"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Letting Go of God

Friday, April 21, 2006

Letting Go of God

Today on NPR there was a brief blurb about Julia Sweeney coming to Seattle. I was intrigued, as she was raised in Spokane and went to my alma mater (UW) before making it as a comedian. When I googled her name, this link (click title above) came up, to a "This American Life" segment in which she talks about her loss of faith. There are some very funny bits. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.


  1. Humorous and balanced. Shows that people who don't believe are still people, no more and no less.

  2. Dear Free,
    Here's another book I highly recommend: "If Grace Is True" by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. I'm finding comments worth quoting on nearly every page. For example, on page 133:
    When salvation requires a sacrifice, forgiveness and grace become commodities to be bought rather than gifts of God. More troublesome, Jesus ends up saving us from God rather than from evil. Jesus shields us from a vengeful God rather than leading us toward abundant life....Jesus is glorified at God's expense. Jesus is gracious and God is a coldhearted scrooge.
    I have dozens more I could print here for our readers.

  3. Many Trails Home4/25/2006 12:40:00 PM

    Give us some more, Sisu. We could all use inspiration and upliftment. MTH

  4. Sisu, I certainly hope you don't buy that line!

    I believe in the Trinity of God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- one God, inseparate and inviolable, forever and ever. These are the "faces" of one God, and I do not for an instant think that any one part of that God is vengeful, petty, or Scrooge-like. In my struggle to understand the Trinity, I think of the simile of a man, who can be a stern father, an amiable friend, or a lover -- three faces, one person, and none of them evil.

    You gotta remember, there's a lot of people writing a lot of books. Unfortunately, a lot of them are pure garbage and are written for one reason -- to sensationalize and make sales! You can't make sales unless you say something different than did the last snake oil salesman, and who cares if there is any rhyme or reason to it. It's different, it's break through thinking, it's a new and exciting view of the issue -- sound familiar?

    I apologize if I've offended anyone with the rant -- this one pushed a hot button!

  5. Well, evow, I can see you certainly are not ready to read a book like this. I was. It puts into words many of my own thoughts on this subject, thoughts I have struggled with for years. Maybe someday you will get to this point. Maybe you won't. Either way, it's OK.

  6. Many Trails Home4/25/2006 05:05:00 PM

    Have to put in my 2 cents. Cvow, I think you completely misinterpreted this quote. I think you missed the word "when": as in, "When" salvation requires a sacrifice, "then" God becomes vengeful, cold-hearted, etc. None of us (I hope) believes God IS actually vengeful, etc, but he has CERTAINLY been made out that way in the orthodox world.
    I'll throw one out to rattle your cage: I don't believe one bit in the "Trinity" of God. I personally prefer "Hear O Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One." The "One God" folks lost out to the Trinitarians in committee, that's all that's about. They had good old Constantine and his legions on their side. I could go on and on (and occasionally do).
    The aforementioned book, by the way, is by a couple of Quakers (to whom I am particularly partial) and is not some schlock new-age tome, of which there are plenty (I am also partial to non-schlocky new-age tomes).
    Smooth your feathers down there, cvow. (And to think I just commended you on your last posting! Just goes to show . . .) MTH

  7. "More troublesome, Jesus ends up saving us from God rather than from evil. Jesus shields us from a vengeful God rather than leading us toward abundant life....Jesus is glorified at God's expense."

    So, if I'm understanding you correctly, Jesus is NOT the sacrificial lamb who intercedes for us before God?

  8. MTH,

    if you don't believe in the Trinity, then a lot of serious discussion re LLL churches will be futile. What you, and Free, are writing about, if I'm not mistaken, is a basic unbelief of basic Christian doctrines.. preferring instead the ideas and reason of man. I have nothing against comparing and questioning religious practices and norms, but this seems to take it a step further.. It's one thing to help people question their denominations and beliefs through thoughtful discussion, it's quite another to lead them toward paganism and unbelief.. serious stuff!! Especially since many of the readers and posters here are quite young, it appears.

  9. sisu,

    your response to cvow is quite condescending don't you think? And you too, MTH! Cvow has a right to his/her opinions without being talked down to.

  10. Dear Anonymous right above me,
    Yes, cvow has the right to his/her opinion. I'm sorry if I came across as condescending. I didn't mean to. But don't I have the right to my opinion, too?
    What I was trying to get at is that I have been where cvow is. Maybe not quite as strident and (mental) arm-waving, but there still. If you've read previous postings over the past year, you know that I've come a long way in my travels along the spiritual path. I was now ready to read the book on Grace. Cvow doesn't seem to be at this point. That is perfectly OK with me. That's all I was trying to say.

  11. Many Trails Home4/28/2006 01:10:00 PM

    To our insomniac posters:
    Anon 1:42AM: Why you feel I was condescending to CVOW I have no idea. I think maybe you have an undeveloped sense of humor!

    Anon 1:34AM: My first response vanished into cyberspace, which is maybe a good thing, even tho I toned it down. I found your response very offending (reminded me of my OALC judgmental mother, which says a lot). So eventually in reverie (or prayer, if you prefer), I asked Jesus, "How should I respond to this?" And he said, "Respond with love." "How am I supposed to respond with love when I'm called a pagan, among other things?" And he said, "They called me these same things and much, much worse."
    I didn't get a direct answer. I gathered that I was supposed to figure it out for myself. How does one respond to this without anger, without judgment, yet without being "co-dependent" in appearing to accept it? Or should I just ignore it? Does anyone out there have any suggestions - can you model a response for me? I have much to learn. MTH

  12. MTH, the 1:34AM comment annoyed me, so I just didn't respond. When someone gives the attitude that they know The Truth and anything outside their limited sphere is verboten, they annoy me. I understand that they probably think anything outside their sphere is a path to Hell, and I doubt I can convince them otherwise. Such is our lot as humans--the True Believers and the Enlightened will each consider the other grieviously mistaken, and communication across the gap will be impossible. All I hope is that we stop when we find exchanging words to be futile, instead of moving to the next step and exchanging blows (literal or figurative).

  13. Well now, it seems that lots of knickers got in a twist over this discussion! I appreciate the folks who jumped up in my defense, but it's ok. I didn't take MTH's comments as condescending, as I pay pretty close attention to what MTH says -- even if I don't always exactly agree. However,MTH, I think you mistook why I was fussing about those quotes. I believe our salvation was bought with a sacrifice -- that of Jesus on the cross. With that in mind, the rest of it made simply no sense to me at all. Perhaps the fact it was completely out of context makes a difference and I did misunderstand. I reacted in the way I understood the quotes.

    On the other hand, I did think sisu was being not condescending but arrogant. I suggest, sisu, that you don't know what I have been, am now, or ever will be ready to read -- or where I am on the journey. Did you ever consider I might have already been where you are now, and moved even further?

    I sort of chuckled when I read Ilmarinen's last post about people "knowing the truth and anything outside their limited sphere is verboten" because that's exactly how sisu's comments sounded to me.

    I think it's sort of amusing -- sad, but amusing -- how quickly this discussion degenerated into finger pointing rather than a continued discussion. Good grief people! I thought we were talking and all of a sudden we're throwing stones. I now regret having thrown in my opinion since it seems to have caused such hard feelings.

    So where are we all? I understood this to be a forum of folks who had decided the OALC/LLL path wasn't acceptable anymore. Note I did not say it was wrong, just unacceptable to some of us. Where we've evolved to is seeking our path, wherever that might lead -- some down the path of other organized religion be it Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or whatever. I have many friends in all of those niches, as well as throwing in a few agnostics and even a number of avowed atheists. We have no problem getting along or discussing our individual walks. Can we do that here without the rhetoric? If we can't, I'm outa here.

  14. I am anon 1:34 and 1:42.. what I see happening here is doublespeak, MTH. You didn't actually answer the question, but became offended and consider yourself persecuted. I don't mean any of this in a confrontational or angry way, I'm just used to discussing things in an honest way and getting right to the point.

    Please do tell me if I'm wrong. But here's a question for anyone: If there are those who believe in the Trinity and the inerrancy of Scripture, in your view are they 'not far enough along the path'? Or are these valid beliefs for others to possess.. just wondering.

    It has nothing to do with OALC or any other LLL churches BTW.

  15. I've been called a lot of things in my life, but I don't think arrogant is one of them. That brought me up short! It may take awhile for me to accept that part of me, cvow, so please be patient.

  16. "If there are those who believe in the Trinity and the inerrancy of Scripture, in your view are they 'not far enough along the path'?"

    Anon 5:00AM,

    I reject the notion of a "path." Everybody has their own experience. Often, people leaving the LLL churches will move away from the fundamentalist end of the spectrum, because there's really not anywhere else to move:) But just because they move toward a more progressive understanding of things doesn't mean everyone goes through the same experiences and ends up at the same spot.

    As far as a literalist interpretation of Scripture, I think it's a misnomer. Nobody "literally" interprets the Bible. All of us, every single one, pass the Bible through our filters of interpretation. We interpret some parts of the Bible to be poetic, some to be narrative, and some to be prescriptive.

    Many of us would agree that the most useful way to interpret the Bible is to first try to understand what the original writers were trying to say. Using the "literalist" filter can be a hindrance to doing that because most literalists today pass the Bible through the filter of how THEY would have written the Bible instead of learning the literary genres and means of expression of the writers back in their time. Being able to step out of our uniquely modern perspective of literalism can open up the Bible in a new and far more meaningful way.

    In sum, it appears to me that literalists are mistaken because they are applying a restrictive, artificial, and modern filter to ancient litery forms that use a great deal of metaphor that can only be fully understood by learning more about the means of expression of that long-ago time.

    My turn for a question: do you literally think the sun went backwards?

  17. *litery should be literary

  18. Ilmarinen,

    this is anon 5:00AM.. I absolutely agree with you that there is no such thing as a path that will lead everyone to exactly the same place. What I also found disagreeable was the idea that there is such a path and that there is only one direction that this path will lead. As a Christian, however, I believe that there is only one Truth -- truth is not relative. This can be a problem in discussions such as this one, because if we are not coming at the discussion from similar premises then there will most likely be no fruitful discussion, except to debate whether or not Truth is absolute or is it relative.. and it won't get much beyond that.

    So, it seems to me, that many of the people who post here are not just moving away from fundamentalism into a more healthy, open and liberating way of understanding and believing what religion and faith are all about.. they are actually refuting Christianity itself. That's okay too, there is a time for that. But in my opinion that needs to be made clear to those who are still in the churches and are looking for answers. If they see unbelief as the only alternative because those it doesn't leave them much choice, does it! Do they want to reject the Jesus of the Bible altogether? Or do they want to know who Jesus really is...

    Another thing.. (sorry to be so long, but I spent some time here awhile ago and just popped in again this week).. faith in God should NOT be political. It's neither left nor right, conservative nor liberal, Republican nor Democrat, Christian, Jew or Muslim.. The God of the Bible calls all to come to Him.

    As to the word 'literal'.. I don't think I used that word. What I said was inerrant. What I believe is that the Bible is self-revealing as we study and read it. It starts to fit together. No, I don't believe in 'literal' as some do.. there are many different contexts. There are spiritual applications to ordinary circumstances and events. However, the Bible is timeless.. don't we see ourselves in the stories of David, Peter and so many others? It's the story of humanity, and that's ultimately where it gets its relevance. Their stories apply to us, and we see the consequences of the choices they made. There is so much more I would write, but it would be very boring to you LOL.

    I'm glad you pointed out that passage about the sun going backwards.. I just discovered it because of you! :-). Well, when I read it I thought "why not?" Is anything impossible with God? He created the world and set all things in motion, this COULD have literally happened, couldn't it? At any rate, whether we believe it or not doesn't really affect us one way or the other does it! Maybe one day we'll understand more about how/if it could have happened, but not today, it seems.

    I know that there are many things in this post that can be criticized and discounted, and that's fine. But I just want to speak as a believer, and not a doubter. We believers are out here, people! We aren't card-carrying Aps, well, maybe we are.. but we have our eyes wide open, and we, and the churches, are all the better for it!

    God bless you all!

  19. Anon 5:37PM

    It's definitely good for folks who've recently left the Apostolic Lutheran tradition to realize that there are many other avenues of Christian faith than what they were raised in. It troubles me a little, however, when anyone thinks they can define who is and who isn't Christian. If I'm interpreting correctly, it seems some are saying that unless you hold to specific doctrinal statements like the Trinity or Biblical Inerrancy, you are an unbeliever. When we realize that there have been professed followers of Christ throughout history who haven't held to Trinity or Biblical Inerrancy, it seems that we're just repeating the old LLL judgmentalism to define those followers of Christ out of Christianity. The Arians, the Arminians, the Calvinists, the Gnostics, the Hutterites, the Baptists, the Laestadians--all claimed to follow Christ, but few would recognize the doctrines of the others. What benefit do we get from saying that only Christians who follow MY understandings get to bear the name?

    As far as inerrancy, I guess you might have to define what you mean a little more. If you mean the same thing that I grew up with, you mean that the Bible should be taken to be without error of any kind, even under a highly literalist interpretation. There are two good reasons for not taking such an approach to Scripture. First, it's highly likely to lead to misinterpretation of the original author's meaning. Second, Saint Augustine explains:

    "It very often happens that there is some question as to the earth or the sky, or the other elements of this world -- respecting which one who is not a Christian has knowledge derived from most certain reasoning or observation, and it is very disgraceful and mischievous and of all things to be carefully avoided, that a Christian speaking of such matters as being according to the Christian Scriptures, should be heard by an unbeliever talking such nonsense that the unbeliever perceiving him to be as wide of the mark as east from west, can hardly restrain himself from laughing. And the real evil is not that a man is subjected to derision because of his error, but it is that to profane eyes, our authors (that is to say, the sacred authors) are regarded as having had such thoughts; and are also exposed to blame and scorn upon the score of ignorance, to the greatest possible misfortune of people whom we wish to save."

    Sure, if God could do anything, he could have created the universe last Thursday, including all the memories we have of the past. But to use God's omnipotence to support the ridiculous could be considered blasphemous for maligning the Christian faith, reducing it to a fool's babblings.

  20. Now we're back on track! Anon 5:37, I liked your well thought out and written post! ...and Ilmarinen, you make very good points as well.

    I suppose I muddied the waters of the discussion because I tend to use the words "journey" and "path" to describe my, well, my journey or path! I never meant that it was the only path, or the right path for everyone, it's just the terminology I use. Thinking about that, I think I understand why that raised hackles a bit, as I think we've all heard ad nauseum about the "one true path" in our past.

    I also don't have a problem with folks that don't hold to the Trinity idea. It happens to be the perspective I like and believe, but I certainly don't have any conflict with MTH's preference for "Hear O Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One." I believe that as well. My trinitarian view of different manifestations or "faces" of the one God isn't in conflict with that at all! ...and I will never tell someone they are not a Christian, just because their belief and interpretation is different than mine.

  21. Anon 5:37 here..

    Ilmarinen: regarding Biblical inerrancy - just because we can't understand doesn't mean it's not true.. that is my take on it. Maybe you could say I do not take it literally then, because I'm willing to study the matter further and see if I can understand what a particularly dim passage might mean, prayerfully using as many means as I have available. re: the Trinity, I'm not judging anyone, but I do believe for myself that the Bible speaks of 3 in 1. Again, just because we cannot understand how that can be physically possible doesn't mean it's not true. If there are those who do not believe those things then I cannot judge them.

    I think I understand what Augustine is saying there.. we shouldn't claim to know all of the mysteries of Scripture and make fanciful statements about them, making a mockery of God - would that be accurate?

    As you can see, I have a rather simple understanding of things - but it works better for me that way. I've spent my lifetime reading and questioning religion, and have now found the courage and faith to simply believe. I've devoured (not literally :-) the writings of those with opposing views, I know where they're coming from. It has helped define where I am today. That's the benefit of free and open discussion.

    Cvow - you've started an interesting conversation here. Thank you! This conversation started when you pointed out the quality of writing and subject of various books out there. I agree - everyone's got a viewpoint and many are making $$$ from their ramblings. There really is a lot of junk out there. It's good to have a warning such as yours. (And journey or path is not such a bad word to use..we're each on a journey, one that only we can walk, and which is as individual and unique as we are.)

  22. Many Trails Home5/02/2006 11:20:00 PM

    Rather fascinating discussion has evolved here. I am back (my own feathers somewhat smoothed) to try another round with Anon 1:34AM. I still can hardly read that without getting hackles up - we all have our buttons, I guess. So here goes: You ARE mistaken, because I DO NOT "prefer the ideas and reason of man." In fact, I am not particularly interested in the "ideas of man" unless I think there is some inspiration from God (or Spirit). Furthermore, I really cannot abide the term "unbelief" as I think this is loaded and generally thrown out to condemn anyone who doesn't believe as the "believer" does. Paganism similarly.
    You are right about one thing. I do not buy into much that would be considered "basic Christian doctrine," prefering instead to listen with my heart to what Jesus himself is said to have said. Why would that smack of paganism and unbelief?
    I do not feel "persecuted" - I should hope I'm not that shallow - but I did find it offensive. And what question I skirted I am not quite sure, but if loose ends bother you, you are a newcomer to this site.
    I will make one comment re the Trinity: I certainly believe in God, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit (perhaps my "favorite" as I do occasionally sense its pervasiveness in me and in us all). But I also believe in the "Googility" of God, God of 10,000 faces, as expressions and facets of the One God. I will not have my God boxed in by "basic Christian doctrine," for reasons that have been eloquently addressed by others on this site.
    Of course there is nothing "wrong" with believing in the Trinity, or even the "inerrancy of the Bible" (whatever that means), nothing at all. What matters is if we have loving hearts - tough, when someone says you are leading people to "paganism and unbelief." I'm still working on that. MTH

  23. MTH, I apologize if my comments were offensive, they weren't meant to be.. was just putting in my 2 cents. Didn't realize things were taken quite this seriously here. But I understand now, will be on my way.. God's Peace,

    Anon 1:34AM

  24. I just want to jump in here and say how much I appreciate this conversation and the attempts to understand one another.

    I have given some thought to anon's concern that I might be harming young or vulnerable people with "step further" ideas. Can ideas be harmful? That is a very undemocratic, very Talibanish, very -- Laestadian idea. Not so good.

    Because not only Christians but all of God's children come in a wide variety of stripes. It is absolutely salutary, to mind, body, spirit and the future of the earth, to accommodate those stripes into one's worldview. Otherwise your faith cannot survive outside it's bell jar, and you ill-equipped to serve God or others.


  25. Free,

    I understand your concern.. but I have a question for you. When I have time, would you mind if I post some "step further" ideas of my own? And might I gently suggest that the reluctance to hear other.. would the words be.. 'unpolitically correct" ideas are not welcome here and anything outside of that is called the Taliban.. and the ultimate insult.. 'Laestadian'. Do you see where I'm coming from?

    There are a lot of gray areas in issues of faith, not all is black and white.. that's all I'm trying to say. But it's really, really hard to break through the negativity and closemindedness. And yet, you all have so many good ideas and good questions, it just all needs some fresh air, if you don't mind my saying so. This might be surprising to you, but it's very closed here. Which supports my own hypothesis that the old habits are very hard to get away from, if it's truly possible at all. And that is so sad. I read the XLLL Yahoo site, and it seems there is such a huge deal about taking one drink of an alcoholic beverage, or talking to people outside of these churches, or Finns learning disco (which was hilarious by the way). But reading that, I now realize how difficult this all is. Much prayer (or reverie?) is needed guys. Bless you!

    Anon 1:34AM

  26. No, Anon, I don't see where you are coming from. Why is it "very closed here"?

    Please, post your ideas! I have never deleted anything but personal attacks.

  27. Many Trails Home5/03/2006 01:03:00 PM

    Anon, I don't get where you are coming from either, but I do appreciate your efforts at a gentle approach. However, I was stunned by your comment that "things were taken quite so seriously here." We have quite a bit of fun and joking. Nevertheless, we are justified in reacting (I think) to comments such as your "leading people into unbelief and paganism." It certainly sounded like YOU were serious, so why wouldn't I take it seriously?
    Words have power. They should be used wisely where possible, and not casually, especially in condemnation. MTH

  28. If it's possible to set aside the fact that we, perhaps all, come from a Laestadian background and can come at the discussion simply as strangers discussing faith there might be some merit to continuing the discussion. Not sure if that's possible though... do you?


  29. Many Trails Home5/04/2006 05:18:00 PM

    "Simply as strangers discussing faith:" I'm not quite sure what you mean by that, in other words, what you consider acceptable dialogue. I personally have found HUGE merit in participating in these dialogues, even though (or maybe even because) they are often rough, erratic, painful, overbearing, inconclusive, infuriating in addition to enlightening, heartwarming, strengthening, supportive, etc. GOD BLESS FREE2BME for having the inspiration and energy to initiate and maintain this site. I think we all benefit. Thank you. MTH

  30. Many Trails Home5/04/2006 05:21:00 PM

    PS: I meant to add "just like life."
    Did you notice that we have passed 30,000 visits? Way to go, free. MTH

  31. Thank you, MTH. You will see I've quoted you in the blog's new intro. I'm frequently tempted to abandon this effort as it does not always bring out the best in me (as some readers have noted!). But I'm learning even as I blunder, and I suppose others are too.

    To Anonymous who wonders if we could talk "simply as strangers discussing faith," it may be possible, but I don't think it is appropriate for this blog with its stated focus. There are several great sites out there for such discussions, though (belief.net is one of them).

    I also encourage anyone who is interested to set up such a blog, and I will provide a link from this site.

    Thanks to all of you for continuing the dialogue.

  32. 30,000 visitors, but not much dialogue. But it's your blog, I'm free to go elsewhere or start my own.. I may take you up on that!


  33. Many Trails Home5/05/2006 02:40:00 PM

    Cool! Thanks, Free. MTH