Sunday, February 27, 2005

Losing My Religion

Bad Catholic has a very thought-provoking post on her blog about ex-Christians and why people who identify themselves as such seem to come more from fundamentalist denominations or the Catholic church than from mainline protestant denominations. It got me to thinking about why I get so frustrated with black-and-white thinking and what I call the Tiny God Box. What bothers me about conservative theology is not so much the beliefs themselves, but the narrowness of much of it. My perceptions of God are necessarily the only correct perceptions of God, and anything outside of this Tiny Box which defines Him is heretical. A good example of this can be seen in the first comment to this post in my own blog. My beliefs don't fit into the Tiny God Box as defined by that person, so my very identity as a Christian is questioned.

Now this isn't true of all conservatives, mind you. My brother, for example, is very conservative theologically and we disagree on, oh, pretty much everything. (Not true, btw, it just seems that way in our respective blogs.) ;) But never once has he defined God so narrowly that only his beliefs make one a Christian. He doesn't try to fit God into his Tiny God Box. That's conservative theology that I can disagree with and yet still admire.

But so much of it out there is more like my anonymous commenter. "You don't think like me so you're Out." It makes me sad and angry because the Tiny God Box steals God away from people whose only conception of God comes from people trying to force the Tiny God Box on them. If the Tiny God Box doesn't fit my beliefs, I must not believe in God. How many people are being shut out of relationships with Jesus because of this kind of thinking? Jesus' words in Matthew 23:13 comes to mind:

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven."

Another quote springs to mind for me, too. It's from a song that has always been a favorite of mine because of the plaintive cry from just such a one who is being "locked out." Losing My Religion, by R.E.M.

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it

You don't have to "lose your religion" if you can't keep up with someone else's concept of God. God doesn't live in a Tiny Box.


At 8:58 AM, Blogger mynym said...

He actually said, on this very sort of issue:
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
(Matthew 7:14)

Perhaps your problem is with Jesus, not with those who try to follow his words, mistakenly or not.

At 6:49 PM, Blogger the-unintentional-blogger said...

my post was too long to put in comments, so I blogged about it on my blog. You can check out my comments over there

At 10:34 AM, Blogger Xpatriated Texan said...

Matthew 23:13-15
Woe unto you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

15“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

Then again in the same chapter, verses 23 - 28

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and selfindulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

It is telling to remember that Jesus's main opposition was from the religious right of his day. Paul built on this by calling for a circumcision of the heart rather than a blind adherence to the law and circumcision of the body.

I've yet to meet a man who can live up to the teachings of Jesus - that's the whole reason he had to die. We are imperfect, but we struggle on in our trials. Who is any man to say what God whispers to another man's heart?



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