Monday, November 10, 2008

thoughts on Christ

(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.


Numismatist Facts said...

I consider myself to be agnostic. I also believe in Jesus, although differently than most Christians do. I can accept his teachings, right along with the Buddha and other great teachers throughout history. That doesn't mean that I have to believe that he is a God.

Jesus lived 500 years after Buddhism was born and many Buddhists believe that he was one of them. He was kind of enlightened, yes?

G said...

exaclty! that is more how i view Jesus Christ now, one of the enlightned teachers of the world.
The virgin birth? Literal son of God? resurrected after his death?...
I tend to think of those stories more as myths that rose up around him. But the historicall fact (?) of him, his life, what he taught... how he lived... that is imporant to me.

Eris said...

The "literal stuff" you mention is tough at times.... but I hold to my faith and hope it keeps me in. It feels like enough right now.

G said...

eris- yes... there was times when I thought it would as well. and if I ever went back to regular attendance (and even participation?) hopefully it (in what ever form it takes) will help hold it all together for me again.

have you followed Faithful Dissident's post over at feministmormonhousewives? (the link at the top of my post) many commentors on both sides of the line of faithfulness.

Eris said...

So far, I have only stalked you and mfranti off of fMh - and that's only after Mom sent me here. I'll check it out, though.

G said...

(thrilled and delighted to have a stalker! thank you, numistmatist facts!)

Numismatist Facts said...

You're welcome.

I miss the desert. Ever been over to Why or Ajo? Those are my old stomping grounds.

flygirl said...

Yeah, I think Jesus kind of fell by the wayside for me. My issues started out with feminist issues with God, and womens' place in the world and the afterlife, then of course, it all fell apart and I had questions about everything for awhile. It has only been recently that I've been able to admit that I don't believe in Jesus in the traditional way, mostly because I don't believe all the stuff behind why-the fall, sin, etc. But I find there's still a soft spot in my heart for the stories of Jesus, and the idea of his life and what he taught, as an enlightened teacher. As Christmas comes up I am hoping I can still find beauty in the story.

G said...

numistmatist facts: hmmm... I think I have driven THROUGH both Why and Ajo... but don't know that my boots have actually touched the ground there. will have to plan a field trip. :)

flygirl- yeah, a soft spot. and i'm hoping to reinvent some traditions myself. good luck. :)

Numismatist Facts said...

We had a little winter home in Why until a few years ago. There is not much there except dust and gas stations. Nothing between my back door and Mexico except Organ Pipe National Monument. I still have a SIL in Ajo that we visit occasionally. Ajo is an adorable little town but it is dying slowly. I love Tucson, although I must admit I only made it there once in the heat of summer.

D'Arcy said...

G--you find me in a similar place. I was having a discussion with my friend yesterday and I said the most shocking thing he had ever heard, "I don't even know if I am Christian anymore." He looked at me with inaffable disbelief.

It was hard to realize that I was on this plane, but it's where I am at.

Also, reading Joseph Campbell recently, and the ideas behind the power of these myths, which are powerful ideas. I find myself leaning more towards that. I don't mind looking at Christ's teaching and see what they can teach me, but I don't neccessarily believe in the literalness of the resurrection now. That is something SO huge to my brain that I still don't know how to process it at all.

G said...

d'arcy~ "That is something SO huge to my brain that I still don't know how to process it at all."

yes... that about explains my thoughts on the subject too. it still feels a bit, shakey? 'what? I'm not a christian anymore?'

and the fact that I am still working out exaclty what to put in it's place: "I'm a __________".....? (just what exactly am I anyways?)

Yes. that's a bit of an awkward transition.

Anonymous said...

I've been looking through your blog - is that called "stalking?"

Maybe you'll get my other comment from your September post? Basically it said that my belief in Jesus Christ is the main reason that I am LDS, just like the other person you mentioned in your post. But you said that Jesus Christ is the reason you left the Mormon church - because you don't believe in Jesus Christ as the literal Son of God.

Do you think that this has anything to do with the "filthiness" you've described in a couple of your posts? Maybe you stopped believing in Him because your efforts at following Him never made you feel clean?

Well, enough psychological analyzing (yes, I am a counselor in real life!). The one last thing I wanted to say is that if you are sincere about your beliefs at this moment, and try to live all the truth that you actually believe, then you can't go wrong.

The other day, I was trying to think of a "family mission statement", a la Steven Covey. And if could sum up all the hopes and dreams I have for my husband, myself, and my children, it would be:

We seek truth and live it.

In my opinion, if you're constantly engaged in the search for truth, and then you live what truth you find, then that is a blessed life.


By the way, are you near Tucson? That's where I did my undergrad. Bear down!!!

G said...

hey angie, thanks for stalking! (and for the psych session too! how much do I owe you?) :)

as per my thoughts on Christ, I don't really recall any feeling of betrayal towards him... it was more losing belief in the church as the infallible medium through which to receive doctrine. I also became disenchanted with the conservative Christian movement and their view of Christ (which LDS closely mirrors at the moment).

So my repugnance was towards the institution(s), not necessarily towards Christ (I kind of view him as a very misunderstood player who's name is being severely misused).

I love your family mission statement!

And yes, we're in tucson~ go wildcats!