In my spiritual walk, I often encounter people who are long traumatized by their association with organized Christianity. People who were raised in Fundamentalist homes, attended Pentecostal or Charismatic churches; who passed through Sunday schools, youth groups, and church membership, baptismal, or catechism course. People who reached a crisis of faith and ultimately withdrew from the entity called “The Church”.
Many are guilt-ridden, feel detached from God, or spend years going through “alternative” religious tracks…some, even abandon the concept of God completely. I have been all of those people in various stages of my religious metamorphosis. And when I meet them, the inevitable conversation ensues: a conversation that has a tone of apology, laced with bewilderment, and no small amount of rejection and hurt. Even seekers in online communities find themselve ostracized, mocked, and cursed because they believe the “wrong things”, read the wrong books, or embrace aspects of spirituality that are labelled “occult”, “new age”, even “satanic”.
I have been on both sides of those communities. For the former, I am deeply repentant of my judgmental behavior, rock-ribbed doctrinal piety, and my zeal to take apart those things I called ‘heresies’. For ther latter, I am, like those I note above, still bewildered and not without emotional trauma. How was it that I thought I could hear God that way? How is it that so quickly, I could discern the ring of falseness in the orthodoxy, and begin to see truths in the things I called heretical?
In a sweep of just under one year, my journey brings me to the conclusion which is the most uncomfortable—yet has the greatest scope of revelation about who this God is; who this Son, the Incarnate Presence of God on Earth was in his life, and more importantly, who I am in the scheme of a spiritual universe.
While I have found it painfully necessary to part ways with some friends, and to simply acknowledge each one’s own need to an individual expression of faith…I also had to admit that the structures of my prior belief system were, in fact, an invention of men; and worse, a system that strangles the personal quest for God, by invoking a false authority based upon books, church ‘elders’, and the works of Bible teachers—all invoking variations of an orthodoxy that dwelt in the narrow parameters of this thing they claimed is “Christianity”.
That there exists, literally, ten thousands of variations of this monolithic construct, makes no difference. Every schism harbors another heresy; and every heresy either evolves or dies—or worse, is murdered. That a religion founded on the principles of divine love can be exploited to justify wars, the burning of ‘witches’, the murder of homosexuals, or the denigration of women on a mass scale, became to me unbearable. The weight of thousands of years of blood-shedding screamed out through the ages. Even worse, it became patently obvious that this institutional monolith had burned not just the books of the ancient Gnostic believers, but the very people themselves—en masse!
The final indignity, with which I struggle, lies in how the POWER of this man, known as Yeshua the Nazerene, was relegated to the class of “supernatural god”, and denied to His followers. Miracles became acts of witchcraft; healing was viewed as dabbling in familiar spirits; prayers, outside the proscribed norms, was viewed as necromancy. The river of God was dammed, and barely a trickle of the water of life has flowed out from this monstrous juggernaut for 1900 years. Christianity, a faith born of the fires of John the Harbinger and the words and acts of the charismatic Master, Yeshua, became a “church” with all the political trappings of the very system of Judaism that this Messiah despised.
In effect, what I found beneath the debris field of this world deforming religious structure was a barely beating heart, and a small but vibrant light beam in the margins of the world’s religious structures. What I discovered were the breadcrumbs leading home—spiritually—to something far richer, much deeper, and vastly more authentic to the human soul. What was behind me on that path, was the faith that never was. A faith of contrived traditions, ossified beliefs, and an impotent make-believe God…one that never allowed us to be what we were created to be: HUMAN.
Consider the following quotes:
John Adams: “As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?” Letter to F. A. Van der Kamp.
Ghandi: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States: “I have examined all the known superstitions of the word, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.”
John S. Spong: “… there never was a single consistent set of Christian beliefs. There were many Christianities from the dawn of Christianity itself. Various groups have tried to define true Christianity, but when they do they almost always define their own institutional, authoritarian system.
Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat: “Of the friends of mine who have abandoned the Christian faith, very few of them stopped believing in Christ because of intellectual problems with the Bible or because they were seduced by some other worldview or belief system. Rather, they tend to abandon Christian faith because of the irrelevance, judgmentalism, internal dissension and lack of compassion they experience within the Christian community. Rather than finding the church to be the community that most deeply encouraged them in their struggles, they lost heart in their discouragement and lost their faith in the process. Rather than experiencing the church as the site of the most profound hospitality, love and acceptance, they felt excluded because of their doubts and struggles.”
All of the above quotes reflect an historical path that veers away from the “mainstream”, the “acceptable”, and the commonly held views of religion’s grip on the words, acts, and life of Yeshua, the Messiah. The same man who told us, “By their fruits ye shall know them” has been represented for too long by bigotry, narrow-mindedness, doctrinal orthodoxy, and a refusal to honor the individual soul’s path back to God.
The Church is a myth. “Biblical Christianity” is neither Biblical or authentically Christian. Fundamentalism, Reformationalism, and Evangelicalism are all sub-cults of the original Roman takeover of the first century practices and beliefs of those who perceived the true teachings of Christ. Moreover, the world’s religions all hold some truths, and many errors and in their walls live many souls who thirst to be free to search, question, and explore the ever-unfolding mysteries of the Living God.
Intolerance in the name of “purity” is spiritual slavery. Religious mindsets, formed in the image of man’s structures simply continue the witch hunts, and promote the bloodshed of the thousands of wars which have plagued humankind since the days of the Jewish Wars. Authenticity comes with a price…of losing one’s identity in a collective; its reward is the standing in one’s own soul as it arcs toward the Creator with its inner knowing as the navigator.
-Randy Maugans, November 12, 2011