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."

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