Religion As A Spectrum

When I first sat down to write this blog post I had come to the realization that regardless of what you believe, belief often exists on a spectrum that can actually tie people of different faiths closer together than those of the same spiritual background. But as I explored this idea more I came to the realization that as much as I’d like to believe that religion is a spectrum, scripture tells me the unpopular message that I should be totally sold out to God or not believe in him all. 

While talking with a friend who is Muslim, I discussed the idea that in many ways, though I am Christian, I might feel closer to a Muslim who is religious than a Christian who isn’t that religious. At my current stage of life I am growing in my personal walk with God but have encountered countless people who have told me that religion is good, but not if it becomes too important in our lives.

I’m reminded of the guy from a dating app who warned me of his aunt who never got married because she was so religious and spent all her life serving God. Or well-meaning friends who see completely following God as a loss of sorts because of what could be understood to be rigid rules within Christianity.

The idea that I could connect with a Muslim more than a less religious Christian was crazy to me at the time because for a long time I held schemas in my head of what it meant to be a Christian versus believing a different faith. And to me, there was no way that I could really connect with others of different religious backgrounds.

The idea of connecting with someone of a different faith was first planted in my head years ago. I was hosting a GIG or Group Investigating God with a college friend and most weeks our group consisted of the executive team from the Atheist/Agnostic club at our college. During our last meeting I invited a Muslim friend and was surprised by how my Muslim friend and I defended faith and the existence of a God, though to us this God was different. Because to believe at all is to share something beautiful in common, compared to a person who does not believe in the existence of anything.

But before we can really look at the intersection of faiths, let’s look at how I personally define what it means to be a Christian vs. a Muslim.

Defining a ‘Christian’ 

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First, we encounter the argument of how you choose to define what it means to be Christian. For the purposes of this post- I’ve indicated how I categorize someone as almost a “baseline” Christian. I realize that you the reader may have a different definition of what being a Christian means.

And even as I tried to define a “baseline” Christian I wondered if it was fair to say that they tithe because I’ve heard that very few people actually do this. Then there are people who love God but regularly miss church.

Defining a ‘Muslim’ 

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I asked a friend how she defines a Muslim and she indicated the above and clarified that she also considered that recognizing one God, the day of judgement, and believing Mohammed is a prophet is enough.

The Intersection 

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You can see above how the intersection between how “close” you can feel to someone who also holds faith, even if they believe in a different God. That is compared to someone who is a different faith but isn’t as religious.

I was honestly super proud of this realization until I realized that I was missing one important fact.

God Doesn’t Want Christians On a Spectrum 

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To follow and listen to God’s word instructs me of the fact that God doesn’t want Christians on a spectrum. Thus negating the entire that a spectrum could even exist. 

Revelation 3:15-16 New International Version (NIV)
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

The reality is that Christianity cannot exist on a spectrum because scripture instructs that you must either you are completely sold out for God or you should not believe in him at all.

The danger of our society is a culture in which people decide that they are kinda sorta Christian. This is a topic that was spoken about this past Sunday at my church.

It also begins to become easy to think that giving 10% is a lot if you surround yourself with other people who don’t give at all. But God’s standards for serving him are radically not in relation to those in our lives and instead is revealed in his word.

As I grow as a person and in my walk with God I am also learning to respect the journeys of others and realize that though scripture is clear, we might still be on a spectrum of belief. But while on this spectrum, I think we cannot deny the command from scripture to avoid at all costs, lukewarm Christianity.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Can Christianity exist on a spectrum? Is my definition of following Christ too rigid? 

Let’s Stop Glorifying All Nighters

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The above was written by Abe Joy during small groups at church. This past Saturday we had small groups at church centered around the idea of “rest”. I stole an activity I learned in grad school and had my small group each write about rest and crumple up their sheet. Then each member in the group picks up someone else’s paper and we take turns reading each other’s writing. The above is what Abe Chach wrote:

“A rest in music is a portion of any piece of music where an instrument pauses. Rests are important to provide variety in rhythm, ease tonal fatigue and signal musical divisions in a song….”

Spending time in our small groups we began to share how “stress” and a lack of sleep is glorified in our culture.

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We joked that often times when people tell us they haven’t slept all night, our response is “glorifying”, for example, one might say, “Wow! I don’t know how you did that…” When in reality not sleeping actually represents a lack of time management and one rarely responds, “Wow! You must not know how to manage your time…” But that’s really what an all-nighter means!

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Just as how music is incomplete without rests, our lives need rest. We are reminded in the bible of the “golden ratio”, 6 days of work and 1 day of rest. The bible warns us especially in Proverbs about too much rest. I was tempted in our group to say “rest” is our natural state- it’s not! We must rest,  but we must also work.

IMG_1394.JPGI really believe God wants more for us than sleepless nights. He also doesn’t want us sleeping all day! My challenge for my readers today is to ask yourself, do you take your rest seriously?

Hope

People are born inherently selfish.  At the end of the day, all that matters is me, myself and I.  It’s a sad but necessary truth to come to terms with.  I see it in my everyday life; I see this in myself.  As much as I want to believe otherwise the truth is so clear.  Think about it.

In our friendships we care about how we feel.  Would we really continue a friendship with someone who really needed us if being friends with them made us feel bad?  I sincerely doubt it.  I don’t even blame myself for feeling this way.  There have been so many times when I’ve known a friend has needed me, but I have thought about myself instead.  I think about how I feel and whether or not I am being benefitted.  I think about whether or not I will be hurt.  It takes every ounce of love in me not to be this person who I so desperately want to be.

This has been my life’s story.   I feel like so much of my life has been spent struggling with understanding the person I want to be and the person that God wants me to be.  I never wanted to be the Christian girl.  It was a stigma I had avoided as early as possible.  But that is what I am and I am now proud of it.  So much of my time is spent struggling with anger, jealously and pettiness.  This is the person that I want to be in the moment.  This person who feels her blood boil in rage because of whatever reason.  The type of person who only cares about myself at the end of the day, as sad as that may be.  The type of person who I want to be, in the moment.  The person I desperately try not to be.

I sometimes don’t want to be around people.  I do not want to love.  Love is a choice.  I know it because sometimes I choose to love.  But despite everything that I have said, God still sees me and he loves me.  He knows that I am imperfect, petty, angry and sometimes just mean.  God knows this but somehow he loves me so much.

God is selfless.  So selfless that he gave his very own son to die on the cross for our sins.  He chooses to love us knowing our every downfall.

That is why I have hope.  I hope in a world filled with misery and shame.  So much pain and violence and hurt- yet I still have hope.  I have hurt so many people and I have felt so hurt but the only thing I know I can cling to, is my hope.

I remember hearing a song once that said just this.  “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteous”

Where is your hope built?

Santa is real?

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Yesterday my mother told me that Santa was real.  Keep in mind that I am a nineteen year old college student.  At first I kind of just made a nervous chuckle and then decided to ask her why she thought Santa was real.  “He’s in our department stores, on our wrapping paper, drawn on our cards.  He’s definitely real” she retorted.  And in many ways, she’s never been more correct.

Santa Clause may not be real in the mythological sense.  He doesn’t actually deliver presents to our house and come down our chimneys.  But he’s very real in so many other ways.  Our culture thrives on the idea of him coming and he fills our thoughts and minds in a very real way.

We’ve forgotten what the actually meaning of Christmas is anymore.  Jesus wasn’t even born on December 25th, yet we give each other gifts and go into credit card debt pretending that he was.  If anything, Santa takes the gold on Christmas.  And with that same idea, Santa is very real.

It really all depends on the way you define real.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Nina

You’ll never be anyone but yourself, and that’s amazing.

I felt the sudden need to write about this and considering that its 1 in the morning and I doubt I’ll be able to fall asleep anytime soon, why not write?

I’m reading a book about an Indian girl who grows up in a middle class mostly white suburban neighborhood and struggles to blend in.  In example, the life of Nina as well as the protagonist in the novel Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier.  I don’t want to really ruin anything for those of you who want to read it, but I will tell you that the protagonist is not happy with herself.

She’s so desperate to be anything but herself that she blends in more and more.  I couldn’t help but think, “How sad is that?”  Instead of embracing what makes us unique as human beings we long just to blend in.

It reminded me of something I struggled to realize when first entering college but now feel so happy to know.  I’ll never be anyone else except who I am, and that is amazing.  It’s an amazing feeling to accept yourself for who you and understand that not everyone will find you endearing.  And that its okay not to like doing things that other people enjoy doing.

I remember thinking beauty was something black and white.  Either you are born with a pretty face or you’re not.  But that’s not true, not even in the slightest.  A pretty face means you are pretty but being beautiful means being beautiful inside and out.  Finding that in a person is hard to do.

Psalms 139:13-14 reads

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”

You are created the way that you are created for a reason, never doubt that, even for a second.  Because more than developing piss poor self esteem and self worth, you are demeaning God’s work.  God created you to be you for a reason.

So I find myself tempted to alter myself and to fit a mold that will blend in with everything else.  But God created me to be different.  I will never stop loving to take pictures to capture random moments, or even fight for women’s equality in seemingly stupid ways.  It’s who I am.

And I never want to be anyone but myself, because I am amazing.