Ok so why was I angry with God (for both existing..and not existing)? Let’s roll on back and dissect it a bit.
Anger is a secondary emotion. So when someone says “I’m angry”, they are also something else. Anger is often a guarded substitute for a feeling of vulnerability. It may stem from anxiety, frustration, shock, fear, or rejection.
I went to many different churches growing up, usually just to spend time with my friends because in exchange for a Saturday night sleepover and subsequent Sunday at their house, I had to get dressed up and go to church with them. I knew other folks at the church. I knew a bit of the stories they talked about. I even knew a few of the songs. But everything seemed so boring, and when I asked “Why do you go to church?” the answer was always “Oh, we just do. We always have.”
I asked my mom, “Why don’t we go to church?”
“We have other things to do on Sunday. You can find God elsewhere you know.”
We never really had discussions beyond that regarding religion. My mom taught my you don’t need the Bible to live a moral life, and I believe that to be correct. She said if you default to “I’m a good person because the Bible tells me to be one, and how to be one”, then maybe you aren’t as good a person as you think you are. Kindness, love, compassion, empathy, understanding, patience.. all of that should come to you both through and outside of the Bible. It is not exclusive to Christianity.
Oddly enough, C.S. Lewis addresses this “cultural crossing” of kindness as a reason why he was drawn to his faith and evidence for God in everything, and I’ll try to touch on that in a later post I have lined up (I’ve been doing an awful lot of thinking and reading lately, and I think faster than I type, but I’ll try to get the blog up to speed with my journey shortly!).
Ok so back to being angry. And going to church.
The two were somewhat related. At least, they are now. Here’s how:
I stopped taking “I go to church just because” at face value. I wanted to know why. Why why why. Is my friend who doesn’t go every Sunday not as good a Christian as the girl who goes every Sunday but picks on people in her class? How does this work?It became a source of anxiety.
I stopped going. If I eliminated the source of the questions, I eliminated the problem. Or at least I postponed it for 16 or so years.
In high school I got into politics. And politics and religion are fantastically and hopelessly intertwined, since the use of one can bolster the other (and which one does which is also interchangeable to an extent). I’m socially about as liberal as you can get. I’m so socially liberal that while I understand where conservative fiscal policies come from, my empathy says I’d gladly have a little less if I knew my neighbor who had nothing was guaranteed enough.
However, in the United States, the conservative right is also more outspokenly Christian. It’s “their thing”. They know it. The politicians sure know it. And we know it. Sometimes, I think they tried to lay claim to it so if you say you are a Christian and not conservative, well maybe you should try going to church more!
And that mindset really drove me away from the idea of church. How can you control the notion of church and twist it to fit your political and social ideology when your ideology is so far from the message you claim to preach? It was so astoundingly absurd and the irony killed me. I was frustrated.
I attended a few services with a local megachurch and saw how openly they preyed upon the assembly in their church for monetary gain. I watched a well dressed man guilt money from the hands of people who were much less well off than him, and say it was “for the good of the church”, but then say how they money was going to “a beautification” project within the church rather than back into the community. He convinced his assembly that by beatifying the church, more people would be drawn to it and they could better bring the Word of God to people. This is where the shock set in.
I got my first taste of the Westboro Baptist Church. I knew they were nuts. I knew they were twisting the words to fit their narrative. I assumed everyone would rush to distance themselves from them in every way possible. I expected to see grace as people pushed messages of love in the face of hate. And many did. But there were sects of people that said “You know they’re pretty awful. But they’re kind of right on some things.”
No. No no no no. Stop there. For the first time, I feared my neighbors. How can your normalize that behavior, and then go to church on Sunday, read from the New Testament and say “Praise Jesus”?? Did you not pay attention?
And last was the rejection. “I don’t understand any of this. I highly doubt God exists. And if he did, and he wanted me to know that, he’d have shown me by now.” I marvel at science on a daily basis. And yet there were people refuting basic principles of micro and macro evolution, the age of the earth, denying that we came from stardust. They sounded like they might as well be saying the world is flat and the sky is the terminus of our universe! Rather than ever answer my questions, or ever offer up why God and church was important, all I got was “Maybe church isn’t for you. If you doubt God that much, and you don’t believe he exists, I’m not sure it’d going to do much for you anyway.”
And my doubt became disbelief. (The two are not the same. Doubt and faith are not mutually exclusive, and that’s a bone I’ll pick on many many many times in the next few weeks).
So I had anxiety about church. And frustration. And shock. And fear. And rejection.
And I was angry at this “thing” called church.
So naturally, when I started my trek here, I thought “Let’s round up some of those burning questions and get them answered.”
I had told my boyfriend on our last meeting together, after he had broken up with me, and shortly after I had started to seek God, that I was in fact reading the Bible and asking questions. He kind of laughed and said, “Why? Who is going to answer them?”
That hurt actually, because that’s been the case for my whole life. Between no one answering the questions, and eventually me not being willing to listen, I was pretty resigned to just hate God and move on with my life.
One of my first questions was: Where the hell does the word Church come from anyway???
So here it is, and take from it what you will, but this eased a lot of my pain with the notion of “church” and made my readings of the Bible for more “free” than they were before.
“Church” is not Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin or even Greek. It’s German. From the word “Kirche”. Kirche is a slow bastardization of “kuriakos”, which in Greek roughly meant “pertaining to the Lord”. It doesn’t sound so bad yet. Just hang tight.
If the translators of the King James Version of the Bible had substituted the word “kirche” for every time the Bible said “kuriakos” we’d be in business. No harm done. Except they didn’t. The word “kuriakos” only appears in the New Testament two times. They replaced the word “ekklesia” with the word “kirche” one hundred and twelve times.
“Ekklesia” appears 115 times in the New Testament (additional times if you include other grammatical forms) and is replaced by “church/kirche” in all but three: Acts 19:32, 39, and 41, referring to a town council.
“Ekklesia” translates to: The called-out ones. “Ekk/Ecc” means “out” and “Kaleo” is “to call”. These days the only retention we have of the word is “ecclesiastical” which is “of or relation to Christian church or clergy”. So, if we went by this, the clergy and those working directly for The Church are the only “called-out ones”. That was done almost entirely on purpose.
Ekklesia meant the summoned ones. A convocation. A assembly. The body of Christians “called out” of the Roman and Judean system to come together as a separate COMMUNITY. No man was to rule over them but Christ. Anyone who was part of that assembly was by definition ecclesiastical. It is a word that is unlimited and boundless in size and formation.
In 325 AD, “The Church” joined the State under Constantine. Those involved heavily in The Reformation were all in civil government, so this relationship continued. The pope was kicked out of England and King Henry VIII took jurisdiction over “The Church” there. It was important that the word “Church” was retained in the KJV because the government had jurisdiction over “The Church”. They did not have and could not have jurisdiction over a vague assembly, congregation, or convocation. But they DID have control over the physical buildings and thus could bind and limit Christianity under their rule. This was Edict Three of the KJV translation from Greek to English.
So take for example Psalms 22:22 where ekklesia was the original word in the Old Testament: I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
The congregation could be anyone. It could be vast.
In the New Testament, Hebrews 2:12 quotes Psalms 22:22 word for word. Except the change was made from ekklesia: Saying, I will declare they name until my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
Oh. Well now its only within the church. It’s much smaller.
The change then becomes quite obviously a politically fueled edit. And they took a lot of the power out of the word. When you’re trying to convince me that God is everywhere, and show me that is in everything, and that God wants everyone to seek him, and you suddenly limit the words you were given, you stop making your point really quickly.
When I learned that, it tore the walls down from this idea I had built up in my head about worship. There always seemed barriers to entering a church community. But if praise could simply happen any time there were a few people together, and that no one had jurisdiction over it, and that there was never supposed to be the level of control over the congregation like there is in many modern churches…the barriers melted away. It was supposed to be the farthest thing from politics at the time, and Congress and Church seem nigh indistinguishable some day now.
I needed to find a church that embodied this, and I was able to, through one of my dearest lifelong friends who I actually had gone to a “standard” church with when I was younger. I’d always felt out of place back then. She is a lifelong Christian who understands her faith deeply, and my limitations with it. And even she left the conventional church for some of the same reasons I had never felt welcome or “at home” at one. How powerful for me, someone with only a seed of faith, to find that someone with an abundance of it, felt the same sinking feeling about the lost power of the ekklesia.
Don’t get me wrong. If you have a fabulous community within your church, and the liturgical habits make you comfortable and give you joy and make you feel more at ease with your praise, by all means continue to enjoy it! As long is it is centered around community and not hierarchy, wealth, influence, or appearance. Ekklesia was always meant to be community apart from government, where the only ruler is Christ.