Turns out I wonder much the same about Christianity as I do about Paganism. Basically just, what is it? who "counts" and who doesn't? Is just saying you're one all you need? What if you DON'T say that you're one, but follow many of the tenets or it, even more so than many of its followers?
This came up recently for me because a friend who is a pastor posted some bit of pastorly wisdom to facebook, and I responded that it was useful to me even though I wasn't christian. He wrote me in private to say, "well, why not become one?" To his thinking, as I'm already concerned with social justice and ethical behavior, I'm halfway there!
So, what I wonder about first, with Christians is, again, what is one? Not that I think there's an answer, though unlike Pagans, there are lots of legally incorporated entities with tax-exempt status in the US and lots of rules and creeds and probably bylaws and stuff like that (which all help us to be better, more evolved spiritual beings, right?)
I assume there are bits of that in neopaganism, but I'm not actually sure. Anyway, the fact that christians have it doesn't really help me understand how people frame their own understanding of their own christianity anyway.
I've studied some, but it sort of all boggles my mind. A friend who used to be an evangelical christian pointed me recently towardthis page about all the different ways to interpret the book of revelations and what it says about when Jesus will come back, when the dead will rise, all that. I don't think it includes the "someone was just trippin'" or the "they were just wrong" interpretations of the book - no, this is just a ton of different ways to think the rapture and stuff is for real.
Which I tend to assume MOST christians don't believe, but there are probably polls proving I'm wrong.
The christians who tend to annoy me the most are those who are excited for other people to go to hell, followed by those who thank Jesus every time they find a good parking space (really, that guy needs to get a life, if he's worrying about where you're gonna park), but I don't interact with either of those types, much....
What I'm left confused about is people who aren't too worried about the super literalness of the Bible, and probably don't think I'm doomed to hell for not thinking Jesus was especially the son of God or whatever other magicalism it might be.
But they still think I'm missing something, and I can't for the life of me figure out what. Occasionally, the really convincing ones don't seem to worry about what I'm missing, but live their lives in a way that makes ME wonder if I'm missing something. (not that they're nicer people than I am, though maybe, but they're more at peace, I think, and often nicer, now that I think of it)
A LOT of what I run into, in my own dancing around with this in my head, is a sense that my best sense of Jesus (both what feels truest, for the most part, and what feels more likable) is of a man supremely concerned with justice and love, and enormously pissed off by dogma, religious strictures, etc. As if he was almost always saying, to those concerned more with tradition, "forget all that nonsense and heal the sick, feed the hungry, love each other, enjoy life"
And I guess I find myself wanting to say pretty much the same things to a lot of christians a lot of the time
Which feels a lot like wanting to be outside more than a lot of pagans seem to.
Plus, there's this sense, and I just don't get it, that being concerned with, for example, social justice is a really important first step in some larger process, the end of which would be something like "becoming a christian" (and that's where I'm wondering, what is that? is there a hope I'll believe something different? start praying to Jesus (like, and mean it?), just join a church, exactly as I am?
but most importantly, to me these things seem like ends in themselves - housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, comforting the suffering, preventing war, fighting for justice. And I'm baffled, and somewhat angry, when I run into, over and over again, what seems like the notion that they are somehow accessories to THE POINT, which I still don't even understand - that would be belief in something? It would be _________ - what would it be?
Liz blogged a bit ago about being a faithful servant. I didn't really get it, and it didn't resonate with me (I don't think/care much about being a faithful servant, for after all, who would I serve?) but it DID bring up this issue again. One item she mentions is helping a friend facing homelessness (I'm not sure what that entailed) but I had done something similar this winter (sadly, I think many of us probably had opportunities to do so for the first time) but it was radically different for me, I think, because God never entered my mind, not for a second. It's cold, she's scared, I have space - a number of thoughts/reasons/motivations, but not remotely related to God or religion.
And I *like* it that way. Perhaps only because my view of religion is still so shallow? It made sense to me, after all, when I was a small child with a simple philosophy. It *sounds* like wanting to house the homeless out of a hope for garnering favor with the divine, rather than out of some inborn sense of empathy or compassion. Am I missing something that is better/bigger/more awesome than empathy and compassion as a motivation?
This extends to other areas of spirituality for me as well, religion seems to cheapen it. Trees are AMAZING, the ocean is AMAZING, life is AMAZING - you can just be drop dead (hopefully not literally) blown away by the wonder of it all, and then someone bops up and says something like, "you're missing the really amazing thing, which is that some dude made this" - which leaves me completely nonplussed.