As I've mentioned before, I was Catholic until I was about ten years old, and since then I've been hurtling through various strains of what might be defined as the American evangelical movement. I started really believing around the time it seems that almost everyone around me stopped thinking it meant anything and I'd run into friends from way back when who say "you still believe in that organized religion stuff?"
And I do.
I'm thankful that I have the Nicene creed burned into my memory, that I grew up raised with the whole idea of loving God with one's heart, soul, mind, and strength, where it was okay to ask questions and deal with hard answers in a search for truth.
I hear people say "I stopped believing in God when I look at the people that believe in him" is like saying a band sucks because you don't like the fans. Yes, they might sometimes be losers, but that has nothing to do with it.
And thus I have no patience for bishops who say that congregants will be excommunicated for meeting on their own after a church has closed. Who is any mere mortal to say that when it is between God and each individual?
I don't have much patience with the culture warriors on either side and the dominionistic attitudes of both. If we revert back to the nonexistent past when everyone "had values," how good is that, and it's not realistic. People were just as bad then as they are now, it was just that certain things weren't talked about.
And even if we all "fought poverty," lived communally, and bought fair trade coffee, that would not end the power struggles and global conflict that have plagued this planet for thousands of years, only now instead of spears and knives, it's "smart bombs" and kalashnikovs.
I don't even want to talk about this whole "Ground Zero Mosque" thing. Yes, you can't build a church in Saudi Arabia and you can't go to Mecca if you're not Muslim. Whatever. I really don't care where people build their houses of worship and the thing isn't probably going to happen anyway.
Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin don't speak for me. I don't understand how so many people talk about this guy who's a Mormon who believes in all sorts of weird things and is raking in loads of cash by antagonizing and stoking the fires of fear and paranoia. But when I went to DC in '06 with some friends and ended up on the Mall, I saw the same arrogance in Brian Mclaren and Jim Wallis as a church service became a political statement saying "we care more than George Bush does" rather than a sacred act of communing with God in the presence of each other. So often we become like those we criticize and cannot see it.
I love that among the closest followers of Christ, there was Matthew, who worked for a corrupt and bloated government that made a fortune off of ripping off the powerless and Simon who had spent most of his time trying to overthrow that same government. Both of them left where they were in life to follow, though I'm sure they had arguments about "the system" too. But that ceased to matter because of the transcendence of who God is.
I can't stand all these other things we do that we say are "of God" and are justified by scriptures taken out of context that usually amount to social control and also the occasional session of something resembling group therapy with a religious veneer. This is such a waste of time, and I have no shame in saying that I have walked out when I've realized this more times than I could count.
I can't deal with leaders who talk mostly about themselves and their personal views on things that have nothing to do with their Creator but they claim that it does. And when I or someone else speaks up and says, "Hey! There's something wrong here!" we are ignored, shouted down, claimed to be unholy for questioning, claimed to be judgmental or critical, told we "don't care" about good American values or morals, or "don't care" about the poor. It's easy to end on that because it's so severe and so absurdly not true.
But we need critical thinking. God asks for us to trust Him, but He also tells us to be discerning of those who speak in His name.
I crave truth, and with that I crave love. Truth spoken without love can often be so cruel and unfeeling, but love without truth is lethal because it says everything is okay when it's not.