If you know me at all you know that I always say that I believe the most important relationship we have in this life is our relationship with God. It's the one that defines us, motivates us, changes us, directs and moves us. And to have a relationship be so powerful it must first BE very real.
I grew up in a very strict southern baptist home right in the heart of the bible belt with extremely conservative parents. I grew up being taught the bible in Sunday school, Sunday morning and evening services, Wednesday night services, church camp, prayer groups, youth groups, you name it. I was a robot and I was very much plugged into this system of religion. A religious matrix.
The problem for me was that I started having questions. I'm inquisitive by nature and as I grew older my questions about different stories in the bible, or concepts, grew increasingly more intellectual and advanced. Nonetheless, all questions were met with the same routine answer: we must always have faith, never question the Bible.
But my questions wouldn't go away no matter how much they threatened me with "being a bad Christian for asking".
My questions started as early as second grade. I remember reading the story of Jonah and the whale in Sunday School and in our children's picture bible there's actually a man roasting marshmallows inside the belly of the whale. Just chillin'. You can imagine all of the questions I had about this.
Next, my question was about the story in the bible where Joshua is fighting the Amorites and wants so badly to win the battle before the sun goes down that he "asks God to command the sun and moon to stop moving" (as he thought they were) so that he may win. Issue, of course, being the next line where the bible literally says that GOD STOPPED THE SUN FROM MOVING.
Okay, I get "they" (being the writers) were primitive at the time and didn't grasp the concept of earth's rotation but God wasn't primitive. And this is the infallible word of God that had a HUGE faux pax in it now? This wasn't lost in translation or a clerical error. This was an actual conceptual error and flat out lie. HOW is this possible? You know the answer I was given. Just have faith....
Next question...the Gospels, all tell a different account of the life and death of Jesus. My questions on this are far too detailed to even rehash in this blog. Point remaining the same however. I asked and was given the same answer over and over and over..."just have faith" or "do not question at all".
It just wasn't good enough for me.
As I grew older, questions got increasingly more and more advanced. In my spirit I knew there was more to God than what I had been taught. I knew there was more to God than these stories in the Bible that were being retold like a legendary Viking king, all getting lost in translation through each recounting. I knew there was more power and more love, more compassion, more enlightenment, forgiveness, more tolerance, and more hope in the world than what I was being taught. I'm a spiritual warrior. I wanted to know more and understand more. I wanted to know GOD...not religion. My spirit yearned for this!
God was reflected in too many negative ways around me. If the preacher at church was intolerant of something, than so was God. ???? If my Sunday School teacher didn't agree with something, than neither did God??? God was just a bigger version of them, but somehow, miraculously "God" reflected all of their "personal beliefs". This didn't make any sense to me.
Is God so personal that "he" is only as big, small, great, powerful, etc as we allow ourselves to believe? If this were true than where's the supremacy?
I immediately realized as a young adult that most people put and keep God in a box and that box is something they have conceived themselves. That box has all of the limitations of their own lives in it. God was just an extended version of how THEY felt about life or themselves or others or issues etc...
Despite the consistency of the lack of answers....I knew they existed, but what I soon realized is that they simply weren't known by whom I was asking. I had put too much "faith" in these people at church. These "primitive", emotionally evocative and easily "charged" people had no clue who God was beyond their church experiences, and shockingly more important, didn't really care to either. I assumed the title "Christian", "pastor", "teacher", "leader" was enough to rely on for answers. In a church, these titles are easily given and rarely vetted. These people are religious robots, plugged into the religious system. Most (not all) are NOT spiritual warriors. They are drones, making drones. People in church seemed more interested in being like each other rather than being like Jesus. So I took it upon myself to find answers...
I started studying religion on a level most never dream of. I went to bible college and took bible classes and studied theology, Greek, Hebrew, religious writers, books of the bible, Jesus himself, the original scrolls and ancient writings. ..you name it, I studied it and soaked it all up.
On a technical level I wanted to know the truth, on a spiritual level, I was on a quest to grow. My first day of theology (at a private Christian college) our professor walks in to class and says "if your faith is wavering at all and you want to it stay intact, get up now, walk out of this class, cause you'll all be atheists by the time this semester is over". WOW. Okay, I'm settling in and getting excited. FINALLY some answers....
I felt like was uncovering an ancient hidden artifact that led me to more and more truths with each class, each book, each discovery. My mind was being blown away with TRUTH.
I thought I had questions growing up? Not hardly. I started these classes thinking I'm practically a bible scholar already because I could quote verses like no ones business or knew all of the prophets, disciples or books in order. LOL How childish of me. Little did I know what all I never knew. You want to be blown away on a "religious" level? Take a class about the Septuagint, study the original writings of the bible, learn more about the history surrounding each person in the bible, take Greek or Hebrew. You'll never be the same again.
I thought I had questions? OMG My questions were so childish. Who cares about how Jonah survived in a whale or where he got the marshmallows and camp wood from, I'm trying to figure out the "Messianic Truth" here people.
Our professor says "translate this sentence". GODISNOWHERE. It reads two completely antithetical ways and spelled out exactly the same. Half the class said "God is NOW here". Half the class said "God is NO where". It's how the Bible was written. In Greek things are written backwards without spaces and without punctuation. We start piecing together different scrolls and writings and finding out how it was all translated. This was just a good, easily example of how so many things were mistranslated or erroneously conceived.
And then we started delving into the 2,000 scribal errors alone.
OMG MY MIND IS BLOWN!
My technical studies continued for years. My personal quest never ended. I would find myself purposefully arguing with people about the bible just so I could show off my new found skills. The problem is that the more I learned the more I stopped believing. The more I learned, the farther I felt I was getting from the truth. I get why people choose to have their head in the sand. It's easier than truth.
Looking back I realized I was raging against the (religious) machine. Religion made me want to fight. Religious people made me want to fight. Religious people are mean and hateful and judgmental and I was ready to take them all on. Religion was all around me and I was more and more disgusted by it, by the robotic drones refusing to free themselves of it.
Because I had been taught that RELIGION IS GOD and I was raging against religion, I was slowly slipping away from all things related to God....I couldn't disconnect the two from one another....and so the heartbeat was distant and barely noticeable. I was definitely slipping into a blackness of arrogance, confusion, resentment....take your pick.
I get what my professor was warning us against. Ignorance is bliss.
I eventually came to the conclusion that discussing religion was stupid and pointless as most people have no basis for their beliefs. They all just seemed brainwashed and it was frustrating to argue. I'm sword fighting with a full blown light saber and most people don't even have a butter knife in hand. I just gave up...let them have their religion.
I would see God in little places here and there. Little glimpses of things that sounded familiar. My spirit would skip a little beat when it recognized something enlightening...but most of it faded away eventually. But overall GOD in my life was no where to be found, religion had been extracted completely from my life altogether.
Years went by...
And then one day, when I wasn't really even looking, in an unsuspecting place tucked away in the corner of Los Angeles, California I saw a glimpse of God. My spirit rose up immediately, as if to recognize a long lost friend of a thousand years. I found my Christian God surrounded by Buddhists and Jews, Muslims and Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and Hindus...people from all types of faiths, from all religions, all walks of life...there, talking about my God, the one I'd never met growing up in church but KNEW existed.
A friend invited me to go hear Arun Ghandi speak at a conference. He is the grandson of Mahatma Ghandi. I thought it would be cool just to see him. I wasn't sure why I went to begin with...I know now fate had its hand on me that day.
I walked into this place, Agape International Spiritual Center. I'll never forget it because it was unsuspecting. You could just "feel" God...it was crazy. It was a church without religion...it was a spiritual place for all. My mind was blown just walking into it. I'd never been in a place that cultivated "spiritual" growth. There is a HUGE difference between a church that cultivates religion and a spiritual center that focuses on a true personal relationship with God. Churches are all about the people sitting next to you. Spiritual centers are all about YOU and God only! I had never even seen such a place.
Arun spoke of love, compassion and forgiveness like I had never heard anyone speak before. I swear I felt like I was practically memorizing his words as they were coming out of his mouth. It was all so powerful. I mean I was raised in church where these were supposed to be characteristics of God but no one quite grasped the concept like this before to me. God is amazing. I said it out loud to myself....GOD IS TRULY AMAZING! I felt the presence of God in this place like nothing before. It was permeating throughout every single fiber of my being...as if God were saying "THIS IS ME", "this is it", "this is what you've been searching for all along". As if to say "I DO exist and I AM RIGHT HERE". (I'm getting chills just typing this).
And I realized instantly, that religion itself is a box. RELIGION is a collective box that groups of people have allowed God to be put inside. It's a box they can understand, it's a box they have become indoctrinated by on a level they can "agree with". it hit me, like a freight train, right to my heart. SPIRITUALITY is NOT religion. God is NOT religion.
Muslims believe God is Muslim. Christians believe God is Christian. Jews believe he is Jewish. Blacks believe he's black, white's believe he's white. Short people probably think he's tall. Men think "he's" a "he". Either way you look at it, it's all a box, with walls and rules and guidelines that do not actually exist. We have taken ourselves and our own lives and we have created a conceptual idea of someone that lays OVER it all. And that's God to religious people (in a nutshell)...he's just a little bigger and cooler and more powerful than their dads.
So I decided to get back to the basics, literally. I stripped myself of religion and got back on my spiritual quest for truth.
I was teaching college at the time and it just so happens that I had a quick conversation with my boss, Jack Moore, about this entire subject, just the two of us, after class one day....and I told him I was struggling with the idea of God altogether and he said something that struck me down to my spirits most inner chamber. I said to him "how do we know there's even a God?"
And he said something to me that I'll never forget for the rest of my life. He said "I know one thing for sure Kristy Sinsara. I know that through all of humanity man has had many questions about life, God, the world, the universe....many things we have collectively considered and wondered and tried to figure out from the earliest of man to now...and there's ONE consistency in it all....despite ALL that we do not know, the only consistency is that man throughout all of time, on an individual level, on a personal level, in all places, throughout all of history, has longed to know God....and THAT in itself tells me there IS a GOD. Our desire to know God has never left our hearts, I suspect it never will".
Asked and answered. Boom! It's true. We haven't collectively as individuals been on a quest to understand the law of gravity or the stars, or other questions...but despite our backgrounds or distances and years and experiences, we all long to know God.
But GOD IS NOT RELIGION. This is the part I was struggling with. I grew up believing the "rules" about God and it just didn't make any sense to me.
In my World Religion and Popular Cults class we all had to follow one world religion and one cult for the whole semester. Now, being a Christian private college of course they used the word "cult" loosely. I followed The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and I also followed Hindus (as my cult).
At the end of the semester I had to give a presentation on both Mormonism and Hinduism and as I'm discussing the tenants and beliefs of Mormons some guy yells out in my class "I can't believe anyone believes this crap". I stopped in my tracks and had a strange realization.
This guy who easily welcomes and devoutly believes every single story in the Christian bible is calling Mormons crazy? He is coming from such a place of absolute exclusivity and superiority! What makes him so freaking arrogant about his own personal beliefs? Easy answer....religious indoctrination. This is who God is to him and he'll easily welcome and believe anything taught about "his" God, but other people's God, now that's just all crazy talk.
ALL religious people are brainwashed. If you just read that line and it pissed you off you're probably one of them.
It's like that joke about that guy that goes to heaven and St. Peter is showing him around and he's saying to be quiet because all of those religious groups think they're the only ones there!
So I'd like to be the person that tells you that there's a GOD much bigger than the religious God your particular church describes. There's a presence much holier, there's love much greater, there's compassion and peace much deeper. There's acceptance far more outreaching.
Religion condones all and judges all. Religion can justify anything from our personal judgments on one another to slavery. Religion says "being gay is wrong". Religion says "interracial relationships are wrong". Religion says "women should not be leaders". Religion says a lot of things that justify man's preconceived ideas about the world and God... but this is NOT God, this is religion and you must be smart enough to recognize the differences.
It's all evocative...in these mega churches across this country that all preach wealth and prosperity. It's all emotionally stimulating with their praise and worship repeatedly crescendoing at a level until you feel manipulated into believing it.
YOU SIT THERE because your spirit desperately longs for a connection with its maker. You sit there because you want to believe and need to believe there's something more than all of this. AND THERE IS.
Religion almost costed me my faith. Thankfully my spirit was stronger and knew better.
People will say to me "so what religion are you" and I like to quote Mahatma Ghandi here who said "religion should be like a room full of windows where you stand in the middle and feel the breeze from each window but aren't particular swayed by any of them".
I'm NOT religious and will fight my entire life against religion and religious people.
So how did I reconcile my faith? I stole my God back. I stole God back from religious zealots that tried to put "him" in a box and force me to believe "their" concepts. DO NOT BE BRAINWASHED. DO NOT be led to believe you're less than and they're all more than. Do not adopt opinions from people that have no clue what they're even talking about.
It's like what Mother Theresa said...it's not about any of "them"...this is between YOU and GOD only!
Religious people all sound just alike..."I know that I know that I know"...."beyond a shadow of a doubt" that God is real...but test their faith, question their beliefs and you'll witness a full blown child tantrum!
The bottom line here is that your relationship with God is yours alone to find. Do not be conformed to this world, my friends, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds that you may prove what is that good, acceptable and perfect will of God.