I just so happen to be a struggling believer who so happens to want to be a follower of Jesus— or at least his teachings.
But a mess, nonetheless.
It just so happens, you should know, that I have proven myself quite capable of making some pretty significant gaffs in and with my life, and it’s been that way for the portion of my existence during which I’ve been able to exercise the “free will” that I hear about from various modern-day Christians.
I say that because if you’re here because you’re wanting to learn from and admire a shining example of success at whatever it means to be a true Christian nowadays— belonging to the right church, believing the right things a Christian’s supposed to believe, and exemplifying the material success that comes from “putting the Kingdom first,” you should immediately click or tap on the Home page of your browser right now and save yourself a lot of wasted time.
What business do I have to be talking about God, the Bible, and otherwise when my life often reflects anything but.
I’m a mess.
Yet I can’t not believe, and maybe that’s what it has to mean, for me at least… Be a believer in spite of my self. Then again, maybe it’s all things I wish to be true because if they aren’t the world becomes a darker, scarier place than it already seems to be on days that end in -y.
Yet there have been those moments when I’ve certainly borne personal witness through experience from a God that, most of the time, feels as remote and detached as my fleshly father was for me in my lifetime. Occasional, small whispers that provided testimony when I needed it most in the midst of this concert of divine silence which surrounds me otherwise.
Painfully rare drops of water in this long, arduous journey through the parched landscape that has proven to be my life.
Others’ mileage varies, of course.
No, you won’t find much by way of spiritual enlightenment here, sorry. I am not an example you should ever aspire to, either.
Still, I can’t not believe. It appears self-evident from the world around me that a Creator exists, that Creation is the only reasonable explanation for our existence— and that conviction doesn’t fret and fuss over trying to argue against geological and archaeological evidences that the planet is millions of years old, either. That we are a genetic drift of aberrancy from the ape family I do dispute based on the currently available evidence, although I’m aware that there are God-fearing believers who accept the notion that Almighty God used evolution as part of His Creative Process; I just happen to believe that notion is unacceptable from what I presently understand from the available evidence. And since it’s theory anyhow, it’s not binding on a believer either way as far as I’m concerned from what I can read from the Christian Bible.
And for the record, I do understand and appreciate that Creationism is a theory as well for many in my day, but it’s my experience that there’s plenty of pretty convincing evidence extending far beyond the Jewish scriptures.
But to argue that the earth is about 7,000 years old? I know too much at this point in my life to have the naivety required to accept that assertion.
And that’s another thing: I’ve come to learn that my scriptural understanding doesn’t often fall within the boundaries established by orthodoxy in matters of doctrine, soteriology, or eschatology. In other words, you’re extremely likely to find something that disagrees with your present paradigm or world view. I am not, however, intending or trying to offend.
And I ask a lot of questions. I seem to be driven to peek and poke rather than just letting things be what they are. In fact, if you come across things I’ve written about in years past where the Bible, God, Jesus, and Christendom are concerned, you’ll be stunned at how my views have changed since as I’ve pursued personal studies and investigations into not just what I believe (or, should), but why— going through the effort demanded to establish the origins of various mainstream teachings of the Christendom of my generation.
Christendom, by the way and since I’m on the topic, is, for me, the embodiment of what I’ll often refer to as “Gentile Christianity.” In short, the followers of Jesus were initially Jewish Christians, and then, during the second century, power and authority over those who would follow Jesus and his teachings came into the auspices of non-Jews— Gentiles, which is to say, the uncircumcised from the perspective of the traditional, orthodox Jew. Christendom, in my generation, consists of numerous sects and two primary bodies (Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic). Lutheranism initiated the Protestantism movement, and today the “daughters” of the Roman Catholic Church include Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Methodists, and any other group that stands in opposition to the power and authority over the followers of Jesus claimed by the Papacy and bishopry of the Roman Catholic Church— thusly, sect(ion)s of Catholicism who retain those interpretations and doctrines which they find palatable, and then reforming or introducing other interpretations and doctrines of their own determination across a religious landscape where the “true” church is the one where you attend.
Also, for the record, I’m an apostate of God according to the last religious organization I had anything to do with, some 14 years ago when I asked questions, first of my local elders— about certain doctrines and eschatological interpretations imposed uniformly upon members of “Jehovah’s visible organization,” making such things doctrinal and thus binding at risk of disfellowshipping from both congregation and one’s own family— and then by reaching out to the fledgling public of a worldwide web in its days of infancy delivered through the umbilical cord of dial-up in hopes of someone helping me to understand what I was discovering about my religion of choice and bring some context to it all.
Excommunication on the basis of religious principle is a pretty big price for some to pay, and a lucky few are able to find a way to calm the resulting cognitive dissonance— and remain. Others try to stifle the questions and concerns but fade away, and still others go on to become atheist. The power of the concept of being a part of God’s organization here on earth is incredible for people. It’s intoxicating, and sobering up from that can be pretty tough.
Me, it wasn’t a big deal being disfellowshipped because I had questioned certain eschatological and authoritative statements made by the decision-makers of what I was to believe (and NOT believe) as part of my membership in the organization.
I have been accustomed with disconnection and estrangement nearly my entire life— especially following the divorce of my parents sometime during my first or second year of elementary school before I found myself living in Lake Odessa.
Being raised by a resentful, angry, bitter woman suddenly solely and fully-responsible for the needs of three boys did little to foster the love and nurturing I read in the pages of the Bible or saw in the lives of other families. I was beaten and scourged by her until I was 16 and finally stood up to her and warned her to stop.
She never laid a finger on me after that, and immediately kicked me out of her house since she could no longer control me. Finding a newfound strength through the anger, things didn’t go much better when my dad took me in, and I entered the rebellious years until being abandoned by both parents as soon as I turned 16, and finally could be in control of my life.
Not that I did much better once I was in “control” of my life, out from the control of an abusive parent.
So having a membership card to an exclusive club revoked?
Any pain intended to be inflicted by this “theocratic” sentence of death was futile.
After all, I was already familiar with pain and loss, and although there were others in the organization whom I knew and was acquainted with, the depth of those relationships never reached a point where the loss of those interactions could be felt by me. I’d learned to avoid letting that happen enough already by becoming withdrawn and a recluse as far as social situations were concerned.
And for a few years after my membership card was revoked I spent time writing publicly about my reservations and disagreements with the religious organization, until I’d worked it all out of my system, I guess. After that, I really didn’t write much, preferring simply to learn and inform myself and continue to ask daring questions that I guess Christians aren’t supposed to ask.
I’ve since gone back and re-read things I said back then and barely recognize myself, my perspective has changed so much since then, shaped and molded with the deft hand of time and tempered with life experience.
Funny thing… back then, I was so certain I was right then, too. About this interpretation or that one.
Keep that in mind as you read anything here that is interpretational in nature.
I could very well be just as mistaken in what I believe and think now, even when I “clearly” see support in the canonized scriptures of modern-day Christendom for a conclusion.
It therefore falls upon you to take anything and everything with a grain of salt, and to do the research and examination necessary to make up your own mind. This is more a journey of understanding why I persist in believing in spite of my self’s inclination to live as though there really is no God and that I need to “eat, drink, and be merry,” for tomorrow I’ll die… all the while haunted by the spectre of regrets and missed opportunities when I could have made this existence better for others, at least… and all the unappreciated blessings that came into my life when I wasn’t looking.
The context will, more often than not, be my self and the life it’s provided in light of and in spite of being a believer in my day.
—Timothy B. Kline, September 29, 2019