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HI! For a while I have been meaning to write something here, to explain why I am not writing anything here. I am still alive and doing well. I just got really busy, and it has been difficult to overcome inertia to get started here again. We’ll see what happens over the summer. Thank you very much for stopping by.
A friend of mine told me this story, quoted verbatim below, which he witnessed first hand at a family gathering. It was a conversation between an elderly aunt and her nephew, who is gay and out of the closet to the family (but apparently not to her).
Aunt Bernice: You’re getting older, aren’t you ready to settle down and get married?
Nephew (in annoyed and firm voice): Aunt Bernice, I’m gay!
Aunt Bernice: You need Jesus!!!
End of conversation. Dramatic silence fills the room while laughter is stifled…
Though this is an extreme example, I think the same dynamic affects a lot of conversations. It is not hard for me to imagine a response like that (though maybe not so blunt) to any number of expressed or perceived problems. This is not necessarily evangelizing on the Christian’s part, it could be said with the same conviction to another Christian.
One problem is the person dispensing the advice (“You need Jesus”) is assuming they have the right answer for the other person. Would it sound differently if it were, “You need Buddha/acupuncture/Prozac/gummi bears/a smack upside the head!”? Do you really know what someone else needs?
I wrote this post on a bad day (a while back). I had lost sleep the night before, was stressed about work, got angry with one of my children, and had frozen pizza for dinner. Basically, one of those days when I had a feeling deep down inside saying, “You shouldn’t have done that.” It was a day when I did not want to be told I needed Jesus.
When I feel really bad, I usually want a little compassion, I think that is true for everyone. Sure, there are times when we need a kick in the seat of the pants to get over a bad attitude. And there can be a danger of enabling bad attitudes by offering unqualified affirmation. But sometimes, maybe a bad day is just a bad day. And we don’t need Aunt Bernice to tell us otherwise.
“Most of us have never really been thirsty. We’ve never had to leave our houses and walk 5 miles to fetch water. We simply turn on the tap, and water comes out. Clean. Yet there are a billion people on the planet who don’t have clean water.”
Rachel Held Evans posted this week on a project she is a supporting, charity: water. This non-profit works to obtain clean water for people who don’t have it. If you have a moment, I recommend the video below, it’s about five minutes long. Or click here for a brief overview.
I am not an expert, but have long been interested in appropriate technologies for developing nations, and currently work in water and wastewater engineering (in one very developed nation). It seems to be an area where a little financial and logistical help can really go a long way.
From the charity: water website:
“They didn’t choose to be born into a village where the only source of water is a polluted swamp. And we didn’t choose to be born in a country where even the homeless have access to clean water and a toilet. We invite you to put yourself in their shoes. Follow them on their daily journey. Carry 80 pounds of water in yellow fuel cans. Dig with their children in sand for water. Line up at a well and wait 8 hours for a turn. Now, make a decision to help. We’re not offering grand solutions and billion dollar schemes, but instead, simple things that work. Things like freshwater wells, rainwater catchments and sand filters.”
A note I wrote to capture the thoughts, but probably will not send:
If you feel it is important to live a life of biblical christianity, then it should be important for you to examine what the bible says. And if that is important, it should also be important to examine what the bible is; how it came to be written, who wrote it, why it was written. When you accuse me of elitism in this, and ask what I think of people who are not able to do that, study the bible critically and analytically, what about faith like a child, etc., I completely agree that not everyone can do that. But think, not everyone can study Greek and Hebrew either, not everyone can study John Calvin’s Institutes, or even read Pilgrim’s Progress in its unabridged forms. Yes, we all have different abilities. And we depend on others to do this work for us to the extent that we can’t. But to the extent that we can, in something important to how we live our lives, it is important to study it as well as we can, at least to a degree commensurate with how important it is and how able we are to pursue that knowledge (time, education, etc.).
Do conservative christians believe you should not examine the bible? Of course not. But I would venture to say that many feel you should not examine the bible unless you are finding it to be authentic and true. Or maybe it is that they welcome it being examined because they know it is true, and you will find that as well. And that if you don’t, it is because you are wrong. So it is OK to examine it, but only if you reach the same conclusion they do. I guess that is what having certainty in your religion means. And maybe people are entitled to have certainly about things if they want to, even if it is misguided. But it can be a terrible way to go about understanding the world we live in, and to understand ourselves, and even to understand God.
How would we answer the question, “What do you think about God?” in the seconds after recovering from a concussion? That would be enlightening, to hit someone over the head and ask them that as soon as they came to. Or the idea of using an effective truth serum. Or what would we become if our faith were stripped away?
For me, when my faith was stripped away from me, I just became who I was before I became a christian. Give or take, hopefully a bit more mature after almost two decades of aging. For some, when confronted with dissonance in their conservative faith, they struggle with what to believe about the faith, or the church, or the bible, but they don’t ever give up their belief in God through the process. Not me. I didn’t have that default position. When my faith was stripped away I completely called into question God’s existence. I admit that is my bias, but I can’t change that.
I am regularly amazed to see people who deconvert from conservative christianity who grew up in the faith and tradition. For me, it is very natural to return to who I was. I also have the secular family I was born into, who embraced me as a christian, but who I fit in with so much better now. I have experienced some separation from the faith community and church I was part of, and feel a real loss there. But I am so impressed by those to whom deconverting means leaving a whole lot more behind. Leaving religion can be hard on so many levels.
fighting for space, can’t take a shot with someone’s hand in my face, forming my own opinions, step by step, pushing a little farther, a little harder, raising the bar for what people expect of me, inch by inch, creating a little breathing room, thinking for myself, believing what I really believe, speaking for myself, speaking my own words, not the words of another, seeing the world through my own eyes, not through someone else’s lens, believing a naturalistic explanation for something, even if it is hard to understand or doesn’t completely make sense, breathing…
Must be Monday…