2006-03-03

the church

This is a response to a comment a friend left on a previous blog of mine... here is the main question asked:

Is the church a group of well meaning people that are doing an earnest job of following a road map (bible) that is broken, incomplete, or skewed in some way?

Or

Is the church so far from really knowing God that they are just way off base?
so... here we go :)

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well, I think a lot of things play into this. I think in any case, when you are reading or hearing another person's thoughts, you are never going to understand exactly what they meant all the time. Therefore I don't think anyone here will ever completely understand the Bible in its entirety. We will always get some things wrong. So yes, I think faulty interpretation on everyone's part is a big part of all the crap that organized religion has become in so many cases. I think faulty interpretation can certainly be minimized by reading carefully and keeping in mind things like culture at the time it was written, context of the passages to the rest of the book or the rest of the Bible, etc. But I don't think we will ever get everything right.

I think in terms of the interpretation handed to you through the church, this is also a really powerful factor in the whole scheme of things. Having lived in another culture, we (and I'm sure you guys as well) realized how easy it is to add a lot of what culture says you should be to your conception of who you actually are. It is really easy to never even realize this unless you experience something outside your own culture, and you can begin to pick apart "which of these pieces is me, and which is america, or american christianity". I think particularly in America, a lot of people just never do this, because they never experience anything beyond their own culture, and so all of those things they just accept unconditionally because they have always been there in the culture, they go on accepting unconditionally because they are just reinforced by everyone around them who grew up in the same culture or have been immersed in it so long they have become accustomed to it.

This applies to the church in america too, because really it has become its own subculture. And I think when you start to pick away at what is really you and what is your culture, or even what is really the Bible and what is christian subculture, you start to realize that there is a lot there that you just took for granted and realize it has no place there at all. Or at least, it is certainly not REQUIRED in order to be you or to be a christian or whatever. Anyway, I think when a person starts seeing those distinctions it can be really easy to get lost in all the shit to see that there is SO MUCH that was touted as mandatory that was so trivial that it's difficult to see any of it as really true, or to pick out what is and isn't.

You start to realize that our culture in general, both religious and secular, is very one-sided, and that it doesn't allow much for anything which doesn't fit the standard social rules. Which is really hard, when you start to pick away that stuff and realize that you were made in such a way that you don't fit within those standard social rules. And frankly, that is a really stressful experience, and so it is easy to just dismiss everything about that culture as wrong or bad, because you have such a strong reaction to it (we still dream frequently about just becoming hermits so we don't have to deal with peoples' expectations).

Anyway, overall this can be a really positive experience, as it causes you to question and really figure out for yourself what is true and what isn't true as long as you remain open to the idea that some of it might be true even though it's hard to determine what it is.

So, regarding the accuracy or validity of the Bible I think in my own life, I've found that what I have read there and felt that I understood echoes real life and my heart and what I have learned through life. I certainly don't understand everything that is there, or everything that happens in life, or really everything about anything. I understand some things about some things :) And I think my understanding of some things has changed over time. But I would say, never stop reading it carefully, thinking about it, praying about it, processing it, talking about it with other people who may have different viewpoints to offer. I think that if you REALLY want to know God, He will give you what you need when you need it and from whence you need it.

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