Tolerance is a two way street

It’s a gorgeous Sunday afternoon up here in my corner of the world, the type of day that reminds me why I like living in Maine despite the challenges I face at times as a woman of color. It also happen to be Easter Sunday which as a Christian I do celebrate, yet I don’t need this day alone to honor and celebrate Jesus, its something I do every day upon waking.

I rarely discuss my faith on this blog in part because I am at stage in my faith walk where I don’t see the need to bring it up at every turn. Folks who are friends know my faith, much like they know my politics. My faith guides every area of my life even down to the professional choices I have made in the last 15 years…I am the director of a small non-profit agency that happens to be faith based. Yet the agency I run serves hundreds yearly without regards to one’s religion, I choose to work in the vein of Jesus where I try and do good to others. I am human and I fail sometimes and yet its okay.

That said, in recent years I am discouraged by the fact that we live in a time and space where acceptance of others is highly touted yet when it comes to accepting Christians, it seems acceptance goes out the window. I grew up in a world where faith wise I only knew folks who were Jewish, Christian or Muslim…in other words the big 3. Oh, and I knew a few agnostics/atheists but that pretty much was it when it came to religious and spiritual diversity.

Yet as an adult I count among my friends who practice ATR (African Traditional Religions),Pagans, Wiccans, Buddhists, and so on. Knowing these folks has added a rich diversity to my life and allowed me to think about why I chose the spiritual path that I did, I most certainly can’t say it’s because it was what I was told to do when I was a kid because when I was a kid, I rarely went to church. There was no discussion of faith, that is funny to many who know me because my father is in ordained mister, his mid life crisis entailed going to seminary and choosing an entirely different way of life than what I was raised with..it caused some ripples in our family, initially but we all adjusted. I suppose because I was not raised as a Christian it makes me unusual in that I actively sought out Christianity in my early 20’s instead of how many are raised Christian and actively seek to leave it behind in their adult years. I like to think it gives me an interesting view of the world.

I find myself growing increasingly weary of how due to the actions of some Christians that all are judged to be simple minded idiots who are intolerant. Yes there are intolerant bigoted Christians but such folks exist across the religious spectrum, but it seems Christians and perhaps Muslims (I admit I cannot speak for my Muslim brothers and sisters so correct me if I am wrong) get the bulk of the animosity and judgment. On this Easter Sunday I found myself growing angry as I hopped online briefly and checked into a few of the places I frequent when I am online such as Facebook and Twitter to see a whole lot of negative statements being directed at Christians.

It saddens me because I truly see tolerance as a two way street. Up until a few years ago, I had never heard of Samhain, yet while it’s not a holiday I celebrate it is one I have respect for because I have friends for who Samhain is an important holiday. Yet when folks belittle my faith tradition I admit the very human side of me at times wants to lash out with the same belittling that I deal with on a fairly constant basis. I write this yet not to condemn anyone but to suggest that we all be mindful in our words whether in our face to face interactions or even online. If we seek tolerance for ourselves and our families than I think its important to remember it starts with us. To ask for something we are not willing to give in many cases is not realistic.

So you don’t say

I have a confession to make, one that I have only really stated to the Spousal Unit but now I am ready to share with the world. Christians scare me and I am a Christian. No, I am serious….while I attend a UCC Congregational Church which at times feels a tad light and fluffy, for the most part it meets my needs for a church home.

The larger issue is that as the director of a faith based organization, I come across a lot of Christians of all manner, some who are low key and some who are so over the top that even I, a person that tipped my toe into the more fundamentalist styles, find myself cringing.

For reasons of privacy and the fact that there are folks in my professional circle that access this blog, I can’t get specific as it would not be proper but I can share that personally I am sick and tired of folks that blindly praise the Lord and want to turn him into a magic genie who meets all needs.

Fact is since the death of my Mom five years ago, my faith has been in flux. During her illness, I never ever thought she would die. Even when a dear friend who was a medical school dropout (she did 2.5 years) told me that the type of cancer my Mom was battling had a low chance for long term survival. Yeah, I read all the stats but at that time I was still living in the land of where Jesus said whatsoever you ask in my name, I will do for you. (John14:13-14)  Clearly that meant Jesus was going to heal my Mom, and that life was going to be all good. Well that did not happen, not by damn far….

So one could say, I had a good case for ditching this Christian gig, right? Well, I did briefly toy with the idea but truthfully her death gave me a reason to study the word on a deeper level and when I did, I realized that in many cases we don’t get what we think we ought to have or need. No, for me I find I have found grace and peace, a quiet presence that seems to hold me tight no matter what. Christians often call it the Holy Spirit and I do think it is the Holy Spirit that Christ promised he would leave us with.

Yet even with the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, I walk a fine line in that my brain has not been overtaken and that I use common sense which I think is also a God given gift. So many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are holding out for the fantastical supernatural experience, they are so geeked up that they bring others in telling them that Jesus and God will do this and that for them. Some even go so far as to say if you are broke, sick….fill in the blank of whatever afflicts you, that you are suffering because you obviously have a shortage of faith! Really, you don’t say.

So a cold or financial hardship is the result of lack of faith? What about Job, that was a whole book in the Old Testament about a man who had plenty of issues. Even the guys who followed Jesus did not exactly have great lives as a result of their involvement with Jesus. Heck, one could almost deduce that trying to walk the Christian path could bring more woes upon a person, almost like a supernatural battle between good and evil….

At the end of the day, I am no Christian scholar but I can say that selling Christ as the magic cure-all for everything seems to go against everything he stood for especially when the man Jesus Christ seemed to have led a simple life focused on helping others….quick aside, very few of these holly rollers ever seem to spend much time engaging with the type of folks Jesus did.

I leave you with the link to a great song from my youth that reminds me of many folks who I come across. (its Front 242’s Welcome to Paradise)

Whose truth?

I was not raised in a traditionally Black Christian household, basically church was something we went to every few years, would have been even less than that if it were not for my Pops. My Mom was raised by her Dad who was an atheist and my Pops was a lapsed Southern Baptist. However when I was 17, Pops was diagnosed with throat cancer and given less than 6 months to live, on what he thought was his deathbed, he had a mid-life conversion and long story short he didn’t die and went to seminary and ended up becoming a minister and pastor much to my Mom’s dismay.

By the time he became a preacher and got his own church, I was already married with my own family, however I started coming to his church and ended up becoming a born again Christian. Its been many years and while I still have a deep and personal relationship with Christ, the truth is Christians scare me. I find Christians to be some of the most insincere and hypocritical folks around, I know that is a rather blanket and possibly offensive statement but after years of faithful church attendance and bible reading I decided a year ago to skip church and set  out to gain a better understanding of the word of God sans a preacher, admittedly I have occasionally used my Pops as a reference since he is a rather unorthodox preacher.

In the year since I stopped attending church regularly and stopped searching for a church home, I have immersed myself in the works of folks like Marcus Borg and many others and honestly I feel cheated. Like most faithful church goers who never go beyond what their preacher says, I never understood the foundation of how the Christian church really came to be, how Christianity stole from Paganism to create holidays that we revere such as Christmas. While I still believe that the Bible is God’s word, I am now aware that the words were written by men and also reflect the value system of the times in which the books were written. A point that never seems to get mentioned in many traditional churches, this is why we have Paul offering rules on women in the church, yet upon deeper reflection and research is it practical to say these teachings and advice should be applied in current times? After all how many women especially in the Black community are the true workers at the church holding it down while the preacher reaps all the glory. My Granny died giving all her money to a church that did nothing for her, when she needed a furnace, medications, where was the church? I suspect she was not the only faithful attendee who gave yet when she needed her community it was not there for her.

I also have come to face that the Bible has been misused to keep down and oppress others and as a Black woman, I grapple with that daily. Don’t get me wrong I have always known the bible was used as a tool of oppression but I guess it really hit home when I set my heart to truly grow closer to God and yet studying the bible have really thought how the biblical truths have been used to justify many wrongs.

 Right now I am praying for clarity, there are moments when I think perhaps this Christianity thing is not real but there are too many things I have seen and experienced in life that lead me to know its real.

What’s not real though is how people use the bible and God to create a false truth for their own purposes, be it to sucker people into their congregation or keep people feeling bad about themselves. In an election season we don’t have to look any further than the highly regarded Evangelical Christian vote to see folks who misuse God to create their own truth. These same folks get up in arms about abortion but I ask where is the compassion that Jesus showed on earth? Instead of getting up in arms about so-called liberal issues, if Evangelicals took that same energy and used it with a spirit of compassion maybe there would be less hungry and homeless folks in America.

Right now I am pondering my own journey which may lead me to seminary (talk about irony, another family mid-life journey) but I wonder am I the only one who ponders the issue of truth every day and wonders whose truth to follow?