I say I have found this out like I just learned it. In reality, I had acknowledge it intellectually a long time ago. But three months ago, it was proven to me at a heart level when a web of lies in my life was torn away, and the real me, the truth, and love were left standing there, naked and surprised.
It took a long time in coming. When you are raised in a certain paradigm, be it cultural, religious, familial, or otherwise, it seems so concrete that its hard to break away. I was raised in the Lutheran church, converted as a young adult to Catholicism, and then, without letting go of my attachment to my Catholic identity, began attending Bible churches around the time I was 30. This religious context touted certain things to be absolutely true. But they were raising red flags. I ignored them, however, because the fear impressed upon me of Hell and of being a bad girl was so strong.
Certain contradictions with the reality I saw in the world and my deepest sense of truth within me kept bothering me. Some of them are (anytime I speak of an ambiguous "they" below, I am referring to the leadership of the institutional church):
• God is love, but sends people to Hell.
• If you don't say the sinner's prayer and ask Jesus into your heart, you are not saved, and are destined for Hell. Babies who die early, down syndrome people, and millions of unlucky souls born in remote areas who never hear of Jesus are destined for Hell. Yet, God is love.
• You must acknowledge the trinity, Jesus's divinity, and the authority of scripture, among other core doctrines, to be considered Christian. So, again, salvation is based on the intellect and the luck of being part of the correct denomination. Yet, from the same pulpits they preach that what God cares about is a personal relationship with you.
• The Bible must be taken literally. Yet, it paints a contradictory picture of God. One second he is loving and patient, the next he is opening up the earth to swallow people and wiping out entire nations. Love is trustworthy and safe. I cannot trust a God like that. If I do something too bad, I may get struck by lightning and sent to Hell.
• The Bible is the ultimate authority. And yet, it is not. THEY, the leadership, are the ultimate authority because they are the ones interpreting it for you.
• They love to quote the verse that says you need no one to teach you, because the Holy Spirit will lead you to all truth. Yet, if your truth doesn't match up with theirs, then you have not been listening to the Holy Spirit. Obviously, if you had, you'd have come to the same conclusions as they did.
• If you pray with enough faith, you can move mountains. Reality contradicts this constantly. Prayer doesn't work the way they claim. Disease, divorce, dilemma and destruction happen with the same consistency in the lives of believers and unbelievers alike. Either they are praying wrong, or they just don't understand the basics of how the cosmos and the creator of it work.
• They say leaving the institutional church will lead to backsliding and unbelief. I belong to a "free believers" community which long ago ceased church attendance, and yet we still believe. http://freebelievers.com
• God gave us free will, yet he wants us to be his willing slaves, giving up our lives, futures, treasures, time and talent to his cause. All the blessings he gave us are not ours to keep from a loving father. They have strings attached.
• God gave us free will, yet at every moment we are supposed to discern what he wants us to do. If we don't, we might make the wrong decision and go outside of his plan for us. This isn't free will.
• God is love. Love is trustworthy and safe. Yet, we can "go outside his covering", "grieve his Holy Spirit", disappoint, disgust, or anger him.
• God is love. Love doesn't take revenge, it forgives. Yet, God actively punishes us for sin and holds a list of our wrongs to make sure we pay. Either here on Earth, or in Purgatory, or if you're really special, in Hell.
• Jesus vehemently was against his disciples trying to set up themselves as authorities over each other (Mat 23:8-12, Mark 10:42-45, John 13:12-17). Yet, we have pastors, priests and shepherds galore, all touting that they know better than us, and dismissing those who suggest they may be making mistakes sometimes. It seems to be the habit of those in charge of the institutional church to stop listening altogether. That is the opposite of wisdom.
• Everyone who's not Christian is Satanic. All outside religions are Satanic. Yet, when you meet these people, they are normal, not Satanic. And when you study their religion -- lo, and behold! -- you find many noble attributes: wisdom, love, peace, goodwill, self-discipline, purity, holiness, grace, forgiveness, etc. God is everywhere, after all, and apparently there have always been people of every people group who got in touch with that.
Obviously, I have left the institutional church. We are the church, in reality. The body of Christ. A building, denomination, non-denomination denomination, or Christian belief system does not get to claim the title. Just because they do, doesn't make it truth. Jesus wasn't picturing the modern day church institution when he came speaking of the Kingdom of God, but instead was preaching of truth that sets you free, ACTUALLY FREE, and hoping for a unity of his believers that we don't see the institutional church helping to create. Once I figured that out, I felt I could escape. I do not neglect to gather together, as is the habit of some. I just do it outside the church building.
My beliefs are now in line with the deepest truth in my soul. I am no longer fighting with myself, at war with what is being preached to me as truth vs the truth within. I'll write more in my next post on the conclusions I've come to, which may be subject to change, and I do not expect anyone to wholeheartedly accept what I believe. If you are in touch with your true self, and living life from your truth, I think you have done well. I don't need to convert anyone to anything. But, for the sake of sharing, I will tell you what I believe.