This Page - Gay Christian, Gay Christians, Lesbian Christians discern true Christianity from false Christianity, discussion of absolute thinking. (Exploring its damaging effects, including false guilt and shame, unrealistic expectations, limiting creativity, unattainable perfection, bound by fears and obsessions, and how to break free from them all).
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I grew up in a nice home, with loving parents, and yet, I hated myself, had very low self-esteem. I believed, falsely, that in order to achieve love and acceptance from my parents, family, and peers, I had to be the best at everything. This was the pair of glasses through which I saw the world, my base or foundation. I interpreted everything I saw, did, or came in contact with, through this view. What must be understood is this view was false, and so, then, was my world.
In college, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, and as a good, new Christian, I was excited and zealous for the Lord. Though I was re-born in Christ, I still carried with me many old habits, and foundations. So, it was only natural for me to approach my relationship with God in the same manner as I did with the rest of the world. I thought, in order to please God, I had to be the best Christian, pray, study and know the Bible, witness, and serve more than anyone else. The end result of many years of this practice and interpretation was complete spiritual burnout. I only recovered, and found true Christianity, through a direct personal intervention from God, a touch of Godís love.
I learned the definition of a Christian is based not on what you do, but who you are; who you are will determine what you do, and the right spirit behind what you do. What I was practicing wasnít Christianity, but religion.
The definition of religion is "a set of rules, regulations, a system of beliefs or practices," whereby mankind tries to connect with God; this describes the majority of the world's religions. Christianity is the only religion that is not a "religion;" it is wrong to think "all religions are basically the same or are different paths to the same end." No, Christianity is defined as the "literal adoption of a person into an eternal personal relationship and fellowship with God and God's Family." The majority of the world's religions are devoted to people taking the initiative, turning inward or heavenward in the hopes of improving themselves, connect with God, and/or achieve some eternal reward; Christianity is the only "religion" where God took the initiative and reached down to us, and gives us not improved lives but a total new birth.
So, here I present to you some thoughts and observations to help you see and determine if you follow true Christianity, or false Christianity, mere religion. Knowing these things may help you understand why you think as you do, why you approach your relationship with God a certain way. Further, you might find insight into why and how you view yourself, why you approach God or Christianity the way you do, and determine if that way is true or false.
As a gay person, it is very easy for you to get involved in religion, "false Christianity," or even other religions, in the attempt and hopes that you might either be "cured," find a "miracle," suppress, deny or hide it. True Christianity teaches you how to be yourself, and celebrate self with responsibility, joy, peace, faith, hope, and Love.
This absolute thinking is a breeding ground for false guilt and shame. Think you arenít good enough, will never measure up, you are an "abomination," worthless, a disappointment to your parents and peers, and absolute spirituality is an inviting sugar high. Trouble with sugar highs are they donít last, and they make you addictive, needing more and more sugar to get the same highs. This form of spirituality bases itself on the belief that you are flawed, rather than you sometimes do flawed things, you donít error, you are an error. You label self, judge self, constantly find flaws with self, and rarely, if ever, can find good in self, or praise self. Instead of devoting time to reflecting on positive things God thinks about you, and who Jesus wants you to be, you concentrate on negative things your spiritual peers believe or say about you, thinking if you purge yourself of them, act or think a certain way, youíll finally be free and find peace.
Youíve been taught that nothing you can or ever will do shall be good enough. You take yourself too seriously, rarely, if ever, have fun. To take risks, or to have fun is to open yourself up to experiencing new things, frightening things, which might be "sinful," or which might lead you astray. You feel awkward or guilty with any pleasure, always wondering not just if what youíre doing or thinking is wrong, but also if you are wrong. You falsely believe anything fun to be "sinful," told that if you even think about wanting to do such things, you are a bad person. You are obsessed with finding fault in self, to root it out, exorcise it, to be pure today and more pure tomorrow, no "rest for the wicked." Hating the desires within you, you become a spokesperson against those very things, preaching without mercy against anything "fun," determined if you canít enjoy them, then so will no one else. Since you donít like yourself, or have been taught not to, then why bother with anything. Youíll never measure up no matter what you do, so why try. Strive for excellence? why bother, youíll never make it. Want a certain job? want happiness? why should you, you donít deserve it. In counseling, I often tell people to go jump in water puddles; ride a shopping cart through the parking lot; watch the sun set; finger paint; run up to a total stranger, tap them on the shoulder and say "Youíre it!" Why? To reawaken in them their child-like nature, and they think I am nuts. To often, when people become adults, they become complete fuddy-duddies, and black and white thinking people are the worst.
You have difficulty relating to other people, often fail at relationships. You want and desire intimacy, whether it is friends or a lover, but youíve been told you cannot trust yourself, or other people, and you might fall into sin, or the other person might lead you astray. You may actually end up engaging in dysfunctional relationships or poor sexual activities, to reinforce to self that you are lost and bad. Or you may avoid people all together, isolating yourself, to prevent any temptations. You may come up with elaborate justifications for your beliefs regarding sex, or relationships, distorting Scriptures to support your "right" views. Instead of channeling your desires for touch and sex properly and responsibly, you believe it all wrong, and come up with elaborate justifications for your celibacy or refusal to date, etc. You refuse to socialize with anyone who differs from you in your beliefs. If you cannot find anyone who believes as rightly as you, then itís better to be alone.
bsolutism justifies bad behavior. Opening my door one day, I found a nice, sincere young man handing me a religious tract. I told him the apartment rules against solicitation, he was welcome to post it on the apartment bulletin boards, but not go door-to-door, and he rudely told me "city law says solicitation means selling something, we arenít selling something, so we arenít violating any law." I tried to contact the Church, trying to get them to see they might actually be turning more people off to Jesus than on, smugly told they were right, I was wrong, and I was "trying to suppress the spreading of the Gospel." When you think you are "right," then you are justified in anything you do or think. This justifies stereotyping of people, judging people or groups, dividing people into "us verses them." I know people who leave waiters religious tracts instead of monetary tips, because "they need heavenly riches more." Thinking only you are right makes it easy to abuse other people, to belittle them, ridicule them, negate them, use them. This can lead to even acts of violence against certain peoples, often people who reflect what you hate or fear in yourself. The end justifies the means, if your end is absolutism. Some gay people, in denial and self-hatred, will actually bash other gay people.
Even further, absolutism justifies easy excuses. Do something bad? Just ask God to forgive you, and it's done. You don't have to make amends for any harm you did. You don't have to make any efforts to deal with why you did what you did, because you're forgiven. You see forgiveness as a magic pill, take it, and you're cured. You do not see the need to consider why you did what you did. You assume since you are forgiven the desire will never come back. You don't think forgiveness involves any effort on your part. You see forgiveness as all about you, not thinking of the persons you may have harmed, the need to go to them and ask their forgiveness, or help them heal from the wounds you caused. Though you think all you have to do to be released from any responsibility for your actions is to ask God's forgiveness, you hold everyone else accountable for their sins against you.
Another false foundation is seeking God or from God for unrealistic self-centered and self-driven reasons. Religion promises miracles, a better life, and is centered and focused on the self, what is good for you, promises for you; the core to this type of teaching is a focus on "you and me," and rarely on "other people and God." Whereas, Jesus teaches us how to both develop a healthy inner life in and through Him, and a desire to reach out to other people in the midst of a harshly too real and often unfriendly world. Many large and seemingly successful Christian churches and ministries are built on materialistic foundations. They teach, write, and sell books and audio-visual materials that promise you a better life, the fulfillment of your personal dreams, financial prosperity, and better physical health. Many of their teachings are based on overly simplistic formulas, follow certain patterns, procedures, or outlines, and you will achieve. If you do not experience or achieve these, or experience them in the short-term but have difficulty maintaining them, then it is your fault, you are not trying or believing hard enough, do not have enough faith. Many of these churches and ministries have hundreds, or even thousands of members, dynamic teaching and preaching, outstanding music, a positive and welcoming atmosphere, money giving outreaches to people in countries on the other side of the world, the feel good positive testimonies of their members, and their statistics and numbers are often used to judge their success. But, when looked at more closely, in the long-term they fail in really ministering to the individual heart's real needs, and they fail in real long-lasting ministry and outreach to the surrounding community and world.
It is true, the more mature you are as an individual, the more effectual you can be in ministering to other people. However, that can only be the case if your focus is on Relationship, and your desire for personal growth is not just self-centered. They preach and promote the supposed teachings of Christ about personal growth and welfare, but they twist it into a self-centered marketable commodity for sale, and know nothing of Christ's teachings about selfless ministry and outreach to other people, rooted and grounded in service Love and Relationship. Lacking Love and real Relationship, they know nothing about social justice, real compassion, the heart rewarding suffering, sacrifice, and service for other people. They have a "form of godliness," but at their core they are empty, and hollow. Embracing their teachings and their pretty positive thinking promise ministries will ultimately leave you hungry, feeling even more discouraged and unfulfilled, and potentially lead you to spiritual burn-out. Remember the advice of your mother, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
Religion is tempting, because it promises you not just ice cream, but ice cream with chocolate sauce, sprinkles, whip cream, and a cherry on top. But, after you eat it, you will just end up sick to your stomach, and later on, hungry again. Jesus said He was the Bread of Life, and those who eat of Him will NEVER hunger again. Religion can never give you real connections, caring, compassion, intimacy, and Love; Relationship can and will. Religion teaches the Bible, "... give and it will be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together, running over," and tell you this means if you give one (Dollar, Euro, Pound, or Yen) God will give you ten in return. Relationship teaches the Person behind the Bible, may not always fill your pocket with money, but will fill you with a heart that wants to give without thought of return, and in the process of selfless giving you end up receiving back ten-fold Love, acceptance, and intimacy from Jesus and other people.
Religion feeds off of your desire for Love, and acceptance, tries to give you a false form of them that in the end prove to be counterfeit, materialistic, shallow, and temporal. For gays and lesbians struggling with self-acceptance and self-love, you may be tempted to try to transfer this inner desire on to other people, seek their acceptance and love. You may be tempted by Religionís promises of formulas, do or change this or that and you will finally achieve, be happy, fulfilled, loved, and accepted. In the short-term, you may think you have achieved these things. You think God now loves and accepts you since you changed this or that, or started doing certain things. You feel like you now belong, have the love and acceptance from other people, they seem to genuinely accept you and want to be around you. But, as time passes, the real deeper needs of your heart will rise to the surface, and prove the empty promises of Religion. Your heart will reveal the truth, their love was conditional, and the material things you gained cannot feed your hungry heart. Religion's feeding off of your fears, hopes, and self-doubts, its simplistic black and white views of the world, its patented formulas, its demands for perfection, are all pipe dreams and smoke screens that have no real substance.
Black and white thinking makes you seek outside of yourself for approval, correction, and change. When you do error, you look to some formula, or to God to fix it, or fix you. But, when you repeat the bad behavior or attitude again, you get discouraged, look for some other formula, or church, or approach to God to finally be set free. You take a too simplistic approach to human frailties and failures. You donít see self-responsibility or self-activity has any part in the process. But, Godís way isnít to take you out of your problems but through them. You want someone to correct whatís wrong with you, and half the time there isnít any wrong there, just how you see yourself. Even when there is genuine error, you deny it, suppress it, or seek some instant miracle cure or healing for it, instead of a process of recovery and restoration.
Yet, despite all the negativity, narrowness, unrealistic goals and processes that absolutism and perfectionism breed, you want peace, happiness, and the approval of people and God. You want to reinforce to self that where, what, and who you are is "right." Your need for approval drives you to more intense Bible readings and studying, excessive prayers and fasts, unending attendance at spiritual meetings, and nervous exhaustion. If you can just prove to God and other people that you are perfect, have arrived, are good enough, then maybe youíll finally be accepted and loved. If you can just be good enough to catch that slightly out-of-reach prize ring of connecting with God, youíll find inner peace and happiness. Trouble with this is perfection this side of Heaven isnít possible, whether you like it or not. Since itís impossible to be perfect, then so is your goal. Or is it?
Youíve tried to do everything right, in fact, you might actually do all that you think is required, and yet you still donít feel right. Youíve followed all the rules, and yet you still are miserable, still hate yourself, still havenít found freedom from your dysfunctions, and still havenít connected with God. Having done all, then why havenít you achieved all?
When youíve done everything you think you are supposed to do, or have been taught to do, and things donít go right, youíve got to find someone to blame. Itís God or your employerís fault the money isnít there. Itís God or your churchís fault you arenít happy and sin free. Itís God or your familyís fault for holding you back, tempting you, or preventing you from being all you can be. Itís God or the devil that has denied you your earned blessings. Itís basically, in the end, always God who gets the blame, and then comes spiritual burn out.
You may also read a companion article How You Can Be A Gay Christian.
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