A Fractured Church, Part 2

I wrote yesterday about how fractured Christianity has always been. It almost seems like Christians have never been able to agree on, well, anything. Whether it’s arguing over whether Judaic food laws are still in affect or the nature of Jesus’ divinity or what happens at communion or whether Jesus would have been a Republican or a Democrat, the Christian church has always been, and continues to be, fractured. I wrote a bit yesterday also about the Emerging Church movement, made up of disaffected young people from a myriad of denominations and Christian traditions who want to bypass all of this fighting and pettiness, accept differences of opinion, and focus on the commonalities.

I have written before about how my atheism stems in large part for the fact that basic Christian doctrines simply no longer make sense to me. I can’t make myself believe something if it just doesn’t make sense. The fractured church, though, was another step on my path toward atheism. I wrote yesterday a post called “Jesus Can Lie” but then took it down, deciding it was too personal. In this post, I’m going to combine some of what I said there with more about the fractured church.

I started yesterday’s post by mentioning a blog post by fellow blogger Darcy. I’m going to start this one with a quote from this post, in which she seeks to reassure her family and friends’ fears about the state of her faith as she questions basic Christian doctrines:

I am not throwing away my faith. Not gonna happen. As much as I’ve been angry at God, have questioned Him and questioned my beliefs, one thing remains: I know Him. He is the constant in my life of insecurities and chaos.

At one point I would have said the same. I might question doctrines I’d been raised with like creationism or female submission, or even ask bigger questions about the Trinity or Christ’s substitutionary atonement, but I would not, could not abandon God. Jesus had always been my best friend, and my relationship with him was so real. It was the one thing I had to hold onto amidst life’s storms. This perspective would have made me a perfect candidate for the Emerging Church.

Even as basic Christian doctrines ceased to make sense, I still had my personal experiences with Jesus to fall back on. My experiences all told me Jesus was real, was there for me, cared for me deeply. My experiences told me I could trust Jesus, hold on to him, give my all to him. Even as I gained new knowledge, those experiences didn’t just disappear, and so neither could my deep belief in God and my close relationship with Jesus.

What changed? Two things, actually. First, the fractured nature of the church, both in the past and present, started to appear more and more problematic to me. And second, I found that I could be convinced, thoroughly and totally convinced, that Jesus had told me something, and then find out that it was a lie. These realizations made me completely rethink my “relationship with Jesus.”

The Protestant Reformation

I studied the Protestant Reformation in some depth in college, reading not the one-sided books celebrating the victory of the godly Protestants against the godless Catholics I had read as a child but rather actual works of history that took neither one side or the other. What I found was hard to understand. Both sides claimed to be hearing directly from God, both sides read the Bible and spent time in prayer, and both sides were equally devout. Both sides wanted God’s will above all else, and both sides were convinced they had it. Compare Thomas More and Thomas Cranmer, for instance. And yet, not only could the two sides not agree on key doctrinal points, they disagreed so strongly – calling each other heretics and nonbelievers and even the antichrist – that they killed each other by the hundreds of thousands and even millions.

This confused me. If God is real – and I was thoroughly convinced that he was – why did he not communicate with these people? Why did he not tell them all the same thing? Why did he allow them to wonder in confusion, denouncing each other, persecuting each other, and even killing each other? All of these men claimed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, all spent hours in prayer. Was God unable to communicate with them?

Perhaps, I thought, God didn’t care about the doctrinal points the Catholics and Protestants were arguing over. Perhaps he was the God of both, and each just misunderstood and thought God was telling them to defend their particular doctrinal points as the only true beliefs. But even that idea had a problem. Why would God not tell these men that he didn’t care about what they believed about communion or the veneration of saints? Why would he allow these men, all equally devoted to following him, to kill each other over points that didn’t really matter?

Perhaps God tried to tell them, I thought, but was unable to. I knew that God was supposed to be all powerful, but I also knew that God couldn’t force people to listen to him. Yet the more I read about the devout men who led each side of the Reformation the more I was impressed with how hard these men tried to listen to God. God was everything to them, and they wanted nothing more than to serve him. If cultural baggage was getting in the way of their communication with God, preventing God’s true message from getting through, God must be awfully hard to listen to, and what hope do any of us have of ever being sure we hear him?

My Parents and I Disagree

When I was going through issues with my parents during college, we were each convinced we heard Jesus speaking to us – but we each heard different things. I’ve written about this before, but I’m going to go ahead and recap it here.

My parents always told me that Christianity was to be a relationship, not a religion. All that mattered was our individual, personal relationships with Jesus. For that reason, we all spent time reading the Bible and in personal prayer each day. Jesus was my parents’ best friend, their closest confidant. I saw my mother crying out to Jesus when times were hard, asking him for help and for him to teach her through her struggles. I saw my dad asking Jesus to help him lead the family well. I watched my parents read the Bible, sometimes in tears, and knew that what mattered most to them, more than anything in the world, was listening to and following Jesus.

I grew up emulating my parents in this. Jesus was my best friend. I told him everything, brought every care and trouble to him, and asked him to help me grow in faith and become a better person. I spent time reading the Bible and Jesus revealed himself to me more through those pages. I spent time in prayer, and my relationship with Jesus grew even stronger. Following Jesus mattered more to me than anything else in the world.

In college, some of the views my parents had taught me, such as young earth creationism and right-wing politics, were seriously challenged. I realized that I had in many ways simply adopted my parents’ religious beliefs – the “add-ons” of capitalism, anti-environmentalism, anti-welfare, pro-spanking, and male headship – without seriously examining them for myself and looking at the different sides of each argument. And that, quite simply, was what I began to do.

As I sorted through my beliefs, Jesus was right there with me. My faith grew only more dynamic through this period, and I felt closer to Jesus than ever. When I began investigating Catholicism, I felt Jesus leading me in that direction and found that Catholicism only added further richness to my relationship with Jesus. Jesus gave me permission to ask big questions, and held my hand and encouraged me as I did. During all this exploration, I never stepped outside of his will for me.

My parents didn’t see things this way, though. Jesus was, you see, telling my parents something different. Jesus was telling them that I was wandering from the faith, that I was in grave danger, that they needed to bring me back to the fold. My parents continued to spend time in prayer and Bible reading, listening to the Holy Spirit and letting Jesus speak to them, and what they heard was that my very salvation was being threatened.

This was confusing to me. How could Jesus be telling me one thing, and my parents another thing? He wasn’t just telling us different things, he was telling us opposite things. I knew Jesus couldn’t do that. I knew God’s nature was to be consistent. That meant that one of us must be mishearing. The trouble was that I also knew we were both trying our hardest to listen to Jesus. If other things were getting in the way – for me, my new college experiences, or for my parents, their friends and the literature they read – that meant that listening to Jesus was no simple thing. Was Jesus not strong enough to make himself heard to each of us as we both sought to listen? Was it that easy to misunderstand what Jesus was saying? Could someone truly be seeking after Jesus with all their heart, and yet miss him entirely? We both wanted God’s will above all else, and yet we came to such loggerheads over my religious journey that our relationship with each other disintegrated, replaced with anger and hurt.

I’ve been told by readers of this blog that my parents were simply not listening to Jesus right. They were not being “discerning” enough. They were listening instead to the literature of Christian Patriarchy, Quiverfull, and fundamentalist Christianity in general, not to God. I understand that if you think that was the case what I say here isn’t going to change your mind, and you are free to think as you please. But I can only tell you that I know my parents, I grew up extremely close to them, and you really can’t find someone who is trying to follow Jesus harder than they are. Jesus’ will is all that matters to them. Their relationship with Jesus is more important to them than anything else in their lives. Given this, would it be so hard for Jesus to tell them that the literature they are reading, or the pastors they are listening to, are wrong? Is it so hard for Jesus to make himself heard that he cannot communicate even with people who want so desperately to do what he wants?

I was shaken by this experience just as I had been by my readings on the Protestant Reformation, but I still had one constant – I had my relationship with Jesus. As troubling as it was that Jesus could not handle the Catholic/Protestant divide five hundred years ago or speak clearly to my devoted parents today, I still had my own experiences. But then, one semester, even that was shaken.

In Which I Find Myself Misled by Jesus

At one point in college, I fell in with a group of evangelical friends and formed a sort of Bible study. One of our number was a pastor’s daughter. She was especially knowledgeable of the Bible and Christian apologetics and had a very close relationship with Jesus, so she became our de facto leader. She always seemed to have a keen insight, an encouraging word, or a pertinent Bible verse, and that semester became one of whirlwind spiritual growth.

Over the course of the semester, we became convinced that the spiritual growth we were experiencing was the beginning of a campus-wide revival. It was easy to believe this, given the growth in our own relationships with God during this period. What we felt was not dissimilar from what had animated the First and Second Great Awakenings. The intensity of spiritual feeling that was poured out on us as we called on the Holy Spirit to guide us is hard to describe. We felt we could take on the world – and we truly believed that was what Jesus had planned for us. I have never felt so in the center of God’s will as I did then.

As you will often find among people who emphasize the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we also came under demonic attack that semester. We prayed demons out of our rooms, our dorms, our campus, and prayed hedges of spiritual protection around each other. Our de facto leader came under especial attack, and sometimes we had to hold her down while she was physically convulsed and pray way the demons who were tormenting her. As we spent time in prayer and engaged in spiritual warfare, we had never felt closer to Jesus. All of this spiritual intensity only confirmed for us what Jesus had spoken to our hearts – revival was coming. And we were ready.

But something went wrong. Our de facto spiritual leader started behaving more and more erratic. This is a hard story to tell, but the end result is that she was diagnosed as mentally ill and sent home for rest, rehabilitation, and medication. Suddenly, everything we had thought was coming came crashing down. The revival, the spiritual intensity – it all whimpered out.

Someone might say that the trouble was that we listened too much to what our de facto leader said, to her insights and encouragements. In the end, that is what we concluded as well  - that it was all in our heads. The intensity, the things we heard from Jesus, all of that had been imagined. It was all started by one mentally ill individual who convinced us that God was moving, and moving with force. I held onto my faith, and life went on.

This episode planted some very troubling seeds in my head. You see, we did not believe revival was coming simply because our spiritual leader told us it was. Rather, it was something Jesus told all of us as well. We never listened to anything our friend told us unless Jesus confirmed it for us individually. The time we spent with her was vastly overshadowed by the time we spent in prayer and Bible reading. We poured out our hearts to God, we listened to Jesus as closely as we could, and we felt a sort of spiritual intensity that is hard to describe. We were listening to Jesus, and he was speaking to us, telling us of the coming revival, telling us of the importance of our part in it, telling us that our leader had an especially large role to play in God’s plan. It taught me that I could think I was hearing from Jesus, and yet be wrong. It taught me that I could be listening to Jesus as hard as I could, and yet mishear.


Through all of these episodes, I was learning that “listening to Jesus” was not so simple as I had thought. Think, for example, of all the families in the Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy movement who follow Bill Gothard. Think of my parents, who are devoted to the teachings of Michael Pearl. These individuals want above all else to do God’s will. They don’t listen to Gothard or Pearl simply because they think their teachings make sense, but rather because they believe that their teachings are confirmed by God. We may call it legalism, but they don’t see it that way. They don’t see it as following rules, but rather as following God – it just so happens that God has told them that there are rules. The early church fathers with their many disagreements, the Catholics and Protestants of the Reformation, and liberal and conservative Christians today – all have tried their hardest to listen to God, and all have come away with something different, even contradictory.

As I tried to figure out how people could hear such controversial things from Jesus, I weighed the options available to me:

1. Jesus honestly tells people contradictory things.

2. Some people are listening right and some people are listening wrong.

3. Only some of what people think they hear from Jesus is from him.

4. Jesus isn’t speaking to people at all, it’s all imagined.

Option one goes against the very nature of God; option two means that we can never be fully sure that we are listening to Jesus right, because, as I learned, it was all to easy to listen wrong (plus this is just cruel – why would Jesus not make it harder for devout people to mishear?); and option three means that we can never be completely sure what of we hear is from God and what is ephemeral (plus this is also just cruel – why would Jesus allow the Protestants and Catholics to kill each other over something they were sure was from God rather than setting them straight?). In the end, I concluded that option four was the only one that made sense.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that the Christian church is fractured because it is so very, very human. Not simply human in that it is made up of humans but rather human in that religion is man made and what we hear from God is only in our own heads. What Christians think they hear from God is shaped by their surroundings, experiences, and even personalities.

And this is why, unlike Darcy, I reached the point where I could no longer say with confidence that I knew God. I could no longer say with confidence that my relationship with Jesus, which had always seemed so real to me, wasn’t just something that I had made up in my head. This is why, when basic Christian doctrine ceased to make sense, I could let go. I was no legalist, following rules or an Old Testament God. I had a vibrant, dynamic relationship with Jesus. It’s just that I’ve come to the conclusion that Jesus was simply my imaginary friend.

Red Town, Blue Town
On Indiana
What Kind of Atheist Parent Are You?
A Matter of Patriarchy
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13205384167481897308 Brother OMi

    Awesome post!I appreciate you letting us into your experience!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "What Christians think they hear from God is shaped by their surroundings, experiences, and even personalities."Bingo! Much, if not most of it, is SPAG(self-projecting as god)Oh, and me too….4

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14097266657351609701 Jeri

    Thank you, thank you for articulating this so well!

  • http://pathofthebeagle.com/ pathofthebeagle.com

    Regarding the Catholic/Protestant squabbles you mentioned, and God's failure to keep them from killing each other, you might enjoy this post on my blog: http://pathofthebeagle.com/2011/07/09/fratricide/Thanks for your blog. I read and enjoy it regularly.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Good post.I've been reading about US Christianity for a while and it's frequently mentioned the guide of the Holy Spirit and that Jesus talks to them. I've been brought up surrounded by Spain's brand of Catholicism and it sounds crazy, in fact mental illness crazy that Jesus talks to you directly… so I was wondering how it worked… if you really heard the voice of Jesus or if it's just a feeling of rightness or wrongness or what it is exactly and if it's widespread (I mean, not only fundamentalists but also liberal Christian, Catholics, … other countries). Thank you.

  • Besomyka

    Excellent post, and quite interesting to read about your experiences!I wonder sometimes if it's just how different people react to doubt. When you were faced with it, you sought out answers independent or outside of your previous sources. I suspect other people just go back to where things are familiar to avoid the discomfort of being wrong.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Good question. It usually isn't an actual voice, although sometimes it can be. If it IS a voice, it's a voice you hear in your head, not generally one you hear out loud. Although, I've heard stories of that happening too, and that's accepted as legit in the circles I grew up in. Usually, it's more of a feeling. For example, let's say you've been having a bad morning, and then you go to read your Bible and the passage for the day is the one on "count it all joy." That's Jesus speaking to you. Or maybe you've been struggling with a difficult situation, and your Bible passage directs you in how you should resolve it. That's Jesus speaking to you. Or you're praying and a word keeps coming to mind – say, compassion – and dwelling on that word gives you insight into a problem, or reminds you of something you haven't been handling well. That's Jesus speaking to you. Or let's say you're at church and there's this person you've noticed several times and you've never met them, and you just feel very strongly that you should go talk to them, and it turns out that that person is going through struggles you've gone through before, and you can give them advice. That's Jesus speaking to you. Or you notice a picture of an old friend on the fridge, and you get this feeling that you should pray for them, and then you do, and later you find out that their mom died that day. That was Jesus speaking to you. And so on.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01203599277658229843 Resophonic

    Powerful. Thank you for sharing this. I saw your post briefly in my RSS feed yesterday and really wanted to read it, but I figured that you had your reasons for pulling it. A while back, you spoke about missing the music of Christianity. I think that I was further into the Christian Rock scene that you were, but that post resonated with me strongly too. Charlie Peacock has a song "Down in the Lowlands" that I obsessed over. The song was based on Psalm 69. My wife was so sick (suicidal with bi-polar disorder crossed with epilepsy) that we personified the lyrics of being down in the hole with the water up to our necks. We cried "save me" and there was no savior. We searched for him, he was no where to be found. I got to a point where I asked myself a question similar to yours: Where was God, why couldn't I find him?I came up with the following options:1) God wasn't listening to us (why?)2) We were somehow so wicked or otherwise outside God's will that we couldn't hear him (we weren't)3) God didn't care.4) We were talking to the wrong god.5) There was no god.I spent a lot of time exploring 1 and 2. Praying my heart out. I was also studying the Holocaust during this Time. Ellie Wiesel wrote a play called the "Trial of God" where some Rabbis put God on trial for abandoning his children. They found him guilty and then went to pray. When someone asked why they prayed they answered "We don't know what is up with God, we only know who we are and we are people who pray." (or something to that effect).I found this profoundly moving for a couple of years. I eventually asked myself what the point was, and moved into my Deistic phase (#3 from above). I couldn't figure out the universe without a God, but I was pretty sure he didn't care, and if he didn't care then I wanted nothing to do with him.#4 never appealed to me. If I wasn't going to believe in this god, why would I jump to another that made even less sense to me.I finally made it to #5 through reading. It started with a book called Terrible Lizards about how all of the early dinosaur hunters started finding things that just didn't fit into the Creation/Flood narrative. These people wanted to desperately believe in that narrative, but the evidence just didn't line up. I finally started to understand *how* the theory of evolution and the old Earth explanations came about: they were the only things that fit the evidence. Later reading Dawkin's God Delusion finally convinced me that God was a hypothesis that I just didn't need any more.Giving up on god was the the most freeing and hopeful experience that I had ever had. All of these things that I had agonized over just stopped even being issues. My wife was still sick, but now it was just because "shit happens". It wasn't a matter of faith, or of sin, or of a personal failing, or of searching for god, or of not being able to hear him. Free will vs Predestination just didn't matter. She was sick because biology screws up. All my life, I had built up this system of how the world worked that revolved around God. When that broke, I was able to realize that I had been trapping myself in a dark cell with Jesus. Every bit of light that came in, I tried to cover over in order to stay in that relationship with him. It was very disconcerting to finally smash down that wall, see the real sun shine in and realize that I was trapping myself with my imaginary friend. I am somewhat embarrassed that I couldn't free myself from that world view earlier.I am still working on constructing my moral understanding of the world. Posts like yours help me feel less alone in this. Thank you again.–Charles

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01203599277658229843 Resophonic

    I should add, that I am always fascinated by people that go through these crisis of faith. You and I ended up leaving Christianity and Theism. Others end up going to a more liberal Christianity or even going more conservative. I really like hearing people stories and reasons.Matthew Paul Turner ( http://matthewpaulturner.net ) is blogging right now about a church in my area (Seattle) and some issues of Church Discipline. Now that I am out of the cave I was in I read these blogs and wonder how people can stay there. But I remember all to clearly how I stayed there all of those years.

  • Meggie

    I also asked the question; Why do people hear God telling them opposite things? I came up with the same answers you did and also concluded people were imagining what they heard. In my case, this did not make God/Jesus imaginary, just the messages. My understanding is that God took Jesus to and left us the Holy Spirit. God watches us, we have love but we do not have someone standing beside us saying 'Do this. Do that.' Basically, we were given the instruction book and left to follow it on our own. I believe all Christian churches are 'right' because what makes you Christian is a belief that Jesus died for you. Everything else in the church is fluff and the differences don't matter, even if they are contradictory.To Libby and any other atheists … Please be assured this is not an attempt to 'bring you back into the fold'. I respect the decisions you have made. I just want to explain how someone can ask the same questions but come to a quite different conclusion.

  • Anonymous

    Charles, I was wondering what you meant when you didn't hear from God? What were you expecting to hear? Do you mean having your wife healed, would be hearing from God? And she wasn't?Beverly

  • Anonymous

    I agree there are all kinds of problems within the church. All people are different in personality but the underlying problem is the issue of sin. No human is perfect. So we live in an imperfect world. There will always be problems until the end of time. For whatever reason God has allowed life to continue for the time being. But their will be a day of change and the new world will be perfect. So until then , we can expect "fractured churches". We can't look to people and find Jesus we must look for Jesus in the Bible. People will disappoint 99% of the time. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I find comfort in the fact he never changes. I know what to expect when I learn of him . He is patient and kind and loves me like no one else. I have learned this by spending time with Him in his word and meditating on him. In my 50 plus years I have had questions but that is ok. I have no question that He isnot real and I have not imagined Jesus and God into being. I could not have more joy in my life for what he is to me. He is not heavy rather he makes the burden light and brings new mercies to each new day!! We will only be disppointed if we look to people in thinking how to live. Rather it is learning about Jesus and asking Him to show you what he has in mind for you. Important to pray and ask fogod's wisdom and he promises to give it. If I didn't explain well just say so. I share only if you are interested. I never push my beliefs on anyone.Him.Gained him either.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05493660713552672612 Sylvia

    Great post. Thank you for explaining your journey. Did you experience grief when you lost your belief and best friend?

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    But you are pushing your beliefs by giving us a disertation on god's "goodness". The first part of your comment had something to do with the topic in question… the rest is pandering to god and the Christian religion.I'm not trying to start a fight, just trying to point out how you've come across to me. This isn't a blog for convincing people god is real or god loves us or whatever.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    PS: I was answering to the Anon, not to Meggie.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Thanks for the explanation :)

  • JeseC

    The difference for me is that I asked one further question – if what we think god is telling us is so variable, why should I still believe the other stuff that he's supposedly telling us? Why should I believe all this stuff about faith and the bible, when it seems so unreliable? The bible I found suffers from the same problem, in that there are many interpretations that are so wildly different as to contradict each other. So now personal experience isn't reliable, and the bible isn't reliable – what's left to believe in?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01203599277658229843 Resophonic

    We wren't really praying for healing for the most part. We had been taught that God seldom worked that way any more (though my wife was very mad a Jesus for being willing to heal people in the new testament, but not to heal her).What I was looking for was a way to bear up under the strain. We were looking for help, hope, strength to make it through the ordeal. We didn't get any. It broke us, and was one of the major fractures that broke my faith.I remember people telling me that "god will never give you more than you can bear" and "once you are saved, nothing, neither heights, nor depths, nor… can take you from the father's hands." Those were my "Jesus Lies" moments. They are wicked falsehoods and served to crush our spirits as badly as the illness itself.My ex was on the edge of suicide for more than a decade. It was more than we could bear–in every way other than the fact that we are both still alive through it. We were alone during that time and most definitely separated from god. I really empathized with Jesus on the cross during that time. God turned away from him and forsook him, just like he had forsaken us. the difference is we never got restored. I even remembering wondering why it would be a bad thing for her to kill herself just to stop the pain–that way she would be with Jesus and better off than she was now. I hated myself for thinking that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05813355985511492823 Stephanie

    I understand a lot of what you are saying, and I think this is why I have made some things non-essentials, such as the age of the earth. I am a Christian but I can totally see what you are saying and yes, I do get frustrated with the organization of church. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Anonymous

    Charles,Reading your story makes me sad for you and for your ex. My health issue is not the same as your ex's but I have experienced a disability from chronic illness lasting many years, to be exact since 1991. It is quite discouraging, to say the least. My encouragement for the most part has not come from "Christian" people although I am Christian. I can understand how one could lose their faith in trials if they were looking for a Christian person to "get it". Often they (Christians) can only come up with canned answers that just don't meet the situation. There is not any "physical help" from them, they are so tied up in their "church" activities. And it does become a very lonely world. But for me, I found a radio person who made the Bible and God's teachings come alive for me. I dug into the Bible and also prayer, when I could, and learned of who God was and is and another whole world opened for me. People and "religions" will disappoint every single time. God never fails and never changes–He is always the same. And I can vouch He is a loving God. My relationship with Him has grown and grown and I look forward to the day I can look into His eyes. And it isn't to say I don't have questions, I still do, but I don't doubt for a second anymore that He loves me. Heaven isn't going to be floating on clouds on golden streets with jewels on all the street corners and doors. It will be much more than that. It will be the place we can do our most favorite things over and over to our hearts content. There will be grand reunions and feasts.I remember when my Dad died, my niece was about 10 years old and she said "Today Grandpa is riding his horses in heaven." And I had not thought of that but after she commented I thought and said Yeah-I think so too!! Heaven will be more beautiful by far than the most beautiful place here on earth. We will have an added demension. Our minds are nothing compared to God's mind. We cannot even begin to reason as His mind does. It isn't where I will be "forced" to worship Him forever, I want to. And no I am not imagining and no, I am not brainwashed. When you said how you could empathize with Jesus when he was on the cross, I too have thought of that. And it makes me sad to read you have not yet been restored. I am not saying it has been all "roses" for me, for every minute of every day. No, I am human too, and there have been moments I have thought I would be better off dead, feeling of little worth here on earth. But those are times I realize I am focusing only on my pain and not focusing on what my God says about me.Thank you Charles for writing back. Beverly p.s. Please don't think I am preaching, I am not. Rather I am telling a bit of my story.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01203599277658229843 Resophonic

    I love the stories and the dialogs, and don't think that you are preaching. Likewise, I am not trying to "rebut" or "convert" you either. I don't think people work that way. I think that people honestly talking about their experiences is once of the best things that we can do with each other.Beverly, I think Libby Anne likes these dialogs too (if not, I will definitely take them elsewhere). She wrote a post called "I used to be you" which I think really explains me better than I could have done.From the time that I was 5, I dug into the bible. I prayed, I learned everything I could about the Bible from history, archeology, theology. I was reading at a college level by 4th grade. I dug into the Bible as the cornerstone of my entire worldview for the first half of my life. I read every interpretation of its key passages that I could find so I could understand all the different ways that people understood them.When my ex got sick, it wasn't people that failed. It was God. I tried to find every way possible to say it was my lack of understanding, to listen for that still small voice, or to find something to explain why God was absent. I can vouch that–as far as I could tell through *desperate* searching–when I needed him, he wasn't there. Furthermore, I found the system of redemption to be morally abhorent. I can no longer believe that our minds are nothing as compared to his, because I found his system to be pretty much something that a bunch of wandering herders turned city dwellers in the middle east would have created. As Libby Anne said in today's "Bombing Demons" post under "The Fear of Hell Part 2: The Lessons of Logic" it just didn't make sense to me. If that is the way the world works, and I could come up with a better plan, why didn't he? Why is the punishment so unjust and barbaric?I could have written a post like yours at 22 before this started. If the Internet had been around, I probably would have. I believed what you wrote with all of my being. My experience since has shown me otherwise. This caused me to really look at "experience-based" testimonials in a new way. Here, you and I have two drastically different outcomes. If God exists, and if you can grant me that I sought him as diligently and heart-felt as you did, then why would we come to different world views? How could he allow that? How does God exist in a world where that happens?I am intensely interested in this topic and of hearing more of your story. How do you know that God never fails? How do you vouch that he is a loving God and that he loves you? How is that love expressed?If you want to read more of my story, you can look at http://open.salon.com/blog/charles_bartleyI blogged there back in '09 when my wife and separated. The posts are somewhat random, and really need a good editor :D. The three on Mental Illnesses, and the "all for good" posts are really the keys. I really tried to get them written out to capture that point in my life. They are really raw and sometimes angry. I stopped blogging because it made the separation and divorce that much more dificult, but reading Libby Anne and others has inspired me to do so again, so I can stop filling their comments sections :D I hope to spend some serious time writing this weekend on a new site.Charles

  • Anonymous

    Sooo, humans with opinions which differ from point to point constitutes a fractured religion? Are you expecting everyone to agree on every matter? Is your marriage with your husband fractured because you have disagreements? That's the most flagrant logic i've ever witnessed.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    I would say that if there were irreconciliable differences like the ones found in the Church, she would be in hte middle of a divorce process already XP

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08561986047548051036 Becky

    Wonderful wonderful post, so many of the things you wrote about echoes with me, although you explain it much more eloquently than I've ever been able to.