thoughts on religion

Yesterday I was reading through a thread on Metafilter from a person asking “How do you know you’re in the wrong religion?

There were, of course, plenty of people speaking against religion altogether, but one post, from Pater Aletheias, really stood out, and I figured I’d quote some of it, as I think it’s worth repeating.

Read some books that have gracious, appreciative looks at various Christian traditions. So much of what we get exposed to are distorted, bitter rants against other believers, we need some kind-heart appreciations of the best in other fellowships.

Boy is this the truth. I remember learning about Catholicism through Teresa, and seeing so much misinformation being swept away by actual facts. Most people, when looking into other denominations or religions, look for information from their current denomination, and thusly only get outsider views from people who most likely only had the intention to lead people away from said belief system. I realized most of what I knew about Catholicism came from a frou page pamphlet. Could you summarize your entire belief system in four wallet-sized pages?

What I realized is that no one denomination can faithfully represent Christ. He is too multifaceted for us to contain. We all get some things right and a lot wrong. And we do nothing perfectly. The whole point of the cross is that we can’t really get it right, so we rely on grace. And if we want grace for our own failings, we should freely offer it when others fail.

And what good would it do me if God forgave my sins but not my erroneous beliefs? I can no more believe perfectly than I can act perfectly. Grace that doesn’t cover doctrinal errors does me no good at all–it would still come down to me having to get something exactly right to earn my salvation, which is completely counter to the story of Christ. If it depends on my perfection regarding anything–speaking in tongues, baptism, Trinitarian doctrine–then I’m damned already, because I just can’t get it right.

His grace is broad and deep. It isn’t the case that we have to be in the “right” denomination. There isn’t one. That doesn’t mean that some aren’t healthier than others, or that you shouldn’t move to one that is less sectarian. But that move won’t save or damn you. God’s love is bigger than that.

I don’t think there’s much I can add to that.

You can read Pater’s full comment here.

life is frustrating

In late 1997, I was given a tape. On this tape was a sound I had never before heard. It was dark. It was aggressive. It spoke about things in my life in a way I had never heard before. It was a cassette tape of Living Sacrifice’s “Reborn.” It not only introduced me to Christian Metal, it introduced me to Metal as a whole. I had finally found a form of music that conveyed to me the might and power of God, and it made me proud to be a Christian, and opened up my mind to a form of expression I had longed for long before I even knew it existed.

The tape opens with a long drone, tribal drums beating in the background, until it all builds up to a short silence, which is then filled with a drum fill that is seemingly unhuman. It was the first time I learned of Lance Garvin, and only the beginning of a deep respect and awe of him. The song begins with a musical might of a legion of angels, while the vocalist, Bruce Fitzhugh, screamed with an intense passion lyrics that were simple, but God-breathed.

Reborn empowered
All strongholds broken
Old ways have died,
Given new life
Boldness engulfs my every word,
Strength empowered by God

I had spent many years in churches, and never once heard a battle cry like that. There’s no tremble in the words spoken, no wavering in the stance. Backed by a blast of guitars and drums, those were are screamed into the depths of hell and back. Living Sacrifice had shown me that something the prefix of “Christian” didn’t have to mean “second rate rip-off.”

Living Sacrifice will always have a big place in my heart. Not only has their music always moved and inspired me, but their members have been inspirations to me. Lance Garvin is an incredible drummer, with speed, accuracy and power. And the band’s frontman, Bruce Fitzhugh, has long been a model for the life I wanted. He fronted an amazing Christian metal band, when not with LS, he produced other awesome Christian metal acts, and he’s a family man (so much so it led to the band’s breakup in 2003.)

Now that I’ve explained all that, you can understand that I have become very excited at their announcement to do a reunion tour and record a new album. They’re playing in Atlanta on June 27th.

I was very excited.

Tonight Teresa, practically through tears, explained that we’ll be on a plane that night going to Florida for her cousin’s wedding. They play in Florida on the 28th, but it’s an hour away, and it’s during the wedding. She then drove the knife deeper when she pointed out that on the 28th, in Florida, I could bring along my best friend/former metal bandmate Rob to the show with me…if I could go. Which I can’t. Life is very frustrating. I continually feel like I want simple things, and they keep getting stripped away from me. It’s never anything horrible, but having one little thing after the other fall through on you gets really overwhelming after a while. It sucks.

home fore the holidays

sitting at home alone on halloween is surprisingly depressing. well, maybe depressing isn’t the right word. i’ve come to accept that this is the way my life is, so it’s not quite so depressing.
i don’t think i’ve ever understood what it means to be lonely up until these last few months. for several years i was stressed and upset about my schooling, always feeling like i was doing nothing and getting nowhere. i said it best in a letter to a friend, “i feel like i’m grinding an axe that no one needs, and it never gets sharper.” i use to assure myself that when i got on my way and on to full sail that i’d finally be happy, learning things i want to learn and starting to get on with my life. i never thought about being in orlando alone.
i’m not actually alone. i have a roommate, of whom i’ve posted about on this site a few times. we started out pretty friendly until we pissed each other off a few too many times with our lack of consistent cleanliness. my fiance tells me how depressing it is to see two people just co-existing ten feet away from each other.
i also have friends at school. a lab group of some really phenomenal guys that i will not regret networking with in my future. i actually just left a party that one of my lab mates was having. but it’s tough to have friends that you can’t really connect with. most of our time spent together consists of all of us picking on one of the other group members. this is all fun and good, Lord knows i appreciate a good ribbing every once and a while, but not being able to connect with anyone really takes it’s toll on you. i enjoy their company, but not being able to relate to someone on a spiritual level really sets a wall up. maybe i’m just tired of the occasional prod about my beliefs, not that i don’t prod the Christian culture myself, or maybe it’s just that when they do make some anti-God point, i’m tired of the fact that i have nothing to say back. i know a million answers, but when you’re distant from God, you’re not so motivated to fight for Him.
so i sit here alone in my apartment, grilling chicken on my george foreman grill, and heating up corn on the stove, soon to watch solaris, and being so laden with loneliness i can’t begin to describe it.

church

for a long time i searched for a church that was “right for me.” after a while you forget why you even went in the first place. well, after going to a church two weeks in a row, i remember. it just feels good. i was sitting in church, not singing along, and i realized how good i felt. i thought to myself, “i wonder if i feel this way just because i’m doing what i’ve always been told is right.” but you know what, that’s not what it was. it just felt good. i can’t even explain what it was. but it was good. i put up another article in opinions. after you read it, go to church this weekend.