The Conversation

This essay is written by Reba Dragon. It expresses so perfectly my own experience in the Evangelical churches. I could have written it myself, except the part about being Jewish. Feel free to post comments, even those that may not agree.

The Conversation
Copying Julie’s Topic Again
Important definitions at the bottom

This is an attempt to distill my part of the Conversation. This Conversation has been ongoing for quite some time now, but it only caused me to make actual changes in the structure and form of my life until the last year or so. This is the Conversation between Julie and I on almost a daily basis. Even if not directly, it colours and directs like a quiet current moving whatever else we talk about. It is our tandem journey out of a cultural Evangelical Christianity into a more authentic and honest life with G-d, fully embracing who we are, who we were created to be. This is my part of it….a path into a more private and family/home centered spirituality. My path back to Judaism, the daily elevation of the mundane into the divine. More on that later.
I always struggled in the Evangelical Church. I left not once, but twice, large mega-churches in a frenzy of shunning and rebuke. You see, I could not leave quietly, just leaving a wake of questions and veiled attempts at “concern” couched in being placed on a prayer chain. (read…”gossip chain”). No, I could not leave that way. You see, I was a church darling. If you have run in this circle, you know what I am talking about. I was the girl with the amazing transformation story, who came from such sin and degeneration into a Spirit-filled life. I said and did all the right things. I wept on stage during worship. I was the lead singer on the worship team, looking at the congregation, feeling so blessed that G-d had partly used me to cause such devotion to H-m (read “emotional fervor”). I was the Jewish girl, plucked from a heritage of “legalism” and ****ation……held as an example to others that G-d can save anyone. However, I struggled, because my neshamah (the Hebrew word for soul, but also encapsulates your spirit, will, life path and so much more…..) is inherently and unchangeably Jewish. I still kept shabbos, lighting my candles on Friday night. I didn’t get overexcited about Easter or Christmas, thinking of as many people as I could to come to service to hear “L-rd I Lift Your Name on High” or “Nothing but the Blood”. I also held to the VERY Jewish concept of faith…namely that doubt is a function and vehicle of faith. I was unafraid to express or delve into my questions and my doubts. Faith exists in a lifelong journey, not a once uttered “sinner’s prayer”.
I was warned by several well-meaning leaders and congregants who knew me well that I should not share my entire story with people. I should not share that I kept shabbos, that I ate kosher. You see, this could “stumble” others, and to the “less mature” believer, it could inspire them to “legalism”. Legalism is one of the most horrendous accusations you can make of someone in the Evangelical Church. It means that you are trying to work your way to G-d, or earn your salvation. The word legalism, however, is applied so hypocritically. This is where the trouble began. My observance of the Sabbath, even though never done in an attempt to gain G-d’s favour, but an attempt to experience every wonderful thing He had for me, was legalism. However, saying that the “fellowship of believers” had to be at a church on Sundays, with music and a Bible teaching is not. Not eating pork or shellfish is legalism, but not ever having a glass of wine (even though Yeshua turned water into wine as a first miracle…and never had a bite of that dirty mud dweller) is not. Not wanting to put my children into church nursery was unrealistic and legalistic, but submitting without question to the “authority” placed over me in my pastor and elders was not. The only expression of faith and belief that was accepted and lauded was the Orwellian version that has been created in the Evangelical world only in the last 50-100 years or so. “Praise G-d” and “I’ll be praying for you” OKAY. “Baruch HaShem” and “I’m taking on a new physical practice that brings me closer to G-d” NOT OKAY.
This started making me question the entire practice and expression of the Evangelical faith as a whole. I had taken it for granted that our praise songs and hymns, the style and words of our prayers, our “inductive” Bible study method and “fellowship” and “outreach” programs were all necessary and exclusively authentic expressions of our faith in G-d. I began to see that in actuality, these things were the CULTURE of our faith, not the TRUTH of our faith. We made an idol out of our practice. If there was another Christian that worshipped in a different way, or had a slightly different doctrinal position, we prayed for them that they would be shown their “error”, so there would be no chance that that seed of doubt could grow into a full-grown tree of rebellion. We were self-policing, putting our most intimate and private selves out on the altar for all to scrutinize in the name of “iron sharpening iron”. If someone attends an Evangelical Church, but has a slightly different doctrinal position on something even as minor as which Bible version to use, they are encouraged to change their personal conviction or seek out the company of “like-minded” believers. “There’s the door” was a common statement made from our pulpit….as in “we are not going to coerce you believe like us, you can just go find something more your speed”. There’s a church for everyone. That’s why in the Protestant world there are thousands of divisions, all based on slight deviations in minor doctrinal convictions. The Calvinists do not fellowship and worship with the Armenianists do not fellowship with the Sabbatarians do not fellowship with the homeschoolers do not fellowship with the Methodists do not fellowship with the Pentecostals do not fellowship with the snake handlers, ad infinitum……When I became a believer, I thought I was being offered Christ and Christ alone. However, tacked onto the rear of the Christ I was offered was an entire trunk full of culture and tradition that I had to participate in or I would be considered to be potentially “never saved”.
I began to question the origins of this culture, the reasons behind it. The thought that burst the final bubble of my Evangelical life was that until 50-100 years ago, most people did not have a Bible of their own. Not only that, but most people were illiterate, so having a Bible would not magically imbue its words into the owner. Most people did not have cars, so unless they had a horse and carriage or were within walking distance of a church building, they could not have regular “fellowship”. The Western half of our country would never have been settled if one of the criteria for moving their families was “like-minded fellowship” and a church building filled with other Christians, always available for “mutual accountability” and prayer groups. The land of our farms would never have been tilled and worked if the men had awoken early for their “private devotion with the L-rd” and the wives had spent hours in emotional prayer and writing word study devotionals on their blogs. If every Wednesday night was spent at Bible Study, every Sunday morning and evening at church and various other times in a variety of “fellowship” activities, prayer and worship groups, worship rehearsal, ministry and outreach activites, would all of these Christian families for the past 2,000 years been able to put food on their tables and stoke the fires of their hearths that kept them warm at night and baked their bread? Did G-d leave all these other generations of believers out in the cold as to what it meant to have a “Spirit-filled life” or a “strong walk with G-d”?
So my next questions was, “if our walks with G-d do not rest in all of these things we have only in our modern era, and in this culture, where does a life in G-d rest?” The Evangelical Church has so removed any physical expression of faith in the name of “rooting out legalism” that we have become disembodied. Christians of yesteryear had to live their lives of faith in their fields, in their homes, surrounded by the mundane work of life and survival. The Jews have a physical practice of dietary laws and observance of Sabbath that allow anyone in their home to participate in G-d’s covenant. Catholics have the Eucharist, which is a physical presence of Christ which is offered to all, even those who cannot read a Bible or come to church every week. All of these beautiful physical ways of relating to G-d have been thrown away in the name of legalism, leaving us with tenuous emotions and an aptitude for study to depend on. I wanted my walk with G-d, my spirituality, to rest in my daily life. I wanted to fully understand what it meant to be a “living sacrifice”. I wanted to offer up everything, including wiping poop off my baby’s bum, to a greater purpose. This, I decided was the real mystery of G-d, the real purpose of our existence here on earth. We have the wonderful opportunity to turn our daily lives into something divine. We have the chance to access blessings and beauty by resting in what we have to do, not waiting for the “real” moments of worship and study, and just getting by until then. There’s nothing wrong with singing songs to G-d and studying the Bible in a large auditorium with like-minded people, but we need to realize that these are just extra bonuses we have in this day and age….they are not THE THING ITSELF, and our lives, salvation and spiritual health do not hang on them.
So, I left. Here I am at home. My spiritual center is the Sabbath, celebrated as intended, in my home surrounded by my family. I work and completely immerse myself in my daily life for 6 days a week, without the pressure of personal devotion and accountability to others for what I am thinking or how much time I am “spending with the L-rd”. On shabbos, I rest, and experience the castle in time that this physical practice affords me. I have never felt closer to G-d or more spiritually grounded than I do now. SO much so, that writing this essay is hopefully one of my last times venting on the Conversation. I don’t need it anymore. I have a beautiful, contemplative and physical practice…dare I say…religion (EEK….another terrible word in Evangelical circles…it means legalism) that causes me to feel closer to G-d than I ever have before. I do not begrudge anyone their desire to follow their own personal paths into an Evangelical expression or culture. I myself have gleaned amazing and inspirational things from that world. But once again, it is not THE TRUTH. It is merely an expression. And if we are supposed to have personal, individual relationships with a living and loving G-d, then our expressions of that faith should be allowed to look as individual as each of us are without being scrutinized and rebuked for error.
I may sound angry, and I guess that in some ways I am. Yeshua H-mself in righteous rage drove the money changers out of the temple. I am still a bit angry at a culture that offered me salvation, but didn’t tell me that it was conditional on joining that particular culture and expression. It’s a bit presumptuous and ignorant of the context in which Yeshua H-mself lived and taught to tell a Jewish person that they should follow the Jewish Messiah, but conform to a modern day Gentile culture and interpretation of what it means to follow H-m. It’s a real shame that my experience for 10 years in that world was filled with judgement, rebuke and social pressure to conform (even when these things were done with best intentions). I have no problem with G-d, or even Yeshua, but the man-made system I’m done with. If you are reading this and you are Christian, you are most likely filled with sadness over my soul, thinking that I just “don’t get it” in some way, or am prideful. Feel free to pray for me or share my essay with others who will click their tongues and express despair over my thoughts. I ask you to read with an open mind, and at least take away some freedom to be who G-d made you to be, and not judge others in your midst based on how they fit in with the Evangelical “norm”. If you are not Christian, you are probably thinking, “see I knew those people were crazy, not thinking for themselves, filled with judgement”…and to you I ask for you to see that every experience I had there, even the negative, has brought me to a beautiful and fulfilled life. I learned many beautiful and important truths there, in the midst of everything I write about here. I was blessed and inspired by many beautiful people, some of whom are still my closest friends. Hopefully, this Conversation will just become a foundational stone in what will become an even more vibrant and contented life…and not an ongoing dialogue in my head. I just want to live it, not analyze it anymore!

Yeshua=Hebrew name for Jesus
Baruch HaShem=praise The Name
G-d=I keep the Jewish tradition of leaving out the vowel in any word pertaining to G-d, as He cannot be contained in a name
Shabbos=Sabbath….sundown Friday until sundown Saturday

Reba Dragon


Published in: on July 6, 2007 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

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