Saturday, December 2, 2023

Are you following Christ or a church?

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
December 2, 2023

When the leaders you follow are using your faith to control you, it is time to examine your own spiritual path and walk away from them.
The word to describe whatever faith you may belong to, sadly, all too often, is not what comes out of the leaders of it. Over 90% of the people I helped since 1982 were offended when I asked if they were religious. I had to use what they believed to help them heal spiritually, and it was an important question to ask them. The last thing I wanted was to convert anyone. After they explained how they used to go to church but felt betrayed, they said they still believed in God and Jesus. The problem was they didn't find either one within the walls of the building. 

They were spiritual but somehow ashamed to admit it. I told them some scriptures they hadn't heard during a sermon and they were empowered to release the shame and embrace how beautiful it was to be what they were.

The Christian faith is being used by far too many to manipulate what they want people to become aware of. They condemn those Jesus embraced and loved. Yes, He preached against committing sins but did not support judging them or hating them. The instructions He gave those who chose to follow Him were about love, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. They were to live their lives the way He taught them to, not attempt to force anyone else to do anything. They were accountable for themselves and in control over no one else. After all, to preach otherwise would be a lie since God gave all souls free will to make their own choices. 

What we see today is no different than what happened throughout history. What happened in Salem happened in other parts of the world because leaders lied to the people they were supposed to lead.

I hear people scream about their religious freedom being taken away from them. The opposite is the truth. They want to control others and remove their freedom from them. That is not what this country or the Christian faith was built on. The founding fathers looked back at the history of the witchcraft trials and attempted to prevent one faith-based group from controlling others. If we lose that freedom, then all others are in jeopardy too.

I chose to not attend church services after decades of dedication. The reason is simple. I didn't find what I was looking for in them, but discovered far more than I imagined praying to God on my own. That is the power Jesus told us about when He was asked to teach the people how to pray. He began with the words, "Our Father." That gave us permission to pray directly to God.

Those manipulated by their religious leaders are no different than the others throughout history. They used it to do far more than simply control their followers. They used it to gain power and wealth, feeding off the "faithful" while preaching hatred of others. There was nothing hateful about anything Jesus preached. There was nothing hateful in His actions. Considering as the Son of God, He could have wiped out the Roman army but showed compassion to a Roman Centurion, mercy to a man possessed by demons, and healed people without judgment, hate was not in Him.

So how we've arrived in this time and place allowing it again. We are in a spiritual battle between powers. You do not have to be Sam and Dean Winchester hunting down demons or Nick Burkhardt fighting evil because they could see the others for what they were inside. So can you. You can see it in what they do, more than what they say. You can see it in how they treat others, not in how others treat them.

I am not saying that "religious" people are not spiritual as well. It is possible. Spiritual people do not need another human to hear their confessions. They go directly to God. Spiritual people do not need a prayer circle held by a church group but can be part of one no matter where they are. We do a lot for others and ask for nothing in return. Most of the time, we don't even tell people what we're doing. I give to charities all the time but do not seek a deduction on my taxes. I pray for people without telling them. That is how I choose to live my life.

What I've seen going on in far too many churches when they go against the faith they claim to have is all too familiar. They are preaching hatred, judgment, and lies, and liars are saying that what Christ said is nothing more than "liberal talking points" while at the same time they claim to be serving Him. They want to control the lives of others and then whine about not being able to rule over them. I guess it makes sense to them since they've already proven they only care about themselves. When you think about how low the percentage of people attending church is now, it is easy to see how a spiritual life is preferable for many of us.

If you want to know about the spiritual life, this is a good place to start to discover just how much power and beauty are within you.
What Is Spirituality?
Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all. People may describe a spiritual experience as sacred or transcendent or simply a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness.

Some may find that their spiritual life is intricately linked to their association with a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue. Others may pray or find comfort in a personal relationship with God or a higher power. Still others seek meaning through their connections to nature or art. Like your sense of purpose, your personal definition of spirituality may change throughout your life, adapting to your own experiences and relationships.

I am a solitary spiritual person and a Christian. I want to live my life the way Christ taught, not the way the church has manipulated the beauty of His message. That means I must accept people as they are. If they need help, it isn't up to me to judge them. Only God knows what they really are inside, just as He will judge me for not helping when I can do it.  I know I can only control what I choose to do and they are free to make their own choices. 

All churches are not bad. I had a great priest growing up. I attended that church most of most of my life. One of my best friends is a pastor and a fabulous one. I worked with her for a couple of years and saw her spiritual power, especially when she sang. 

The thing is if you are struggling after surviving something that made you question God or your faith, you may be asking the wrong questions to the wrong people. Too many of us tried talking to a faith leader and left with less hope. Even more of us tried to talk to people we knew in church and ended up being judged by them as if what happened to us was our fault. They'd ask us questions wondering why we didn't do something or why we did what we did to cause it. Then the worst thing they'd say is telling us that God only gives us what we can handle. As if that was going to comfort us at all when they basically just said it was caused by God!

I found more comfort and support talking to other survivors after they were pulled out of the abyss. I found it astonishing when they wanted to help others the way they were helped. Such inspirational messages empowered so many others to do the same, including me. Had others not shared their stories of struggling to heal, I doubt I would have done what I did all these years.

Find what brings you comfort, support, and healing because #PTSD is a spiritual battle as well as a mental and physical one. Add spiritual healing to your to-do list and find a sense of peace that no one can take away. If you cannot find it in a religious building, remember you don't need to be in one. I think that is an overlooked message Christ gave. He preached most of the time outside and to Our Father. 

You can walk away from that building without having to walk away from God or the faith you have. Discover the power and beauty of the original messages. Examine scriptures fully to see the clues of what was in the beginning while discovering what were the contradictions within other scriptures. Acknowledge that humans wrote all of it, delivering the messages they were paid to deliver, and what they wanted known as much as they left out what they wanted hidden. The answers are there. The answers are also inside your soul. Well worth the time it takes to discover them. I know I was saved many times and helped by strangers. To me, they will always be spiritual beings sent to do what they could to help someone they did not know for no other reason than they cared. I want to live my life the same way.

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