Saturday, March 20, 2010

Maybe I just need to stop thinking.

This is somewhat tied into my "See Who I Am" post and how a nonbeliever is viewed by evangelicals.

For a long time, Hell was presented -- or came across -- as a place where people would be tormented for all eternity. And it was a place where God sent you.

In recent years, that view appears to have been softened somewhat. It's no longer a place of torture, it's a place where there's simply no love, mercy, compassion, light, peace, all those good things. It's the absence of God, so it would be a place of darkness, despair, hatred, envy, rage, lust ... and God no longer sends you there. Rather, you send yourself there through your choice to not accept Him, and God loves you enough to respect your choice.

Okay. But when I start making the connections in this viewpoint, what it's saying, then, is everyone who goes there is someone who prefers hatred over love. Lust/greed over charity. Despair over hope. Envy over gratitude. The people in Hell prefer these negative things 100%.

My question to the evangelical would be thus: if your nonbelieving friend were to die tomorrow, s/he is only going to one place. Hell. And if you believe your friend is going to hell, then you believe your friend choose to go there because your friend wanted to go there. Thus, you believe that your friend 100% prefered hatred over love, lust/greed over charity, despair over hope, and envy over gratitude. Your friend wasn't attracted to anything good at all. In fact, your friend was a pretty ugly person.

A) Is this truly what you believe about your friend? After all, they choose to go to this ugly place, and since this was the place that attracted them the most, then obviously, there wasn't a lot of good in their life and B) why would you want to be friends with someone this ugly?

Monday, March 15, 2010

See Who I Am

When I was younger, I thought that my evangelical friends and I could just get along. That our differences didn't matter that much, that we could still find lots in common, and since we each used the Bible in our religions, we'd have common ground. I thought that accepting their invitations to church weren't that big of a deal, that it was nice to go along and learn about this huge part of their lives.

Let me just say that I was naive and had that youthful arrogance when I was younger. My mother did try to warn me, but she was an adult and old and stuff, so what did she know?

The realization of how different we were has been building for a while, and there was an incident that about a year and a half ago, that made me understand how much Evangelical Christianity can operate with ulterior motives. I thought we were entering a conversation under one pretense, and the conversation was instead used to try and "convert" me. Not only that, but my portion of the conversation had been revealed to someone who was raised in my religion, and now was an evangelical. That ex-member gave "pointers" as to how to crack through my brainwashing (for my religion is considered a cult by evangelical standards).

The biggest realization I had as a result of this incident is just how much they'll never accept me for who I am. They're always going to pray for my salvation, they're always going to pray that God reveals an opening for me to see the truth, and they'll always be ready. They're always going to want me to change. They're always going to judge my experiences based on those who've left my religion for evangelicalism, rather than asking me themselves about my experiences.

I can't even begin to explain how much that severed something inside of me. I felt like I had been slapped in the face, almost. And how, even a year and a half later, I haven't recovered. There is something very dead inside of me, in terms of this relationship. I don't feel like I can confide in this person at all, because who knows how my life will get used? My experiences aren't her prayer tools to try and convert me.

That incident has only been reinforced by something that happened a few weeks ago. She posted a response on facebook in someone else's notes, and I'm 99% sure she didn't realize the note was public. It was in discussion about postmodernism, and she was explaining her reaction when someone quoted Rob Bell.

Essentially, her reaction arose because one of her closest friends in the world (that would be me) is in a cult. So when she hears too much "Popular postmodern speaker instead of Christ says," what she's hearing is "founder of my religion says" and that somewhat freaks her out.

I haven't been a member of my religion for a few years (which I haven't told her, as I don't want to deal with the questions or her joy at feeling that God is slowly leading me towards the truth. First step -- remove me from my old religion). If I must label myself, I'd go with "hopeful agnostic." But my parents still are devout members (who have no problem with my beliefs, as they raised me to think for myself), and thus their belief set influenced how I was raised. It shaped me. It made into the person I am today, with all the good qualities that supposedly make her feel I'm a good friend.

Maybe she's able to separate the two, but I don't have that ability. The way I see it, the factors that defined me kind of freak her out. If I go back to the incident from a year and a half ago, the factors that defined me aren't elements that should be explored in an effort to know me better, but should be approached with "How can I use this to get what I want out of it?"

And I know that while I'm angry over this, she's simply being who she is. Her belief structure can't allow her to operate any differently. She has no other way of viewing me, and so to be angry with her is unfair.

But I'm also angry because I know just how much it would damage me to become an evangelical Christian. There would be parts of me that I'd have to suffocate just to survive in that world, both intellectually and emotionally. I'd become a colder person, and I'd become a meaner person. And I'd no longer be the person writing this post, because my whole personality would have to shift. She is actively praying for something that I know on every level would harm me.

I'm angry because she's not allowing me to define my past. No matter what I would explain to her about how I felt I encountered God, she gets to define it. It wasn't God, because I'm spiritually blind. She gets to own my experiences, not me.

Perhaps most of all, though, I'm really angry with myself, because what am I doing to resolve this, other than writing this blog post? I hate conflict, but I'm not sure I have a choice in this matter. Not anymore.