From the blog, The Obnoxious Side of Me.
This is a blog post (two actually) that I’ve been working on for quite some time. At this point, I’ve gotten it to about as good as I’m going to get it before I start having diminishing returns in editing. Anyway, without further ado….
I’ll apologize up front for the Grateful Dead reference, but the phrase really fits for me personally. What trip am I talking about? I am referring to my spiritual journey. It seems like I’ve gone (looking at things from a liturgical perspective) from a very structured denomination to what looks like a very unstructured denomination, and now I feel like I’m going back in the structured direction (and going into even more structure than I was before). In this post, I will lay out where I’ve been up to recently, the next post will be where I’m at now and where I see myself going from this point.
For my starting point, I was raised in the Lutheran Church. What I mean by this is my family was (is) Lutheran, and as I grew up, I went through baptism, communion, and confirmation there. Looking back, I can’t say during my growing up that I can really remember my having any issues with the teachings and theology of the Lutheran church. However, I do know that I always felt that I was different than all the kids my age (or my general age range) who were going through communion and confirmation. Looking back, I think it had to do with the fact that I knew how many of those other kids acted when they weren’t at church (and sometimes when they were), and to them it seemed to just be a formality, something that was expected of them. There was no thought or feeling behind it.
To me, however, it was something that I thought about and did have feelings behind what I was doing. One of the funnier things we did was to visit other ‘major’ denominations holding services in the city I lived in (you would think that was a way to lose your younger members, instead of confirming their beliefs and staying in the church). We visited Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, and Baptist churches among others. For me, I had a difficult time understanding why these other people went to all these other places to worship, and why those people believed (or seemed to believe) different things. I chalked most of it to ‘that’s just where they’re at’. Some of the more radical denominations I just figured were people who really wanted to believe something different. Little did I know that this was just the beginning a very wild and varying journey of faith and faith practice.
Several years later, as I began the relationship with the woman who is now my wife (has it really been almost 18 years since we met?) our discussions were often about Christianity. Her views on Christianity and the Church (whether Lutheran or otherwise) began to question and test what my beliefs were. Were those beliefs really different than mine? No. But how they were being ‘played out’ in the church I was in was beginning to become more of a concern and challenge. We did get married in the Lutheran church, but other than that, we really didn’t go afterwards. We did go one final time at Easter. The sermon delivered that morning left us both feeling we could not return. One of the ‘high points’ was the statement that Christ really didn’t have to die on the cross. Sorry, but when one of the main points of the Christian faith is put in an ‘overkill’ or ‘not necessary’ category, to me you’re just asking for trouble.
After we agreed not to go back to the Lutheran Church, we started to go to (I believe) an Assemblies of God church. The issue of joining that church became moot as I went active duty military and we moved away from Minnesota. We continued to look for churches of that type for the next year, but we ended up ‘falling’ into the on post church life once I got stationed in Germany. We kept studying and trying to understand things from the perspective we had been taught, but we had kind of ‘stalled’, as generic ‘protestant’ services tend to be bland and diluted. After the birth of our twins, and subsequent move back to the states, we then became involved in a full ‘Pentecostal’ church, complete with speaking in tongues, slaying in the spirit, and so forth. After a few months of our attending that church, which included a week of ‘revival’ meetings, we began to wonder about the truth of the whole movement. After some study, prayer, and consideration, we ended up leaving the movement entirely. It was a very difficult time, as we ended up losing almost everyone we had as friends at that time.
We then moved into a more ‘moderate’ or sedate version of Christianity, with the ‘reformed’ or for those who would better understand it as ‘calvinistic’ faith. Our perspective of salvation and other major aspects of theology fell into a ‘calvinistic’ view and generally going against the ideas of a more ‘arminian’ perspective. This is where we were at for about 10 years. These years were spent listening, reading, and studying the ‘doctrines of grace’ and other aspects of reformed theology. It was interesting and fulfilling, especially in terms of intellectual exercise. There were many times however, when I would wonder if I was ‘missing something’. My head was there, but there were times that my heart wasn’t. There were also times when the intellectual part (reading and studying) were difficult and confusing. It would be when someone would tell you not to listen to or follow the teachings of a certain person, because of a recent statement or writing they made.
You would then be left wondering if everything they said and wrote was ‘wrong’. I’d be left wondering sometimes how much of my beliefs would need to be changed to remove the error that particular person had put in to my belief system.