I just realized that I have actually changed religions.
So, before, I was a Christian. And now, I am a Christian. It's called the same thing, but it's a different religion. And that's why it's so incredibly hard for me to accept some of the beliefs, like "God is love [for a WAY different definition of 'love' than I had before]"- because it's such a drastic change. It's actually a different religion.
Let me walk you through it:
1. Back then, when I was a "good Christian," I believed I had all the answers, or at least, there would be some Christian book or podcast or something that would tell me "THE answer" to any religious question. I remember watching the youtube video of John Piper saying "it's right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases," and trying to make sense of it, assuming that since Piper is a pastor that a lot of people respect, this must be THE right answer, the Christian view.
Of course we could ask questions, but at the end of the day, we'd come back around to "the right answer." Maybe the asking-questions part was just to help us understand what we already knew was the right answer.
But now I believe there are no limits on what I can question, and I don't have to accept any answer. I can read the bible and say "hey I don't like this part" or "wow, what God did here was really wrong" and I can talk about it with people and we can try to make sense of it, but if there's no sense to be made, I'm not going to fake it.
I used to feel like as a Christian, I had to pick one of the answers and pretend to be satisfied with it. But now, I can say "you know, this is wrong, really wrong, and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise- but I still love God."
|What the hell? Image source.|
2. The definition of "love."
Oh, man, the definition of "love." Maybe that's the biggest difference between my old and new religions.
So, if you love someone, you want them to be happy and you want what's best for them. But as a "good Christian," I knew that OBVIOUSLY what's best for every person in the world, what will make them happiest in the long run, is for them to become a Christian.
Everyone has "a God-shaped hole in their heart," ya know? Everyone who's not in line with my idea of what it means to obey God is living a life of destruction. Yeah, they may think they're happy, but they're deceiving themselves.
"Love" meant "I know you better than you know yourself." "Love" meant refusing to believe someone's account of their own personal life if it conflicts with my abstract beliefs.
"Love" meant hoping my friends would hit rock-bottom so they would realize they needed God.
"Love" meant finding clever ways to make my disapproval obvious while still telling myself I was being kind.
But let me tell you what my new faith says about love:
Love means accepting people- truly truly accepting people. Love means listening to them and recognizing that I have a lot to learn. Love means rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn. Love means standing up for those who are hurting, and opposing the powerful systems that cause that pain.
Love actually means love. No need to whip up some convoluted explanation for how our actions, which come across as really mean, are technically loving.
And it's possible for love to mean love because I don't believe in hell anymore.
3. A word about victim-blaming.
So let's talk about the problem of evil. If there is an all-loving, all-powerful God, then why do bad things happen?
I used to not worry about it too much. Nothing bad was happening to me- or, when it did, I explained it as my fault for not obeying God.
Bad things only happened to other people. Maybe people in other countries. I mean of course bad things would happen to people who live in not-the-US countries. What do you expect? Or maybe bad things happened to people who didn't pray. Or maybe, even when they prayed for healing, God didn't do it- but that would only happen in a small minority of cases. Most could be explained by blaming the victim.
And that was all well and good because it meant bad stuff wouldn't happen to me. If we can blame the victim, we can believe that it's possible for us to avoid those tragedies.
That all fell apart when I started reading feminist stuff online, and I learned what victim-blaming was. Also I read a ton of blog posts about people's personal experiences and bad things that had happened to them- and I actually believed them instead of trying to look for a reason to blame them. (Remember what I said about the definition of love?)
And I got sick and had to have my gall bladder removed. I didn't know that could happen to me. Before, I had a plan, about graduating and getting a job in China, but the gall bladder thing delayed that by about a year. How? Why would God let that happen? Why would God let completely unpredictable things pop up in our lives and totally screw up our plans? What does "trusting God" mean if he would allow my own goddamn organs to turn against me?
So now, in this new religion I've adopted, the problem of evil is a big problem.
4. I believe in resurrection.
Yeah. That's it. If you want to know what I believe now, I believe in resurrection. And I believe in love.
God created this world good and someday he'll restore it. There will be no more crying or pain or stupid tragedy.
And I believe that as a Christian, I should work toward that goal too. Do what I can to make the world better.
Well, there ya go. That's what I believe now. It's a new religion for me, and I have a lot of questions.
Sometimes I miss being a "good Christian," because I felt so close to God then, and it all made sense. I miss God.
But more importantly, I'm glad I don't have to argue for ridiculous things anymore. I don't have to argue that "deep down, you really do believe there is a God." I don't have to claim that yeah, eternal suffering in hell for all non-Christians is TOTALLY consistent with God being loving. I don't have to be anti-gay anymore.
So I used to be Christian, and now I'm Christian. But oh, it's a different religion.