Yes, I type too much. My responses turn from a sentence, to a paragraph, to an unstructured stream of thoughts that keep tumbling out.
I just typed a response to someone on facebook - an ex-Christian. I haven't met her yet in the flesh but look forward to doing so. It'll happen sometime. And I pretty much agree with everything she said about churches and religion. My short response turned long. And longer. And I gave up and decided to post it here - just some thoughts on churches and my experiences and a little of where I've come from and where I am now.
She wrote that what she said was just her opinion. What follows is just my opinion. Many or most of those with whom I still share the name "Christian" will disagree and disagree profoundly. Many who don't go by the name "Christian" will disagree too. That's all fine. I quite like disagreements and learn a lot from them.
So here goes, 1,000 words, utterly unstructured, almost chain of consciousness, edited only to remove a reference to where the person lives:
What is the definition of a "real" Christian? You're not the first person to say to me that real ones are very rare. But what is a "real" Christian? Is they someone who fits a pattern - or someone who seeks to fit a pattern. Is they someone of belief or someone who has learned to live out that belief?
(I'm using "they" as a singular multi-gender word)
Now I want to know which church(es) it was that you walked away from and if I've heard of it/them - I don't know of many churches where you are but have heard less than wonderful things about the tolerance of a couple of them. Quite possibly - or probably - walking away was the best thing and their faith was a soul killer, not a life to the full.
Plenty of churches like those unfortunately, plenty of them in this city, hardline literalist "Bible" churches that can't embrace humanity and who are happy to say "I'm not judging but you're a scumbag". Plenty of Christians like that too - to some extent I used to be one, but the story of the path in and out of that is long and tortuous. And it's not for now.
I used to be that exclusivist evangelist with hand firmly on interpretations of Bible verses that I'd been taught, interpretations some of which I now find abhorrent, heinous - damning humans for being human and creating a monstrous despotic God. The "God of the Bible" that some people talk about is plainly vile.
Fortunately I've found churches that are less literalist and more able to love and accept. MCC is great - and they can even cope with my odd beliefs! But that's to be expected given the reason it came into existence in the first place. They have a different "God of the Bible" than the one mentioned above. Actually they have many "Gods of the Bible" as the people are so varied
I first went there days after finally coming out to myself. My wife sent me - "Go! Get support!" and there are some wonderful people there. Meeting them has enriched my life - one of many good things that came from being honest with myself.
And the local Anglicans had no real trouble when I came out as trans. But the part time vicar had already guessed. Everyone just welcomed me as Clare and from day one they got me in skirts and dresses. If anyone is anti-me they haven't said. People have applauded me, supported me and some told me what good news it was that I'd come out. I hadn't expected that. It's nice - but hard to be there with my faith issues. Whether that niceness is the holy spirit is another thing - and I don't really believe in the h.s. as the third person of a personal trinity.
And I know of other churches that would have no problem welcoming a gay person or a transgender person or whoever else without at some point condemning their existence.
But there are other churches where I would not survive as a transgender lesbian in a skirt because I'd be considered a reprobate, unredeemed, unrepentant abomination wallowing in grievous sin. Just for being who I am. You know the kind of thing.
It's been a long road from fundy to where I am and the road stretches ahead further than I can see.
As for a 'loving creator' - no, I don't think that title matches up with some of the Bible stories and it certainly doesn't match up with much of the interpretation of those stories these last 2000 years. Although I used to believe it fervently.
It's amazing how easily the Christian can rationalise the genocide of the Old Testament and the contradictions in a literalist reading of the New Testament. It's amazing that Christians can believe both the scientific creation story and the story of the Fall when they cannot be logically held together. It's amazing how some things were just "cultural" - but only the things our particular church doesn't do or say.
That's probably why a church service can be so painful for me. I used to believe massively. Now I don't. Sitting in a liturgical communion service can really hurt. I feel the loss. And I haven't reached the point of being able to translate services into something less abhorrent and humanity condemning.
A year ago I lived as a man. I preached sometimes in an Anglican church with a view to training to be a licensed preacher. My sermons (which weren't bad at all!) were sound, telling of the wonders of that God of the Gospels and Epistles. My sermons would be very, very different now. I should write one sometime, just for the fun of it. So much has changed. I've embraced myself. I've been rejecting a faith and embracing not another faith, but a much wider faith. An inclusive faith, a faith that loves Jesus but holds to Krishna, the Buddha, the Tao, madmen like Osho, oneness, bits of the Course in Miracles, freedom, many paths, teachers I knew of as a teenager like Ronald Beesley and Alice Bailey, and probably more surprises to come this year as I explore God, source of light. And I'm a bit obsessive at the moment about John Shelby Spong who shows me that even with all my doctrinal wackiness there's still a Christian path, or at least a Christ path, to walk. I highly recommend a bit of Spong. Take two Spong an hour before meals.
Where is this path taking me? It may eventually be a Christian path. It may not. It may be a Christ path but at the least it will be a God path (with an unexpected understanding of God), a path looking to the source of love, light, life, to the ground of Being, to being, to becoming, to overcoming, to living to the full, seeking extravagant love, and so much more.
I've typed far too much as a facebook reply. Dammit. It can go on a blog instead even though it's in no particular order and isn't thought through in the slightest.