answer will be largely a view of where I'm at in life in relation to my view of God. It's the best way I know to answer such a multi-faceted question.

My love for God hasn't changed. Not even a dash. What my experience with hyper-fundamentalists (and my use of this term encompasses all branches of patriarchy/quiverfull/dominionism) has birthed in me is the re-examination of ALL of my deeply held beliefs, measuring to see what exactly has roots in scripture, and what exactly has roots in the traditions and commandments of men. A certain amount of this had already been taking place before I ever encountered P/QF. It'd be more accurate to say that P/QF sent that self-examination into overdrive.

My goal has never been to become the "Lord, I thank you that I'm not like so and so...", marinating in my own pool of self-righteousness, masking it in various religiosities to give it the appearance of humility and piousness. My goal has been to find, absorb, and marinate in nothing but the pure and undiluted Truth. I've seen, and still see, a version of God presented by these movements that I want nothing whatsoever to do with. A small, rigid God, who prefers His people suffer from brainlock, who prefers His people live in poorly directed and poorly cast role-playing, who prefers His people discard beautiful parts of His creation for them, like human emotion, as evil, who prefers His people live under oppressive laws, who prefers His people bear heavy loads in attempts to be "godly". I want nothing to do with that God. I don't like Him, and could never love Him.

I guess you could say that my goal isn't really about ME, but rather about who God is - as I know that my identity can only be found in God through Jesus Christ.

To be as transparent as I can, the more I learn about God, the less I seem to understand Him...because He continually gets bigger. As frustrating as this can be for the finite human mind and conceptual ability, I'm perfectly fine with it. My understanding doesn't redeem me. Jesus Christ redeems me.

I've never considered myself "religious", but there's certainly less religiousness about me than there was a few years ago. I've discovered the plethora of things that have become important to the modern church culture (both in and out of fundamentalism) that, in reality, God cares nothing about. I don't always say the right thing. You probably wouldn't like some of the things that come out of my mouth. You probably wouldn't like my views on many things about life and the generally accepted behaviors of Christian culture. All pretense is gone. I've no regard for ceremony that means a whole lot of nothing.

I don't blame God for the poor choices made by my ex-fiancee. I don't blame God for the manipulative snakes that populate her family and circle (nor do I feel any guilt for calling them manipulative snakes, or any number of the more descriptive things I'd prefer to call them). I don't blame God for the loss of so much of value from my life. I don't look at the way things turned out as a "blessing in disguise" from the Lord - I'm not fond of blaming God for the enemy's handiwork. If losing the love of my life right at the threshold of our ceremony, losing my ministry of the time, having my career tampered with and disrupted, losing thousands upon thousands of dollars, et cetera, is God's way of intervening, then, frankly, I'll pass on the next intervention.

It's opened the door for new ministry - such as this one - but ministry that, if left up to me, I'd have never been involved in. I don't really want to do this. As I've said before, this is lemonade from lemons. I'm thankful for those who've been helped and encouraged by what I write here (and I hope that continues), and I write out of obedience to what I believe is compulsion from the Lord. However, I don't want to give anyone the false impression that I write here out of some kind of spiritual heroism. I'm doing what I believe I have to do, not what I want to do. I believe it's my passionate purpose in this season of my life, but I wouldn't have chosen it.

Yes, my experience has strained and drained me spiritually. I'm exhausted, and sometimes, usually even, I feel as though I have little to give. It's regularly very hard for me to pray. It's regularly very hard for me to read the bible. I'm not always comfortable with that, but I don't feel guilt because of it. God, being that He created me, certainly understands the limits of my humanity, and I make no claims to have perfected the living out of the nature of Christ. I WANT to, but I'm not there yet.

I don't understand why the things that happened were allowed to happen, but I can promise you that I'll never, ever, blame God for them. God was an innocent bystander, and I've no doubt that it all grieved His heart mightily. I know that He's captured every tear I shed in His bottle, I know that He's documented every shred of pain inflicted upon my life, I know that He's documented every loss. I trust Him for justice and for whatever mercy He extends - both to me and to them.

A scripture that I've relied on throughout all of this, and still a favorite, from Habakkuk 3...

      Though the fig tree may not blossom,
      Nor fruit be on the vines;
      Though the labor of the olive may fail,
      And the fields yield no food;
      Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
      And there be no herd in the stalls—
      Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
      I will joy in the God of my salvation.
      The LORD God is my strength;
      He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
      And He will make me walk on my high hills.


  1. i clutch this close
    very close.

    please keep on, for all of us.

  2. This phrase right here is so amazing and true:
    'My understanding doesn't redeem me. Jesus Christ redeems me.'

    I so often worry about various doctrinal points [related and not related to patriocentricity], but you are so right, we aren't saved or made righteous by what we can or can't understand, but by what He did for us.

    Thank you.

  3. I was also going to quote that sentence about Jesus rather than understanding redeeming you, but the other Bethany beat me to it. This was all so well-said and achingly heartfelt. I still struggle often to keep a perception of God that allows for love, and hearing experiences like yours helps me trust that God is not the perpetrator of evils in my life. Thank you.

  4. wow, I so dont agree with anything you say anymore, and I used to. I take it you dont beleive in the Sovereingty of God, which makes me think it is the issue of ANY authority in your life that you have a problem with?

  5. Katherine...I'm not Calvinist in my beliefs.

    Yes, I see a few passages in scripture that would support the total Sovereignty of God and predestination if read literally and at face value, but only enough to create enormous shades of gray regarding it.

    What I see, over and over and over in scripture, is God extending choices to man, and man living with, or eventually facing, the consequences of those choices - based on MAN's choices, not God's.

    I believe in the foreknowledge of God, but not in any form of general or widespread predetermination. To me, a God that would extend choices to us, choices to which He's already predetermined the choice for us, makes Him as callous and abusive as the people that I write about, and this is a God that I really want nothing to do with.

    I don't have any problem with authority. I have enormous problems with authority that has to announce and impose itself, for then it's ceased to serve - which is the true purpose of authority as demonstrated by Christ.

    If I believed in the total, absolute, and imposed sovereignty of God over the affairs of men upon this earth, frankly, there'd be no need to even get out of bed each morning. I'd just say, "Well, it's in God's hands. No need for me to get up. What He wants to happen is gonna happen anyway."

    In my opinion, this kind of thinking leads to the abusive situations like those found in fundamentalist movements like patriarchy - and God gets saddled with blame for things he has nothing to do with.

  6. I truly feel sorry for you and how small God has to be to you with this kind of thinking. I pray your eyes will one day be opened.

  7. Katherine...If I may ask, how is it that you used to agree with so much of what I said in the past, but not now, when nothing I say now is any different?

    I think if you'll read what was written in the article above, you'll see that God is enormous to me.

    He's also not a puppetmaster.

    Something suggests to me that you aren't being forthright about just what you do and don't agree with concerning my writing. The math doesn't work.

  8. I agree with the crazyness of the domestic discipline, and some of the other way out there things, I dont at all agree with you that those who choose to be conservative in their teachings are all fundamentalist cults! I have come to realize it is all or nothing with you. Either we are reformed conservative weirdos, or we are more liberal and free thinking and thus more in line with God. In the past 2 weeks I have really senced a feeling of bitterness coming from you. I guess that is what I no longer can accept, when it becomes more bitter in what I see. I loved your fear mongers post, and agree there, I think churches should teach the GOSPEL! not bring people to Christ from fear. I guess I feel that you are unfairly biased and bitter from your past, and it is really starting to come out. I just questions whether you are really doing your research, or are just biased.

  9. and I guess I dont really feel that we will get anywhere arguing, so I will stop reading. I guess it just showed me that people think I am weird, and my poor children are so brainwashed they will never make it in the real world.

    The funny thing is, I was homeschooled, taught that only the Bible had true truth, never dated but have been married 11 years, as were my four siblings, and One brother is a VERY successful officer in the Marines, sister married to a successful UofI prof, one brother works in insurance and I am married with four kids (no desire in hubby or me for more, though we DO see them as a blessing) and hubby is very successful! None of us dated, of the three that are married. None of us lived at home when we got engaged, all of us went to college, and only one still lives near home. So, I guess it isnt like you seem to think it would be, and I would say I was raised in a patriachal home. I guess I mean that differantly than you do, but I was BLESSED! I am not trying to be mean here, I just think you need to be willing to get passed your bitterness and hurt, as you are very viciouse in the language you use.

  10. I call evil and apostasy evil and apostasy, Katherine. That's all I do.

    If you think that's bitterness, that's your choice. I don't foresee much changing here, so you may want to read elsewhere. The blog header gives fair warning, I would think.

    As far as doing my research - my life bears the scars of living my research. This isn't stuff I just one day decided to write about from afar.

    I don't condemn people for holding reformed beliefs. I also think it would be dishonest to say that those who practice the abuses I write about aren't predominantly reformed in their beliefs. Dishonesty would serve no meaningful purpose.

    I find little common ground with those who live neo-conservative Christian lifestyles, because I find that it usually has little to do with Christ and much to do with the lifestyle. That's dangerous spiritual territory, and would create the concern that without the lifestyle, there'd be no Christ.

  11. As an example...The article above is a very transparent look at where I'm at in my walk at this moment. The focus of what I wrote is the relationship that I have with God through Christ. The intent of the article is to show that the immeasurable value of that relationship hasn't been diminished or altered by my experiences with those who live a neo-conservative, patriarchal lifestyle.

    You, when we got to the crux of the matter, wrote to defend the lifestyle.

  12. Lewis- this so sums up where I'm at spiritually. Sometimes I wonder if you're inside my brain. So much of what you write is what I'm thinking. Right down to the bible reading and the praying. When I tried to explain this to the pastor at the church we just left, he used it against me. It's nice to know there are others out there on the same journey and that deal with the same things and that we are all healing in our own time.

  13. I really hate how the "bitterness" card is used to shut up those who have suffered. My mother used it against me recently to claim that by not making nice with my abusive father (from whom I am happily estranged!) I am bitter and therefore (a) nothing I am or do is worthy of her respect and (b) I am somehow "worse" than he is. Gee - I never knew I was a physically and verbally abusive narcissist. I just thought I didn't want to be abused or manipulated anymore.

    If someone is actually hurt and speaks out against the cause of that hurt, why is it that so many people insist that we be "perfect victims" and harbor no ill feelings for those who broke our hearts, before they'll even listen to what we have to say? It seems incredibly arrogant to say "your pain is unpalatable to me, so I won't listen to you." Of course it's unpalatable and ugly - so is what happened to us. :(


  14. Someone's personal pain doesn't automatically render what they say untrue or give lack of credibility. It means they are honest, and Lewis has always been honest about where he is, how he is feeling, and where he is in the healing process. In the meantime, he has been able to give a very needed perspective on prevalent beliefs, issues, and practices within some parts of conservative Christianity. He has never been disingenuous or misleading, and I really appreciate that he allows God to use his pain and heartache to raise awareness and ask hard questions.

    Regardless, we are all responsible for how we believe and receive what we read, and I love that it is possible for us, as believers, to have unity in Christ even if we disagree on certain matters.

  15. Ihave been where you have been, Lewis, and have re-examined everything from the ground up.

    What is my view of God? I see a Sovereignty that is wisely, humbly, generously Self-limited. My God is not small. He CAN do anything He wants. But my God is not a control-freak. He DOESN'T do everything He could do.

    I see a God who is not so lacking in finesse that He cannot draw a human gently enough to allow that human to resist, if the human so chooses.

    I see a God who watches all, steps in when in His wisdom something needs to happen (or be prevented from happening) to accomplish a divine Plan which will go as He planned it. But I see a God who permits humans to act wisely or stupidly, as they wish, and does not prevent us from hurting one another most of the time. This does not mean it is His will that we hurt one another-- simply that He knows when the consequences of stepping in would be worse than the problem.

    Just because He CAN do anything, doesn't mean He should. And as He told Job-- He is the one who knows the big picture and what's going on behind the scenes. I don't. I'll trust His wisdom.

    But yes, I can believe in a big, big God without having to believe in a God who controls everything that happens. A wisely, lovingly Self-limiting God is just as big (no, much bigger!) than a God who insists on His own way every second of every moment for all time.

  16. That's a beautiful way to put it, Kristen. Thank you.

  17. Well Lewis, let me say, I've seen /read the bitterness, and Understand, and I will Expand on that here in a bit,

    but first, the whole Sovereignty crap, is Just THE EXCUSE the Indifferent use to Justify their Evil Indifference, Apathy and frankly, not giving a rats damn about Anyone other than their own selfish self, F.A.C.T.,
    That whole Western 'Luciferian' philosophy just pisses me off to no end, Hitler would have Loved these types,

    "We just obeyed Orders",

    anyhow, that doesn't mean I don't Believe in God's sovereignty, I DO, but I believe within That sovereignty HE includes Free Choice, Free Will. I concur with you Lewis 100 percent, it's choice,

    God says, OT, Heaven AS MY WITNESS I present to you life or death, CHOOSE LIFE.

    Its that simple. Also, NT, overcome Evil by Good, etc., so to me it's like this half way point, but this whole predestination on who is saved and who isn't, is just So wrong, it turns God into a vehicle of Evil, that is Luciferian. Now where it comes to Predestination, to Those who believe, this shall be, etc etc etc., by What they choose, now Then that's a different matter, and while I don't Normally get into those debates as I think they are pointless, when it Comes to the Accuser, using the Bitterness card, to Shut up people, another Luciferian RA tactic, to perpetuate the Banality of Evil, then yea, I get a bit peeved, because it Doesn't just effect those of us in a little circle,

    the land becomes Infected with the virus, among numerous Other cancer viruses out there, and while we don't have the Control to like, rule over all, etc., we DO have a duty, to stand up, and Rebuke evil, by both our Life and Actions as well as Words. If we do not, then we are like the father in OT, whose sons were abusing women at the front of the tabernacle, and God said, HE would remove their atonement forever Because the father did NOT RESTRAIN THEM...that's Serious,

    and Not that we can restrain people but I think what that means is that we should at least Attempt, John the Baptist WARNED Herod, of his sin, he didn't just go, oh well God is sovereign and well Herod is in power and well I'll just let sleeping dogs lie....and it Cost him his life. But alas,

    as for bitterness, continued

  18. Bitterness, continued...

    you others are right too, the Bitterness card is Used by the perpetrators and protectors of SIN. Bitterness of itself is NOT a sin,

    in Hebrews, Paul says, Lest a root of bitterness springing up Bother you, where many be defiled.

    That means, bitterness is a fact of life, sin we do and sin others do to us yes is a Bitter herb, and it Does spring up, just like any other emotion...but like Paul says, Lest it bother you...that's the key there, meaning,

    like anger, it's there, but we learn through the Holy Spirit Self Control, how to Deal with that bitterness, NOT by denying it, by stuffing it, by by going to the Sweet Waters, the waters of bitterness [Mara] and HE puts in the branch that sweetens it. And even then, that bitterness can still rise up...it's the way that tells us, we've been wronged,

    the words that cut or the years eaten by the locust, etc., question is, What to do about bitterness. Well it depends doesn't it, sometimes bitterness is there to be used as a prompting to make us Aware of something that is normalized but not right, like the abuses in fundamentalism. Yes we are under God's will, and there are Things to be learned...you bet, I totally agree with that,

    at the same time, there ARE those situations where there is no sense nor reason as to something evil done to us, take child abuse, good example, and that Bitterness is real...so Then what? Well I have found, that God doesn't always remove the bitterness, but He does give us ways, on how to Rise above that bitterness, and in learning these, that bitterness becomes less, and I don't think there is a 'formula' for this, because we are individual, and I totally don't buy into the Ministry Quackery out there today to deal with this pain and that pain...all for 9.99 for This book and all that Crap that is out there today, but,

    yea...I mean, for years I stuffed bitterness. I too, was told, you have to forgive, you can't be bitter, well 27 years later and After how many people I injured through my living a LIE, rather than facing TRUTH, that yes I had bitterness and for darn good reason,

    and then when coming to God, and being TRUTHFUL, wow, HE didn't say, "Oh you can't be bitter, no, HE said, let's deal with this, layer by layer...and you know HE did, and yea, there are things that will Trigger and those feelings will come up [springing up] you know but Now I have the ability to control, rather than IT controlling me...on What issues me and God have dealt with thus far...there are Always more you know, those roots,

    so the whole can't have bitterness is in fact, one of the FALSE TEACHINGS, LIE, put Away bitterness from you, yes...but you Can't put something away, when you don't get Truthful about it. Things HURT,

    sometimes God allows things because of free will or maybe sin or maybe society sin, there are different reasons, sometimes no sense or reason at all, but in All things,

    like Paul says, HE delivers us all. WE may come out, limping, after wrestling...and Prevailing [that part that is often omitted from the story of Jacob] but we come out, IN HIM, stronger in HIS LOVE.

    Always, HIS LOVE holding us up.

    Remember Lewis, Samson had some issues, yes, Delilah was also, used like numerous women in her day, horribly so [little clue to the woman Right after that story, with the silver], GOD used Samson to reach Delilah [His love] and also to Teach Samson, and then to deliver the final blow to the Philistines of that time,

    Samson had bitterness, for good reason, his first love, taken from him...he had lessons to be learned, but the fact remained, the Evils done, by an evil empire, was NOT forgotten by God,

    and their temple, Dagon, came a crashing down.

    So yea...God is in control, and HE uses bitterness, to crush the Dagon temple, just as HE used bitterness, to squash the pharaoh,

    like a bug...sea bug but bug nethertheless. That is WHY, it is bitter herbs on Passover, not sweet candy and puffy pastry!


  19. Jane...I LOVE comments that encourage people to think. Thank you.

  20. Thank you for another very well-written, heartfelt post, Lewis. Your statement, "My understanding doesn't redeem me. Jesus Christ redeems me." is so right on. The whole post is, but that's my favorite statement. :)

    Concerning Calvinism and the sovereignty of God, I will never understand how anyone who believes that way can ever be against domestic discipline or any other evil thing in this world since they profess to believe that everything is exactly how God has planned and how He wants it to happen. (I know, long sentence, sorry). Why do these people fight against God by praying for change when bad things happen to THEM? Why do they pray for healing when they or a loved one is sick? Isn't that God's will for them? I'm afraid they are very confused because Calvinism is not in the Bible. I believe as you do, Lewis. My God is much, much bigger than the Calvinist's God.

  21. Lewis, thanks for being so transparent. This was a great post. Jane, you do have a way of making people think!
    Linda Reynolds

  22. Anon said, "Concerning Calvinism and the sovereignty of God, I will never understand how anyone who believes that way can ever be against domestic discipline or any other evil thing in this world since they profess to believe that everything is exactly how God has planned and how He wants it to happen."


    I hope there won't be an attempt here on this blog to make some kind of one-on-one connection between Calvinism and fumdamentalism. The majority of American fundamentalism is distinctly not Calvinist, simply because the majority of American religion is not Calvinist. Every circle of thought, whatever they believe about sovereignty, has their own fundamentalists. It's across the board and nobody has a corner on fundyism.

    On the flip side of the fundy coin from fundy Calvinists, many who lack a firm belief in sovereignty feel they must make up their own rules (commandments of men) to impose upon others because they don't believe God's spirit is able to sanctify his people through his word. My 2c.

  23. "I hope there won't be an attempt here on this blog to make some kind of one-on-one connection between Calvinism and fumdamentalism."

    Only between Calvinism and the particular fundamentalist movements I discuss. With the exception of the Religious Right, the movements I discuss are all deeply rooted in reformed theology.

    "Every circle of thought, whatever they believe about sovereignty, has their own fundamentalists. It's across the board and nobody has a corner on fundyism."

    I agree 100%.

  24. This is an language I understand and feel. The "Christianese"lingo is like living in the underground matrix and when one becomes unplugged from the "church/authoritarian matrix" and really begins to feel, be real, live and speak freely? It's called bitterness~I guess Job was a bitter old guy then~but yet God said~"In all these things, Job did NOT sin". Hmm~thanks Lewis. I am a limping warrior that only trusts the other warriors in David's cave right now. :)

  25. this, this here,

    "To be as transparent as I can, the more I learn about God, the less I seem to understand Him...because He continually gets bigger. As frustrating as this can be for the finite human mind and conceptual ability, I'm perfectly fine with it. My understanding doesn't redeem me. Jesus Christ redeems me."

    ... brought tears to my eyes, I find it so beautifully written.
    thank you