Please forgive me before I say something that might offend you, but I am really concerned. Unlike you, who was raised in your Christian faith, I have only been attending church for the last eight years since I have been married to Graham. I am not a Christian, as you know, but Graham feels the desire to attend a church service and as long as I am respected, I will attend with him. I believe in God but I do not feel I need to be in a certain building listening to a regular series of words to connect with that Higher Power. I go to church with my husband out of my love for him and I do enjoy the thoughts and prayers that are expressed and getting to know that community.
However, I also believe I listen more than most people. It is new to me, not a rote recitation. I listen. I think about what I hear. And I recognize the root of much of what I hear in the Jewish tradition. After all, that’s where Jesus got it.
I have, admittedly, been attending what some would consider “liberal” churches. After all, I probably would not have been respected for my nontraditional belief system at any other. So, I also admit that my learning about Christianity is from that viewpoint. I have attended church almost every Sunday, sang in the choir until our move to Oregon, and participated in many book discussion and Bible study groups. In fact, the organizers usually ask me first and then invite Graham, knowing my participation will lead to pretty lively discussion. And, I guess, that is also a hallmark of a liberal church-discussion, not acceptance without any questioning as a mark of faith.
So, since I question, here are some of mine to my conservative Christian friends:
1. I have been hearing for 8 years that Jesus reached out to all the disenfranchised. Why are you so disdainful of the homeless and the hungry? Why do you say they deserve the hardship they have? Why do you lump them into the same group as the people you complain are taking advantage of the system? And if I misunderstand you, what have you personally done to help? Saying you understand they are lost and need help and acting on that statement are two different things.
2. I have been hearing for 8 years that Jesus caused quite a ruckus in the Temple smashing the tables of the money lenders. If we understand that they were taking advantage of the rules in place, the system, to charge ridiculously high fees just because they had somehow been given an exclusive place of commerce and if we follow the teaching that they were doing wrong, why are you supportive of the billionaires that continue to have huge earnings while paying their bottom line workers low wages? What is the difference? Why are you still shopping in those stores and not helping in the campaign to raise the minimum wage so people working two to three part time jobs can actually afford to live?3. I have been hearing for 8 years that Jesus urged people to simply follow two commandments: to love God with all your heart, mind and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself. So, I don’t believe you need to be a church goer to love God; however, I do believe you should not be spouting “I love God” without walking the walk. And that means acting out the second commandment. Maybe you don’t love yourself so well? For example, if you are still eating processed foods, you don’t love yourself well, because you are contributing to health problems. If you don’t verify facts before repeating emotional support for statements issued by sources at one end of the political spectrum, you don’t love yourself well because you are not trying to improve your education. So, maybe clean up your self-love and then you will have the energy, health and ability to think about how you really can love others.
4. I have always heard the Ten Commandments. Christians got that from us, but the Christian Bible changes them a bit compared to the Torah. (Nothing like rearrangement of the original source to point out to literalists that their viewpoint is not accurate.) So you holler “Thou shall not kill!” and call a zygote a person in argument against abortion. But you are comfortable with the death penalty, despite known miscarriages of justice. You also care nothing for that baby, once born, if it happens to be born into a family with stressed intellectual, financial and emotional situations. How can you reconcile your concern for the unborn but not for the living?
5. I have been hearing for 8 years that my attendance in church means that I am searching. Maybe I am, but not for what you may imagine. So many people are waiting for me to get baptized, to be “saved.” You will continue to wait. I do not see a better way there, merely another way. What I search for is the sign of humanity in the people I meet everywhere. Some are there at church. Some I meet in other places and they never set foot in church. I have met others who practice other religions and some that are disenfranchised because of people’s behavior so disdain a relationship with any church. Searching will be lifelong. When I stop trying to seek knowledge, I will be part of the walking dead.
So, back to my point. I am confused. Some of the people I have met in the churches I have attended with my husband are wonderful people, reaching out to others, and I am proud to consider them my friends. And there are others, too too many others, in all kinds of churches and temples, and mosques, who are full of righteous indignation that their way is the ONLY “right” way. Your pathway confuses me because you seem not to practice what you preach, nor walk the walk you talk.
If love is the way, act it. Don’t tell me you’re beating me up for my own good. No thanks.