My upbringing was deeply intertwined with the charismatic church. Sundays were for worship and prayer was an everyday occasion. My parents were a very visible part of the church with my father taking on leadership positions wherever he went.
I tried. In my early teens, I believed I had found it and I was going to get baptised. I tried praying, I tried believing but never fully succeeded, so I rebelled. Everything that the bible believed in, I went against. And that is how I’ve lived my life ever since. That belief in a higher power is deeply ingrained within my heart, but I can’t say that I would live a particularly ‘Godly’ life. Prayer is just something you do when you’re near death, God’s miracles are simply coincidences.
And then something happened which made me search for something… more. Not that I was unhappy with my life in general, but I truly needed something to believe in, something of a cornerstone, something to rely on. A belief that everything will be okay in the end and that it’s all a part of a greater plan was all I needed. So I began my search. Two churches and two wildly different services later, my husband and I set foot in one of the most Instagrammable, hipsteriest churches alive. The leaders clad in plaid with beards longer than most people’s hair, with string lights twined above the cross and a very on-trend welcome lounge area, we were greeted by an enthusiastic lady who found us seats on the left side of the church hall (the better side we later found out). As we got settled, a 10-second countdown begun with almost New Year-like enthusiasm and as the clock hit zero, the band began to play. As the lyrics were beamed on the wide screens above the front the whole congregation pelted out songs of praise.
This was a complete opposite to the pubs & clubs of Aberdeen, a wholesome alternative to the scene we were used to. And there we were, in the middle of all these true believers, the Great Pretenders. We fit the bill; we’re slightly hipstery and as we both have had some religious upbringing, we can speak the lingo. During the turnaround, we spoke to a lovely lady who had been with the church since it was founded. She asked us how long we had been Christians. Never have I been more uncomfortable than having to explain that we, in fact, weren’t. We were here just to sample the wares; find our feet per se.
All my fears were unfounded. From the first service on, we have felt at home. Every time we get asked about our status as Christians and we state that we’re quite possibly not, it gets accepted with a nod of agreement and a statement something along the lines of “it takes time, doesn’t it”.
We have begun to take more of a part within the Church, starting out with joining their small groups where people come together to study the word of the Bible and discuss Faith in a non-judgemental setting. These small groups are supposed to be something akin to a family, a safe space from the troubles out in the world. Yet, for me, this is where my faith begins to wane.
You see, I’m all for the wholesome community. I love the feeling of belonging you get at our church and I believe most Christian values are key values to live by. But (and there’s always a but isn’t there) there are a few key points of Christianity that do make me feel like I will never be a true believer.
- Bible = God’s word.
Ooft, that’s a doozy! The Bible being God’s word is the absolute cornerstone of Christianity. But I absolutely cannot believe in this. If you can, fabulous. My (un)belief in it doesn’t take anything away from you. But I cannot bring myself to just take it in as a given. Because, well, let’s look at it realistically. Supposedly Jesus lived 2000 years ago, meaning that the events of the New Testament are at least 2000 years old. The Old Testament describes the birth of the earth, so the events are millions of years old, most of it beginning before history was documented. The words in both testaments are recited by people who did not live those events. They were not there and they cannot vouch for it. Just look at Matthew, Luke and the birth of Christ. Books within the New Testament contradict each other. And this is not the only time, it happens throughout. The reality is that the Bible wouldn’t be a thing without human intervention. And us as people, we are fallible. We make mistakes without realising that we do so; play a game of Chinese Whispers (I’m sure there’s a PC version of the name of the game?) and you can witness this for yourself. Now take Chinese Whispers and have a bunch of translators do it. Have (up to) fluent speakers translate ever-so-slightly obscure phrases to their languages and you’ll get something completely different by the end of it. And you have a process something akin to the translative effect people have had on the Bible. Just compare something as simple as the King James and the NIV versions of the Bible, and you’ll see differences. With this being done throughout the years, do we honestly think that the original text would not be distorted?
If we ignore the purely linguistic issues for a second, we get to the problem of curation. As everyone surely is aware, there are a lot of historical texts from the various eras, written by Jews and Christians throughout. Some written and lost, some written and partially found, some written and untranslateable. When the Bible was originally compiled, in the Middle Ages there was a group of people who carefully curated which scripts went into the modern-day Bible. They picked Matthew and John but left out Mary and Judith. They went with Revelations and left out Wisdom.
- Homosexuality = bad.
Bible teaches us not to lie with men as we do with women, thus homosexuality = bad and needs to be eradicated. Well, if we ignore the first point of Bible =/= God’s word, this point is completely moot. But let’s look at it a little further. My true belief is that the books within the Bible were written as guidance and almost uplifting stories for the people of that time. And with Rome ruling over Christians, everything that came from the oppressors would have been seen as bad. As we know, Romans and the ancient Greek especially were into homosexuality. The opulism and hedonism of the oppressive nations were such opposites from the lives of the Jews and the Christians, so it was easy to think that because these people were bad people, clearly all they did was bad.
Historical happenings aside, if we as Christians pick this one single rule to be The One over all, we are completely omitting the whole ‘Bible is God’s word’ thing. If we pick this rule, we also need to follow the other ones. You know, don’t cut your hair, no tattoos or piercings, no pork or shellfish, don’t be near women when they’re menstruating and don’t wear mixed fibres.
- There are two genders. Adam, Eve and all that.
As one of those dreaded millennials, I’m all into social anthropology and how our own behaviour affects the norms of society and other’s behaviour. We know that gender is a social construct. We know that the person who insists that boys could never wear pink because it’s not manly has not read anything about history and is purely relying on what has been told to them in recent years. So as we know this, we can deduce that whereas a few decades ago, the two most recognised genders were The Thing, with our behaviour as a society and with pushing through with certain behaviours, we can affect the genders of the future.
But there’s just two sexes! I hear you yell. Babies are born either with an innie or an outtie. It’s how God made them. If God can be Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, why can’t one person present masculine and feminine features at the same time? Why can God be fluid but people can’t? If we’re made in their image?
I wasn’t born in the wrong body, so I can’t vouch for the inner working of someone who feels they were born in the wrong body, but I for sure know that nobody would go through years of pure societal torture, face alienation of friends and family and years of painful surgeries if it wasn’t God’s will. If God has a plan for all, how would the whole concept of trans exist?
- Heaven and Hell are real places
Knowing what we as a society know about the universe, I struggle with the concept of heaven & hell. I struggle with a lot of scientifical concepts too, like string theory, but I really do struggle with the concept of a concrete heaven. In my head, heaven & hell are in the reality. Borrowing from the Taoist belief of the higher being, we begin our lives as a departing part of the higher being, live our lives on this Earth to the best of our ability, and not until we reach “enlightenment” or whatever that may be do we merge with the higher being again. Comparing this to the Christian belief, unity with the Higher Being = heaven, the hard slog on Earth = Hell.
These are just a few items that I have issues with. And with the first one being the cornerstone of Christian beliefs, I don’t feel I will ever be a true believer. I like drinking & smoking too much. I am not a particularly good & Godly person. I feel like putting my whole faith into something else, fully immersing myself into the belief of God and God’s plan, is an undoable thing for me. As I continue my journey within the church, I am surrounded by true Christians, by people who have fully immersed themselves in the religion. And I see the kindness and the unwavering belief within them. I don’t even know if that’s what I want. But for now, I have found shelter.