When Religion Brings Out the Worst


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Religions are so diverse there is a flavor for everyone. The universal idealism of religion is that it is supposed to be a guide in how to live a good life, how to treat others and ultimately getting a good reward in the end. One can extrapolate that this goes for majority of the world religions. While this idea is wonderful, the reality can be a stark contrast.

Who is right? Every religious entity will tell you it is the right one. It is the one true path for life and the afterlife. There is so much conflict and fighting for who has the truth that it has pitted man against man from the inception of religion.

Man’s interpretation. The Bible, the Torah, the Koran and countless other manuscripts have been written ‘by God’ or God-inspired but always with a male cultural twist. The things that were the norm 1000 years ago is not the same as those 10 years ago or today. Religion is struggling to keep up with the changing norms that it requires interpretation after interpretation in order to be relevant. The problem with these interpretations or extrapolations is that they are usually reflective of the person’s own experiences and convictions. i.e. It was heretic to suggest that the earth was round and not the center of the universe, women were burnt at the stake for being witches, menstruating women were shunned and considered unclean, and many illness were  consequences for someone’s sin.

Ignorance of culture. A die-hard believer will tell you culture has no place in religion. However, they read from interpretations of old manuscripts with references that do not always apply today or they have no reference for things today that were previously unimaginable-heart transplant, airplanes, nuclear bombs. Think about it-the working women of the old days were prostitutes, if the elderly or women had no families or men to care for them (Ruth and Naomi), then their lives would be destitute. Girls were married as young as 13y/o and it was almost impossible for a man to transition out of the station of life in which he was born. Christian practices differ depending on where you live or from differing households.

Religion breeds anger and hatred. The quickest way to create animosity is to put two people with differing religious beliefs in the same room. Due to each person’s interpretation, even those who claim to belong to the same denomination cannot always agree. The religious zealots can be so dogmatic that if you do not agree, then you are automatically sinful and going to hell. If you want to see how easily a Christian can sin, then challenge his or her beliefs.

Happy Christian? When someone drill in your head all the don’ts, you spend your life being very conscious of every boundaries or rules you should not cross. This can make Christian life very miserable. Look at the 10 commandments Exodus 20 and even the Love chapter 1 Corin 13 and make note of all the don’ts. What if they were written in the positives? Your God is the only God you should love and service. There is no need for graven images because he is always with you. You should always honor life which is a blessing from God. You should be respectful of things that belong to others, you should give God praise when your neighbor is blessed etc. What would happen if Christians speak that way to others?

Getting Caught Up. The highly religious are so quick to write you off when you are “doing something wrong” in their eyes. They are quick to judge very harshly, they are quick to condemn, they are quick to slap you with the ‘good book’ than share, they are quick to shut you down than listen, they are quick to be right and therefore be righteous.  We keep forgetting that there are so many ways to worship: John the Baptist did things differently from Peter, who was different from Paul, who was different from Mother Theresa who was different from the Chaplain on the battlefield of Afghanistan or the lay woman in Uganda.  We constantly put God in our own narrow box and call that truth.

God’s Agenda. God did NOT promise everyone that they would get all the desires of their hearts no matter how good it sounds. King David wanted to build the temple but it was taken away from him and given to his son King Solomon. The only guarantee that the New Testament made was about an afterlife which is either good or bad (most people cannot agree on what those will truly look like); however, for everything before that, life is either choices or predestined (depends on your interpretation).  So, telling others that they are putting things out of God’s order or trying to rush his agenda makes no sense if you believe that God is always in control no matter what. Believe it or not, sometimes good things can come out of bad choices, situations or mistakes. Sometimes you do everything right and it all turns out poorly. Who is to say that was not God’s plan? After all, Christians believe Judas’ betrayal which played a part in Jesus’ suffering and death was the catalyst for something good.

Religion is not all bad or all good. It is usually the way we interpret it and implement it in our lives. One person uses religion to chop off someone’s head while someone else uses it to feed the poor. One person uses it to uplift someone while the other person uses it to cast judgment. One person finds freedom while someone uses to restrict and confine. I was taught to be dogmatic in my beliefs and take the interpretation of others as gospel. The moment I broke away from such rigidity, I realized there was more freedom to understand God, conflict, doubt and also more relevant and real life applicable questions that does not have clear Biblical answers.

 

 

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Accepting Death: Finding Comfort in a Belief in God


I am awake at an unreasonable hour due to a rare bad dream. The dream was unrealistic and something out of an exorcist episode; however, when I woke up, my first thought was towards a video that was forwarded to me. The video captured the death of some people in a car who were trapped in rushing flood waters. It was not the most appropriate video to forward and I deleted the message. I hate feeling like a spectator to such things.

The video resurfaced some death and dying issues I have been occasionally dealing with particularly after the sudden death of my young niece. Like most people, I am not unfamiliar with death and funerals but her passing was more bothersome due to her age and how sudden the body can go into distress without much forewarning. I thought I had made peace with the fear and accepted the inevitable of death but apparently not so well.

If you are a Christian, then you are familiar with the Bible’s occasional and scant details about life after death. For the faithful people,  they go to heaven where everything is rosy and the bad people get something else. As she laid lifeless, my thoughts were not about heaven or hell. The thing I remembered about the body of my niece was how empty she looked. There was no life and her body was just a stuffed shell. It is almost like a beautiful house that is vacant- it is no longer a home but a structure. I could not connect the person to the body. In my denomination, we interpret the Bible’s comparison of death to a person sleeping but the spirit is no longer there, the person is unaware of the happenings in the world and the spirit is at rest until the official judgment and resurrection day as talked about in Revelations.

The fear of death is prevalent in some cultures while in others, it is seen as a journey to embrace. I have to embrace some kind of positive belief about the afterlife in order to be at full peace with death.  For someone with Christian beliefs, that positive belief is in God. With the one year anniversary of her death about a month away and the terminal illness of my mother, the subject of death is very prominent and so is the subject of faith. I am not implying that I will be one of those who makes it through the Pearly Gates because my many sins are always before me. However, so is the ability to pray and I use it frequently. This is God’s show and I am just the player. Whatever the final judgment for my life, I cannot go through life with a fear of what is on the other side. It can become overwhelming particularly knowing that life is a gift that can be taken away at a moment. Plus, it is disturbing my sleep.

When someone is dying, he typically enjoys or cherishes the moments he has left. For those of us who do not have specific timelines, we freak and stress at the slightest things. I am very guilty. It has become standard practice that we cherish something more when we know we will lose it. I have never been afraid of living and I know that I have to restart my life and death  reconciliation. It is not an easy process being comfortable with the unknown, trusting the words of an age-old manuscript and having no eyewitness who can come back and give full details about life on the other side. It is just something I need to do by trusting in God. Everyone needs to have faith in something and God is my choice.

A quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi “Live as if you know you were to die tomorrow; Learn as if you were to live forever”

Blessings Smoke Signal


While rummaging on Facebook, I came across an inspirational post. The gist of it was what may seem like a disappointing tragedy could turn out to be God’s smoke signal that attracts his blessings. I honestly have to say that I tend to ignore most of those religious inspirational babblings. Maybe I am not at that place in which they do anything for me or I just do not subscribe to random sappiness. However, on those rare occasions when I am looking for some clarity, a sappy religious inspirational post hits the spot. Tonight was such a moment.

Being stressed to the point you are drained of your usual resiliency, can lead to a path down a long dark road.  It can lead to a point of losing one’s self in which you do not recognize yourself, your own thoughts or actions. The max stress point pushes you out of your comfort zone but not in a good direction. It pushes to the point in which you are trying to find relief or resolution in the most sinister or inappropriate of behaviors, places and people. There is a consistent loss of direction, identity and clear end goal. In other words, it can drive you to a slow destruction of mind, body, soul, morals etc.

There is the Proverb that says idle hands are the devil’s workshop but so is feeling desperate – desperate for the blessing you have been praying for or the miracle you want to happen yesterday or the pain you want to be replaced by joy, or the peace you are hoping would eliminate your turmoil etc.

‘Wait on the Lord.’ I really do not believe that most believers are impatient. I believe they are long-suffering. In the grand scheme of our lives, most of us may live for no greater than 70 years so waiting for a blessing that may take 10+ years of our adult lives is definitely a long time. While our lives on the earth is supposed to be temporary, it is still our lives and the only one we have to live in the here and now. Therefore, waiting for a blessing that we are not sure will come can drive anyone batty.

It becomes very difficult to have hope in the midst of your life turning upside down. It is very difficult to not just throw your hands in the air and say I am done. It is very difficult to not venture to the dark side because it is so much easier to be bad than good. It is very difficult to continue to believe when the negative unexpected happens and you have no control. There is that helpless feeling that starts to creep into your mind occasionally then over time, without a blessing, it permeates every aspect of your being. It spreads very quickly like an aggressive cancer. It ruins you in ways you could never have imagined. The journey down the dark road has begun.

I really do not know what to expect from God; however, at every religious corner, the Christian will tell you to ‘wait’ because He will answer your prayers or send a blessing in disguise when you least expect it. Actually, almost everyone has a cheery positive religious answer to any distress in your life. I resist this always sunny Christian disposition because reality has never fully reflected that sentiment. Life is filled with good and bad things. If the blessing we are asking for never comes, it forces us to accept that shitty things do happen but we can compensate in other ‘blessed’ areas of our lives. ‘Sure your legs and arms were blown off while you were serving your country but look on the bright side  you are alive and have a roof over your head and food to eat.’

We take our blessings where we can get it even if it is not in the area for which we were praying. Christian are told to ask God for anything but not expect everything because sometimes we are asking for too much and we need to learn to be satisfied with what we have because it may seem like greed or being ungrateful which is the devil; however, if you are long-suffering then it shows religious dedication and a strong belief in God but then God might be telling you no but you are not listening; but then God might give you what he thinks you need which does not manifest in the way you expect so you should continue to pray without ceasing… phew!!! did you catch all that?

The longer you wait for the blessing the easier it is to become blinded.  The longer you wait for your blessing the more you have to fight to believe and have hope. The more issues that need resolution the more you struggle to stay afloat with all that emotional and psychological weight.  Despite the struggle, every now and then something comes along and jolts you back to your senses with some clarity. It is a minor reprieve from the burden that allows you a moment to breathe in order to refocus, refresh and regroup.

Inner Demons


In the religious world, there is good and evil and both are always fighting against each other. The Christians are caught in the middle and we constantly struggle to do and focus on the things that are good. It is sometimes a daily struggle hence the reason the bible says pray without ceasing. If you have been in the religious world for a while, then you know there are some universally accepted rights and wrongs.

Christians always have a moralistic struggle at one or more times in their lives. It’s a fact and we run to comfort scriptures like Romans 12:12 “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulations, continuing instant in prayer.” I am usually deviant in my thoughts and behaviors so during my struggles, I run to scriptures like Romans 8:14-15 “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” For me, this is just a reminder of my human frailty.

This morning I scrolled through Facebook and someone liked a Christian inspiration testimony. Paraphrase: The lady noted her success in her life: married at a young age, kids and both her and spouse are completing higher ed degrees and she attributed it all to her faith, God’s timing and protection. Maybe it’s due to my line of work, but I read such inspirational posts with some cynicism and my thought is “good for them, you are the lucky ones.”

Lots of people do not have their blessings laid out so nicely and some have greater struggles than others (think Aleppo). While reading that post, I was thinking about two things: My current inner demons and that of a new behavioral health patient.  Patient X’s inner demons are a doozy which were created from childhood to experiencing a number of very traumatic events throughout X’s life. Patient X had held it together successfully for many years but the final trauma pushed X to the edge and X is starting to slowly fall apart at the seams. X engaged in self punishment of personal life and career. I do not compare my demons to X’s but if I did, then mine would pale significantly; actually most people’s worst would not measure up. The point is no matter the nature of the demons, each of us still have to face them and sometimes they seem greater than God’s promise of protection and strength “he will not give us more than we can manage.”

The mental battle is epic. I tell patients that doing the right thing always seem to be the hardest. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Ahhh… yes.. that peace that passes all understanding can be darn near elusive. However, when you do find it, life is wonderful but it does not always seem to stay too long. Life or the mind gets into a fight to hold onto the peace that is suppose to be so good for you. The constant battle of the inner demons gets tiresome. People fall away from God and decency because we want the battle to be over and we surrender to whatever we were fighting. The loss of hope and not finding even a glimmer of light from anywhere can be psychologically, emotionally and physically devastating. The battle takes a toll. It leaves behind distrust, despair, feeling defeated, emotionally broken and worst case turning to things that are not the best for us such as people, food, alcohol, drugs, sex and suicide.

Patient X is at the beginning of the battle. I would love to tell X that Jesus can make it better but that’s equivalent to telling someone with a gaping wound ‘let me kiss it and it will all go away.’ Unless God plans to do a divine intervention, Patient X has a major fight on hand. God does not take away our struggles or banish our demons- that would be way too easy. We have to make choices about how we will handle our demons. We have to use all the spiritual, cognitive and earthly supports in which we can get. We will make shitty choices ‘do the thing you should not do’ and we will make good choices. We will exhibit our human frailty in all it’s glory, we will get tired of the fight and we will want to roll over and play dead. I have heard enough patients say that they wish they just did not wake up. It’s not about suicide; it’s about wanting a little bit of peace and calmness of the mind. (Matrix fan) It’s sort of like that scene in the last Matrix when Trinity and Neo were fighting the machines and their ship went up above the darkness and clouds and she saw and felt the radiance of the sun and exclaimed “beautiful.”

You know your inner demons and you know the path you have to take or will be in search of the path you need to take. We can’t ignore them. There is no rule that says you have to get it right the first or even third time. The challenge will be to keep fighting until those demons do not have any power anymore.

Misplaced Identity


I do believe that events in our lives have a significant effect on our personalities (a set of traits we display throughout our lives) and subsequently, the choices we make which forms our identity. There are those who spend their lives living for others – pleasers/givers – who never took the time to find out about themselves. There are those who believe the world revolves around them – narcissist/takers – whose sole purpose is about them. There are the rest of us who fall on the spectrum between the both.

For the last few months, I saw a recurring theme in my life and few others. I recognized that no matter how much we think we know ourselves, at times, we misplace our identities when we become desperate and in need of something we want. What I mean by this is I saw a woman who professed to have strong Christian beliefs become disparaging and demeaning of anyone very easily because she is experiencing work  burnout. I heard a conservative single person accept suggestive behaviors from someone who is considered newly married with a young family and professed love for spouse. I see compromise of long held values bent to fit a desire. I see loss of self-respect due to fear of the unknown. I see a willingness to compromise on things that will not be healthy in the long term. I see putting one’s better judgment aside to cater to someone else’s selfishness. I see the wearing down of time which makes people go soft on things that would not have been tolerated.

In life we want the perfect everything. We want a perfect God, perfect families, perfect spouses, perfect children, perfect friends, perfect jobs etc. Please don’t lie to yourself if you say you don’t want perfection. However, we know there is nothing on this earth that is perfect. So, when we are saddled with less than sublime contentment, our views and behaviors deteriorate over time. We go after or accept people and situations that require us to put aside or modify our values and beliefs. This pushes us to make less than ideal choices with a short-sighted view of a moment in the rest of our lives. We misplace our identities.

How many times have we read/watched a news story and someone always says “[he/she] was a good person. [he/she] would never have done….” For Christians, David was a good boy who turned into God’s champion; however, this was the same man who arranged a murder and engaged in infidelity. Judas was one of Jesus’ 12 and he was chosen because he had a consistently good character like the others but allowed himself to be bribed by money. Samson’s strength came from his beliefs which manifested in not cutting his hair; however, he compromised for love and companionship. The Bible and real life are filled with people misplacing their identities in a short-sighted compromising view in order to find a piece/peace that was missing at that moment in time.

We all want to feel whole -emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually. We all want to wake up every morning and truly thank God without asking for anything. However, for the majority of this broken world, we wake up and say a prayer of thanks along with a request or two. Some requests have been years in the asking and others are from recent overwhelming stressors. Whatever the situation, a feeling of desperation, urgency or last resort, can reek havoc on the identities we have carefully crafted to give us strength which are grounded by certain values and beliefs.

Do not be fooled. We all know or have that gut discomfort when we stray from ourselves. We know something is wrong but we are not always ready to face it or fix it until we find our confidence in our identities again. Life is not fair buttercups and sometimes it hands us and we accept a bag of sh*t (that may or may not explode). In reaction, we compromise or stray from what we hold dear because we truly believe this is the best way to feel in control. It’s that accumulated moment of weakness, desperation, frustration, longing, tiredness, impatience, out of ideas, dissatisfaction, disappointment, disillusionment etc that can be powerful. So powerful, we forget who we are, what we belief,  and what we are about. We forget our identities; we forget ourselves.

The bottom line is people make mistakes and err in behaviors. Sometimes we identify it quickly and sometimes we make it drag on for years. However, there is something liberating when you find your identity again and put yourself back on track. There is something freeing – our stomachs aren’t in knots, our minds aren’t constantly preoccupied, we aren’t always uneasy – that happens when we make those changes. This is not always easy because it means we have to undo a situation or take responsibility for uncharacteristic behaviors. When we remove the *cognitive dissonance, then our minds, bodies, beliefs and behaviors are in sync again. Life is a series of ups and downs and we all have our weak moments. We all have lost a bit of our identities in the past, currently and will in the future. However, its only tragic when we allow ourselves to be defeated and stay defeated. To err is human and you know what else is human? To change,  to recognize and acknowledge that we make less than great choices in a state of defeat but we can still find and reinstate our misplaced identities.

*cognitive dissonance (partial definition): mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values.

 

Is God Silent?


The answer to that question depends on each person’s definition of God’s communication. For some, God is speaking through the occasional ‘miracles’ we experience or read about in the news. For others, God is speaking through the craziness of this world and for another group, things are set in motion and God is on an extended vacation from humanity and no one is minding the crazy house.

My personal answer to that question is yes actually a resounding yes. I do believe that God is silent and everything good, bad or indifferent in our lives is up for interpretation as to whether it’s God’s hands or other. Take for instance, the death of a child can be a blessing or a curse. For the family who loss a child, it’s hardly a blessing but for the family whose child received a vital organ from someone else’s loss, then that’s God’s answers to their prayers. As fallible human beings, we classify certain events as ‘blessings’ to desperately make sense of the chaos-whether these things are blessings or not remain to be seen. If the child rejects the organ and dies sooner than expected, then was that a blessing with a curse or all blessing or all curse? Should each parent be grateful to have had a short period with their child? Was that God’s will  or the devil’s will or both? or should I just leave God out of it all together because shit happens?

Looking at the world’s dysfunctional stage, there is no denying that human beings have progressively loss their compassion and kindness for fellow men. While there is still ‘good,’ it seems our humanity has been allowed to denigrate to something less than animalistic. A systematic repeat of history. Around every corner of world events, the Christians become alarmist to the antichrist or the end of the world. If you believe in your Bible, then accepting that piece of prophecy is inevitable. As a child growing up in one church or another, there have been varying degrees of the signs of the end times and various figures identified as the ushering in of the age of the antichrist. As we denigrate and destroy ourselves through the misinterpretation of what we think God meant by this scripture or that belief, we start to lose the basic teneth of “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” or if we want it broken down clearer, then reread the love chapter 1 Corinthians 13.

As I have said in previous posts, I find this good vs evil dynamics to be a very twisted and sadistic game-a game of pain and destruction in which the believers are instructed that suffering is good and they are expecting some kind of happy perfect paradise ending. The hunger games on steroids. We all want that prize which is specific to our beliefs-heaven, virgins, good karma, higher caste or peace on earth.

There are very few things in this world that I would attribute to divine intervention and they have nothing to do with miracles but human beings making conscious decisions to “do unto others.” While the Bible tells us to not look to man but look up, I disagree wholeheartedly with that simplistic line and concept. We should do both because our lives are not lived in a God in heaven vacuum. If we took the idea of God and heavenly rewards out of the picture, our lives should still look the same which is the desire to do the best we can with what we have – somewhat like this man: CNN Heroes Tribute Narayanan Krishnan. (If you type in his name in YouTube, you will see how his choices makes us put ours into perspective). While one group interpret words on some pages and behead others in the name of their God, someone else sees suffering and renders assistance in the name of choice which gives glory to his God.

God is watchfully silent and we play the game. We interpret his words and make choices based off those beliefs. We have the choice to hold out our hand to someone else or point a gun. We decide to perpetuate hate due to differences (you name a difference and there is prejudice) and at times we delude ourselves into thinking God sanctioned our actions or choices. Life can be both a blessing and a curse; however, for some, more curses than blessings and others more blessings than curses. So which is it God’s intervention or your choices that results in consequences?

Despite my ongoing conflict with the concept and role of God plus the thought of attending church as an unproductive use of my time, I still say a prayer when I wake up and when I go out of the house. I still say grace over my food. Ironically, I still pray for things and ask God for guidance and answers. Maybe it’s a force of habit or I still have a mustard seed worth of faith. I guess I am still not ready to toss the idea of religion and God into the trash.

Is Jesus Enough?


A poster asked the question? Is Jesus enough? If Jesus is enough, then why are Christians so eager to get married? My response is that Jesus is never enough. You may be aware of the saying that all you need is Jesus. However, if we are to be truly honest, then that statement gets thrown out with the bathwater.

So, let me start my ‘blasphemous’ observations. If you are on social media, it can become littered with good intentioned Christians who frequently post ‘all you need is Jesus’ or ‘leave it all up to Jesus’ inspirations. While I enjoy reading them and they serve as a great pick-me-up, they are lacking in the harsh reality of being a Christian. For example, someone posted an inspiration gone wrong stating “Somebody is in the hospital right now begging God for the opportunity you have. Don’t you dare go to bed depressed. Shake it off!” The response was overwhelmingly negative because there were a number of people who are suffering from clinically diagnosed depression who could not just “shake it off” in Jesus’ name. Interestingly, the poster did not clarify or addressed the backlash.

If Jesus or God was enough, then our lives would mirror those of monks, priests and the John the Baptists types. We would be like the ravens that do not worry for food, shelter, companionship or producing off-springs. We would be truly free from all the cares of the world and spending all our time in full and complete devotion to God and spreading his word. However, if you look at our lives we are so far from the “Jesus is enough” concept.

The truth is we like the idea of sprouting that phrase but in true reality we neither desire nor can live to that standard. Christians get married because they want to feel loved and share in companionship. Christians have children because they want to pass on their love, have a human to own and care for, to pass on their legacy and expand their family. Christians maintain close contact with family and friends to build support. Christians touch, hug and make physical contact with others to feel human interactions. Christian couples show intimacy just because it feels good. Christians work for and buy nice things to have a sense of accomplishment and enjoy various comforts from their labour. In other words, we have wants and needs that the love or belief in Jesus is not always able to fill and there is nothing wrong with accepting that fact. There is little that we do in our day to day lives that has anything to do with spreading Christianity and  belief in God.

Believing in God relates to a guideline on how we are to worship the creator and use of the Christian best practice guide in our daily lives. The Bible teachings of God was not meant to be a replacement of living in this world. It is to help us survive emotionally and spiritually in this world. Jesus will never be enough for majority of the people who believe in Christianity. Our human nature requires more than reading daily scriptures, having faith in the unseen, praying to a God we can’t see, feel, hear (his own voice) or touch, or going to church. Besides John the Baptist, none of the Bible characters went through their lives in complete religious isolation. They had families, friends, disciples, lives and a belief in God.

God should be a part of our lives not some improbable idea that he should be exclusive in our lives. If, as a Christian, that exclusivity is your calling, then God bless you. On the other hand, most of those ‘Jesus is all you need’ inspiration quotes are just empty gestures to make you feel good for a moment but not a realistic endeavor. We become so pious that we forget to make Christianity realistic to our every day stressors. Instead of some generic quote, how about a true testimony of one’s struggles and how the belief in God applies. Being a Christian is not a straightforward or smooth journey, some days you feel close to God as if he was there in person and other days you struggle to understand why you believe.

No, for me, Jesus is not enough while living on this earth. In the past, as preachers would emphasize this, I struggled greatly to live to that concept. There was a certain amount of guilt with not being able to fit neatly into this idea. I finally gave it up and accepted the fact that in my reality it does not work. As Christians, we sketch our own journey in life while holding on to a belief that there is a God who cares.

I am a Sinner


I am a Sinner with a capital S. This is not a proud status but it certainly is a very real status. In my current state, I will not be one of the 144,000 mentioned in the Book of Revelation. In my current state, I will not be one of the righteous in the first resurrection. In my current state, I will more likely be in the group with the other people. You know, the group in which most religious people either do not mention or speak of badly.

How do I know that I am a sinner? The Bible of course. When Christians read the Bible, they do not imagine themselves being in the group of others. They imagine themselves sitting at the feet of God with a goofy smile in an all-white and bright paradise. If one listens very carefully, Christians will admit to being sinners but not really. They admit it only in the context in which the Bible says we are sinners and lost because of our human nature which was corrupted in the garden. There are other passages that noted we are born in sin and shaped in inequity or that section which reads not one is righteous except….

I can list all my sins to myself and God. I know when I am trying to justify something that is Biblically contradictory. I really do know but in order to stay out of the other group I lie to myself. Every now and then (actually a lot more than I want to admit), I am totally comfortable with lying to myself. I give it some time before I am slapped in the face with the Biblical truth and that becomes the ‘O shit, my bad” moment. You know, the log in the eye analogy. Yep, I can admit to having the log-in-my-eye infection (I guarantee that it comes without the fishy odour).

I am the antithesis of a true Christian believer and here are some of the reasons. If you missed most of my blog entries, I have been on church sabbatical for a few years with an occasional appearance. I cannot stand religious rhetoric (oddly I can manage other rhetoric but less tolerant when it comes to Christianity). If being a believer is a matter of life or death, then speak to me plainly in basic and raw human needs and I will understand and show more respect. There is a time for everything under the sun. There is a time to be highfalutin and there is a time to keep it simple stupid (KISS). I really detest majority Christian gatherings because there is a ridiculous and compulsive need to be the perfect Christian. It’s hard to see the real person. This is either a gift or curse but most often than not I am usually able to detect bullshit and can be easily repelled.

I am the antithesis of a true Christian believer because there are aspects of the Bible that does not ‘sit well’ with me. If I could get away with just doing ‘good deeds,’ and having my own private Father-daughter time with God, then I would be the best Christian ever. Do not be mistaken, there are amazing aspects to Christianity – the love from wonderful people, the caring for others, someone on high looking out for your best interest in the afterlife etc. If that was all there was to making it through the Pearly gates, then I would definitely be the first in line.

I am a defiant person who still believes in Christianity. I see the value and the benefit in having a belief in God; however, I am still defiant to certain things which therefore puts me in the group with the others. My sins are my own and I take full responsibility (as I should) for every single one of them. Even if I did get my act fully on God’s track, I would still not be a typical Christian. I know that I do not fit into that box. I am a sinner and not in that stupid religious cliché term. I am the real deal – you know, the ones that Jesus died for on the cross but too stubborn to get it right. I have no intentions of bullshitting anyone with a pretty picture of me. What you see and hear is exactly as is (I am still allowed to have my own personal secrets), take it or leave it because I may not be a proud sinner but I am certainly not hiding or pretending.

 

 

Declaring God Under Fire


I have been known to wake up from odd dreams every now and again. This morning was one such situation. Besides it being annoying to have my sleep disturbed, the dreams usually put me in a state of great contemplation about my life existence.

This dream in question had a religious focus. In the dream, I was in a bedroom with my older sister and we are awake in a dark room after hearing a noise. I move to lock two doors and we listen intently for something going on outside the bedroom. There is a sense of life threatening fear and in the dream, I realize that this threat was due to religion – more specifically it was our Christian belief. Apparently, we try to secure ourselves from Billy Graham who is wearing an old nazi era German uniform.

The scene jumps to me walking alone downhill on a long road and I pass an abandon car on the side with a man who looks like Denzel Washington slumped over the dash with a bullet in his head. I pass the vehicle only to see Denzel getting up to talk to me – he was pretending to be dead.  He is telling me that people were being separated and he made his escape. The dream implies Denzel and I share the same Christian belief. We see a group of 3 average women with rifles coming and we hide but not very well. The women ask us about the location of a specific person in which I vaguely answer and one woman informs us that we need to be careful and then I wake up.

My dreams are most often weird but I can usually remember a specific theme. In this dream, there is a religious persecution theme much like Hitler to the Jews. I typically wake up thinking about my spirituality and relationship with God. I could not help but think that if my life was in danger due to my belief would I deny God?

It is so easy to be a devoted Christian during times of peace. However, would that be the same if my life depended on it? Would I be one of those denying Christ just like Peter when I am under duress? We would all like to think we are the exception to the rule; however, I can truly say that I do not know what my answer would be if faced with religious persecution.

The idea of death can be very scary even for a devoted Christian. We value life so much despite having a steadfast belief that there are better things to embrace with God. I can admit to being a religious scaredy cat when it comes to death. I think the fear of death, even with a promise of paradise, comes from our value we place on this world. I think there is an underlying belief that if we are no longer present in the world we will be missing a whole lot of stuff.

The other side effect to the religious dreams is a quick overview of my daily value in life. While we still have to live in this world, the Bible does tell us to focus on things above. Such dreams usually call into question the frivolousness of my ‘important stuff’ that does not seem to have much value in comparison to what God is offering. The dreams are usually an intermittent reminder that there is a greater force in charge and I need to get my relationship with God in order.

For every one of my random religious dreams, there are many people in different parts of the world who are forced to choose due to their Christian allegiance. I do not know the true meaning of religious persecution; however, many others at this moment can attest to it or have lost their lives for it. I feel blessed to have religious liberty; however, it does behoove us to really ask ourselves the question of what would we do if our lives depend on acknowledging or deny our relationship with the Christian God.

God’s Plans Are His Not Mine


The Bible says very clearly that God has HIS plans for us. He is the author of HIS creation and therefore knows how it will all end. We are here to fall in line.

It amuses me when people testify that God answered their prayers or believers share an enthusiastic belief that God has great things planned for their lives. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that in HIS great plan there are some people who are destined to play certain roles in this game of good vs. evil. God already knows the beginning from the end; He sees what’s in the heart; so it stands to humanly reason that our prayers (God knows what we want even before we ask) are mere ritualistic tribute.

Prayer is comforting. I still do it and it typically sounds more like a one sided conversation. I do not go into details about what I do/don’t want anymore because He already knows. He also knows whether he will give or not give it to me. He knows if he will give me something completely different from what I have been asking. He can even give me something I never thought about. The prayer is merely for my peace of mind and trying to keep some connection. I usually end my prayer with something like “well it’s all up to you” or “if it’s your will.” This is not a flippant ending but an acknowledgement that I do believe God is in charge of everything – whether I wake up in the morning, my next job, my family circumstances etc.

Since childhood, I have been given various images of God. The one image that still lasts even until today is very closely related to a depiction of Zeus with his lightening bolt. As I got older, God was simultaneous presented like a loving father as well. As much as I have tried, I never saw God as a father or at least not in the sense that the clergy wants us to see HIM. I have no face, no voice, no concrete personal experiences to which I can attribute a father role. All I was given are Bible stories. To me, God is the Creator who requires a level of obedience in order to be on his heaven list. I respect HIS intricate handiwork which can be magnificent – take a moment to look at a perfectly crafted baby or a sunset. I respect HIS desire for his human creations to show love to each other at all times. However, feeling a sense of emotional love, which is required, is difficult. It’s the equivalent of falling madly in love with some guy whom I have never seen or heard but only received letters about his life as inspired by others. Love in the face of pure absence is HIS plan not mine.

I do believe that we are either playing God’s game, the devil’s game or a mixture of both. If I had my say, then I would prefer just God’s game – the one where he wants all to experience no more tears or death. Unfortunately, there is a sourpuss running around mucking things up (Peter did say that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking those he can devour). There is no such thing as our game or true free will. We play a part that is already controlled by one party or the other (yikes, it’s starting to sound like the Matrix).

The world is chaotic which is nothing new and the Christians are still preaching the signs of the times. Actually, they have been preaching it since ages past. Everyone seem to think they have deciphered the mind of God. Each religion and each branch of every religion seem to believe they cornered God’s absolute truth. They are so sure they speak the will of God whether in showing kindness or atrocities. If you step back far enough, one can see that the same ‘play’ has been used over and over since the dawn of time. Its HIS plan not ours.

It is still HIS plan whether we like it or not. It is his plan whether we pray or not, whether we believe or not, and whether we are on the good or the bad side. Despite my tenuous relationship with God, I don’t ever forget that he exists (that is my faith) and I will certainly never forget that HE is in full control no matter what happens or what we think we want.

NOTE: I did not add any scriptures because I do believe most Christians have scoured their Bibles and have read the references. However, if anyone do need chapter and verse, then I will be happy to supply.