Spiritual Promiscuity

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Some days I feel spiritually promiscuous: I can’t decide which faith is the right one. It’s akin to being in love with two different men, and not knowing which one to marry.

Most days I’m convinced it’s Christianity that’s true, but Jewish culture is just so much better. More history. Less cheese (I much prefer the flavor of expressions like “kvetching” and “Oy vey!” as opposed to, “The Lord laid it on my heart this morning…”)

Since starting and quitting seminary, I don’t think my theology has changed much; the Gospel message never changes. But my view of church has. More specifically, my view of Christian culture has done a complete 180. It went from being cool and glamorous (I never had a plethora of T-shirts, bumper stickers, and flashy key chains to choose from in Judaism) to tedious, exclusive, and sometimes even shallow.

Maybe I’m using the wrong words. I don’t know if “Christian culture” is what I should be criticizing, or rather, Christian stereotypes. Can one truly embrace a religion without its culture? The real issue may be that Christian culture is fine as it is; the flaws I find within it are a result of comparing it to the Jewish culture I grew up with, and miss dearly sometimes (I’ve been able to let go of my desire to be seen as “one of the club” by donning a matching T-shirt).

I keep forgetting that belief in the Gospel is what makes one a Christian. Nothing else. But the Christian culture thing is problematic: something I find myself rebelling against, because I realize how much pretending is involved on my part. I’m not and never have been the happy-clappy, hand-holding, Christian-ese speaking kind of Christian. I’ve endured awkwardness many times in church settings, telling myself it will get better as time goes on. It never occurred to me until recently that it may not be a sin after all to speak up and be honest, but polite, about things I’m not comfortable doing. Things like praying out loud that contradict my personality and the ways I relate to God. Doesn’t the beauty of community include diverse worship practices?

I hope the answer is yes. If not, I have wondered if Church Culture and I need to go our separate ways, because I have not been growing. I have not been learning. Instead, I have sat in bible studies pretending to be just as moved as everyone else, but inside I’m wondering what is wrong with me. I can’t pretend to be something I’m not, simply because it’s what others expect. That’s not authenticity. That’s wasting my time. Furthermore, it doesn’t allow anyone else the chance of really getting to know me. It’s a disservice to the community of Christ, where every member is uniquely gifted.

I don’t know what the ideal solution to this dilemma should be. But, while everyone else is standing and holding up their arms as the worship band is playing, doing what comes naturally to them, I’m doing what comes naturally to me: sitting, and writing in my prayer journal. Because worship goes beyond the bounds of Christian culture stereotypes. Worship is authentic, or nothing.

I am either an authentic Christian, or no Christian at all.

I must learn to make some kind of peace with my heritage, like a divorced parent having to see her ex on weekends to drop off the kids.

I don’t claim to be a scholar or an expert in anything. I’m only a pilgrim looking to marry my past to my present in a peaceful way so they don’t bicker; a sojourner searching for middle ground between two profoundly different—and profoundly similar—faiths, without ending up so infuriated by the followers of both that I toss them both out.

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About Beth Caplin

Just an author, blogger, and editor working hard so my cats can have a better life.
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11 Responses to Spiritual Promiscuity

  1. April K says:

    Oh, we would be such fabulous friends! I grew up in the Christian-ese culture–owned the t-shirts, did the charismatic worship, the whole nine yards. I’m still in it. However, I, too, often find it vapid and ridiculous. I go to church and sometimes count how often I roll my eyes–at some gimmicky video, some misguided Christian-speak, a theologically empty song, or a sermon that would be more at home among a group of pre-teens. I’m fascinated by the richness of Jewish culture and have considered joining in some of the high holy day celebrations. As others have suggested, a change in denominations may help. I’ve been casually looking for another church this year. Some have suggested trying an Episcopal church. I haven’t gotten around to that yet, but hope to soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This line is so thought-provoking to me: “Can one truly embrace a religion without its culture?” I haven’t had to struggle between two religious cultures like you have, but I get this struggle to embrace a culture that I too have become a little cynical about. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  3. We have to find our own way. And I hear you — I’m completely turned off my Christian-ese. Even when the speaker is “authentic” (another one of those words), it comes across as sappy. It’s an easy shortcut. Keep fighting for what you need. Keep looking for what feels true and right. And yes, speak up! We need more people who will do so! Because the only thing that will change the Christian culture is for people to change. So many turn away from Christianity because they see so many people doing it poorly, in their opinion (not what they believe Christianity should be about or how Christians should behave). I see that, too. But I want what this life as a follower of Christ is SUPPOSED to be more than I don’t want the flawed approaches to it (and I fail constantly myself, so I don’t mean to sound judgmental). So I just keep trying. I keep trying to speak up. To challenge perceptions. To question and explore for myself. And I have to hope that I will find Him along that path. Good luck to you — and thanks for posting this link on Addie’s blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beth Caplin says:

      I have lost some friends by “speaking up,” but I think I might have one of those personalities where my opinions come off too strong and people get offended without intending for that to happen. There is also the likely possibility that I am being judgmental of those who speak fluent Christian-ese and that’s just a part of who they are. Which would make me the intolerant one. Most of it is harmless, but in many circumstances it’s hurtful because it feels dismissive of the real issues.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  4. Michelle says:

    g by from Addie Zierman’s blog and there is so much in this post with which I resonate. I didn’t come into Christianity from a Jewish background, but there have been times that I wished I had the culture and history found there. And I know exactly what you mean about trying to balance the desire to ‘just fit in’ with how everyone else is worshiping versus honestly worshiping the God who made you in the way He made you. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. depthseeker says:

    And you could have an introverted personality. Our eyes are on Jesus, the only perfect being. The church will never be perfect, and there are pretenders and hypocrites, but that is between them and Jesus. If you leave the church, then who will show the world genuine faith. I think we all question our faith from time to time, especially if we’re comparing our “culture of worship” to another person. Journaling is a form of worship and I hope you keep pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus through that. If he wants you to change, he’ll let you know. If someone gives you advice, just let them know that you appreciate it, will consider it and lay it before the Lord. It’s difficult not to put our own expectations on others. I’m an introverted believer. I enjoy journaling and reading the Word of God. My husband is an extroverted believer and he prays beautiful, audible prayers that melt my heart. He preaches. I prefer the pew, but I also appreciate the extroverts who push me out of my comfort zone. I will baulk if I’m not ready. But it is my responsibility to speak up to let them know it’s not fear. I’m just not wired that way. As iron sharpens iron so man sharpens one another. Keep pressing in to Jesus. He’ll take care of everything and everyone else. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. CGHill says:

    What matters in Christianity, as I understand it anyway, is one’s relationship to Christ; everything else is window-dressing.

    Is it possible that a different congregation — even a different denomination — might be easier to handle?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beth Caplin says:

      A different congregation probably would make a world of difference. However I’ve only lived in Colorado about two years now, and I’m still searching for a place to call home. Also doesn’t help I’m moving two hours away in a few months, so any church I might find locally is going to be one awful commute later on.

      Like

  7. Pingback: Spiritual Promiscuity | Christians Anonymous

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