Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 1-Where do I Belong?

1 Corinthians 10:14-22 (NIV)
14Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

18Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. 22Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

In What Do Christians Believe, author Malcolm Guite states that there are three core elements of being a Christian: belonging, believing, and behaving. Belonging in Christianity is being a part of a faith community while also not belonging entirely to this world. This community united by one body with Christ as the head is shaped by the other two elements of believing and behaving.

[Luis Tristán (Toledo, 1585 - 1624), Pentecostes. Museum of Fine Arts, Bucarest, Romania.]

I was born and raised in the SDA church up until my Junior year at Georgia-Cumberland Academy when the seedlings of doubt were planted and I began to question what it meant to be a Christian. I had (and still have) no quarrel or dispute with the church itself but this goldfish began yearning for a bigger tank. Of course any serious questioning whatsoever is frowned upon in the mainstream denominations and the SDA church was no exception. Breaking from the core beliefs in Christianity was incredibly painful on both emotional and social levels. Even though I consider myself a Christian I feel like a Christian in exile, on the outside looking in. Not because of my behavior but because of my change in beliefs. I don't believe that Jesus was exclusively God incarnate but that he resembled the spirit of the Divine, love incarnate. History can only tell us so much about Jesus but I do believe that he did exist and that he was fully man. Even bad behavior is still acceptable to a point as long as you believe. Once you cross that line of right belief there is no turning back.

There are many reason why I reject the trinitarianism view which I won't go into now, but I will say that I find it too limiting and awefully confusing. As a Christian who dared to look outside of the established borders I am now automatically associated with unsaved outsiders looking in. I was not literally exiled for my beliefs but any conversations with "real" Christians bring up that familiar "uh ohh, he's unsaved" look. For those who haven't received that look it's not the best feeling in the world espescially from family and friends. It makes you feel inferior, doomed, and worst of all, lonely. Like a puppy at an animal shelter people pity my situation. Some try to save me by bringing me back into the fold until I attempt to explain (I'm horrible at explaining my spiritual beliefs to other people) that I don't need saving which I'm sure I come across as an arrogant and ignorant soul who doesn't want to be saved. How can you save someone who seeks God on their own and is moving beyond the dualism of saved and lost?

So am I drinking from the Lord's and the Demon's cup? No, I believe that the cup of Love that I drink from is the Lord's cup. If Love is what binds Christians in one body with the Logos am I not considered one of them? My ego yearns for that feeling of acceptance found in a community to quell its loneliness. But I also feel that by seeking out the Source myself I may find a connection, harmony, and state of being that transcends the need to satisfy the ego. I believe that community is a big part of a person's spirituality, or at least for me and I lack that. I still attend church with my family but it is a large church and my wife and I feel a bit disconnected from the congregation. And the pastor's knowledge about my beliefs, or lack thereof, doesn't help much either. So where do I truly belong? It may not be with a particular faith system or it may be with multiple ones at a time. As long as my spirituality can grow I can be anywhere, or everywhere. Wherever I AM that is where I belong.

Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 1-Where do I Belong?
Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 2-What do I Believe?
Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 3-Why do I Behave?

Read all three back-to-back, here.


Anonymous said...

You express very well the feelings I have had since leaving the organized church (Southern Baptist) some 5 years ago....Still, where I am now is so, so much better than before. The ego does, at times, seek to get me to return to "the fold". However, careful consideration halts that line of thinking quite quickly. As a possible comfort for you, I daily see more and more folks who are beginning to ask the "unaskable" questions, seeking answers which were not available "inside". I offer you my support and encourage you to continue your journey as a seeker.

Don R

Eruesso said...

I hope I didn't come across as too doom and gloom, but to express the internal limbo I have felt in my ongoing transition. Thanks as always Don for the supportive comments.

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