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Re: Finding my way

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  • Carl Bergstrom
    OK…This was triggered by Ken Pratt’s message, and I want to talk about my spiritual journey. I was born into a fundamentalist Christian home and was
    Message 1 of 8 , Jul 10, 2001
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      OK�This was triggered by Ken Pratt�s message, and I
      want to talk about my spiritual journey. I was born
      into a fundamentalist Christian home and was active
      (through parental coercion) in church and home worship
      for the first 15 years of my life. The next 15 years
      I was an active alcoholic and didn�t go to church. I
      got sober at 30, and for the next 15 years attended
      middle of the road Protestant churches (Methodist,
      Lutheran, Presbyterian). In the past 15 years, I�ve
      been studying and attending Metaphysical, New Thought
      Churches (Unity; Science of Mind). I�ve stayed active
      in AA and Al Anon for the past 30 years and for 10
      years attended a twice-yearly Men�s Spiritual Retreat
      (along the lines of AA). Yes, I know, this all makes
      me pretty old, but I don�t feel that old!

      Over the past several years, I became very involved in
      Science of Mind, studying to become a Practitioner.
      SOM basically teaches that there is one source, God
      which is Spirit/Law/Creation; is the original source
      of all that exists; is present in all of It�s
      creation; and seeks to manifest through It�s creation
      (particularly human beings). Since we are created in
      God�s image, we replicate God�s creative process in
      our thought/manifestation, as co-creators with God.
      SOM is not Christian, since it believes we are all
      �children of God� and equally endowed with God�s
      Spirit, and Jesus, although highly evolved
      spiritually, is still just one of these children of
      God.

      I became disillusioned with my studies to become a
      Licensed Practitioner (in SOM) because it seemed that
      the church wanted to exert too much control over me if
      it licensed me. I felt like God became too well
      defined by the theology (if we can know God that
      thoroughly, then maybe He isn�t God). I was
      uncomfortable with the role of the Practitioner (paid
      counselors, kind of like paid Christians). I wondered
      about the �co-creating� and although it made sense
      intellectually, I struggled with it emotionally. I
      felt like the further I got into the religion, the
      more cult-like it became. I reacted to the formulaic
      prayer, a 5-step �treatment� to prepare our minds and
      see our oneness with God in the co-creative process.

      I found myself wondering if there were Christians who
      thought more like the positive aspects of SOM and
      Unity; so I typed in �Liberal Fundamentalist� to the
      Google search engine and got a reference to Brian
      McLaren�s book �New Kind of Christian� which I ordered
      and read. I like the ideas in the book very much,
      which seem tolerant�something I do not associate with
      the word �Christian.� Unfortuantely, for me
      �Christian� has come to mean far right, bigoted,
      opinionated, exclusionary�all words I don�t like,
      since I am a liberal Democrat by inclination.

      So�where does that leave me? I believe in God; I
      think the post-modern idea of reading the Scriptures
      with an expectation that God will speak to me through
      my intuition (rather than through a literal, inerrant,
      pre-decided interpretation of the Bible) is excellent
      (I think this is what Brian said). I liked the
      tolerance of other paths/religions---I think I heard
      this. I liked the idea that being a Christian was a
      first step, and the search/path began from there. I�m
      not sure this last point is what's true in our
      society, since when you started something types you in
      people�s minds. Ask �When did you graduate?� or �When
      did you start at the company?� or �When did you become
      a Christian?� If the answer is �Last week� as opposed
      to �30 years ago� people will hear you differently.

      I�m following up on some of Stephen Shield�s
      recommended reading and will pursue discussion with
      one of the on line groups. Any other souls out there
      who have experienced anything like me? I�m a little
      leery of someone trying to �save me� or �convert�
      me�don�t think I need that.

      Looking forward to more dialog.

      Peace---Carl Bergstrom

      --- Ken Pratt <prattclan@...> wrote:
      > I've just stumbled upon this group and though not
      > sure, think I may
      > have found some similarities with where I am in my
      > faith. I haven't
      > read Brian's book(s) yet but plan to soon.
      >
      > I've been a "christian" for 20 years having gotten
      > involved with
      > Intervarsity in college and Young Life as a leader.
      > I spent the vast
      > majority of my time in Vineyard settings
      > (contemporary christian).
      > I've spent the last 15 years as a worship leader as
      > well.
      >
      > This year the bottom dropped out for me. My wife
      > and I left Vineyard
      > for a variety of reasons. While we do attend a
      > church in our town, I
      > have the hardest time stomaching the language of
      > christianity. I
      > joined a home group hoping to meet people. The
      > group was centered
      > around a discussion from a book titled Finding God
      > in Busyness. The
      > majority of the time everyone in the room
      > communicated how they just
      > weren't doing enough of what they "should" be doing
      > and I realized
      > that the shoulds of christianity were everywhere.
      >
      > I don't know where I'm headed. I don't see myself
      > going back to
      > whatever it was that wasn't real. My only hope is
      > that Jesus is still
      > very real and that I'll see that somehow as I'm
      > going through my
      > world.
      >
      > Ken Pratt
      > Boston, MA
      >
      >


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    • Stephen Shields
      Carl, Thank you for sharing some of your story with us. I have stumbled upon the fact that one of the most valuable things that you can do with another human
      Message 2 of 8 , Jul 11, 2001
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        Carl,

        Thank you for sharing some of your story with us. I have stumbled upon the
        fact that one of the most valuable things that you can do with another human
        being is to share your story. It almost always seems to be interesting and
        pregnant with significance. And it is a gift, so thank you for this gift
        you've given us!

        I wanted to comment on one strand in your story. Perhaps it will be helpful
        and encourage you that you are on to something.

        You mentioned:

        " I was born into a fundamentalist Christian home and was active
        (through parental coercion) in church and home worship
        for the first 15 years of my life. "

        You also said,

        "I became disillusioned with my studies to become a
        Licensed Practitioner (in SOM) because it seemed that
        the church wanted to exert too much control over me if
        it licensed me. I felt like God became too well
        defined by the theology (if we can know God that
        thoroughly, then maybe He isn’t God)."

        and

        "I reacted to the formulaic prayer, a 5-step “treatment” to"

        You had mentioned that you were reading some of the faithmaps.org materials.
        Next-Wave.org some time ago published a series of articles I wrote on
        Christianity and postmodernism called "Delights and Dangers of Postmodern
        Currents" (linked to on faithmaps.org) so you may see my comments along
        these lines there. But one of the characteristics of religion in modernity
        with which some of us have become concerned is this whole idea that God is
        completely figured out. Or, to come at the same thing from another angle,
        that if you do these 6 things you will be truly holy. Or, said another way,
        here is THE ANSWER to the problem of evil. In other words, a troubling
        characteristic of modern religion that some of us have seen is this tendency
        to put God or our experience of him into too well-defined of a box.

        Now the opposite approach is also problematic: That we can know nothing of
        God and are left merely to our own devices to guess.

        But some of us have found it freeing that we can't "figure it *all* out" and
        don't have to!

        Also, I'm at the beach this week and intermittently online so if I suddenly
        grow silent, it will not be due to lack of interest!

        Stephen Shields
        sshields@...
        http://www.faithmaps.org
      • Ken Pratt
        Carl, Thanks for speaking up. Your story is very much like my family s, AA and all. I look forward to dialog as well. I was hoping to tell more of my story and
        Message 3 of 8 , Jul 11, 2001
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          Carl,

          Thanks for speaking up.  Your story is very much like my family's, AA and all.  I look forward to dialog as well.  I was hoping to tell more of my story and the subsequent frustrations with the church in this setting.  I've since received individual emails and appreciate the warm reception and the support to speak up and perhaps get a little of this confusion off my shoulders.

          Ken Pratt

          ----Original Message Follows----
          From: Carl Bergstrom
          Reply-To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
          To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: Finding my way
          Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2001 22:13:12 -0700 (PDT)
          OK�This was triggered by Ken Pratt�s message, and I
          want to talk about my spiritual journey. I was born
          into a fundamentalist Christian home and was active
          (through parental coercion) in church and home worship
          for the first 15 years of my life. The next 15 years
          I was an active alcoholic and didn�t go to church. I
          got sober at 30, and for the next 15 years attended
          middle of the road Protestant churches (Methodist,
          Lutheran, Presbyterian). In the past 15 years, I�ve
          been studying and attending Metaphysical, New Thought
          Churches (Unity; Science of Mind). I�ve stayed active
          in AA and Al Anon for the past 30 years and for 10
          years attended a twice-yearly Men�s Spiritual Retreat
          (along the lines of AA). Yes, I know, this all makes
          me pretty old, but I don�t feel that old!
          Over the past several years, I became very involved in
          Science of Mind, studying to become a Practitioner.
          SOM basically teaches that there is one source, God
          which is Spirit/Law/Creation; is the original source
          of all that exists; is present in all of It�s
          creation; and seeks to manifest through It�s creation
          (particularly human beings). Since we are created in
          God�s image, we replicate God�s creative process in
          our thought/manifestation, as co-creators with God.
          SOM is not Christian, since it believes we are all
          �children of God� and equally endowed with God�s
          Spirit, and Jesus, although highly evolved
          spiritually, is still just one of these children of
          God.
          I became disillusioned with my studies to become a
          Licensed Practitioner (in SOM) because it seemed that
          the church wanted to exert too much control over me if
          it licensed me. I felt like God became too well
          defined by the theology (if we can know God that
          thoroughly, then maybe He isn�t God). I was
          uncomfortable with the role of the Practitioner (paid
          counselors, kind of like paid Christians). I wondered
          about the �co-creating� and although it made sense
          intellectually, I struggled with it emotionally. I
          felt like the further I got into the religion, the
          more cult-like it became. I reacted to the formulaic
          prayer, a 5-step �treatment� to prepare our minds and
          see our oneness with God in the co-creative process.
          I found myself wondering if there were Christians who
          thought more like the positive aspects of SOM and
          Unity; so I typed in �Liberal Fundamentalist� to the
          Google search engine and got a reference to Brian
          McLaren�s book �New Kind of Christian� which I ordered
          and read. I like the ideas in the book very much,
          which seem tolerant�something I do not associate with
          the word �Christian.� Unfortuantely, for me
          �Christian� has come to mean far right, bigoted,
          opinionated, exclusionary�all words I don�t like,
          since I am a liberal Democrat by inclination.
          So�where does that leave me? I believe in God; I
          think the post-modern idea of reading the Scriptures
          with an expectation that God will speak to me through
          my intuition (rather than through a literal, inerrant,
          pre-decided interpretation of the Bible) is excellent
          (I think this is what Brian said). I liked the
          tolerance of other paths/religions---I think I heard
          this. I liked the idea that being a Christian was a
          first step, and the search/path began from there. I�m
          not sure this last point is what's true in our
          society, since when you started something types you in
          people�s minds. Ask �When did you graduate?� or �When
          did you start at the company?� or �When did you become
          a Christian?� If the answer is �Last week� as opposed
          to �30 years ago� people will hear you differently.
          I�m following up on some of Stephen Shield�s
          recommended reading and will pursue discussion with
          one of the on line groups. Any other souls out there
          who have experienced anything like me? I�m a little
          leery of someone trying to �save me� or �convert�
          me�don�t think I need that.
          Looking forward to more dialog.
          Peace---Carl Bergstrom
          --- Ken Pratt wrote:
          > I've just stumbled upon this group and though not
          > sure, think I may
          > have found some similarities with where I am in my
          > faith. I haven't
          > read Brian's book(s) yet but plan to soon.
          >
          > I've been a "christian" for 20 years having gotten
          > involved with
          > Intervarsity in college and Young Life as a leader.
          > I spent the vast
          > majority of my time in Vineyard settings
          > (contemporary christian).
          > I've spent the last 15 years as a worship leader as
          > well.
          >
          > This year the bottom dropped out for me. My wife
          > and I left Vineyard
          > for a variety of reasons. While we do attend a
          > church in our town, I
          > have the hardest time stomaching the language of
          > christianity. I
          > joined a home group hoping to meet people. The
          > group was centered
          > around a discussion from a book titled Finding God
          > in Busyness. The
          > majority of the time everyone in the room
          > communicated how they just
          > weren't doing enough of what they "should" be doing
          > and I realized
          > that the shoulds of christianity were everywhere.
          >
          > I don't know where I'm headed. I don't see myself
          > going back to
          > whatever it was that wasn't real. My only hope is
          > that Jesus is still
          > very real and that I'll see that somehow as I'm
          > going through my
          > world.
          >
          > Ken Pratt
          > Boston, MA
          >
          >
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        • Ken Pratt
          Stephen, I think you ve exactly defined the middle ground where I am (and consequently where I am uncomfortable). The two places you seemed to define include:
          Message 4 of 8 , Jul 11, 2001
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            Stephen,

            I think you've exactly defined the middle ground where I am (and consequently where I am uncomfortable).  The two places you seemed to define include:

            1. This tendency to put God or our experience of him into too well-defined of a box.

            or

            2. We can know nothing of God and are left merely to our own devices to guess.

            If this were some visual continuum, then at any point I would be somewhere between these two markers.  I find that the distance I desire from the christianity that is (1) is strong.  The well-defined box has not worked for me.  It hasn't worked with my kids.  (ex. how do I tell my kids according to God definition (1) that God is good and He will always protect you and keep you safe.  This doesn't seem to be true and hasn't been true for me or my kids.  My little girl wants to know if God will stop lightning from hitting our house.  Well, sweety, yes and no.) That doesn't seem consistent with the box I've lived in for 20 years and have put hope in.  Now where is the hope if the hope is built on something quite untrue?  It's interesting to me to note that the anger, pain, etc associated with christianity right now is closely aligned with the issue of how "people" make the declarative God definition and the subsequent language control that occurs if language suggests a definition that is even slightly contrary to that or in any way questions that.

            At the same time, I'm not really interested in God definition (2).  No real reason yet, but just not terribly interested in going down that path.  Fear? Maybe. I think there is a creator and that is His grand design, I have played a role in something that is good.  I hope.

            Ken

            ----Original Message Follows----
            From: "Stephen Shields"
            Reply-To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
            To:
            Subject: RE: Finding my way
            Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2001 10:32:48 -0400
            Carl,
            Thank you for sharing some of your story with us. I have stumbled upon the
            fact that one of the most valuable things that you can do with another human
            being is to share your story. It almost always seems to be interesting and
            pregnant with significance. And it is a gift, so thank you for this gift
            you've given us!
            I wanted to comment on one strand in your story. Perhaps it will be helpful
            and encourage you that you are on to something.
            You mentioned:
            " I was born into a fundamentalist Christian home and was active
            (through parental coercion) in church and home worship
            for the first 15 years of my life. "
            You also said,
            "I became disillusioned with my studies to become a
            Licensed Practitioner (in SOM) because it seemed that
            the church wanted to exert too much control over me if
            it licensed me. I felt like God became too well
            defined by the theology (if we can know God that
            thoroughly, then maybe He isn�t God)."
            and
            "I reacted to the formulaic prayer, a 5-step �treatment� to"
            You had mentioned that you were reading some of the faithmaps.org materials.
            Next-Wave.org some time ago published a series of articles I wrote on
            Christianity and postmodernism called "Delights and Dangers of Postmodern
            Currents" (linked to on faithmaps.org) so you may see my comments along
            these lines there. But one of the characteristics of religion in modernity
            with which some of us have become concerned is this whole idea that God is
            completely figured out. Or, to come at the same thing from another angle,
            that if you do these 6 things you will be truly holy. Or, said another way,
            here is THE ANSWER to the problem of evil. In other words, a troubling
            characteristic of modern religion that some of us have seen is this tendency
            to put God or our experience of him into too well-defined of a box.
            Now the opposite approach is also problematic: That we can know nothing of
            God and are left merely to our own devices to guess.
            But some of us have found it freeing that we can't "figure it *all* out" and
            don't have to!
            Also, I'm at the beach this week and intermittently online so if I suddenly
            grow silent, it will not be due to lack of interest!
            Stephen Shields
            sshields@...
            http://www.faithmaps.org


            Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com
          • Stephen Shields
            Ken wrote: I think you ve exactly defined the middle ground where I am (and consequently where I am uncomfortable). The two places you seemed to define
            Message 5 of 8 , Jul 11, 2001
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              Ken wrote:
               

              "I think you've exactly defined the middle ground where I am (and consequently where I am uncomfortable).  The two places you seemed to define include:

              1. This tendency to put God or our experience of him into too well-defined of a box.

              or

              2. We can know nothing of God and are left merely to our own devices to guess. "

              Welcome to the fellowship of the middle ground! 

              and

              "Now where is the hope if the hope is built on something quite untrue?  "

              I would only say that the opposite connotation of "too well-defined" would not be undefined.

              for what it's worth,

              Stephen Shields
              sshields@...
              http://www.faithmaps.org

               
            • Caroline Wong
              I agree. It s possible to love someone without fully understanding him. In fact, it s one of the pleasures of love to gaze on the loved one, to delight in
              Message 6 of 8 , Jul 11, 2001
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                I agree.  It's possible to love someone without fully understanding him.  In fact, it's one of the pleasures of love to gaze on the loved one, to delight in each new discovery and yet be fully satisfied at each stage of understanding.
                 
                ----- Original Message -----
                Sent: July 11, 2001 11:48 PM
                Subject: The Fellowship of the Middle Ground

                Ken wrote:
                 

                "I think you've exactly defined the middle ground where I am (and consequently where I am uncomfortable).  The two places you seemed to define include:

                1. This tendency to put God or our experience of him into too well-defined of a box.

                or

                2. We can know nothing of God and are left merely to our own devices to guess. "

                Welcome to the fellowship of the middle ground! 

                and

                "Now where is the hope if the hope is built on something quite untrue?  "

                I would only say that the opposite connotation of "too well-defined" would not be undefined.

                for what it's worth,

                Stephen Shields
                sshields@...
                http://www.faithmaps.org

                 

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