Friday, May 24, 2013

ignorant children

I'm just one of many who has, at some point in time, resolved to try to do better as a parent than my own parents did with me. Of course what that meant for me has changed a lot over the years.

As a college student I imagined that as a parent I would be sure to have family devotions every day, that my children would know, first and foremost, how important Jesus was to me. 

That changed.

Some of our friends had children around the same age as ours. I watched their children grow in "knowledge of the truth" and marveled at how such a large percentage of their funny-kid-stories were about how much of the Bible their children knew. Their kids talked about Jesus and knew the resurrection story and what that meant for their salvation. They sang hymns and knew Bible trivia and all kinds of stories. Two, three years old and they had it down pat.

Suddenly I saw how little of anything Bible my kids knew. We were still on the Seminary campus, still going to church regularly, still reading our Bibles, still immersed in Christian culture and the Word, still everything, or so it seemed. Husband and I told each other that we were just too exhausted to take the time to teach the children all the stories, to sing all the songs, to be *those* parents.

It was having three children in a year. Yeah. That's why.

I can't speak for Husband, but that wasn't why. I tried not to think about it, but when I did I realized that I really didn't want my kids to be talking or thinking about Jesus dying on the cross. I didn't care if they knew about Noah's Ark or David and Goliath and I didn't want them hearing stories of David and Bathsheba or Sodom and Gomorrha. 

Suddenly the stories I had heard and been told to love all my life seemed too disturbing and full of problems for my own children. Most especially the crucifixion - the heart of the entire narrative I had been given.

There was a time where this lack of Christian anything in my children bothered me a bit, mostly because I had been taught that it should bother me and that I wasn't a good parent without teaching my children, without bringing them up the way they should go.

Now all I feel about their ignorance is relief and a tinge of pride at what great children they are in spite of me and in spite of my failure to moralize and shame them into being who "god" wants them to be. 

And they know, first and foremost, how important they are to me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

in the name of god

We lived in Oklahoma for a mere six-ish months and in that short time the area sort of worked it's way into our hearts. More specifically, the people worked their way into our hearts.

I mourn with them, from afar, and will do the small things I can with my effort and money to help them in their time of need. Because they are people, and all people are my people. Because my parents experienced the terror of children in the path of tornados while distance separated them.  Because horrible things are horrible, and there are no platitudes or answers.

Of course, some (many?) Christians think there are answers. Or platitudes. Or prayers that make everything okay. Or that belief in God means - without exception - hope. Our only hope. 

Pat Robertson says insensitive crap. As always. And since it's Pat Robertson, you can lay his crazy at the feet of his own ridiculousness, his own self-absorbtion, his own need to decide when and for what other people are punished.

But John Piper, my least favorite famous pastor, from my own hometown, tweets Job 1:19 - "Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house and it fell upon them and they are dead." And I watched the retweets add up (at least 65, and 23 favorites) during the short time before backlash drove him to take it down.

The always gracious Rachel Held Evans chronicles a fraction of John Piper's insensitivity to anything other than God's feelings here, and she does it with much more grace than I can muster toward Piper on a good day, let alone a day when he writes that about a place I love, for and about people who are hurting.

RHE, along with others who share her theology, are Christians I can like, who interpret the Bible in a way that can be beautiful and kind. And they have Scripture to back them up. Rachel says "What does the Bible actually teach about suffering?
That we don’t know exactly why suffering happens in every situation, and we shouldn’t claim to,
That we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep,
That when God wrapped himself in flesh and walked among us, God suffered too.
The great irony of Piper using the book of Job to support his theology is that the story of Job stands as an ancient indictment on those who would respond to tragedy by blaming the victim. That’s exactly what Job’s friends did, and the text is not kind to them for it, because Job is described as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” "
rit A year ago or more, I would've found great solace in the above - and said myself that the Bible, the book that most informed and guided my life, supported RHE's theology. I would've done my research, made the exegetical argument, gathered Scripture passages and maybe written a twenty-five page paper on exactly why the Bible is the way I want it to be, why my theology is the one that is correct.
But. I. Can't. Do. That. Any. More. 
I agree with RHE that John Piper's theology is abusive.
But I can't seem to get to a point where I can ignore the Bible passages that support it. They exist. Not that passage in Job, no. But his idea/theology of God's sovereignty is not some ridiculous construct that has no basis in Christian thought, or in the Bible. The idea of God using nature as punishment is not crazy. The thought that the only good thing is God and the only thing to live for is His Glory - and we are not even deserving of that! - is not without support in the Bible and many Christian faith traditions.
When we left seminary I was told "Remember, people will always fail you, but God never will." 
God, if he is there, already has.
A god who never condemns slavery has failed the human race. A god who can not make it clear whether or not he punishes people punitively and vengefully has already failed all of us. A god whose holy book punishes one gender with death and another with a fine makes it impossible for me to find in christianity the equality that is the first and most important line of defense against abuse. A god who creates people specifically for hell (as Piper believes) or a god who claims a victory in the end as 80% or more of the world burns in hell -  has already failed.
People like Patterson and Piper just point out how easy it is to abuse others in the name of God.

Friday, May 10, 2013

turning the other cheek

I read this older post at Slacktivist today. He references an article about Katy Perry where she speaks about her conservative Christian past. I already knew that she had grown up in a home much like my own (although with a mother who was a pastor as well as her father I thought it couldn't have been quite as conservative!) and that she was an apostate who showed the failure of her parents to protect her from worldly influences. Basically, she was a warning - a look-what-can-happen story. She was everything bad that could happen to a devoted Christ-follower. Fame, fortune, scandalous clothes and a song about kissing a girl - and LIKING it.

She got a lot of flack for saying anything about her upbringing and/or criticizing it. Here's what Fred Clark had to say about that: "All of which is to say that Perry doesn’t “slam” her strict, evangelical/fundamentalist upbringing nearly as much as she could or maybe should have.
It slammed her for 18 years and she walked away. That’s not retaliation, that’s turning the other cheek."
Ugh. That was like a punch to the gut. That's exactly how I feel right now - like my religion slammed me for 26 years. the first half of that is true of me - I was "slammed" by the christianity I was with and I slammed others in turn. The second half - the walking away - I can't seem to get. 
Hence the sick feeling in my stomach. Katy Perry - an apostate reviled by my peers and pastors alike - is a better person than I. For some sad reason I can not seem to move past wanting retaliation. Maybe it's because I can't seem to forgive myself for all the evils I in which I was actively participating or silently complicit. Maybe it's truly because I want to raise awareness. Maybe it's because I want to prove to the world at large that I am no longer *that* person.
Turning the other cheek in the form of walking away is something I sense I desperately need to do. I can see the value in progressive christianity, I can mentally assent to the truth that there are good people who are christians and bad people who are christian and being a christian is no guarantee of either. But I can not seem to get rid of this tightness in my chest when I hear the word christian - and on the other side I can not rid myself of the lingering fear of burning in hell for all eternity. I'm in a very strange purgatory where theology is still a fascinating interest to me and also the thing that gives me mental and emotional hives (and very real panic attacks) at every turn.
In the past week I also read the answers of Rachel Held Evan's Ask Jennifer Knapp. At one point Jennifer Knapp gives this insightful answer: "Retrospectively, one thing I’d say is that while it is possible to learn from the experience of being ‘in the spotlight’; it is not the most fertile soil for significant growth. The spotlight is where we celebrate and commune with what we’ve learned. The growth, the creation, self-exploration and processing, I just can’t see how we can possibly do that effectively with an audience. It’s too exposed. Being observed inherently shapes the outcome. We usually talk differently when we are being observed. We perform."
She is speaking specifically here of the spotlight that came on here while she was on tour, under a spotlight on stage, writing music, etc. But I couldn't help but find it to be true for me in a broader sense. I have never had a moment where I was not performing. I have always had to perform for parents, for grandparents, for aunts and uncles. I had to perform for people at church, at youth camp, at CYIA. Strangely enough I performed the least while at Bible college (while still a performance based atmosphere, I got by because I wasn't one of the "bad" kids) and then at seminary it was performance all the freaking time. All. The. Time. 
The word from the seminary now is that if you have social media (eg facebook) the seminarians and their wives are required to friend faculty - so the seminary can keep an eye on you. And social media is just another aspect of how public scrutiny, the spotlight, has intensified. In the past five years or so for me specifically.
This blog is a prime example of how, despite all experiences and evidence to the contrary, I seem to think that being honest in public, being open in public, being transparent through the process is a good or useful thing.
Maybe I perform, and maybe that is hindering my growth, or hindering my ability to just walk away. Maybe not. Maybe I am just delusional, thinking that honesty during the confusing times is helpful for someone - if not me, someone else - and that it won't be a hindrance to whatever I need to learn. I really have no answers.
All I know is that everyone should read all the things that were written by Jennifer Knapp. 
"The spotlight or the communal exhibitions of our human experience are necessary. It allows us to connect with others, build and reaffirm community. It can be a healing process or practical act of human expression in being ‘known.’ It’s a point of celebration of our achievements and passions. But it must be put into perspective. These are but moments-glimpses; a poem, a song, a photographic still frame in what is the long and rich story of our lives. To aspire to only that moment is to miss out on all the extravagance of life. It’s what we do into the lead up and aftermath to those moments that says more about us than fifteen minutes of fame ever will."