I’m having a discussion with another friend of mine on religion as a whole and, most importantly, real Christianity vs the theatrical christianity often played out in roman catholic churches, and protestant churches that have lost their direction. He had mentioned that I was lost to “the attention to details” because I was holding to that fact that Mary is not the goddess of Heaven and that the roman catholic church was more aligned with false religions and idol worship than it was to real Christianity. He also said that my focus was misplaced:
Attention to details and differences are great, but in the end it’s just attention to the illusion and not the message of the illusion.
So I asked what this “illusion” was. Here is his response and mine follows:
The dogma of the churches. They’re rooted in ancient cultures, and were only relevant to their times. The teachings of Jesus and others are not only completely up for interpretation (thus shedding the control of any dogmatic belief structure), but are so basic and universal that things like should a preist stays chaste, or the mother Mary is a saint or divine are needless illusions between mankind and understanding.
So you’re denying the deity of Jesus. That was simple. I get people like you that say that all the time. You could have just said “I don’t understand it” or “Jesus isn’t god” and cut to the chase. 🙂 I hate to use this analogy but it’s the best one that there is for this subject: It’s a matrix thing. If you refuse to take the red pill and only take the blue pill all your life then you can’t know what it’s like outside it. You can read all the books on spirituality and what people’s perceptions of life outside the box of godless life are but, just like in the movie, you can’t see the works and where you land in it until you’re actually outside of the machine.
Let me try another way: When I was a “christian” (Lutheran by birth but by no means a repentant Christian), I found that the teachings of the church were comforting but lacked any substance. The messages were usually nice – sometimes about feeling better, sometimes about being a better person – even when you didn’t want to. Sometimes they were just scary or I thought it was totally wrong for the pastor to take strong positions on things that I felt he had no right to. Ultimately, it seemed to me that those who bought into it were just doing so to make their fragile and worthless lives have meaning and that it was only their dogmatic grasp of what I thought was meaningless drivel that made their pathetic lives worthwhile. I would listen to their testimonies trying to hear what it was that caused them to act in the way that they did but mostly I found that they were no different from my dad who acted like a christian at church or when it was convenient for him but still drank like a fish, used foul language, and was verbally and occasionally physically abusive to my family at home. When he entered AA, he simply swapped one religion (worshipping himself with a dose of Lutheranism) with the faceless “higher power” (HP as he calls it) of the church of Alcoholics Anonymous. This HP is an impotent god who simply gives them the authority to do as they please but quietly persists that they try to get along with other non-alcoholics who can’t possibly understand what it’s like to live with their “disease”. I’m getting a little sidetracked here – sorry.
So what I saw was the people who were no different than “non-believers” but just wore the “christian badge of honor” and would use it to hold over you when they thought that they could shame you into doing something or giving them what they wanted. There were always a few, however, that really were different. It was hard to find in the Lutheran churches that we went to – only 3-5 families per church really acted like they were changed. I would try to investigate further and I found that they were really different at home and the more that I saw how they interacted with each other the more it seemed to me like it was real. The difference was that I was on the outside and not able to find out for myself. I couldn’t actually live with them forever and I couldn’t help feeling like an outsider when I was with them. Through the years I went off on my own and ended up getting in a lot of trouble, all the while thinking I was a christian because I went to a church and I had memorized the order of worship, and been confirmed as a Lutheran, memorized all the Bible stories in sunday school and even memorized the worship calendar for the Lutheran church. How much more of a “christian” could I be? I even went so far as to thank God when red lights would change the way I wanted them to, to thank Him when my girlfriend wasn’t pregnant over and over, and to pray earnestly that He would make sure I made it home after nights spent at raves – regardless if I was working them or just going to dance.
Time went on and I found myself getting married, then we decided that we should give religion a go because that’s what married people do. We were looking for a direction in our lives and that seemed like the best thing to do. We started attending a “willow creek” church in Brandon, FL, and quickly became involved. We were baptized, became members, and then started working with the youth team. We never heard anything that was offensive and if I needed to I could pull only extensive knowledge as an “archaic Lutheran” to sound “spiritual” if the situation called for it. We acted the part at church but it was hard at home. We tried to do the “life group” (small group Bible study) but those often fell into discussions on politics or gossip. Sure, we knew that the Bible said that gossip was sinful but we’re just discussing how the rest of the church wasn’t as holy as we were and, out of christian love, we were trying to find out how to best help them. :roll eyes: It was a crock. We ended up leaving that church and we moved to California and started religion shopping. We bounced from one thing to another and I kept seeing the same things over and over – it was just like before, only now I was the one living a lie right along with them. It was a quiet thing that no one ever brought up but you could tell who wasn’t and who was a real Christian.
After two years in California, my marriage was quickly dissolving as I was a workaholic who never wanted to be around my family because I didn’t know how to “do family time” anymore. We moved to Colorado because it was the only thing that would resolve my need to work constantly. All it seemed to do was to change the location of my misery. My wife was starting to get sicker, my kids never cared if I was home except for my daughter who hung on me all the time and I didn’t understand why. My wife and I were having much more trouble getting along and we had long since given up on religion. We still called ourselves christians but didn’t have the strength to even look in a Bible anymore because it just felt cheap.
My wife finally came to me and told me that she had enough and that she wanted out. What I knew was coming finally did and instead of it being expected (as it was) it shocked me. I remember thinking that it was something that I was kind of being heretical about because I had thought it myself but didn’t have the strength to do it and yet here I was acting like a victim. It really concerned me, however, and the more I thought about it the more it seemed like something was actually drastically wrong. I wanted to know why I was offended and why I felt like it was wrong to divorce. I can’t explain this in any other way than to say that a kind of veil was lifted from my eyes and for the first time I was able to see my life as it really existed – from outside myself. I saw my heresy and deception in my use of religion as a crutch but that there was no God in it. I saw how I had abused my wife and kids by failing to meet their needs spiritually or physically and, above all, I realized how LONG my wife and kids had been putting up with my self-centered, self-honoring worship of me that caused my family to go through such a horrible string of pains. Then, for some reason, my view was turned upward and I saw how long God had allowed me to be in this condition and how my offenses were not just against my family but against God Himself. I knew the 10 commandments and each of them jumped out at me as I thought on them.
I repented of each one and, realizing what had happened to my marriage, I simply asked God to forgive me and I told Him that even if I lost my family that I would still serve Him. I asked God to provide the faith I needed when I wasn’t able to do it on my own and to provide the strength necessary to stand up to the things I knew I shouldn’t do so that I can overcome them. My repentance took about 3-5 days of all of the horrid things I had done coming to my mind as I called out in remorse asking God to forgive me from each one – it was only after that process that I ran out of tears to cry and things to ask forgiveness for. It was in that moment that I was forever changed. As my wife says, I went to bed the same a–hole she knew and woke up as the man she married. She flatly refused to believe it and I couldn’t blame her. Over the next 3 months she gradually started to believe it was real and we became closer again. The real change was that I hated my own sinfulness and that I couldn’t do the things that I had been doing. Pornography no loner felt “ok” to me. I wasn’t much of a drinker before (see previous mention about my Dad) but now I didn’t want to do it at all. I didn’t want to smoke anymore (not that people who do smoke or drink are not Christians but these are things that I was presented with stopping), and my bad language sounded foreign to me. I suddenly WANTED to read the Bible. At work the change was so dramatic that the people I worked with quickly grew at odds with me – I wasn’t “fun” to hang out with because I didn’t want to hear about how they were screwing every girl they could find or how they watched this movie or that. I couldn’t watch movies that had adultery in them or abortion in them. I literally become physically sick if I watch it. I found myself listening to contemporary Christian music and getting offended about what they sang about – I tried to go to the same old churches and found that they weren’t fulfilling anymore. I started listening to sermons in the car and, through those sermons, I ended up at the church where we are at today.
Ultimately, I had become one of those people that I longed to learn about before. I don’t have to act a part – it’s something that I want to do. It’s something that I am. I know that there is a God in Heaven because He was able to do the thing that I was not able to do – He was able to change my driving focus from myself to Himself and He was able to save me from my sins. I wouldn’t try to tell anyone else about it before because I knew I didn’t have a leg to stand on. My dogma wasn’t enough to prop up my religion. Now I know that religion really is just a man-made path to God while Christianity IS a real and tangible relationship between God and yourself through the atoning power of Jesus Christ. Until you’re ready to deal with the facts that 1) He’s real and 2) that your sinfulness is separating you from Him, you’re never going to be able to take that red pill and it will always be foreign to you. The red pill is easy enough – Read the 10 commandments, then read the Matthew chapter 5 and apply it to your own life. If you don’t have the time, then just spend 30 minutes and listen to this which explains it in detail. Asking Jesus into your heart doesn’t fix a thing nor does reciting a “sinner’s prayer”. I know this because I had done it all my life and saw no change at all. It was only after it was made clear to me WHY I needed saving and what it was all about that it became tangible to me. Now that I have it, I can’t shut up about it. 🙂
Now, back to the “illusion” and “attention to the details”. Your mention about the “illusion” is in regards to dogma. My whole response above goes to show my faith and how I know that Jesus Christ is God as the change that occurred in my life is a real and tangible change that, after years of trying to fix myself, I know I could never have done on my own.
Regarding attention to detail – this is where I think you’re falling a bit into universalism – where everyone goes to heaven because we’re really good and wonderful at our core. That lie aside, let’s look a bit more into your premise: You stated that whether or not priests are chaste or whether Mary is a goddess or not is irrelevant. My point is that the catholic church is simply wrong. Their view of works based righteousness is not only not scriptural, it’s heretical. Stating anything other than that is simply wrong. Placing any man before us is also wrong as we know that we can only reach the Father through Jesus Christ alone. Where is it in the Bible the man is to tell his sins to a pastor, priest, or other “man of god” to obtain righteousness via works in prayer to “saints”, to Mary, or by performing rites and other special prayers? It simply doesn’t exist. Not only that, it takes away from the sacrifice that Christ paid on the cross and makes it not only His work but that we have to do it as well. The attention to detail is what makes it make sense – without that “detail” then all kinds of heresy can creep in as we’ve seen from the catholic church, the emergent churches, mormonism, jehovah’s witnesses, willow creek, etc.