Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Just a Filthy Rag

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How can people remain in ignorance of modern science and even what one might think is common sense?  How is it that fundamentalism is so strong? Why do so many former fundamentalists feel such a sense of relief?  The fundamentalist Christian’s belief is hardly the benign assent to a higher power.  It is much more than that.  It promotes self-flagellation. The first step is to erode any notion of self-confidence.

“The Christian dare not entertain the slightest self-confidence, self-satisfaction or self-joy, as though he could trust his flesh.” ~Watchman Nee

“Those who follow the Lord must be brought to the place of no confidence in the flesh. They must confess they can originate no good idea and must admit they possess no power to fulfill the Holy Spirit’s work.” ~Watchman Nee

“There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.” ~ John Calvin

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:5

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6

Why are people susceptible to this?  Because we are human.  We are fallible.  We make mistakes.  These human frailties are used to great advantage where fundamentalist Christianity is concerned.  ‘See, you cannot trust yourself.  You’re messing it all up.  But there is one who is perfect and he can fix you’, they say.  Nothing you do on your own is of any value.

Out of this mind-set grows the belief that anything done outside of a Biblical purview is wrong; a sin necessitating forgiveness. One becomes convinced that the Bible God has a plan.  Since we are told that he knitted us in our mother’s womb(Psalm 139:13) and he knows the number of hairs on our heads(Matt. 10:30, Luke 12:7) it must be a personal plan, tailored just for us(Psalm 139:16).  The Bible is supposed to be the magic decoder for us to figure out this grand plan.  Then anything we do that isn’t according to this plan, no matter how good it might seem, is a failure – even evil.

Since you can’t be trusted with your own thoughts, with your own intelligence, you must get knowledge from somewhere.  Aha, the Bible!  These are the very thoughts of God!  Every bit of knowledge and discovery must be filtered through it’s words.  Any aspect of knowledge that doesn’t fit or is contradictory must be rejected.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” ~2 Corinthians 10:5

Since every worldly argument is to be rejected and supplanted with thoughts of God, and in order to love this God and have no other gods before him, the first commandment, this is the prescription:

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. ~1 Corinthians 10:31

Do all to the glory of God?  What does that mean?  Well, according to my missionary friend that means everything.  I overheard a conversation he was having with a mutual friend.  I wasn’t eavesdropping, really.  They were standing right next to me in the aisle as I sat on the end of the pew that Sunday.

Regular Friend:  “I feel pretty good about my walk with the Lord, I’m all prayed up and I don’t really do anything bad.  I live a pretty clean life.”

Missionary Friend: “That’s good. But anytime we don’t take every thought captive, anytime we don’t do something for God’s glory we’re falling short of his will for our lives.  Every breath we take we should be thinking of Christ.”

Regular friend looked astonished and asked, “Is that possible?  Do you do that?”

Missionary Friend: “It’s a constant battle but I certainly try. Even my diet is geared toward a focus on Christ.”

Regular Friend, shrugged and sighed and said, “I guess I’m not doing as good as I thought.”

Missionary Friend: “All you have to do is ask forgiveness.”

I just remember thinking, ‘Well shit, I’m screwed’. Everything? What about when I go to the toilet?  What about when I have sex?  What about…everything?

And so I was in this perpetual cycle of living, and being, and asking forgiveness for living and being. I bought into the lie that I was just a filthy rag and since I saw myself that way I allowed myself to be treated that way.  When I threw off those shackles I could live and breathe without feeling guilty about it.  I’m learning to trust myself.  I’m learning that it’s okay to be confident in knowledge I’m gaining.

What started as a tiny pinhole in the curtain that veiled my sight was eventually riddled with tiny pinholes. I reached for the curtain – to touch it, to feel it – and it disintegrated in my hands. I have pulled down the moth eaten curtain and seen that the very thing that promised me worth and freedom was the very thing that devalued and enslaved me.

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6 thoughts on “Just a Filthy Rag

  1. I remember asking a friend how do we remember to confess all our sins. I was over whelmed with being out of fellowship with god. Now I have a great sense of freedom, I know longer worry about such things. Instead I have a great desire to help others because I want to. No longer do I consider myself a filthy rag, unworthy, or a sinner.

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    • “No longer do I consider myself a filthy rag, unworthy, or a sinner.”

      Me either, Margaret. It’s such a relief not to have to view every little misstep with such contempt. Learn and move on.

      “I remember asking a friend how do we remember to confess all our sins.”

      I used to do “housekeeping” every night. Then in the morning I’d pray for God to keep me from sinning during the day. Then I’d get out of bed behind before I ever got started.

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  2. How does one reason with insanity?

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    • I can’t speak for everyone but, for me, it was well timed questions. The rather strange thing is I lost my faith while trying to “witness” to someone. I assured them that there were extra-biblical resources for the existence of Jesus. I assured them there were extra-biblical resources for the great flood and for many of the stories in the OT. They asked me to provide them, so I went googling along. I did find those extra-biblical resources, but I also found what my church had been hiding and what they did not want me to find. I found that the extra-biblical resources for Jesus were likely forgeries, and that all that “scientific evidence” and “archaeological evidence” was pseudo-science and either outright archaeological hoaxes or “interpreted broadly”. I felt duped by myself. Why had I never fact-checked these things before? Why had I so blindly trusted I was being sold a truthful bill of goods?

      The thing is, the people who sold me this bill of goods really believe it. They weren’t(to my knowledge or belief) intentionally lying to me. They were and are just like me.

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      • The term insanity was not directed at people but rather the insanity of the dogma.
        I would never suggest you are insane.
        Mad as a hatter, maybe. But not insane. 😉

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        • Sure. I just think the only way to combat the dogma is to try to get people to think for themselves. Easier said than done and what works for one may not work for another. That said, a significant portion of people who have bought into the dogma will be unaffected by any approach.

          Had you been referring to me I wouldn’t have been offended. As I was putting the finishing touches on this and about to hit the “publish” button I thought, ‘How effin’ insane was I’? At any rate one Mad Hatter should easily be able to recognize another. 😉

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