Searching for a Liberal Jesus.

Vivian, of Liberal Life for the Navy Wife, posted on Momocrats a couple days ago. The subject? Christianity and Liberalism. A good conversation took place in the comments following and I briefly jumped in there myself to talk a bit about my issues (Sigh, why do I always make it about me? I’ll save that for another soul searching post). She so graciously replied and was very helpful – thanks again Vivian! But her post has lead to further discussions with my husband, deep thoughts in the shower and considerable mumbling to myself that now must spill out onto this blog. So, once again folks, here’s a little window into my current state of thinking.

Religion is an extremely personal issue. And because it is something based on faith- logic or rational thinking don’t always apply. I wouldn’t know where to begin to comment about the influence it’s had on the history of humankind, the making and breaking of nations or how it has inspired both violent wars and beautful acts of humanity. To say that it plays a part in modern day politics is an understatement to say the least.

Meanwhile, little ol’ me, landed on this planet 35 years ago. I was raised Protestant, attended a Catholic elementary and middle school and had the opportunity to live in two seperate Muslim countries for 5 of my developmental years. I love the Christian traditions of Christmas and Easter, I appreciate the beauty and ritual of Catholic mass and I find comfort when I hear the Muslim call to prayer.

Little ol’ me also seemed born to be a democrat, wearing a Mondale pin in 6th grade at Catholic school; my republican father was at a loss.

I consider myself both a spiritual person and a political person. I believe in God and have a fairly liberal value system. I totally think Jesus was a cool guy – the original hippie – bringing love, acceptance and really impressive miracles to anyone ready to listen. But Buddha seemed like an amazing guy too, and Mohammad. And so, in my own little way, I do unto others, try not to covet and love my neighbor, rich, poor, gay, Yankee fan, Red Sox fan (go sox), whatevs.

But here’s the problem for me. As a spiritual person, I think I should be able to find a place to worship God in my own right. And even more importantly, as my husband and I watch our children grow up,  we want our two little boys to grasp the concept of religion, hear the stories of the bible and have a solid understanding about morality. But as an open-minded, liberal, Obama voting, (technically) Christian woman living in Florida, I can’t find a church to worship in to save my life (so to speak).

There are plenty of Catholic churches – tried and true, with unchanged traditions carried on for generations. But not for me.

There are endless protestant based churches, teaching the bible as literal truth with members eager to save my soul. Not for me.

And here’s the thing. If a liberal minded mommy like me were to drive into the parking lot of the majority of churches in these parts with my Obama, HRC and peace stickers trailing behind me on the bumper of my car… would I be tagged as a lost soul? A heathen?

Oh man. But, how come? Because I am pro-choice? Is it because I think Obama is the man? Am I going to hell because I think there should be women priests and homosexual couples should be allowed to marry? I just get this feeling, this little inkling, that I wouldn’t quite fit in. And I am quite sure I wouldn’t want to.

Please understand, I respect any person’s choice to worship as they may. Go for it, enjoy God the best way you see fit. I just bristle when my liberal values translate to others that I am NOT fit to worship and that God has no place in my life. There seems to be a lot of judging going on in church, and its not happening from the Man (or Woman) upstairs either.

Because here’s the thing, I have never felt more in tune with God in my life. I find true comfort in my beliefs that ALL people are equal. I feel right at home when a community is inclusive of all ideals and lifestyles. I think it makes a lot of sense to God that we pray for a peaceful end to this war. Having “green” values is a way to honor our planet. Come on now, I have a right to God as much as anyone else does. 

So why am I having a problem finding a church? I honestly think politics has taken the organized Christian churches away from a lot of families like ours. Right or wrong, Christians have been recently deemed as right-winged, republican, conservative folk. Nothing like me at all. When people say “Jesus Saves”, I have to wonder if there is an asterisks by it saying “as LONG as you follow OUR very specific, kind of exclusive rules”.  C’mon, I am pretty sure Jesus is cool with everyone, I mean EVERYONE. Even me.

So here my family sits, homeless and in need of a place to worship. I am tired of not knowing how to explain religion to my children. I fumble around with the birth story of Jesus at Christmas time. I don’t even GO there with his death around Easter – I just keep it to bunnies and purdy eggs. We don’t even have a bible in our home. I mean, this is rediculous! If we want to be liberal Christians, why can’t we?

Now I know, if I search hard and long, I will find something. Vivian even told me about Unity Churches and, wouldn’t you know it, there is one not far from here! I am tentatively looking into it. Unitarian churches are other good options, but there aren’t many around here. My good friend who recently moved back east, used to attend Glide Church in San Francisco and found an extraordinary community there. I told her to send a mission to Florida.

This topic has been a tough one for me. Like I said, Religion is so damn personal. I worry about offending. I worry about making generalizations. I worry about judging others unfairly while I have no right to. I worry I don’t know a damn thing about this topic and should really educate myself more. I worry I have accepted the assumption that Christianity is only for the conservative – and have given up too easily. I worry that even if I found a place for our family, we couldn’t give enough time to it anyway.

But, in this discussion, I am giving it my best shot. I am just little ol’ me, wanting to stay true to my own value system, searching for a community with like minded folk and hopefully, someday, offering my children the gift of spirituality.  Yup, little ol’me, merely trying to get my head around what exactly that cool, peace loving, open-minded guy named Jesus would do.

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19 Comments

Filed under Deep thoughts, Educating myself, Family, Florida, Obama, Parenting, Politics, Religion, Self-analysis, Spirituality, Teaching kids

19 responses to “Searching for a Liberal Jesus.

  1. That MOMocrats post got me thinking too, but you got it out onscreen (so to speak) before I did.

    I’m not currently searching for a church – not because I have one, but because I’ve stopped looking – but I understand well what you’re talking about. As a woman who grew up Catholic, and remained within that church tradition for many years, it’s hard to feel welcome in an institution that values women so little. And after living in the Bible Belt for ten years, I have seen far too much Christianity that only seems to be practiced within church walls on Sundays.

    But I run this around in my head a lot, and you have given me even more to think about.

    (BTW, I’m wondering what a gal has to do to get linked in that “cool bloggers” list over in your sidebar :-).)

  2. That was amazing. I feel like everything I have ever thought about religion, you just wrote. I am married to a man with two pastors as parents. We got married outside, on a ferry (sin #1), have tattoos (sin #2), and do not attend a regular church (sins #3,4,5). Just had my 2nd son in a Catholic hospital (big, big sin – MIL said they would “let me die”), and our boys are not involved in a strict religious household. I lean towards Buddhism (sin so big, it remains unspoken) and my husband is starting to look into it as well. Look, we just have to all do the best we can. I want the boys to choose what THEY want, not what I tell them. I will teach them to be kind to Mother Nature’s creatures and respect the Earth. Regardless of what we do, someone, somewhere will find issue with it.
    Anyway, excellent post. Very thoughtful and well-written.

  3. I do not agree that Christians have to be conservative. (And *eek* I’m a conservative Christian.)

    Jesus is/was the most accepting, the coolest, the most peace-loving—all the things you wrote. And believe me, he is cool with you specifically. But what He does ask is that you believe that He is the Son of God—the only Son of God. And if you are having issues with that, you may actually be having issues with Christianity’s core. Maybe that’s where all this searching is coming from. I don’t know, of course, but I hope you don’t give up on Christianity.

    I think you are a thought-provoking writer, and I enjoy reading your blog. And I’ll keep reading it. Even if we don’t agree spiritually and politically.

    No one should judge you for anything you have written. We are all seeking.

    It’s time for Christians to abandon legalism, “churchiness” and judgmentalism, in my humble opinion. I have found a church that does that. And it is an undeniably Christian church. And if you walked in the doors of this church that is housed in a defunct Saturn dealership, you’d probably feel right at home. In jeans and a T-shirt. With your van stickers. And you’d probably see many of those same stickers plastered on the cars in the parking lot.

    Keep looking.

  4. I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed in this post. I could go on and on, but I’ll keep it short by saying I’m very supportive of everything you said and can see why you’re feeling frustrated. Good luck to you in finding a place where you and your family feel comfortable.

  5. azhita

    Oh good God (pun intended…lol), ditto girl!!! I have the same issues, along with I’m not really sure WHAT it is that I really believe. The churches that I have attended, and the religious friends I have though, all seem to tell me that if I don’t believe EXACTLY what they believe, then I’m just plain wrong and going to hell in a hand-basket. What is a poor lost soul to do??? I’m not one to cave and change my beliefs just to fit in, so I guess I’ll remain a poor lost soul. 😉

    Love ya!

    D

  6. I don’t normally talk about religion or politics because it leads to too many nasty arguments. But I agree with most of what you said and I am glad you said it (because I am too much of a wimp to).

    Maybe we can start out own church 😉

  7. Thank you all for being so so cool about this post. I have been a nervous wreck about it ever since I posted! Again, religion is so damn personal. However you find God, I respect it. Its just been an interesting journey for me. Again, thanks to all of you for being so wonderful.

  8. Yep, as I said to Vivian, and as I say to you.

    Up above, another commenter mentioned that what you wrote might indicate that you have questions/problem with Christianity’s core—and that right there is the very obstacle I keep running in to at each church.

    I can’t speak for you, but my appreciation for other faiths and my understanding of the people who hold those other faiths, by no means depreciates my own faith. Each church I’ve been to lately requires that I reject the validity of other beliefs in order to prove the steadfastness of my own.

    I don’t hold with that.

    I don’t need to reject the validity of French, for example, in order to be considered an English speaker.

    Why does my faith and my worship within that faith need to include such a large component of what others believe?

    You know?

    My path to my faith is about my journey, not about how others are wrong.

    I don’t need to prove them wrong (or disprove their beliefs) in order to prove my own right. For some reason (read the New Testament) I have this concept that there is acceptance from God (through Jesus, read his sermons) for the multitude.

    God showed us his example, right? His lesson of intolerance and how destructive it was (see story about Great Flood), and he displayed the “take home” message in many ways, which, in case we missed those, he sent his son to explain it point blank.

    To my way of thinking, I have no questions or problems about my faith or my Christianity. I have a problem finding a place that accepts it.

    Glad you elaborated on this.

  9. Caroline:
    Actually, I don’t think that what you have to say is all that controversial. You are saying what you personally feel, and are doing so without attacking others. You are saying that you are having a hard time finding somewhere you “fit”.

    Furthermore, I think that you echo what alot of people struggle with in this country…. what they believe and faith. The media and the extremists (both atheists and fundamentalist Christians as it works both ways) try to pigeon hole people based on those beliefs. (note…. religion and gov’t is an entirely different post and different issue).

    The dumbed down version we are fed is that if you are an atheist you are a heathen and there is no good or charity that come from you and if you are a Fundamentalist Christian you are a crackpot lacking a firm grasp in reality. Nothing is this black and white. In addition, the majority of us live in the shades of grey: the agnostics to the “holiday” churchgoers to compassionate Christians that are not so black and white in the interpretation of their religion (as Fundamentalists are).
    The reason many of us feel so disenfranchised is because there seems to be (for whatever reason) a movement to simplify this extremely complicated topic of faith. If you don’t fit into two very narrow and very extreme categories, you might as well end up on the “Island of Misfit Faith”. (again, the topic of religion and politics does tend to complicate this issue). We do, however, have to resist being pigeonholed like this in our own minds. By allowing such gross generalizations cloud our own faith, we are only feeding the divisiveness that is plaguing our country. Once you don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed, you will be able to focus on your faith and your beliefs.

    Wow. I should have written this as a post in response. I may cross-post it if you don’t mind.

  10. Great post. Do you ever feel like organized religion is trying to stuff God in a box that’s too small for Him?

  11. Great Post MM!

    I am so sorry that you’re not finding what you’re looking for.

    Please remember that it is the people that build the church and the same denomination can be completey different just a few miles apart. I was lucky enough to be raised in the First United Methodist Church in Santa Rosa (Glide is one of these as well). This is on their website:

    “Oneness in Christ Statement

    We affirm that all persons are precious to God and of sacred worth. God pours out amazing love and grace to everyone.

    We seek to be an inclusive church. We warmly invite into our life and mission all people without regard to race, nationality, sexual orientation, ability, age, gender, financial circumstances or marital status.

    We are a large and diverse community of faith. We certainly do not always agree on theology or public issues. Our desire, however, is to build bridges of mutual respect and understanding. Above all, we seek to love one another as Christ has loved us.

    We are learning that the words of our founder, John Wesley, are true: “We do not have to think alike to love alike.”

    I hope you can find similar community.

  12. Good Day Caroline,

    I saw your post and could not resist to comment. Partly because I have just started a blog under your inspiration (Yay) and also because the blog is remotely related to this post of yours. I have been struggling to find the right theme for this blog of mine, let alone name, but like a ton of bricks it hit me, I needed something that could adapt to my style of presentation and writing.

    Anyway back to the Liberal Jesus thing – oh yes there are many think tanks behind the churches of today and I would like to suggest the Alumbrados.

    Keep well.

  13. Have I told you lately that I love you? I’m about to post on religion at this very minute.

  14. Your Hot SIL (not Meryl, you doofus)

    OK, here are my best recs for hippy-dippy churches. Because, as we all know, Jesus was a sandal wearing hippy Fuh-REAK.

    1) If you like the Cathoholics, hie thee to some Jesuits. The whole Ignatian “all paths lead to God” thing makes for some seriously cool, open minded folks. Plus, the Jesuit commitment to education is very friendly to those who like hanging at the institutions of higher learning, if you catch my drift.

    2) Unitarian Universalists are definitely more a “community of seekers” than an actual dogma-holding denomination of their own. This can be seen as either a positive or a negative, depending on what you are looking from from your church.

    3) Investigate some of the Methodist and Episcopal churches near you. There are lots of really vibrant left-leaning congregations in those denominations that I think you would really love….but there are also many other congregations in those denominations that are more like the scary Fundie Protestant churches you are trying to avoid. Investigate and see.

    4) Become a Hare Krishna. Just because I want to see your hubby in the outfits.

  15. Matt

    Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck just released a great book on the growing Socialist Christian movement and what a load it truly is. Why We’re Not Emergent. It is a must read.

  16. Did you mention ‘Ignatian?’ Did you say Jesuits are tolerant to all religions? Ha

  17. Morningside Mom's Mom

    My most comfortable place of worship I learned from the Muslims. We were living in Somalia, a country that fits all biblical discriptions of the wildness. Every day, all my employees moved outside three times a day. I decided to follow. They prayed, I looked for the prettiest thing I could see (some times it took some searching, but at least there were almost always clouds) and thanked God (no matter how it is spelled or pronouced) for the item of beauty. In moments of desperation I still find this as a great way to pray.

    What I miss about the church we once attended is the intellectual discussions that we held every Sunday. Conversations on how, what or where on searching for a meaning of life and our actions in that world. No black or whites, no right or wrongs, just discussion on a universal subject. Why?

  18. Your Hot SIL (not Meryl, you doofus)

    Well, Alumbrados, if we were in 17th century Spain, you’d definitely have me dead to rights. (But, of course, I’d ultimately prevail, what with my chief weapons: fear, surprise, and the comfy chair.) However, my own experience was with modern Jesuits, who are, in large part, exceptionally liberal and even radical. My Jesuit pastor in Washington, DC, for example, was only partly accessible, due to his frequent trips to jail on civil disobedience anti-war protest charges.

    Google a few Berrigans if you truly haven’t been aware of the substantial left wing of the Jesuit order.

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