The question has been a source of reflection for me. Christianity, true to its form. appeared in my life, at a low point. As a sophomore in HS, in trouble with the local police. As I was uneducated and failing HS, in trouble with the law, dealing with a divorced family, and being raised on welfare, I was pure fodder for the fires of hell and the good Christians let me know it. Then of course, they game me the solution and offered to save my soul.
I left California, escaping the warrant for my arrest, and moved to the small town of Pratt, Kansas. Not long after my arrival, I was honey potted into the local Assemblies of God Church. I was attending Sunday services and going to a small group meeting 5 nights a week, praying, playing guitar. writing songs, etc… Our little group got together and decided to witness all across Kansas. (Medicine Lodge, Kingman, Topeka, Cunningham, Great Bend, and more… We sang our little hearts out and witnessed to the glory of God!
During this time, I thought of Jesus and the church as my family. Jesus was the father that I never had and the only person (using the term very losely) that had ever told me that he loved me. Though thinking about it, Jesus never really said anything of the kind. Where in the bible does a fist person Jesus tell a first person reader “I love you.” NOPE! Other people just report he loves us. Where in the bible does Jesus profess his love of humanity?" “I love them?” It never happens. “Tend my lambs. Forgive them.” and many similar expressions. I have never seen Jesus say, “I love you.”
The closese he gets is John 15
[1 ] I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
[2 ] Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
[3 ] Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
[4 ] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
[5 ] I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
[6 ] If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
[7 ] If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
[8 ] Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
[9 ] As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
[10 ] If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love…;.
In short - Do as I say and I will love you. Nothing unconditional about that at all. Fall away and you are a piece of shit.
Anyway… The spirit of the Lord moved me and I decided to become a preacher. My plan was to visit evey church in town. (First Baptist, LDS, Friends, JW, Methodist, Trinity, Calvary, Church of Christ, Church of the Nazarene), and somewhere along the path I just realized it was all made up. I didn’t stop being a Christian, that faded slowly. I just never fit in to Christian meet ups again. I had seen one too many con men in front of one too many congregations touting one too many sob stories and asking for one too many dollars to be passed his way. And of course, during all of this… 'I was doing the same thing."
I left Pratt and returned to California. I went to a few Jesus meetings with Calvary Chapel, but religion just faded from importance as I took up other interests. (Carlose Casteneda, Jane Roberets. Buddhism, GI Gurdjiff, J. Krishnamurti. Hinduism, Taoism, Krishna Consciousness, Transcendental Meditations. Bushido, and much more… My need for a father figure diminished with maturity and as I individuated from the need for parental figures.
So, where exactly was religion in my life and what role did it play? It seems to me that it was once a part of my identity. It was a pillow upon which I once laid my head. I also believe it offered me absolutely nothing. When I look back on it…
My religion would have been perfectly content, having me play my guitar and continue witnessing to people my entire life. It did nothing to facilitate my growth or change. It would have been content to allow my high school to remain unfinished. It would have been happy to have me go from town to town and tell people how I did not have an HS degree but how I found fulfillment in Christ. My religion would have been thrilled to have me attend their gatherings five nights a week. I would meet new members, sing songs and fill their minds with nonsense. I would encourage them to also invite new members to the meetings, and be praised for my dedication. When I look back on religion, I see a trap that I was somehow lucky to evade. Unconditional love is a bit like quicksand. It might feel nice and warm as you are sinking but once you sink a bit, you aren’t getting out. You don’t have the skills, intelligence, time, or knowledge to change your ways.
This is not something I thought much about before. As I sit here thinking about it now, these are some of the thoughts I had. Perhaps I will change my mind later. I think most of this rings true with me currently.