Sunday, February 25, 2007

baptisms

11:48 PM Posted by: M., 12 comments

Tonight I attended a baptism. My good friend's son was getting baptized so I went to a party for him and then to the church. It was weird. I do remember that when I used to see baptisms, I would feel really good and excited...now it is kind of uncomfortable. It was weird because part of me was thinking that it felt weird people were committing their lives to something I am thinking I might think is bunk, but then it also was so touching that people have really found comfort. I guess that is something that can be really good about christianity--it can help people feel better. Like people don't feel as alone or overwhelmed and they are encouraged. I am not sure that happens because God is real and comforts them, or if they just believe in the illusion and then feel that way because they make themselves feel better--either way, it was really nice to see these people feel helped and confident and loved.

One of the people was this girl who I went to middle school with and she was picked on A LOT. It was so touching because she just said that there was a lot of negative stuff in her life and there continues to be, but she doesn't feel alone anymore. That is so nice.

And then her dad was baptized after her and his testimony was encouraging to me. He said that his whole life he was a big skeptic and only learned enough about Jesus to think christianity was stupid. He said all these things about christianity that he didn't believe and why and it was a lot of stuff that I am struggling with now. And then he said he just surrendered his life to God and stuff like that. So it didn't convince me of much, but it made me feel hopeful I guess a little bit. It was cool that he was so honest about everything.

And then there was this man who fought in Vietnam for 2 1/2 tours and you could tell that it was really really difficult to speak about it. He said that as a result he had a failed marriage and some other stuff. And then he met the love of his life and married her. And then he was diagnosed with cancer and fought it for several years...and now his wife has non-hodgkins lymphoma and she is on her 5th chemo treatment--he just had so much terrible stuff happen so it was really nice to see that his faith he has found is giving him hope and courage.

So yeah, it was pretty weird but nice also. I mean, christianity is correlated with a lot of really, really, really terrible shit, but i have to remember that it does help some people who have had some of the most difficult lives.


12 comments:

Beth said...

You say that Christianity is linked to terrible ****, but what about the schools, hospitals and orphanages that would not exist *at all* in third world countries without Christians? Do you realize how many millions of people are fed by Christian organizations?

Christianity does so much more than giving people, what you would consider to be, misplaced hope. There is a practical, compassionate and extremely selfless side to Christianity.

There was an earthquake in Morocco a few years ago. It is a country that is typically closed to Christian groups, but is allowing them in because they were the ONLY ones willing to help rebuild.

Beth said...

So I guess my point is that Christianity offers more than just a personal "hope" and "peace" for individuals. When the body of Christ comes together the way it was meant to, lives are changed in practical ways. There are no atheist, agnostic or even secular humanitarian organizations that do as much for the needy as Christians.

marie said...

Thanks Beth for that necessary reminder. I am aware of that stuff--I just completed my degree in International Studies in Peace and Conflict and I have been around the work of christian NGOs for a long time. I am very aware of the good--the GREAT--that Christians do. Especially with the homeless and inner-city groups too.

I will not go into the details of this, but I also think that Christian humanitarian aid today is having to do A LOT to make up for various brutal and exploitative acts that have been previously done in the name of the Christian "God." And I think that Christians in the future will be "cleaning up" things we are doing in the world currently in the name of "God." But for our purposes here, that is irrelevant.

I think I may have misstated (I do that a lot because this blog is uncensored)...but I dont really conclude that the christian faith people have is misplaced--I think it might be, but I am not sure. I think it totally could be true faith in the One True God as well. I am just in the midst of a lot of questions.

It hurts me that I feel the way I do about Christianity because there is a lot of good in it and I don't want to say that people who genuinely believe are "dumb" or anything--I just am working through a lot

But seriously thanks for that post. Please feel free to post again and let me know where I am lacking--

warmly,

marie

marie said...

Hey again Beth,

you posted, "There are no atheist, agnostic or even secular humanitarian organizations that do as much for the needy as Christians."

That may be true(I'm not so sure), but I just wonder how much MORE we could do. My friend Felipe sent me some very staggering statistics about the state of the world currently.(I will post them below)...when I see how massive the need is in this world, I do see a lot of effective christian help, but also an OVERWHELMING GAP between what we do and what we COULD and/or SHOULD DO. In terms of being a christian in this life, I see no excuse for the ways we IGNORE the reality of what we can and should and are NOT doing.

I think credit is due where it is earned, but also I find it hard to believe that God will judge us on how many church services we've gone to or how many times we have lifted our hands in worship--rather he will ask why we let BILLIONS of people suffer and die while we sat back reflecting that we have saved millions.

here are the stats


831 million are undernourished (UNDP 2004, p. 129fn).
•880 million have no basic medical care (UNDP 1999).
•1.2 billion lack safe drinking water (UNDP 2004).
•1 billion lack adequate shelter (UNDP 1998).
•2 billion have no electricity (UNDP 1998).
•2.7 billion lack basic sanitation (UNDP 2004).
•876 million adults are illiterate (UNDP 2003).

thanks again, I hope I don't seem like I am attacking, I just have a sensitivity to these kinds of issues I guess.

Beth said...

Me, too... (having a sensitivity to these issues).

I feel like there is a definite agenda when people talk about all the "harm" Christianity has inflicted upon society. While I acknowledge that it has/does/can happen, it seems like the examples are often overstated for the sake of debunking or undermining Christianity.

An example: The Berbers in Morocco were forced to convert to Islam during the crusades. They were marginalized even though they had been the indigenous people and Arabs took over. They have continued to live in oppression, practicing a religion that has been forced on them for centuries.

How often are the criticisms of Christianity balanced by also discussing the atrocities committed by other religions, political movements, etc...? They are in most Christian circles, but not in the more secular humanist groups that have an insatiable appetite for Christian bashing. At least that has been my experience.

While those stats you gave are horrific, I truly believe with all my being that a large number of them are due to socialism, atheism and corrupt governments. And that's a fun debate. ;o)

HeIsSailing said...

Hello Marie, thanks for directing me here. I like your articles - very thoughtful.
I have an idea that some people, creeds, philosophies or governments are just evil. Some use religion to direct their evil, but if religion were not around, they would just find another excuse to impose their will on others. So while much evil has been done in the name of Christianity, was it done because of Christianity, or a much deeper part of the human Phyche?

Don't you just love light and fluffy chit-chat?? ;-)

marie said...

Hey Beth,

I agree with you totally. I think that sometimes people overemphasize the amount of suffering Christianity alone has caused at the expense of looking at other unrelated instances. And I think it does exist in a MUCH larger context where there have been atrocities resulting from actions of people from other religions and ideologies. I mean, one example is the suffering that came about in China under Mao (even thousands and thousands of his own followers died in the Long March). And look at slavery--it has existed almost everywhere and the Arabs were doing it in Africa way before the White European Christians arrived..

I really, really think you make a good point that if we are going to be open-minded, we have to be open to the things that might not be part of our "agenda." I also think that while we must learn from our mistakes and atrocities and terribly horrific, bloody actions in the past, we must not dwell on them so much that we get wrapped up in it--when all the while people are suffering and crying and bleeding today.

I just feel like I have to say this--I don't know suffering. I have not been raped, tortured, violently abused or experienced real pain. In a way, this discussion is important for us to iron out these issues, but at the same time, I am such an insignificant person in this debate as I have not experienced anything near to what I am talking about. So I want to shelve the assumption here that I truly know what it is I am talking about.

I hope all is well,
marie

marie said...

hey Heissailing!

I love your site, I just found it yesterday. I tried to post some comments but it wasn't working. I LOVED your review of Blue Like Jazz! Finally someone that doesn't kiss Donald Miller's ass!


you made a great point in your post. I think that you are right in that people have used Christianity to seek power and commit horrendous crimes and it isn't necessarily pure christians who are doing this to exercise their religious ideals. I am sure there were instances of that happening, but it is totally not all that. That was a good point to remember.

All the same, in my personal spiritual journey (whatever you call this), I am having so many questions about why these terrible things happen and God not only allows his Holy name to be soiled, but he also allows innocent people to be created (by Him) and then utterly and disgustingly destroyed--only to then spend eternity in Hell. (even God himself did terrible things in the Old Testament--and presumably will do some again "soon" when the world ends)

I think my problem right now is less with the actual instances of christians inciting harm, and more of the general holistic view of how harm in general fits into the overall scope of God's existence.

This may be really confusing or not--I am confused about what I really think. But until I know what suffering is, I don't think I can really start to understand its place in history and the world--and how God's role in it can be defended from the comfort of my warm home and fluffy couch.

I am so excited to read your posts and continue in these great warm and fuzzy discussions!!

thanks!

..marie..

HeIsSailing said...

marie said...

"I love your site, I just found it yesterday. I tried to post some comments but it wasn't working. I LOVED your review of Blue Like Jazz! Finally someone that doesn't kiss Donald Miller's ass!"

Ha! Thanks Heather, this gave me a good laugh for the morning. I really hated that book, and I could have been a lot rougher on it, but I did not want to offend the man who loaned it to me. At least not too much. Reading that review again, I see how my faith has changed in just one month. I never heard of Donald Miller before reading that book, but I think I am much older than his normal audience (I am 43)


"This may be really confusing or not--I am confused about what I really think. But until I know what suffering is, I don't think I can really start to understand its place in history and the world--and how God's role in it can be defended from the comfort of my warm home and fluffy couch. "

Heather, this is a terrific point, and I am going to write an article about this soon. A Christian friend recently told me that I was falling away from faith because I am unwilling to 'count the cost' of following Christ. I beg to differ. Being a Christian here in USA (assuming that is where you live) costs us nothing. Nothing spiritually, physically or emotionally. OK, it costs us a tithe every week, but I give anyway. WIth that in mind, it seems very odd that we Christians pose ourselves as the persecuted ones. How self-righteous!! Try being a Christian in Sahara Africa or Middle East..!! It just makes faith here seem like a pretend-play.

HeIsSailing said...

whhooops..sorry Marie, I did not mean to call you Heather. That is what I get for posting things at 5AM..!!

marie said...

Hey Heissailing! That's okay for calling me Heather, I probably will do one of those early morning posts on your site sometime too :)

I think you make such a great point here when you say, "A Christian friend recently told me that I was falling away from faith because I am unwilling to 'count the cost' of following Christ. I beg to differ. Being a Christian here in USA (assuming that is where you live) costs us nothing. Nothing spiritually, physically or emotionally. OK, it costs us a tithe every week, but I give anyway."

I think that is another problem I have--I actually feel like I WANT christianity to cost EVERYTHING! And I want to sacrifice everything and do most everything there is below being an ascetic or something. But seriously, I want to live on NOTHING and ONLY faith, I want to go against the culture and refuse to accept what the "world" tells me fully and totally live counter to everything that isn't God--I want to do that. The first obstacle now is faith (I dont have much/any) and also, I feel dumb--but I don't want to do it alone and other christians arent/wont do it with me! That may be really confusing--I have no excuse, it is the afternoon and I am well-rested--

But yeah, we have fashioned a christianity that costs nothing and compromises nothing. We can be a christian and do pretty much anything we want to ( keep in mind i am speaking from my own white american generation x self). and maybe that is okay, but if the Bible is true and the Christian God is real, I have a hard time justifying that.

Anyway, have you read "The Call to Conversion" by Jim Wallis? He is a Christian who founded the organization and magazine "Sojourners." He is a big social justice activist and I have had the pleasure of doing some public demonstration and civil disobedience with him--in his book, he wonders just what this world would look like if Christians REALLY, FULLY tried to be like christ--we would live SOOOO differently, it would be crazy. Imagine like legions of humans on earth who are steadfast in their dedication to a God in that it dictates everything they do and they dedicate 100% of everything to taking care of the poor, orphans, widows, etc. They just sacrifice EVERYTHING--can you imagine the impact that would have? I mean, South Park would still make fun of them, but no one could deny their dedication--which is something non-christians can easily doubt about a lot of christians.

Well, I think you might want to read that book. I am really bad at describing it and it is a good read--even if you are struggling with faith.

well i am off for a bit

thanks again!

...marie...

also--I like your idea of a pretend play--that totally explains part of the reason why faith seems like a cop out sometimes.

HeIsSailing said...

marie sez:
"Anyway, have you read "The Call to Conversion" by Jim Wallis?"

No Marie, I have not. But I understand what you are talking about. Last year I read 'Let the Trumpet Sound', a biography of Martin Luther King JR - that was a man who suffered and died for his beliefs - and if you understand how black folks were treated in this country until just 50 years ago - wow, this was a truly Christlike and just cause. Well, I read this book, and was very convicted about my faith - what am I doing to make this world a better place? I felt like an armchair Christian - I am writing an article about it as a book review - I will put it up sometime next week.