Evolving Faith

Almost two years ago I wrote a post about my failed attempts to fit in with various Christian churches. You can click on the link to check it out if you want, but here’s the thumbnail version: lots of churches, lots of uncomfortable feelings, lots of disappointment, few answers. It took me a long while to figure out why. Then it started to come together.

We’re studying world religions in our homeschooling this year, and although we’ve only touched on it briefly so far, it’s a topic we look forward to pursuing. The Senior Agents (ages 9 and 7) and I were discussing the concept of God, an afterlife, how different people believe different things about the world, why we’re here, what happens when we die. We also have a whole book of creation stories from around the world, which I’m sure they will love, coming up soon.

They were floored when they learned that many folks truly, honestly believe that their way, their religion, their view is the only right one. That if you don’t follow the one, perfect, exclusive way, you’re out of the club. Considering the number of people on the planet, and the number of diverse world views, it made no sense to them that anyone could claim to know the single, correct way to interpret God.

After a bit more chatting they somewhat timidly asked me what religion they were. I told them they’d have to decide for themselves. Then the asked me what religion I am. I had to tell them I don’t know. Because I don’t.

I used to automatically respond Christian. I must be a Christian. I had to be a Christian. I was baptized, confirmed, and took communion regularly for years. I went to Catholic church until college. As an adult, I went to (non-Catholic but Christian) churches regularly, attended Bible studies, joined prayer circles. I said marriage vows in a church and baptized three children in the same church. I didn’t know anything else. It was my default programming.

I was Super Duper Jesus-y. Or so I thought.  At one point I was one of those people crediting Jesus for every little occurrence and telling people to have a blessed day and saying things like God’s timing is perfect and tossing out biblical references. I participated in Christian women's groups, where my introvert self mostly sat quietly hoping no one expected me to contribute. I made it a goal to read The Book every day. I bought daily devotionals. I nodded along to my Christian friends’ prayer requests and touching God-stories. I listened to Christian rock music for crying out loud.

The truth is, however, it never felt authentic. It pretty much always felt like a theater performance I didn’t quite want to be in. I’ve blamed the ambivalent feelings I’ve had over the years on a number of things: I’m too young, I’m too old, my Catholic upbringing, college rebellion, bad past relationships, not finding the right church, not finding the right Bible study, not finding the right friends, not having sufficient roots, being upset over my father’s death, not being grateful enough, not being strong enough, not wanting it badly enough.

It didn’t help that every day I would see my “Christian” friends doing and saying cringeworthy and utterly not compassionate things. (Hat tip, Facebook feed.) Rest assured, though, this isn’t a case of I don’t like how you guys are playing so I’m taking my ball and going home.

This is about what I want to teach my children. I am not a Christian. I can’t give them faith I don’t have. More importantly, I want to give them the opportunity to figure it out on their own. I don’t want them to be exposed to one faith because I decided when they were infants that we should go to this place, read this book, and practice these rituals. I don’t want them to simply follow along with me (not that I’d be a great tour guide). I don’t want to push any version of God or religion on them at an age when they still believe everything I say. Because if I told them, hey from now on were going to go to only this type of church and pray only this way and read only these stories because they are right and nothing else is, they would say, okay. And that’s not what I want for them.

I’m not anti-Jesus by any stretch of the imagination. I absolutely love and admire the teachings of Jesus. And by this I mean the historical Jesus who imparted people to be respectful and to play nice, not the contrived character modern Christians have distorted him into. While not my BFF, as a role model, he is pretty awesome.

Yet I can’t get on board with much past the very basic tenets of Christianity (if that). I can’t accept that this is the only way to know God. I can’t say this path is right and all the other paths are wrong. 

I believe there is a God. Not in a magical, superhero, wish-granter God, but more of an omnipresent spiritual life force. I think there is a Divine element out there whose understanding is likely beyond our limited humanness. I just don’t know who or what it is exactly. And I’m done pretending that I do.

Honestly, as far as “labels” go this probably makes me an Agnostic Theist, or perhaps a Christian Agnostic.

{I trust you can put your Wikipedia skills to good use here if you need a definition or two.}

I know if my Christian friends are still reading at this point, they are waiting for the part where I say something like and then Jesus reached down and touched my heart and opened my eyes. . . or some other teary, happy-ending dribble we’ve been accustomed to reading at the end of posts like these.

But I’m not going to. I don’t need healing.

I’m not a broken Christian. I’m something else altogether.

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