This post might get a little long. Hang with me…
Yesterday, I got the book Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome by Reba Riley. and published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster (a publishing house that I did a lot of publicity work with in my career and who still have fabulous, smart people working within the imprint).
It’s an interesting read. Reba Riley’s issue was with church (not, like me, the Bible) and she goes on a “Thirty Before Thirty” quest wherein she visits thirty religions (a denomination can = a religion, too) in an effort to heal her PTCS and find peace in faith. So, she visits typical Protestant denominations as well as Kabbalah, Amish, Native American, Wiccan, and other religious experiences.
Spoiler alert: she ends up creating a God to worship that is a conglomeration of all the godlike facets she’s exposed to during her journey. She comes to think of God as a disco ball – each shiny square is a facet of what different religions have to say about God.
And she ends up worshiping that disco-ball God in a start-up Christian church.
That’s the part that took me to Hubs today for further discussion. Standing at his desk, I told him about the book and then said, “See, here’s why I’m a little annoyed: she’s worshiping a non-Christian God in a Christian church. Is that an option?”
Hubs leaned back in his desk chair and smiled. “It’s not supposed to be.”
“But it is,” I shot back, all but stomping my foot. “That’s what she’s doing!”
“It’s what millions of ‘Christians’ do every Sunday, Babe. You’ve learned it yourself: most of the people in church have never read the Bible all the way through. They don’t really know what the Bible says God is.”
“Okay, right, I get that. But I have read it and at least some of those in the pews have, too. And they’re still there. Do you think they’re worshiping who the Bible says God is?”
“I think they’re worshiping Jesus.”
Y’all, my brain exploded. A light bulb popped over my head and my mouth shut tighter than a Southern Baptist’s lips at a wine-filled communion cup. I took a step back from him, I was so shocked.
I felt like a complete idiot because this thought had never occurred to me. Never, ever.
“Wait, so, let me get this straight…are you telling me you think people who are waving their hands in the air and singing songs and swaying and praying and—
—are worshiping Jesus, not God. Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”
“But Jesus IS God. They’re both in the Trinity!”
“That’s true, yes, but those people are worshiping Jesus.”
“But you can’t do that! I mean, obviously you can if that’s what they’re doing, but – I don’t even think Jesus would be okay with that!”
Hubs held his hands up. “But that’s what I think is happening. Think about it. They haven’t read the Bible. If they do think about God, it’s as a benevolent father or grandfather type of figure. A kind, wise, old, and patient being. It’s not the vengeful God of the Old Testament who kills at the slightest infraction.”
I collapsed into my own desk chair, marveling.
“You’re blowing my mind. At least I can finally start to see how it is that millions go to church every Sunday and worship. And it makes sense why the church doesn’t keep the Jewish holidays or even have much of a relationship with the Jewish community even though Jesus was a Jew. That’s all Old Testament God stuff.”
“Yeah, remember all those times in church that I would ask the leadership about why we don’t celebrate Jewish festivals and holidays? Because Christianity is all about Jesus, not so much God.”
A few more seconds ticked by.
“But what does this mean for me? For my faith? This only leaves two options.
(1) I either have to pretend I don’t know what the Bible says God is – and I don’t know how I’d do that and worship authentically – or (2) I have to assume that there IS some way to justify killing a baby for his dad’s sin, killing tens of thousands of people for not paying their shekel during a census, and all the other stuff God does in the Old Testament and that I’m just not mature enough yet to understand that this type of behavior is worthy of my worship and devotion. Those are the options if I want to be a Christian at all, right?”
“I don’t think I can find a way to justify intentionally making parents suffer for a week and killing their baby for something they did. I mean, I’m a parent. I can’t worship a God who would intentionally do that kind of thing to my children because of something I did. And that’s who God is in the Old Testament.”
“Well, then…” he swept his hand forward as if presenting me with a conclusion that should be obvious.
“There’s really no way to be a Christian and not worship the whole God of the Bible?”
“I don’t know of any Christian denomination that would say so.”
So, I guess I go from not being an evangelical Christian to truly not being a Christian at all?
You know, when I was going through that year of writing the Questioning Faith journal, I’d refer to myself as an atheist sometimes because I didn’t have any knowledge about alternative words. Still, I always thought there’d be some version of Christianity that I could honestly be in, in the end.
Today is the first time that I’ve thought no, there isn’t. Not if I can’t worship the God of the Old Testament.
It isn’t that I don’t see amazing parts of God in the Old Testament. It’s that there are also hideous, mean behaviors attributed to God in the Old Testament and I just can’t worship it, or give my one and only life to it.
I feel like I need to apologize to every single Christian I know, starting with my parents – whom I sincerely love, and who sincerely love their faith. I’m sorry, Daddy. I’m sorry, Mom. I authentically wish I could believe with you.
Anybody know where I can worship that entity that I know is Something Beyond Me, but is neither male nor female and allows relationship with and knowledge of it?
Barring that, anybody got some tips and tricks for how you are able to authentically worship both Jesus and the God of the Old Testament?
Or how you find peace while only worshiping Jesus in church, but not God The Father as described in the Old Testament?
Tell me what I’m missing, please.