Religious conversation, and the meaning of Faith

We were heading out the door for a Good Friday dinner with a church family, and Ms Action wouldn’t stop asking questions.

“Who’s birthday is it?” (If we are going to a “party” it must be someone’s birthday right?)

“It’s not anyone’s birthday. Today is Good Friday, the day when Christian’s believe that Jesus died.”

“Jesus died on the cross?” (Must be info from Sunday school, because I don’t remember talking about this with her.)

“Yes, Jesus died on a cross.”

“Why did Jesus die?”

“Jesus died because some people didn’t like what he taught, so they killed him for something he didn’t do.”

“On a cross?”

“Yes. It was a long time ago, people don’t die on crosses anymore.”

While we were heading to the car, she stopped and drew on the deck with a piece of chalk.

“Look Mom! It’s the cross where Jesus died! We have to tell everyone that Jesus died on the cross.”

On Sunday, she was asking questions again.

“What is Easter Mom?”

“Easter is the day Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead.” (Why does it sound so weird, like I’m telling her that Sleeping Beauty is real?)

“Why did Jesus rose from the dead?”

“Jesus is alive again, because he conquered death, for everyone. So that when people die they can go to be with him.”

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My daughter is already asking so many questions about faith, and sometimes it makes me nervous. I don’t initiate talks about God, but I don’t want to shut down her questions and curiosity. How do I answer honestly about something that I’m not even sure I believe in some days? How do I teach about religion and faith without the old tapes of fear and condemnation?

I’m not afraid of God anymore. I’m not obsessed with my sins or freaking out about my eternal destiny. I don’t feel all warm and fuzzy when I pray, I know that most prayers aren’t answered, and I’m OK with that. I think that the Bible is a bunch of humans attempting to explain their belief in God in their context and time. I don’t think that it should be taken literally word for word and used to attack others. I go to church, and I continue to plan on taking my kids to church because I am not a god unto myself and I refuse to isolate them from religion just because I don’t like it all that much. I don’t dress a certain way, eat a certain way, or avoid certain books movies or people because of religion. I don’t have a whole lot of religious “experiences” that convince me of the reality of a God, or make me feel loved by him.

I’m one of those Christians that some people (including myself in past days) would point out as someone who “doesn’t have a personal relationship with Christ”.

The old me would say that I am trying to make it to heaven on my own, in reality I’m not sure if there is a literal heaven, and I don’t really care if I go there. The old me would say that I am closing my ears and my heart to the truth, in reality I’m not sure there is a definite truth. The old me would doubt my salvation and say that I am headed for selfishness and unhappiness, in reality I have never understood my value as a person more, never loved my spouse more, never been able to love my children this much, and never been this happy.

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In short, religion is nothing of what it used to be to me. And yet I struggle to understand religion outside of the fundamentalist box in which I always understood it. So I am still tempted to see myself as a “really bad Christian.” When are you Christian enough to call yourself a Christian? What exactly does it mean to live a life of faith?
I’ve written a bit about what my religion is not, and here I’m trying to think out loud about what my religion is right now.
Religion can have a richness of liturgy and ritual, a way to mark the milestones and the passage of time.

Religion can have a way of drawing your attention off of your own obsessions and focusing it towards serving others.

Religion is community. And it sucks sometimes. But if we only hang out with people exactly like us, do we really have the capacity for true compassion and empathy?

Religion is a way for you to feel cared for when no one else gives a rat’s rear end about you. Maybe, just maybe, there is a greater being who gives a crap.

Religion is a way to explain the the inexplicable. A way to express gratitude and thankfulness in those moments in life that are beautiful. It’s a way to let go when life hurts and there really isn’t anything you can do.

Religion is a way to cope with death and loss. It can give you the tools to cope with suffering when there is no reason on this earth to hope. And sometimes, that hope is all you need to keep hanging on.

Jesus said… “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25
Do I believe this? Some days I don’t know. But it’s beautiful, and I want it to be true. I see no problem with living my life with the idea that it could be true, and I don’t mind if my daughter believes it.
If God really is worth serving, I don’t think that he is waiting for me to get every little thing right to achieve that exact formula for “truth”, or believe every moment with complete certainty. If God is a being that I will grow to love, then he will be patient with me.

What is the meaning of faith? Why do you believe?

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