I Finally Told My BFF!

Unfinished post from June 24, 2010 (Wow)!

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.  I got to get on a plane, fly to another state and hang-out with my very best friend.  We hadn’t had the chance to do that since our college years and that was over 20 years ago :-O!!!  My how the time has flown by!!!  My friend and I have literally been friends from the womb.  We grew up right around the block from each other and she lived directly across the street from my aunt.  We went to the same elementary, jr. high, and high school and later attended and graduated from the same college.  We have been friends through some very good and fun times and also through some very bad and sad times and have managed to remain friends.  We have one of those relationships now where we might not have talked with each other in a while but when we do talk, it’s as if no time has elapsed since our previous conversation.  I know without a doubt that I am blessed to have such a relationship and I don’t take that lightly!

Our christian faith is another very strong bond we have always shared.   We have been prayer and accountability partners for each other many times throughout the years. We’ve inspired and admonished each other with scriptures and unctions from the holy spirit without any reservation whatsoever.  After a dream she had, we’ve even discussed the possibility of one day working together in ministry for the glory of God.

Needless to say with all the history between us I was a bit reserved about sharing with her where I stand now with my beliefs about God and the bible and organized religion.  Up until this point I had made a few comments here and there about changes I was experiencing but never had I come right out about it.  I know she’d sensed something was different because of how I’d respond (or not respond) to some of the things we talked about.  She wanted me to tell her more but I guess I just wasn’t ready and didn’t know how.  This trip changed all that!

To Be Continued!

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Our Tribal Borders and Change!

The truth, whether we like it or not, is that one of the most, if not the most, impactful influence in our lives that determine who we are and who we eventually become in the world, is our “Tribe”.  Generally speaking, the aspects of our “Tribe”  include our people, our place, our culture, our beliefs, our values, our social mores, and overall, our learned way of being and doing in the world. One dictionary defines “Tribe” as “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.” Considering this definition we can all agree that our “Tribe” is a very powerful influence in our lives. And what we learn from our “Tribe” sets a prism of how we view ourselves and the world around us.

Of course in most cases, our learned “Tribal” belief is that when compared to and with other “Tribes” ours is usually believed to the better one. I’m sure this probably stemmed from the survival instincts we’ve picked up along our evolutionary progression.  And it is our “Tribal” differences wherein lies the root of many of our world’s challenges when it comes to the question that Rodney King posed many years ago “Can’t we all just get along?”

Now although I am very proud, as well as thankful and appreciative of my “Tribe” and for the impact my “Tribe” has played in developing me into the person I am today, I can honestly say that I no longer live within the borders my “Tribe” set for me. This “Outside-of-Tribe-Border-Living” is the result of both a conscious decision on my behalf, as well as consequences resulting from circumstances beyond my control.

You see at some point in my life I could no longer deny the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing as I considered my own life’s’ path paralleled with some of the lessons I learned from my “Tribe”. In other words, I found that my real life” experiences didn’t always match up with some of the things I’d been taught to believe, and this became the cause of the cognitive dissonance. In efforts to reduce the dissonance, I have at times had to make the conscious decision to “change” in regards to things I was taught to believe by my “Tribe” in lieu of what my life’s experience at the time was teaching me.

Initially when this happened it was very scary territory indeed. But I am thankful I found strength, courage and wisdom deep within to make changes throughout my life! For those of you who find yourself in a similar predicament where you can no longer deny that you have “outgrown” your own “Tribal” borders, but are scared beyond measure to consider even allowing yourself to think or speak of it, let alone to deal with it. Then I offer you this truth. It is no secrete that as we grow, and stretch, and live our lives, we also “Change”. None of us or the same little people we were when we were born into our “Tribe”. Because of this it should be no surprise that there will come a time in every life when if we are honest with ourselves we realize things that once served us, serve us no more. Whether it be a belief, a relationship, a job or our favorite outfit we used to love to wear – over time we all change. Change is simply part of the process of living.

I encourage you to embrace the change that comes with being who you are and who you are meant to be. The truth is, you will always be a member of your “Tribe” even if you choose to live outside of your “Tribe’s” borders. Anyway, consider this, it is usually those people who choose to live outside of the “Tribal” borders set for them that end of making the greatest impact toward positive change in the world! Perhaps you are destined to be one of those “World Changers”.

“One thing I know for sure” as Oprah says, it will take “Outside-of-Tribe-Border-Living” if we are ever to, as Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently encouraged “…learn to live together as brothers…”. Perhaps if we consider that all the worlds various “Tribes” are only separate components of the greatest “Tribe” on earth, that being “The Human Tribe”. And if enough of us make a conscious decision to aspire and live lifestyles that foster the interdependence amongst “Tribes” then the closer we will be to living together in a way in which we won’t “…Perish as fools”. Consider that!

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Making a Positive Impact in the World on the Other Side of Christianity!

Please understand, it’s not that I no longer consider myself to be a Christian after having been committed and adhering to the Judeo-Christian faith and religion for almost 90% of my life experience! It’s just that currently as a result of most of the things I have come to believe at this point in my life; I’m 90% sure that most Christians (with the exception of those who identify themselves as Liberal” or “Progressive”) would no longer consider me a part of their group anymore than they consider “Liberal” and/or “Progressive” believers to be “Real” Christians either, sigh. I have whole-heartedly accepted the reality that “it is what it is” and that this is just the way it is at this stage in our spiritual evolutionary journey.

To make matters even more interesting, to the disappointment of some and the dismay of others who may consider themselves to be “Real”  or “True” Christians, I no longer feel afraid or guilty about what it is I believe (or don’t believe) anymore. Sidenote: for those of you who are just starting out on this journey, trust me the feelings of fear and guilt do dissipate over time so be patient with yourself . You will eventually get to the point where I am now when you just accept that (as I stated earlier), “it is what it is” and to add to that “You are who you are” as “I am who I am” and “we believe what we believe” and that it’s really OK!

You may even decide as I have, to no longer ascribe a “label” of myself regarding what I believe. This stance however is probably one of the most perplexing things for people because as a culture, we have come to the point of strongly believing in our “labels”! Labeling helps us to fulfill that insatiable need of believing that we know the answer to many of the “whats”, “whys”, and “hows” of life.

However, if we are really honest and true with ourselves, we know that there are far more “unanswered” questions in this life’s experience than we openly like to admit and are comfortable accepting. Somewhere along the spiritual and evolutionary journey “not knowing” became associated with fear, and it scares most people beyond measure to live in a space where “not knowing” is the atmosphere that encompasses them.

I don’t blame us though because I know it’s our cultural disposition. We’ve been cultured (at least in the West) to be “answer driven”. We take pride in being like the smart kid in the classroom whose arm desperately waves from side to side because they always KNOW the answer to the question the teacher is asking vs. the kid who for what could be a multitude of reasons doesn’t know and instead slumps down in the chair desperately hoping that they are not called. But enough of all of this for now, take a breathe.

Getting back to the title (and intent) of this article, one very important truth I believe those of us who remain spiritual on the other side of Christianity need to catch hold of is, that making a positive impact in the world doesn’t have to end with the reality of no longer believing that the most important reason we were created is to evangelize a lost and dying world to convert to our faith which is our “reasonable” service and ultimate purpose/mission.

If you were like me, then you are, or were, at one time, VERY involved in church and ministry in some way or another. You also probably believed that when it really came down to it, your humble Christian service of persuading others to “give their lives to Christ” and live according to the tenants of Christianity was essentially the most important way you could positively impact the world!

This being so, you may currently find yourself in what might be described as an awkward, unplanned, unexpected,  and unknowing territory. And you may now be thinking “How am I now going to positively impact the world?” Well my encouragement for you today as you muddle through this experience (and you will get through this experience) is : HELLO – YOU CAN STILL POSITIVELY IMPACT THE WORLD FOR GOOD!!!” And, YES, there are still people waiting for your gifts and talents so don’t be afraid to start using them again to serve humanity in some capacity. People still need you and you can still make the world a better place for more people than you may realize. However, it will most likely be a “different” group of people than you thought you’d be helping, but nevertheless they are there – waiting for you!

Soooooooo, take off the cloak that may have temporarily covered you up and has made you feel and believe that the ONLY way you could positively impact the world was through church and ministry. Allow yourself to think about how many other people outside of church and ministry have already accomplished this feat! And know for sure that there is still a LOT of work to be done in our world to make it a better place for the over 7 billion people who inhabit it!

Come on and join us by getting back to doing your part (whatever it may be). Forget about the naysayers. They will always be there. Instead let their doubt of you inspire you to get back to doing what you can towards making a positive impact in the world –YES, even on the other side of Christianity!

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Gandhi Went to Hell?

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

This is one of my favorite quotes!  I am one who most definitely agrees with Gandhi and with the combined words of Thomas Banyacya, Alice Walker and President Barack Obama –“We are the change (or ones’) we’ve been looking (waiting) for”!  In my initial post I talked about how I have tried to recollect exactly what it was that tipped the iceberg for me and resulted in me having the courage to question, doubt and re-evaluate everything I’ve been taught to believe about God and all those things associated with God.  After reflecting on my experience I realized that it hasn’t been just one single event, experience or circumstance but rather several of them over a long period of time – each one just chipping a little bit more away.  So today I attempt to start sharing about one of those iceberg tippers.  They will be in no particular order but shared as I am reminded of them so here goes ;-)!

It was a couple of years ago after reading Gandhi an Autobiography: The Story of My Experiences with Truth that I was sitting thinking about everything I had read about the life of this amazing human being when a very saddening thought formed in my mind. This thought of course was formed by my life experiences beliefs about truth (i.e. the word of God/the bible/Jesus — these things are/were the truth!). The thought that quickly surfaced (like rote memory) to my mind was the unfortunate “truth” that “Gandhi went straight to hell”!  I, like most all the Christians I know have been taught very well that it matters not how good a person may be or what good the person may have done in the world when it comes to life after death.  Goodness and positively impacting the world is not the pre-requisite for gaining salvation and thus making it into heaven.  We’ve been taught very clearly that the only way a person will see God and go to heaven saved from an eternal hell complete with damnation, fire, demons and of course the god of this world – satan himself,  is by the grace of God and the belief in ones heart and confession of ones mouth that Jesus Christ is the son of God. Christians are taught to believe that Jesus (God wrapped in the flesh) was sent to earth to save a lost humanity and to reconcile men back to the creator and loving father God in heaven who is awaiting the reunion of such sons and daughter to join him for an eternity in heaven’s paradise!  (Hmmmm…as a child hearing this which one would you choose?)

I clearly remember that day after going through this thought process that my mind just wasn’t satisfied with this hell-bound conclusion about Gandhi.  Sitting on the horizon was another thought that came to mind though not as pushy and strong as the first one but rather quiet but resolute like the shining son of a bright new day.  This thought was “hmmm…I don’t really believe Gandhi went to hell”! And with that I started to begin re-evaluating my whole belief system about heaven and hell.   I no longer was afraid to purchase and read “The Gospel of Inclusion” a book written by Carlton Pearson, preacher turned heretic according to fellow Christian believers (sidenote: it was an interesting read but not the direction I want to go today ;-)!

Anyway, I wondered if people ever really looked at the big picture of what it is they’re believing about who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.  For example, do people consider the fact that the current world population figures calculate that there are around 6.6 billion people in the world.  If you look at the world population by religious beliefs you’ll find out that there are roughly between 2.3 – 2.5 billion Christians worldwide. At present research shows that Islam (not Christianity) is now the fastest growing religion having between 1.1 – 1.27 billion followers.  Hinduism comes in at third with between 828 million to 1 billion followers.  Just considering these sheer numbers alone indicates that according to what I was taught to believe about God, most of the worlds’ human population who God created is headed straight to hell.  Would a God who is believed to be “Love” really be OK with the majority of humanity suffering this fate just because of a difference in beliefs taught by men who were taught by other men, who were taught by other men who were taught by other men (ok, I think you get my drift but just in case you didn’t) who were taught by other men, who were taught by other men (because you know that women couldn’t teach :-O) who were taught by other men about God.   Hmm…I don’t really think so.  I believe there has got to be more to God than this!  A whole lot more!!!  Something to definitely THINK about!!!

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Coming to terms with what I believe now.

It was only a few days ago I joyfully celebrated my 45th birthday!  I am the same age now that my mother was when she so graciously birthed me into the world in 1965 – Thanks mama!!!  Of course, I absolutely cannot imagine doing the same.  I love being a mother and all to our 3 beautiful children but the way of labor and delivery I want to see no more from a personal point of view. Now for friends, families and eventually my children, I’m game.  Well, not for my children any time soon!  Ya’ hear me!!!  Anyway, back to the subject matter at hand ;-)!

Up until about 2 1/2 years ago I was a bona-fide bible believing, scripture reading, studying, meditating on, quoting, fasting, never-miss-a Sunday or midweek service, tithing, sharing-my-faith, interceding, 100 percent heaven bound Christian.   As I write today I can’t actually remember the last time I went to church, or the last time I read one of my MANY bibles (had to be equipped with all the different translations ya’ know).  I was practically born and raised in the church and believed from an early age that being very involved in church (and later the ministry) was good service and that was a major part of my life’s purpose.  This of course is probably the reason that after a recent conversation with one of my oldest sisters about what I am experiencing she confidently told me that she’s sure that after my exploration (which she also did in her 40’s) I would come back to the realization that Christianity and the bible is the “real” truth.  “Train up a child…” right – sigh! Pretty much my whole life experience has been one lived through the lens of the Judeo-Christian religious perspective coupled with the African-American cultural experience in America.  And just in case you haven’t heard.  Black folks are said to be the most religious folks in America even after our ancestors “slavery” experience.  Kinda’ mind boggling if you REALLY think about it huh?

I have always been an avid reader as well as very introspective. And although I am not scared to “speak my mind” and “share my opinion”, overall, I’m one of those people who listens way more than I talk.  I find it fascinating to delve below the surface of things which probably explains why I am where I am today in regards to what it is I now believe.  I have often tried to recall what it was that actually tipped the iceberg for me and gave me the courage to even become comfortable with the idea (let alone the actual process) of questioning, doubting and re-evaluating everything I was taught to believe.  This has been no easy feat and one in which I still find myself struggling sometimes.  Yep, I have to consciously erase all the fear and guilt messages I’ve heard every since I was a child.  Questioning God, faith, the bible, the church, the pastor, the evangelist, the apostle, the prophet or your mama is just not tolerated if you are serious about your christianity.  Instead, for those who are of the Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Charasmatict, Mega-Church experience the belief is “if the bible said it I believe it and that settles it” – you learn that obedience and surrender means just doing what you been told to do and believing what you’ve been told to believe while trusting that God will justly take care of the rest and you will be rewarding for your obedience and your surrender.  When I really think about this I’m sure this mentality has to be one of the many vestiges of slavery (i.e.the master/slave relationship and the “how to survive being a slave”).  Slavery and bondage is a very horrible thing it is!!!

Let me wrap up today by saying although I don’t feel the need to put myself in a category regarding what I believe now I can say that I am not in the category of “atheist”.  I do believe in God, just not the one that most religions purport!  And with that said – I’ll save the rest for another day.  Gotta go and start the vittles to cooking ;-)!!!

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