I’ve been a Christian since I was four years old. My conversion experience wasn’t that exciting – I was watching T.V. and I remember thinking to myself: “My Sunday School teacher said something about asking Jesus into my heart. I’d better do that.” So I did. Then my mom called me to dinner. Somewhere between what was probably Sesame Street and macaroni, my eternal soul got saved.
And so I entered this weird thing called Christianity. I joined up because Jesus loved me and had died to save me from hell, so that was the extent of my theological knowledge. And it worked for a four year old. But alas, I had so much more to learn!
Along the way, I added some other things to my belief system…in a variety of different churches and Christian schools:
1. You can’t ask God for forgiveness for all the sins you committed in one day in a single prayer at the end of it. You have to ask specifically. For example, you can’t say: “God, please forgive me for all the stupid things I did today.” You have to say: “God, please forgive me for cussing exactly 5 times (4 lower grade swears and 1 really bad one during my morning commute), and for secretly wishing my coworker’s perfect hair would fall out.”
2. If you read your Bible a ton, you are more holy. It’s about quantity.
3. Quiet time must include a journal. And must always be really long. Talking to God during the day doesn’t count toward this daily quota. (And yes, there IS a quota. Jesus is keeping track.)
4. Sex is a sin. So much so, that the church must avoid all discussion of this topic, even with regards to correct context.
5. If you aren’t raising your hands, you’re not worshipping. WORSHIP! Come ON! If you really loved Jesus, your hands would be IN THE AIR!
6. Secular music is evil and God cannot possibly be a part of it in any shape or form because it is not sold at Christian bookstores and sometimes has swears in it. And if a song does not use the words “Jesus,” “God,” and “Bible” a certain amount of times, it means the artist is ashamed to say the Lord’s name and is therefore not the model of a true, bold, righteous Christian and they really should just give themselves over to a secular label anyway because they are obviously heading down the wide path to hell. Case in point: Amy Grant. Totally hellbound.
7. If your worship isn’t LOUD and if you’re not making weird noises or twitching, you’re not having an encounter with God.
8. Also, prayers in church from the pulpit must be underscored by soft chords on the keyboard, because this maintains a worshipful atmosphere that helps keep God in the room. Otherwise, he’s outta there.
This stuff probably sounds pretty familiar to you if you’re churchy, like me.
And this is not commentary on any church in particular – a lot of them are pretty darn similar. Believe me, I don’t expect perfection. My very presence in a church makes that impossible. 😉
That’s not to say that I haven’t had amazing experiences with God in the church, but often I have to wade through a lot of cultural constructs to get there. And yes, I’ve perpetuated some of these mindsets above. But recently I’ve started to have some of those out of body moments in church where I think: “Why ARE we doing <insert whatever Christiany thing we are doing at the moment here>?”
At this point in my life, my faith is starting to really become my own, and I’ve begun the painstaking process of separating Christian subculture from what’s actually in the Bible. There’s what our Christian subculture says I should be, and there’s what the God of the Bible says I should be. I’m wading my way through the first, and working toward the second.
Probably just like a lot of you.