(thank you, Faithful Dissident for the wonderful post that got me thinking about this again.)
[Jan 2009 update, this post is now being discussed at The Exponent.]
being empowered, being cleaned because of this mortal god who bled in a sacred grove of trees under the weight of my pain was a powerful notion for me, because I had a lot of pain and felt chronically filthy.
It was about a year and a half ago that I sat with the Teach My Gospel manual in my lap, and realized that I was in serious trouble in regards to my relationship to the church. I was a ward missionary preparing a new member discussion for a recent convert. Lesson number 3, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ."
For several years I had been struggling to hold together a crumbling belief in The Church. Usually called to teaching positions I found myself having to edit and adapt the lessons more and more to be true to my own beliefs, it was disconcerting to keep being faced with more and more topics and doctrines that I could no longer toe the line for. But there was one doctrine that I clung to with a riveting obsession and that was the healing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I had a gripping hope in and affinity for a savior who would be with me in the deepest pit, lending me strength beyond my own to help me up. The concept of being empowered, being cleaned because of this mortal god who bled in a sacred grove of trees under the weight of my pain was a powerful notion for me, because I had a lot of pain and felt chronically filthy.
And so I held to the church out of the strength of that belief.
But the beliefs that were changing for me had unavoidable repercussions: I was losing my belief in the literally defined precisely explained thoroughly cross referenced version of the Life and Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I was losing belief in the claims of The Church as the only organization with the real authority to speak for Christ and the only organization with the real priesthood to perform all the ordinances that make us one with Christ. And so when I opened that teacher's manual to prepare a lesson about Jesus Christ, and realized that I didn't believe a single thing that the manual taught.... Well it was a bit devastating. As a short term remedy I cancelled the appointment for the lesson and got released from my calling (citing 'personal
reasons'). Then I continued to attend church and find non-doctrinal ways to participate... but I think that was the beginning of the end for me. I no longer believed what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught about Jesus Christ (finally added to that list of everything else I didn't believe).
I still find myself riveted by the story of Jesus, this social agitator who stood for the poor and downtrodden, pissed off religious leaders, and shared meals with sinners and women. And I still have a longing for a healing presence during my low times. But I no longer hold to The Church as a way to connect to those concepts.
So, perhaps, for me as with the faithful dissident, it all boils down to Jesus. Just with different results. For her, He is the reason that she continues to pursue an uncomfortable participation in The Church. For me, He is (a good part of) the reason that I made the uncomfortable decision to take a break from The Church.
I have written about this painting in a previous post, but thought I'd put it up again here because I painted it while working through my feelings about Christianity.