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Men and Faith: A topic worth broaching?

General Posted by daemon 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I was brought up to never discuss three things in mixed or public company: Politics, religion or money. This simple lesson has served me well and helped me navigate different social and career settings over the years.

As I age, I do find myself occasionally involved in any of these three topics in conversation with close friends, though always steering shy of such matters in public, on social media, at work or with other men that I do not count close friends.

While I seldom agree on many different issues discussed with other peers, my groups being rather diverse both in ethnicity, world view, finance, upbringing/education and class, I certainly learn much from the vibrant discussion of such matter with other men I respect.

That preface being said, what say you all on matters pertaining to faith, its existence, pursuit and practice?

I personally was raised in a home of faith, involved in several institutions that embraced the concept (both large organized groups as well as private education) but still left to my own devices when it came to belief, pursuit and practice, if any. My parents raised me to read all things, challenge all things, trust no thing till proven. My Dad often reminded me that the only reason I was in those schools was for the quality of education, not the religious indoctrination. The places of worship I attended in youth varied due to geography of school, social peer groups and different programs and activities offered.

A large portion of my adult life was lived then in a space where faith, its groups, ideas, traditions and practices had little space or impact in my daily or even annual life. It had not made the journey with me from young adulthood to manhood, and I seemed no worse the wear for the absence of its activities and schedule. I had gleaned many ethical concepts and moral precepts from my time spent with well meaning people, but learned to implement the things that I found as universal truth into my life as a man, without the dogma or baggage some might associate with such precepts.

Now, on the cusp of middle age, I find myself seeking and pursuing a "something" more than the success I have found in my physical and material pursuits. Some is the calling to me that I find in my time in the natural world while other pangs seem to emanate from music that I pursue and practice and even other callings seem to stem from my own interaction with the situations, individuals and life experiences that I am immersed in currently, as well as experienced in the passing of years.

What say you all?

Does faith have a place in your life in some manner?

If so, how so?

If not, why not?

I hope to hear some words from others with more life experience than I, who might be the wiser for it, to glean some understandings about this movement I feel in myself now, that doesn't seem to spring from any person, place, thing or idea. No group or message has triggered this difference, but more, a growing or changing transition I find within myself, in those quiet times where I can hear myself think and live. It is most keen before dawn and at sunset, though that may only be a coincidence of the alone time I find for myself.

Any words are appreciated. Any thoughts shared considered. Pro/con/indifferent are all welcome here.

daemon

8 replies

  • jordan

    Excellently put. Faith is a difficult, very personal topic, and I'm glad you introduced it in this format.

    In my opinion, faith can morph with time and experience much like how personal characteristics like honesty can change at different points in life or how personal goals are different as we age. You might be on the path of a faith transition, and I'm interested to hear where you end up, even in a few years.

    I personally have experienced faith changes throughout my life. I was raised very conservative, Evangelical Christian and stuck with that faith through my early adult years. Then as time progressed, my faith ebbed. I had no crisis of faith or one single event that brought everything crashing down. It was much more like I had been trying to fervently carry around sand in my hands only to see one day that it was leaking between my fingers. I tried various dogmatic ways to keep carrying around the sand, until I faced the reality that I had changed. And then I was extremely relieved I didn't have to try to carry sand around anymore.

    I've been agnostic/atheist for about seven years now. I haven't taken up regular sinning or being a nasty person. I'm extremely grateful for my faith upbringing and the moral compass, education, and community that came with it. But at this point in my life, it's not where I'm at and that's ok.

    Sometimes, I really want faith to be my thing again. I want something other than humans and nature to be in charge of our collective destiny. I want some extra-personal reason (sin/Satan) that people do horrible things to each other. I greatly miss the concept of Heaven's Reward (karma) that we'll be rewarded if we do good things and punished if we do bad things. Instead, though, I'm honestly quite satisfied watching reality happen and personally having to deal with the consequences. This has been key in my own maturity and growth. Having to actually deal with issues instead of praying them away and hoping God will fix it for me has greatly benefited me as a person. I've gone to various other denominations' services or read books about spirituality or Buddhism, but I haven't reached the next tipping point for me to embrace religious faith again. It's very possible I'll reach some kind of other faith tipping point in my future, and I'm at peace about that.

    Anyway, I respect that you're open to the possibility of a faith change. It normally scares the crap out of people to consider their faith changing since their community and families are so tied to one particular faith base.

    Reply

  • Chet_Manly

    First, I couldn't imagine a better platform for this discussion.

    “Religion” is important in my life and I realize that as I have struggled with it, seeking to better understand HOW to live in this world, I have become a much better person. I don’t have any sage wisdom at all as I haven’t been around long enough to accumulate any yet, but it is something I think about quite a bit.

    I have other ideas that I’d like to think a little more about before posting, but I wanted to get a couple initial macro thoughts out here on just the discussion of the subject.

    I see religion as a man’s attempt to connect with God (however they define “God”), and it seems like this would be a highly personal experience. It is also my belief that we experience/understand God based on how we see the world. I know there are teachings and doctrines but how we understand these are still unique to our personal experiences. So the entire idea of religion and how it fits into a man’s life (to me) should be unique to that individual.

    (A side note, maybe it would be a worthwhile Socratic discussion simply to try and define “religion” and/or “God”. As that seems like it would be hard enough as it is!)

    Additionally, I believe we change over time and the way we see the world changes, so disagreements could simply be a matter of timing in a man’s life. Nothing to be overly concerned with if he is someone who seeks to achieve a higher ideal in life.

    So, all that to say that I am not ever bothered by a religious disagreement when the discussion might arise. The only thing that bothers me is when a person might be overly dismissive/needlessly abrasive regarding the positive aspects of trying to understand God, saying there is nothing good about religion. Or perhaps overly dismissive/mocking of the need to doubt and think beyond doctrine. These being different sides of the same close minded coin. But in that situation I simply don’t engage.

    I have more thoughts but want to clarify and organize them better first.

    Reply

  • elancaster65

    The older I get, the better my hindsight.

    I can see the hand of God in my life better now than then. For me, it all stands that what I believed in when I was young, un-fleshed out as it was, has served me through to today.

    The Gospel of Christ is a rich well from which I drink deeply. It is one I will never get to the bottom of in this life but I'll keep striving.

    Even though there were times when I really didn't trust God, a quick reminder of His sovereignty, goodness and love made me realize it wasn't Him who let me down but vice versa. And yet, He was always there to forgive, make whole and move me to a deeper understanding.

    Getting over my guilt of my failure is my biggest hurdle. Getting over my fear of "the other shoe dropping" has been a constant, on-going battle. Constant reminders that He is a loving God keeps me going. It doesn't relieve me of my responsibilities. And the reminder from C.S. Lewis that he is "not safe but he is good" puts it all into perspective.

    Bottom line is I'm a man. With all mankind's failings and weaknesses and strengths and knowledge. Those, while they can be great, are in no way a match for the Gospel of Christ.

    I've written this twice and it still doesn't reflect what I want to say. Mostly because I have a hard time boiling this down to a post on social media.

    This is one of those discussions I prefer to have fact to face as the nuances of life and experiences show the Gospel in every aspect and facet of life.

    I guess it can be summed up in the Apostle's Creed. A simple and at the same time complex statement of faith that has many layers.

    I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

    I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic* church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

    *catholic meaning the church universal not the one based in Rome.

    Reply

  • DuncanDad

    I'll try to trend lightly as I don't want to anger anyone here. I'll also try to keep my point of references based on the PEOPLE of the Church and not so much of the Church's teachings. With that... I grew up in a very conservative, Southern Baptist home, (in the 1960's South). I wasn't allowed to have my hair touch my collar until I was in 8th grade. My sister wasn't allowed to wear pants in public, (forget about shorts for her). The entire congregation was like minded this way. The men pretty much made all Church policy. As segregation finally took hold in my sleepy mill town, racism became more apparent to me as a child. When I went into second grade, I was bussed across the track to go to school with black children. I remember my mother sobbing outside the school on my first day. Later, I became friends with a kid, Gary. He was African American but, he was my friend. I asked if he could come to church with us. I was told in no uncertain terms they Gary or, anyone else "like him" would never darken the doors of that church. After that, I would take many, many beatings rather than go back to that church.

    Fast forward to my early adult years. I had a failed marriage, (my ex was a secretary at one of the large churches) and two little kids to raise. All the while, the church turned a blind eye to her "indiscretions" because the man she was having an affair with was from a very connected family, (they didn't want to cause a fuss by dismissing her).

    After the divorce, I met an old friend and we soon began seeing each other. She was very religious and I went to church and even served as a Sunday School teacher for a number of years. I saw the inner workings of the church and the absolute control the Pastor had over the Elder Board and the workers at the church. Later, it came to light the paster had a affair with one of the staff. Most places would have dismissed him but, the Elder Board spent over a year and a lot of money on a "Reconciliation Plan". In the end he was dismissed and another Pastor was hired. A very charismatic man and he knew how to work the crowd. The church started a new expansion project and it was well funded, led by the new Pastor. A few months into the project, it came to light that he too had an affair while employed with the church. His wife left him and some very big donors left the church, (We were done before this last part).

    All that said, with the continuation of the Catholic Church abuse scandal and a world of millionaire Preachers begging for a new jet, I can't seem to wrap my head around how anyone could see God in a 200,000 square foot auditorium that's empty 6 days a week yet, we have people sleeping on the streets in almost every city and, town in America. Some of the most religious people I ever met, serve the poor daily yet rely on the generosity of others. They live simply, love unconditionally, and serve without reward.

    Reply

  • daemon

    I really do not know what to think and/or believe right now. I find more and more of what churches teach to be occurring and happening outside of churches than in them.

    Reply

  • Razorback

    Your underlying question was, in its simplest form, “does faith have a place in your life in some manner.” The previous intelligent and thoughtful responses address that in their own way. More importantly, they are all correct in their own right.

    Put simply - and without religious or scientific implication - faith, by definition, is the complete trust or confidence in someone or something. This is important.

    It does not matter if you believe in God, Allah, Buddha or the Spaghetti Monster. What matters is that YOU believe. Belief does not come with a prerequisite that it aligns with another person’s ideology.

    I won’t bore you with my religious journey which has spanned all of the previous responses. At the end of the day, the Golden Rule applies. Be kind to your neighbor and speak out to those who are not. Eliminate separative thoughts such as race, sexual preference, religion, political opinion, etc. from your mind. Believe in good, and goodness shall fall upon you.

    Reply

  • Chet_Manly

    I have let this idea stew for a while and I don’t have anything profound to say but I have come up with two ideas that have been an influence in how I see God/religion.

    First of all, I like what Razorback has to say and I agree with the importance in a belief in something good that is greater than one’s self. I agree that that is highly important.

    One element that shaped my awareness of religion was the dinner table conversation that seperated the idea of God/Higher Power from the human creation of religion/church. It wasn’t emotional or negative, just matter of fact. Our church wasn’t perfect and I can remember discussions about both it’s attributes and it’s faults, mostly focused on the personality of the head pastor/leadership. While we eventually left that church, for my developing mind it was good to have been a part of those discussions. Looking back I realize my parents did this very purposely, and for that I am thankful.

    The other reason why God has been important to me is that I see real value in the teaching of Christ (the red words of the Bible). There just seems to be so much truth in them with regards to human behavior and personal interaction.

    No two people have the same eye patterns, finger prints or squat the same, and no two people always think exactly alike, so it seems reasonable that no two people will see God the same way either.

    Daemon, I appreciate you broaching the topic. It may be tough to discuss but just being able to summarize thoughts on a subject I rarely discuss in a critically positive way was very helpful for me.

    Reply

  • ahnyerkeester

    Good question daemon. Often religion seems irrelevant these days but I don't think so. I've been watching Forever on Amazon Prime. No spoilers but it is about life after death. People still think about this stuff.

    Religion has been important for about 35 years. I used to work with an "angry Baptist" who threw theological questions at me and a guy who kept telling me about Jesus and encouraging me to read the Bible. So I read the book of Acts around Easter. One day, not sure when, I believed what I was reading. This stuff was history. Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. But why should that mean anything 2,000 years later? I read the Bible more learned what it means that Jesus lived, died, rose, and went back to heaven. Now I'm a pastor who tries to help other people get it too. Lemme try.

    I used to always just miss "it" whatever "it" was. The better party, better car, better stereo, better people. I was chasing "better" and "cooler" but couldn't find it. Now that I believe Jesus, I've found he is the better...everything, the "it" I had been looking for.

    He is because: a) He didn't live to make the crowds happy. The "in crowd" hated him. He headed to the odd balls. To me. I didn't have to be cool enough. b) He had a purpose that couldn't be shaken. Not by enemies nor by friends. c) He talked about what life was really supposed all about, not what we fill it with. He spoke with authority, clarity, and love. Life has purpose. d) He didn't ignore the dumb things I'd done nor did he hold them over me. He dealt with them. He died for sinners to take away from us the penalty for those things. He faced my idiocy and took care of it. e) He also took on my real enemies: death and hell. At some point you take your last breath. Jesus did and he broke the most scary parts of that by coming back and promising to raise me with him. I don't have to fear death or what comes after.

    Now I love to get together weekly with some folks who are excited about Jesus, some who don't really get it but think they do, and some who aren't ready yet, and we thank Jesus for what he did for us. We read the Bible to learn what Jesus loves and what he hates and come to love and hate them too. We talk with about football, cars, work, beer, and Jesus. Because Jesus is right in the middle of life. I want to see the world the way he does.

    People around me deal with divorce, death, loss, identity crisis, and more. I remember the hopelessness I had without Jesus and I can't imagine all of these troubles on top of it. I want to help people see why it is such a big deal that Jesus came. Jesus just cared for all different kinds of people so I try to also.

    Yeah, religion is important to me. But it isn't what I contribute to it, it is what God has freely given to me. I'm no longer chasing "it", he came for me. God loved me and gave his Son for me. I cannot repay that but I can live in light of the tremendous gift it is.

    Hope some of that makes sense.

    Reply