Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Struggle of an Honest Christian

In previous blog entries I have talked about this concept of "making your faith your own". We are taught doctrine and theology as children, for those of us that grew up in Christian homes, and at some point we do one of three things. We make this faith our own, we become content with what we know and stay the same, or we reject the faith and walk away. For me I feel that I have been trying to make my faith my own. Little did I know just how hard it would be. Everyone has an opinion on what Christ taught and how we should interpret it. There are people who have been dead for centuries and their thoughts on the faith are studied still today by Christians and non-Christians alike. Does that mean I should fall in line with that group of thinkers? Does the survival of their writings mean it is the best?

Then there's my personal experiences and knowledge of the world. All the things- good or bad- that I've seen and experienced factor into how I want to make my faith my own. Add to that all the books that I've read that have given me ideas about the world and the way I perceive it. For example, patriotism. I used to be a "card-carrying" Republican that bled Red, White, and Blue. I had opinions on everything economic and social. I was adamant about what I believed and defended my positions to the point of absurdity. I had some very not-nice things to say about liberals, communists, socialists, and pretty much anyone who I didn't agree with. Then I started reading more, I studied more, and I talked with people on the other side of the fence with the attitude of listening instead of trying to be heard. Suddenly things were not so simple. The politicians who claimed to be for me were starting to look like massive hypocrites right alongside the ones I had already condemned to one of the circles of Dante's Inferno. That's just scratching the surface of the topic of politics. It barely even makes a glancing scuff mark on the subject of patriotism.

There's what some might see as lesser issues, like why I'm growing out my hair and letting it dread. It may not be to the taste of some folks, but they're not going to get into a huge argument with me over it. My choice to become a vegetarian also falls into this category. But there's also the abstract issues; how I feel about Christian music, what to wear in church, hymns, drinking, smoking, or just living life in general. They're abstractly surreal because it's nearly impossible to come to consensus about these things. Yes, there are very authoritative figures out there who say one thing, but there's also very compelling little-known people preaching the opposite. When I look at that, I think of Jesus. He was a very compelling little-known person who said something contrary to what the authoritarian figureheads were saying. Instead of just taking the guy in a suit with all the fancy titles at his word, I think I'll listen to the community-advocate who sews many of his own clothes and doesn't have any titles to his name.

The struggle for this honest Christian is to not burn bridges as I go the direction I feel God is calling me to go. But why would anyone intentionally burn bridges? Well, I don't, not exactly... Many things I rejected and pruned from my lifestyle and faith were things that I perceived as emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually unhealthy and/or unsound. I didn't just decided I didn't need them. I decided that I could literally be harming myself to keep them as a part of my life. Problem is, many of the friends I have made prior to these realizations still hold the views I have rejected. They take offense to what I have to say, even when I try to say it without the fiery passion behind it. After a time, they grow weary of hearing what I think... Funny, they didn't get tired of hearing what I had to say when it agreed with their views... Oops, did I type that out?

Anyways, listen, folks who knew me from the days when I was known as Nathan; those days are gone. My faith is not gone though, and while we may not see eye to eye on all the issues we are called to love each other. Why should anybody believe us when we say that Jesus loves them when we can't even demonstrate love to each other? And yes, I realize that I am guilty of instigating a lot of strife between us, but I have tried to clear the air with each of you on an individual basis. I have also made blanket apologies, and still there is unforgiveness and bitterness. Still, many seem to refuse to accept that I have different views. It's like people won't accept me if I don't revert back to the old me. That's kind of shallow, isn't it? Is that all our friendship was? Shallow?

The questions continue...

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