These Middle Men though…

How to become a legalist

How to become a legalist

It has taken me some time to be able to articulate this in order to have it come across in a way that doesn’t seem spiteful or bitter or sounds like some form of revenge. Now I know I can never sound as vengeful as Naked Pastor 😀 . He’s awesome, check out his site here!

After having had my own personal experiences with religion – in depth experiences, I might add. Not only was I an ‘obedient to mommy and attend Sunday school go-er’, but I spent four years in an institution whose parent church is listed in the United States as a cult. See source here (United Pentecostal Church International by Rick Ross). For my writing purposes I will refer to it at legalistic. ‘Cult’ is pretty harsh and also I’m an advocate of the anti-stigma movement, so I do not condone labelling.

I found it necessary for closure, personal satisfaction at being able to share my beliefs as well as an opportunity to express myself. Here it is -my take on church, God and all things spiritual. Keep in mind my experiences were personal and so are my opinions.

There is nothing wrong with people per se as a species.

There is nothing wrong with God per se as a divine being (in whatever form you may perceive him to be)

It is the “middle man” who creates all the confusion. His name is religion.

Middle Men,  Argh!

I was accompanied by a friend to check out some apartments on the North Coast. We went by Greenwich Acres, a gated community near Drax Hall, St. Ann. The realtor, who lived just next door, showed us around and quoted a price of $40,000 per month.

Errrkkks!! That put the brakes on our tour. My friend however had a relative living next door so we stopped to say hi.

Her advice: These apartments aren’t more than 25,000 per month. The key is to get in touch with the owner, who lives abroad. The agents stack up the rent so they can pocket the difference, without the owner’s permission.

The middle man always adds his bit…

My sister was desirous of purchasing a used SUV, Suzuki Vitara 2001. First quote she received –930,000. The salesperson assured her that that’s the best he could do but because he liked her he could go to 910,000 but not a cent lower.

By chance, she bumped into the owner who worked at the American embassy. He informed her that he was migrating and was asking $780,000 for the van and that figure was negotiable!!

With legalistic religion, it is not that you won’t find God or the relationship and fellowship that you desire to have, BUT (and that’s a big one), you will be asked to make unnecessary sacrifices to gratify the ‘middle man’.

Religious institutions will always have fallacies. So, if you are looking for perfection, you are at the wrong place. *warm smile*

However, if you are looking for a place that accepts and openly discusses and invites questions relating to said fallacies, you are still at the wrong place. *sad smile*The saddest claim of every religion is that they are 100% correct and above questioning.

This is where the trouble usually starts. Defending the perfection of an imperfect system shows denial, inability to see objectively or zealous insanity. The pretty package they present under the guise of evangelism and the intense sweeping under the rug they do to maintain image are things that irk and keep away the skeptics. Instead of: We have all the solutions and answers maybe they should say: We don’t have it all together but let’s work on it together. My opinion cannot be a law since I am a fallible human being.

If you find you have an overwhelming need to control someone else or a group of people, um… get checked out, please, for everybody’s sake. What you are doing is abusive.  Read here for facts on spiritual abuse.

On Good Friday morning, I received a broadcast on my Blackberry smartphone. As annoying as those usually are, I was drawn in by the top line of the text.. I have come to accept and even expect messages like this: Some persons on my bb who on every day of the year especially weekends, have up a dp (display picture) of themselves either scantily clad or imbibing copious amounts of alcohol or taking in a ‘spliff’ complete with a status including curse words or what the haters can stuff where. BUT! On a traditional Christian holiday or even on an unassuming Sunday morning, their dp’s and statuses shift quite curiously to either a line or two of a worship song, a biblical scripture or a picture of Jesus holding their hand. Read this post for another example of religious inconsistencies  in Jamaican culture.

Anyhoo, the subject of this broadcast read: “There is no tax to his Grace..” Now, I found this statement very interesting because that is exactly what legalistic religion does; it adds tax on the requirements of having a relationship with a divine being. It’s like a group of salesmen vying for clients to boost their status or to prove that they and they alone are ordained to ‘win souls for God’.

Now I am aware that the debates surrounding the many properties of organized religion have been exhausted, and understanding and that the psychology behind cults requires the mere click on a Google search page, however…

You Gotta Believe Something…

I propose… hehe… this is my religion although it doesn’t quite add up to the definition since I am most willing and open to a. criticisms, b. adjustments. As I grow and have new experiences I acknowledge that my beliefs will also evolve. As people grow and evolve at different stages and rates I also accept that I cannot force anyone to agree with me or deem them lesser than me in some way if they do not see my points.

If a person is truly alive, then one characteristic they must display is growth (Biology 101). Perceptions, opinions and beliefs evolve because people’s experiences change and differ – some on a daily basis. To set up shop and force someone to belief your private interpretation of life events or record of such events and to conform to standards you are comfortable with is seriously abusive (and mildly narcissistic).

In the same way that what you wear or like should have no bearing on what I choose to wear or the kind of music I’m drawn to; my beliefs should be just as individualistic and an authentic reflection of who I am – the sum of my experiences, perceptions and inspirations. The obvious connection between religion and culture should have been a huge indication that people’s beliefs are shaped by their environment and experiences and subsequent interpretations thereof.

Your ‘truth can never be my ‘truth’ if we have wide and varying experiences.

Accept and embrace the diversity that living organisms display. If you really believe in a supreme God, then why cant you accept his creations as they are? Legalism is damaging and has far reaching negative effects even when (particularly when) persons are removed from the environment. They are overwhelmed with the sudden responsibility of making their own decisions and charting their own life course. Some persons after acknowledging the severity of the deception and realizing that their best years were consumed by a lie, end up with Post traumatic stress disorder and require professional intervention to move on. These are the dark dangers of what most would see as a innocent affiliation with a religious organization.

Suspect that your religious institution might be legalistic? Not quite sure? Read here or here for signs that your unease may not just be in your mind. You can even go ahead and take the legalistic quiz here and see how you score 🙂

My examples were drawn from legalistic Christianity which is where I had my experiences. I had a friend who was married to a zealous Muslim and experienced religious atrocities at his hand. When I shared my experience of legalism with her, she exclaimed: “Stephanie, you are just like me!” This was a major turning point in my decision to leave the organisation. Legalism occurs in all major religions and there are no laws to protect people from this kind of abuse.

You can work out your own salvation or keep paying the middle man.

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