With the exception of Christmases and the occasional Easter and a couple of Messiahsings
, I haven't attended a church service in about three years.
For the first 21 years of my life, church filled me. It consumed me. I not only believed that the entire church message was true, I believed that it was worthwhile. Part of this was because almost everyone I knew believed the same basic narrative - God created the earth, people were sinful, God experimented with a system of animal sacrifices to appease himself, and then became human to offer himself as a sacrifice. But he didn't die. He was resurrected after three days.
If you believed that story, you would be "saved". If not, you'd be tortured forever.
I started having doubts about the story sometime during my college years. After that, I briefly attended seminary. I didn't get any answers, but learned quite a bit about church history, theology, and how to properly ask a theological question.
Later on, I joined a "moderate" or "progressive" Baptist church. Yeah, there are such things.
I don't believe the story any more. Why? Because it didn't happen. It simply isn't true.
Of the four ministers who have worked there in the last 25 years or so, I know that two of them don't believe in Hell, and I'm confident that the other two don't either. It never came up in conversation.
So why have all four of them stood up in front of their followers and danced around the issue? I think there is some worthwhile stuff in the book we know as "Bible". There's also a lot of tribal, harmful junk. What is the purpose of listening to someone stand up and talk for 20 minutes when his obvious goal is to get through his speech without pissing off the old people? (That sounds harsher than I mean it to be, but I don't know how else to say it.)
But dammit, I want there to be something worthwhile happening in a church. I know Bible, hymns, parables, psalms, and theology. I know that church people give more to the poor than any other segment of society. I want to be a part of something like that.
I have no idea where I'm going with this. I've learned that the more honest and vocal I am about politics, people, life, morality and almost everything else, the more people confide that they share those opinions.
So there you have it. Jesus didn't walk on water. Moses didn't part the Red Sea. Helen Keller isn't in hell. The idea of someone or something else being punished for your mistakes is repugnant to me, and I hope that it is to you.
If you grew up a devout Baptist, this kicks the supports out from under your worldview. What is the meaning of life, if earth isn't a proving ground to separate the sheep from the goats and the saved from the unsaved?
Later on this afternoon The Aggie
and I are going to drive down to Waco and hang out with some friends. We're going to fill pumpkins with an explosive called Tannerite and then shoot them with with high-powered rifles. It's going to be awesome.