spirituality

Religiosity: Challenging Faith

March 27, 2013

angel

Though I have loved and believed in God for as long as I can remember, I haven’t always been confident in my faith or completely satisfied by the spiritual food I was fed in church.

Often times in the church – well, I’ll speak from a Black church perspective since that’s really all I know firsthand – you are taught not to question the preacher, the Bible, or God. Growing up in the church, I remember that more often than not, questions of “why?” and “how?” were ignored or given a hand-waiving explanation, and sometimes reprimanded. “That’s what it says in the Good Book so that’s how God wants it.” “God is mysterious  He has mysterious ways.” Though I always thought these responses were suspect, I didn’t think about it much. Perhaps I was subconsciously afraid to question God or my understanding of God, so I never bothered to ask questions or just wonder about a religion I spent so much time devoting myself to.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I was questioned about my religious beliefs and that I, in turn, questioned my faith as I knew it.

I met this guy at a gig (a few years older than me). He was of the Nation of Yahweh and he spent a few phone calls and many letters trying to convince me of how ignorant and misguided a Christian I was and how enlightened a Yahweh Ben Yahweh follower he was. I won’t go into the details of his beliefs (you can Google them for yourself) or the details of our discourse (I don’t remember it all). There was so much going on, but his man argument was that I did not know my true history as a Black woman and that Jesus was not the son of God and he listed out all the reasons why, and tried to introduce me to “God’s true son,” whom he followed. What stuck out to me the most was how he used the Bible against me in such a way that I felt like I was meeting Jesus for the first time. How was he “schooling” me in my religion? Was I losing?

Now, I thought his religion was the bogus one from jump. To each his own and all but I wasn’t hopping on his bandwagon simply because he declared me to be in the “white man’s darkness.” Besides, none of his arguments held water as to why his faith was the right faith. But he challenged me to a dual and I was not going out without a fight, despite how little I initially came off as knowing about it. I remember taking my dad’s Bible, and searching for answers. I poured over scriptures, I read into the historical context behind them- who wrote them? what was going on at the time? why were there differences in each account? – and I wrote pages upon pages in rebuttal. Unlike him, I wasn’t trying to convince him that I was right, that my religion was truer, better. In fact, it wasn’t even about him.  I searched for understanding for myself, to better grasp what I claimed to believe in. It was important for me to know this God and Son I served beyond what I was taught and what I read in Bible study (all surface level information).

I don’t think this guy ever imagined that he would drive me closer to Christianity. Perhaps a weaker believer would have folded at the first sign of uncertainty and lack of knowledge. But he challenged me to challenge myself, challenge my beliefs, to know my beliefs. And what I discovered on my journey to understanding was that I believed in God (and Jesus) because of something greater on the inside of me, not because some one told me to believe or scared me into believing. My understanding of my faith or my religion may not have been well rooted or nourished at first, but it was real.

But despite this new assurance security in my faith and my religion, I was still a bit… uncertain. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if we (the church in general) have gotten it all wrong? What if the Biblical authors wrote more from self than God? What if we completely missed the message of what God was trying to convey to us? Of all the churches working in Christ’s name, who is right, if any? Is God pleased?”

My faith in God is undeniable. My faith in the church is not. Because I’m not convinced that the people involved in the church’s development and maintenance have gotten “it” – who God is, what God wants – right. As some one who attends church regularly, and desires to be part of church ministries, this is quite a conundrum. Compounded by the fact that my doubts have made it very difficult for me to relate to other believers and I often feel like an outcast.

How can one be so convinced in their faith but so uncertain in their religion? Is Christianity as a religion even for me, when I have such quandaries about the written word it is founded upon?

Soul Searching,
Gem


1 I played string bass in high school student. As such, I was invited to play bass with a group of musicians (the leader of the band was a friend of my dad’s and he was looking for some one to fill in on bass). We were playing for a grown folks event downtown. Yeah, Teenage Gem was feeling something like a boss. (Despite having my parents’ watchful eyes there, I felt quite grown lol).

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9 Comments

  • Reply Wu Young, Agent of M.E. March 27, 2013 at 10:02 am

    The Nation of Yahweh follower did something that frustrates me when I hear other folks do it– don’t kick dirt onto someone else’s beliefs to prove your point. I cannot stand this. (I’ve also never been keen on converting folks to anything.)

    “Compounded by the fact that my doubts have made it very difficult for me to relate to other believers and I often feel like an outcast.”

    This one of my issues too. I have family members and co-workers (when I actually talked to them) who viewed the word very differently from myself. I felt as if I were straddling a line somewhere between heretic and outcast so I just declined to discuss it with them.

    • Reply gemmieboo March 27, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      i cant stand it either. and ive never been much of an “evangelist” either. we all come to our own faith in our own way. im open to talking to some one about my beliefs but i do not take liberties to condemn ppl and then try and convert them. smh

      heretic and outcast – thats a good way to put it. i was at a bible study the other day and one of the women said she had a hard time as a teacher teaching evolution and i had to just hold my tongue because i knew the convo would not end well.

      • Reply Wu Young, Agent of M.E. March 27, 2013 at 3:29 pm

        Don’t get me started on the evolution thing, Doc! I actually fell into that trap and it was a waste of my time.

  • Reply madscientist7 March 27, 2013 at 11:48 am

    i remember once i commented on a post slim jackson did on his journey to spiritual understanding. someone hit me with the how can you believe in God when you’re a scientist. i really couldn’t understand his correlation between the two.

    “My faith in God is undeniable. My faith in the church is not.”

    this is where i am. man is not perfect so i don’t anything past them. people interpret the bible to fit their own beliefs and not what God says.

    • Reply gemmieboo March 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      LOL! ppl are always surprised that i am both a scientist and a Christian. cuz only certain “types” can believe in God i suppose… smh

      people interpret the bible to fit their own beliefs and not what God says.

      see my thing is this – do we really know what God said?? if imperfect man wrote the Bible, isn’t it highly likely that they put their own interpretation into their writings?? how do we know that what is in the Bible is what God really said and not some variation of it? and since there are different accounts/variations within the Bible itself, how are we the ppl to know which is the closest to the truth?? more on my critique of the Bible in part 3…

      • Reply Wu Young, Agent of M.E. March 27, 2013 at 3:39 pm

        Scientist/Christians… imagine a human being believing in multiple idea at once…pshaw!!!

      • Reply gemmieboo March 27, 2013 at 4:05 pm

        LOL its unnatural. like gay marriage. (-_-)

  • Reply racjemison March 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    First off, great post Gemmie! I’m definitely going to be keeping up with your religiosity series.

    Second, I think the difference between religion and faith is one of the hardest things for non-believers – and even some believers- to comprehend. Many use examples of religious extremists as an (incorrect) indication of how a particular faith is. There’s this one guy that I work with that is a “devout” Atheist. I call him “devout” because he nearly sneers and scoffs in response to anything that that’s even closely religious that I may bring up (this dude has even gone so far as to hate the song Made in America -despite the fact that he loves both Kanye and Jay-Z- because he believes it to be a religious song… O_o… anywho…).

    Bottom line is, I wish that people could understand that faith is a personal relationship with God and that religion is how man interprets God’s vision on how we execute and demonstrate our faith through practice and living. The fact that we are relying on man’s interpretation automatically means that there are going to be myriad opinions on what is “truly right”. And since man is so defensive, this can quickly get ugly when sharing your differences with someone of the same denomination.

    Can’t wait to read more!

    • Reply gemmieboo March 27, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      thanks for commenting racqs!!

      girrrrrrl dont even get me on the anti-religious ppl or the so-called “atheists”. they are just as bad as extremist religious zealots!! they are no better and just as guilty of “pushing an agenda” FOH. we all believe in SOMETHING. whether its “science” or a god or whatever – we all have our beliefs and have faith in something, and we are all entitled to exercise said beliefs. who are we to go around bashing ppl?? thats the thing that bothers me most about religion and “devout atheists” as you say (haha).

      Bottom line is, I wish that people could understand that faith is a personal relationship with God and that religion is how man interprets God’s vision on how we execute and demonstrate our faith through practice and living. The fact that we are relying on man’s interpretation automatically means that there are going to be myriad opinions on what is “truly right”.

      exactly this!!! i will delve more into my feelings/opinions on this in a later post. but its truly bothersome to me that we can say that only Jesus is perfect but that the Bible – not written by perfect Jesus – is perfect?? i dont comprehend. makes NO SENSE to me. but *shrug*

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