23 April, 2014

Why I No Longer Identify Myself as Christian

Now before anyone gets all butt-hurt and bent out of shape, hear me out.  This has been a long time coming since 2000.  My spiritual life has always been and always will be an ongoing evolving process as it should be.

During a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting at CSU Hayward, I found myself in heated discussions with the members to where it eventually became an unofficial pissing contest of who read The Bible from cover to cover the most and/or who served whom under what capacity or who could retain the most memorized verses from Scripture.  One of those heated discussion was after an email was forwarded and shared from a supposed member of Wedgewood Baptist Church which had been the scene of a mass church shooting.  I objected to the 8-12 printed pages read aloud to the group as the list of prayer request had excluded the perpetrator, Larry Gene Ashbrook and the surviving members of his family.  I attempted to quote from Romans 12 about praying and blessing those who persecute, and because I was unable to quote word-for-word verbatim, I was accused of not knowing what I was talking about.  Then the leader began to quote different Bible verses in a taunting manner after he singled me out in front of the entire group that I needed to "fast" (go w/o food) for 2 days.  I told him that back then I did have a fasting practice.  He then quoted another verse about "known by the fruits," and that I "lacked fruit."  At that point the temptation to outdo Ashbrook toward that group passed through my mind.   That was back in 1999-2000.

Actually those years from 1998 through 2011 had been nothing short of tumultuous regarding church life.  The rare years of growth and stability (for those of you who adhere to the belief that “growth” and “stability” cannot co-exist, I’m referring to “stability,” meaning I didn't want to knock the living crap out of people at church and beyond) existed from 2000 through the middle of 2005 thanks in large part to both mentors Peter and “Dr. Dave.”   That and therapist Dr Wyatt enabled me to experience “grace” as defined in The Bible.  Once Venture ministry began to deteriorate in the aftermath of the migration of Dr. Dave and Peter to a church in Austin, (Summer of 2005, when my mom passed) I began a journey of spiritual instability, or what The Journey’s Pastor Chris Brady described as being a “spiritual orphan.”

 In Pastor Chris’ eyes and amongst many Christians, not having an official membership with a local church body isn’t just being a “spiritual orphan,” but is considered a “sin.”  Take a closer look at the church’s financial reliance on stable membership and membership tithing.  Could that be a reason why the pastor would declare “sin” for someone who doesn’t declare membership?  I recall being at a church service in Singapore where it was learned by the prayer minister that I wasn’t a member of any church back home in the States nor in Singapore.  The minister offered to pray for my “sinfulness.”  I was offended and shared my dismay with my Singaporean Sis, Jojo who defended his declaration.  I shouldn't be offended by a church where their leader's official title is "Apostle." (I've honestly slipped and referred to him as "Impostor" on occasion.  Of course that was prevalent after the said incident.  Passive aggressive behavior?  Whoops, my bad!)  That’s when I learned that it was considered a “sin” to not have a church membership.

I’ve extensively ranted and lamented on how a Christian organization like The Salvation Army operated to the point where I was convinced that I experienced some PTSD symptoms during the Holidays when I heard the bell ringing outside the stores.  It saddened me to see people who loved God and wanted to serve God become so jaded after serving in the capacity as an officer (pastoral level) for The Salvation Army.  It was more disheartening to witness those who left their respected position, alienated, shunned, and/or ridiculed by current members and staff of The Salvation Army.  Yet every Holiday Season, they put forth a do-gooder image.  I considered them as a foundational building block to my spiritual life, yet when it was all said and done, I find myself currently having to unlearn, let-go, and forgive them.  Amongst some of their practices to unlearn was their “Self-Denial” campaign which reinforces a scarcity mentality.  The concept is to “self-deny” a regular item (like coffee, or meals) and donate the proceeds from not purchasing such item(s) to charity. (i.e. The Salvation Army)  For example under the campaign, my daily coffee during the workweek is $3 a day, Monday through Fridays.  That’s $15 a week.  So let’s say the “Self Denial” campaign is a 6-week program, so at $15 a week for 6 weeks, at the end of the campaign, I’m expected to donate an amount of $90 because I abstained from purchasing coffee during those 6 weeks.   In other words the campaign reinforces the false belief that in order for someone to have something, I must give up or “sacrifice” something in order for them to receive.  From a theological standpoint, the program, which is a common practice in The Salvation Army, teaches and reinforces that there is no abundance.

If we are truly created “in the image and likeness of God” as Genesis 1:26-27, then why was/is it necessary to “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior,” AKA “The Sinner’s Prayer?” The church that led me in that prayer while I was a 3rd grader, was a Chinese based church ran by a senior pastor who was of Native American and white descent.  He laid down the “fire and brimstone” over the “sinful” nature of “Chinese culture.”  He laid down the “fire and brimstone” against “sexual immorality and impurity.”  Little did we know that he had an Asian fetish.  He was into underaged Chinese girls.  You see, that church eventually expanded into a private Christian school “serving the needs” of the Chinese East Bay Christian community.  What eventually came out was that their “beloved” pastor profiled and targeted specific female students of that school.  The girls singled out were students of the school, who was known to have specific challenges at home, and whose parents hardly knew a lick of English.  He'd call those girls in from class for "pastoral counseling." Unfortunately when this came to light and past students came forward, members of that church blamed the girls and defended the pastor. Quite frankly, I don't think that pastor got his just due consequences for his actions.  

Others split from that church not because of the scandal itself, but because of their eventual choice of selecting a replacement senior pastor who was of Chinese descent.  Yes, this was/is a church serving the Chinese community.  It was just that the sentiment amongst specific Chinese Christians is that they feel “better led” by a “more Christian” leader. (ie, WHITE)  It’s unfortunate but American Christians while ministering to people of color, tend to “culture-shame” those community members they’re supposedly “serving and saving.”  I’ve voiced my piece regarding that in light of the Rick Warren incident when he publicly demeaned and performed an offensive caricature of Asians while a certain contingency of defenders including those cultured shamed Asians came out of the woodworks.  I described such a group on my blog as “Asian House Negroes.”  Either God so loved the world, or God doesn’t.  And the last time I checked, “the world” included every nationality, every culture, so this culture-shaming done “in the Name of God” needs to be stopped “By Any Means Necessary.” (Another advantage of not identifying myself as a so-called Christian is the freedom TO CHOOSE and identify Malcolm X as a true to life prophet!)

What I’m unable to figure out and wrap around my head is the premise of our U.S. Constitution regarding “separation of Church and State.”  Is it a “two-way” street, meaning the State must allow autonomy for the religious institutions and not have any control over them, and likewise the religious institution and leaders must allow the state to be run without religious interference?  If that’d be the case, then this whole notion about legally defining marriages should be mute.  In a democracy, let the voters decide.  End of story.  What sickens me is seeing religious institutions, mostly Christians, placing curses and public backlashes against the government for functioning as it was designed to function.  On the other end of the spectrum, the left condemns the religious groups for the self perceived lack of intolerance, yet they display zero to no tolerance for those who openly expresses their own personal beliefs.  Case in point, the recent resignation of the Mozilla Firefox CEO Brenden Eich is the most current example of tolerance hypocrisy.  As long as the CEO was not creating policy or influencing company policy based on his own personal beliefs, who or what he voted for and supported politically is none of anyone’s damn business.  OK Cupids overstepping of their boundaries makes them appear like some entitled piece of crap pretentious intolerant hypocrites.  Does their dating service actually work?  I wouldn't know since I chose not to give them a fuckin dime.

Speaking of “Church and State,” here’s my other main sentiment of my decision to no longer identify my spirituality as “Christian.”  The premise, foundational, doctrinal basic beliefs of the mainstream Christian Catholic and Protestant denominations are based on 7 religious councils.  The first two Councils: Nicaea in 325 CE and Constantinople in 381 CE were sponsored by Constantine himself.  You cannot convince me that he did not have a hand on the decision making process.  I’m supposed to base my entire spiritual belief, life, and practice based on a set of standards that was voted for, and decided by a group who were influenced by a political leader with his own selfish personal and political agenda???  Bull-fucken-shit!  I’m supposed to base my faith, connect with and condemn other people based on whether or not they agree or disagree with that premise?  On top of everything else, one of the first premise agreed upon on all 7 councils was the authority placed upon the canonical scriptures, which during those council sessions, was hand-picked and interpreted accordingly.  Yet, through inaccurate translations and interpretations over the last 1800 years and different languages, I’m expected to take it as absolute law.  That’s why I have more than one translation of The Bible.  That's why I've been opened to reading other holy canons from other faiths like The Upanishads, or studying materials like Rumi.  That’s why I question everything told to me through someone who was appointed by someone else as some sort of authority on what The Bible means.  Hell, even the New Thought based theology that I’ve embraced and accepted these past three years goes under my own personal scrutiny.  I no longer blindly accept something at face value solely because the person in the pulpit or the person who wrote the last NY Times best seller told me so.

So call me a hypocrite or ironic or paradoxical.  Hell, call me a heretic.  I'm choosing to educate the masses on New Though theology with my decision to study and submitting myself for ministerial candidacy in the New Thought institutions.    Being accused as a heretic and a hell bound cult leader comes with the territory.

One of the main organization in New Thought is undergoing a debate/crossroad at the moment of whether or not to continue to identify themselves as a “Christian” organization.  You would think that with the title of this posting and because of my interest in candidacy, I’d opt for them to drop the Christian label.  Ironically, I'm actually against it.  You see the way they have it set up, if they were to do such a procedure, they’d drop all their earlier fundamental teachings that established themselves in the first place.  In other words, study materials and practices that their founders and their more famous figures within that organization created and shared would be dropped along with the label.  Or those materials (studying) would merely be presented as a footnote.  (Classic case of an example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater) As of now, New Thought, or Practical Christianity is presented with the materials of how to study, interpret and apply the Bible in a way that they differentiate between practicing a form of spirituality that Jesus practiced versus following a form of spirituality or religion that worships Jesus.  If practicing and studying the form of spirituality that Jesus practiced and taught is the definition of a Christian, then yes, I identify myself as that.  However in the proposal of dropping the Christian label, even that becomes more in the background and afterthought while embracing a smorgasbord of different religious and spiritual practices that’s presented more in the forefront.  I wouldn’t identify myself as that either.  If it was Jesus’ intent to “make disciples,” then logically speaking, it makes more sense to practice the form of spirituality that Jesus taught and practiced rather than practice a religion pieced together by councils that met hundreds of years after Jesus graced this planet.  Unfortunately, those who practice the latter are identified as “Christians” and hence my reservations of choosing to be in that same category.


If Jesus himself wasn’t a Christian, why should I be?

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