Sunday, November 05, 2006



After I wrote "Derailed," a friend and I chatted about it, among other things. Here's the log. To save space, rather than identify the speakers I've put my comments in italic and left hers in Roman. Note that in a few places our responses are, as is typical of text chat, interleaved. You'll be able to make sense of it.

You know, you talk a lot about "prevailing thought in modern Christianity" but it is seldom the thought that I have encountered.

Different tracks.
but it reflects a lot of what I read, and between the lines.


But you're right... I should probably be more specific.

I was just reading the part about not asking awkward questions, but I've always been encouraged to go to God with everything, awkward or not.

You were, I think, lucky.
I've known very few Christians who seemed to feel free to ask questions.

That was the experience across a Methodist, two Baptist, and several Assemblies churches.

That's good.

I know you had a mainline experience when young, and then whatever that experience was when you were a young adult.

Presbyterian, yes. Maybe they were open to questions, but I just didn't see it.

Is it OK if I honestly share with you how I feel when I read that?

Go ahead.

These are just my feelings, not validated by anything else, understand.


It hurts me a lot. Because I love the church and the many wonderful people I have met there and that have encouraged me. I feel like you dismiss it all and appear to be saying that the established Christian establishment is all branded with the same brush, and it is bad.

I can understand that.
But a lifetime of bouncing off of organizations has produced a do-it-myself attitude. No justification. Just the way I work.

I guess you can describe your experience, and your feelings, but I hope people understand when they read it that it is just your experience, not the universal experience. I am always careful to differentiate what is my opinion and experiences from what is truly known fact to me.

Organizations of all kinds. Not just churches. I have the same attitude toward most formal education.

Why do you think that is?

Because so often people would try to oversimplify life, and I just don't fit.
How much am I supposed to trim off to make my square peg fit the round hole?

I can understand your frustration with systems that were really designed to deal with the needs of the masses. You wouldn't or couldn't fit in with the masses, so your experience was unfortunately difficult.

Any time I expressed a diverging opinion, the automatic assumption was that I was wrong, that I needed to make myself fit.

I understand that was hard for you. It's just the way people are, they need to be right all the time.
True humility is a difficult thing to find. I always have to try to accept when people have a differing opinion than mine.
It is difficult, because I want to badly to be right.

I only have a problem with different opinions when people try to coerce me to agree.
Being right is kind of odd. It's overrated... but it's also essential.

But we lose the truth in it sometimes.

I think being right is more a state of being than a specific set of beliefs.
I agree with that: losing the truth in being right.

By "being right" I mean the winner of the argument.


We have to "be right" and everyone has to agree with us.

Erwin said one time "Jesus didn't die so that you could be right."
I just have to be right with God. Everyone else's colors will be different.

So, when you said "prevailing thought in modern Christianity is not to upset God with awkward questions" what source were you thinking of?
What have you experienced/read that made you think that was the prevailing thought?

My experience, and seeing the experience of others just blindly following what they've been taught, and wondering where the life went.

But was that more what they were trying to accomplish than what was being taught to them?

It seems to be prevailing because of the frequency I run into. Lots of people seem to believe that.

Were they trying to fit into molds, as is the human tendency, in order to "fit in"?

Seems to be what's taught. I don't see many organizations teaching people to think.

I guess I am looking for the fault more generally in the speaker AND the hearer.

I think so... the idea of belonging is so attractive that people do just about anything to fit.
I agree both are at fault. Somebody needs to break the cycle.

Christianity's basic teaching is about an ideal...we all try to obtain it on our own path.
And sometimes we are overzealous in tackling the rules instead of the guidance.

An ideal whose every detail God has planned and made provision for.

But you can't mistake the idea, it is there.

Even I feel the attraction of rules. they're easy to organize, easy to state, easy to measure progress.

Sinless perfection is the ideal, and people engineer all kinds of means to get there, instead of seeking the giver.

Right. We will never achieve sinless perfection here. We can only get better. But God sees the believer through Jesus, so he sees us as perfect already. Life follows that fact if we let it.

But so often (at least in my experience) it is the seeker that is at fault, not the teacher.

There is that... the teacher can teach life, and the student can turn it into rules. I've seen a lot of that in art classes.

But maybe that is what you mean by "prevailing thought", meaning what the person in the pew translates the teaching to?

That's a good idea. The actual outworking of the person's experience.

So often we won't venture into the darkest place in our souls, to allow God's light to shine there, because we want to deny its existence in our quest for sinless perfection.
But God wants us to invite him there.

Well, that and the fact that it hurts.

He teaches us to examine ourselves.

More than that... he holds my hand as we walk in those places, and he holds the light.

Yes, it is true.
But I have had much good teaching about that. But what I did with it...well, that was my issues.

The point I try to get across is that God is involved with out lives. He's not out there cracking a whip. He's in with us, getting dirty with us.

Here is my heart about this...

And that's something that can't really be taught. You learn it by experience, and I hope that my descriptions will help people sometime in the future. Or perhaps even today.

Not sure how to best say this...

Well, just start someplace and then correct the course as needed.

Once again, just my input. Your experiences were different than mine, so I guess if you had qualified that "my experience has been" instead of "prevailing thought" I would not have been so hurt. I'm concerned that people who are seeking a relationship with God will not know where to turn, because they will think that a church is a horrible place. It may have been a horrible place for you, but it has nurtured me and brought me great friends and fellowship.

I'll take a look and think about what might need to change.

That is all that I can ask. Thank you for being willing to consider it.
And if my judgment is colored by my experience, you can certainly take that into account as well.

You can also make a comment on the Blog about it. These things go better as dialogs.

I appreciate so much that you heard me out on this. You share incredible things about your experiences that I know have touched many people very deeply.
And I can see that they do strike a chord with people who have had bad experiences in the church.

It helps that you're not judging me, but presenting your beliefs. Strongly, yes, but not with a hammer.

Thanks for sharing that dialog. Not to your friend - I know what if feels like to be hurt by the church, and to be nurtured by the church. I understand what you are saying here. Unfortunately I been hurt far more often than not. And that's not to say I go to church to be nurtured or loved - that's not why I go (or used to go) but it sure would be a nice byproduct of fellowship with Believers to experience grace, love, and acceptance.

I'll find that place someday but I don't think it will be here where I live now.
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