Thursday, October 18, 2012


I don't consider myself a religious person (at least I hope I'm not, because being a religious person isn't the quick route to my Christmas card list). Certainly not a "Christian" by the modern, fundamentalist definition(s). I do consider myself a person of faith in God and Jesus Christ, but more than anything, if I had to attach a particular word to who or what I am, the word would be "spiritual". Kinda hard to fit that one into any corner.

You have NO idea how many people find that threatening. You have NO idea how many people felt threatened in real-time when they read that first paragraph. Or, if you're like me, and have moved dramatically away from traditional evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity, you probably do have a pretty good idea.

The biggest threat I/we pose? We don't put God in a box shaped like the biblical canon.

I've said many times that if the bible is more than a supplement to your faith, it's the object of your faith. And it is for most evangelicals. Take away, or alter in any fashion, their concept of the bible, and they have no god whatsoever. So, yes, they're worshiping the bible. If you believe the bible is the one and only arbiter of all truth, you're worshiping the bible. If you believe the bible is "God's Word", all perfectly inspired and God-breathed, perfectly kept through the centuries, then you're worshiping the bible. I should know. I used to believe some of these same things...and then I decided I was no longer willing to let other men determine the standard of my own belief.

In one of the books within the book itself, Jesus says that God's Spirit is what will lead us into all truth. He never made any promises about a bible. So, right there is the proof that most people who are "bible-believing Christians" aren't really, because they obviously don't believe their bibles.

I'm constantly accused of "picking and choosing" which parts of the bible I believe. You bet I do. Everybody does. Everybody. Don't believe me? Go back to the previous paragraph and get back to me. One of my personal unfavorites concerning where I am now with the bible - "If you gonna throw out part of it you need to just throw out all of it!" How stupid. This is why I constantly remind people that the bible isn't a single organism, but a collection of 66 different books composed by at least 40 different people from all walks of life. If I turn and look behind where I'm sitting now, I'll see my bookshelf. It has probably 30 or so books on it, ranging from health and home remedy books to a dictionary to religious themes to coach Dean Smith's autobiography. If one of the home remedies turns out to be crapola, should I just chuck the whole bookshelf into a bonfire? Wouldn't that be kinda stupid? How controlled - by the ideas and thinking of others - would I have to be to do that and think I'm doing a good thing?

I like the idea of God's Spirit. I like it a lot. God within us. Some might call it the conscience or the inner voice. Whatever works for you. BUT - here's why evangelicals and fundamentalists don't like it...

They can't control it.

The bible? If they can point you to that box, they can keep you in that box. As long as you're devoted to it, you have to be devoted to the words in it, or, their interpretations of those words. They'll conform you to its shape, size, even its dialect. You'd be surprised at how many Christians think God's an Englishman. Seriously. Or how many pentecostals prophecy or interpret tongues in middle-ages King's English, replete with thees and thous. Seriously. Because they worship a collection of books, being controlled by the religious culture they're a part of.

That God cat, on the other hand, if he were to communicate directly to you, bypassing the middleman of religious authority, well now, we just can't have that kind of thing. He might tell you something different than they want you to believe. Loss of control means increased threat for shaky religious people, especially when, by and large, modern Christianity is attempting to make disciples of Paul rather than of Christ. Everything, every single thing, about the way modern evangelical churches are ran is shaped by Paul. Not by Jesus. From authority structures, "pastors", deacons, elders, "discipline", and so on. Jesus never talked about any of those things, and in fact, said to call no man your "teacher" in a spiritual sense, because you have only ONE teacher: God.

(When I say "everything", I should temper that with the acknowledgement that they go back to the OT for the idea of tithing. They gotta get paid and all. 10% sounds about right for that. A lot less stress than giving ALL, which is something Jesus taught was to be done when needed. Can't have those big houses, fancy cars, and private jets if you go doing something crazy like giving most of your money away to people who need it.)

The "God within" concept has taken me so far away from tradition I'd need Rand-McNally to find my way back. This threatens people. Needlessly. I no longer use the term "personal relationship" with God. It doesn't genuinely fit. I consider myself in a "process" or "experience" with God. I don't understand God well enough to be "in a relationship" with him (and neither do you, btw). I don't have genuine relationship with people I don't understand, so why would my experience with God be any different? Doesn't mean I don't love God or that I lack devotion to the process and experience. I'm just being realistic. When I have to rationalize (or accept rationalizations of) God to religious people, or make excuses for God to secular people, that would be one hell of a dysfunctional relationship.

I'm pursuing truth, and truth alone. If you're of the "God's gonna get ya!" mind about that, first of all you're a religious addict, and second, pushing the sociopathic, "Love me or I'll kill ya!" version of God doesn't exactly  sway me or make me all warm and fuzzy. I'm pretty sure that if God can create the universe as we know it, he isn't threatened by a few questions, even those with sharp points. Frankly, when I physically meet God, Lucy got some splainin' to do. You don't get answers without asking questions. Quickest route to lacking knowledge? Stop asking questions. This is why unhealthy groups create an environment of fear where you're afraid to question, and usually the leader is the only acceptable answer. Actions should be informed. Belief should be informed. An informed person doesn't generally conform. As P/QF survivors can tell you, being informed, or even making so much as an effort to be informed, often equates to being rebellious.

If you're afraid to ask questions of or about God, then you're being controlled, either by someone or something, probably your religious paradigm, and it's mucho unhealthy. If you're in a church that doesn't allow questions, whether on matters of faith or of the leadership, you're in a cult and you need to leave. Immediately. If you're in a church that teaches you to fear God (not in the sense of respect, but in the sense of reprisals for unapproved behaviors or questions), you're in an unhealthy, cultic group, and you need to leave. Immediately.

I'm not interested in letting you, or anyone else, control my mind by constantly pointing me to a collection of books. I can, and will, do my own thinking, especially where God is concerned. That one's kind of a biggie. If you wanna let someone else do your thinking for you, that's your call. I recommend you don't. If you want to worship a collection of books, that's your call. I recommend you don't.

If you feel threatened by this article, that's called a "tell". It says a lot more about you than it does about me.


  1. What if I'm just smiling the whole way through?

  2. You always push me to think outside the box! :)

    When you say you don't fit the typical definition of "Christian," the first thing I wondered was whose definition you're using. :) What you've described sounds like the fundamentalist/conservative evangelical mindset. Do you perceive that to be the dominant "definition" of Christianity in north America? (and I'm not saying that as a challenge...I'm genuinely curious, b/c I've never thought about it before).

    I guess my question is, why are we letting THEM be the definition holders? That definition has gotten so narrow that even people like Rachel Held Evans, who believe in the full inspiration of scripture, have been deemed "not evangelical" because they're not operating with the *correct* definition of the word "inerrant." That's gotten pretty narrow, folks.

    Just saying. It makes me mad when those groups are given the freedom to decide what the term "Christian" should mean to everyone. Honestly, there are a lot of groups, including Catholics, that don't fit that term, groups that I still believe are genuinely following Christ.

    1. "What you've described sounds like the fundamentalist/conservative evangelical mindset. Do you perceive that to be the dominant "definition" of Christianity in north America?"

      Generally speaking, yes. A lot of my international readers even find it hard to see beyond the fundamentalism in American Christianity. The irony is, when American Christians look at middle-eastern Islam, they see fundamentalism.

    2. +1

      A sad "+1", but where credit is deserved. Fundamentalists are those *other* people.

      Great post: Thank you.

  3. Oh! I can't believe I forgot to say this in the first comment:

    Another sign that you should leave your church is if they "allow questions," but what that REALLY means is that you have to accept, without argument, whatever answer the leadership gives you. If arguing beyond that *first* question feels uncomfortable, or leads to a slough of "correction" from all leaders in the room, it might not be a full-on cult but you should definitely reconsider being part of that group.

    I always add that, because some churches hide their controlling nature by making a big show of "allowing" questions.

    1. yesyesyesyesYES, anonymous.

      Churches where people are free to ask questions...and then the correct answers will be provided (or the asker will be "corrected", flat out) are certainly place folks should leave.

  4. I almost completely agree with you except that I'd have to say that most people worship only the -idea- of the book, because they haven't even read it. They allow other people to tell them what it says and what it means without ever bothering for themselves. In all honesty, -reading- the Bible is the most liberating thing any of them could do. It was in reading the Bible through (when I was in high school) that I began to take an opposition stance against the church, because they do so many things that have nothing to do with the Bible.

    1. True enough. Even tougher is to get them to read it without any kind of filter. Shedding the filters of predisposition isn't easy.

  5. Love the "process" or "experience" idea. I also use the word "journey."

  6. Thanks for this. It essentially sums up so much of the way I feel so often. I was really sort of shocked when I started asking questions to find out about things like the apocrypha, or books that didn't make it in, or the council that essentially decided what was going to be canonized scripture and what wasn't. That's not even counting all the potential for mistakes in translation from ancient languages and cultural frameworks that aren't necessarily like those of today.

    For a little bit, I've been dealing with some difficult issues in my life (related to undergoing testing for infertility) so I'd turned to my bible, as I felt I was supposed to do. What I read there just made my heart ache. In my translation, it said "Then God remembered Rachel..." and "Then God remembered Hannah..." - as though somehow He'd forgotten them, had not listened to their cries and pain for all those years, or perhaps worse, had ignored them. I know people with a theological background might dispute how I read it, but at the time, it didn't matter. It was painful, made me feel unloved and, well, forgotten. And as a woman in the church, there are some painfully problematic passages. I felt terrible that I could even have such thoughts, such doubts.

    So I'd started to wonder about my faith because I simply could not accept the bible as inerrant. This post makes me realize that I'm not the only one.

  7. Just have to say - you make more sense than everyone I've ever heard on the subject... combined. I'm a survivor of the mindset you describe, and I cringe at the thought that yes, it's worshipping the Bible & NOT my active, living, involved God. Seriously - we give more credit to the people of old than the Lord who works in & through us daily. It's a sad "Christian" world when we continue to have replacements for God. Afterall, didn't the Hebrews want a "physical, visual" thing to worship - so they created the golden calf during their journey out of Egypt? We do that daily. But if I were even to HINT at the possibility our golden calf might be the Bible... I'd be exiled from anywhere that thought was heard... but misunderstood.

  8. I agree with you on most of what you said. I may be misunderstanding, so please bear with me.

    "If you believe the bible is "God's Word", all perfectly inspired and God-breathed, perfectly kept through the centuries, then you're worshiping the bible."

    Now, I do believe that the bible is inspired, but I also believe it is inspired through the lens of human emotion and insight, such as how David's perspectives of God are often very different from the vision of the Good Shepherd. I've heard many people say that means that one or the other is wrong, but I believe that it's more the case that the Psalms show a very human perspective of God while Jesus' description of the Good Shepherd comes from God himself, even while it is included in places like Psalm 23.

    Also, by "perfectly kept through the centuries", do you mean that there have been no alterations whatsoever, and that there have been no textual variants such as are shown in the Aleppo and Leningrad Codices?

    Of course, I would be rather heretical to the Sunday fundies in that I'm an Old Earther and believe Genesis 1 to be a literary response to the Enuma Elish. They'd have a collective coronary if they found out I learned that at a conservative Christian college.