Guest post by Melody
There are roughly three ways of looking at the world, the universe, and nature: it is inherently hostile, it is indifferent, or it is loving – three very different positions with quite huge consequences for one’s worldview. This past week, I realized that while I rationally see nature as basically indifferent—it simply is, it exists for its own sake; we are the ones that add the value, for better or for worse—I emotionally still see the world as hostile sometimes.
I was raised in a typical Evangelical fashion. Everyone is a sinner. The ‘world’ is hostile towards us—no one ever focused on our own hostility towards this so-called evil world—but God is on our side, so we will win eventually. The indoctrination, combined with my own personal negative experiences, led me to believe that yes, people were all bad at their core and so was the world, and so was I. It’s no surprise that such a belief does not help with feeling comfortable either on this earth or within one’s own skin.
Beliefs can be very harmful and divisive. In this scenario, there is always an enemy. There is always some sort of (spiritual) war going on. This war rhetoric also creates an intensity to one’s normal everyday life that may not be meant for anything else except real threatening situations. If there are demons and spiritual attacks everywhere, normal life will never be boring. This sounds a lot better than it is though, because a little boring is good. It is peaceful and restful. This state of calm hardly exists in people who see a spiritual threat on every corner, in every book they read, in every person they meet. They get worn out fighting imaginary threats.
To them, the world is hostile. Jesus was persecuted and we will be too. Jesus suffered at the hands of unbelievers and we will too: just look at all the signs! In order to hold onto this view, negative experiences get magnified and all good ones get disregarded, creating a huge negative spiral. Because I personally felt that some people were not trustworthy, I could myself easily believe that we were all sinful at heart; that no one but God could be trusted. I have believed this for the longest time. There were pastors who were untrustworthy in our church, family members who were untrustworthy… I could go on. It was far too easy to believe that sin was winning in this world, that the dark was winning and we absolutely, definitely needed God. All of us.
Now, I’m trying to change my worldview; to no longer see myself as a bad sinful person who has to do good things to make up for that, but who will always fail, because, doesn’t the Bible, in Romans 3:10, say that: “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’”? Seeing myself as bad, as well as everyone else, does nobody any good. That is not to say that bad people do not exist: clearly some people are rapists, murderers etc. But the concept of us all being sinful beings and everyone as inherently bad does so much harm. Most people are neither entirely good nor entirely bad—nor do they have to be—there are shades of grey everywhere, possibly even more than fifty…
At the moment, I see the world as indifferent. There’s too much darkness in this world for me to see it as loving, but I also no longer want to see it as hostile either. Besides, for it to be either one of those, there would have to be someone or something that made the world so; and that is precisely the belief I have given up — the belief that everything and everyone is a helpless pawn in a huge fight between invisible beings. There is no God with a good plan for the world as there is no Devil with a bad one. The earth simply is and we are on it as long as we manage not to destroy it, which we unfortunately might.
I want to see myself — and others — as a good person who may sometimes make mistakes, instead of as someone who has to do good to redeem herself without there ever even being a real possibility that she can succeed in doing so. Evangelical Christianity has the power to break people like that, because there is never even any point in trying. Everyone is sinful and will remain so; all good things one does are by God’s power and strength anyway. This view of humanity and life is pitch-black. It’s not easy to preserve one’s mental health in such a setting; it might even be impossible.
Mostly I want to find rest and peace within myself, to accept myself and others, to accept the indifference of nature and people alike; to move from a worldview where there’s a constant spiritual war to one where there is just as much uncertainty, but where there are no evil intentions behind that uncertainty — a life where good and bad exist but where they are not handed out on purpose.
(1) http://newlife.com/emb/bounce-your-eyes/ is a clear example of this state of mind. It’s about men staying pure of thought: they might need to avoid billboards—change their route to work if necessary—or the beach. It’s easy to laugh at but it is also heartbreaking because that is not an easy way to live, or a way to live at all. It is choking all joy out of life.