Monday, April 20, 2009

Why I Am Re-Evaluating My Faith

I will perface this with; I am re-evaluating my faith, what it is in, and why. To analyze my faith is important as I don't want an "unreal faith" of a transcendant kind. I want to understand where I place my hope and why...if one is not interested in a personal story, then "move on".

When I came to faith, I thought that it meant I had a family, who were commanded to love and accept me. This was something I could not even begin to believe, as never had I felt "good enough" or acceptable. This was such good news that all I could do was cry, whenever I thought about it. And it called for me to be as consecrated as I could to the task of knowing what I believed.

I had hated myself so much growing up that I really felt like I should not have existed. And even more so, because I thought that my very existance was a mistake, as I was the product of a failed marriage. My rationale and my grandmother confirmed it, was that if the marriage was not "intended" then I wasn't. (I had not learned about contingencies yet, as I thought that everything was either in the "right plan"(God's will) or "not in the right plan" (not God's will). )My self hatred was theologized by identification with Christ's death. "I" was 'taken away, as God was the one who deserved to live, as he had given himself for me and I didin't have to be "me" or face myself, as I could never accept myself.

Growing up, I never felt that I belonged anywhere. My mother had divorced my father when I was a toddler and we moved into my mother's step-father and mother's home. As my grandmother worked, I was baby-sat by my grandmother's maid, Elizabeth.

After a few years, my mother who had gone back to school met a very wealthy man and was to marry him, only to find out that he had someone on the side, even after their invitations had been sent out! My mother was devastated (I believe) and met another young man at a party, who had been a Marine. They soon married and we moved to another state.

Every week-end I would go to visit my grandparents, as my step-father was really not ready for a "ready-made family". My younger brother was born less than a year into their marriage and we moved several times during that 3 year period. I was very lonely as a child and would cry myself to sleep. Whenever my mother would hear me and question me, I would feel guilty and lie to her about having a nightmare.

After my family moved back to the same city as my grandparents, I eventually moved in with them. My grandfather had had no natural children as he had married my grandmother after her divorce. My grandfather loved children, but my grandmother "had raised hers". I always felt she resented me living with them. There were times I was left alone and it would frighten me. I wrote my name on the wall behind Papa's chair, where I used to hide until they would come back.

I am not saying that by "world standards" that my life was "bad", but it was no healthy. I always was jealous of my boyfriends, and would find myself unusually anxious about separation, which I recognized after coming to faith as an emotional response of memory. (My father had visitation rights and would see me regularly, until one day he just never came back!).

I won't go into anymore detail, as I think that gives one some "picture" of "my life" before faith.

Faith meant that I was valued, I belonged, I was significant (didn't mean important), but, that all was challenged and changed for many reasons.

Reason was anti-thetical to faith, as I came to faith through personal experience and believed that "the natural man does not recieve the things of the spirit, as they are spiritually discerned". This was a fundamental belief, as it was a spiritualized understanding that did not connect the dots to the 'real world".

In being exposed to various subjects, I began to try to integrate faith in a more realistic way. But, in the midst of coming to terms with reason, my brother commited suicide due to numerous reasons. But, of primary importance, was his disappointment with a Church split.

The impact of unanswered prayer, his disappointment, as well as my own, intellectual integration questions, a lack of connection locally, raising teen-agers, my husband's diagnosis with diabetes and the loss of his parents all culminated within a few years.

I had just begun working on gaining some self respect before the move to where we are. In that journey, I had learned that I was not just valued because of God, but because I was a person apart from God. Thus, the separation of my identity from "god's" and others.

I know this is infantile work, as I had not developed personally, and it was/is necessary. I have had need of community, but no community that I felt I belonged to for my own reasons, and not for any "other" purpose. It is important that I be valued for myself, as without that, it de-values "me" as an independent being, which I think is foundational to whole psychological health.

Therefore, my projection and fear of "co-ercion" and a need to belong have long roots and personal history. I have found that communities of faith are not places of safety, but places of "warfare". I cannot believe that a "milatary stance" is the stance I want to take in regards to faith, as it de-personlizes faith to duty and attacks others faith as "less". Value judgments are not what I want to be a part of, in regards to faith.

So, reason is necessary for me, as otherwise, there is no reason to hope that faith has any grounding other than my "emotional need". And while emotional need isn't to be invalidated, it is not what I would call a good reason to believe. I am not interested in some spiritualized understanding, which is beginning with faith "smacks" of to me. For, if one begins with faith, there is just "irrational choice' for me. There has to be reason for hope, or there is no hope. And hope is about government, as good government is just, as it affirms "rights', which is important to me, as I had none growing up. The "real world" not the spiritual world is one in which we must value the individual and their right to exist and have choice. Bad government is like bad parenting.

So, I really am not about the "value" of missions, or some spiritual salvation, as that is disconnected and very cruel to give to those who are suffering under harsh realities in life. So, I question my commitment to the Church, in general. Experience has taught me that it is best to deal with the "real world" and let the spiritual take care of itself, as believing that communities of faith are some 'spiritual family" is really not rational. But, it was a belief and a need of mine in the past.

I have learned that life is about choices, value, and responsibility. Life is not about transcendental truth, but personal truth as one lives one's life according to the values that are most important. Personal values should be owned by the individual, and not judged by anyone else. And that is something I will fight for, for no one should take away another rights to their life, liberty or pursit of happiness.


Allan R. Bevere said...


Thank you for sharing your story; it helps me to understand where you are coming from.

It is important to remember that we all have stories and not all of us feel so negatively about our Christian upbringing and context. As a pastor I am all too aware of and have dealt with people who feel that the church abused them and some of them indeed were; and when they are, I do not make excuses. But I also know of people who believe that without their faith, without the church, they would not be where they are today in a positive way. That is the way I feel about the church, even though I have encountered its imperfections.

As we read each other's posts and comments we need to make a special effort to listen to what the other person is saying and attempt to understand. You and I use terminology differently. We define "faith" and "reason" and "value" etc. differently. I do not view faith as something that is anti-intellectual or antithetical to reason. You may see it differently and we can certainly disagree with one another, but we have to make sure we hear what it is the other person is actually saying and not read our own definitions into it.

This post helps me understand you better; I appreciate your thoughts even though they are so personal for you.

Angie, you are free to comment on my blog any time. I only ask that you try to read what I am actally saying. If you want to disagree with me, that is, of course, fine. But please take issue with what I am actually saying, not what you think I am saying; and always feel free to ask for clarification.

If we can carry on this kind of conversation with one another, hopefully it will be a growing experience for both of us.


Sue said...


Thank you so much for writing all this. I have undergone a similar shift for different reasons. I am glad I have found your blog.

John said...

A very compelling story. It gives me greater insight into some of my dearest friends and family members.

I have to say that a community of faith need not be unsafe - in fact it should be a sanctuary, a place where genuine faith can be nurtured and the individual is embraced, in their totality.

For me God is not a God of the Gaps, nor is God defined by what he has created, or by what he is said to have done in history. Instead, God is about relationships, between God and myself and between myself an others. History (read: Scripture) sheds light on what others perceived about God - but God is here and now, a dynamic force in the present.

For me God is the father who runs down the road to embrace and lift up his perpetually wayward son, who envelops him in a hug, without recrimination, and who says, this is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased. He has come back to me!

For me God stands by me when I think I am alone, waiting for me to understand whatever it is I don't just yet understand, gently communicating a sense of loving acceptance and encouragement.

For me God speaks in a myriad of languages and cultural contexts, but always in a voice that people can understand if they will listen. Mormons can hear him, as can Buddhists and animists. God is very talented at communicating his presence.

For me God is one who above all else encourages me to embrace others as I have been embraced.

Freedom, liberty, happiness? Of course. But what will I do with these notions? Will I choose to cooperate with God in sharing the grace I feel? I could choose otherwise, but it would be against my nature. And I don't think I would be nearly as happy.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

I am surprised that you found this "old" post, but I stand for civil liberties, as without them, we loose the most important aspect of life, which is freedom.

I, too, believed in what you are talking about, but I do not know that, as it is by faith that you believe what you have shared.

As I stated, I am more interested in protecting freedom under law. This is what our Representative Republic is about. And what the whole political debate that drives policy issues and defines law.

I wrote an entry this morning and yesterday that is more formulative of what I believe today. And it is not based on a text, but writtein on man's nature, the desire to be free.

People just disagree as to what freedoms we should have and which ones we should legislate against. This is the debate of life and liberty.

Thank you again for writing.

John said...

I came across a post you made in Ken Schenck's blog and was curious about where you were coming from theologically and so I began reading through your posts as they related to issues of faith. Ken's reply suggested that you might be an atheist, and your post seemed silent on the issue. I just wanted to understand more about the person who was posting. And I have more understanding now.

I also read the more recent entries in your blog. Interesting. Many desires are written on "man's nature", for me the significant question is: which desires should we pursue, for the enhancement of our own lives and for the enhancement of the lives we touch? And what limits should we observe and which limits should be enforced by the state?


Angie Van De Merwe said...

The Church and State issue is indeed an intriguing one, as one has to ask why would a separation be necessary, and why not (maybe this is what you meant by what limits should there be...)

As to my "atheism", I think of myself as an agnostic, because I do not think that it is probable that God intervenes in this world. Men are the "makers" of history. I really am not interested in a transcendent realm. The reason?

Atheists and freethinkers are challenging to my understanding, they enlarge my world/understanding, whereas, tradition via religion has hindered its enlargement. And it talks of things that are "unreal", as far as I am concerned. I think that people who religious experiences are misguided as to why they have them. I don't deny that they do experience something, but it is their interpretation that I disagree with...

John said...

The limits I referred to really had nothing to do with church or state issues, but personal issues: if we are completely free to do as we please, to pursue the pleasure we desire at this moment, should we not impose limits on our conduct such as not hurting others, such as not causing long term harm to the environment, etc.

There are limits imposed on us by the state (don't kill, don't steal, etc.), but should those be the only observed limits? Aren't there limits which we impose on ourselves, out of deference to one another, out of respect for covenants we have entered into with others?

When we covenant (such as in a marriage) do we not voluntarily agree to sacrifice significant personal freedom? If we live in communities - at work, in church, in extended families, in neighborhoods - do we not enter into a large number of covenants?

With all of these covenantal relationships compelling me to sacrifice all those personal freedoms,life for me has become more about living reliably within these covenants than about maximizing my freedom. Perhaps that is easy for me to say because I live in a remarkably free country!)

And I once thought as you do about religion. We are moving in different directions in our intellectual journeys.

I find with the community of religious thinkers far more subtlety and far more supple minds than I have found among the non-religious. And far less arrogance.

I have also found religious people who are too simple and/or too dogmatically tied to what they were taught to grasp the complexity of the theological issues they propound on - but that is to be expected in any area of endeavor.

Everyone of us comes from some context which drives our thoughts and our emotional/faith filters, and our passions.
I wish you well. Nurture your passion.