14 December 2010

Christianity - make a cuppa it is long!

I have been giving this quite a bit of thought lately.  The whole thing on what is a Christian, what is Christian behaviour, beliefs and actions.   I have tried to just let it go but it keeps coming back to bug me.

What prompted this?  A couple of weeks ago I went shopping to buy a birthday/Christmas gift for my good friend Mrs P.  Now I figured because she is a church goer (Mormon), a good place to find something with meaning for her would be the "Christian" book store.
I wandered in and started browsing.  I had been looking around quite aimlessly for about 10min, finding one book that I thought might be okay, when a young female employee came up to me.  The following conversation took place:

girl "Can I help you with anything?"
me "Possibly, I am looking for a book, maybe with prayers or something for a good friend.  Because I am pretty much non-religion I don't have much of a clue.  Do you have any Mormon literature?"
girl "Um, well we have books on witnessing to Mormons?"
me "Ah no, she is a Mormon already, doesn't need converting"
girl "Yes, well, um, perhaps there might be something in fiction she would like, they are Christian but she might still like them"
me "Well, seeing she is Christian I am sure she probably would but I was thinking something non-fiction."
girl "well we are a Christian book store so you won't find anything Mormon or to suit her here I shouldn't think."
me "Soooooo, are you saying Mormons are not Christian?  What church is affiliated with this store?"
girl "No! Mormons are a cult!!  We are Protestant, you know the Reformation and all that so we are Christian and we believe in Jesus and Mormons don't!"
me "OOOOOOOOOOOOkay!  Well, I know she does believe in Jesus, pretty sure she doesn't have pictures up of him just for decorating the house!"
girl "Oh no, I have researched it!  It is in a book here (she goes and grabs a book on other religions written by the Protestant church), see it says they believe in ..........oh, okay so they believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost.  UM, oh but yes!! The believe in JOSEPH SMITH!!  There, see!"
me "So I guess you wouldn't call any of the new evangelical churches, Jews or Muslims Christian?
girl "ah NO!"
me " what about Catholics?"
girl " well, not really.  they have some christian stuff about them but not really"
me "oh but why? They are as judgemental as the Protestants so why leave them out?"
girl "oh you really need to be nice!" 

and she walked away.

um, I need to be nice???  Who was it that put down every other religion, including other Christian and called The Church of Latter Day Saints a cult????

By this stage of was fuming, I really wanted the book I had so I still bought it and declined their offer of a membership card and then left. 

 Since then, I have been doing a lot of thinking about what a Christian is, what you need to do to be a Christian.

But then I thought perhaps I had gotten it wrong so I did a bit of research.  OH BOY!!  there is a whole lot of religion bashing happening out there on the net by so called 'Christian' groups.  It really gets quite high and mighty and down right nasty!

A reasonable definition of Christianity was on the ABC website  it also includes a brief history of Christianity and how it's origins were as a Jewish Sect, wonder if my shop girl knows this!
It also states the key beliefs of Christians as:
Key Beliefs
  • Christians believe that there is only one God, who is all-powerful and all-knowing.
  • Most Christians believe that God is a Trinity made up of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

    • The second person of the Trinity, God the Son, became a human being in the person of Jesus.
    • Jesus was born to a human woman, Mary (whom many believe was a virgin), and was subject to pain, suffering, and sorrow like other human beings.
    • Jesus was put to death on a cross and three days later was raised from the dead (the resurrection). Forty days after this he ascended to heaven (the ascension).
    • After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit was sent to bring the knowledge and power of Jesus to the church.

  • Christians believe in eternal life after death, but not earthly reincarnation.
  • Christians await the second coming of Christ which will bring fulfilment of the Kingdom of God and a final day of judgement.
  • Christians share with Islam and Judaism a moral code that includes the Ten Commandments.
  • Eastern churches, Roman and Protestant churches accept (with slight verbal differences) the Apostles’ Creed, a profession of faith formalised around 500 CE.
  • Many Catholics believe that the Western Catholic church is the church founded by Jesus Christ and that only it offers the fullness of sacramental grace.

Just reading a few different descriptions of Christianity was enough to do my head in.  I did find this site quite interesting though.  It also talks of the history of the church and compares the role of tradition and the Bible in the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox branches of Christianity.
It also states that "Christianity is to a large extent dependent upon historical events: Its idea of God is based on how God dealt with ancient Israel, on Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, and to some extent on later happenings among Jesus' followers. Being a Christian means (for most of us) being convinced that there really is a God who guided Israel through much of its history, that Jesus really represents him, and that Jesus was really resurrected."
Which leads me to my next quest.  I went to Mormon.com and they say that:
"Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of God. He is our Redeemer. The Holy Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ's mother was Mary, His father on earth was Joseph, that He was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, and labored with Joseph as a carpenter. When he turned 30, He began a three-year ministry of teaching, blessing, and healing the people of the Holy Land. He also organized His Church and gave His apostles "power and authority" (Luke 9:1) to assist in His work."

and finally the adventist.org.au  pretty much says what everyone else has been saying. 

The way I see it, Christianity is about following God, his son Jesus and all their teachings.  But at the top of that chain is GOD. 

So, who cares if you kneel in church, or wave your hands, speak in tongues or clap a tad too much?  Why all the bitchiness?  Honestly this whole church thing is like being locked in a room with 20 pre-pubescent girls!  FAR OUT!!!

If we are born in His image, then shouldn't that mean we act Godly.  Not judging, being cruel, proud etc etc  SO WHAT if they read some extra doctrines or wear blue on Wednesdays with rollerskates?  Does it affect your relationship with your God? 

You know, I reckon God is sitting up there wondering what the hell is going on.  Wars are fought over religion, people are killed for their beliefs.  WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO SAY THEY PRAY BETTER!!  Who has the right to say their way is better?  

I read of scorn for Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon.  I wonder, if that had come before the 2nd testament would it be the other way around?  Who has the right to say that he is full of crap but the authors of the bible aren't?  NO-ONE! 

I am baptised a Catholic.  I went to a Catholic high school and had a year or so of being devout.  That was a long time ago.  I don't know that I will ever be drawn back to a church, mainly because I don't want to be part of a so called 'Christian' organisation that judges people for their beliefs, their sexuality, that highlights and twists the words of the bible to suit their interpretation.

I wonder how many others out there could benefit from the community and sharing provided by church but are turned away for the same reasons as myself.  I find this incredibly sad. 

I want to add a disclaimer to this before I get shouted down, I do want to say that I know there are individuals who attend church that don't necessary support everything the church 'says'.  I don't want to tar you all with the same brush so please, it isn't so much the 'congregation' as the organisation I have issues with.

I think this small piece of humour from Yuricare report sums up my thoughts on the interpretations of the bible quite beautifully.
"On her radio show sometime prior to 2004, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant
Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22,
and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an
open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident, which was posted on the
Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law.
I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge
with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual
lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly
states it to be an abomination. ... End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of
God's Law and how to follow them.

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odour for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They
claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus
. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her
period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I
tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and
female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A
friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not
Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2.
The passage clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated
to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I
don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a
defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my
vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair
around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27.
How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me
unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different
crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two
different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse
and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of
getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we
just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people
who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable
expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your adoring fan,


Lovely Lassy said...

Perhaps god needs to do a new release of the Bible? All of those things seem archaic and ridiculous to us but they WER written thousand of years ago.
I'm catholic, not practisng. I do believe there is 'something' out there, but I HAVE to beleve it I WANT to believe it, the alternative scares me.
My bother is a chrstian, he gves me many prophesies....I don't pretend to understand or explain it but he s spot on ALWAYS. I thnk psychics and christians prophets....one and the same.....there is something out there....what? guess we'll all find out...one day.

bobby (dRX) said...

"'degrees' of abomination" ...love it!

I love talking religion. In addition to reading the entirety one's own of holy texts, I will always recommend studying the opposing view, in order to make fully informed decisions. Books by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens have some fair criticism as does the above humorist. One of the better doco's/satires I've seen is the Bill Maher film "Religulous" - very clever and hilarious =)

Ever open-minded, in my own study of the old testament I got as far as Leviticus before I just couldn't take any more (anyone will agree that it is pretty whacky), but I have long thought Revelations would make an awesome summer action blockbuster =)

Anonymous said...

It frightens me that people can hide behind their religion and beliefs in order to denigrate the beliefs of others and say it with such righteousness and conviction. I don't know what I believe in, but it isn't what I remember of church as a good little catholic child. I didn't even like the sense of community that it promoted, based on negativity. Like you, I like the concept of the congregation but not the organisation.

Kebeni said...

LOL Bobby, I think I may now have a wee crush on you! Totally agree about Leviticus and will have to check that film out.

Happy Elf Mom said...

Hi, Kebeni!

I have many thoughts on this as well as many questions. Though my understanding of the Scripture is that Christ fulfilled all the Old Testament laws and His death on the cross was payment for our sins if we believe so that we do not have to be bound by that. His answer to the question of the most important laws were that we should love the LORD with all our heart, soul and strength and our neighbour as ourselves.

So... my understanding is that these laws were written to help the people do that in the days before Christ came to earth. I am not clear on why some of the odd laws were written, either, although we are discussing an ancient civilization in the middle east. I know an American blogger out that way who is married to a Muslim and actually defends the practice of child brides and female servants who are very young, and she puts up some good reasons... won't go into it now, but sometimes things that are very odd make sense when you're there and see the context.

I am a Christian and not ashamed of it, and I hope as many people as possible come to a saving knowledge of Christ. But I am not demanding my shopkeepers say Merry Christmas to me and all that silliness, I promise. :)

Your Christian bookstore clerk wasn't very discerning. Once she figured out you were not on the same wavelength she was on religion, she had the choice of either explaining the theology of this particular bookstore (Baptist? Presbyterian? Whatever?) and its differing interpretation of scripture with the Mormon church (please use verse number or theological writing specifically, not vague words like "they think") OR she could have shrugged and sold you a book of prayers without getting all into it. The third option she chose - slamming without explaining - would have had me upset as well because CULTS are not funny things. Does she know what that word means??

The truth is that there really are some dangerous cults out there. One is up the street from me. It is a *CHRISTIAN* church and theologically it is almost identical to any church you can name ON PAPER, doctrinally. It is only after you have been there a long time that you realize the pastor must always be obeyed (biblical authority, yayy) and women must homeschool so Satan doesn't influence their families, and families must ask permission before marrying, taking jobs, buying a new car and you name it.

Incidentally, as much as I hate church labels and stuff, this is one reason people go for a labelled church. Central office does not deal well with pastors that far out of line and there are at least some checks. But I digress.

IN PRACTICE, this particular church is not Christian at all. But they have all the points of salvation outlined on their bulletin and blah blah blah. :(

I'm very SAD to see cults. I take no joy from discussing "cults" and the superiority of one doctrine over another. It makes me want to cry because PEOPLE ARE TRAPPED there. Daggone it but they need more than a book of prayers and your clerk has no idea probably how bad a real cult is.

Ok. Done with my soapbox. How did your friend like her gift??

bobby (dRX) said...

*blush* ;)

I've struggled with defining the difference between cults and religions, but a couple of observations I find interesting:
all organized religions started as cults;
I have friends who are trapped in established religions, mostly through a sense of duty to their parents &/or extended family - the result of childhood indoctrination.

It's fascinating stuff =)


Kebeni said...

Just watched Religulous! LMAO, a tad biased but funny all the same. He is the Michael Moore of religion! Thanks for telling me about it Bobby

Fieona said...

That story is as funny now as it was when you gave me You really should think about making money out of your experiences, you sure have some extreme ones.
Of course I love it, Happy elf mum. This girl rocks. I can't say that I get ALL of the poems, but they have made me laugh, cry and scratch my head. So, it is definitely an entertaining read, and well entertainment is something I NEED.
I do have to add though, that despite being a christian, had I been the one buying the book, I would have found it very difficult not to throw the book at the clerk.
PS. I think you should add a disclaimer when you suggest getting a cuppa for the long read. ie "Kebeni will not be responsible if you choke or burn yourself in the event that you fall over laughing."