Help me define Christianity and I might just go back to church.

I don’t think I want to be called a christian anymore. Here is my story, I grew up in a Christian household and every Sunday we would all wear our Sunday best, rain or shine, hungry or full and go to church. The idea of praising the most high, an all seeing being, God, made the experience of church both scary and surreal. I mean here I am and I am going to be in the presence of God , that was big, that was huge and that was church. I knew my bible verses. I knew my church hymns, the Lord’s prayer and all that guaranteed me a spot in heaven. The idea of hell was terrifying, actually it still is. I was taught that for you not to go to hell you need to be good. And the best example of good in church is no one else but the pastor.

The pastor seemed more powerful than any being around. The pastor spoke to God and God spoke to the pastor. We told the pastor what we wanted from God and he would deliver the message. If our prayers are answered it’s thanks to the pastor by the Grace of God. This was the way it was. This was my childhood and a bit of my adult life until I realised that life is not just black and white, there are grey areas too and that’s what slapped the church out of me. The grey areas. The reality of what church has become. In a way it crushed my faith and spirit. My santa clause didnt exist anymore. The horror. Well not horror but the bitter truth. Church isn’t the same anymore. Imagine that in bold letters on a front page of a gossip tabloid.

HORROR! CHURCH CHANGED, GIRL REALITY CRUSHED.” That’s how it would go.

So here is the deal, we want happiness, we want good health, wealth and all this world has to offer. If one person says they don’t want that then they are lying. Even monks have things they want like peace. We are humans we either have a need or a want and most of the time it’s both. That’s why we even go to church. We believe that God will answer our prayers and grant our needs. When we go to church we tell our pastors and they usually have a solution or they will pray for a solution so we believe in them and trust in what they have to say because they have a direct telephone line to heaven. Now what happens when the pastor’s solution is just too ridiculous or just plain harmful, what then???

Here is a story you probably won’t believe or you will because all this is just too normal these days. A pastor here in South Africa had an alter call (when everyone with problems at church stands up and goes to the front to be prayed for). Now there is nothing wrong with that but what’s crazy or shocking is what the pastor told the congregants to do. The man told his congregants to eat grass and even drink petrol. Yes petrol. The one you use to fuel up your car. He told them to drink petrol and they would be healed.

Sit down and close your mouth. I know, it’s shocking right? Wait till I tell you about the rats and snakes. Yes there are rats and snakes in this story too. I told you you wouldn’t believe it. So another unbelievable incident with a pastor was when he told his congregants to eat snakes and rats. Apparently they would also experience some divine intervention. The sad part is that people believed all this and still do. You run away from a live snake (well if you don’t , I do), so why would you eat a snake whether dead or alive it doesn’t matter. It’s a snake. It doesnt stop there, another pastor thought it was a great idea to spray pesticide on or in peoples eyes because… well who cares why he did it. Its pesticide, its for roaches and insects. Unless his congregants were villains from the MIB franchise there is and was no reason for that. These things are all dangerous or rather harmful to a person’s health so why do all that? What gets me the most are the people who clap their hands and praise while people are being fed petrol. Are we so desperate for miracles that we threw away our ability to think?

However in all honesty if a person says they have a method on how to achieve wealth and riches then people naturally flock to the person. It doesn’t matter how crazy it sounds. They don’t have to pay much, sadly they just have to put away their common sense and put their lives in danger to get all those luxuries. People are so sick of being poor and sick that they believe anything a pastor would say.

Pastors these days don’t live in shacks and drive old beat up cars we call skorokoro. No, they live in big houses, eat fancy foods and drive cars so expensive that the price of the car could feed 100 families for a year or two. The irony in all this is that the congregants are the ones paying for all this lavish lifestyle. Sadly they don’t see that. They just want the wealth and miracles. They are attracted to that. If a pastor is wealthy then God is with him and if God is with him then they believe that that’s where their salvation lies. People want miracles and these pastors provide ‘miracles’.

I was angry and hurt. To be quiet honest I still am. I feel like a religion in which I was raised under, a God I was told loves all people was disrespected. Again that’s just the thing, when all these things are done, they are done in the name of religion. Not only do we find fault in the pastors, we also find fault in the religion. They are a small speck and yet they represent a huge thing and because they have tainted it, the whole thing has gone bad. I believe that religion is a beautiful and sacred thing. It builds and keeps a community together. I also believe that its most beautiful teachings are love and peace. Whether it’s Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and other religions, I believe that the ultimate message they carry is love and peace. You shall love one another and you shall not kill. Now how is it that I have to swallow a rat, a snake, drink petrol and other things just to be a part of it.

I don’t condone violence at all but people wonder why churches are being attacked and why people don’t pray any more. If people don’t know something they usually attack it, if people feel that wrong things are being done to others they attack and if people feel like their beliefs and ways of life are being attacked then they fight back. People want normal, they want what they know and they want what they understand. They can’t handle change especially when it goes against what they stand for.

I’m not attacking religion or churches and I’m not against them, I’m against people being hurt and being made fools. I just want to know what changed? Why can’t it be the way it was? Why can’t religion be of peace and love and being a family. There is no way I will give my baby sister a snake to eat dead or alive just because she is sick. How can I make her drink petrol? Then why is it that a pastor who is supposed to be a father of the church thinks it’s okay to make someone drink petrol?. What happened? What went wrong and how do we fix it?

As I’m writing all this the little girl in me that used to go to church every Sunday and say her prayers is wondering. Wondering if God sees her dilemma? Did He really tell pastors to do all this? What about hell, is she going to hell for questioning all this?
It’s a debate that goes on and on in my head. Not only in mine but many Christians and other religions. I just want to know what Christianity is in this day and age? Is it what I read in the bible or what I see in churches currently? Am I still evil if I choose to not be called a Christian? I don’t know this new miracle obsessed religion. I don’t know these money obsessed ministers, I don’t know these harmful pastors, I don’t know this religion.

That’s why I want to go back to find out what Christianity is. What the purpose of a church is, what the purpose of the pastor is. If I am to call myself a Christian I need to know what it is and when did it change. If any of you have a clue please help me out. I’m lost and I’d like to find my way back.

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3 thoughts on “Help me define Christianity and I might just go back to church.

  1. Wow. That’s a lot to unpack. I don’t know if anything I can comment on will help, but I’ll share a little of what I’ve experienced and where I am. I grew up getting dressed up and doing church on Sunday mornings, too. I look back and I’m thankful my parents provided that introduction for us and that we were given our verses and Lord’s Prayer, etc. to memorize. But there were flaws, as there are, it seems, with any church, and I now attend a church much different from that one – similar beliefs but completely different application. Basically, it seemed that one church believed a lot of the words but didn’t put them into practice. The church I’m in now regularly challenges Christ-followers to put what they believe into practice (if you want to check it out it’s http://www.mecklenburg.org).

    Since it sounds like you’re familiar with the churchy stuff, I’d say that the beliefs of Christianity today can still be summed up in the Bible at John 3:16 (God loves us and made a way for us to be re-connected to him) and the application part of how we are to put it into practice is summed up in Jesus’ answer to the religious leaders who were trying to trick him in Matthew 22:35-39 (we should love God and others). And there’s a lifetime work ahead figuring out what and how those play out in a practical way.

    Granted, as you’ve noted, there are no shortage of people who have a skewed perspective on what it means to be a Christian or who manipulate what little they do know to prey on vulnerable people. But I’ve also encountered on my journey some less loud, but every bit as impactful, people who live as Christians in a thousand quiet and meaningful and intentional ways. I had a conversation with a friend recently and we were lamenting any number of issues that we thought we’re going wrong in the world, and it helped me to think of the myriad people I know who were living as best they could to love and serve other people.

    Our Pastor is well known in our church for telling the Christ-followers in the group that “It’s not about you!” so that we’ll get off our butts and do what we can to show God’s love and our love for others. For now, that’s the only way I see for combatting the lies and manipulations that come from other directions. Maybe that’s what pastors should be doing? Tell others God loves them and then encourage and equip them to love others. And the church is to be a group of people committed to loving God and loving others? In any case, it seems Christianity is at its best when it is upward and outward focused.

    I don’t know if any of that will help. I do believe faith journeys are absolutely meaningful to engage with. I also believe that being a Christian is a personal choice that is rooted in wrestling with some of the claims of the Bible. Pursuing any form of living that resembles a Christ-follower has been a fascinating and humbling journey for me. I’d like to think I’ve had some good moments; I know without a doubt I’ve had some epic failures.

    Thanks for posting. You’ve encouraged me to think more about this and consider deeper what it means….which maybe can explain any parts of the answer that seem random…the thinking took me in a couple different directions! Good luck to you on your search. I hope you will find reason to continue it.

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    1. Hey Rebecca, firstly I’d like to thank you for taking the time to actually read an comment on my post, it means a lot and I read your comment and I must say it really helped me to put a lot of things into perspective. I realise that because of what I’ve seen I actually started to see all churches in bad light and which was not really okay because many churches are different. I hope to also find a church that practises the same beliefs and has a different approach because I think that’s the problem. The approach to the whole religion or Christianity idea.
      I guess I also need to be around people who can feed me spiritually because I’ve seen how beautiful fellowship can be and that’s what I’ve been longing for. I am very greatful for your comment as it has helped me a lot. I wish you all the best and may you be happy. Oh and I will also check out the link to your church. Thank you very much.

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      1. Hi – thank you for your kind response. I wish you well on your journey; it’s always nice to meet another traveler along the way. I hope you’ll be able to find a church with the approach and beliefs matching. I recall being surprised by how tough that can be when we were church hunting! Thanks again for being so gracious in your response. Good luck to you!

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