true believer. noun. One who is deeply, sometimes fanatically devoted to a cause, organization, or person
- (ecclesiastical) A strict follower of a religious doctrine.
- (idiomatic) One who sticks to one’s dogma or beliefs irrespective of the facts
I wish I was a “true believer,” all smug and sure of my beliefs on politics and religion. I’m not. As I interact with those who are, I find myself questioning my own beliefs and other people’s motives. They say I only need to read the Bible to find the answers. According to Biblegateway.com, there are over two hundred different translations of the Christian Bible in over sixty languages…”Which translation is the true word?”
There has been a positive outcome to my self-imposed abasement, my metaphorical self-flagellation. I’ve found I am continually trying to answer the question, “What do I really believe” and continue to question my God as I make my quest. I also wonder if “questing” is a sin. According to some of these same “true believers”…maybe.
I grew up in the Methodist Church. A very structured, high liturgical Methodist Church in a then-rural area with very “give me that old time religion” religious values. In a previous writing, I might have referred to the church of my youth as a very “tight-assed” church. “Tight-assed” as in very conventional, very orthodox…just like me at the time.
I have become less so as I have grown older but still consider myself a ‘way too’ conventional person who’s a want-to-be flower child. Do you know any flower children hiding in an inhibited and repressed body? I just can’t seem to dance like no one is watching. No matter how much I wish to be the aging 60’s hippy, I’m still…just…too…tight-assed. Maybe if they legalize that there “marijahoochie….” My Mother is rolling in her grave.
I left my tight-assed little rural church in 1968 and went on to attend a tight-assed Lutheran school of higher learning and received a liberal arts degree in history and education. Again, a very conventional ‘I went to Vespers and Chapel kind of education’, and even considered becoming a man of the cloth until Greek and Latin got in the way.
For some reason, some “true believers” have been deemed my education “totally useless” even a “waste of time”. With my recently vilified “Liberal Arts” diploma, my equally liberal advanced degrees in secondary education, I taught and coached for forty-five years, warping the minds of our youth.
I taught in schools that are being denigrated by some of my political and Christian right friends as “hotbeds” of liberalism. According to them, instead of teaching the three R’s we quote Marx and Lenin, create project-based lesson plans on the ‘Joys of Communism’ and begin every school day with a silent prayer to the Vodun Goddess Mahu.
I might have exaggerated a bit, but one exfriend deemed I had no worthwhile, “real” life experiences and did not understand “day to day” struggles of “real” men. “As weak as preacher’s piss,” he said. I’m guessing his educational experiences weren’t very positive. Another brought my vocabulary into question, “Simply showing off” because I used the term cognitive dissonance. Well, bless your heart.
Reality: Teachers do none of the above, they do have day-to-day struggles and I’ve known few weak ones. Teachers are forced to teach to a test they’ve never seen or been allowed to ask questions about and administered at the end of the year. They have little time to devote to politics or religion, liberal or conservative. Also, I talk like I talk.
Teachers do pray, silently just after cursing under their breath, every time there is a full moon. Teachers pray to Jehovah, Yahweh, “Sweet Baby Jesus wrapped in fleece” or the patron saint of educators, Saint John-Baptiste de la Salle. Some pray to Allah, some may pray to Lakshmi, some may pray to any diety willing to take “little Johnny” from their classroom.
They pray to anyone listening for survival and until “true believers” walk in their shoes, they should be quiet and sit down. Too strong? Sorry…now be quiet and sit down.
I don’t like combining politics and religion…or teaching for that matter. Tying “a” religion to politics is destructive to both, destructive to children who don’t believe as you do…and is against the Constitution, something “true believers” seem to forget unless it is the Second Amendment.
The recent political battle between Progressives and Populists has pulled the middle toward opposite poles and taken religion with it…or maybe religion began the tug of war. It bears pointing out, neither side is being productive doing it.
Despite my heresy…or blasphemy, I talk to God daily, multiple times. As I ponder what I am typing now, I continue to ask to be “refreshed” and shown the true light. I get no answer and take his or her silence to mean, “You’re on the right track, Bubba.”
Most of my conversations with Him revolve around my beliefs. I continue to search for the path and question why so many “true believers” seem to express so much hatred toward their fellow humans. Their expressions seem to be so contrary to the Good News I’ve read in the Gospels of Jesus Christ.
Let’s be clear. I’m not speaking of all “true believers”. Just those who believe theirs is the only way, those who are so sure of themselves religiously or politically, those who believe there is only black and white. Those whose beliefs are hurtful to those who have no sin other than to be different. Those who cross the boundary between deeply believing to extreme fanaticism.
My problem, if it truly is a problem, is that I view life in shades of gray. There is no black or white…and no one hundred percent certainty. There is no ‘ALL’ or ‘EVERY’. There is only uncertainty.
An Indian philosopher, Bara Dada, in a quote restructured and attributed falsely to Gandhi, said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.” I don’t believe this is true of all, but I believe the number of “not like Christ” Christians are growing to the point that I self-identify as a “Christ Follower” and not with a specific religion…I know, I still attend a Baptist Church but since the pandemic, it is easier not to.
Please don’t take my rant as being “holier than thou.” I’m not. Refer to the paragraph beginning “My problem….” I just don’t understand why we are arguing our beliefs as if they were playing a rival football game…or a war. “My god is better than yours?” I should also point out; I have atheist friends and friends who practice non-Christian beliefs. They seem to be more “Christ-like” and embracing than my many of my “Christian” friends.
I have just now realized my concerns are not about beliefs…it is about actions. Your actions tell me all I need to know. I believe words carry the same weight as actions. My actions and words have weight.
It doesn’t matter what you call your God or god. Be it Elohim, Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, or Joe, do you rationalize your hate with your religion? How do you rationalize it? Maybe I’m not the one who needs to self-evaluate…but I will continue to do so.
For more gentle rantings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
The image is the Church of Uncertain sign near Uncertain, Texas
2 thoughts on “True Believers?”
A very well written, and important, blog, Don.
It’s like you’ve taken a peek inside my mind and heart over the past decade, and especially the past few years.
I feel the same way on these issues and I ask a lot of questions and I struggle with the answers when some are presented to me.
The older I get the more I see the world in shades of gray and not B or W.
I won’t go into my l-o-n-g religious or spiritual journey here, I’ll just say I still revere and appreciate the life, and teachings, of Jesus Christ. I’ve studied, and read about, MANY religions and religious leaders/founders, and he is the one I keep coming back to for advice (in The Gospels) and guidance.
I hate to say it…but I think religion(s) will be the downfall of humanity…as it has all become so political, hateful, condescending, etc…and some religious people’s words and actions have become so unmerciful, unloving, etc…all the things that seem the opposite of what they should be. 😦 It makes me very sad. 😦
Well, I’ll get off my soapbox now. 🙂 It’s okay…you can say, “Amen! She’s hushing up now!” 😉 HA! 😀
Thank you for sharing this blog…it helps me think through some things and it expressed some of the thoughts and feelings I haven’t expressed to anyone but some close family members and friends.
No worries about hushing up. Glad to find a like mind. Thanks for reading and reacting. So many of the pre-industrial wars had a religious component I wonder if in the post industrial era we will fight over religious ideology instead of land, resources and ideological dominance? Again thanks.
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