My Sacred Surfing Trip (Of Hedonism), Or Brainwashed By Religion

My daughter Noelle getting acquainted with the surfboard before going out into the water.

Thanks for all the well wishes while I was away on vacation AND for dealing with a record 5 posts last week. Also thanks for dealing with very delayed responses to your wonderful comments, I’m amazed people not only read at all, let alone post replies that show they’ve thought about what I said.

I’m back from my surf trip. Though the waves weren’t huge (I doubt they ever topped 4 feet) and they certainly weren’t consistent the trip was amazing. The weather cooperated – two days of sunshine and no rain (except while we slept) – for the Oregon coast this is nothing short of a miracle and clearly indicates that God was blessing Newport, Oregon because of my presence.

I just love being in the water. I love to run into crashing waves and I love to throw myself on my longboard to just barely make it over the crest and come down the other side like the first drop on a roller coaster. And I even like getting tossed around like a rag doll when I fall in a rushing wave, which surely happened each day. I’d stay out for five hours if I didn’t love my wife and daughter.

To me surfing is a fulfillment of God’s hope for mankind and the earth he gave us to roam around on. God gave us a blank slate and let us figure out how to use it. He gave us no maps, no blue prints for what buildings should be like, nor recipes for the food and raw material growing. I love surfing because it takes something like the ocean, so vast and deep and destructive, and turns it into a setting for recreation. Mankind took the waves and figured out how to harness those waves. It’s just beautiful. I feel the same about whoever realized you could slide down snow on two long sticks.

No, this isn't the Rapture happening.

So I’m gonna take a bit of a risk here (and truth be told I don’t have all of this figured out). Playing in the ocean, sitting around campfires, having a drink with a friend – there’s something very primal and darn near sacred about these things. To be honest it makes me doubt these religious systems we’ve built.

We’re constantly trying to motivate people to join our cause and sweat their buns off working for whatever is the issue of the day – and I wonder if we were made to enjoy this time here and not just run uphill against the wind. I’m wondering if religion has manipulated us into soldiers for itself and in doing so striped us of a primal yet sacred thing – enjoying our lives. This is one thing I envy of the “pagans” – they aren’t guilt tripped by a religion always trying to make them do something.

I’m not saying we should all turn into hedonists and never lift a finger to help one another – but I do think that the heavy burden of religion that’s been heaped on by centuries of people – very much so including Christians – has consumed our thoughts and made us slaves to the system.

I don’t know if I’m doing a very good job of communicating here. Like I said these ideas are new to me. The message of back breaking religion (not just preached by the best Pharisees, but by countless contemporary, “relevant” techno churches as well) has infiltrated our minds. I think life might be a lot simpler. I think love and service should be more genuine, not something you pry out of someone. I think love is far more infectious than we give it credit for, which is why we’ve created religion and proselytizing it – we couldn’t trust love to do the job.

If you can even figure out what I’m trying to say – what do you think?

*Note: after writing this post I read this blog by Donald Miller – and I think we’re writing about and against the same religious phenomenon. Also note I’m more than willing to flesh this out more in the comments – as people could think I’m saying we shouldn’t serve or join ministries or help the poor, etc.

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18 Responses to My Sacred Surfing Trip (Of Hedonism), Or Brainwashed By Religion

  1. I think that a lot of what we have done to our faith (and called it a religion) is because of fear and manipulation. Fear of not being in control and manipulating people because that is the way we can control people. We make rules and laws because we can then “judge” whether someone is a “good Christian” or not. I am sick and tired of religion. I want to live in the realm of grace. Flesh your thoughts out Charlie. Take them bones and make them live.

    • Thanks Bill. Sometimes I worry about responses from the pastors who read my blog – so I appreciate your graciousness. When I first started on this journey I was bitter towards religion and I thought that wave would end but it still bugs me to no end – I think because it should.

  2. We have preformed ideas about Jesus because we went to Sunday School as kids. We were told what everything in the Bible means, and then we think that way the rest of our lives. I would love to read the Bible after having my religious memory erased. I would love to see Jesus with the awe and amazement, and perhaps stupidity, of the disciples. You mention Don and he seems to be able to do this, so maybe there is hope.

  3. Amy says:

    Your little gal is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO cute. I especially like the “rapture” picture. 🙂

  4. Amy says:

    And, honestly, why do people like Donald Miller so much? When did they start calling him “Don”? While I like his books and writing, I don’t understand why people think he’s such an authority on things.

    • I’ve heard Don refer to himself as Don, not Donald. And I never thought of him as an authority – but I suspect he is so highly respected is because he doesn’t make himself an authority and seems to have a sort of quiet, reflective humility. His book Searching For God Knows What is one of my favorite Christian books of all time – it far exceeded Blue Like Jazz for me. I definitely respect him.

  5. David says:

    I am so glad that you enjoyed your vacation Charlie! Awesome! And I am bit jealous, sitting around here wishing I had the energy to do anything but watch TV and hang out at the keyboard. I have been out of work for nearly a month, and I’d love to be near the ocean again. In fact, I have another looming health issue that put me back in the hospital last Friday; I’ll be seeing a specialist about Thursday.

    Savor every moment, my friend.

    I didn’t read Donald Miller – but I did read your blog, so I will comment on that.

    The joy that we have on vacation, time with family and/or friends, relaxation and all that is a blessing. It is NOT a litmus test for Christianity. All the feel good effort we put into church maybe isn’t even God, it just sorta sounds like Him. In fact, most people really find God some where in the crucible. The goodness of God may be in the surf and beautiful weather, but it is not always where people connect with Him.

    One more point. Once you’ve prayed for a few sick people and they get healed, or you preach a sermon that brings folks to Christ who actually become disciples, or some other sort of supernatural thing happens that science and logic cannot explain, then you’ll probably find a place where you want to be every chance you get.

    Empty religion is no substitute for the beauty of His creation. The Creation is no substitute for the manifest presence of God.


  6. Carla says:

    You said something about life should just be simpler. I agree. Following Christ should be simpler. It should be about following Him, praising Him, loving Him, loving others through Him, and doing His work. It shouldn’t be about man made religions, it shouldn’t be about fulfilling the expectations of other church goers or our parents or the required amount of time “serving” set up by some institutions. We should be spurred on to do God’s work because of the miracles we see, because of the prompting of the Spirit, because of the Love we are filled with. But because we are humans, and we seem to mess everything up, we complicate it by trying to please others instead of trying to please Him.

    I agree, though, that finding beauty in God’s creation is a form of worship. Enjoying and spending time with your family with a free heart can be a form of praise. I totally can’t relate to your sacred surfing experience, but I can relate when it comes to other times I’ve been thoroughly content just being- it has felt like an awesome connection to God and I’ve been so grateful in those moments. But I also think the gratitude and joy that has flowed out of me in those vacation moments should also be present on days like today when I just don’t feel it. I don’t feel joyful or content or grateful today, but I KNOW what the Lord has done for me, I know His promises and the work He continues to do, I might not feel it, but I know it, so I open the lock I have on my gratitude and joy and let it flow out me.

    • if nothing else humans are great at this one thing – complicating everything! I think you summed up what I was trying to say – we have these moments of just being that seem so right, and it seems to me the experience of life is something so grand we complicate it by throwing all these religious ideas of should-be’s on top.

  7. Jeff says:

    Charlie ,
    I believe that the goal in life is “The pursuit of Happiness”. Giving, caring, loving, being humble, surfing, reading, sex, food, travel,etc. are all things capable of fulfilling someones happiness. We should all be thankful that we live in a secular society that protects our right to believe whatever we want. Some people may find happiness in a techno church (whatever that is), some may get it from a feel good TV preacher, some from just having a cocktail on the beach with a friend. I am all for wherever they find it. I don’t know of any religion or belief structure where all of the people are happy. Maybe Sri Lanka is as close as it gets.
    I don’t think we need to waste time in downplaying one persons way of getting there over another or apologizing for finding fault with the way we were raised to believe. If your beliefs aren’t adding to your happiness you need to change your beliefs.
    I have a lot of disagreement with people that believe in faith healing, or prosperity preaching, or the Pope, or multitudinous other versions….. but if it satisfies them then I think it’s great.
    Some people believe things and think things I just can’t believe or think. As long as they are happy and I am happy and they don’t think I have to think what they think the world is a pretty nice place for everyone to find their happiness.
    Be happy.

    • my religious mind immediately says the goal is not to be happy but to do all these religious things. I think the critique that we shouldn’t spend our days pursuing tons of money and all of the world’s pleasures is a good one, but at the same time I think life should be simple and pleasant, and not so burdened by religion.

      and look at you Jeff the big time relativist 🙂

  8. Larry Hughes says:

    I don’t think God expects us to pay every waking moment of attention to Him nor to do service for Him constantly. I think the churches got that requirement all tied up nicely. However, if an opportunity arises where you are placed in front of it, I think that God put it there for you to serve.

    I have a close affection for nature photography. One of the bonuses from this is I get to marvel at what is in nature and who created it. In a sense it is time that I get to spend enjoying God’s creations and giving thanks to God.

    Another observation . We should not be followers of Christ at all. We should be led by Christ and do His will. There is a difference.

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