As someone new to a more progressive faith, I am full of questions but the most prominent question that keeps surfacing is, “What do I really believe?” This is a scary road to walk down because, although people say doubts and questions are healthy, the church doesn’t always reinforce that belief. We’re taught from an early age that you don’t question God. You believe what your told to believe and, if you’re a good Christian, you never question what you’re told. I can’t say that anyone ever actually said those exact words to me but the gist was there, especially as we delved more into the Charismatic worship style. Somehow, people in fundamentalist churches, have a way of making doubts and questions seem like heresy. If you just believe strongly enough anything is possible. As if to say that if something you’re praying for doesn’t work out, it was because of your lack of faith.
So as I have done most of my life, when I’m cleaning something out, like a closet for example, I take everything out and examine it and decide if it still fits or it needs to be given away. This is how I’ve been approaching my faith shift. I’m re-examining all my beliefs and deciding what still fits and what needs to go. Frankly, I think everyone needs to do this periodically to maintain a thriving, growing faith journey. But in doing this I have discovered that there’s a proverbial fence running through my theology and it is firmly set in my love of music. I have loved music from the time I could speak. I am told I use to line all the children up on the church nursery floor and I’d stand on a chair and sing to everyone. I sang in choir from childhood through adulthood. I majored in voice for my first couple of years in college. I sang in Contemporary Christian groups and traveled around. I even made an album (back when vinyl was king) with a group and had a solo on said album. I envisioned trying out for Christian groups and going on the road touring with whoever I could get to take me. In summary, I love to sing. Anyone who has ever stood next to me or ridden with me in the car has heard me harmonizing to every song that I hear. Now some would say there’s nothing wrong with that but here’s my fence-straddling dilemma.
If you’ve ever been in a church that sings traditional hymns, you’ll know that the lyrics can be, well, unrealistic. They are about this magical place where the streets are made of gold and there’s mansions lining the streets. Sometimes the words don’t even make sense to the average church goer because they were written in a bygone time. The language is old and outdated and I know, because I’ve asked, most people don’t understand what they’re singing. But it’s tradition and somehow we believe we get brownie points with God for making the attempt. I’ve got friends who tell me that they don’t even listen to Christian music anymore because they don’t believe the words. It’s here where I stand conflicted. I love the old songs. I love even the ones that are unbelievable. Not because of the words, but because of the harmonies. The way they resonate in my spirit helps me look past the lyrics occasionally and just hear the harmony. Now I am happy to point out to those who have thrown the entire genre of Christian music away, there are brand new contemporary Christian songs on the radio that are refreshingly believable and speak to the social issues and struggles of our day.. But I still struggle sometimes when I ask myself the age old question, “Do I really believe what I’m singing and how does this fit in with my current journey?” “Am I selling out or keeping something that no longer fits who I’m becoming?” This is the question I’m struggling with and where I’ll leave this for now because I don’t have an answer yet. But, it is a journey, so no rush. I’ll continue this thought in my next blog.