losing my religion

Losing My Religion: Flat Earth Faith

NOTE: I started to write a disclaimer for this post, but then I erased it. Honestly. What do I have to apologize for?

My main focus in this post is on trends that I’ve noticed among certain Christians. If this post doesn’t apply to you, then trust me. I’m not talking about you.


Whether they care to admit it or not, there are Christians out there who practice a little something that I’ve come to call flat-earth faith. They believe that if their worldview is altered in any way–if they go beyond the boundaries of a) what mainstream Christian teachers have taught them, and b) what they’ve chosen to believe about humanity–then they will be damned. Literally. Hence, a lot of people are content to adhere to what they think they know regarding the state of the world and humanity.

For example, concerning man’s purpose: Many Christians take the command that we are not our own to a very serious extreme. They reject any line of thought that focuses on the “self” as evil.  (I wish I had a dollar for every time a Christian dismissed something perfectly normal but related to self-care or self-help as a supposed example of how selfish and depraved human beings are. I swear–I’d be a millionaire.) They also aim to lead a righteous life, aka a life spent doing good and being kind to others. But this isn’t necessarily done for the sake of it. Rather, a number of Christians adhere to their code of conduct so that in the afterlife they can spend their time safely with God in Heaven, instead of Hell.

But there’s also something else that drives believers.

Remember the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins? For those of you who don’t, here are the Cliff Notes: A few years ago, Rob Bell dared to suggest that Hell isn’t as hot as everyone says. In other words, he doesn’t view it as a literal realm of fire and brimstone. Mr. Bell also theorized that in the afterlife, heaven isn’t a Christians-only zone.

In response to this, certain folks were furious*, denouncing and disowning Rob left and right. Some even dared to declare him UNChristian. But why?

Because the hope of hell is what their faith is built on.  

Once you remove hell from the equation, the current Christian paradigm is broken. It becomes doing good for goodness’ sake–or Jesus’ sake, if you will–and where’s the fun in that?

I’m being sarcastic, but really. What I said isn’t that far off from the way some Christians actually think.

These folks are addicted to the story they’ve chosen to believe regarding humanity’s purpose and destiny. There are other lies that fuel some folks’ faith. In particular, the idea that kindness is a Christian virtue, those who aren’t Christian are “lost” or otherwise hopelessly unhappy and  missing out on one of life’s greatest secrets…And the idea that God loves them more than other humans.

Deep down–and sometimes even up front–a number of Christians value their exclusive status as God’s Chosen People. They count on it to serve them–if not here, then in the afterlife. In their minds, the point of this existence is, ultimately, to be good enough to secure a spot in heaven, otherwise what is there…?

As far as I’m concerned, PLENTY.

 

*That TIME article mentioned some of the pushback Rob received. I didn’t link to some of the more conservative sources out there, mainly because I don’t want trolls to pay me a visit.

 

This post’s image is from Unsplash. This time, via Jason Briscoe.

Standard
losing my religion, self-care/self-aware

Losing My Religion: Foreword

I’ve been thinking about the future of my page. In the days to come, I’d like to dig deeply into self care and spirituality. But before I move forward, I really feel the need to take a look at what I’m running away from.

I’m going to begin by offering an honest look at my thoughts on religion. And I’ll be frank with you–a part of me is terrified. For one thing, I know that what I have to say is bound to upset people. I can think of certain long-lost friends who will be offended. Once I speak up, I know that I risk ruining some personal connections.

(On the other hand, some of my people will read what I have to say and go, “Uh huh. Uh huh… NEXT!” I salute them in advance.)

Spiritually, right now, I’m in an interesting place. I agree with the idea of God or a Higher Power. But I don’t subscribe to popular religious teachings surrounding man’s universal purpose, or the way that said Higher Power operates within society.

A part of me can’t help but feel bad. I still admire certain people that I’ve known who are traditionally religious. Meanwhile, I’ve been completely put off of others. Either way, folks’ religious leanings are tied to their values. And in our current political climate, I notice that some have used their faith as an excuse to uplift their fellow human beings. Still, others feel content with oppressing them.

It feels weird to give myself this space to share what I think. I feel the weight of the fact that spirituality can be a very personal and controversial thing. But the more I free myself from religion, the more I value myself. Deep down, I know that I have every right to give myself room to breathe.

Now that I’ve had my say, I’m bracing myself. Let the release begin.

This post’s image is from a photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash.

Standard
losing my religion

Very Necessary: Rob Bell’s Book

Over the years my thoughts on religion (Christianity) have evolved. I’ve been working on putting some of my feelings into words.

Meanwhile, not too long ago, I’d heard that Rob Bell had released another book. And then I discovered this interview.

I listened to it in podcast form, and I’m sure it’s worth watching.

Religion has a disturbing amount of influence in our society. And that influence begins with how people choose to interpret the Bible, and how seriously they choose to take their interpretations of its ideas.

In addition to self-care and other topics, I know that I’ll write about religion again. In the meantime, I’ll see if I can resist going too deeply into my thoughts on Christianity’s favourite book until I’ve read Mr. Bell’s.

Standard
losing my religion

Review: Hillsong – Let Hope Rise

Hillsong: Let Hope Rise is billed as a “worship experience”. However, contrary to its press release, to me it didn’t feel like a part of a new genre. Let Hope Rise is, absolutely, a concert film, in the vein of Katy Perry’s Part of Me and Justin Beiber’s Never Say Never.  Scenes that offer viewers a taste of Hillsong’s story are interspersed with shots of the band in concert performing some of their most popular hits.

I agree with one of the performers who stated that “God created music…”. Over the years I’ve enjoyed all sorts of music—including some of Hillsong’s more popular tracks. And yet, as I watched the musical segments I was torn. On one hand, I wanted to be free to love a particular song. On the other, I was reminded of what I hate about worship band performances: The idolatry. In a house of worship, when the people are gathered to sing together, they should be able to hear each other. In my opinion the only time the focus should be on a performer is when she sings a solo. Otherwise, it’s not always easy to tell who’s being glorified—apart from the singers on stage.

I know this idea flies in the face of what one of what Joel (one of Hillsong’s leaders) said: “These songs are written for people to sing, not just to listen to.” And in fact, that is something that speaks to Hillsong’s success. Hate them or love them, Hillsong has hit songs. Their lyrics tap into a religious narrative that’s revered by people throughout the globe.

Let Hope Rise isn’t necessarily a bore. It includes a few spare moments that revealed the musicians’ personalities. I chuckled at a line from a bandmate during an early tour: “Canada. We’re almost in America.”

Yet throughout the film I cringed at the sight of screaming fans. I know that within Christendom there’s a celebrity culture. But ideally, so-called “Christian celebrities” aren’t here to promote themselves. It’s their Creator—who gave them their talent in the first place—that should matter the most.

This movie also managed to include a glimpse into something that even heathen stars face: Financial challenges.  Never assume that because someone has a hit album, he or she lives in the lap of luxury. Some of Hillsong’s members still live with their extended families.

If you come to this film looking for a thorough introduction to the Christian faith, be careful. Connecting with Jesus is not as easy as “[Finding] a local church!” This subject isn’t discussed in depth and the band’s advice shouldn’t be taken as gospel. I’m a firm believer in vetting a houses of worship before joining them.

Hillsong: Let Hope Rise offers them a look at the lives of one of the most popular worship bands in the world. Overall, I think viewers will enjoy it.

Standard
Books, losing my religion

Books: Brazen

brazen-cover-sept-12-2016I remember when I first read Brazen. After an evening out, my copy was at home waiting for me. Earlier, I’d gone to Paris Lectures–an event where I’d shared some of my dreams in front of a hometown crowd. Since then, I’ve paid close attention to my struggle to keep my aspirations alive.

Overall, Brazen focuses on the impact that self-doubt can have on us as we pursue our goals. It takes faith to beat a doubtful spirit: Our passions are a gift. We need to cultivate them.

In Brazen, the author explores the connection between our dreams and the ways that we view and receive God in our lives.

This book may not be for everyone. Fundamentalists probably won’t like the author’s easygoing tone, or the fact that she mentions yoga. They may even hate that her book is interactive, complete with exercises involving a Brazen Board (the author’s version of a vision board) at the end of each chapter.

While reading Brazen, I frequently stopped to underline passages. I enjoyed scrawling page numbers at the back of the book, knowing that I would look at them later on. The author offers her readers many rare gems. For instance: One of Brazen’s chapters contains a good, solid word about clutter and self-care. I’d never thought about those two issues related quite in the way the author explained them. Quite honestly, those pages alone would have made Brazen worth its price if I hadn’t gotten my copy for free.

As far as I’m concerned, Brazen’s author did her job. In this life, you need to be Brazen and honest about what you want. The best way to do that is by being your most authentic, God-given self.

Disclosure: Brazen has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

Standard
losing my religion

Introducing – No Shame Movement

In the past, I’ve been told it isn’t a good idea for me to write about about religion. But I can’t help it–I’m drawn to spirituality. It’s a huge part of people’s lives. Here in Canada, only 23.9 percent of the population claims to not have some sort of religious affiliation. Therefore, those who believe in (a) God are in the majority.

Whether it’s discussed or ignored, religion has tremendous cultural and personal power. Most people’s understanding of the divine likely colours the way they view themselves and others. Faith also has the power to determine the way folks perceive every part of their lives, including their sexuality.

When religion has a healthy influence over the way someone sees relationships, it can promote a deeper level of things such as commitment and self-care. When its impact is unhealthy, it can lead to distorted ideas concerning oneself and others. Among Christians, this negativity can manifest itself through purity culture, an entity that

…encompasses the emphasis on virginity before marriage and on maintaining emotional purity that pervades fundamentalism and evangelicalism, made visible in purity balls, purity rings, purity pledges, and modesty teachings. These teachings are not limited to fundamentalism and evangelicalism, and can be seen in the culture at large with the slut/virgin dichotomy and the prevalence of abstinence only sex education in public schools. In its most extreme, the purity culture involves giving up dating for a return to parent-guided courtship, and even arranged marriages.*

Fortunately, some are daring to turn the tide. Not too long ago, I got in touch with Lola Prescott, creator of No Shame Movement, a platform committed to countering purity culture’s stifling hold on Christianity.

no-shame-movement

I asked her some questions, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to share her thoughts on my blog.

What’s your religious background? Were you born into a church family?

I grew up in a Christian household, around conservative evangelicals and Pentacostals. I also attended Christian schools during my preteen and teen years.

Growing up, what were you taught about sex?

Explicitly, I was taught to believe that sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed between husbands and wives. Implicitly, I learned that sex was something that men do to women: Men want sex and women must do everything they can to keep them from getting it.

Any discussion of sex outside of marriage was considered disgusting. For instance, TV characters who talked a lot about sex were thought of as “raunchy” and cast in a negative light.

Policing or shaming people’s sexuality is an integral part of purity culture. Can you give me an example of a purity culture tool that you think has been especially harmful?

[Purity culture] infantilizes teens and young adults. They’re taught to “avoid temptation” in a variety of ways instead of learning how to set healthy boundaries and communicate with their partners; it also doesn’t teach the concept of consent.

It’s harmful because it has resulted in a whole generation of Christians who have no idea of how to have a healthy relationship and believe they’re “damaged” [because of] any physical activity they’ve engaged in outside of a heterosexual marriage.

When it comes to myths that some Christians perpetuate about sexuality, what do you think is the biggest one?

You’re either Chaste-y McVirginton or you’re a sex fiend, running around having sex with any and everyone. Also, [there’s] the notion that having sex outside [of] a hetero marriage will ruin your life…When you’re told consistently that sex will result in heartache and depression, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Suppose someone tells you that we need “purity culture” to keep us on the right track in our Christian walk. What would you say to them?

I have a website full of receipts that say otherwise. One of the main reasons I started NSM is to have a place for people to share stories. It’s easy to argue with one person, but a multitude of people sharing stories with a common theme is harder to ignore.

In terms of deconstructing or destroying purity culture, what do you think people can do? Do you think it’s possible…? Better yet, how can people heal from its influence?

It is definitely possible, but it’s an ongoing process. People [need to] start with educating themselves. Many people who grew up in purity culture are woefully uninformed about sex ed. Get to know your own body and discover what you like and don’t like. Be patient with yourself. Recognize whether or not you’re ready to be sexually active, and don’t be afraid to communicate that clearly with your partner.

Also, [it’s important to] talk to people who share your experiences.

The bottom line is to understand that the things that are best for YOU don’t necessarily equal things that are best for ALL.
How can people find out more about you and the No Shame Movement? What’s your URL, social media handle, etc.?

You can visit noshamemovement.com for more info. We’re also on Twitter @noshamemov, as well as Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Flipboard.

Thanks again to Ms. Prescott for her time.

*Definition taken from The “Purity Culture”–a definition and resource list on pathos.com

Standard
losing my religion

Dear Conservatives: Do Better.

I’m disgusted…

I’ve been thinking that I ought to get back into my blogging groove for a while. Over the weekend, I started organizing a list of topics. My days were set. (Sorry I’m late. 😉 ) The first thing I wanted to share with you was my take on an article I’d found via a link on Christianity Today’s website. The topic? Child abuse.

I’ll get to it later, though. Earlier today, I began to watch this interview featuring Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.

In case you’ve decided not to watch, Mr. and Mrs. Duggar were being questioned by Megyn Kelly about their son Josh’s abuse of their daughters. I’ll admit it: My viewing experience didn’t last very long. Almost immediately after I pressed “play” on that video, my shoulders tensed up. As I listened to Ms. Kelly’s questions and the Duggars’ replies, something didn’t seem right to me.

For now, I’ll spare you my thoughts on that “something”. Instead, I’ll talk about the point when I decided I’d had enough.

Around almost 7 minutes into the interview, Megyn asked Mr. and Mrs Duggar if they’d considered turning their son in to the authorities.

Cut to Jim Bob’s answer.

“As parents, you are not mandatory reporters.”

I couldn’t go on much further after that.

Mr. Duggar believes that parents are “not mandatory reporters” of abuse. He does not think that they should feel obligated to tell the police if their children have been abused. Needless to say, Mr. Duggar’s words left me feeling a mix of disgust and worry. There are already countless abusers in the general population. Along with them are parents who either know about instances of abuse, or suspect it. How many of them will watch Jim Bob, hear what he says, and fail to protect their children because they don’t believe that they’re obligated to do so? How many are already doing nothing, and now feel justified by his claims about the law?

More importantly, what do conservative Christians–and even as I say that, some conservative Christians, because I can’t believe that all of them are that ignorant–have against doing the right thing?

The article I mentioned earlier disturbed me for one simple reason. (Feel free to read it here. Note that it was published before the Duggars’ interview, yet its content supports their line of thinking.) In spite of its seemingly neutral wording the only thing I understood was that it perpetuated a very harmful message.

If you don’t want to report abuse, remember that there are states where you can get away with keeping quiet.

I want to know: Where does this need to protect abusers come from?

Abuse victims deserve more than what some folks are willing to give in terms of integrity and justice. I can’t tell you how sad it is to me that in instances of abuse, certain Christians forget that

…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God…

(From 1 Corinthians 6: 19)

Every human body is sacred. It’s hard for me not to notice how quickly some remember that when complaining about a host of supposed worldly evils. Yet when it comes to protecting abuse victims, suddenly, they can’t be bothered.

Standard
losing my religion

Let it Die: More on Modesty

Hopefully this will be my last post on this subject. In the future, instead of whipping up a brand new screed on modesty, I’ll point folks here.

I’ll be honest with you. After I wrote my notes for this post, I felt a sense of déjà vu. A search revealed that I’ve written about Christianity and modesty more than once. (If you don’t feel like reading any further, this post best summarizes my thoughts.)

So why mention it again?

A few nights ago I was involved in a social media discussion on modesty. Someone that I follow posted a link to an essay entitled “The Trouble With Christian Cleavage”. I saw it, and…I lost it.

Moments later as I went to bed, I started questioning myself. A part of me wondered if I was being a horrible person. After all, the person who wrote the article is just another human being. I know what it’s like to want to express yourself and have the words not come out the way you intended. (The author expressed this sentiment on his Twitter feed.) As I look back, I realize that in my first couple of tweets I may have sounded like I was angry at him. I’m not.

Rather, it’s the ideas that he was perpetuating.

In his post, the writer followed a familiar formula. Honestly, at this point I’m surprised there isn’t a test out there called The Christian Modesty Argument. If there were, I know the steps that would help people pass it:

1. Use pseudo-spiritual language in an attempt to manipulate women. Take a gentle approach, and yet…Leave your sisters with the impression that the way they dress is ruining the very fiber of men, other women, and Christendom itself.

2. Rely on a description of men that makes them sound utterly stupid.

In response to the now-deleted post, I read a host of tweets. Among them was a link to this essay by Nate Pyle. In an imagined discussion with his son, Mr. Pyle reminds his readers of the truth: that men are responsible for how they perceive what they see. This concept deserves to be popular in Christian circles, yet it isn’t. A part of me does not want to imagine why.

If nothing else, can we please abandon the notion that “men are visual creatures”? I’ve seen that phrase used multiple times. It’s horrible. Firstly, I resent the way it refers to men as “creatures”. I need to use a dictionary for a better definition, but in my mind, a “creature” is an animal—and not an intelligent one.

Secondly, I know the phrase is meant to convey the idea that men are visually stimulated. However, as far as I’m concerned, it might as well be saying “women don’t have eyes.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Women notice the way men look. If you don’t think so, you need help–and lots of it.

Really, at this point I think I’m just using different words to say what I did in the piece linked at the beginning of this post. Christians’ ideas concerning modesty need to progress. I look forward to the day when the plague of dishonesty ends for good.

Standard