I Am Not A Christian
By Benjamin Raven Pressley
I know the title to this article is going to freak some of you out…but hear me out. I am neither pagan, Christian, Buddhist or any religious label. I find strength in many philosophies. I also have learned though at the core of them all is the one creator who bridged the gap of righteousness and spirituality in the expression of himself as Jesus Christ. Jesus’ words and teachings fulfill every religious and spiritual pursuit if a sincere seeker of truth will listen with his own ears rather than the voice of religion.
I believe Jesus fulfilled all religious longings and pursuits of truth (Matthew 5:17-20). And yet it is not about fulfilling the goals of all religions, per se. It is about truth and being free. Religions are but shadows of a greater thing. Most would rather remain in the shadows of their religions and traditions. It is like trying to satisfy thirst. Sure you can drink lots of things and some may allay thirst a little but Jesus’ teachings fulfills and quenches the thirst. Yet most would rather walk around with a full cup of that which cannot possibly satisfy. Like a great philosopher once said, ‘You can’t drink of my tea till you empty your cup.
If the goals of the religious practitioner is to find the truth they will abandon anything contrary to Jesus’ teachings (notice I did not say convert to christianity). That may sound arrogant at first but I think any honest seeker of truth will be able to conscientiously compare their beliefs or their religion’s beliefs to the teachings of Jesus and be able to see what is right in their religion and what is wrong and figure out the next logical step. “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9. Spiritual development is after all a weeding out. It is abandoning the washboard for the washing machine.
There are a lot of religious movements saying this is right and that is wrong. If you tried to follow them all it would be worse than being lost in the woods. I don’t get mixed up in all the movements. God is Spirit. I think he can express himself any way he wants. Different cultures experienced him in different ways. He has went by many different names to different cultures. In this modern day and time we have the Bible at the core of his revelation of who he is. In the Bible he reveals his character and in Jesus and the Apostles we have the most plausible fulfilled revelation of who God is and how we should live. Unfortunately through time people have made a religion out of the Bible and I do not believe God ever intended us to be bound under a religion but free to have a relationship with him and that is as individualized and diverse as there are individualized and diverse people. I do not believe God is male, female, animal or plant and yet he is all these things. He is complete in and of himself. I don’t believe it is a matter of our good list being longer than our bad list to go to heaven. I don’t think any of us are that good if we are honest with ourselves that is why we need to believe in a truth that is outside ourselves to guide us and as we enter into him and he into us he guides us in this life with no fear of the life to come. That will take care of itself in its time. If we are in relationship with him then he will take us from where we are to where we need to be and that journey will be different for everyone.
Everyday we live we look around us, we read the news and we hear about more and more human beings becoming complacent and being rocked to sleep by the propaganda of this world. We feed on the government and world system’s tit when we could be eating meat. The generations of explorers and heroes are fading away and becoming only stories and metaphors of another time and don’t fit into the framework of the self-serving bubble modern day society is surrounding us with. The average human ignores that the bubble is tightening and the air is getting thinner and how crowded it has become. The solution to most is infighting the people in the bubble that are as trapped as they are. Yet let someone arise that has a pin to pop the bubble and everyone goes crazy and curses that individual and they yell and drown out his voice when he is only trying to set the people free. This culture would rather kill the deliverer than be set free. They would rather remain in their illusion that the bubble is good and is only there for our protection and ignore that it gets ever tighter and ever harder to breathe. It is time to pop the bubble people. It is time to free fall from its boundaries and limitations and land firmly on our feet and begin bursting the bubbles of others that have them bound. There is an enemy of our own mind, there is a jailer of our own creation that keeps us from being free. Only when we walk out the cell door of our self-imposed limitations will we realize that the door to our cells has been open all along. Only then will we see this world progress as it should spiritually, emotionally, financially, health-wise and technologically as it should. Only when we shed the shackles of culture, poverty, hatred, gender, religion, greed and race will we truly be all that we can be.
We are spiritual beings that have a soul that live in a body. Human beings are capable of deeper thinking, enlightened thinking, understanding that cannot be tested in a laboratory. Our spirit is crying out that we are so much more than our five senses and when we ignore it we get the ills of society. It becomes all about temporary satisfaction, instant gratification and fulfilling lust when we could have love. Human beings have the power to choose. We do not have to be puppets whose strings are being pulled by the modern day selfish culture. Take time in every situation to look a little deeper, think a little deeper, listen to that still small voice that challenges us not to react the way we initially may want to. Deep calls to deep. Don’t settle for less. Be the superior human being you were meant to be. Be the world shaker and the dream maker. Fly on wings of eagles rather than scratching around the chicken yard. Look up and think about how high you can fly today. Looking down and settling for the scratch of this world will only keep you penned up when you could be flying. As for me and my house…we are gonna fly!
The modern day institution we know as ‘church’ is in a way history repeating itself with the complicated, controlling institution the Pharisees had going. Enter a young rabbi that was more than a man, He was the Son of God, rocking the boat of tradition actually doing ministry not sanctioned by the temple. Enter the first century church rocking entire governments. Rome didn’t care how many religions there were as long as they played along and didn’t cause any trouble, as long as they could control them like they did the Jewish temple and traditions. God broke out of the imaginary box that people imagined they held Him in and He will always break out of the box. God will always shatter and challenge our comfortable illusions.
This is the difference between religion and relationship. Jesus did not come to this earth to start another religion. There were plenty of those to choose from in his time upon this planet and there still are today unfortunately. God wishes for us to have a relationship with him. Our relationship with God MUST be intentional otherwise it is not a relationship at all. Are not worldly relationships intentional? In worldly relationships we understand that the quality of our relationship is affected by how intentionally or not we invest in it. Why is it that so many deny this applies to their relationship with God, including Christians? It is because they do not have a relationship with God. They have a religion. Anytime people try to create a system of serving God they fall out of relationship and intimacy with God.
The short of it is this. Truth by design should set one free not put one in a cage. To try to contain truth and conform it to captivity only produces other caged animals. To try to contain truth is cruel, it is against its natural design and eventually will only weaken as it loses its wild side. To try to contain truth in a temple or to even try to organize it under one roof/one people/one set of beliefs is like caging a wild animal. Real truth is big enough to cover all of creation. If a message is truly the truth then no temple made by the hands of any created being will be able to contain it.
In conclusion let me just say I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Do not confuse me with stereotypes or group me in with corrupt megachurches and crooked TV evangelists. I am not religious. I am not self righteous or holier-than-thou. I have a relationship with the Creator. I do not even like being called a ‘christian’ because that can pretty much mean anything anybody wants it to mean from corrupt religions to political affiliation. I do life just like everyone else. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I succeed in living up to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles. I am human. I like who I am. I love and treat all life with respect. I am not weak. I am a warrior. I will stand up for and defend my family and the innocent. I treat everyone with respect and expect the same. I burn bridges behind me with enthusiasm and refuse to live in the past. I learn from my mistakes and I move forward and let no thing or no one hinder me from doing so. If you can live with that then you are my friend.
By Benjamin Raven Pressley
“What? Who is there? Where am I?”
”Arise.” The voice….It echoes once again. Darkness…darkness all around me. There seems to be no light anywhere yet somehow I can ‘see’. Though there really is nothing to see. Voices all around me. It is as if I can ‘see’ them talking about me. Like I am some spectacle to behold. I am awake but I feel I have been sleeping for a long time and yet somehow I feel I am awake in a land of sleep. Thousands of voices. I cannot understand what they say. It is as if I am in a crowded room with everyone talking at one time, but they whisper. I cannot see them but it is as if this voice or that voice becomes silent as I look their way as if they see me looking at them. It is as if they do not know I cannot see them.
As I lay upon what seems like a cold slab meant for the dead, I feel its edge and attempt to rise. My head spins and I fall back down and find myself lying down again. The voices, did they stop their noise? Then they start again. But, no, they did cease as I arose. I attempt to rise once more and it is as if all blood in my body is painfully pulling like cords of pain drawing me back to where I lie. I scream in pain yet still resist as I swing my legs around the edge sitting upright. My head still spins but not as badly as before. I feel cold hands upon me pressing me to lie back down, but they pull their hands back as quickly as they touch me as if burned by some unseen fire. I do not see them but I feel their icy touch. I look down at my own hands and in the darkness I see my hands aglow by a flame that engulfs them and fills the chamber partially with light. I stare at them and wonder but I am not afraid. It is as if I am meant to be aflame. I raise them, partially, staring at them. I look upon myself and see that I am naked yet it does not matter. The gnawing fear I felt seems to grow less and less. I stand to my feet and it is as if electricity seems to come from all directions and I cannot tell if it comes from me or it is drawn to me. I view my hands and the flame has spread to cover my arms. I walk and it is as if my feet are also afire and leave glowing puddles of flame behind. I look about me and it is as if I am in some cavern of some sort. I look back at the stone slab I rose from and realize I am in a tomb, meant for the dead. Yet I am not dead….I know I am not, yet part of me feels at home here among the dead. Part of me yet seems to be dead and in the ground.
Then I hear a cracking sound like stone against stone cracking and I see what seems to be a beam of light, though only a tiny beam of light it is so intense and blinding that I fall to my knees and cannot look in its direction.
I have heard this voice before in a waking moment. I rise covering my eyes from the brightness as I realize a stone door seems to cover my tomb yet a tiny hole has broken allowing a tiny beam of light to break through. I walk toward the light. I feel its warmth as light and oxygen seem to proceed from its opening. Then, the voices, they begin again and one huge hideous force with a voice that strikes fear into my soul runs headlong into me and knocks me on my back. I am pinned and cannot move. I feel hot breath upon me but see nothing, no creature, but it is real. It is there. It laughs a laugh that strikes fear into my soul like no fear I have ever known. I cry. I cringe. I feel my very life force begin to fade. He laughs all the more.
I cannot. Whoever you are, hear me, I cannot arise! I cannot arise. Can’t you see? I cannot arise.
This time the voice seems like a great hand that knocks the beast from off of me. I hear it scream in terror. I cannot see it but it is as if I somehow know it has been slammed with great force against the wall of my death prison. I feel the entire cavern shake from its force and hear it exhale as if the very breath has been knocked out of it.
The voice speaks louder or do I just hear it more clearly? It matters not. I still lie upon a stone cold floor, crying, afraid to look up. I cry in a weak voice, ‘I cannot arise’. I look and see the crack in the stone enlarging, allowing more light yet. I feel strangely drawn to it and bathe one hand in its light and the flame seems to ignite around it once again. I smile but still cry the cry of the hopeless inside. I bathe my other hand in its light and then my face and though my eyes are closed I feel the warmth of a sun as if it is the first time. I breathe an air that is fresh and full of life. I breathe it into my nostrils and it is like tiny bursts of fireworks going off in my brain. It causes pain but it is like the pain of blood rushing into a body part that has fell asleep and now awakens. I scream from the pain. I cover my ears as I stand to my feet, for the voices, they scream once more in my ears. They scream and it is somehow like a painful ringing in my ears. I scream partially in pain and partially I scream back at they who scream at me.
Then from deep within me I scream aloud: ‘Arise! ARISE!’ My voice echoes and reverberates and like some cannon blast it strikes the stone door before me and it explodes into what seems like myriad explosions of light. I squint for a moment and shield my eyes because of the brightness before me. I then slowly remove my hands from my eyes and stand gazing upon a land clothed in pure light. Flowers and trees of every color. Petals fall from trees like snow as a warm breeze blows. I hear birds singing a song more beautiful than any I have ever heard before. And I breathe the freshest air I have ever known before. It seems to give me life all the more on every breath I breathe.
Then walking from where they have hidden, children come, their faces aglow. There are others grown that I know. They all smile with a smile like no one on Earth can know. Then I remember I am naked…wait a minute, as I look upon myself I see that I am clothed in the most beautiful of robes. It seems to be purer than white yet flows with every color and hue. Every scar, every injury, every pain seems to be gone.
Then I feel the glow and warmth as if the sun has directed its rays upon me and I look upon a man who is more than a man. I look upon He who is light and life itself. All part like a sea as He walks toward me, even the trees seem to bow at His majesty. All singing is silent yet a song seems to arise within me and somehow I know every creature feels the same song arise within. He looks upon me and I am drawn to Him like a moth to a flame. He embraces me and all that was cold is warm, all that was dark becomes light, all that was weak becomes strong, and all that was dead becomes alive. As He speaks to me I know His voice, it is, the voice of my closest friend, the voice of a loving parent, the voice of a laughing child, the voice of a refreshing rain, as He says: “Arise!”
All of this I see in my spirit, in the eyes of my mind, though I live in a fallen world of sorrow, pain and disappointment. I know that this life is but a vapor, a place of passing through. And as I look about me I hear the voice of my closest friend, the voice of a loving parent, the voice of a laughing child, the voice of a refreshing rain as it speaks life to me day by day, as it says: