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by Jim Gordon

Does it not seem strange that in the christian church world we are told we are to love others, yet when we come to a difference of opinion or a change in views in our beliefs, christians can be the first to throw a stone?

We hear about fairly well-known individuals within the church system say they have changed their views and no longer accept some of the teachings they grew up with in the church. They are not necessarily saying they are walking away from God but they are walking away from many things they have been told about God they no longer accept.

When this happens, usually other christians are the first to judge and condemn these individuals rather than try to accept them and find out exactly what is going on. Their first thought is they are leaving their complete belief and faith in God.

Many times, this is not what the person is saying anyway. Leaving religious teachings of the church is not leaving God. In fact, many times leaving some of these teachings behind is just the beginning of a deeper walk with God.

I grew up in the traditional church setting and I had many good times there. I met a lot of nice people and learned many things about God. The thing is the church as we know it was never what God intended. Church is not a place or an organization, it is the people who love God and love, support and encourage one another.

The church today seems more like a corporation with the CEO and board of directors. I know there are a lot of good people within the church system. They love God and want to live their life for him. Yet for my wife and I, we became disenchanted with the religious system and felt there was a better way for us to live for God, which was outside the walls of religion and the human-led system of church each week.

We felt that since the Spirit lives within us there is no need for a middle-man (pastor) to lead and teach us. If the Spirit of God actually lives within us, why do we so often depend on a human being to lead and teach us?

I certainly do not want to make anyone feel bad if they are still a part of the institutional church. They are like I used to be and feel that was the best way to show love for God and learn about God. I would not tell anyone they should leave the system, although for my wife and I we certainly do believe it was the best thing for us.

Whether you are in the church system, questioning the church system or have left it, the main focus should be to love God and love one another. Doing so fulfills all the law and the prophets (as Matthew 22:35-40 explains). Of course, we know that the law no longer needs to be fulfilled but at the time Jesus taught this he was living under the law. Now that grace has been applied, we no longer live by the law but by love.

Leaving the institutional church or changing and deconstructing your religious views and interpretations do not mean you are leaving God. Rather than jump on board with those who judge and condemn, take a little bit and find out more about what is going on. Then remember we are all at a different place on the path as we follow Jesus. Pray for one another, encourage and support one another but do not beat one another up as we each try to follow Jesus as we feel led.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“The moral standards by which Israel’s first ancestor were expected to act seem to come not so much by God’s unique command, but by expectations of the surrounding cultures” – Pete Enns

We are all products of our environment. Our cultures play a huge role in how we as a collective, strive to improve and develop ourselves into a reality of wellbeing and enjoyment. The Latin root word cultura: “till the soil, tend, grow” is the same root as Cultivate and Cult. Which I find fascinating when we when look at how cults work in our religious settings. I see it more expansive then that. Culture is the true cult when it comes to how we as a society interact, develop, and grow.

One of the definitions of cult states: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious”. I think this is the most used definition when it comes to religious people accusing other religious people for “not doing it right”. Within Christendom, there is an everlasting list of religious groups that are accused of being cults: LDS, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist’s are the main targets. Yes, these groups have their problems, but I think as research shows, majority of the churches we see throughout Western Civilization are showing unhealthy practices which is leading to an exodus from the religious institutions. Alas, the great cult list continues.

With that being said, for all those religious/spiritual practitioners out there, what do we do with the other definition of cult: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work”. From the Christian perspective, isn’t this what we do with Jesus? Aren’t we in the end, a cult? I mean this is how we got our name in the first place, right? We were following The Way (what followers of Jesus called it) of Jesus and when other groups saw this, the cult name we were given was “Christian”. So, is this word/idea of cult the end-all of good and healthy religious practices?

Don’t think the religious/spiritual are the only group guilty of being cult-like. From Patriots and their civil duty to a person and idea, to the Scientist and her devotion to the work of the scientific method–all humans in one way or another practice cult-like behaviors to bring about “wellbeing and enjoyment” to their social structures. See, culture is always influencing how we as humans view the world. What culture is best? I don’t think that’s the question we should be asking ourselves.

We should realize that culture will always be part of the human experience. All of us will have our cult-like ways in how we move through this life. But the thing that still moves me to still participate in the way of Jesus is the realization that culture doesn’t always produce healthy, peaceful and loving outcomes. Injustices still are running amok throughout the world of cultures. The poor are still poor, the hungry are still hungry and the rich are still getting richer.

The violent cultures of Empire & Religion are still manipulating how all this social process works. These structures only want one thing: controlling power. This model will not bring justice, mercy, peace and love. What do we do as a society to change this culture? Well, tough to say. But I do believe Jesus showed us a way to develop a new process within our cultures: It is the powerless who act out of love in order to change the cult of culture (Mark 10:42). Let us be lovers who seek peacemaking; not haters who seek warmongering…

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.”- Barbara Brown Taylor

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by Jim Gordon

We hear the word fundamentalism often in the christian world. I actually grew up as a fundamentalist but never realized that was what I was because I never put much thought into all the different terms and labels. I just loved God and went to church because that was the way I thought we lived the christian life.

When I looked up the word fundamentalism in the dictionary I found the following definitions: 1. a conservative movement in theology among nineteenth and twentieth-century Christians. Fundamentalists believe that the statements in the Bible are literally true. 2. in Christianity the belief that every word of the Bible is divinely inspired and therefore true. 3. a religious movement characterized by a strict belief in the literal interpretation of religious texts, especially within American Protestantism and Islam; the beliefs held by those in this movement; strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles.

Now that I know what fundamentalist means, I no longer believe I would be considered one. My views, beliefs and interpretations have changed so much over the years, especially since leaving the organized church. For some reason I never felt comfortable asking questions while in the organization. I just took what the pastor said as gospel truth and never questioned anything. Being outside the walls of religion I can let all those questions come out and seek truth from the Spirit of God rather than from a pastor.

I believe fundamentalism leads more to separation, condemnation and being judgmental. It seems to me being so set on specific doctrines, beliefs and interpretations can prevent us from asking questions, learning, accepting and loving others.

Are my thoughts a popular way of looking at the christian life? Of course not! I grew up in the organized church from a very young age and spent nearly sixty years in it. I also used to think everything depended on my works such as attending church, tithing, doing good works, reading the bible and believing it was perfect, completely literal and the only way God spoke to us today. There are many people still doing all this and they sincerely love God and think this is the way we are to serve God. Yet being outside of this setting I have seen what is for me a better way. A way of depending on the Spirit within to teach and guide us. A way that loves and accepts others even when they do not see things the same.

Today the term fundamentalist christian seems to have more of a meaning of being hateful and not being accepting of others views. Completely different from what Jesus taught and what God is like.

Jesus was not a fundamentalist, he was not even a christian. Jesus was the personification of the Father who is a God of love. Even those writings from the old testament where men wrote from their beliefs, ideas, interpretations and what they thought about God were shown to be wrong when Jesus arrived. He showed us that God is not a god of vengeance, hatred and murder but a God who loves all of us.

We are to love God and love one another. Loving our neighbor does not mean just loving those who live next door, or loving those who believe like we believe. Our neighbor is everyone else in the world. Seems to me most fundamentalist reject those who see things differently and prefer to stay away from those who do not believe the same.

I would rather be known as a follower of Jesus rather than a fundamentalist christian. The way of the law and following rules and set doctrines of men have come to an end. The way of loving one another because of the grace of Christ is the new covenant way. I have actually become quite tired of using labels at all. We are all human beings who are loved by God. We should all be treated with love, respect, acceptance and have the same rights as everyone else. God did not create some people better than others, we are all created in the likeness of God and are loved by God.

There are so many topics and beliefs I grew up learning in the fundamentalist church that I no longer accept. I certainly have not lost my belief in or love for God, yet the many interpretations that were taught by men and women in the institution I now find wrong and not like Christ.

Rather than adhere to a set of rules and institutional-taught beliefs we are to submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Learn to hear the voice of the Spirit and let your life be a daily communication of the love of God to others.

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by Jim Gordon

Looking back over the postings of Done with Religion, we started with a few posts in May of 2010 and another in February 2011. Not until July of 2011 did we start regular and continual postings on this site. Since then we have had eight years of continual writing at Done with Religion. The time has sure flown by but it has been fun learning and meeting new people along the way.

Over the years I have seen a change in my views, beliefs and interpretations of what I believe the bible says and what God meant for the Church. Church being the body of Christ, not a building or an organization.

My views and beliefs changed a little over time while growing up in the organized church. Yet after my wife and I walked away from the organization I have seen even more changes since being outside the walls of religion.

I think it is easy to get set in our ways, to live within the box of organized religion and stop thinking for ourselves.

I believe that the Spirit of Christ lives within us and we will do much better to focus on hearing directly from the Spirit rather than the many different voices of men and women trying to tell us what God wants us to do. There is nothing wrong with getting ideas and opinions from others, but never put your full trust into people. We have the Spirit living within us and we should be constantly listening for that still, small voice to guide us in our life.

I believe we will be constantly changing and adjusting our beliefs in this world. Living for God is something that is alive and constantly changing as the Spirit reveals new truths to us as we are able to accept them.

Over these eight years we have seen changes in views and beliefs as well as changes in writers. Two new regular writers and one guest blogger have been added and they have made a very good addition to the views, insights and writing styles of Done with Religion. I look forward to the next eight years and I think it will be interesting to look back at that point and see what God has taught us and how he changed us as we seek to show his love, grace and freedom to others.

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by PK LANGLEY, Guest Blogger
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/frustratedgrace/2019/07/quit-church/

I Would Quit Again

I’m not going to church anymore, I quit. God told me I don’t have to go and I listened. If you think God told you to go, then I suggest you go. I’m pretty happy about the fact that God released me. My life has been a lot less complicated since I stopped going. What happened to me after I stopped going to church was part of my deconstruction. It has been a wild ride, but one that I would take again gladly if given the opportunity.

I Was Afraid

The first thing that happened to me when I quit church was fear. My heart was afraid that God would be mad at me. I was afraid of falling back into sin like those who stayed behind told me I would. There was a fear of losing community. My loneliness from not being in active church life cemented those fears. Part of me was terrified I had made a mistake. I had taken a bite out of the un-churched apple. I had left, and had sealed my fate.

Where The New Covenant Lead

I quit the church initially because my eyes were opened to the New Covenant. Picture a step like that of Indiana Jones in “The Last Crusade” move, when he took a “leap of faith” across a great chasm, to find his aim; the cup of Christ. He stood there overlooking a plunge to certain death and put his foot out, leg straight and true, fully intending to take a step when he could not see where his foot would land. When his foot was stopped by a bridge he had not seen, he sighed with relief at finding his footing.

In the same way, leaving the church felt like that fearful step into the unknown. My family of forty years would not go with me. In fact, they would all turn their back on me with the “left foot of fellowship”. I was alone, but the spirit of God would show me that I could depend on our union.

I Tried To Find A Church

At first, after I quit my “home church”, I looked for a church that believed as I did. It’s no different than someone who chooses Baptist over non-denominational. When your eyes are open to the fact that tithing is complete bullshit, you can’t sit and listen as someone fleeces the sheep. There were other doctrinal issues that had pushed me out to try to find someone, anyone, who was walking in truth.

The further I went out, the more pillars began to crumble in the institutional church building. While hoping to find a body of believers that knew the truth and were walking in it, there were understandings breaking through my heart every day. Every church I tried to connect with was a complete disappointment. I couldn’t eat what they were serving anymore, my appetite had totally changed for the better. I felt like I had unplugged from the matrix and there was no turning back.

Church Came To Me

God was with me, and even though I had quit going to church, church started coming to me. I was living in an apartment and the smoke detector went off, leading me to call maintenance. A man showed up with his son to take care of fixing the smoke detector and the son noticed my guitar. One thing led to another and the young man ended up weeping and crying as I witnessed the love of God to him. We had experienced marvelous encounters, and none of them were inside a building.

The Wind In My Sails

A week later after the smoke detector surprise, three gay men who did not live at our complex, came in late at night to use the swimming pool. We went down for an evening swim, and we started talking with them. The love of God poured out between us, and there were tears. Every time I looked for God outside of the confines of a church relationship, I was not let down.

When I would start missing the fellowship that I had become so accustomed to inside the building, there would be a beautiful spontaneous expression that would be like a wind catching my faith sails. Whenever I was weary, God moments breathed upon my soul and I kept going.

The Ties That Bound, Loosed

Every time I had another epiphany about God outside of the church, I would become stronger. At times, it felt like learning to walk all over again. I always felt God with me, in me and through me. No longer did I need a pastor to show me how to live, I was spirit led all by myself and thriving. I began to find others that had left the church and were doing fine. Some of them were like me, trying to find their footing after thirty years of service. My life lost its co-dependencies and I started really walking in a spirit led life. My life was evidence of a spirit led life outside of the church building.

Demanding God?

That’s what’s scary for people. When you go to church, it pacifies some guilt that is embedded systematically by religion. It’s those twisted scriptures that really don’t mean what they say they do that twist the proverbial guilt blade. The, “Don’t forsake the fellowship of the brethren” verse is a good one. Other verses are used by the modern church as tools to keep people coming. If you told people they didn’t have to go to church, would they stay home? Today, where we battle for every second of time we can get, who wouldn’t stay home if they realized God wasn’t demanding their attendance?

They Did “Church” Different

When we go back to the beginning, you know that place around the time when Jesus rounded up a bunch of misfits; there was no building. At that time, there were no pastor’s in pulpits or apostles claiming they were more important than the seated pastors. There were no congregations, no tithe demands backed up by promises that God blesses the cheerful giver. Believers came together, loving God and each other in simplicity. People were going “from house to house” in spontaneous fellowship. That was what Jesus asked them to do, wasn’t it? Today, we have complicated and mechanized that beautiful relationship that Jesus perpetuated while he walked the earth. Puppeteers tell parishioners that “their reasonable sacrifice” is to attend church, and they not only believe it, they promote it defiantly as well.

I Was A True Building Disciple(r)

I promoted the institutional church agenda for thirty years and I know how we convince ourselves that “it’s true”. We parrot the same verbiage that we have swallowed. When someone refuses to listen, it becomes pointless to try to convince them of anything other than their truth. My life in ministry demanded that I was hard-nosed and defiant to anything that “threatened MY truth”. Now that I am on the other side of having my ears washed out with the soap of reality beyond religion, I look at those I have left behind with sadness and a desire to ask them to listen. It is for my brother’s and sister’s still in captivity that I write about life outside of institutionalism. Those who want to quit but are afraid.

Ask Yourself Ask yourself if you have ever wanted to sleep in. Have you ever heard the alarm go off on a Sunday morning and wished you could stay in bed another hour? Was there a time when you felt God nudge you in a direction, one that you excitedly shared with “leadership”, to find that they wouldn’t support you? Have you ever allowed yourself to question whether we are doing church right? Have you wanted to change church the way it is currently done? Did you want to quit? Questions lead to answers, if we allow ourselves to explore them. Religion is afraid of those who will ask questions, and are brave enough to discover the answers. My answer was to leave the institution and it was the right answer, for me. Can you be brave and admit that you have questions like I did?

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by Jim Gordon

The institution of marriage is such a great comparison to life with God. I think a lot of the time we miss some good points about marriage that directly relates to life with God. To many times we do not associate marriage with Kingdom meanings.

Actually, marriage is a shadow of spiritual things. Ephesians 5:31 and 32 state for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. The church being mentioned here is not a building or an organization. The Church are the people who Jesus brings together. It is not a weekly meeting but a living organism made up of those of us saved by grace. And though the verse mentions man and wife, I believe marriage is the union of two people who commit to each other in love.

One of the things I have been thinking about recently is how we are one with God. It is hard to imagine that our God lives within us. Jesus said when he left the earth, he would send us another comforter. Through his Spirit, he came to make his home within us and he is constantly with us.

We always think of God sitting on a big throne, way off in heaven somewhere and that one of these days we will go to meet and live with God forever.

The thing is, that is not what the written word tells us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, God’s physical dwelling place on earth. The Spirit dwells within us and will never leave us nor forsake us.

Now it is not saying we are God but we are one with God. The best way I have found to make sense of this is to think of marriage. When two individual people fall in love, make a commitment to love each other and live together the bible says the two shall become one.

Does that mean that the spouse becomes their partner, that they somehow become the same person? No, both people remain individuals yet they live as one. Same with us and God, we are still the person that was created yet because God loves us, God’s home is now within us and the Spirit of God lives within us. We are one with God.

In John 17:21 Jesus is talking with the Father and asks that they may all be one, even as You Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us so that the world may believe that You sent Me. Seems to me it is truly a marriage made in heaven.

We do not have to wait to a future time when we live with God in some far-away place. We are now living as one with God right now. We are the temple, the dwelling place of God and each of us are equally important parts of the body of Christ.

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by Susan Adams
https://blog.gracepodcast.cafe/surveying-the-carnage/
https://gracepodcast.cafe/about-us/

I’ve been thinking a lot about the carnage that has come out of evangelicalism. More specifically, Reformed theology, Calvinism, the homeschooling movement, the purity culture, and complimentarianism.

Who has suffered the most?  I believe without hesitation, that the children raised in these systems have been and continue to be, its greatest casualties.  We continue to receive emails from parents who have been broken by the system and who have grown children who have walked away from the faith and sometimes into atheism or agnosticism. Some of these children cut their parents off for a season.  Some, permanently. It’s painful, but I think necessary for the child to figure out who they are apart from how they were raised.  Some feel as though they have been brain washed their whole lives.  And maybe so.  Did we present one set of beliefs and hold them hostage to those beliefs, living in fear that they would somehow be corrupted by the world or even worse, another church with different theology?

I’m thinking too of the many who homeschooled like we did.  Many believed they were raising up little warriors for God.  Girls were taught that their value before God hinged on their presenting themselves as virgins to a man.  And if they weren’t virgins on their wedding day, they were damaged goods, considered less than.  They were also taught that their entire identity as women was gauged by their constant submission to a man, regardless of how abusive the relationship might become. They were compelled to follow that man, helping him to achieve all of his hopes and dreams while she stayed home and had babies.  I’m not saying that staying home and having babies is bad, I’m thankful I was able to stay home with my children.  But what if I had a choice to pursue my dreams too?

So not only were they held hostage to our theology, but to our worldview and political agendas as well.  We presented a life and a God that fit neatly in a box. Our children lost their identity, if they had ever known it to begin with.  I see one of the biggest results of being raised like this is anxiety and sometimes depression along with it.  They don’t know who they are.  They don’t know what it’s like to be belong to something, only how to fit in so they can be accepted.

So they leave.  Leave the church and sometimes their families.  And many leave their faith and sometimes stop believing there’s a God.

I came from a broken home.  Deserted by my dad.  Raised by an abusive alcoholic.  I was a shattered human when I met Jesus.  So why was I able to have an adult relationship with my parents and care for them when they died?  What’s the difference?  Why are kids who were raised in homes where divorce didn’t happen, where mom stayed home to cook and clean for them and sometimes homeschooled them, walking away from it all?

So I think for me, even though I was abused as a child, often told I was worthless and would amount to nothing, when I met Jesus  He was presented to me as a Savior, not a judge.  Loving, not critical.  And so I experienced real healing and I understood real forgiveness.  I was not a disappointment to God.  So I had someone to go to after my abuse – Jesus. 

I think the difference is their perception of who God is.  From an early age these kids have had it drilled into their heads that God is a legalistic God who is easily offended, usually angry, disappointed, and vindictive.  And our children are taught to conform.  They are taught to drink the Kool-Aid  and if they don’t they are labeled as the rebellious ones.  The outsiders. The outcasts.  That’s a lot for children to grow up under.  That’s a lot of expectations put on the small shoulders of children.  They aren’t encouraged to find out who they are but instead told to be like those we want them to be like.

And let’s not forget that each child in our families is different,  unique in their temperaments and personalities.  That while some kids seemingly make it through and carry on the traditions, their siblings may have been crushed and broken under the weight of it all.  But when we say our children have walked away I believe you can never leave Jesus.  Nothing separates us from him.  He’s with them.  He’s got them.

When this generation of kids hit rock bottom, who do they run too?  The God they’ve been told about isn’t loving.  He’s disappointed in them. So they leave.  Leave it all.  You may be thinking this isn’t true.  This isn’t what was taught!  Until we’re willing to admit that this was the message caught nothing will change.  At some point we need to examine why this is happening in such large numbers.  I think we need to admit our culpability in this.

So what do we do now? How do we handle what’s happened to our children?  We love them.  We support them.  We give them space when they ask.  We respect their boundaries.  We be there for them when they come back.  We don’t expect this to happen fast. It may takes years but we love.  We pray they can see how kind and sweet Jesus is.  We don’t judge.  We don’t try and fix.  We just be there.  Accepting them as they are.  Just like Jesus did with me back when I first met him.  He continues to accept me just as I am.  No matter where they are, we love, we support and we respect their journey.

I regret ever having raised my children in religion.  I wish I would have looked at each one as the unique person they were created to be and encouraged them to live their lives.  I wish I would have never picked up a Christian parenting book or program where the only goal was to tame and train children to live in a box.  A box created by a religion of morality. 

When I was at my darkest  and I thought I had lost everything, a very wise friend said to me – “Just because its like this now, doesn’t mean this is what it will be like five years from now or even a year from now.” She was right.  So I encourage you to rest in the One who loves your children far more than you ever will or could.

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