3/9/11

yes, I said Christians scare me (and yes, I realize I am one)

This post is not about Rob Bell or the backlash against him, or even about Ann Voskamp and all of the opinions on her book. Then again, it is. It's about all of that and so much more...

:::::

I am covering my ears. My headphones are even making them disappear, lobes and all.
I am choosing my favorite station on Pandora and all I hear is melody, blocking out the conversations around me in this place. All the people and the grinding of the beans and the boots on hardwood.

It makes me think of the way we do that, burying our heads in the sand, not wanting to hear or see what other people are experiencing, trying not to understand their perspective because we're just so busy with choosing our own songs, our own opinions, our soap box issues.

I grew up around religious people. I guess you could consider me religious but I don't really like that word. I have faith. I believe. It is what it is and I am who I am...a person tuning in to the things that lift me and guide me. I am trying to hear the voice amidst all the instruments, so to speak.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, the way we humans believe things. Arguing about it all isn't rare, so maybe I should be used to people judging and fighting over theological differences, but I'm not. It turns my insides and I turn up my volume to try to drown it out, just like they do over each other. We don't get anywhere, doing that. In social media, we can write soap box tweets and facebook updates and blog posts and then anyone can join in, voicing their opinions, duking it out. It doesn't ever seem to accomplish anything though, so I guess I'm not sure why we're doing it.

When someone disagrees with us, I think it makes us fear our own validity. We're all just so insecure and scared and so if we stay in our camps and hold tightly to our melodies, we just feel better.

I understand that the people who stand on soap boxes in the name of Christian truth believe they must. They believe it is their duty to keep people from believing things they do not agree are true. But here's my question: How can we be acting in love at all when we're playing these songs so loudly, and if something isn't coming from a place of love, where is it coming from? What is the intention? And really, are we getting anywhere by taking the time to bang and clang? By beating the drum of condemnation?

The real voice of truth is drowning in all of these clashing melodies. I thought of that because something is wrong with my actual headphones. The wires are all stretched so the melody is clear but the lyrics are completely muffled. I can't hear the voice. So lately, as I've come across more of this, these posts or sermons or remarks, it all makes me think a lot and then I think out loud here. These issues to fight over come up and then they pass, it all ebbs and flows, I suppose. And when it's flowing, I can't hear the voice. The spirit of love, the intention of grace.

:::::

Most of the time I write about my faith through story here. There's nothing really overt about it. I've only really blatantly professed my Christianity once or twice. I'm totally comfortable with that. It's actually quite purposeful, but I don't want to get into all the reasons why today. I will only mention one of those reasons and it is this:

Christians scare me.

Yes, Christians scare me, and yes, I realize I am one of them. I guess I'm referring specifically to those Christians who bang their drums the loudest, each strike another blow of opinions, of "right," of frustration over anything that isn't played out as they see fit.

I am scared of Christians because I never know what kind I'm going to get and it is so rare to meet one who truly accepts me just exactly as I am, whether conservative or liberal, a drunk or sober, or whether I hold the exact same theology as they do, or not.

I am scared of how much it hurts when I'm talking to a Christian and it seems like all I can hear is a soft harmony, maybe like a violin and then screech! there comes a remark, a comment of harsh opinion that slices through the voice and cuts me or someone else down. I'm scared of how sad that makes me.

I can't figure out how to reconcile that kind of noise with the voice I hear in the stories of Christ.

:::::

I could live on melody alone, I suppose, but I don't want to live in bubbles with other Christians, all of us holding our viewpoints like a harmonica to our mouths, completely missing the point. I can't do that. That scares me the most, that I might miss the point, that I would never hear the voice.

Love. He said it with a clear voice, all accapella-like, when He left. It was very very simple.
But lately what I've been hearing is much like my actual headphones, muffling the voice with melodies too loud. It seems our wires are crossed and then this very simple truth--love--it gets so complicated.

As mushy and trite as it may sound, I can assure you that if we sat together, I would hear you and love you, no matter what you think or believe, where your fears and opinions lie, what melodies and harmonies you choose. I would hear your voice because it's so worth hearing. I would not cover my ears and blast my own safe songs because that scares me too. How would I learn from you and how would I hear the voice of love through you, if I'm not listening?

That is the Christ that I know. One who hears and loves, not one folded down to fit in a box, muffled, to be stood on, to be used to support our viewpoints, to have His words twisted to fit our opinions.

As I finish this post, I'm thinking and thinking and putting all my things in my bag. I'm getting ready to go, back out with all the other people with all their many ways. Suddenly the lyrics to the songs become clear. I can hear the voice, coming directly from the speakers, loud and clear. Because I took my headphones off.

30 clicked right here to comment:

H-Mama said...

i'm right there with you, my friend. (((hugehugs)))

Annette said...

I have read it once and I will read it again and again. I hear layers upon layers unfolding as you speak...

I fear too...
But fortunately Love's acapella is growing louder, free-er, sweeter.

You wrote: "When someone disagrees with us, I think it makes us fear our own validity. We're all just so insecure and scared..." This is so true for me. To have a fellow Christian disagree or even more significantly for me, not respond, sends me to the place of doubt and despondency. I assume that I am the one who is wrong, mis-informed,flawed. I think I fear their judgement more than God's...how sad and wrong is that...
Annette

Robin said...

I have never been a religious person, nor did I grow up in a religious environment. When I became a believer, I gained a relationship with Him. And so far there is no "religion" involved. It feels simple that way, the best way to get to know Him more and more without bogging down the relationship with baggage.

This post is so deep, I think it will require several re-reads! :)

liz said...

My pastor has adressed these same problems. People get hooked on a teaching and want to share it with everyone. Even though it may be dead wrong. Then when the person doesn't accept the teaching or perform the activity required of the teaching (tongues being one)then they are left unbelieving and doubting.

Jami said...

YES! That's it. Love regardless. Listening and love.

Everything you write is so beautiful and honest. I wish I had time to bathe in your light more often!

Angie said...

I love your beautiful soul for Him and for His family! :) I grew up in a rigid (understatement) church where OUR theology was the only right theology. Freed from that in college and beyond, I have so enjoyed having friends that aren't of the same theological bent as I am, where we can discuss our differences, know where we each stand, and love one another just the same as we each push one another to love our Savior more. It is beautiful.

cheairs said...

Thank you for sharing from your heart.You are just a wonderful writer.

It is my son with autism who is teaching me more about my faith than ever before. Oh the things he has taught and continues to teach me.....acceptance, hope, love...the list goes on and on.

Thank you again for sharing

Jo@Mylestones said...

I read this and breathed a deep sad sigh of recognition. They scare me too, and yep I'm one of them...
Excuse the butchering of your beautiful metaphor, but Heather, you're singing my song!

suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} said...

this grieves my heart. i hate the arguing and infighting, too, and i don't know if it's because i've never been part of a strict, dogmatic church or what, but what i read online has NEVER been my experience with the Church--growing up, at college, working at one, or living/worshiping in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

the Church is not ALL like this. real community and grace exists--i pray the we as a community of faith would repent of this un-grace and that seekers would keep seeking--because Christ can truly be found among people of ALL stripes/denominations.

to the discouraged and disheartened, please don't give up on the Church--and more importantly, on God.

(i know heather, you weren't saying you were giving up or anything--but this has just been on my heart lately as so many have expressed fatigue with these embarrassing and shameful representations of Christ's Kingdom.)

Janet Oberholtzer said...

Love this! Totally love all of it.
And especially like this line ...
"How would I learn from you and how would I hear the voice of love through you, if I'm not listening?"

work in progress said...

Amen Sistah! Needing to be right is an act of violence ... and so very un-Jesus.

Amy Nabors said...

They scare me too and I'm one also. Love how you say 'intention of grace'. Grace is missing in so much of the noise that is made in order to be right.

deb colarossi said...

I keep coming back here to "hear" the other voices.

This post is every kind of wonderful.

I want to say so many things, but have been mostly keeping quiet, because , really, what do I know?

I want to say amen, and hell ya and peace be with you.

I want to say that I'm trying every day to be a better person than I was yesterday, and I fail a lot, and then I go to bed thankful for new every morning.

a li'l bit squishy said...

Hi, Heather, I don't often comment on posts that touch on religion or spirituality because I find the messages so deeply layered and far too often full of judgement. I close my ears. I am an atheist who grew up in a Christian home. A very loving, non-judgmental home. Too bad the rest of my "community" wasn't as graceful. And yet, it was not those circumstances which changed my faith. It was simply an intrinsic realization. In my perfect world we would all be free to believe and practice( or not) faith as we know it to be true in our hearts, as long as those beliefs are not hurtful to anyone else. I hear you as I know you hear me. And our melodies are beautiful!

Ann Imig said...

Wow. Amazing post.

heather of the eo said...

Thank you, each of you. I realize this is one of those posts that leaves a person a little unsure how to respond, and that's okay. Any kind of words of response are much appreciated. So yes, thank you.

deb said,
"I want to say that I'm trying every day to be a better person than I was yesterday, and I fail a lot, and then I go to bed thankful for new every morning."

These are humble words and I love them. Thank you.

Jenn said...

Yep! That's why God gave commanded us to first Love the Lord our God with all our hearts and then secondly to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love can do amazing things!

Melissa said...

So very true. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post.

Kate said...

I can't please everyone, or be everything that others wish for me to be. I can't step in their shoes each day, feeling what they feel, or think and do. And I know that the world turns hard and raw against a lot of people, and they shift uncomfortably in the presence of someone who seems able to ride the swells of the chaotic ocean we call life.

I have to just grasp with my own hands what I need for my life, my faith and the grace that gets me to each evening intact. There are days that I shake with anxiety over the simplest of things, yet moments where the sheer enormity of His love for me can make me weep with joy. Those are the tiny slippages that push me through the imperfection I see around me, and tune my ears out to sounds that I don't need to hear. I listen to His love sing loudly for me and I am redeemed. Daily. The brightness of it blinds me to the darkness that others choose to carry around, to throw carelessly at one another who don't abide with them in their indignity over the unfairness of life.

So Heather, I get it. I get this. Once again, you spoke right to my soul. Thank you.

Tessa said...

Wow. I have so much to say to this, but unfortunately have very little time before I have to get ready for work. I agree on SO many levels. I sometimes even have a hard time calling my self a Christian, because my beliefs differ so much from mainstream Western Christianity.
Love- the bottom line. My ears and my heart close up when someone is coming from fear when speaking of God.
Love this post...and your heart.

Sober Julie said...

Closed mindedness is not what God taught, it's never a positive thing wether in religion or not.

I'm happy to be in a Relationship with Jesus, dedicating my life to him and Responding with Love to all others as He would (doing my best on that one)

I agree with your blog, we as humans are apt to judge others when we disagree. In the context of religion it's personal so comes across harshly unless we consiously remember that Jesus's whole life was based on loving one another.

I'd rather mimic that with others, in my Church and daily life.

trishatfox said...

Amen. That's all I have to say. Amen.

Trece said...

Oh Heather - I love you. And you sing to me with such grace.

~dawn said...

Up on a soapbox?!! Puuuhhhlleeaase!
Preach the Gospel; use words "if" you have to

Sharone said...

Yes, this is exactly it. The part about the fear, and about how love solves fear.

I've been thinking a lot about these issues with all the Rob Bell hoopla. We need to be less afraid to take off our headphones, and we also need to be less certain about some things--the things we've interpreted or extrapolated or tried to explain out of the Bible. There's no magic key that deciphers every part of the Bible so that we can perfectly comprehend God and His ways. Some things are crystal clear and unambiguous, but most are not, and it's dangerous to insist that we've found the perfect interpretation to some particular passage or can exactly discern the heart of God on a particular issue that's plaguing politicians, theologians, or society.

We need to be more willing to admit that there might be other possibilities besides our own--and that believers in those possibilities can coexist with us without invalidating anyone's faith--and less willing to proclaim that we know the mind of God. We need to be a lot more mindful that while one day we will see in full, in this life we see only through a glass, darkly. And we need to be willing to love one another as we're called to, in the meantime.

Well look at me, on my own soapbox. Oops.

I love that you wrote this, Heather. It's brave and beautiful, like you.

Amy @ Never-True Tales said...

Yet another post from you that makes me certain we're some sort of blogging twins. I agree, agree, agree. And would go so far as to say Christians don't scare me...they make me angry. And I am one, too. But sadly, more and more lately, I decline from identifying myself that way. I feel I'm losing my faith by attending church. In my church experience in several places, if you're a thinker, you're not going to fit in, and that's so wrong. I flinch at the black and white message being taught to my kids, but also want them grounded in faith...able to hear the voice, as you say. I'm very conflicted about it, and would write a blog post about it, but it'd be all muddled!

Amy said...

You should perhaps talk about it more, as an example of how to do it. I am a Christian, of the Roman Catholic persuasion, I know the Big Message is LOVE, and so I get this!

I love this quote from John Paul Richter: "People will not bear it when advice is violently given. Hearts are flowers; they remain open to the softly falling dew, but shut up in the violent downpour of rain."

I think this sentiment applies perfectly here.

Casey Freeland said...

You have this gift in your writing. I don't even know what to call it. You have a knack for this... It's like a reverse personification. You give inanimate qualities to human emotions. It's quite poetic. Very nice post.

Cheers,

Casey

Susannah said...

this is a super insightful post. i, too, was raised in a Christian home (i mean my dad was a pastor!) and continue to follow jesus. but now i rarely self-identify as a christian. not because i am no longer one; not at all- but instead i saw i am following jesus or walking in the way of jesus, because, well, christians (i'm sure myself included) do and say so many stupid things to and about each other. it grieves me. and yet at the same time, i know that's why we need us some jesus. because we are flawed like that.even though, seriously?, it is so freaking hard to love some of the people who identify as christians. the end.

great post.

Karen Duggan said...

Hmmm, what can I say, other than AMEN. I often think that Christ might not like how people have twisted 'the word.' Thanks for smoothing it out again.

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