Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Interesting Question

I just received the following comment and thought I'd reply (since she doesn't have an e-mail address in her profile).
I know that you don't know me from Adam, but I found your blog while searching for tips on flying with kids. We will be moving in a few months and my husband is going a couple of weeks before me, which means I will be flying with my four children.....alone. When I saw your "church" tag I was curious. I guess my question is, do you not believe there is one true church. A church where, you know it is the one God has set up on the earth to be His church and that even if there are doctrines you don't "agree" with, maybe that is something you have to overcome and be teachable in that? And if you truely believe that doctrine is wrong, why would you go to that church?

I just can't image liking this church because it looks like a church, but liking this other one because you get paged during the service because your kids need you. I'm not trying to be rude, I'm truely curious.
First of all, no offense taken. I think it's an interesting question.

I guess the short answer is "no" - I don't believe that there's one true church. I think that if I were to think that the church I belonged to were the One True Church, I would be claiming more of a knowledge of God and His mind than I'm comfortable with claiming. There are so many different divisions of Christianity, and the differences between some of them are so minor. I am not qualified to decide that these groups are right and these groups are wrong. All I can do is follow my heart and my gut and make a decision that works for me and for my family. I figure that's why God gave me a heart and a gut!

I mean, don't you think it's a little arrogant to think that of all the billions of people in the world, and all the hundreds of different religions and different sects, you just happened to pick the "right" one?

I think there are a lot of paths, in other words, and that God probably doesn't get all hung up on the details (like pagers and music and what the church looks like!).

I was raised Methodist, for the most part, and my husband was raised Presbyterian. We went to the Pres. church for a while when I was a kid, too. The differences between the two are not hugely significant. It's not like one believes in Jesus and the other believes in Xenu. The main thing, for me, is that the Methodist church is more accepting of homosexuals, while the Presbyterian church isn't as accepting. It's not a binary difference, either - it isn't black and white. The M's are more accepting than the P's. It's not like the P's are out protesting at gay peoples' funerals or anything. It's a small doctrinal difference, not something that would affect our everyday life in the church.

I think there's enough hate and nastiness in the world, and no one should create further hate and nastiness against two people who love each other, regardless of those peoples' genders. Perhaps I need to be "teachable" in that regard, I don't know. I can't imagine one day deciding to be less accepting than I am today of any group - whether they're gay, or they're a different race, or whatever. So, perhaps God and I are going to have to have a serious talk about my attitude toward gays one day. Let's assume that I'm wrong, that God thinks gays are bad bad bad, and that I shouldn't be accepting of them. So, here's how I imagine that conversation going:
God: Amy, you really screwed up on the gay thing. I am not amused.
Amy: Well, God, I did the best I could. I never hurt anybody. I wasn't gay myself. I didn't "promote" being gay in any way (unless you count watching Queer Eye). I just tried to love the people in my path as best I could, regardless of whether or not they were gay, and I'm sorry if that offends You.
God: Oh, whatever. Let's go get some ice cream.
Would I choose a church that required me to go out and preach against gays? No, because that would be in direct violation of my own beliefs, and the greater belief that I believe is at the core of Christianity, and that is Love. But can I deal with a church that may have a slightly different opinion on gays than I do, considering that I am not personally gay, so long as other aspects of that church are comfortable and in line with my own personal beliefs and interpretation of the Bible. Sure.

As for the appearance of the church, the music, etc. being important, you have to remember that we're choosing between two extremely similar churches, doctrinally. If churches were colors, it's not as though we're choosing between black and white, we're choosing between two very similar shades of gray. For both my husband and I, the "feel" of a church is important to us. We don't feel "churchy" in a big steel building with visible i-beams and rock and roll music. We don't feel like we've been to church in an atmosphere like that. You have to understand, these new buildings they're building around here are UGLY. They're built cheaply, and poorly. At the Methodist church we went to there's something wrong with the ceiling and it kept making noises throughout the service. It's very distracting, and it's hard to get into a reverent and spiritual frame of mind, for me, when I'm afraid the ceiling's going to cave in on my head. Although, it does give me something to pray about. "Please God, if the ceiling caves in, let me get out of here with my family!"

As for the preschool situation, the number of young families that belong, and other considerations I mentioned... You have to understand that the primary reason we're going to church is because of our kids. Both my husband and I believe in God, Jesus, and the whole Christian thing, but we've never regularly attended church on our own. The fact is that we've always had other stuff to do. (If I'm going to hell, it's probably for that more than the gay thing!!) However, we both feel that it's important to raise our kids with religion. For one thing, studies show that kids with a belief in a higher power who cares about them do better in life (resist peer pressure, don't do drugs, don't get pregnant at 14, etc.) than kids who don't believe in a caring higher power. For another, it gives them a group of peers outside of the group of peers at school - which may become important for them when they're older. Popularity in school matters less if you have a dozen close friends at church. I also want to get them into preschool, and I'm excited about the Pres. preschool program. The Methodist church doesn't have a preschool.

Maybe going to church for my kids will strengthen my own beliefs. I hope so. I'm kind of a Christmas/Easter Christian now (actually, the last few years I haven't even made those services regularly!).

So, I hope that answers your questions. Next time leave an e-mail! ;)

As for traveling with four kids - oh wow. That's beyond my area of expertise. I hope you found my post on traveling with a baby useful. You should talk to a teacher about how to handle field trips! I think that would be more similar to your situation than our trip with one!

Good luck,


Mommy on the move said...

I appreciate your post, the e-mail you can reach me at is meggieh@juno.com. I guess my own personal belief is that, just like in the Bible, the true church would be lead by a living prophet. But just because I believe that my church is the only completely true church, because I believe it is lead by God, doesn't mean I think that the other churches are bad. I think any church that teaches love and hope and about God, is good and I would much rather see people attending those churches than nothing at all. So my belief in one true church is not done in arrogance. When it comes to the homosexuallity thing, I think that, doctrinally, that is cleared up in the first chapter of Romans, but in no way do I believe that they are bad. I believe that they should be accepted, but that doesn't mean that I should always accept their choices.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question and answer! I love to read other people's view on church/Christianity, especially when they are in a non-preachy kind of way. Thanks for sharing your views and insights into such a personal issue. :)

Amy said...

Meggie, thanks for leaving the e-mail address! Are you Catholic? Mormon? I'm not sure where you're coming from. I think a little context would help me frame my answers to you better, in terms of doctrinal differences.

I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for a prophet. I'm not sure that I'd know one if I saw one! What if the guy you think is a prophet turns out to be a child abuser, like that guy who was on Dr. Phil who ran the church where all the creepy old men married the young girls, and the young boys were run out of town on a rail... Wish I could remember the name. Anyway, seems to me that anyone calling himself a prophet would be extremely scary and (if he has followers) powerful, and worthy of some very serious scrutiny. I'm not willing to follow someone off a cliff, you know? And the only thing between me and knowing whether or not I'm following someone off a cliff is my heart and my gut, like I talked about before.

Some very scary people have done some very scary things in the name of religion. Jim Jones. That Heaven's Gate cult. Any other cult... I get worried about people who think they know it all when it comes to God, even if those people are church leaders. I think religion should be a process of seeking the truth. I'd probably make an excellent Unitarian Universalist (how do you run a UU out of town? Burn a question mark on their lawn!)

I guess I figure, too, that my odds of finding an actual prophet in MiddleofNowhere, Midwestern, USA are between slim and none, so I'll just take the church with the good music and the happy kids. :)

Chaos - THANKS!!

Mommy on the move said...

I guess, looking at it from that perspective, following a prophet would be scary. But couldn't this be the case in anything you do. How do you know that your child's sunday school teacher isn't a child abuser or that the pastor in your church isn't taking the donations and using for himself, or something of that nature. The point is, and I'm grateful for this because I am a very analytical person and if I didn't truely believe this I would drive myself mad, is that God knows us, and he will guide us if we seek his guidence. In the end, I believe that if we ask "is this the right church" or "is this man a prophet" or any other question, I think he will give us the answer that we seek. I grew up going to the church that I go to now, and I'm greatful to my parents for making sure religion was a part of my life, but I got to the age where I needed to know for myself what was right and what was not. I had so many questions, so many things I didn't understand (of coarse I still do lol) but in the end I had to pray and ask if the basis of the church I was attending was true. Where it came from, the basic teachings, all those things. If I got a confirmation that those things were true, that was a start. There was a lot I had to realize in this, that people aren't perfect, but that God is. That I need His help more than I want to admit. I don't think that God wants us to follow blindly, but I do think that he wants us to have faith and the only way I can have that faith is to believe that God will lead me to what is right for me. So in the end, I have gotten my answer to those basic questions, and when I get to points of doctrine in my church that I don't understand, that don't make sense to me, I stop analyzing and start praying. So when it comes down to it, I don't know that I could ever "pick" a church because that would be taking something that I have so little knowledge about and putting it in my own hands, when there is someone who knows so much better than I. After some of my experiences, I just cant' believe life is full of chance, I truely feel guided and blessed.

Mommy on the move said...

By the way, I love your blog, you're very funny and you capture the quirky thing parents feel and deal with very well.

Lisa said...

I'm always facinated by what people believe and why. Thanks for sharing this. ALot of people, myself included, don't discuss religion on their blog because they are scared of the trools coming out in full force. I'm glad you are braver than I am. Because it was great to learn something about you.

Brother Paul said...

We are here to find the truth. I believe there is a true church mentioned in the Bible. I believe that it taught scriptural salvation. I believe it had scriptural names. Are you really saved? Can you afford to be wrong??? Please read trulysaved.blogspot.com. God bless you as you endeaver to search for the truth!