Feeble Knees

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Wondering Where I Fit

Ed. Note: this could end up being one of those posts I wish I hadn't posted. To those who are undyingly devoted to their particular denomination or fellowship and those who are adverse to the use of sarcasm, you might want to skip this one. Apologies!

After reading much of Jollyblogger's and Adrian Warnock's various posts on the five points of Calvinism, it left me wondering where I fit in the spectrum of Christianity these days. After being raised as anti-denominational as possible, I'm still surprised how deeply I fell into the whole Pentecostal thing, and how difficult it's been for me to leave some of that tradition behind. Yet today, because of many experiences in the Pentecostal church I am falling back on my non-denominational upbringing.

But where does that leave me in the body of Christ?

If it were not for the rather suspect state of Anglicanism in this day and age, I'd love to call myself a C.S. Lewis-ian. (Don't scoff; if Martin Luther could have a whole denomination named after him, why not Lewis?) I think I'd read more of Mere Christianity than the Bible itself in my teens and early twenties. It wasn't until later, when at the request of a friend that I started attending a Pentecostal church. At that time in my life it provided many things that I needed, including and not limited to a tangible way to publicly make amends with Jesus and ask him to forgive me for my sins. In addition it taught me the importance of discipline, self-control, worship and intense Bible study. I leave prayer off that list because in some ways my prayer life ended up in worse of a shambles after being taught many conflicting things about how and why one should pray. (That's a topic for another time.)

My former church gave me opportunity to serve in many capacities (too many really, but that's yet another topic for another time) and taught me many things about the nature of God in Christ that I am thankful to know: His great love and passion for our souls, and how He gave himself to the uttermost to redeem us. Few people beat the Pentecostals for their raw passion and emotion when worshipping Christ, and there was a point where my very emotionally dried up and constipated soul needed that.

But where there was so much passion and zeal there was often a frightening lack of common sense and discernment. Where emotion remains unchecked, abuse can sneak right in under your nose, particularly when everyone starts hearing words from God or proclaiming themselves prophets. Chaos reigns and leadership is emasculated. This does not seem to be in keeping with God's desire for order, balance, obedience and servitude.

So for this and other reasons I left. I've tried a few non-denominational fellowships, but too many of them seem overly manufactured and slick. It leaves a certain aftertaste, like saccharine, that is not altogether comforting.

Anglicanism/Episcopalianism, for all that I do love dear old C.S., seem a little too close to Catholicism for my comfort. (Though many of the Episcopals and Anglicans today bear little resemblance to the faith Lewis championed.) I am not anti-Catholic; many in my family still remain in that tradition. For my part I've always been just a wee bit afraid of the Pope, the Vatican and the church's bloody history during the Inquisition and later during WWII, when they seemed to turn a blind eye on Hitler and his horrific campaign against humanity.

Aside from Rome's less than stellar record in the history of human rights and religious liberty department, the issue of transubstantiation is a major sticking point for me, as I do not believe that the sacramental communion wafers and wine become the literal body and blood of Christ during Mass.

Something, I'm not sure what it is, makes me distrust the Baptist Convention. I don't know why this is, and I do pray both Baptists and God forgive me for it. It may be that not all of my quasi-Catholic upbringing has rubbed off yet, that could be the reason. It may also have to do with the one Baptist family I knew growing up who followed all the rules of the church in church, but led quite a different life at home. I'm old enough and wise enough to know now that behavior is not peculiar to Baptists.

Sometimes I'd wonder if I'd fit in well with the Quakers, but then I can't say I'm a pacifist, which seems to be a big thing with them. Scratch that one.

Those who know me well would never use the term orthodox to describe anything about me. Unorthodox on the other hand, would be much more apt.

Of the Presbyterian and Methodist churches I've attended, neither one really knocked my socks off. The Presbyterian church was enormous, with over ten thousand people worshipping there in multiple services throughout the Sabbath. It was so big parishioners had to park in vacant lots a mile or more away and get bussed in on these big luxury coach busses. Call me crazy, but somehow I don't think this was the kind of church that the gates of hell could not prevail against; these people couldn't even get themselves in the front door without an air-conditioned luxury bus!

The Methodist church was a little, ugh, how do I put this? Okay, how about completely devoid of Jesus. This on a night when they were presenting a play about the gospel of Mark. Somehow they spent forty five minutes acting out a completely neutered account of Jesus' life. I'd believe it was all a fairy tale too, if that was the only witness I ever received.

I mean no offense to anyone who is faithful to these or other fellowships. Or maybe I do? I apologize if I have offended; I mean no disrespect to any one individual personally.

Maybe I'm just still bitter from the way things went down at my old church, and it's unfairly coloring my perception of every other church I attend. Admittedly I am having some rather huge trust issues, as you would understand after reading this and this. There is no perfect church, or as my old pastor used to say, if you find a perfect church, don't join it, because then you'll come in and mess it up. *Sigh*

But still I long for a familiar place full of people who want to worship and thank Jesus for dying on the cross and rising again on the third day to save us; folks who simply grow in faith while helping each other along the way, encouraging one another to press toward the mark of the high calling...

Is that too much to ask?

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