My Love-Hate Relationship with Christianity

Someone once asked me before if I was a Christian or not.  I responded “Technically, I am I guess.”  The answer understandably complexed him, because well, it confuses me too.

Let me start from the beginning.  When I was hospitalized at the age of three, my parents were Buddhists.  I remember faintly the scent of burning incense with some sort of mini red and gold shrine in our house.  The suffering they went through guided them to pray to a different figure instead, and well, six weeks later, I got to come home.  From that time on, we thanked God before every meal, and my family attended church and were involved in the religious community for about a decade.  At some point though, I’m not sure if it was necessarily loss of faith, but rather the experience of witnessing and experiencing hypocritical and un-Christian-like behavior that caused a drift from the church.

Regardless, even though it may be wrong,  I always couldn’t help but wonder, question, and even challenge the whole idea of God, and what it meant to be a devout, true, “good” believer.  When I was about seven years old, I would think up immature ways to test that God was real, like praying that the water be turned hot immediately if he was indeed, listening to me.  I was incredulous that God had the ability and personableness to attend to my talks with him if other people were also demanding his attention.  Not understanding the concept of faith either, I would also request that he perform other similar mini miracles to prove his existence.

At my mom’s deepest moments of despair, I heard her once whisper that it was unfair and that it felt like we were being punished.  Though brief, that moment stayed with me, and throughout life later, whenever I witnessed or experienced pain, I would cry out in my head, Where are you now? Why aren’t you helping if you care?  Nevertheless, no matter how much I felt upset or resentful, like a habit I couldn’t help but converse with God whenever I was feeling very, very lost.

After we stopped going to church much when I was around twelve years old, it wasn’t until I entered college that my identity in limbo as a Christian would be pulled to the forefront again.  There was a group of older Asian students I wanted to be friends with, but I soon found out they were very religious.  The first time I sat down with a particular senior in the student center, he stared at me and flat out asked if I was a Christian.  I said yes. He asked what kind of Christian I was, to which I felt stupid and couldn’t answer because I wasn’t sure. He asked if I attended church regularly, and I said no, I had stopped going when I was about twelve.  After a long awkward pause, he continued staring at me and then finally said, “Well, that’s okay” even though it felt like I had failed some interview.  I felt incredibly intimidated.  Nevertheless, I would end up becoming better friends with some of the other people in the group, the ones who at least, didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or judge me for any transgressions I might commit by accident, such as cursing or sharing openly that I had imbibed some alcohol.  The ones who were genuine in their goodheartedness, and that took awhile to read and sort out.

During my darkest period of time, I started to attend one of the weekly Christian discussion meet ups, openly tearing up at bible passages, but also recklessly challenging perspectives not meaning to be rude, but in a genuine quest to understand better what it meant to be Christian and why certain beliefs were formed.  For example, I didn’t understand why some Christians believed all non-believers were denied entry to heaven when some of my closest friends and most wonderful human beings were non-believers, while there are more than enough shitty Christians who give all Christians a bad name in the world… while Hitler could be allowed in if he found redemption the second before his death and asked for forgiveness.  I didn’t agree with the idea that homosexual people were sinners, just as liars and other kinds of sins existed.  How could it be a sin if you had no choice in the matter and were born to love one or the other type of person?  I wasn’t particularly pro-LGBT rights before I got to college; I simply had no opinion and had lead a pretty sheltered, conservative life.  From my standpoint, I believe that the bible has great teachings to share with us, but it is definitely outdated and open for interpretation.  But stubbornness and strong faith leads us to believe that it is not interpretation, but simply  the word of God, and there is no room for debate, only truth.

Whenever I entered discussions with religious friends, it felt enlightening but also like we were entering a delicate danger zone.  At my most vulnerable, I reached out to many people and some reached back.  I am forever grateful for that, but always wondered if it was because they were good friends and cared for me, or because they felt pity and considered it a duty to lend me a hand.  I suppose it could be both, that they loved me and that it was through God’s love as well?  At my darkest times, I felt conflicting emotions when some friends would attempt to comfort me by sending me more bible passages.  Maybe they provided a minimal sort of comfort, but it also kind of irked me.  However, I recognized that it was a way of sharing their care for me in their own way, and I felt a tremendous amount of gratitude.

One particular story never sat well with me, and that was the passage where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his own son as evidence of his loyalty to him.  That didn’t sound like a very kind God to me, it felt cruel to force anyone to choose between someone else one loved and yourself.  But was I blasphemous for thinking these kinds of thoughts, would I end up denied entry as well?  I say that in an attempt to avoid the sentencing of going to hell for eternity instead… again, that seems rather unforgiving.  My friend once said that she doesn’t believe there is a hell, it’s just too extreme.  When we got into a heavy discussion about heaven and hell, I came to a theory that for people who have comparably minimal worries in this life on this planet with no particular worries embedded in serious health or financial issues, maybe that was the heaven that God has blessed them with (also, please, no more #blessed. It’s an abused word).  After all, for immigrants or refugees, the ultimate dream was to reach a safe land where they could live together and provide each other with food and basic comforts, not just survive day to day, and so many of us already have that that we don’t even notice it.  So if you already have all of these elements, and are deeply worried about getting better clothes than your friends, or a hot boyfriend or something like that, check yourself.

And while we are on the subject of hypocrisy, there is A. LOT. OF. THAT.  It’s a ridiculously easy thing to do, and all of us do it from time to time.  But everyone is constantly passing judgments off of each other, even Christians.  I get that even Christians can make mistakes, but it just seems I hold Christians to higher standards especially ones who are always focused on telling others what it meant to be a real Christian and holding others in contempt for not doing the same.  I think it’s important to respect your body and treat it well, but i also think it is a woman’s right to dress themselves however they see fit and not have to get a giant scarlet “A” slapped on them for it since men don’t.  That doesn’t mean I am a fan of Kim Kardashian for showing her nakedness all the time everywhere she goes, because I don’t think starting your fame from a sex tape is a skill I admire, and I don’t think her main goal of being naked all the time is to conquer and end gender inequality.  She is obviously talented at staying in the public eye, but to constantly seek the limelight and be considered a role model isn’t healthy either.  Even her sister Kylie’s example encourages young girls to demand a specific type of beauty that exudes superficiality with lip fillers and plastic surgery, and there’s more than enough of that in the world.  At the very least, that entire clan can use their platform to contribute more to society.  But maybe my opinion is misconstrued by what I don’t know.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with embracing your curves, but I also think she gets way too much fame and money for no particular reason.  News articles and the media are always featuring the latest antics of Kimye and whether Kylie and Tyga are back together, but girls in our culture pay attention to that shit, and we prize that clan’s flaunting lips and booties over girls fighting for their rights in challenging societies, risking their lives to make a real difference, like Malala Yousafzai.  But I think I know what the issue is here.  We prefer not to dip into others’ tainted waters, we prefer to stand by the pool in our shades, all the while saying “Oh man, that’s awful!”  We want to block out all the misery in the world instead of get swallowed up in it, because it’s much easier that way.  When I look at the seven featured Facebook news, I find myself gravitating towards opening the one about TSwift and THiddleston on their romantic getaway abroad, making out, rather than the one about more killings and deaths in another airport.

Going back to my original ramble,  I think women are valuable beings who deserve to be treated with respect from their counterparts, and not suppressed or mistreated by men, but that does not mean they are holy vessels who must absolutely save themselves for marriage.  (It’s always been a bit amusing to me that I am considered a wild child in comparison to my conservative Asian parents and their friends and more so to other Asians, particularly in the motherland- yet, I am by far the most prude in other groups of friends.  I’ve always considered myself standing somewhere on middle ground on the spectrum, always in moderation of opposing opinions, yet if I had to choose, I’d say I agree more so with the perspective of most in modern times, yet my natural inclinations lean towards conservative views; after all, I am an old soul).

To expand on that, a lot of women have been pushing the boundaries for gender equality and demanding that women get to sexually explore as much as men do.  While I think it’s a fair right to demand, I also am just not a fan of hook up culture personally, and wish both men and women don’t sleep around so casually, because while I don’t think waiting until marriage is practical or reasonable, I still think the idea of sharing bodies is so intimate that it has to mean something to both parties.  I also believe it is my right to go out and have a night of fun that may or may not involve drinking a little or wearing an outfit that may or may not reveal more skin, as long as it’s responsibly handled and there is no disrespect and lack of consideration for others (acting trashy, there is a difference here that many conservatives don’t seem to consider).  Some people do curse too much, and it can get excessively rude or annoying, but if you’re judging the quality of a human being as a whole by how much profanity they spout above their actions, something is clearly wrong.  There are plenty of people who appear friendly and nice on the outside, but won’t be there where it counts down the wire, just like there are tons of individuals who seem rough around the edges but are actually some of the kindest souls out there.  If we had to nitpick, I think the amount of cursing one produces should be ranked pretty low on the scale, wouldn’t you say?

Bottom line, I can see how tempting it can be to believe wholeheartedly in God and find peace and comfort in having full faith, but my doubts have rarely strayed from my thoughts.  Christianity has been the cause of the crusades, wars and killings of other religions, intolerance practiced, multiple incidents of misrepresentation and dark interpretations of the bible.  I know that the argument is that Christianity is not the cause, but people are, because people are, well, sinners.  But still, it was and continues to be a source of both terrible and wonderful things, bringing out the worst and best in people.  And I may continue to have these complex, fluctuating feelings, which kind of sucks, but that’s the way my relationship is with Christianity.  I am a Christian because I do pray on rare occasions and attended church and read the bible; on the other hand, there were years where I barely touched on religion and felt “faith” was a rather demanding alien concept, and I still hesitate if asked the question “Are you a Christian?”  Technically, yes I am. I guess.  I’m here neither to evangelize nor denounce anything, but portray my honest thoughts.

 

Images: Likeable vs. Genuinely Good People

Paul: I am glad that you have shot this footage and that the world will see it. It is the only way we have a chance that people might intervene.

Jack: Yeah and if no one intervenes, is it still a good thing to show?

Paul: How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?

Jack: I think if people see this footage they’ll say, “oh my God that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners.  –Hotel Rwanda 

We’re often taught to cut the negative out of our lives, hence this quote made total sense that the privileged who can afford to, would turn it off.  Just like that.  Everyone seems to give off the illusion of a luxurious, carpe diem life on social media, in terms of instagram, facebook, and twitter, but we all know that’s not true: we just like showing off the highlights.  I do know some people who actually are kind of air-headed and live in their own bubble of privileged happiness, traveling a lot and always partying, and in person too always carefree in comparison to others.  We ask the question, what if we were all honest, and put up pictures of our difficult times as well?  I think once in awhile, it’s okay.  Just like how once in awhile, if a kid sprained their ankle and it sucked for a brief couple of months, we’d all rally around and help them out.  But permanently?  That’s a different story.  Nobody wants to be reminded even more at every corner, every profile, every page, of the negative.  In many ways, we prefer to live in our own projections of a happy world, and that’s the beauty of immersing yourself in film:  escapism.  It just might be too much to handle to sit down for a moment and really reflect and absorb all the shit that is going on at any second in the world, somewhere, to someone.

When I met people who I felt were selfish or weren’t doing well, I would be tempted to cut them out, but then I would pause and think about wanting to be saved and given a helping hand, and a second chance from others to stick around and care.

There were a lot of things I experienced for the first time in college.  Most of it were social aspects.  It was the first time I really had to force myself to venture out of my comfort zone and approach other people, realizing that it was a bit of a sink-or-swim situation:   if I did not try, I would simply go through four years a forever loner.

As I encountered many strangers, I wanted eagerly to be friends with everyone.  I was in for a rude awakening, and my first mistake was in believing that everyone thinks the same way that I do.  Some people smiled a lot and seemed “nice.”  Others seemed a bit less approachable and kept to themselves, or were way too sassy, outspoken, or different for me to handle.

What I learned though, was that there is a HUGE difference in the make up of one’s character.  Likeable people are the friendly, popular ones that everyone enjoys taking pictures with, has a generally good impression of, who get the most Facebook “likes,” and who everyone seems to gravitate towards.  But genuinely good people may come off cynical or even rude, but they will never actually bear to screw you over where and when it matters.

But everything is a contradiction:  we’re taught that money can’t buy happiness, and yet we always want more- we live in a consumeristic society.  What is the true balance of having ambition versus learning to be satisfied with our status in life?  How do we know when to try to help others versus what we owe to ourselves?  Because sometimes being a true good person is not giving when you have enough, but sacrificing your own so that others can have at all.

What I do know is  that life should be spent either being productive and the beauty of learning is that it is never-ending growth. And I don’t mean productivity in terms of just studying, or making money, but also filling the rest of the time up in adding to your happiness or learning.  So much to learn.  Take advantage of the opportunities, wake up and really see, breathe, recognize it all, and have the courage to put it in action and actually grasp it.  So much easier said than done though, right?

I’d like to believe that I am the one giving others the benefit of the doubt, but over time I grew more pessimistic and less likely to risk what little I preserved for myself.  Energy, optimism, encouragement, whatever it was.  To be completely realistic, there will always be people who might waste away your precious energy, but does that mean we should just stop giving and reject their needs?  Hard to determine.