Thursday, February 28, 2013

it's a big nail

i want to write about the biggest nail in the coffin that now holds my faith.

of all the spiritual abuse i experienced through childhood and my college years, of all the times i heard abusive qualities ascribed to god, of all the people who showed me the nasty side of christianity, there are a few more recent events and people that really stand out.

just a few years ago i found a new freedom in a grace-based christianity that i had never known before. i found that i could buy a "jesus + nothing = faith/salvation/whatever" and hold on to the idea that there are no essentials to faith, except jesus. christians through the past two thousand years have disagreed on nearly everything - even down to whether or not the second coming has already happened - and of course everyone likes to think they are right. i found i could buy a faith where the essentials were "jesus loves me and i can respect others' beliefs on everything else."

so i shared my new-found excitement over this with others. i finally felt like i knew why people actually wanted to share the "good news" of the gospel. it was actually freeing! jesus+nothing really was beautiful to me and i got all excited watching people agree with me. it meant that finally when someone said they were a christian i didn't feel some pressure to apply a litmus test of whatever i was told the "essentials" of the faith were to determine whether or not they actually were this christian they claimed to be.

and then love-wins-gate happened. right smack dab in the resurgence of my faith came the rob bell *cough* controversy. and suddenly the people who had been right with me on the "jesus+nothing" train jumped to the "jesus+hell" train.

because, as we all know, belief in an eternal hell is an essential of the faith. and what is faith without hell? and it's totally fine that prominent evangelicals (such as their hero john piper) dismissed rob bell from the faith before even reading his book.

for me, that was a blatant rejection of a "jesus+nothing" type faith. you can't say "it's just all about jesus!" and then the next week add "OH yeah, and hell is an essential doctrine!"

at that time, i still believed in an eternal hell.  i wasn't about to dismiss someone else from the faith because they didn't share my belief. because i verbalized that sentiment people were going around misrepresenting my beliefs to others, including to my husband.

because this was just such a big deal. such a terrible thing. SUCH a terrible thing that without all the information, rob bell was suddenly out. for the first time i saw clearly how actually holding onto a "jesus+nothing" faith would put you on the outside. no discussion, no listening to actual ideas, nothing. just out.

what i have now seen is the other piece of that puzzle. how when you are IN, you are in.

no matter what.

Tim Challies, on Rob Bell - "I always find myself alarmed when I read about Christian leaders who destroy their ministries through gross moral failure or gross theological failure." 

Here is what one of those who are in said about Rob Bell in the middle of the brouhaha. Apparently this is what happens when someone questions hell - gross theological failure.

At this link you can read how Challies had no criticism of Bell's detractors and dismissers. To be clear, he was one of the more moderate voices, his was less inflammatory and not quite as quick to the "you're not a christian" punchline. And still he had no criticism of those who did.

Now there is a situation of gross moral failure among those who are absolutely part of the "in" crowd.

Follow the links to read more:

An Unholy Evil
How Not to Respond to Abuse Allegations

There are a lot more websites with a lot more information, but here is the abridged version:

Leadership at Sovereign Grace Ministries has allegedly covered up child abuse (read more at links) and allegedly forced/coerced victims to forgive abusers and, basically, chosen protecting leadership and saving face over helping victims of abuse. Both CJ Mahaney and the chairman of the board are named in the lawsuit, and the accused parties have been actively fighting transparency. So instead of hearing "We have nothing to hide and would love to help victims in any way we can" we hear "we will fight with everything we have to keep information from getting out."

Even if the allegations are false, the way they are handling this is beyond ridiculous and absolutely enraging. This is a gross moral failure on the part of the church leadership.

So of course John Piper, who was quick to claim heathen status for someone he disagreed with would be quick to distance himself from people involved in a gross moral failure, right?

And Tim Challies, who grouped gross moral failure and gross theological failure together wouldn't hesitate to respond by saying he stands with those decrying abuse (and against those who cover it up) because that definitely is a gross moral failure, right?

You can read all of Challies' thoughts on the subject here, but it really boils down to this: "John 13:35 says it plainly: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love for other Christians is the great test of our commitment to Christ and our likeness to him. This love is put to the test in a unique way in the midst of trouble and disagreement."

So. For him, what happened with Rob Bell was "gross theological failure" and what is happening with an abuse lawsuit is "trouble and disagreement." Makes total sense. It's fine to call out someone who allegedly disagrees with you on hell, but stay loving and keep your nose out of it when it's alleged abuse!

And John Piper? I'm sure he has a witty tweet for this occasion! Maybe "It's millstone time! Farewell, CJ!" or something similar?

No. He goes to the church CJ is at, speaks there and says he "snatched" at the opportunity to come there. He is supporting CJ, he is not speaking up against abuse, nor does he verbalize any problems with what should be obvious - that covering up abuse allegations and refusing to assist the investigation is a "gross moral failure."

But NO. Lawsuits, abuse, allegations and serious, real hurts in the christian community are "disagreement and trouble" during which we need to show love to alleged abusers and their enablers. But disagreements on or questions about hell are "gross theological failure" where it is fine to treat one another with disgust and derision.

And this attitude, this horrible miscarriage of anything resembling justice or consistency or caring about people over doctrine, was and still is the biggest nail in the coffin that holds my faith.

If you're in, anything goes. If you're one of God's Annointed, you just must just be under persecution.

Because theological issues are worth raising hell over.

And abuse is just a disagreement. So let's just love those who allegedly covered it up, shall we?

Monday, February 25, 2013

i wore black

it's amazing how easy it is to be ignorant when you attend a conservative church, homeschool and only associate with other homeschooling and conservative churching families.

one of the many things i found myself totally ignorant of was abuse in the church. as much as catholics were reviled among my peers (from elementary through college) there still wasn't much talk or revulsion over the extent of the abuse scandals. the words "spiritual abuse" were not even in the lexicon, let alone explained or warned against. most likely because it was happening with frightening regularity. my parents never treated pastors as though they were on a different level than the rest of us, but that message was pretty common from other sources. if something bad was said about the church, it was the fault of atheists or just a misunderstanding. 

as time has gone by my perspective has changed quite a bit. time after time i find abuse of all kinds in the church. time after time pastors tell wives to submit to abuse. time after time pastors stand by each other against the victims. time after time pastors act self-righteous and put down the least of these. forget pastors - just think christians in general. 

i'm not even talking here about marginalizing women and minorities or other theological branches. i'm not talking about the jerks who feel they speak for god. i'm just talking blatantly and seemingly obvious moral wrongs. pedophilia. defending pedophilia. physical and emotional abuse. defending physical and emotional abuse. verbal abuse. manipulation. 

so. all that. i keep seeing more and more and more of that.

but there is another side to this.

being so sheltered as a child and young adult also kept me from seeing the good.

as long as there have been christians promoting and accepting and defending the indefensible, there have been christians and others opposing them. as long as there has been hate and horridness from christians there has been christians and non-christians opposing that and them.

social justice, women's rights, standing up for the oppressed - well, those are all new things to me. as an uber-christian for most of my life, it's kind of sad how ignorant i was of all the good i could do in the world, and all the good that was being done.

but it was being done. 

the awful things were being done, every day. some by people i trusted, by those who are revered by the people i trusted and revered. by people i used to think were "godly" and good.

but despite them, good things are being done and my life is richer now that i know. 
I'm not saying that christians manipulate and/or use others on purpose all of the time. but i can't give a free pass and say something is okay just because the right intent is there.

i have a beautiful, wonderful friend. 

she does whatever she can for others. she gives time. she gives money. she gives, most of all, a listening ear. if someone is one of the least of these, she is there.

if someone is a self-righteous jerk, she doesn't waste her time.

i watch her and see how much she loves people and her faith and i wonder if i had been surrounded by such as her from a young age if i would have a stronger hold on my own faith.

i don't know the answer to that question.

but i do know that her life is one i want to emulate. christian or not, someone like her changes the world. 

so maybe sometimes the world just sucks.

but when i remember that she is in this world, that people like her exist, it sucks just a little bit less.

Monday, February 18, 2013

giving up god

when i began to open up about where my theological fall out was taking me, i found it helpful to use this phrase: "i am not holding onto god anymore, but maybe he is holding onto me."

a dear and devout friend, upon hearing that phrase, told me essentially that maybe that is the place god wants me. and i wonder sometimes if it is the place he, if he is who he says he is, wants everyone.

okay, i know that making assumptions about what god wants for everyone is a strange thing to hear from someone who is holding to the "hopeful agnostic" title. and i'm really not sure if i even know what i mean, or what i'm talking about.

really all i know about theology is the things i can not buy into anymore.  i can't buy into a just and loving god who creates finite people just to send them into an infinite hell. i can't buy into an inconsistent morality which gives god leave to commit genocide, murder and construct different legal consequences based on gender. i can't believe in a god who lets people go to hell just because they were born in a different place, or born into a hindu or muslim family. i can't buy an all loving and powerful god who is "disgusted" by the "sin" of love that contains anything other than two opposite cis-gender people.

maybe, just maybe, i could buy a god who loves and holds on to you, no matter what.  a god who isn't threatened if you call him buddha or jesus.  a god who gives freedom without eternal consequences if he doesn't like your choices.

of course, most people i know would contend that what i just described isn't god, and i don't get to pick and choose what i believe in and that what really matters is truth, absolute truth.

well. my thought is that "truth" and "absolute truth" are just distractions.

they distract you from paying attention to yourself, to others, to the understandings and truths of others. if you're a christian, it distracts you from learning from other christian faith traditions, maybe the ones that have been ridiculed by your peers or teachers.

i loved this article by Brandon Ambrosino. he is giving up god for lent. i loved the first story he told, because for a long time that was all i knew of Nietzche. i resonated with the experience of rejecting god as wholly unknowable and other and building him to be what i wanted him to be or what i had been taught that he was. the only aspects of him that were unknowable were the faith-destroying things we had to just make up answers for, or say "well, god is god." the rest?  we knew.

this is the god i was introduced to, the god i thought i knew: "Indeed, the God of my rigid ideologies, of my complacent Theology; the God who validates my unwillingness to explore heresies, and rewards me for arrogantly dismissing them as sinful; the God who grounds my intellectual arrogance in His omniscience, and my politics in his omnipotence; the God who vanquishes all of His and my inquisitive foes, forever silencing their obnoxious questions with the fires of Hell; whose very Nature demands that humans separate and categorize the world into manageable divisions; the God who has made His Will known to us through Natural Law, and a Holy Book, every word of which we are to follow without hesitation or consideration; whose ethical character remains beyond discussion; whose decisions remain beyond the scope of human analysis; the God who grounds all Thought in his Being - this God, who is Himself nothing more than an idol of Modernism, is dead."

that god is dead to me.

Brandon is giving up this god for lent. i plan to give him up entirely.

whether another god will show himself to me is beyond knowing right now.

and i'm entirely okay with that.

meanwhile, i'm going to learn. and breathe. and dance. and sing. and just be.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


it's valentine's day.

i know. it's over commercialized and cheesy and sometimes insulting. and i usually ignore it.

but this vday i just want to write about my marriage. a little bit. because my husband rocks.

i used to think he was pretty much perfect. before we were even dating he told me his biggest flaws, which of course just served to reinforce the idea that he was perfect. when we married i had all kinds of expectations for our life together. i doubt my man had half as many expectations. he just wanted to live and love and be together.

when we married one of my expectations is that he would lead, i would follow. he would be the patriarch, i would be the perfect and submissive wife. i felt like a rebel because we agreed to use birth control and i was working outside the home. sam, on the other hand, basically expected that we would work as a team. that the only real gender roles were that women just didn't preach and men had a heavier burden to provide.

when i finally grew to believe that my husband wasn't some liberal radical in that area, our marriage became what fit us most naturally. equal. a partnership. beautiful.

that does not mean things have been easy since. some of our toughest times have happened since we truly began to try to see each other. it's not easy to go from two someones who are trying to squeeze their true selves into a pre-determined mold to a couple trying to find completely new footing in a new and honest relationship.

on top of that, the scare stories told to christians about the evils and dangers of being "unequally yoked" are numerous. so here we are, unequally yoked and in a god-dishonoring equal marriage.

our love and our lives are pretty much the exact opposite of what "god wants."

and we are so. stinkin. happy.

i can not believe how much he loves me. or really, how much i love him.

it's so good, this love. better than ever.

so this vday, i'm in the mood to celebrate.

*insert shy grin here*