Here’s a letter I got in last night. Its author kindly agreed to my sharing and responding to it here.
Growing up I was raised Christian. We didn’t ALWAYS go to church, but it was a clear situation where my parents believed in God—and by extension me and my brothers did too. However, I never really felt anything at church. Once I got to high school, my parents let me make the decision on whether or not I’d continue going to church, and I decided not to. Mainly because I would simply go there and feel bored, and constantly watch the clock for when I could leave. I didn’t have anything necessarily better to do, I just didn’t get anything out of being there.
Over the past twenty or so years I’ve spent many years homeless, although I’m not anymore. During those years, I’ve been in many different churches of various denominations and style. I’ve been in “White” churches and “Black” Churches, I’ve been in Evangelical and Non Denominational, and many ones run by homeless shelters I stayed in. Yet none of them stuck with me. None provided anything to me.
And more importantly, not once have I ever in my life felt the power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been in churches where people seemed to “feel” the Holy Spirit, and yet I’ve never felt it. I simply sat there feeling more alone than ever.
Now I find myself frustrated and slowly wandering away from my faith. Also, a major issue with me is that I’m constantly being told by people who seemingly are “real christians” that I’m not. That, due to my support of gay rights, and because of my not being 100% against abortion and gay rights, I’m not a true Christian. That if I truly believed in what the Bible and God and Jesus were about, then I would not be in support of those things. I’ve also had multiple people tell me point blank that if I were REALLY a Christian, I would be a Republican. That there is no way I can be a Christian without that, presumably because of the gay rights/abortion aspect.
And hearing these people who by all appearances are “real” Christians, some of whom are people who have been saved for DECADES, (and includes a pastor who point blank told me he didn’t believe I’m really a Christian) makes me TRULY question my faith. Have I truly been fooling myself all these years?
I find it ironic that the thing that is pushing me further and further away for my faith is the people who profess to be of that faith.
I’m sorry for the long rambling piece here, but this is something that truly bothers me. Are these people right? Am I simply fooling myself or something? If I have never felt the Holy Spirit, what does that say about me and my faith or lack thereof?
Thank you for your time, sir.
You’re a Christian. Okay? You are. The evidence for it is that over all those years (and despite what were clearly some pretty hard times) you kept going to church. Clearly something was pulling you there.
You’re a Christian, and you have the Holy Spirit within you. The Holy Spirit brought you to church. The Holy Spirit moved you to write this letter. The Holy Spirit got you from whatever tough places you’ve been to the better place you are now.
I support gay rights, and I’m a Christian. Hundreds of thousands of Christians in this country support gay rights. That whole group would argue it’s more Christian to support gay rights than not.
You know how Jesus was disparaged by the religious leaders of his time and place. Those morons were no more qualified to pass judgment on Jesus’ spiritual state than is any arrogant asshat who has ever dared to pass judgment on yours.
God and the Holy Spirit doesn’t work the exact same way for everybody. God’s relationship with every individual is absolutely unique to that individual. So don’t worry if your experiencing of God or the Holy Spirit isn’t just like everyone else’s. No one’s experience of God is really like anyone else’s at all. You’re just being honest about it.
And lots of stuff about church is boring. That’s just a fact about church. I mean … you’re sitting in an uncomfortable seat being told stuff you basically already know. How can you not be bored? Half the people at any given church service are always so bored they’re chewing on the inside of their cheek just to stay awake. But, mainly, if you’re too bored by any particular church, that just means whomever is running that church isn’t doing a very good job. Church has to be a little boring, or even a medium amount of boring. But it’s not supposed to be all boring. If you find a church you’re in too boring, move on to another church, because that’s not the church for you.
Remember, though, too, that church is meant as a participatory phenomenon. If you’re too consistently bored in too many churches, it might just mean that you have to more consciously participate in the church service. Give yourself over to the power of the Gospel being read, or to the stories people are telling, or to the power of the Holy Spirit that you can always feel moving throughout a church service. You know what I mean. Give yourself over to whatever’s happening, and whatever’s happening is bound to become more interesting to you.
So remember: You are a Christian; God is all the time talking to you through the Holy Spirit within you; and … church can be pretty boring, but it’s not supposed to be a Broadway show.
Love to you, friend. Thanks for letting me share the Holy Spirit in me with the Holy Spirit in you.
P.S. I think you’re a ThruWay Christian.