A Wounded Academic Walks Into A Church…

Holy-Bible_20110524052238There are not many Bible stories that I am not familiar with.

I grew up going to Sunday school ever Sunday, memorizing verses, memorizing catechism, singing making a joyful noise in the choir, participating in dramatizations and skits, and listening to my parents read the BIG Storybook Bible every night after dinner.

I can recall the well-known stories of Creation all the way to the lesser-known stories like the one about Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. There was a time when I could recite by memory John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world…”

I listened, memorized, and believed without question because it’s what I was supposed to do. Adults were telling me stories and telling me they were complete, literal truth.

As way leads on to way, I grew up. I moved out of my small, sheltered town, and I met people who were not one of the two religions that I knew: Reformed or Christian Reformed. I was even roommates with a couple Catholics.  I know. Crazy.

Even though I pulled away from going to church, I never lost interest in religion. It fascinates me. Not just Christianity, but all religion. Where it comes from and how it is tied up in tradition, oral and written history, and politics.

When it seemed like God had left us–when Cortney’s dad died, we lost babies, and all the other loss and sickness–I leaned heavily on anything that seemed to “disprove” the stories of the Bible.

In college, I took a History of Christianity class. It was incredibly interesting. I tried to talk to my parents about it. I thought they would find it super interesting since they were so devout. But when I started bringing up the idea that perhaps the authors of the Bible weren’t telling literal stories about global floods and people-swallowing whales, my dad flipped out on me.

My dad wouldn’t discuss; he would only tell me I was wrong and that I wasn’t allowed to talk that way in his house.

I was stunned into silence, and I became less willing to talk about Jesus or church with my family. I became convinced that they would judge anything that didn’t fall into the realm of their literal understanding of the Bible.

(Years later, my dad’s reaction to my brother’s news that his girlfriend was pregnant would reveal just how ingrained it was in my dad’s character to being like Jesus, and my heart would change. But that’s another story).

The more I wrestled with what I knew to be true because of research and study and science, the more it seemed that I didn’t fit into any church. I just couldn’t believe something that was disproved over and over. I could not simply say, “I know actual science says something different, but I believe the earth and everything on it was created in seven 24-hour days as we know it.”

I believe God created science to make this world the beautiful marvel it is, but I don’t think it was exactly the way it was written in the Bible.

Even typing that makes me feel a little sacrilegious. I mean, you’re not supposed to say “I don’t believe what the Bible says,” right?

I don’t think a guy named Jonas got swallowed by a whale.

I don’t think there was a Garden of Eden.

I don’t think there was a flood and a guy named Noah put two of every single animal in the wold on a boat.

I do think these are important stories, and I believe the stories…without believing the stories. Does that make sense?

I believe it’s important to do as we are called to do or else things won’t go right.

I believe the world isn’t perfect because there are shitty things like cancer and hunger and poverty.

I believe that God is saddened by the shitty things we do to each other that cause things like cancer, and hunger and poverty, and that he won’t punish the whole for the bad of a few.

We are currently in the season of Lent where we wait and prepare ourselves for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I both believe and wonder. I have so many questions.

I know what I am supposed to believe blindly, but like Thomas, I need to see the nail marks on his hands and the sword wound in his side. I believe, but my academic, logical side shouts for something to hold on to–something that tells me this is all true.

And I think that like Thomas, that is Ok.  That questioning for the purpose of wanting to understand and believe is Ok.

*************

As of April 19, I will be an official published author!  You can pre-order the book, Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss, to which I am honored to be a contributing author.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. I totally get where you’re coming from.
    Alison recently posted…Benign NeglectMy Profile

  2. I will pray that you will find what you are so obviously looking for. Also, any church that would ask a person to leave because they are asking serious questions needs to reexamine their priorities.

  3. This part: “I do think these are important stories, and I believe the stories…without believing the stories. Does that make sense?”

    I feel like what you mean is that you believe in the stories without believing the stories. I don’t know if that makes sense, but as someone who is Jewish it’s always been interesting to me what “stories” I do believe and don’t believe from the Bible.

    I hope you feel strong after writing this and that you continue to make your way through to what you believe and don’t. It all makes sense.
    Andrea B ( recently posted…The Good Mother Myth, Avital Norman Nathman ~ book reviewMy Profile

  4. I get it.
    Denise recently posted…Do I Have Anything More To SayMy Profile

  5. Without asking questions, we don’t know where to fit the answers. Keep asking.

  6. I too have the same questions… and more. Thanks for this.

  7. I am feeling very conflicted about church and religion and even God lately. I grew up Catholic and even during college found comfort in attending Catholic Mass, but more recently church (certainly Catholicism) has turned me off. However, I have a 3-year-old daughter, and I want her to grow up at least comfortable with the idea of church, so she can decide what she wants to do when she is older. This past Sunday I was at a Lutheran church and really enjoyed the sermon and overall message. The overall concept was that we should all try to be a blessing in some way to the world each day. It made me happy, because I realized that even if I choose to believe none of the Bible or even question the existence of God, I can still get good direction for life from church. I wish you the best on your continued faith journey.

  8. I believe it all baby – hook, line and sinker. 🙂 I know you know that about me.

    But I also believe that God is walking with you as you follow your path. I just keep going back to the fact that he didn’t create puppets. We are supposed to think and examine and it’s not at all surprising that our conclusions are sometimes different. Love you, my large-hearted friend.
    Lady Jennie recently posted…Pommes d’Amour (Candy Apples)My Profile

  9. Questions are good! God created us as people who are all different, who seek, who wonder! As I get older, I have been thinking more about the MYSTERY of God, and less about facts and trying to pin everything down. Looking forward to answers, and surprises when I get to heaven. xoxo
    anna whiston-donaldson recently posted…Old SchoolMy Profile

  10. I’m close friends with one of the ministers at our church and she and I have actually talked about this very same thing. That is one of the freeing things that I’ve found about the Methodist church. It’s okay to have questions and to have doubt and even asking the questions and getting answers may not quell your doubt but at least you had freedom to ask. I know I’m down in Atlanta, but I’d be more than happy to put you in touch with any of our ministers if you want to talk to someone without the feeling of being judged because you have questions.
    Amy recently posted…Dreary Monday HappinessMy Profile

    • Thank you for reaching out! I don’t really feel judged at my church at all. In fact, quite the opposite. They really embrace us there and I think that is why I am so comfortable posting this here even though I know members read my blog now. 🙂
      Katie recently posted…A Wounded Academic Walks Into A Church…My Profile

      • Thank Jesus for good churches! It’s so nice knowing that you’re in a safe place. I’ve shared many times with people about how my current church helped me (without knowing they were helping) work through the hard parts of getting a divorce and how freeing it was knowing that they didn’t judge.
        Amy recently posted…Dreary Monday HappinessMy Profile

  11. I definitely think it’s okay to ask questions of God. I think He can handle it. And He gave you a brain, as well as a heart and soul, so I rather suspect He is quite prepared for those questions.

    My husband struggles with the whole science and are the stories literal — is a day a Real Day? – thing too.
    I just tell him it’s okay: you cannot have Faith, without doubt. They are push and pull.

    Having been raised all my life in the church and already fought my doubts and demons, I just caution gently not to let his intellect, get in the way of having Relationship.
    Because I am fascinated by Religion too. All the reasons you have stated.
    But Religion is not what I’ve got — it’s not my rock, or the cornerstone of my faith.
    It’s the Relationship. That’s what holds me.
    Rorybore recently posted…Tuesday Coffee Chat: I Gotta Be MeMy Profile

  12. Have you ever done any studying of other religions? One of the greatest classes I took in high school (a private Catholic one, no less) was a class on world religions. We learned the differences and similarities between common religions and ones not so common (like different Native American beliefs). Did you know every religion has a creation story? Even more amazing, did you know most have flood stories as well?

    As a Catholic, I was NEVER taught that the bible was the literal truth. In fact, there was a class in high school call “Jesus of History, Christ of Faith” that taught the actual proven truths about Jesus versus the stories in the bible. I was even taught evolution, for heaven’s sake! The bible, for me, is a collection of stories to teach us lessons on how we can be good people. It’s like historical fiction with a side of self-help.

    But I have questions, too. Lots of them. I only recently began my journey back to church (I left because I felt the church was too nosy and pushy when it came to politics. I’m a FIRM supporter in separation of church and state.). I haven’t gotten up the courage to talk to our priest yet about all my wonderings, but I’m starting to feel like a part of the community (being the new 1st grade religious ed teacher will do that to a person) and like it’s a safe place for me to ask these questions.

    Just because we have questions doesn’t make us bad at religion. In fact, I think that’s what makes religion, ANY religion, wonderful. We don’t have to have the answers right now. We don’t have to fit inside a perfectly specific box. Questioning makes us human.

    That or I’m doing Catholicism TOTALLY wrong. In which case, OOPS!

    • I have studied other religions, yes! I actually taught a Humanities class a while back in which I did a whole unit on monotheistic religions and taught my students about Judaism, Catholicism/ Christianity, and Islam. It’s all incredibly fascinating to me.
      Katie recently posted…A Wounded Academic Walks Into A Church…My Profile

  13. Girl, we need to talk. You have good questions…my door is always open if you wanna chat it up.

  14. I question my faith a lot, so I totally understand. The big story for me when I was a kid was the one about When Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. And that is A BIG DEAL in the Catholic faith, we hear the story every year in our Gospels. But I always used to think “BUT HOW CAN HE DO THAT?” Because Jesus was full of miracles…

    And I remember being in vacation bible school and looking SO quizzically at the teacher when she told us that Eve came from Adam’s Rib. I was all like, “No way” in my head.

    At this point I believe in the stories enough to get the lesson that Jesus and his disciples were trying to give us. Not so much the literal stories, like you say. I think the key is your last sentence…
    Elaine A. recently posted…Ruby Leon Jewelry GiveawayMy Profile

  15. I agree with you. I mean, if we took everything literally from the Old Testament…well…the world wouldn’t be a very enjoyable place to live in, would it?
    Greta recently posted…Suburban Haiku (The Book): A Review and GiveawayMy Profile

  16. I think God wants actually what you are doing. We are to question, to seek. I was raised Catholic for a while, then was brought to a Jehovah’s Witness church as a young child and yes, even went knocking on doors, then a Baptist church, then an Assembly of God…and now I am very busy at a Southern Baptist Church. Believe me, I had LOTS of questions. I knew God wanted me to search and seek. I do know my foundation is a relationship with Him. I would never find that by sitting on the pew and just listening. I had to discover it, through questions, prayer and listening. I can’t explain a lot of what I accept by faith, and I think it is suppose to be that way. He wants me to be dependent on Him…always searching and seeking. I am thankful for all my experiences and what each brought me. So….I applaud you for your sharing, your seeking and that you haven’t given up even when it gets messy!
    Terry recently posted…Filling Empty SpacesMy Profile

  17. I think that God counts on us to question him. Then we are in relationship with him – wanting to learn from him, and know the truth. I think he invites the doubt, so he can show us exactly who he is.
    Andrea recently posted…Plugged InMy Profile