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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

About 6 months ago our church took 8 weeks to look at what makes us each uniquely strong.  I blogged on my top 5 Strengths then. We had some discussion about how our church would be if we all lived out of our strong suits, rather than trying to compensate for our weaknesses.  It was a fascinating time for me, as I love amassing new information, and am also pretty strategic and had all sorts of "ohh if someone with strength x worked with someone with strength y it would be a beautiful thing" moments.

Recently our pastor went and did some more training with the Gallop organization in regards to becoming a strength driven church, and this last Sunday we did an anonymous survey that ties into this.

It was fairly straight forward, rating your response from Strongly Disagree(1) to Strongly Agree (5).  I was flying through it until I came to this one:

"I will take an unpopular stance in defense of my faith"

It was all I could do not to raise my hand and voice a complaint.

Let me explain.
(Thank You Rob Bell for the imagery)
Often when people talk about faith the connotation is religion [1}.  Religion is useless. Religion is a bunch of precepts and external strictures that define behaviors.  Religion is hard and unyielding, like a brick wall.[2]  Brick walls need defending when they come under attack, as the  structure could become damaged and not at all sound.   Defending religion allows for hatred of people who don't believe like you do.  This is not what I signed on for when I chose to follow Jesus.

Faith is not the same thing.

Faith is something much different. It's a journey, a way of life, a movement of mind and heart that is played out in how I live, not a set of practices and external strictures.  It is something that changes me from the inside out. Something that brings life and joy. (Rob Bell Likens it to a trampoline.  You don't defend a trampoline.  You just invite people to jump[2]) It doesn't need defending. Ever. Period. Simply put, I do not need to argue on behalf of my faith, I just need to live it. I am not going to waste time defending it, as that will accomplish nothing.  No one is going to be won by arguments.  People can only be invited to go on the journey with me.

This being said, my faith journey may cause me to take an unpopular stance.  For Instance I may have to say that  the amount of children in our area that are in poverty is a crime that the church (in general not ours necessarily) is largely not addressing.  Or I may have to say that it isn't good enough to say you're pro life if all you care about is life before birth, but are for us blowing people up in mid-eastern countries.  I may have to take the stance that you have no right to complain that homosexual marriage is a threat to the sanctity of marriage when you can't treat your own spouse with respect.  I may even have to say that it is part of our responsibilities as believers in God to care for the earth and the environment. It may get worse.  I may have to tell you to forgive someone who hurt you, or call you to account for gossiping, or I may have to publicly repent for not forgiving, or for gossiping myself.

Faith may cause you to take an unpopular or uncomfortable stance, but not to defend it.

So this is what I wrote on my survey.
"by way of explanation, I will never take an unpopular stance to defend my faith. My faith should never need defending. However I will take unpopular or uncomfortable stances on account of my faith." (or very similar words to the same effect). 
I might as well have written my name on my survey.
Oh Well.
If they don't know me by now….:)

1. "Religion is the building after God has left it."  Bono
2. Imagery from the excellent "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell

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So I'm reading a book for book club.  Usually these books are good, they get into my bones, we've read so many good ones, Divine Conspiracy, Anna Karenina, Jane eyre, A Return to Modesty, Blue like Jazz….awww Blue like Jazz(love that book).
Now we are reading one that drives me nuts, everyone else in the group loves it…I mean LOVES it.  This insight was so earthshattering, that pondering really made me think.  Me, I just read the book with this weird combination of indifference and jealousy.  It is a book written  by a poet who then goes to a monestary, twice, for extended stays. She kind of blogs her way through the Catholic church callender, and voila, its a book.  (actually i'm sounding more bitter than I am, the book is well written with lush imagry, It's just not speaking to me, and I have to force myself to read it, which, if you know me, is very odd)
There have been two entries that have intrigued me, however, and I'm going to talk a bit about them. 

The Cloister Walk
Kathleen Norris

 

She had an entry on celibacy, and one on the Virgin Martyrs, both of which struck a chord with me.  The Celibacy chapter was very intriguing.  She postulates that everyone needs someone in thier lives that have chosen Celibacy, as they cause you to learn to relate in different ways, and they ave wrestled with thier sexuallity, and channel it in different ways of growing, and living. This really gave me pause.  For several reasons.  I'm celibate, mostly by choice.  I mean if the right guy came along tomorow, and whisked me off to get married at a certain unfinished cathedral in Barcelona, I would definatley not be celibate anymore…enough romantic notions.  The fact is, I've chosen Celibacy as a way of life until marriage, which, lets face it, may never happen for me, dispite my miriad of charms, and ample heaving bosom.  It was interesting to see that as a value to someone, as usually it's a choice that's mocked, or at the very least, marginalized. I worked part time in a convienience store to help out a friend who ran it, and met up with Marjorie.  Marjorie had a hard life, and an even harder boyfriend, by the stories she'd tell me.  (odd how in ever job i've ever worked, except the current one, someone has felt the need to educate me, sexually speaking, with thier exploits, marjorie being no exception, the one involving pop rocks being the most intriguing, and unsanitary, of the lot) Anyway one day she was schooling me , (sigh) yet again, and I let it slip I was a virgin.  Her response…."awwwww, I'm sorry"  like pour pitiful you, no one wants to sex you up.  When I assured her it was by choice, she just didn't know how to respond.  About 10 min later she came back with…."you know, I think it's kinda cool…." Yeah Yeah. Anyway, finding, in the Cloister Walk, a value and an importance to what I, as someone who's chosen this path, can offer relationships, even and maybe most espicially, relationships with the opposite sex was a breath of fresh air.  I miss friendships with men, most of the ones I know are married, and in our world today, friendships with just one partner or the other don't work, as there's just too much fear.  I'm more friends with couples, then just men or women, and I greive that.  Espically since My Choice would really preclude me from letting anything untoward happen.  I'm just not willing to give what i've treasured to someone who's cheating on a partner.  But I understand.  This is the world we live in. The other thing that was interesting was her discussion on how the nuns had to wrestle with thier decision to be celibate.  There was a point they had to come to when they realized thier vow meant not ever being with a man, or ever being a mother.  Something about that struck a chord with me.  My Biological clock has been making the rudest noises lately, and I've been staring down the path which I believe may lead me through the time where I morn the fact that I will never have my own child, something that would break my heart.  I saw a child in Brighton which was the spitting image of that inner picture I have of a child I would like.  Hair the color of mine, in ringlets, large hazel eyes, freckles, inquisitive, with a loving father.  It hurt more that I could have believed, that taste of fear, that I may never have one of those.  My Choice isn't an easy one.
Kathleen Norris's other chapter that intrigued me was the one on the Virgin Martyrs.  Those pure women who have chosen death over defilement, or stood up against the regime of the day, and refused to be married to bastards, and instead were raked over hot coals, and dismembered, and as a result, have miracles to show for it.  I read this chapter wondering if I could be like those women.  They concidered thier sexual purity akin to thier spiritual purity, and wouldn't compromise.  I'd be lying if I said that my faith didn't affect my decisions, but it's also based on the lives of my friends and seing what happens to them, and while I believe that my sexual purity and my spirituality are intertwined, I'm not sure I see this as a life or death decision.  I don't know that I would die to protect my virginity, espicially since I think I have much that I'm meant to accomplish in this life.  Does that mean I don't value it like I should?  It's an interesting position to be in, I see My Choice in contrast to the ones of many of my friends, and then in contrast to these women of the past, could it be that my decision is not so much based in faith, but in self protection? Or am I valuing my virginity less due to the way I look, or the age I am, or the past abuse, beliving that I am somehow 'less than'?  I don't know, but it sure gives me a lot to think about.  Which is surprising, as I don't much like the book 🙂

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