There was a time when I did what I was told. Thought how I was I told to think. Judged how I was taught to judge.
I’m no longer that robot.
Robot is a strong word. It’s negative. Cold. Programmed. Robots don’t have humanity. They conform and obey.
I felt like that for a while at church.
It’s not that I don’t love the people at church. They’re some of the most mild, generous, helpful, loving people. I was recovering in a hospital once and no one really came to visit. It was my church people that did. Brought me flowers and food. To someone in a hospital bed, that’s all you need. Company. Knowing that people care enough to make the trip and show up.
But there’s a caveat. They love you, yes. Those at church love each other because they have Christ in common. It is the unspoken pact. The moment someone decides to leave the brotherhood – denounce Christ, go wayward, as they say, or just plain stop attending service due to exhaustion, the friendships seem to cease there.
It’s not that they don’t ‘love’ you anymore. It’s just not the same. The understanding and underlying oath of oneness is broken.
Building friendships that way has it’s curse. If you, like me, have spent some very formative years in a church setting, being pounded by the concepts of sin, salvation, Christ’s coming again, and that the world is an evil, fallen, broken place, your world view is very different than that of the secular person. It’s a view that’s based on love – yes – God is love. But it’s also one of fear, of being sinful, of feeling imperfect, of feeling incomplete, of despairing again and again for this world.
And…depending on your church community’s culture and fellowship’s (small group, tutor group etc) subculture, you can either
- be completely vulnerable and honest about your struggles with sex, porn, jealousy, drinking, wanting to pet your girlfriend/boyfriend, sexuality, gender, doubts about Christ, etc. – and subsequently receive the corrective treatment and prayer; or
- pretend that you are pure and dutiful and perfect; keep your questions at bay and your struggles private.
For the record, my church culture conforms with number 2.
You can salvage yourself from these harrowing thoughts of the world being beyond salvaging only by surrendering to God, day in, day out. Church teaches you that the moment you leave, you will die, spiritually. It’s said in the bible:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
To the layman, this is a death sentence. Remain in Christ, walk with him, else wither and die. There is no third option.
Christianity is based on free will. God grants salvation freely – all you need to do is accept His gift. But if the message is accept His grace, otherwise go to hell (quite literally…), then…is there really a choice?
That’s the biggest issue I struggle with the faith. The way I see it, the ‘choice’ is all form and no substance. The seasoned Christian will know, will feel that he is making the correct choice by following Christ, because he can then be certain about his salvation. Meanwhile, he will weep and pray for the unbelievers, because he knows that their denial of God’s grace will bind them to hell after this life.
Such is the blindness of this certainty that haunts me. How can one be so sure? They call it blind faith – it is precisely because of the lack of scientific evidence that faith is blind. Yet, how can one gamble their whole life and live it a certain way based on faith alone?
To the Christians out there, apologies in advance. By no means was this to attack you or your faith. It’s merely an honest question directed to a complex and wide-spread system of thought.
Do you have a church? Do you identify yourself with a religion? Is it something you happily conform to or do you have questions as well?