Are You Open Minded? If So, Check This Out

New ReformationIf the only thing you read in this blog post are these Axioms about faith written by evangelical Christian turned closet atheist turned follower of Jesus, Mike McHargue, I would be happy. I would love to hear your comments about this amazing writing.  Then, if you want to learn about how “Science Mike” came to formulate these axioms as a way he could be grounded in his faith after living for two years in atheist land, these podcasts are amazing: Here is part one and part two.  You will also learn how musician Michael Gungor, a Christian leader who  became an agnostic, came back to a new understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.

The following article presents my  faith journey that inspired me to follow Jesus in a way that brings me more fulfillment and joy than anything ever has. But the journey is not over. I am still learning. I hope that what I learned so far can help you on your journey. But one thing, I believe, will always stays the same: I will continue to deepen my very real relationship with Jesus in a way that bears positive fruit in the lives of myself and others.

I am passionate about finding a way to speak to you who are sincere seekers of truth.   My hope is that  the stories and resources I share will help doubting Christians have a stronger faith, and help them to share their faith with those who do not call themselves Christian.  If you think you have no doubts, look into your heart of hearts. You probably do, but think that it is wrong. You just might be in denial.  Certainty about everything has lead many to leave their faith. Mystery and uncertainty is really okay.

I hope that wherever you are on your spiritual path that you would be willing to read my story and explore some links I will share. These people and websites have inspired me so much, and I have spent countless hours researching in order to find people who are integrity and teach the truth in ways that make the most sense according to logic, scientific evidence, my conscience, life experience,  and the teachings of the Bible.

I feel qualified to share some advice on this topic of seeking.  I grew up in the United Methodist Church, left it at age 16, and decided to be a follower of Jesus 14 years ago after trying out just about every spiritual path that I thought could help me accomplish my goal of being happy. Since I made a commitment to follow Jesus in a serious way, my goal is no longer to be happy. But I am happier than I have ever been.

This path of surrender and faith in a God who I can not see in a physical sense, but who looks like Jesus,  has not been easy, but the peace and joy that I experience in this journey where I am learning to love God and love people has been so fulfilling to me. Naturally, I want other seekers to be open to the possibility that they could have this same experience. I am going to be writing extensively about my journey of faith, and I already have 6 parts in the blog post before this one. In some ways, this is the culmination of all those experiences.

The worst thing about conversations about spirituality is that there is the potential for people to feel disconnected, and even turned off by those sharing their beliefs about Jesus. The fundamentalist, more rigid evangelicals share their beliefs in ways that push people a way and give non-Christians an excuse to not want to hear anything about Jesus or the Bible from anyone. I think that might be changing, though, with what some are calling the “New Reformation” happening.

When I embarked on a journey 14 years ago which lead me to surrender my life to and become a disciple of Jesus, my first step on the journey was to say to some people who I knew were Christians, “I am not a Christian, and I don’t want to be converted.”  I said those words because I knew that these people would potentially invite me to their church service, and I did not want them to try to find out if I was a Christian by asking such a question as, “Are you saved?”  Maybe on a deep level I was saying, “Don’t push me away with your dogma and rigidity. Let me get to know you and your Jesus in a way that is built on a relationship with you–not a discussion about what I believe.”

I still have not asked these ladies (with whom I am still friends after 14 years) what they did after I made that statement. Did they warn everyone to take it easy with me and not to push? I’m sure they started praying!  But no one ever asked me the dreaded question, “are you saved,” and no one pushed their beliefs on me except for a few visitors who didn’t know what was going on and what my needs were. That is a funny story for another blog post.

When I recall how I slowly opened up to hear the gospel, and I hear other people’s stories of how they came to faith, the common denominator was that people accepted me where I was at with my beliefs, but when I had questions they were happy to share their thoughts. They also helped me feel like my family and I belonged before I had similar beliefs as they did. We were invited to every birthday party, anniversary celebration, holiday gatherings, as well as the all day Sunday gatherings that were held week. My kids certainly were not questioned about their beliefs, and they fit right in!

So the first thing that I want you seekers to know is that if you meet Christians who ask the question, “Are you saved?”, they do not represent what many of us believe about Jesus.

Secondly, if a Christian tells you that you are going to hell if you don’t believe a certain way, this also is not believed by all Christians. A growing number of Christians believe that God is so good, powerful, loving, and capable–that he will save everyone eventually.  I love this website about Christian Universalism, which presents abundant and clear evidence that God is going to save everyone.   Watching this two minute trailer about the movie “Hell Bound” will give you great insight into the topic and the fact that not all Christians agree on this topic.

If you have issues with the violence that God seemed to have promoted in the Old Testament, I really recommend that you check out this 5 minute video where Bruxy Cavey, teaching pastor at the Anabaptist Megachurch The Meeting House, shares a beautiful, Christ-like response to the violence perpetuated by terrorists  in France and Beirut.

I am imagining that wherever you are on your faith journey, the Bible might seem confusing to you (If you want an interesting discussion of whether or not the Bible should be capitalized click here). When I would ask Christians how they knew I was going to hell because I didn’t certain way, the common response was, “Because the Bible says so.” When I asked why they trusted the Bible, the response was always, “Because the Bible says it is trustworthy.”

Since I have a natural sense of logic (it was my easiest class in college–I got an A plus) I knew that was circular reasoning and made no sense. But when I was struggling with whether or not to try this Jesus path out,  one of my dearest friends said, “You don’t have to give up your intellect to believe in Jesus.”  She lent me “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell, one of the growing number of knowledgeable and winsome Christians who defend the truth of the Bible through history, science, anthropology,  and philosophy. One of my favorite websites on the topic of  Christian apologetics is Apologetics Guy .

It took me a long time to even be open to the possibility that the Bible had value for me because I kept meeting people who hit me over the head with it.  But a growing number of Christians, including many scholars, are coming to the conclusion that the only way we can look at the Bible is through the lense of the non-violent teachings of Jesus. The blog, Reknew, has a great manifesto that combines open-mindedness towards interpreting the scriptures with a structure that helps people still understand what it means to profess faith in Christ. This is well worth reading.

Abortion is one of the most controversial and divisive topics that is usually associated with Christians, and which give many Christians a bad name and even divides Christians. That is why I deeply appreciate the example set by Christian brothers Josh and Tim in their work at the Equal Rights Institute to help people talk to each other in compassionate yet logical ways. Please don’t think that all Christians act in violent, mean and abrasive ways about this topic. 40 Days for Life also promotes a non-violent prayer vigil and community outreach as a way to deal with this challenging issue.

I almost gave up my newly-found faith about a year after I made my public declaration that I had surrendered my life to Jesus. One of the reasons I decided to follow Jesus was because people who were part of the little church I was welcomed into were so kind. But when controversy erupted over the fact that my former husband and I did not have a legal divorce, and my current husband and I were not legally married, I saw an ugly side of these people that shocked me. My defensive reaction was not helpful. I judged them for judging me!  Over the years, much healing has resulted in this beautiful community of faith, and I look forward to complete reconciliation with everyone involved in the future. I have reconciled with many of my friends.  I left this church about six months ago in order to get more clarity about what I really believed. So far, this fellowship at Living Springs is the safest community of faith I have found.  I am about ready to return.

When I observed that people handled this difficult conflict in a way that it was so un-Christ-like,  I wondered if I had made a decision to commit my life to Christ in order to please people.   I gave myself permission to read all kinds of books that proved that the Bible was not true, that Jesus was not who he said he was (God) and that Christianity was a sham.  Fortunately, I was able to see how illogical these arguments were. I studied Christian apologetics starting with the book, found pastors like Bruxy Cavey and Greg Boyd, read books like The Shack, and through various ways discovered that I could trust in a good, beautiful, powerful, merciful God who looked like Jesus.

I also struggled with the idea that most of the people who were part of my fellowship thought homosexuality was a sin. Through thoughtful study, discussion and the need to belong (always a dangerous place to be!) I came to the conclusion that homosexuality was a sin according to the bible . But after I listened to this beautiful podcast where Christians who have different yet compassionate views on the scriptural view of the GLBTQ issue, I have a transformed view of the issue.

I have realized that the most important spiritual concept anyone can have is what they think about God’s character. This will inform your life like no other spiritual principle. This is the statement that I came up with to describe what I believe about God. and it has made a profound difference in very concrete, practical ways in how I treat people. I believe that most valuable thing that any of us can have is healthy relationships and healthy community where we can serve each other and the world in ways that positively and profoundly impact the well-being of our planet and all people.

“God loves me especially. He loves you especially . I want to love myself and you like God loves me. That is the best way I can love the God who I can’t see in physical form.  He wants the best for you and me. I want the best for you and me. We are here to create healthy community and use all of our gifts and talents to co-create with each other and with God to make this earth a place where everyone can thrive.”

I also love these philosophical axioms developed by Michael McHargue that I think just about everyone can agree with.

I would love to hear what you think about this article.  Thanks for being open-minded about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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