Of course, everything I say here at RedLetterLiving is my opinion, but sometimes it seems particularly necessary to make that declaration. Since I am going to compare some religious establishments on the post, this is one of those times
As a little bio for this post, I give you a quick history of my six stages of Christian life:
- I was baptized into the Catholic Church as a baby. I went to Catholic schools and attended church regularly until the 8th grade.
- From the 8th grade through college I did not belong to a church and had little interest in doing so.
- Two years after graduation I once again joined a Catholic congregation but left after a couple of years because of some troubling experiences with a priest there.
- For the next 15 years, I was once again unaffiliated with any church.
- At the age of 40 and about to get married, I joined a WELS Lutheran church and fourteen years later I switched to an LCMS Lutheran church. I stayed there for 9 years until I was asked to leave due to theological differences. I dared to say among other things that the earth was more than 6,000 years old.
- From 2008 till 2012 I did extensive study of the Bible for the second time and also read about thirty books on being a Christian.
- For the last 10 years I am again without any religious affiliation. I think because of that fact I have grown tremendously in my faith in Jesus as my spiritual teacher.
Now on to the topic of this post
Throughout my early church years I was taught by priests and nuns that only Catholics were true Christians and if I hoped to see God and avoid an eternity in hell I had to stay a loyal and devoted Catholic. All those who chose other religions were doomed to an eternity of agony. When I became old enough to start thinking for myself, I realized that I was following Jesus to avoid the consequences of not following him. I did it to avoid the agony of hell. That nightmarish scenario was just too dreadful for a young boy trying to figure out life.
I have now come to realize that shame is used in the church to make people conform to a particular doctrine and dogma. Nowhere was this more evident than in the evangelical church I joined at the age of forty. If you want to fit in among evangelicals, there are a bunch of so-called, non-negotiable “truths” that you must pledge allegiance to. You ignore them to your peril. I have also come to understand that many of them are tradition and dogma that have literally nothing to do with the actual practice of following Jesus.
In the decade since my divorce from all religious denominations I have had time to more objectively review my life path through Christianity.
The Evangelical church is very anchored in shame, the Catholic Church is primarily anchored in tradition and sanctimonious righteousness.
I must admit that among the 39,000+ versions of Christianity that the Catholic Church is still in my top five, while evangelicals are now near the bottom the heap. Besides the shame issue, a primary reason for this low ranking is their adamant links with right wing political ideology that seems to actually be very counter to an alliance with Jesus. MAGA is a cult and since so many who are members are also evangelical, that cult label is now being attached to Christianity.
I didn’t come across the conclusion lightly. I spent ten long years in trying to reconcile their current religious beliefs with the words of Jesus. I choose to follow the teachings of Jesus and pretty much disregard all the excessive baggage that some religious institutions have tried to pile on to a life of religious faith.