The Unfundamental Conversion
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I Lost My God Innocence

March 20th, 2016 | Posted by Lana Hope in Faith | SE Asia

“You HAVE changed!” a friend from my old Christian circles said to me three years ago, when I first came back from South East Asia, alone and frightened.

We were outside a popular late-night burger joint in my home state. When pressed, I had spoken my opinion about evangelical hot button. Apparently my friend had heard that I had changed from somebody who read my blog, but when I said the wrong words, she now believed it for herself- I had turned into a liberal. Horrid.

Asia changed me, but for the most part, I haven’t felt that changed.

I pray and worship and live my life mostly the same way I did before. See, the doctrines that I use to believe and now reject – penal substitution atonement, eternal hell, inerrancy of God’s word – are intellectual things that have freed me intellectually, but they haven’t made me a fundamentally different person.

I still cook, eat, sleep. I still reach out to others, and I still battle depression as I did before.

From most angles, I simply haven’t changed. I just stopped assenting to some beliefs, beliefs that have nothing to do with how I brush my teeth, hold a spoon, the language I use, and the way I live my life.

But of course, I would be lying if I said I haven’t changed at all. Most people think I have changed because of doctrine, but as I said, doctrine has had little affect on me. What has changed me far more is the suffering I saw in SE Asia.

There is no other way to put it than to say that the suffering crushed my spirit. The horror I saw gave me nightmares, caused wailing, left me questioning God, and left me depressed.

When I got back from SE Asia, I didn’t leave my house for 6 weeks. I went SIX WEEKS with going nowhere. When I finally did start going places, I had panic attacks.

Guys, I saw kids in the sex industry, I saw a crime, I lived around the after math of sex abuse. I walked in slums and lived in this whole subaltern world that nobody shared with me but those who lived with me.

When injustice happens in the USA, all my friends tweet about it and facebook about. They share that whole horror world with each other and with me.

When a kid walks over the border into our camp in SE Asia, burned from head to toe, nobody shares that world with me but a few others, and the truth is, I didn’t really share that world with them. I was an outsider who knew about that evil and saw it, but as a white person outsider.

The suffering crushed me.

Three and a half years back in my home continent,  I think the biggest way I’ve changed is in how I pray.

For instance, I recently realized that I haven’t prayed that the candidate I want to win the presidency will win the presidency, not once. One thing that the world has taught me is that evil rulers rise and fall. The Bible says that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble; I don’t think God is personally going to interfere and put Donald Trump in his place. However, I do know that in the long term arrogance and pride won’t prevail, and in the short term, sometimes we as people get what we ask for.

This is the first election I consciously realized that I had not prayed, but four years ago, when I was living in South East Asia, I did not pray then either. At the time, I blamed my apathy on my location in the world, and the time difference (polls came in while I was asleep). Now looking back, I think the wear and tear of Cambodia had taken a toll on me. I had seen the destruction of past wicked leaders first hand. If God didn’t stop those wicked leaders, really, I didn’t expect much of God when it came to petty USA elections.

I also no longer pray and ask God for goodies. I don’t tend to pray, for example, that I have a smooth flight and that the officers don’t check my bags. If I fly and it all goes smoothly, I don’t say, “thank you Jesus.”

I don’t pray and ask God where I should study; I don’t ask God what I should study.

Truth be told, often I struggle to pray for others. I’ve seen so much suffering, and here in Canada, we have health care. Our medical concerns seem so petty, and I struggle to pray for them. What keeps me praying for these concerns  is that people ask me to pray for them. I figure if they have the faith, then I can pray and let their faith carry my words.

When I do pray, I don’t pray as innocently as I did before. For example, I often thank God for the clean air. After Asia, where the pollution counts are often 150+, I appreciate clean air. At the same time, I always laugh at myself for thanking God that the air is clean, because it’s not like God decided that my current city would have cleaner air than Asian cities; humans are directly involved in this. Location, of course, is also a factor; I live in a windy city, which keeps the pollution from settling in.

I also no longer spend hours praying when I get depressed or stressed. In Asia, I prayed for hours every week over my depression. Occasionally I pray and ask for strength, but I don’t lay around analyzing myself and begging Jesus to interfere either.

I do pray, however, but not to thank God for helping my cough go away quickly, or asking God to have a sale on chicken. My prayers are more to thank God for life, to thank him for loving me and caring for me no matter, for being the kind of God who knows my heart.

I thank God for the belief he has given me, and ask him to help me belief. I ask him to help my mind not wander too far away.

I also pray that I have peace and calmness and that someday I will find a community of family and friends again, to replace the void I lost when I walked away from fundamentalism. Usually, I follow that with, “I’m sorry if this is too personal of a request, but I do hope you are listening.”

So I see much value in prayer, but I no longer can pray innocently. So I pray when I can, and ask Jesus to intercede for me in every way, praying for me when I can’t or won’t.

 

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  • Lana, your post resonates with me a lot. You cover a lot of ground from your experience, and you do it honestly and openly. I think you are a good model as well as a good scholar. I particularly liked your reflections on prayer.

  • Lana
    I see 2 separate things going on in your blog. The majority of it stems from your experience in life and how it seems to have disillusioned you. I can understand that because of a microcosm scale I walked away from my faith in God in 1999. During that stint it was a result of seeing so many people calling themselves Christians, around me, who were doing things that Christians should not be doing. I committed Spiritual suicide, as I call it. I turned myself off to God, off to the bible, off to church, to christian radio and anything to do with God. I had very deep anger within me BUT what I did not do is become a hedonist, agnostic or atheist. I was between church at Athiesm which makes no sense at all but that is where I was. You experience is what you saw in Asia but how do you draw truth what from what you saw there? How does that cause you to throw out some of the things you believe about God?

    The 2nd thing you mentioned, that really doesn’t seem to go with the post but you did it to make a statement, my view anyway, is this……..

    See, the doctrines that I use to believe and now reject – penal substitution atonement, eternal hell, inerrancy of God’s word

    What caused you to come to these conclusions about each of these?

    Also, does your worldview now revolve around your experiences from Asia?

    • they just stopped making sense to me. no other reasons.

      • But why did that happen? Seduction of experience in Asia? Seduction of thought in college? Seduction of anger from Fundamentalism? Maybe all of them mixed into a bowl together? Maybe something else?

        • Not anger. Inerrancy for example is just a false way of looking at the bible. there are plenty of contradictions or problem areas in scripture. I’m not saying the bible isn’t an authoritative tet, but to say it’s free from all error is a stretch of truth. I quit believing in them because I was faced with the facts.

          • Can you explain how this affects, for example. your disbelief in penal substitution atonement ? This would say that Jesus death on the Cross was nothing.

          • there isn’t a correlation. I just don’t believe that Jesus died in order to satisfy God’s wrath. How would Jesus’s death satisfy his wrath? Instead of asking me questions, maybe you should ask yourself this.

          • Such an easy answer for me. It is from Isaiah 53.
            https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+53&version=NKJV

            So much throughout the book of Romans

            2 cor 5:21 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

            Romans 8:3-4
            3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
            4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

            Is there no authority here for you to know and believe? Even the OT is filled with shadows of the coming of Jesus as He even stated in John 5:39-40. Would you agree or disagree that no mere human could have put those books together and put those prophecies together without inspiration of God?

          • Those verses did no not say that Jesus died to satisfy the father’s wrath. they say that JEsus offered himself as a sacrifice. Big difference, don’t you think?

          • What does the bible mean when it says Jesus is a propitation?
            When the bible speaks about condemnation and Judgment what is that referring to? Is the Wrath of God something different? What was the purpose of Jesus Sacrifice?

          • as long as you think god is wrathful and about to spew has wrath on you, you will read the Bible differently than I do. Alternatively, you could read the Bible as a love story; it would change your perspective.

          • Why did Jesus die on the cross? Why did Jesus shed His Blood? How does that fit in with God being a God of love and a God of wrath? What are the reasons behind the veil?

  • sgl

    your commentary re: prayer is quite similar to richard beck who blogs at experimental theology. here’s the specific posts of his that your post reminded me of, so i thought you might enjoy reading a kindred spirit:

    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2013/02/this-ritual-of-hallowing.html

    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-i-pray-part-1-my-story.html
    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-i-pray-part-2-solidarity.html
    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-i-pray-part-2-choosing-sides.html
    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-i-pray-part-4-identity-and-gift.html

    altho i’m not religious, the above strike me as reasonable reasons to pray. (my hunch is that much fewer that 5% of people that call themselves christian have similar views to you and beck.)

    • Thanks. I think praying to learn to be quiet is a good reason. most religions have this discipline in some way or another; Christianity has nearly, nearly lost it altogether..

      • sgl

        forgot a link to a summary and preview of “the big silence” documentary:
        http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/big-silence/

        (arrrggh, it’s complaining i can’t reply to my own comment because it’s not active yet. then i try to reply to your original comment, and it complains i’ve already made this comment. maybe by adding this additional text it will get thru!! behold!?!?!)

        • uh, what? I don’t hae any commenting restrictions, I didn’t think. Maybe I should recheck them. good gosh. have you had trouble before? thanks for the link.

          • sgl

            can you check the spam folder? i’ve tried to reply to this for the last 2 days, and 4-5 messages got eaten. maybe the links made it think it was spam? if this no-link message doesn’t make it thru, i’ll have to try creating a new account.

  • ugh ugh. i am sorry about that. IT was in a disqus spam folders, not my wordpress spam folder. Sometimes I get pending notifications, in my wordpress, but never had noticed the spam problem. I can’t find anything in the settings that should have done that, but that’s disturbing.

    Anyways, thanks for the links on silence. Totally love this. Sorry you had all that trouble to get it to me.

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