Fear Not…..

Rumor has it that the Bible contains 365 “Fear not” statements or references; one for each day of the week. I haven’t actually counted them to be sure, I will take the claims of others as true!

Obviously, the point being we are not to fear, we are to have faith, instead. In my adult life I have heard several sermons preached on the subject, all centered around believing God has our backs, and I do believe that; so why do we need fear-based religion? The answer is we don’t. Fear-based religion uses fear in a number of different ways to control the thinking and behavior of its adherents. For example: if I don’t confess my sins before God and man and accept Jesus as my Savior I won’t be saved, so I will go to hell when I die. Who wants that hanging over their head? What about we will be held accountable for every careless word we speak? Granted, the passage in Matthew 12 is actually addressing the religious leaders of the day, but I have heard the verse applied to all of us, so we fear we may have inadvertently told a lie we haven’t confessed, taken the Lord’s name in vain, or committed blasphemy and we end up in a worse place than hell! What about the sins that go unconfessed? Is there a blanket prayer to make sure the ones I don’t remember I did are covered? What if I’m sick or in need of something? The Bible says that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains, our faith can make us whole, demons will flee in our presence, or we will live abundant lives; proof that we have the right amount of faith, but if these things don’t happen does that mean I don’t even have the smallest amount of faith? All of this may sound ridiculous to those outside the walls of fundamental churches, or even some of the box churches, but they are not; people get themselves wrapped up in such nonsense and miss the point.

The elitist mindset of many Christians and fundamental churches is based in fear; fear of getting too close to those who are unbelievers, being “unequally yoked”, or just plain letting the sins of others slop over into their whitewashed lives. Consider the ongoing and often vitriol discussion centering around homosexuality, and now gender identity. People think we are becoming a more progressive and enlightened society, but many of the churches have not gotten the memo. Some of the most well known evangelists and preachers of the late 20th century participated in thinly veiled homophobic hate mongering. I remember not that many years ago a very well known evangelist-teacher organized and staged a prayer vigil, of sorts, in the San Francisco area to pray against the homosexual stronghold in the area; of course stating that we love the gays, but in their current lifestyle, sadly, won’t be admitted into heaven. What?? The bottom line is that the churches and “Christians” who participate in this mindset fear those whose lifestyles don’t fit in with their narrow-minded, supposedly Bible-based standards of behavior. I, for one, am far more offended by those who are judgmental and gossip as a guise for praying for the needs of others. I have issues with those who say they serve a God of love, that all are welcome, yet once inside the doors roll out the list of qualifiers for that love and acceptance.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that spiritual endeavors should be centered in love, positive thinking and energy, drawing others in because others see something in us that is pleasing and peaceful. What is out there are people who have clothed themselves in a facade of love and light, yet once inside the doors a very different picture emerges. The thou-shalt-nots are rolled out in full force, the standards of perfection required for approval dropped in our laps; no tattoos, no smoking, drinking, associating with the unsaved, memorize this many verses, pray that way, tithe this much, the list is endless. Thought patterns steeped in this mindset create fear of not measuring up, our heart motivations for what we do become skewed.

In chapter 12 of Romans, Paul is talking about how we are to act, be, think, and serve in this world. All things in scripture speak to a higher truth, striving to live from the higher self instead of from the ego. Romans 12:2 (New International Version) reads, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” I have heard countless sermons on this tiny phrase from Romans 12:2, each one dissecting the meaning behind “good, pleasing, and perfect will”. Apparently, from all reports I have received we are to choose which of God’s wills we want to be in! Really? Is that what we are supposed to get out of that verse? Taken together and viewed from the metaphysical, or spiritual standpoint, Romans 12 is speaking about living from the higher self, in peace with others, don’t accept the patterns of society, live above them: almost a repackaged “golden rule”. Isn’t that the more important message?

We should always be encouraged to seek higher spiritual truth, explore to discover what resonates within each of us because the journey is unique to each of us. We are all beings of energy created in the image of the Universal Creator, endowed with spiritual wisdom that is waiting to be tapped. We do not need a person standing in a pulpit, educated in the halls of man, espousing the often misguided doctrines of man that have been handed down through the centuries, many designed to instill fear in the hearts of its followers in an effort to control.

It is my firm belief that many in our world have been disillusioned by organized religion, disheartened by man’s attempt to dampen the spiritual stirrings in the hearts of those who earnestly and honestly want to pursue an intimate relationship with the Creator without fear hanging over their heads. I believe we are in the beginning of the end of the church age when people who truly want to pursue an intimate relationship with the Creator will seek spiritual enlightenment over the dry bones of religion.

One morning after I had participated in a funeral service for a friend, a woman who had attended the funeral approached me in the parking lot. Those of us in attendance had been subject to a fiery hell and brimstone message delivered with fervor and spit from the preacher who was obviously uncomfortable with the lesbian lifestyle the decedent had chosen. The woman thanked me for what I had said and concluded with, “ and what happened in there is exactly why I left the church”. Her comment saddened me and I have thought back on that moment many times. I knew that was a transitional moment in my life; my calling, my desire is that no one be discouraged from seeking relationship with their Creator because of fear, because of not measuring up. I don’t know, but I suspect she was involved in a lifestyle contrary to church doctrine. How sad that a person created in the image of God would feel unworthy of pursuing higher eternal spiritual truth for something so temporary as an earthly choice. We are all welcomed by the Creator no matter who we are, where we have been, what we do or don’t do, no matter our lifestyle. Yeshua, the Creator clothed in humanity who came to restore relationship with the created said, “Come ALL who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest…….”

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A Journey of Truth…..Leaving Fear-Based Religion Behind

I am a seeker of truth and wisdom, and have spent the better part of my adult life on a journey for higher truth. The interesting thing about journeys is that often there are bends and twists in the road, sometimes we detour as the road less traveled beckons and the journey becomes an adventure.

In my nineteenth year I attended a religious crusade and left a born-again, saved Christian. Not altogether sure what that meant, I did feel differently, refreshed, and as luck would have it, fell headlong into the Charismatic theology by virtue of marriage. Immersed in this exciting twist on the rote religion of my childhood, I soaked up knowledge like a sponge. Any number of events were likely to happen on any given Sunday; prophesy, laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, people being slain in the spirit, in other words, falling out under the power. Praise and worship was fresh, not the dusty tunes retrieved from the catacombs found in every hymnal in the country, not that I think that’s a bad thing, just boring at times. Let’s face it, the majority of the hymns aren’t the liveliest melodies known to man.

Over the years I studied, prayed, listened, and asked questions. The more questions I asked, the more questions I had, and the crazy thing is the answers didn’t always make sense to me, which usually ended with, “it will all make sense in heaven”, or some similar response. But, I didn’t want to wait for an answer, and more importantly, most of the whole didn’t resonate with me; it felt like a puzzle where the pieces didn’t quite fit together so the puzzle-builder pushed and squished the pieces together so they kinda-sorta fit together, but not really. No one else I knew seemed to have the questions I did, and they seemed pretty content swallowing doctrine that didn’t make sense to me, so I concluded I was the oddball, God’s problem child.

An abusive relationship and life got in the way, so I put aside the questions in an effort to merely survive. Once out of the relationship, and mad at God, which is another story, God and I found tolerable ground and we declared a truce, of sorts. The truce became the journey I am on, and here we are today, still journeying with God although we took a detour.

Before I go any further I need to be clear; I am not a church-hater. I think for many the safety of church life is necessary, comfortable, and easy. Lots of people sit in pews week after week and then go about their daily lives keeping the two separate. Some earnestly seek God trying to understand the deeper truths, doing their best to live lives within the boundaries of the Bible and church doctrine, some just like to belong to a group. All are welcome, or so they say. The truth is that all are not welcome; those of us who poke and prod, who are judged as not fitting in, as not having enough faith, or just plain being trouble-makers are not welcome, not really. And so, we fall away, some for good, and some looking for God elsewhere, outside the church walls, and, hold onto your hat, He does exist outside the church walls!

Being outside the church walls has been a blessing for me. The journey, much like that of the ancients who have passed before me, those without advantage of church walls, doctrine, theology-educated pastors, has brought me to the place I am today; a place of deeper and broader understanding of God, of life, of people, and of myself. Free of doctrine that was confusing, suffocating, limiting and most of all, fear-based, I am able to see myself through the eyes of God, not through the eyes of the church, or the world, a view devoid of judgments, thou shalt-nots, and shoulds. It’s not a journey that all can or want to take, but all are welcome on the journey; it is a journey of self-discovery, gratitude, forgiveness, and most of all love; learning to love self and others through the eyes of God, and not through the harsh lens of the church and the world.

The teachings and doctrines of western Christianity are fear-based. A founding tenet of fundamental, Bible-based churches is the need for salvation. Why? Because in their eyes we are born corrupt, evil, we are subject to a “fallen nature” before even one breath is drawn. The “Sinner’s Prayer is a mea culpa of sorts; it’s my fault, I’m guilty, I’m not worthy, and so we come to Jesus asking forgiveness for all of our sins, faults, flaws, we are in need of forgiveness for being human. The purpose of salvation is the avoidance of hell, we gain entrance into heaven through confession of unworthiness, some even go so far as stating that without salvation we are deserving of eternal damnation. If that isn’t fear-based I don’t know what is.

Studying church history and reading the Bible through the eyes of a loving God I have come to a radically different conclusion than what the church teaches. Man has meddled in the texts that became the sixty-six books we know as the Bible. The meddling, by and large, is a result of man’s insatiable, ego-driven, need to control, the desire for personal power, leading to the development of man-made rules and boundaries not necessarily in line with the mindset of God. The Bible declares that God is love, that He is merciful, slow to anger and quick to forgive, that all are welcome in His kingdom, all are welcome to ask and receive, and yet man has decided that none of that is quite true, making God out to be a liar, a fabricator of half truths that reel us in only to find out that there is a high ladder reaching toward heaven we must climb to be considered worthy. Am I reading it wrong? I don’t think so.

In the beginning God declared all He created “good”, and yet somehow we became fallen, tainted beings, worthy of eternal punishment for being human, for exercising our free will and making a poor, ego-centered decision, in need of being rescued from eternal damnation through a spoken prayer. All who speak the prayer will be saved, but what of those who speak it out of fear, their heart motivation being skewed by the desire to avoid the fires of hell more than establishing a relationship with Jesus?

Rapidly approaching my 60th year on planet earth, well in a few years anyway, I am done with fear-based theology. No longer do I choose to be held captive by man’s hellfire and brimstone teachings, nor do I choose to be elevated above others. That’s the other side of the coin of western fundamental Christianity; those who believe themselves to be the chosen of God, worthy of elevated status by virtue of the Sinner’s prayer, the us/them mentality that looks down on those outside the church walls, those who say they accept and love but judge nonetheless based on their set of standards that are not accepting or loving in the least. What I have chosen is to live a spiritual existence, in communion with God, the Universal Light, the Creator, the label we attach inconsequential; an existence living in communion and seeing others through the eyes of love and not judgment, an existence that acknowledges the worth and value of the whole of creation, not just a select few, on a journey to bring God to those who need to know He is a God of love and mercy, compassion and acceptance, a God who declared His creation good, and still believes in the goodness of all…..