Love and Fear

Prologue Continued 2/14/2011  “Love and Fear”

I made a list of denominations and religious faiths that I wanted to explore this year.  Many of them I’ve already read up on or have even attended some of these types of churches before, or I have friends who do.  These are the churches I plan to visit and faiths I want to learn more about than I currently already know, and I’m hoping that it will bring a little more knowledge to those who don’t know about them. Not that I am any kind of theologian or expert, but because most people don’t take the time to find out and would rather make a blanket statement about all people who do not believe as they believe. It’s usually inaccurate and most of the facts are distorted and spread around like a venereal disease.  Even within my own Christian faith.  I’m also going to go re-visit some old places I’ve attended to see if anything has changed, as well as some of the denominations I’ve been a part of.  Here is the list so far:

Unitarian Universalist Church
Pentecostal – in its various forms – Assembly of God, Church of God, etc.
Black Gospel Churches in their various denominations (because I love this spirited style)
Non-denominational Churches that stemmed from various denominations (they are not all the same)
Episcopal & Anglican
Jehova’s Witness
Church of Later Day Saints (Mormon)
Greek Orthodox
Eastern/Asian religions i.e. Budism
New Age
Seventh Day Adventist
Protestant Church denominations:  Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Free Methodist, Nazarene

I will probably add more to this list as I go along.

I’m finding that a lot of people are already interested in this journey I’m taking this year.  But I also know that there will be some of those types I’ve described earlier who will be defensive and judgmental.  Maybe they will learn something.  If anything, I hope Christians will continue to learn more about who Jesus really is because I honestly think most of them don’t.  Even making that statement is offensive to people.  They are unwilling to acknowledge that very fact.  Probably because they are one of those people who don’t.  I’ve already come up against judgmental “church lady” types because I stepped on their pretty little patent leather shoes.  One thing I’ve found when it comes to the “Christian” faith is how “offended” most followers get when anyone brings up religious conversation that differs from their own set of beliefs or “step on their toes”.  It’s to the extent that the offender, which is often me, walks away feeling like I’ve been sentenced to hell for even bringing it up.  People get defensive and hostile when speaking about their faith sometimes, at least this has been my experience with some Christians.  Before I go further, let me put out the disclaimer that I am speaking of “some”, not “all” Christians.  I know there is someone out there who will want to pick that bone with me so let’s get that out of the way.  I’m not a Christian basher.  But let’s face the truth, Christians have a lot of problems, and most are unwilling to face that truth.  We’d rather not talk about it.  I choose to acknowledge and talk about it with hopes that it will ignite passion in others to do something about it and fix it. You can’t fix it if you don’t acknowledge it.  I think it’s great to be passionate about what you believe spiritually. But if you’re too weak and shallow to have intelligent conversations about other beliefs because you feel it’s taboo to even bring it up and discuss, I think that shows an immaturity, ignorance and weakness about you.  It’s a defense mechanism we have.  It’s called judging. The fact is that there are many different people in this world and many forms of religion and even Christian viewpoints.  If you never want to encounter those, ever, you are living on an island.  When the great commission tells us to “go out and make disciples”, how can we do that if we are unwilling to intelligently know where they are coming from? Most of our knowledge about them is false and based in fear.   You can’t do what the Great Commission says if you stay within your box of a church and are only willing to talk about yourself.  We talk about being One Body, which I consider all Christian denominations together, but I find that most have the attitude that their particular sect of the religion is “right”.  I grew up in a denomination where I got that attitude from a lot of people. Mostly it was the older folks.  Our Christian denomination was right and everyone else was wrong, “after all, Jesus was a Nazarene” is what I heard a lot.  And those Pentecostals were just making up jibberish and not really following Christ! Even Catholics were not considered Christians and people were trying to get them “saved”.  Hello!  We came pretty much from Catholicism until Luther & Calvin and Wesley and some others shook things up to give you the denomination you now know.  This is what I’m talking about when most Christians do not even know much about their own faith, its history and foundations.  These things are important to know.

Whenever I don’t know anything about someone else’s faith, I usually go look it up. I look at the faith’s main website, which most have by now, and look at their beliefs, values and practices.  I listen to teachings, sermons, and view videos to see what kind of worship they do.  I read blogs, articles, and see what kind of community they have, what kind of focus they have, outreach, and now, when I really want to know more, I just walk through their front doors and find out what the people are really like.  I find that pretty much all of us are the same down deep inside, all looking for the same things, all have a lot of similar goals and passions, concerns, missions and values, and even traditions.  It’s when we fail to truly try to understand each other that we think we are extremely different.  A lot of this stems out of fear…fear of what will happen if my own beliefs are challenged to think beyond what I know, fear that the other side is some heathenistic cult that is trying to recruit me and will sacrifice me to idols or bewitch me or something crazy like that.  We are not firm enough in our own beliefs that we feel we can confidently speak without casting judgment to make ourselves feel a little more secure.  We can’t openly talk with someone else about their faith without telling them we’re right and they are wrong.  I say “we” because I’m coming from my own life’s experiences as Christian and these are the things that exist within the Christian community everywhere. I’m wondering if other non-Christian faiths deal with these same issues with people? I would guess they do to some extent.  It stems from a need of belonging and feeling security.  When anything makes us question or think beyond what we currently know, we feel somewhat threatened in our security, in our knowledge, in our faith.  So most people start acting like vampire hunters and hold up crosses and throw holy water on anyone who challenges those insecurities.  I think we all have them.   Even within our own denomination and faith.  We have contests to see who is more spiritual.  I call those people “Spiritual or Religious Bullies”.  To me, it shows just how afraid they really are.  A confident person, secure in their beliefs doesn’t need to put down others to feel more confident. They’ve already determined what they believe and if they are really secure, know how to appropriately speak with and lead others without using fear as a recruiting tool or control tactic.  People live in religious fear.  Which brings me back to love.  If we are to love as Jesus loved as Christians, and knowing what I Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:18 says about love, then perfect love casts out fear.  This is just one of many points and facets of this conversation I have with myself an others on a daily basis for the most part.  I believe this is the main message of Jesus Christ; Love.  This is the foundation of truly knowing God.

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