The Truth About Love

love-2I’ve been thinking a lot about 1 Corinthians 13.  People, not  always Christians, use this part of scripture as a reading for weddings and other events, regularly. When I heard it the other day, I realized how profound it is, and of all the scripture I have read, 1 Corinthians 13 is actually something I can hold onto as a guideline for my life:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Interestingly, these principles are the ones I have rarely seen in the Christians in my life, especially the ones that are closest to me. There have been a couple of times where I confronted my sister with these scriptures and let her know that when she says she loves me, but continues to be cruel and rejecting, she isn’t living out 1 Corinthians 13, which is part of her holy book.  Her response to me has always been the same; “I do love you, I just can’t be around you, or I don’t trust you, or I have a wall up between me and you,” etc., etc. Well, what is love then?  The apostle Paul seems to make it clear.  Maybe in “the original language” it means something entirely different.

I decided to look up the definition of love and here is a synopsis:  “Profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection; to take great pleasure in as for a parent, child, or friend.”

Most hard core Christians, my sister and mother included, do not exhibit any of the aspects of 1 Corinthians 13 love, at least not to me.  I’m not sure why.  It’s like the more you study the scriptures and the closer you get to god, the meaner, more judgmental, and more hateful you become.  I saw it in myself and I’ve seen it in my sister.  In fact, seeing it happen to my sister caused me to take a good hard look at myself.  I have to admit it’s easier to exhibit 1 Corinthians 13 love as a secular humanist than it ever was as a Christian. I wonder why that is?  The apostle says that it doesn’t matter whether you have knowledge, or have faith; if you lack love, you are nothing and yet, many Christians are great at attaining knowledge and going on and on about their faith, yet love, real love, is rarely seen.  At least I have not encountered it.

It’s as if knowing and speaking the laws of God, or trotting out the faith card are more important than simply loving.  It’s all so pharisaical and you know what Jesus had to say about them?  Let me paraphrase; they were gross.

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Footprints

footprints 2Wow, I haven’t been here for a while.  Not even a 30-Day-Challenge could keep me honest.  You wait though, because I am going to blog 30 in a row.  I really am!   Anyway, I just got back from a few days in Laguna Beach.  It was an incredible time I have to say.  I didn’t realize, until I was there, just how badly I needed a beach fix.  I did gain some insights while I was there and I will share them with you in the next couple of blogs.

The first one hit me as I was walking alone on the beach.  As I looked back and saw the long trail of footprints I left behind, it called to mind that poem.  You know the one, “Footprints.”  It’s where “The Lord” tells the poet that when there was only one set of footprints in the sand,  He (god) was carrying them through their most challenging times.  As I considered my own lone footprints, I thought, “That is such bullshit.”  I also thought about how I would revise that “poem” if I could.  I decided that the only thing that needed revising was the last few lines.  Here is the poem with its revisions:

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
 Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. 
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints; 
other times there were one set of footprints. This bothered me because I noticed
 that during the low periods of my life,
 when I was suffering from
  anguish, sorrow or defeat, 
I could see only one set of footprints. So I said to the Lord, 
”You promised me Lord,
 that if I followed you,
 you would walk with me always.
 But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
 there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
 Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, 
‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, 
that is when you realized I was never there; I was a figment of your imagination and it was you and only you who stood strong and persevered on your own.  It was your resilience and strength that carried you through. You thought you needed someone bigger and more powerful outside of yourself, but you didn’t.  There was only you.”

Many find comfort in the old version of that poem.  I do not.  It is much more comforting and also empowering to know that we are all we need. We are enough.

Above The Fray

searching__but_not_seeing__by_lyndzieWhen I have talked about the problems within the Church and religion as a whole, I tend to get the same reaction from Christians—they deflect.   I don’t think there has ever been a situation where a Christian has actually owned the bad behavior that is rampant within the Church.  They always act like the bad things that happen are merely isolated occurrences.  When I’ve shared specific incidences that I and others have experienced in the Christian Church, the typical response from them goes something like, “Oh, I’m so sorry that that happened to you; that’s not representative of true Christianity though.”  It isn’t?  That’s weird because, that has pretty much been my experience.  To that, a finger is usually pointed right back to me.  You know, “Maybe it’s you—perhaps something you have done wrong, because I have just never encountered anything like that.” Words like that, responses like that; they wound and they wound deep.  It doesn’t bring the broken back into the fold, it sends them limping as far in the other direction as they can go.

My point is and has been, for a while now, if there really was a holy spirit that dwelt within Christians, my dear Christian friends, there would be a difference that could be clearly seen within the Church.  The divorce rate, teen pregnancy rate, the victimizing leaders, the shallowness, dishonesty, disloyalty, and bigotry found in the church is staggering, and yet just about every Christian I have brought this up to says, “Well, those things are not representative of true Christians,” and of course, they, personallyare not guilty of such things.  They consider themselves above the fray and, sadly, they take comfort in that.

In some ways I understand this reaction.  If Christians would allow themselves to open their eyes and take a good hard look at their religion, their leaders, and their churches, it would be a bit like seeing behind the scenes at Disneyland.  What they told themselves was reality is really only a fantasy and they have guided their entire lives under the delusion that the Christian Church is the happiest place on earth.  Of course, it isn’t.  Reality, being right in the middle of the fray, showing empathy to those that question their faith, or can no longer believe, rather than sympathizing from afar, that’s being human; that’s what life’s all about.

Oh Yes, I Remember It Well

false-memoriesI was having a conversation with my older son, Rob, the other day and the death of my best friend, Melanie, came up.  She had passed away when my younger son was 4 or 5 weeks old.  Rob began to tell me about the day I received the phone call informing me of her death.  He said that he started questioning God that day, because he knew she wasn’t a Christian and he couldn’t wrap his head around someone as good and kind as Melanie going to Hell.  I was surprised to hear him retell the details of that day—not because of his questioning god, because that would have been understandable, but because he wasn’t there when I got the phone call.  He wasn’t living with us when she died.  If fact, he didn’t come back to visit until my younger son was almost a year old.  It wasn’t that he was lying.  I could tell he truly believed what he was saying.  It could be that he remembered me calling and telling him about her dying or hearing me talk about that day later, but he was not there when it happened and yet he told the story, with great detail, as if he had been.  If I was not positive of the timeline, I would have believed him, without a doubt.

This got me thinking about how unreliable our memories are, which reminded me of when I began to doubt the infallibility of scripture.  When I first started to research the Bible and its roots, I was surprised to learn just how much of the Holy Scriptures came from the oral retelling of the facts and none of it was written down as it was happening, or even soon after.   So, the Bible is based on stories that were passed down from generation to generation. Ever heard of the game telephone? I was also surprised to find out how long after Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection the gospels were written.  There is even debate as to who the true authors of the gospels were–that they could have been written after the disciples were long gone.

That’s just the gospels.  What about the foundation of Christianity, the Old Testament?  I remember a discussion I had with my sister.  I asked her if she knew who wrote the book of Genesis. I wasn’t sure; she didn’t know either. Some say it was Moses, but that wasn’t my point.  I pointed out to her that whom ever wrote it, was not there at creation—couldn’t have been.  So, I asked her, how could Moses have known what happened?  She confidently told me, “God told him.” Hmm…that’s exactly what Joseph Smith and Mohammed say about their revelations.  The truth is that the stories of creation, Noah’s Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc., were stories passed down through families orally.  So, long story, short; if my son creates a false memory from a situation that took place just seventeen years ago, How can anyone believe that the Bible, most of which was written well over 2,000 years ago, is infallible, or reliable at all?  Why don’t Christians think about that?  Why do they continue to live their lives in obedience to this book and most importantly how can they condemn to Hell, anyone who can’t? Maybe I should stop thinking so much…someone actually said that to me once :).

God of All Comfort

sunbreaksthroughOne caveat before I begin:  I am fully aware that the antidote to depression and anxiety is not always cut and dried or easily attainable.  Sometimes people need medication to treat it successfully and should not forgo that when it is warranted.  With that said…

Becoming an unbeliever brought many changes in my life, most of which I expected and was ready for. One positive and unexpected change was overcoming my struggle with depression and anxiety and I can’t really explain why.  As a believer, and early on in my deconversion, there were times when I would be in such a dark place, I was afraid I would never come out. Being a Christian and suffering from anxiety and depression is a double burden, because not only are you hurting, but the inability to overcome is evidence that you aren’t trusting in God and thus disappointing him, perhaps even sinning against him. Once I lost my faith, those horrible dark times have never returned. Do I get blue sometimes or worry?  Yes, but it is nothing like it was.  Not even close.  Now I have a hard time even remembering what it was like to be in a dark place or be consumed with fear and anxiety.

I didn’t spend much time thinking about this happy change, until I received an article from a friend the other day entitled “Great Bible Verses for Depression.”  When I read the title, I got that sick, sinking feeling inside.  I remember reading articles like that—the ones that brought no comfort to me and I blamed myself for it.   It contained all the usual suspects, especially the verse from Philippians.  The one I had memorized and recited to myself over and over again, to no avail: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything…And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds…” blah, blah, blah.  Anyway, the other verses from the article were from the Book of Psalms and one from Deuteronomy—Deuteronomy?  Really?  This got me thinking.  Maybe that is why those verses, and others, never helped me, never brought me peace. Maybe it was because I knew the Bible too well and knew of the other verses that surrounded them.  Maybe I couldn’t blindly pick and choose the “feel good” parts without, at least subconsciously, remembering the others.

Take Deuteronomy, for instance.  The article included Deuteronomy 31:8:  “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be.”  That’s pretty comforting, right?  What Christians fail to think about–and think is the operative word here–is all the verses surrounding that little tidbit.  Verses that lay down impossible rules and regulations and then, there’s the hatred and violence.  In Deuteronomy 20, for instance, it reads, “However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them….” Ah, yes, I feel better already, don’t you?  Then there is the Book of Psalms, or as I like to call them, “The rantings of a spoiled king.” The article sited several passages, none better than Psalm 34:  “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” That’s a good one.  I can almost feel God lifting me up out of the darkness…wait, what about Psalm 137?  “Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.  Happy is the one who seizes your infants
 and dashes them against the rocks.”  Wow, Fundamentalist Muslims have nothing on those Old Testament believers…

I realize that some Christians actually do get comfort from selected verses in the Bible. I think the only way they can, though, is to ignore the majority of the Bible and just grab a happy verse here and there as they continue to tell themselves that God is a god of unconditional love (as long as you obey, believe and follow accordingly, of course) and all you need is the Son.  Yes, that does work for some, but I think the true healing and comfort comes when you do what I did—begin thinking, face reality and watch the true sun break through.

Santa Baby

Jesus-and-SantaMy kids weren’t raised to believe in Santa.  At first it wasn’t really about Jesus or religion, it was mostly because of how I had felt as a child when I found out there was no Santa and my parents had been lying all of us.  It really impacted me and I could not rationalize lying to my kids like that.  So, they always knew.

As I became more and more entrenched in Christianity, Christmas became more of a religious thing.  We basically ignored Santa and focused on the “reason for the season,” Jesus.  Why put any energy into someone who was make-believe when you had the savior of the world to celebrate?  I know…I know.  And yes, I did make a cake on Christmas Eve and yes, we lit candles and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.  It was always red velvet cake too—you know, to represent his blood shed for us…ugh, I feel like I need a shower now.

It gets worse.  First though, I want to touch upon another cringe-worthy symbol, one that is seen around Christmas time–the Santa kneeling at the manger of Jesus.  When I was a Christian I didn’t like it because, you know, Santa’s not real.  I know…I know.  As a non-believer, it actually makes sense.  You know, two pretend characters coming together—one brings toys and the other brings peace and salvation, kind of like the dynamic duo…yes, indeed; it makes total sense.

Now, let me get to the “worse” part.  As I considered the ridiculousness of Santa worshiping the baby Jesus, I unfortunately remembered something that happened when my older daughter was about two. We had just finished up Christmas shopping at Target and she was getting a little antsy.  We were at the check out counter and I was trying to get her to sit down in the cart.  That’s when the cashier said to her, “You’d better be good.  What would Santa think?”  My little girl looked utterly confused.  My kids always thought it was weird when adults would talk about Santa like he was real…pshhh, ridiculous!  I stopped and looked at the cashier and valiantly said, “We prefer to worry about what Jesus would think,” as I smiled at her, took my receipt, and walked piously away.  Ahhhhhhh…slaps self on forehead…I did NOT say that to her…yes I did.  I can’t even express how obviously ironic that statement is to me now.

What is that sound?  Why it’s the cringe heard ‘round the world…

Come, let us Cringe Together

Calvin Kneeling Praying At Cross 2As I have been thinking about it, there are many things that are cringe-worthy in the Christian world, well, probably the religious world, but Christianity is usually my point of reference and so I’ll stick with what I know. It’s so strange to think that at one time many of those cringe-worthy things seemed like a good idea to me and now I am faced with how embarrassing they all are. There are expressions of Christianity every where I go and I’m not even looking for them.  They are constantly thrust in front of me, even just driving around town, on the bumpers and windows of cars:  Calvin kneeling at the cross, “NOW–Not of This World,” “I’m Not Perfect, Just Forgiven,” “Body Piercing Saved My Life,” etc. (I’m serious.  It really said, “Body Piercing saved my life” with Jesus on the cross—crucified.) I think Christians believe they are making some sort of powerful statement that is a witness to the world, or at least to those who see their message.  I know I did.  Now, it is a reminder of just how brainwashed (for lack of a better word) I was.

One that bothers me the a lot is the Calvin decal. I really cringe when I see it.  I did when I was a believer too though–for different reasons.  Anyway, poor Calvin, portrayed as kneeling at the cross, I mean, I really don’t think Calvin would ever want to do that. His creator isn’t a believer, so I’m pretty sure Calvin isn’t either.

Calvin once said to Hobbs, 
 “This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? 
 If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself and prove it? 
 And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all this?

Hobbs replied: 
I dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?

To which Calvin said, 
”Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.

If Calvin were real, I think it would piss him off that he is portrayed at the foot of the cross—kneeling in submission.  He is the poster child for rebellion and non-conformity after all.   Perhaps he is praying for forgiveness for all of that…Now, that’s a strong message.  Hello?  HE’S NOT REAL, but Jesus is…ummmm…never mind.

The irony here is that this decal is a perfect example of blatant copyright infringement—you know, stealing? Hmmm, Christians stealing to get their message out.  I guess they get a pass though.  All bets are off when you are glorifying god and witnessing to a lost world.

I never had that ridiculous Calvin decal on my car window. I had something way more articulate and rational: A bumper sticker that said, “Darwin is Dead and He Ain’t Comin’ Back,” with a Darwin fish, legs in the air.   What?

Oh, there’s more…

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