“Why shouldn’t I, a queer polyamorous girl, give up on Christianity?”

Got this in yesterday evening:

Hey John.

We talked on Facebook chat a few weeks ago. I’m the queer polyamorous American girl living in Ireland for the time being. I just had a question for you. How/why do you still hold onto your faith in Jesus? I’m dating three atheists and one agnostic, and am pretty much surrounded by people who don’t believe. I’m feeling lately like the whole Christianity thing is bullshit.

I was a fundamentalist from age 12-18, and went to Christian school during those years—and then to Bible college from 2007-2011 (ages 18-22). I dropped out of the Bible college last March. I started questioning why I should be a Christian when I started realizing I wasn’t straight, back in 2010. Ever since then, my “faith” has been a roller coaster: getting serious, losing interest, getting serious, losing interest—and now, I’m close to just giving it up completely. Praying, reading the Bible, going to church all seem like nothing more than bullshit, a “chasing after the wind.”

I’m not putting you in a position where my faith rests entirely upon your response. But I’m really interested in you “giving [me] the reason for the hope that you have,” since I seem to have misplaced my own. Not that I don’t have hope. I do. I have a lot of hope. I’m really happier lately than I can remember being for a long time. But I really can’t for the life of me figure out why I should even attempt to be a Christian anymore. So why are you? What keeps you hanging on? I kind of feel like grasping for some sort of meaning in my life, but I feel like Christianity is, in the words of one of my fundie-mentor’s professors, “intellectual suicide.”

Hmm. Gosh, you know, I know so many queer polyamorous American girls living in Ireland who are dating atheists and agnostics that I’m not sure exactly which one you are. But never mind.

(Har! Well, screw it. You didn’t write me cuz I’m funny.)

So. Right. As to your question. Seriously, it’s an excellent one, at which I truly appreciate you giving me a shot.

It’s also a deeply personal question. Religion and faith are keys that fit the individual lock of each person’s soul; my key’s not likely to fit your lock. (Annnnnnd thinking about that just made you straight. Admit it!)

So first I think it important to say that I don’t believe in Christianity—because Christianity is like paper or light: words so unspecific that outside of a context they have almost no meaning at all. The Christianity in which I do believe, for instance (being that of Unfundamentalist Christians, whose page you’re of course invited to “like”) is radically different from the common version of Christianity in which you were raised. Christianity is so vast and complex, in fact, that I don’t think there exists anywhere on earth two Christians who fully agree on what does and doesn’t constitute “true” Christianity.

So I don’t believe in Christianity; I believe in the particular form of Christianity that I do. And one of the primary reasons for which I’m comfortable continuing to do so is because I don’t care if anyone else thinks it’s bullshit. That is simply not an aspect of my faith which holds for me any interest at all.

I believe that God really did manifest himself as the earthly figure known to history as Jesus; that he took upon himself, and into his body, all the karma for all of the bad things that any human ever has or will do; that he allowed himself to be massacred as a (most dramatic) way of demonstrating the final and absolute obliteration of all that bad karma; and that God then left behind, inside of each and every one of us, the whole of himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, as a means by which any of us, at any time, can be freed from the emotional and spiritual negativity occasioned by the “sins” of ourselves or anyone else.

Now, I’m perfectly aware that all of that could be complete nonsense. How could I fail to be? I’m not entirely stupid. I understand the difference between objective and subjective knowledge: that objective truths can be empirically proven true, while subjective truths simply cannot be.

(My version of) Christianity works for me. And that’s all I care about it. I happen to know that the core understanding of Christianity I delineated above also works, and has for centuries worked, for untold millions of other people. And while that is of some genuine comfort to me, fundamentally it is, to me, irrelevant. My belief system works for me. That’s what matters. About this concern I am content to be as self-centered as necessary.

The reason that (my version of) Christianity works for me is because it never fails to provide me with what I (and, I would argue, all people) need, which is context. From our unfathomable minds and hearts to our unfathomable physical universe, ours is a big, crazy, infinitely complex world. I desire a way to understand virtually all of it. Not so that I can in any way own or intellectually grasp it all—no one owns or intellectually grasps the miracle of birth or tragedy of death, to name but two—but so that I can at least comprehend how everything that is exists within the largest possible context, which is the mind of God.

The story of Jesus Christ is the mind and will of God expressed: it’s how God chose to deliver people from the pain that is a necessary by-product of their free will (without at the same time violating anyone’s free will: no one has to believe in the divinity of Jesus). That is what I believe. I could be flat-out wrong about that. And if, when I die, I discover that I was wrong about that, I’ll be delighted to learn it. Either way, I won’t regret that while on earth I chose the belief system I did, because (my version of) Christianity works. It enhances my life experience. It provides me a definite and dependable means of becoming more emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually sound. It increases my compassion, my peacefulness, and my ability to love. It’s just … great!

To be alive is to actively and constantly choose a belief system; no one, no matter how “free” they may think their mind is, exists outside of such a system. The human mind must, and will, establish patterns—which is to say contexts—for virtually everything of which it can conceive. The Muslim’s belief system/life context is Islam. For Jews, it’s Judaism; for Buddhists, Buddhism; for atheists, it’s nothing beyond that for which there is empirical evidence, and so on. By the very nature of our design we all filter the world, and our experience within it, through a belief system founded upon what we believe to be true, right, and good.

I believe (my version of) Christianity to be true, right, and good; I believe it’s perfect. So it takes no more effort for me to continue existing with it than it does for me to continue existing with my lungs. They’re both just  . . . how I breathe.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Thynkie Dink via Facebook

    I think that the whole Christianity thing is bs too but I believe in Jesus and the love He has for me. Even the ones steeped in the Christianity thing can’t agree on what it means to be a Christian. I am a believer in Jesus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/counsgreen Donice Green via Facebook

    Because Christ is great- it is Christians that can be hard to deal with

  • Jeannie

    Love it!

  • MD

    I do not consider myself a Christian anymore, either…after years and years and years of it, including being a pastor’s wife for over a decade and leading fundy women’s bible studies, running AWANAS, etc…

    I do consider myself spiritual. I love a Being I call God. I always have. I just dropped the whole American evangelical story . It has been nothing but toxic. The healthier I get, the more I find myself removed from the story I once thought of as “The Truth.”

    It has been a painful but wonderful journey to discover that God is way bigger than I ever could have imagined.

    My “rules” are to love God/Being/Source, love others. That’s enough to keep me occupied for the rest of my life, you know? I feel that leaving Christianity (which was not on purpose…it was actually quite scary when I realized it seemed to be what was happening to me) has contributed to my growth in innumerable ways. Going back to it does not seem possible. It would be like voluntarily going back to prison. Um…why would I do that?

    I have kept my exit from the world of Christianity a quiet secret from my family. To them, they would probably rather I die than leave “the faith.” :( I just don’t talk about it at all. It’s a quite private personal thing. They wouldn’t understand and they will just mourn the loss of me. It is worse than death to them (because their story will have them seeing images of me in eternal torment and hellfire).

    Anyways, all this to say……John, what you just described is quite possibly a Christianity I *could* believe in. It’s not a prison. In fact, it’s much like the world I’ve come to discover, this spiritual vista that has set me free, that nourishes me, that grows my awareness of love/joy/peace/patience/gentleness, a universe that gives space and depth and thickness and to God ——instead of stuffing “Him” (not a fan of the constant male-gender-ishing of God, either) into a box and me with it.

    Thanks. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

    • Melissa Chamberlin

      Isn’t the view from this vista divine? I can see forever.

    • Donald Rappe

      OK, I have no problem with replacing the divine pronoun Him with the proper noun God. It’s just as short and avoids unfortunate misunderstandings.

    • Diana A.

      Have you had a chance to read Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter”? I think you’d enjoy it.

  • Diana A.

    Beautiful!

  • mae

    loved it! THIS is my Christianity. I’ve left the church for various reasons, I hope to one day find a church that I can be a part of in the future and raise my kids in.

    But I believe Christianity SHOULD be a FREEING experience to live in, something to ENHANCE my life, something that RELIEVES STRESS and draws people to you!

    The church I left two years ago HAD people like that in it, I believe those people to be life embodiments of Jesus and thats what I want to be! But the church message on the whole, and the way many of the rules worked out, did not give that message. Being there was stressful, and the people were not helping me with my life but hindering it and pressuring me to stay and keep my children in a dangerous and abusive marriage.

    I love the way you describe “your” Christianity, and I love the you express the truth, the love, and freedom it brings. This is also my experience with my faith, although this is not the experience I’ve had with the church as a religious organization.

    As for a personal comment, I LOVE C.S. Lewis and many other what I would consider “intellectual” Christians. I’m also in a professional science environment and know many PhD scientists who have personal religious faiths. Being a Christian does NOT mean leaving your brain behind you. In fact, I believe if you blend the two, you can have your brain enhance your faith and your faith enhance your brain. I believe we were created to be whole, spirit-soul-body, and not have one abandon the other. Any organization that demands it I do not believe is healthy and whole. *cough* unfortunately we don’t always see this in prominent political/religious/media figures.

    • Donald Rappe

      I am glad you mentioned this and not me. I know quite a few physicists, several of whom should be considered world class, and the majority of them are people of faith including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. I’m sure at least some of them are not spiritual as well, but, I can not remember hearing the ignorant and insolent remarks so common to internet trolls. I think this is because no scientist likes to have his notions shot down by a better scientist than s/he.

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Lore

    This. I call myself a Christian because any other name for someone who believes in a Supreme Being who had a human avatar called Jesus Christ seems pretentious. But I don’t feel like that obligates me to accept all or any traditions of mainstream American Christianity, whatever that is.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com Michael Mock

    Very nice. And I say that as someone for whom Christianity doesn’t work, in the way that your Christianity works for you.

  • Caroline Miller

    I absolutely love this question and response. I was fortunate enough to be raised in a very tolerant church (in my case, Presbyterian) that was congruent enough with my values as an adult that I still participate in church. That being said, I find it very difficult to find a satisfactory answer to whether or not I am a Christian. I’m nominally Christian, but I consider myself “spiritually promiscuous.” The most basic theological tenets of Christianity (i.e., the divine nature of Jesus, his sacrificial death) are one that I accept, but if I rejected them, it would not radically alter my beliefs. I think it’s incredibly liberating to think that religion is unique to each individual. Even if you subscribe to an established faith tradition, no one else approaches it from quite the same position as you. It’s so tempting to find a “one size fits all” conclusion about faith, but I think the most authentic way of expressing faith is to honor your convictions, whether they include religion or not.

    • Susan in NY

      Best phrase of the day – spiritually promiscuous.

      I love it.

      I’ll be spiritually promiscuous with you.

  • Hannah Grace

    I struggle too. Thanks for that.

  • Anne

    Your description of Christianity is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to how I view it. Thank you!

  • Carol

    Whoa…you have just put into words what I have been feeling for most of my adult life!

  • Tricia Sturgeon

    Hey John, Trish here. Just read your article from the American girl in Ireland. I can TOTALLY relate to what she said. I think in a way I have given up on “traditional” Christianity, the kind preached by Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, and Jerry Fallwell. I left my local church not long before I came out as a lesbian. I was told not long after I came out, by a CHRISTIAN lady no less, that I should “kill myself” since I was “so determined to go to hell” as she put it. Now John, I’m a big girl and I can take that kind of rhetoric, but it still hurt! Still made me wonder, as the song says “Where’s the LOVE?”. And since then I have read all the hateful, unloving things said by people of faith against the LGBT community and I wonder again, WHERE IS THE LOVE???? I’m not talking about the Westboro bunch, but by people I looked up to, people I respected, when I was going to church. People I thought had my back spiritually speaking. Now I feel like I’m being STABBED in the back by those very same people. Its left a bad taste in my mouth ever since. I dont TTRUST christians anymore and that makes me sad and angry. My partner/fiance’s family has gone so far as to almost disown her for being gay and being with me. Her own mom wont even talk to her on the phone and her niece, who was very close to her, has trashed me and Jaye over this. We are told constantly that “the bible says this” or “the bible says its a sin” they bring up the old Sodom and Gommorah argument to justify why they believe the way they do. And yet they say “We still love you” AFTER they give us reasons why GOD doesnt love us! I mean does that make sense? Arent they supposed to be Christ’s ambassadors? Christ taught LOVE, UNCONDITIONAL love, He even said the greatest commandment is to L O V E!!! Why are people who are supposed to love, and show that kind of love, filled with so much hate, and intolerance for their fellow man? (or woman). I just dont understand it, and its got me questioning my OWN faith and who God is in my life. Even if He STILL is in my life at all. Sorry for the long message John, but you always seem to understand where people like me are coming from and I just HAD to get this off my chest. Thanks for reading Love you and love all your posts. They give me hope that I may not be as bad as some christian people make me out to be.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks for this, Tricia!

      • Tricia Sturgeon

        I should be thanking YOU John for letting me share my heart with you and your readers. Its so good to have someone with an open heart and more importantly an UNDERSTANDING one, you can turn to when you need to share something like this and you fit the bill to a “T” on BOTH counts! Love you soo much John!

    • Diana A.

      There are so many gay Christians in this world–and more and more churches are coming around to treating gay people with love and respect. Don’t give up on God. God still loves you and Jaye and there are churches that teach, preach, and demonstrate that love in its fullness. Keep searching until you find one. If you have to, cross denominational lines, but don’t settle for anything less than complete respect and welcome as a couple.

      • Tricia Sturgeon

        Diana thanks for the encouragement! Its hard though to find a “welcoming” church because Jaye and I live in a very small town. And from my experience lately most if not all of them believe that “Gay Christian” is like oil and water, they dont mix. They tell me all the time that being gay is an abomination, I’m going to hell, etc. I have lived in this town my whole life so I knew what to expect when I came out. I thought I was prepared for what I was going to face but it still came as a shock to see people I have known for 30+ years avoid me like I had a disease. But I wont give up loving people the way Jesus taught. And hopefully we (Jaye and I) can find a church where we can show that love. Thanks again Diana!

        • vj

          “They tell me all the time that being gay is an abomination, I’m going to hell, etc.”

          Sheesh, HOW exactly do they think that’s going to help (from their perspective that you need help)? HOW is that message a ‘good news’ one? I mean, I know it’s because of the whole rule-following thing, but it still boggles my mind that they can’t see how counter-productive such attitudes/comments are…

    • vj

      “Why are people who are supposed to love, and show that kind of love, filled with so much hate, and intolerance for their fellow man? (or woman)”

      Because they (have been taught and) are trying to follow RULES, instead of having their hearts impacted and their understanding transformed by the LOVE of God. I heard a very interesting lecture recently about how the brain is structured, and how the ‘lower’ part of the brain (the ‘heart’, the seat of the emotions) influences our cognitive development, but that it’s a one-way street (although our cognitive brain can point us in the right direction to find help/healing/wholeness for our heart). You can’t alter your heart by following rules or memorizing Scripture, you have to have a relational, ‘heart-to-heart’ connection with God – THEN you can put love into practice.

      • Diana A.

        You nailed it, vj!

      • Tricia Sturgeon

        vj: I can certainly understand the “Rules” mentality! I went to the same church for over 30 years, saw things happen that blew me away! The only reason I stayed there so long was I thought I could “change” things. I saw the way others were treated because they were “different” , they didnt follow the “rules”, didnt conform to their idea of christianity. I knew it was wrong in my heart, but to them it was completely acceptable and in some cases even ENCOURAGED! When I spoke up about the subject I was the one being “disobedient” and “blinded by Satan” and the non verbal disapproval ( aka the cold shoulder treatment) was too much for me to handle. When you walk out of a church on Sunday feeling worse than when you walked in, you KNOW theres a problem! When I finally left, and later came out of the closet, for the first time I really felt FREE! and I mean not only free to love myself, but free to love others, EVERYONE, no matter how “different” they are from me. I believe thats the kind of love Jesus taught and the kind of love I want to have in my life.

        • vj

          “When you walk out of a church on Sunday feeling worse than when you walked in, you KNOW theres a problem!”

          A very good yardstick, indeed. Which is not to say that one should always expect to leave feeling happy and perky – sometimes God uses a church meeting to do a deep work in our hearts, but even then we should expect that He will comfort us even if we have to deal with difficult issues. And, that almost always is what the Holy Spirit does, privately, *not* condemnation from the people who should just be loving us.

          • Tricia Sturgeon

            What I meant by that comment was being isolated, unloved, feeling that I didnt belong and having the people there SHOW me that I wasnt welcome in their fellowsip. I totally understand what you meant, sometimes the holy spirit will deal with you in a certain area where you know you need work on. But his was much more than that. It was the people in the church letting me know in no uncertain terms that I didnt belong and I never would. My own daughter once asked me at church, since no one would sit with us during services, “Mom why doesnt anyone like us here?” She was only 7 or 8 then but even at that young age she could see the writing on the wall. I stayed for another 5 years after that hoping, PRAYING that it would get better but it never did. It was all very cliquish, and if you werent in the clique, you didnt “click” If you know what I mean. Leaving was the best thing I have done. If I had stayed, and lied to myself and others the way I did for over 30 years, I dont know where I would be now. I still want God in my life but not the “my way or the highway” kind. I just want to really know that He loves me for who I AM, not what people who claim to know Him say and believe I should be.

  • Dominic Huether via Facebook

    good question.

  • Cynthia Haug-West via Facebook

    It certainly depends upon WHOSE “whole Christianity thing” you’re talking about. As an escapee from a close-to-cult rightwing church (7 years…long enough to give me PTSD, thanks a heap), I’ve spent the past 16 years deconstructing the brainwashing, learning to survive my past and live into my present, and discovering that while the toxic parts of that extreme experience were damaging and traumatic, the center and solid ground of my faith remains Jesus Christ. I have discovered myself as an Independent Catholic–a total surprise–and have recently discovered John Shore, Fr. Richard Rohr, and other Christian writers who are helping me figure out what MY Christianity is. It’s incredibly freeing to understand, finally, that my faith is no one’s business but my own. I am fortunate to have found a little church that feels like home, though I can certainly imagine flying solo if that church didn’t exist. So, queer polyamorous American girl in Ireland, be who you are and believe what makes sense to you. A mind, heart, and soul to do those things are the universe’s gifts to every human.

    • Diana A.

      To me, the evidence that there is a Holy Spirit and that this Spirit is active in Christianity in spite of all the bullshit spouted in the name of Jesus (while Jesus stands off to the side, shaking his head and saying “That’s not what I meant at all!”), is in the number of people who continue to cling to Christianity despite having any number of reasons to flip the Church the double eagle and say “C-ya!”

  • jersey

    john has given up on it too and made up another version.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      No, see, jersey, if I’d actually given up on Christianity, I wouldn’t bother to have “made up another version” of it, see. That would be NOT giving up on it. That would be believing that Christianity is soooooo much better than so many people have for for so long been hell-bent on insisting it is. I’m trying to help rescue Christianity from shallow asshats, basically. Which I’m guessing is a problem for you.

      • Drew

        SNAP!

    • Melody

      Wow. What an arrogant, insensitive comment on such a heartfelt, sensitive conversation. Shame on you.

    • DR

      Dear Jersey,

      As you “make up another version” of yourself on this forum, you might want to take a look in the mirror and work on your own moral compass that is (allegedly) founded on the Christianity which seems to enable you to lie about who you are? Nice. I’m sure a lot of non-Christians reading this blog will appreciate that living example of hypocrisy.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        DR for the win.

    • Will

      jersey wrote; “john has given up on it too and made up another version.”

      “there are reported to be approximately 38,000 Christian denominations”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

      I submit this fact in evidence to prove that there is no one on earth who is NOT making up their own version.

      Jersey, which denomination is the one NOT made up?

      Please enlighten us so that we may discard the 37,999 made up ones.

      • Diana A.

        Ya’ know? It’s like “Will the real Christianity please stand up?”

        Although, I’m sure Jersey thinks s/he is the only one who has it right. Silly person!

  • Don M. Burrows via Facebook

    One should also keep in mind that to frame it as a matter of “belief” colors the entire (expected) response to follow.

  • Jennifer Sandberg via Facebook

    I don’t call myself a Christian, but I AM a Jesus follower. I found my way to Jesus by striping off all the doctrine & dogma and finding the man he truly was (yes I believe he was human, not God).

    • Will

      I agree with you Jennifer.

      His humaness makes the story much more compelling.

      “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these….”

      John 14:12 (NIV)

      Superman is no hero to stand in front of bullets.

      He knows and we know that bullets bounce off his chest.

      He is impervious to bullets. There is no risk for him.

      Jesus, being human, risks everything with the sole intention of loving all.

      Regardless of who did what to Jesus, he still loved them.

      To his dying breath he loved us all.

      Now THAT is a hero!

      Now THAT is someone worthy of my respect!

      Now THAT is someone worth emulating!

      It is my belief that if all the people who call themselves christians (myself included) would actually DO what he said to do, and LIVE how he showed us to live, then the world would actually be a safe place for children.

      Imagine what that would look like! :D

      • Diana A.

        Where’s the “like” button when I need it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/leigh.kelly Leigh Pinkston Kelly via Facebook

    Christianity went off the rails when someone(s) turned Yehoshua’s message into a mystical cult. It’s become more and more unbelievable as we learned more and more about the universe. In fact, among the literalist sects, it has become a test of faith to believe the most outlandish stuff. If you look at the story closely, you will see that there are scientifically plausible explanations for almost everything and the things that are scientifically implausible were most likely fabricated by later followers, just like the George Washington myths.

  • jersey

    “Shore-ianity”. Just call it that already.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      For anyone reading along, on my blog here “jersey” was previously using the name T. Krasner. (And before that “redlo.” And before that “c’mentista.” And before that “PCH.”) Because that’s how honorable Christians behave, see.

      • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

        Ah, I knew there was something missing from my spiritual walk.

        Cowardice.

        • Melody

          Agreed. But according to people like “Jersey,” it’s okay to be a coward as long as you’re Christian.

      • http://www.theeternaldance.blogspot.com Lynelle

        Oh, I don’t know . . . I kinda like Shore-ianity. (I’ve noticed that it closely resembles Lynelleanity.)

        This is well said, John. Where else can we look, but to ourselves, and our heart responses to beliefs? If we are in God’s image, then, if we’re honest, we’ll have a pretty good idea of what God’s about; what true love is, etc.

        So much better than trying to fit myself into someone else’s “love” which is not love. yuck. death.

        I’ll live in what makes me alive. and more connected and loving than I’ve ever been!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          I just want to be clear: I’m okay with my theology being called “Shoreianity.” But if that happes, you should know I’ll insist on wearing a really, really big hat. Something along the lines of:

          kingjohn

          • Donald Rappe

            I must remember to never use a form of that word again!

          • DR

            You know what they say. Big hat, etc.

          • http://www.theeternaldance.blogspot.com Lynelle

            I think you’ll look quite lovely in the hat, though I do believe I’ll stay with Lynelleanity, for now, with strong Shore-ianity leanings. I already have some nice, big, colorful hats of my own!

            Well, I have a picture, but don’t know how to attach!

          • Diana A.

            Cool!

          • mike

            I think my ex-wife can hook you up with that hat.

            I could make you a nicer version, but I’m expensive and my ADHD means it might be a long wait before the hat instantiated.

          • LSS

            i always wanted to meet the ADHD Hatter.

            Well, i would have, if i had known there was one.

          • mike

            Thanks. I think I have a new name to go by.

          • Will

            NICE HAT!

            Now if I can only find a matching cape……..

      • DR

        I love how all of the “real” Christians are totally deceptive on this site. I’m sure that Jersey will either have an excuse for it or get super hostile with me calling it “deception”.

        It’s so gross.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          And (as I think you know), it’s SO common. It’s ALWAYS the rabid fundies who post under a bunch of different names. It’s the weirdest thing.

          Or not. Behavior fueled by fear and anger is usually pretty consistent.

          • DR

            That’s really true. The level of hostility that the “jerseys” of the world displays matches their fear of really revealing who they are. It would be sad if they weren’t so totally creepy.

          • LSS

            The juxtaposition of the word jersey with shore (with or without -ianity) is just about as disturbing as the hat. Well, nearly.

      • Plansforth

        is ‘WTF’ honorable speech for a Christian?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          It is for this one. But I appreciate your concern.

        • DR

          Abso-fucking-lutely.

  • Will

    Great Question!

    Equally Great Answer!

    It is personally wonderful for me to see other people who are willing to discuss their beliefs and ideas in a civil, respectful, and sincere manner.

    I despise the kind of dogma that allows only blind obedience;

    onward christian soldiers marching in lock-step,

    with “Gott mit Uns” on military belt buckles.

    Ideas must be able to be freely discussed and pondered.

    Otherwise they are not ideas at all but pathological brain disturbances.

    I believe that the words and ideas and meanings commonly attributed to Jesus are logical, valuable, worthwhile, and somewhat necessary to the peace and continued existence of mankind on this planet.

    On the other hand, I find the drivel from many self-proclaimed “christians” as detrimental to human beings as anything that Charles Manson or Osama bin Laden ever said or did.

    Thank you John Shore for having this forum and especially thank you, John and forum members, for truly being Followers Of Christ in the most loving and thoughtful way.
    :D

    • vj

      What Will said.

      • Will

        :D

  • Marcey Schwarz via Facebook

    Is this the anti-self restraint, self-discipline and accept no limitations site? I, for one, am ready to “Run With the Wolves,” but wolves can’t be on soapboxes. They are wild animals, and should not expect to be treated like poodles.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      wtf redux?

      • Scott

        That seems to have been a drive-by trolling. Such an account doesn’t even exist on Facebook.

    • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

      Obvious troll is obvious.

    • Caroline Miller

      This is the most hilarious trolling I’ve ever seen. This quote ought to be framed!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        and then kept for evidence ….

    • DR

      Marcy, it’s super clear that you’re not well. I hope you aren’t self-medicating and are in a place where you might seriously consider taking good care of your emotional and mental health with a professional. I mean that, it’s very clear that you’re not able to connect with what’s being written and you’re bringing a lot of instability into the dialogue. Be well.

    • Antigone

      I think you’re lost.

    • Lymis

      I’ll take a stab at it.

      It seems to me that Marcey is making the classic mistake that there are exactly two choices – strict and slavish adherence to whatever form of orthodoxy is up for discussion, or utter moral chaos.

      That the original letter writer has the pure and simple digital choice of accepting a specific interpretation of Christianity, or having no moral grounding for self-restraint, self-discipline, or any form of moral compass.

      That, sure, some people, find themselves in such a position, and a belief in free will requires “decent” people to compassionately acknowledge their right to exist (until God summarily pitches them into Hell, of course), but that they shouldn’t be given a forum to express that, and that it certainly shouldn’t be treated as anything other than utter depravity by anyone else.

      In other words, if you want to run with the wolves, you have that choice, but decent people should put you down like the dangerous wild animal you are rather than treat you like a housepet and allow you among civilized people.

  • Marcey Schwarz via Facebook

    BTW writer, are you sure your self-description is accurate? If so, don’t get all uppity when you are treated like the person you describe yourself to be. I know, Jesus loves people who “miss the mark,” but that doesn’t mean he encourages it! lol

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      wtf?

      • Karen Miller

        I second that question. WTF?

        • http://MaleSurvivor.org John

          third anyone?

      • Donald Rappe

        WTF? indeed.

    • Melody

      Marcey, for the love of God, please take your issues somewhere else. Stop trolling.

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    Funny – I posted something to my journal on Deviant Art yesterday about my take on the whole “worldview war” thing.

    http://shadsie.deviantart.com/journal/More-Forks-in-the-Road-Than-You-Think-290220144

    I’ve decided that if I were told that I have to choose either Faith or Science as a path to Truth with no deviation or combination of the two, never the twain shall meet, I’ll take a third option and… pretty much stay on the path I’ve been on all my life: Art.

    For any of the fundie-trolls here or anyone else religiously-appalled at this, think in the abstract for a moment. I am not worshipping the creations of my own hands – I’m talking about how the process of creating and enjoying art itself is a kind of edifying and even spiritual experience and how it blends in so seemlessly with everything else.

    The “key in the lock” thing and the “fit for the individual” thing – believe it or not, I wrote an entire novel about that. Yes. I wrote a fantasy/young adult novel two years ago, refined and self-edited over the last year that’s basically an allegory on Faith. (No one wants to publish it so far, I do have some black and white illustrations ready to go if I want to Kindle the thing, but I’m afraid to branch out into that as I have no idea how to self-promote. Also, aside from what fans of my stupid fan fictions/derivative works tell me, I don’t know if my writing’s *really* any good). Anyway, I have this story in which people put their faith in “guardians from the Heavens” to companion to them and guide them as bond-creatures. Those that do not believe in their existence do not see them and even those that do believe they exist have the option of calling for one or not. Disbelief in someone who has one causes a rather sad breaking of the realtionship in which the bond-creature fades away painfully. One of my main characters “loses her belief” and thus all memory that she ever had her bondcreature for a while, but feels like something is missing in her heart and finds her companion again – she decides that “she doesn’t care, she needs him.” Another main character keeps his belief the whole time and is open with the world about what he knows and just doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks of it. One character becomes a best friend to one of my mains – she doesn’t believe in the bondcreatures and never believed and is totally an an awesome person who happens to be rational and very kind. The whole thing turns out to be about the different things different individuals need for their hearts to be right and how despite differences of opinion and what one thinks is truth/delusion, people can and should get along and realize their common humanity.

    (Also, a good chance to play with ye olde “believing is seeing” idea – for fun).

    This… fiction/fantasy/novel-writing experience was probably better than most days spent in church for me.

    I’m on the path of Art, and it’s too late now. Whatever else he might be, Jesus has become a part of “Art” for me.

    • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

      Oh, HAY! I just remembered another journal entry I made on this site that’s much weirder but still relates to the topic at hand.

      http://shadsie.deviantart.com/journal/A-Bizzare-Religious-Epiphany-229729096 – In which I compare Jesus to a mole on my arm.

      Yes.

      • Donald Rappe

        I have been known to say that “Artists are not like you and I”, but, here I am inclined to say that artists like you and John are not like me.

    • LSS

      will read the actual entries later when i get a chance, but… this makes a lot of sense.

    • Diana A.

      “(No one wants to publish it so far, I do have some black and white illustrations ready to go if I want to Kindle the thing, but I’m afraid to branch out into that as I have no idea how to self-promote.)”

      http://www.amazon.com/Publish-Your-Novel-Connie-Shelton/dp/0964316161/ref=sr_1_30?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331790109&sr=1-30

      The above book was published in 1996. There are newer books on the same subject. But I can recommend this one as I’ve read it and it does give a fairly detailed guide on how to self-publish a novel, including advice on how to market it.

      http://www.amazon.com/1001-Ways-Market-Your-Books/dp/091241149X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331790706&sr=1-1

      This book was also last published in 1996 (at least, that’s how it appears to me.) I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’ve definitely glanced through it. Not all suggestions are practical for a small-time/self-publisher, but it will spark your imagination. One tip–do not let yourself be overwhelmed by the number of ideas. Take what works for you and leave the rest.

      Finally, I’m sure John has some recommendations as he’s actually doing this and thus can speak from practical experience.

    • mike

      If I understand it correctly, there is no up-front cost (beyond the work) to doing the Kindle thing. So if just one person downloads your story, you make your $2.99 (or whatever you ask) minus a few cents for Kindle’s expenses. Three people and you can get yourself dinner and give your ideas to three people.

      I’d say go for it.

      • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

        My reluctance to self-publishing has tradtionally been from what I’ve heard about it – people would say that “Self-publishing is career-suicide” that if my first book was self-published, no “legitimate” publisher would look at me, but considering the trends in the publishing and print business moving into the electronic realm, anyway, the success of certain self-published initially “just for fun” media such as popular web-comics and my own sick-and-tiredness of dealing with agents who won’t give you the time of day unless you’re already known (sick of getting form-letters) for *several* books I’ve written over the years, self- E-publishing is looking more attractive all the time.

        Seeing that my fiancee’s lenghty sci-fi/young adult novel was recently rejected by people who were giving it an actual *serious* look (apparently on the grounds that *they* sent it to the wrong division – the children’s book division instead of the young adult division – they got a poison-pen letter from our neck of the woods for that stupidity), he’s expressed his desire to go with Kindle. The problem is, it might be forever before he even does that because he wants to do a series of technical illustrations (starship designs and such) to fit between the chapters and he just doesn’t have the time becuase keeping a job that keeps a roof over our heads is pretty important, too.

        So maybe I’ll just go ahead with one of my pieces becuase I pretty much have two novels ready to go – one with color illustrations, one with black and white… still, I’m just not confident. While Mr. Shore has actual important stuff to say. I just have crazy-ass fantasy novels.

        Maybe I can gain some here? The two things that I have in a state of what (I, at least) think is reasonable decency are as follows:

        1. A novel about a woman and her gryphon. Fantasy with sci-fi elements. A slave-woman is charged by the lord of her castle with the raising of a genetically-engineered gryphon. She is chosen for this task because the animal needs to develop a trust/imprint on humans and she is kind. However, the creature was created to become a weapon of war. Too bad this “weapon” happens to have a soul. And it gets even more complicated – I have a couple of little clips of it on my blog that I posted when I was doing my last edit-fever: http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com/2011/11/of-sin-and-tolerance.html

        http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com/2011/12/graveyard-of-dreams.html

        2. The other novel I have ready to go is the one I mentioned, the faith-allegory thing. The setting for it is a world a hundred or so years after a depopulation bomb (in the form of a disease) hit humanity and everyone who’s left has been rebuilding. It’s not a survival-world as most post-apocalyptic settings are because people have had more than a century to settle. However, much of the memory of our time has been wiped out. My protagonists are a pair of young people who live in a small town where people believe in “the Heavens” and the Guardians from there who companion to and guide people. Only those that believe in the Guardians are aware of their existence. My characters wish to travel to the capitol city of their land just to see what they can see before settling down into boring lives. The people of the capitol, for the most part, do not believe in Guardians and keep some active discrimination against those that openly do.

        Anyone at all interested in reading this kind of stuff?

        • LSS

          I’d buy that.

          I think it’s true that selfpublishing is more and more respectable.

  • http://sunnylockwood.com sunny

    Excellent! Beautiful! Thanks for sharing how you’ve come to terms with your Christian beliefs. Love it!

    I describe myself as a “follower of Jesus” in my attempt to be more specific about my beliefs…since so many Christians in my region of the country espouse values I abhore. I don’t know if it’s helpful to anyone else, but it keeps me feeling honest.

  • http://www.theeternaldance.blogspot.com Lynelle

    What Cynthia said.

  • LSS

    wait so you believe that Jesus took away everybody’s bad karma onto Himself?!

    wow.

    that’s somehow more mind-blowing than all the rest of what you just said put together, which is saying something.

    maybe if i digest that for like a week i could actually think of a question to ask about it.

    i am SO not being sarcastic here, except *possibly* about my own capacity for being surprised by something that should probably be obvious.

    • Donald Rappe

      I thought John said that particularly well.

    • DR

      I loved that phrase. I remember having a moment with Jesus dying on the Cross – that Jesus didn’t actually *know* that He’d be resurrecting. That He honestly believed he was dying for us – for me – for my bad karma – and He was never going to be ok after that. That the suffering was permanent.

      I remember being totally stunned by that thought. Still am.

    • Brenda R

      Yes, he did. On purpose. He knew the whole time his life would end on that cross. For us. I think it’s mind-blowing because it’s hard to imagine that sort of sacrifice on our human level, not to mention that our mortal minds can’t ever FULLY understand everything that Jesus was or did or felt. We can love him for it, and we can be glad he did hat he did, but we are human, and he just……isn’t.

    • Lymis

      I’ve long felt that people are too focused on the method of Jesus’s death. There is a powerful, powerful story there that includes so much of what is right and wrong and great and flawed about our humanity, and if you were going to craft a life that clearly illustrates the point, it would be hard to imagine a clearer one.

      But people put so much onto the fact that he was executed, and that somehow the brutality of his murder was the point of it.

      I don’t see it that way. I see the main point being that, no matter how he died, Death didn’t hold him. Yes, it’s particularly powerful that his death came in a way that highlighted that just about everything people see as humanly important and significant was stripped from him – dignity, social standing, personal freedom, even his closest friends didn’t dare attend his death – but I’ve always felt that if he had lived to a ripe old age and died in bed surrounded by throngs of those who loved him, he still would have Risen, and we still would be more right with God than if he had never lived.

      Of course, people would naturally have taken from that the message that the whole point of life is to be rich, happy, and influential – prosperity Gospel, anyone? – so the manner of his death was critical to our human understanding, but I don’t think it was nearly as important to God.

      Jesus took our karma on himself by his life, death, and resurrection, not by the specific details of his brutal murder.

      • Michael

        Some people definitely do have a morbid fascination with the brutality of Jesus’ death — did you ever watch “The Passion of the Christ”? It’s like a snuff film. But I think that there is an important point in remembering that Jesus was executed by the government of the time, and didn’t die of natural causes.

        Most of the titles that were eventually attached to Jesus — “Divine, Son of God, God Incarnate, God from God, Lord, Redeemer, Liberator and Savior of the World” were first applied to Caesar Augustus*. Whether or not you believe that Jesus came to challenge the civil authorities of Judea and Rome (I believe that was part of his mission, though I know others disagree), you can’t deny that the civil authorities themselves did see Jesus as a threat. Jesus’ trial (if we take the Gospel accounts literally) was unorthodox, but was not “illegal” in any sense of the term at the time–it complied with Roman law. And there was no dispute about the facts, no whodonit, no one saying “you’ve got the wrong man, it was Peter all along!”–Jesus really did commit the “crimes” he was killed for. If we accept the law (as most people did and do), then Jesus’ execution was just; if we believe that Jesus’ death was unjust, then we must reject the law itself as unjust.

        (* I got the list of titles from “The Challenge of Reason” by John Dominic Crossan.)

        So the Empire executed Jesus, in the same way it executed millions of other criminals. It imposed the ultimate sanction, literally the worst thing that any government can do, it used the power of Death to solve its problem. Three days later, God countered with the power of Life. Two thousand years later, the Empire is gone and Caesar is dead; Jesus lives, and the Kingdom is at hand.

        • Michael

          I meant that I got the titles from “The Challenge of Jesus” by Crossan. That was a weird mistake.

  • Donald Rappe

    Well said, John.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thank you, Donald. That means a lot to me.

  • Driftwood2K11

    It never fails, when I visit here, that John always has something so wonderful to say. I know you don’t represent the faith as a whole, John, but you do give me hope that more Christians follow their faith with the same heartfelt compassion that you do. It’s refreshing, and it almost (almost!) makes me wonder where my faith could have gone if I would have stayed with it. Top notch as usual. :)

    • Donald Rappe

      Don’t worry. Nobody represents the faith as a whole, except, Jesus.

      • Diana A.

        Ain’t that the truth!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks so much for this, Drift.

    • Diana A.

      In some ways, I believe that faith is as much a gift from God as anything else. Maybe one day, you’ll come back to faith and be able to embrace it once again, with greater joy than previously. In the meantime, embrace the path God has laid out for you…even if you don’t believe in God. ;-)

  • Tony John via Facebook

    I think one reason why we see so much idiocy and foolishness with 20th & 21st century Christianity is because so many people fail to ask themselves why they believe the way they do. Another reason might be that a lot of people let some Bible worshiper do their thinking for them. I don’t take the Bible literally. And that doesn’t threaten my basic Christian faith. I take the Bible seriously, not literally.

  • Marcey

    John, you know I’m not a troll. Give me a break. Obviously, you have never heard of Jungian Psychology and archetypes. I didn’t think I was being offensive. Hard to understand, perhaps, but to label someone “ill” just because you don’t understand them Come on. I think its time we all take a look in the mirror. God bless “you” all.

    I really think some people make it their life’s work to find a way to be offended. Mission accomplished. Anyone care for another serving of irony?

    • LSS

      I thought you were saying something real, but nobody could tell what it was. That makes communication difficult.

      I get that it’s probably a kind of art, but maybe you have to explain your art in order for it to form a part of the discussion.

      • Marcey

        Thanks, LSS. I agree. What I posted is weird, but it is not horrible or troll-like. Sorry for being weird, which is as much if not more of my identity than most people’s sexuality. You are right though, what is the point of posting something no one else gets? Sorry.

    • Donald Rappe

      I had to reread your comment, but, sorry Marcey, you’re no Carl Jung.

    • DR

      Marcey your comments have been consistently passive-aggressive or just completely off. You’ve called Catholic people Muslims, your thoughts seem incoherent and disorganized and totally out of left field. With all due respect, there’s been a pattern of “WTF??” from a number of different people who don’t understand you. Consider we’re not the issue.

      • Marcey

        Ok “DR”. You know best. And Donald, I know I’m not Carl Jung. Geesh. Even I know that!

        Isn’t that why we are all here on earth – to figure things out.

        So much for celebrating our differences!

        • DR

          How about you grow up a little bit – seriously. There are a ton of people here who are different – they are clear, concise and they don’t passively-aggressively attack John or the other commenters here. Don’t let yourself off the hook, you’re responsible for how you’re being received.

          • Marcey

            Well, LSS seems to be somewhat tolerant. Wink wink. Trust me, I have lived with myself my entire life, and I know I rub many people the wrong way. (I have found that the people who annoy us the most are often people who have traits we ourselves have which we don’t want to acknowledge.) I have learned the most from people who have disagreed with me, and I will continue to do so. I would rather taste the bitter truth than listen to sugar-coated lies. Thanks!

          • Melody

            So you’re right just because we disagree with you? Typical martyr syndrome. You can’t handle the “bitter truth” that you’re pushy, annoying and defensive, and that as I said before (and others have observed), you have issues.

          • Marcey

            Melody, I don’t think I said that. You are putting words in my mouth. However, thank you. May I have another? I feel like the woman on the movie “Airplane”. Remember when they lined up to slap her, saying “Get ahold of yourself!” Then the next person, “Let me handle this” And they proceed to slap her as well. LOL It’s a good thing I know who I am and I know I love just as much as the cushy-feely ditto heads, and my self-esteem is not affected by this ridiculous overreaction to my pathetic attempt at humor. After all, God made us who we are, and I am not going to change just to “please” you, Melody. Next?

          • DR

            Marcey, Im sure you’re lovely and we’re just experiencing a communication problem. You’re certainly not being victimized, you’ve been given some candid feedback and you can either take it and apply it or not and just blame everyone else. But know this about me, I’m not tolerant of passive-aggressive comments/behavior. I think it’s shitty. So I’ll be honest about that if and when I see it. Hopefully you stick around and find ways to reconnect, this is a great place to learn all kinds of things.

          • Melody

            Um, no. You’re the one putting words in people’s mouths. You’re the one who assumed there was an anti-child agenda because of a comment about a screaming baby in a public place.

            I couldn’t care less about you “pleasing” me. If you really don’t care what people think of you, then why are you so defensive? Being overly defensive is a sure sign of insecurity, just ask anyone. Stop being so presumptuous and projecting your neuroses onto everyone else. If everyone is telling you to stop what you’re doing, take the hint, and STOP IT.

          • Marcey

            “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle

          • DR

            WTF re sugar-coated lies? I don’t even know you’re saying half of the time.

  • http://www.anthonymathenia.com Anthony Mathenia

    “And one of the primary reasons for which I’m comfortable continuing to do so is because I don’t care if anyone else thinks it’s bullshit.”

    Reminds me of something Paul said about not minding to be called a fool for his beliefs.

    What would it matter if I worshipped a Giant Spaghetti Monster so long as such worship improved my life?

  • Donald Rappe

    I am not sure if the adjective Christian can be rescued, although I admire John’s continued attempts. I find it incredible that people seem to beat on their chests and say “I am a Christian”. If your life and property are at risk because of this name, like early Christians, than perhaps you ARE Christian. If when someone says “All Christians step forward, we want to execute you.”, you step forward, then you are certainly a Christian. Indeed, this happened to the German equivalent of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Bible Studenten) who refused to salute the swastika or repeat “heil Hitler”. Even though I may differ with their theoology, I can only think of them as Christians. I do not hold “German Christians” in the same regard, whether Catholic or Protestant.

    • Diana A.

      Certainly the majority of the “German Christians” at the time of Hitler were probably less than Christ-like. Still, I believe some did stick their necks out by hiding Jewish people from the Nazis and doing other such heroic things.

      As for what “German Christians” are like now, I have no idea.

    • Diana A.

      Will: I despise the kind of dogma that allows only blind obedience;

      onward christian soldiers marching in lock-step,

      with “Gott mit Uns” on military belt buckles.

      Oh, so this is where the whole “German Christian” theme came from. Okay.

  • DR

    Well then clarify that for goodness sake. Take a little responsibility for how you’re being misunderstood, are you tracking the comments you’re getting? People don’t understand you. Take the feedback or don’t but don’t blame other people when you’re the common denominator, Marcey.

    • Marcey

      Yes.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Marcey: I got the snarky “I guess you only want dittoe-heads” message you sent me.

        • Marcey

          Sorry.

        • Marcey

          Wow, Lymis. I can’t tell you how much your “stab” at this means to me. For a while I was convinced I was stupid, callous, and even seriously mentally ill. You really hit the nail on the head about my point. However, because I felt accosted and attacked, and because I lack patience anyway, I could not put it in the words you did. And let’s face it, you also probably a much better all-around person than I am.

          To continue with your excellent analysis of my probably erroneous point, it really struck me how demeaning the writer was to herself. “Queer, polyamorous?” Maybe its just me, but it sounds derogatory, like she has rejected the beliefs of her parents, so why not just go to hell in a hand-basket? Why not just run with the wolves? I would believe she was making choices out of who she was, and not out of rebellion, disillusion, and confusion if she referred to herself as a lesbian who has not yet found the right person or persons for a committed relationship.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lenore-Moules/100000536694015 Lenore Moules via Facebook

    I like that too – take the Bible seriously, not literally!

  • Leslie Marbach via Facebook

    That’s pretty much everything in a nutshell. It works for me?

  • Marcey

    No Big Deal. I can live with it. I understand its your job. I am currently in a desparate search for truth, and I often hurt people in my rush to find it. I guess I just need to slow down and take a breather. I really feel this sense of desperation, like once I see truth, it will be too late to act on it. I know your heart is in the right place. Sorry.

    • DR

      I hope you stay, this is such a wonderful place. We’ll just start over!

    • http://www.theeternaldance.com Lynelle

      Hey Marcey,

      I think I know how you’re feeling. Message me if you want to chat.

      • Marcey

        Lynelle,

        How do I message you? I clicked on your name and found a message about a lovely film.

    • Diana A.

      I agree with DR. I haven’t read any of your recent comments and I don’t know why (or even if) you’re blocked, but you do have the right to your opinions and I respect the graciousness of this comment.

  • Marcey

    I really do feel bad. I don’t know who I am trying to fool. Myself, perhaps. Btw, since I am blocked, I am assuming this is not being posted?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Blaine-Williams/100001220897612 Blaine Williams via Facebook

    yes, I like “seriously, not literally” as well.

  • DR

    And one of the primary reasons for which I’m comfortable continuing to do so is because I don’t care if anyone else thinks it’s bullshit.>>>

    This is the BEST place to be. Love how you phrased this.

  • Molly By Golly

    Letter writer, you’re in good company. Jacob wrestled with God, demanding to know the unknowable, becoming both injured, and transformed in the process. Please consider reading Brian McLaren’s book “A New Kind of Christianity”. It grapples with the big questions about the nature of God, Jesus and the church as an institution.

    • Diana A.

      In fact, anything written by Brian McLaren is the bomb.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Um. So I’ll be being quiet now.

        • Diana A.

          Not a big fan of Brian McLaren, huh? I’m not saying the man’s perfect, but he has written some good stuff. He’s at a different place in his spiritual journey than you are. But he’s getting more liberal all the time. Or at least, I think he’s getting more liberal. And I’m one who considers liberal a compliment, so weigh that accordingly.

        • Molly By Golly

          Two tines, one fork. Two forks, one drawer. Two drawers, one art class.

    • http://www.unchainedfaith.wordpress.com Amy

      Have you read Naked Spirituality? I actually prayed through it. I consistently struggle with faith/doubt and I also find Brian McLaren’s writings helpful. (Although I see why not everyone would.)

    • DR

      I loved this book!

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.b.foster1 Robert Banks Foster via Facebook

    I love the “how I breath.” Esprit meaning breath. How everyone breathes with the breath of God.

  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

    To get us back on track with discussing John’s response to this interesting young woman, I say bravo! John’s response was heart-felt and sincere. He didn’t cross the line of engaging in debate or argument, merely sharing his truth. I’m reminded of the passage in scripture that says, “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

    1 Peter 3:15.

    • vj

      Amen!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kissing-Fish-christianity-for-people-who-dont-like-christianity/188533647842714 Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity via Facebook

    John, Bravo! Your response was heart-felt and sincere. You didn’t cross the line of engaging in debate or argument, merely sharing your truth. I’m reminded of the passage in scripture that says, “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”
    1 Peter 3:15.

  • http://manalive7@blogspot.com Allen

    So… Whatever (version of) Christianity you believe to be true, right and good is, well, perfect for you. Of course you will have to do a little work to come up with your own personal version of Christianity. Whatever you find hard to hard to handle or too narrow minded in the “orthodox” version, you’ll need to toss out. Want to add some new concepts of your own? God’s good with that. Whose to judge? Go for it!

    • DR

      The passive-aggressive hostility in Allen’s comment does such a grave disservice to what it is that he and those of you who communicate like he does actually believe. Don’t you see that? I honestly don’t think those of you who are “defending orthodoxy” give a damn about it or about people actually experiencing it. I think this is all about your ego and you feeling challenged and not having the emotional make up or spiritual maturity to handle it.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdgalloway

      Glad we got your permission on that Allen.

      Of course let us not forget that when it comes to faith, beliefs, etc. it is very much a personal internal matter, not really between us and other people at all, but rather between us and the divine. And last time I checked God’s opinion trumped other’s opinions of us on a grand scale.

      So in reality we didn’t need your opinion at all. Thanks anyway.

      • Marcey

        “There are as many paths to heaven as there are people.” – Mother Theresa

        • Melody

          For once, we agree on something. Beautiful quote.

        • Brian W

          “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” – Jesus Christ

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Here’s a little animated clip I made about that exact quote: Christian vs. Non-Christian: Who Gets Into Heaven?

          • DR

            Absolutely and I love how Jesus uses things like Buddhism t0 do just that. :)

          • Brian W

            “I am a way, a truth, a life, any one can come to the Father by many paths” – Anonymous universal spiritualist when asked what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really meant.

            I like to stir the pot every now and then :-)

          • DR

            Brian, be careful to not define who Jesus is too narrowly. We know what our very, very limited knowledge validates. It’s possible that Jesus was and is much, much more than we’re aware of.

          • Brian W

            DR,

            I agree, you’re right we really shouldn’t define Jesus too narrowly, it is easy to do. I prefer to believe who Jesus is based on the Bible, not what could be or may be possible bacause if I do, I could be wrong, or may be wrong and absolutely possibly wrong if I do the opposite; allow a broad definition of Jesus apart from the record in the Bible. All that Jesus want’s us to know about Him and His Gospel can be learned from the Bible, we don’t need more, there is enough there for a lifetime.

            Again this is my personal belief which is subject to change.

    • Lymis

      Allen actually has it right – snark aside.

      Because the point isn’t to figure out which fan club to join so you get the choice prizes, the backstage pass, and the right Secret Decoder Ring.

      The point is that there is a living, present, immanent Creator, and a world all around us, and our own inner experience, and that we have the ability to order our experience around a mental and spiritual image that helps us most deeply connect all of those things.

      If some form of orthodox religion, especially Christianity, does that for you, that you find God most present in your life via that doorway, then that’s wonderful for you. If that isn’t how God speaks in your heart and soul, then it is the most natural and right thing to do to go in search of where and how that Voice most authentically speaks to you – including if it speaks to you through something other than religious faith. Someone who learns how to love their neighbor and do unto others by rejecting theology and religious doctrines may be far closer to God than someone who religious orthodoxy tempts into arrogance and a closed heart. (See also, sheep and goats.)

      No human concept of God or God’s plan can possibly encompass all that God is, and anyone who says anything else is being arrogant on a breathtaking scale. And saying that someone else’s path to God in inherently invalid is, among other things, saying “God isn’t allowed to talk to you that way, because I said so.”

      Jesus himself said that he had other sheep who were not of the same fold. More importantly, however, you could take a cue from Jesus’s words to Martha. If someone else has found their place at the feet of the Master, however they found their way there, you have no right to condemn them for not bustling about and doing things your way.

      I find the comment “Of course you will have to do a little work to come up with your own personal version of Christianity.” Because it’s hard to not imagine that the implication is “If you choose a standard, “off the rack” version of Christianity, you won’t have to do any work at all.” Christianity is many things, in all its forms, but anyone claiming that it is easy really doesn’t understand it at all.

      • Marcey

        Beautiful, Lymus.

      • DR

        Love this!

        • vj

          Ditto! ;-)

      • Brian W

        yup, 2 thumbs up

      • Chris

        Thank you, Lymis. That was perfect.

  • Robert

    If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for you. If it does, fantastic. I believe that’s the whole point of John’s commentary. You have your own mind, with its own perceptions, and it has to make sense of the world in its own way. Good luck to you, kid.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dennis-Gilbert/1431086374 Dennis Gilbert via Facebook

    Good work, my friend…

  • mike

    Had a little chat with The Guy the other day, because I’m not able to be part of my religion anymore.

    His response: “You think I did all that to start a damned RELIGION? Do I look like L Ron F*cking Hubbard to you?”

    (He’s not as polite as I am.)

    Mine: “Well, I don’t exactly have a visual on either of you. L. Ron I think I’ve seen a black and white photograph of but I forgot what it looked like, and you I’ve seen shown a whole bunch of ways, none of which look plausible for a middle eastern guy 2000 years ago, so no, not really. But OK.”

    So here I am, not any faith, but somehow the idea that the creator of the universe was also a baby born in a barn out in the boonies of the Roman Empire, nurtured and loved by a woman who faced disgrace for His birth, who eventually got betrayed by his own people and killed by that empire, and then didn’t have enough respect for human laws to stay dead, that works for me. And I’m hoping He’ll sneak me into the back door of heaven when it comes to that.

    Anyway, thanks, John.

    • Richard Lubbers

      Mike, I don’t think you”ll be ushered into heaven by the back door. I love your description and the simplicity of faith. I too had him (the guy) tell me he never meant to start another religion. The main point of his birth, life, death and “lack of respect for human laws to stay dead” is to gently fold people back into god, or maybe the other way around.

      I also love John’s statement that, if we did somehow get part of the truth messed up in this life, we’ll be delighted to learn that truth later. If there’s one thing we humans do well, it’s make a mess of things.

      I believe that when Jesus said, “It is finished!” he didn’t mean, “There, I’ve done my part. The rest is up to them.” God didn’t leave any part of the restoration of mankind up to our pathetic foibles. So, what’s not to like?

      We all experience, at one time or many times, the questioning of faith such as expressed by this young woman. God is certainly used to this type of struggle within our souls. I trust God’s work, for myself and for every human on this planet.

      Thank you for such a delightful comment here.

      Richard

      P.S. John, have you had your lunch with RB?

    • Diana A.

      Liking this!

  • Linda

    I am wiht the orginal girl that wrote. And at a much riper age I too have lost my faith. But my question is Why do we think Jese had to die for our sins” ? As I examine my life I truly can’t say I have “sined” I have made mistakes, some pretty big ones but all in an efort to figure out life, and honest sin if you will. to me that doesn’t worent andy one else havien to die for my mistakes. It just doesn’t seem reasonabel. I do belive that jese was a real man born in cirrcumstances less than ideal and his parents wlive in a very percarious land with some really bed government decisions. I think he got to pointing these things out to the religous right of his day and they found a way to get rid of him. In the most horffice way possible for that time in an effort to intimidate others and hold on to their pwoer. But then they didn’t count on the Romans taking issues wiht their whole theocracy 70 years later and destrying the main icon the Temple in Jeruslem.

    But Jesus having to die for me, just doesn’t comput. I am finding a way to think about Jesus’s teaching without the context of fundementalist static thinking, but it is not easy and I can’t do it for very long yet….

    John thanks as always for your humor and perspective and this forum. ;-)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Hey, Linda. Thanks for kind words. See if this works for you: God is Love; Christ is Pain.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore
        • Linda

          John thanks for the great links…. As I think about it all and I haven’t thought it all through yet and probaly won’t live long enough to get through it is this,,,

          Jesus as God doesn’t work for me. Just as it does work for you. and I guess that is the beauty of it all, what we beleive is what must work for us, we just have to figure it out as best we can. At times I miss the nice safe box I used to live in but then life has become so much more interesting in that I am now in charge of my own faith. Not any one book, or any one faith nor any one person other than myself. I read something the other day talking about trusting yourself……Trust yourself enough to make decisions, just be sure you an acept the consequenses of your decisions…. I think for me that is what it comes down to at least for now.

          Thanks again for your wise words and sharing your heart with us. And please excuss my bad typing some days are just like that and I have been under alot of stess lately becausei thought I had a job and it fell through. I have been unemployed for a year and only have worked for 16 hours a week for minimum wage. Life is just like that some days. ;-)

          • Molly By Golly

            You needn’t accept the substitution-atonement theory to be a Christian. “Sin” literally means “missing the mark”. When some say that Jesus “died for the sins of the world” their understanding is that Jesus was murdered because the world missed the point of his teachings then and overwhelmingly still does today. There is great diversity within the Christian faith.

          • Melody

            Interesting, I hadn’t heard it that way before. So I’m genuinely curious: How do you think Christians that believe this find the acceptance and forgiveness that those of us find who believe in penal substitution? I know there are those that still practice self-flagellation (because they don’t think penal substitution was enough), but surely there are those that don’t believe that’s necessary? Just wondering, thanks.

          • Molly By Golly

            The response I have heard most frequently is “grace”. If grace is the answer and atonement unneccessary, it follows that our feelings of being unacceptable and unworthy of forgiveness before God are indeed nothing more than our feelings, not an external reality. Moping in a corner because we feel we’re not good enough to be at the party says more about us than our host. In this light, knowledge of grace doubles as self acceptance and love. (I will inquire further at the next potluck and try to get some more nuanced answers.)

  • Lymis

    My answer to the letter-writer:

    A lot of people find that their path to their deepest self – and their deepest connection to What’s Really Going On – involves some sort of desert experience. And that sometimes the only way out is through.

    You may find that you have to let go of some intellectual ideas – or misunderstandings – that you have, and that the clearest and best way to do that is to find yourself surrounded by other ideas that throw everything you just assumed was true into serious question.

    It may be that you find yourself in the position of trying to choose between a conscious and deliberate attempt to try to believe something that doesn’t speak to you and the genuine working of something greater than yourself drawing you to itself in a new and deeper way.

    Remember to be as skeptical of the slick and easy answers that these new people have as you find yourself being of what may now seem to be slick and easy answers that you took for granted before. Atheism can be as shallow and unthinking, and as dogmatic and judgmental, as the worst of religion can be.

    At the same time, being surrounded by unbelievers can be a great gift, because all too many people have the mistaken idea that someone without religion has no compassion, no morality, no sense of anything greater than themselves, and no connection to any moral compass – and that is simply not true. It may be that this time in the desert will open your heart in ways that were simply not possible any other way.

    Having your answers taken away can grant you the particular gift of being able to really focus on and understand the questions. Often, if the answer is too easy, we never really take the time to understand what the actual question was, and as a result, we don’t benefit from the answer, either. Give yourself permission not to have any answers for awhile, and allow the questions to reshape themselves until you feel it is time to start answering them again.

    • Brenda C

      “Often, if the answer is too easy, we never really take the time to understand what the actual question was…” I love this.

  • http://www.unchainedfaith.wordpress.com Amy

    What a great response to that letter. I struggle with keeping my faith intact too. What keeps me going is the hope that life isn’t all just a cosmic accident, and that if I can believe in a Creator, I can believe in Jesus’ love for everyone. I’m taking it one day at a time.

  • Leslie Marbach via Facebook

    I like that, Roger. Too often people forget about the gentleness and respect part. John definitely was gentle and respectful in his response.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Thanks to you both, very much

  • gretchen

    Hey Girl! I wrestle with this sometimes. John, I love your answer. My belief is in my heart. In my despair, I call on the Lord. I’m so glad I have that to cling to. I quit hearing the fundamental voices, as they are useless in this struggle.

  • Jack

    Speaking as a gay Christian in a loving relationship with another Christian man for over 15 years , who (both of us) believe the standard Creeds with a fervor that would make Pat Robertson and Billy Graham look like Unitarians, only our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ gives life meaning.

    Don’t let others steal Him from you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/NEWolfe Nathaniel Wolfe via Facebook

    I love you more every time I read your stuff…and it really gives me a way in which to be supportive and in dialog with my christian friends.

  • Teresa Metcalfe Johnson via Facebook

    Interesting article approach and interesting comments. Not that I agree, but it IS thought provoking and challenges me yet again to “test everything.” (I like things that make me think…)

    It makes me think about each individual’s journey to the knowledge that God is right there beside them in the journey no matter what —unconditionally and unfailingly.

    Then somewhere on that journey they meet Jesus and finally acknowledge the Spirit living within them and that knowledge makes them able to walk in a peace and a power they have never known.

    It also made me think, yet again, about how language is too LIMITED to articulate all of the mysteries of God. And that many times words have gotten in the way of God’s WONDERMENT.

    I know that my mere words oftentimes fail to express my heart, how much more do our pedestrian attempts to verbally articulate GOD’s heart fail to express the fullness of his love for us???

  • http://www.mccinthevalley.com Jeff G

    Dear queer polyamorous American girl living in Ireland,

    Stop listening to to the negative people around you. Start to find other like minded individuals, instead. A good start might be Branching Out Church in Dublin. (https://sites.google.com/site/branchingoutcc/) It is a Metropolitan Community Church, and if it follows our founder, Troy Perry’s, theology, you would be perfectly welcome there. If they have wandered from his leading, (as some individual churches have) you can join MCC in the Valley, here in North Hollywood, California, USA. We are Radically Inclusive and you would fit right in. We have internet members all over the place who watch our services at http://www.ustream.tv/user/MCCVLive on Sundays at around 5:30pm your local time. (Give or take an hour for Daylight Saving Time) For more Info you can go to our website at http://www.mccinthevalley.com. Our prayers go out to you, it’s rough out there!

  • Adara Pallady via Facebook

    Love this & sharing some as a quote because it sums up how I feel too. TY John Shore!

  • Robert McHenry via Facebook

    I love what you have to say… hopefully you can influence the discussion more. But around me there are lots of these trendy southern baptists churches that hide their hate behind self help slogans and bad theatrics.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      So what? You’re better than that, right? So what do you care what they do?

  • Robert

    Hi John…

    I love what you wrote… I really do. It is so sane and it makes religion a choice… “I won’t regret that while on earth I chose the belief system I did.” And in truth, if your version of Christianity was the version of Christianity that was offered in the world, I might be tempted. Unfortunately, your version is not the version that I see operating in the world. I see another version plowing through our cultural system. One filled with fear, arrogance, bigotry and hate. I see it in the words of preachers and politicians and it causes me to wonder if there is something inherent in monotheistic religions that gives rise to this level of… well… evil. I recently was watching a documentary on the Constantine. It stated that his decision to become a christian was a political one. It occurred during a Civil War in Rome (prior to that there had been 2 emperors)… he used the church as a way to solidify his rule… One Emperor, One God, One Church and One Bible. It was then that Christianity went from being a church of the People to the church of the Powerful. It became the State Religion and in the west has remained one. I wish your version of the Christian was the ruling one as I wish that the Jesus of my childhood was the real Jesus… but it has all gotten too twisted and too manipulated for me as a person and esp. for me as a gay person… to believe in. I am glad there are christians like you in the world and for what it is worth, I hope your version of God is God.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      The important thing is to never confuse Christianity with (the majority of) Christians. Doing so is a failure to distinguish between substance and style.

    • Lymis

      I suspect that you are right that the big temptation in secularizing monotheism is that sort of power grab – but if the idea is that polytheistic religions would be immune to human drama and all warm and cuddly, I don’t think history supports that either.

      People are people. And I’ve come to think that Jesus’s command to be salt of the earth and a light on a hill were, at least in part, a recognition that the people who “get it” will always – or at least as long as His teachings are needed – be fairly rare and special. That’s not a reason not to aspire to be one, but it is a reason not to despair when not everyone is.

    • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

      Rodney Stark, a historian who specializes in the study of monotheism, has often pointed out the tensions between what he refers to as the Church of Power and the Church of Piety. The current Church of Power is just beginning to realize it has passed its apex & is on the way down; the Church of Piety (in the real spiritual sense of the word, not the showy displays we’re used to) is beginning to coalesce again.

      It’s gonna be an interesting millennium…

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    The paragraph “I believe that God really did manifest himself as the earthly figure known to history as Jesus…” is one of the best distillations of Christian belief I’ve ever read.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      thanks very much, buzz.

  • BarbaraR

    “Ever since then, my “faith” has been a roller coaster: getting serious, losing interest, getting serious, losing interest—”

    Well, yeah. I truly believe that’s what it’s like for most Christians. Trouble is, the ones who loudly squawk “I’ve never doubted my salvation! Not once! Every day I feel closer and closer to God!” – are louder and more insistent and are frequently in positions of church hierarchy. The honest people who say, “I’m not sure about all this. I have questions. No one has the market cornered on truth” – are told that they’re letting Satan into their heads and that they need to stop questioning. “An open mind is the devil’s playground.”

    They may think they’re helping people have faith but I believe their effect is the opposite: they make people feel like they’re not enough. What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have faith like that? Why should I even try? And the usual responses – pray harder! Study your Bible more! – are bumper sticker slogans. Churches in general are not interested in the complexities of faith; they want butts in seats on Sunday morning.

    It’s healthy to express your fears, doubts, anger at the bullshit you’ve been fed. Suppressing it just to keep the peace is dishonest to others and will just drive you further away. Maybe you need to step away. Maybe you’ll find your way back. Maybe you won’t. Whichever, your journey is personal and there is no one size fits all for faith.

    It’s been two years since this was first posted. I would love to hear back from the OP.

    • Guy Norred

      I have started to question the strength of a faith that cannot stand to be questioned. I recently heard a quote from Thomas Merton that I think speaks to this. “If the you of five years ago doesn’t consider the you of today a heretic, you are not growing spiritually.”

  • http://faithlikeaman.blogspot.com/ Ryan Blanchard

    Sure do love your explanation of things, John.

  • charlesmaynes

    Mr. Fabulous….. that was really well said.


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