Mere Churchianity*

I know people who go to church regularly.  I do not.

But with the people I do know who go to church; we have nothing to talk about.  Why?  Because they go to church for the entertainment, the socializing, the activities, the children, the personalities involved, their own personal edification, then it’s over.  Church and them go their separate ways till next time.

They don’t study their own scriptures and much less anyone else’s in order to be able to speak intelligently about the writings.  I have been studying scriptures for  a long time, Biblical, Eastern, Psychological, Common Sense, Philosophical.  I’m happy to discuss anything spiritual and metaphysical.

Discuss objectively and not necessarily argue.  I am not a defender of any faith, I am a seeker on a journey.  Writings can give us tentative directions, and we can recalibrate according to the detours of changing experiences.  I highly respect people who do study their scriptures, even more if they’re fearless enough to go beyond “their own” and look at others.  But most Christians I know out here don’t study their writings as they should – as it says to in their writings.

Since they do not read and study, all we can do is state  an opinion not based on anything objective such as the scriptures, and entrench ourselves in it.

No dialog possible there.  Shame.

They don’t think they have to study  because they heard a sermon from their celebrity pastor.  A sermon that waters down the scriptures that they taut as perfect and infallible, with jokes, anecdotes, hooping call and response, and all other manner of theatrics.  There’s no seriousness to the church experience.  Sure, they slow the music down to a whisper, people close their eyes for a few moments, out loud say “yes Lord!” and wave their arms to give the impression they’re having a real moment with god, then WHOOPIE!  Back to the party!

What a cop out from studying the sacred, infallible, words of god for yourself.  You see, you can blow off the pastor once you leave his presence.  Be holy in church and around him, but away from him use language you wouldn’t use in his presence cause, well, he ain’t there now!  But, if you read “god’s word” and believe you are accountable to him who sees you all the time, and knows that you  know what his required do’s and don’ts are; it makes you really work on changing your behavior, full time, not just Sunday morning and on activity days.

Quadruple combination opened to the Book of Is...

Quadruple combination opened to the Book of Isaiah – note the cross references between Biblical and Latter-day Saint scripture in the footnotes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a conversation with someone recently about that.  They were a participating member of a local mega church and they asked me why I didn’t like their church. I told them that I knew they did a lot of activities and had lots of programs.  But I felt it was all show business, because a lot of people who I know and go to that church don’t improve their behavior or grow in knowledge.  Behavior isn’t taught enough.  Nobody is trying to be holy, someone even outright said so to me once, with pride!

This person said “Jesus is coming back real soon you know!”  All you have to do is believe that we are saved by grace.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I think that subconsciously all of us, believer and unbeliever alike, really understand what a friend of mine who is a solid, studious, mindful Christian says: “A grace that cannot change you, cannot save you.”  Knowing the bible he’ll back that up with scripture.  But that won’t matter to people who don’t care enough to follow their scriptures.

Behavioral change is evident.  You don’t declare it, talk is cheap.  Behavioral change is witnessed.  It is what separates you from your old friends and family.  That you don’t talk or act like them anymore.  That you don’t enjoy the same things anymore.  That you choose to think differently about things.  That you study and train in order to support your change.

I don’t see that local church having that effect on people I know.

Theologically I disagree with them on the existence of a personified god, heaven and hell, angels and demons, blessings based on being a club member, the infallibility of their writings, and more.

But those things are moot points in relation to developing a higher character and being a continually better person.  Godless unbelievers become transformed people without those things.  Yet, the people who say theirs is an awesome powerful god, have a god that cannot transform gossipy, gluttonous, mocking, violent, selfish or lustful personality from his followers, although that’s what he wants from them.

Church just ain’t doing it.

*I use as a title the title of a book I’d recommend, click on it for the Amazon link:

Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality

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Belief and Self Defense

Bible

Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

“When I’m away in college, I’ll know how to defend myself from bullies, cause I’ll have learned stuff from Rick.”  “Son, it’s the Lord you have to trust as your shield and protection.”

Some devout fundamentalist friends and I were having dinner together, and the young man was speaking about going to college, and how he’d handle the challenges he expected to face, including jocks and BMOC’s (Big Man On Campus).  His father, a serious believer for whom “Lean not on your own understanding and trust in the Lord” & “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” are widely pervading principals, jumped to make sure that the young man was not believing in anything less or secondary to that.

Is wanting to learn and practice self defense incompatible with religion, or belief in a supernatural entity (Jehova, Christ, Vishnu, etc), and how explicit in the various religions scriptures are the injunctions against it?

As to explicit and singular injunctions, none.  The Bible, just to use the most common denominator; is loaded with contradictory statements.  So much so that I hear there are 30,000 “christian” denominations worldwide, most basing their doctrines on scriptures that other denominations contradict.

In this context “no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper” is offset by “He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze,” “Turn the other cheek” is contradicted by “buy a sword,” which is offset by “he who lives by the sword will die by the sword,” and on and on.    A quick search will often place promises of protection scriptures alongside instructions to protect yourself.

The weight then becomes about which scriptures you have more faith in, the protection promises, or the active in your defense ones.  Put another way, of believing god will defend you, or he doesn’t mind you protecting yourself.

Sadly, we often see that belief is not enough.  Historically, there are numerous examples of death and harm by violence, in spite of belief.

Rachel's Tears: The Spiritual Journey of Colum...

Rachel’s Tears: The Spiritual Journey of Columbine Martyr Rachel Scott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently and explicitly, there is the episode of the Columbine shooting. There is some argument about the truth of this rumor, but that it arose immediately after the incident among those involved makes it worth noting anyway.  It’s the rumor related to the murder of Rachel Scott that claimed that the shooters had first asked Scott if she believed in God, and killed her after she said yes.

It’s a saddening thought to even reference.  It continues to ask the question, is belief or faith in the supernatural enough to protect you from violence, or should you act on your own behalf.  Further realize some will call it you attempting to use your own strength and knowledge an act of faithlessness.

Some religions forbid blood transfusions, and people have died, who might have otherwise survived, recovered, and lived full lives. Children have died because parents believed only prayer and fasting should be used to bring god’s healing.

On the other hand, I too, have heard the stories, “testimonies” of people who called on god when faced with immediate danger, and were spared.  They are way too few and far between to earn my “faith.”

I believe in some things, and not others. I have no conflict with the potential for supernatural occurrences, like divine protection, and welcome it, as would anyone else, believer or non believer.  But if it doesn’t deliver 99 percent of the time for say at least 80 percent of the people, to “believe” in it at a time of duress is recklessness, not faith.

I hope that the young man at the beginning of this story never gets bullied or unjustly beat up.  I hope he goes through life without any conflict ever, and that his upbringing of faith in god mocks my perception of supernatural protection for believers or anyone else.

I teach martial arts and self defense.  I believe that everyone should have basic knowledge of personal protection methodologies, whether you are a believer in any religion/god, or not.

PS.  All scripture references are off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure they are there, in about the same wording, feel free to use a conrcordance to verify if you like.