Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Johannah had just worked at the Obama rally as a cheerleader the day before. She got to hold up a big sign that said, "Barak your socks off!" She shook Obama's hand! All that stuff you're supposed to do in college.
We asked what she thought of Barak. Disappointed and inspired. Disappointed: Obama is a politician which means he says stuff that feels like it's designed to win votes rather than save the world. Johannah wants to be a world saver.
He made a grammatical gaffe which prompted her to reflect: "He was just like George Bush only no one has made a calendar of his mistakes. I'll bet everyone gets nervous and misspeaks in public." She was inspired by the vision Obama cast but said, "I can't remember all that he said because it's like listening to a foreign language. I don't know the vocabulary yet. But he was great!" Unfortunately her dorm mates know more about Stephen Colbert.
First excursion of the weekend: We hopped in the car, credit cards in hand, and headed to an American Eagle. More mothers and college kids crowded the dressing rooms too. Made me laugh. Forget the tour of the famous Horseshoe Buckeye Stadium where Woody Hayes once walked. Hoodies and Ugh boots! Jeans and sweaters! Boo-ya! We all followed our kids around and bought them comfort clothes. Even bought Johannah red knit slippers because it made me happy to think she'd have warm toes in the cold concrete dorms. That's what mothers worry about - their college kids' toes.
I kept thinking about this life she's living: straight A's, loads of friends, outings all over the city on the bus, political rallies, keeping it together even with parties all around her. She makes it look so easy. Hyper responsible yet still well liked.
She told us that everyone calls her the mother of the dorms. Jon asked her if that's because she tells everyone not to drink.
"I don't care if they drink," she said, "I tell them not to eat white bread."
Monday, October 29, 2007
Jon, to his credit, has always resisted answering for me when asked what I believe. He has never defended me or criticized me to others, even when he himself worried about where I was headed. Honestly, the one thing I never anticipated when we married was the possibility that one of us would lose our orthodox Christian beliefs.
Back in 1984, our marriage vows stated that we would "reach the Berbers (indigenous Moroccans) for Jesus Christ" until death do us part. Yep. In our vows. So naturally the idea of walking away from the evangelical version of faith never dawned on either of us, let alone the idea that one would and one wouldn't. You may as well have asked us if we thought it possible that one of us might go through a sex change operation at some point in the future. Unimaginable. (And honestly, now on this side of 40, I think I'd ask young engaged couples to really scan the horizon for what change might mean - in sickness and in health is one thing, but changed religious beliefs and gender are not outside the realm of possibility any more.)
Lucky for us, our marriage was tested long before I reevaluated my faith. Put two dysfunctional people (adult child of alcoholic parents - Jon - and adult child of divorce - me) in a new marriage on the mission field among Muslims without any team members or other Americans in the town... well, you do the math. We left the field within two years and landed in therapy for two more.
Our faith commitment definitely helped us. We knew divorce was not an option. We believed in the power of prayer and love and 60 minutes a week with Jane, the therapist. We saved our marriage and went back to the mission field for another year. During that year, I went through a major shift in faith (I became an enthusiastic pray-er ala Mike Bickle and the Kansas City Fellowship). Jon had to deal with a shift in my theology even then. I quit our missionary team and devoted myself to prayer.
Together, we revised our thoughts about missions and Muslims, and returned to California to be in the Vineyard where we'd learn more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. By year 15, we had a stable marriage and family. Then we moved to Ohio.
Coincidentally, the Internet became my lifeline to friends and relationships after that move. As I've shared elsewhere, I began examining my beliefs because I couldn't get a majority rules on any one important doctrine (particularly salvation). Jon knew that for me, the idea of hell had been the chief force behind my theology and evangelical drive. So it didn't surprise him too much to see me checking out books about reformed theology, openness theology (Clark Pinnock) and those emergent ones by Brian McLaren. When I came home with Hans Kung, though, he raised an eyebrow.
I began sharing some of the challenges to traditional faith that these writers raised for me. Jon listened openly, though less interested in theology than I was. He hung with me until I started talking Jesus Seminar, revised morality and loss of faith in the bodily resurrection of Christ. This was when I noticed him start to show signs of concern. I remember one particular conversation where Jon said, "It's all fine unless you lose Jesus. If you lose Jesus, you lose everything." I knew I had hurt him. That's when I determined that I had better stop sharing my thoughts so openly with him and used the Internet for deeper exploration of the questions I had.
Those next couple of years were very interesting and deserve more time than this one post can give it. I want to turn this discussion into a series as it is too much to condense seven years into one blog post.
I will leave you with this for now. It is impossible for the beliefs of one married partner not to impact the thinking and beliefs of the other. Whether those beliefs have to do with organic vegetables, politics, gun ownership, education of children, parenting or theology, marriage partners talk to each other so much that it is inevitable that the discussions will lead to shared conclusions and/or deeper understanding and sympathy toward formerly rejected viewpoints. If this doesn't occur, it is very very difficult to stay married or intimate. I have friends who have lost their marriages during these kinds of reevaluations... The tension became insurmountable.
So what I'd like to share in the next installment are a few examples of challenges we faced, how Jon and I did contribute to each other's changes in belief and what we did about the kids in the meantime.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
To understand/value other viewpoints, I try to find the passionate, articulate representatives of that view and read them. I sit with those views. I live with them for a while. I try to imagine life through that perspective. I read various viewpoints not to find balanced thinking about a variety of perspectives, but to understand the "otherness" of a particular viewpoint. I ask how my previous view has been altered by this direct encounter with a different perspective.
One of the things postmodernism has contributed to us is that each one of us has a view and that perspective impacts every evaluation, every thought, every reading. It's like you can't get away from it. There is no neutral zone, no dispassionate reading, removed reading. The way to incorporate other views into your own worldview is to allow them to be other, to value by acknowledging their internal coherence (sometimes frighteningly so - like trying to get inside the logic of suicide bombing or holocaust).
Through a diversity of readings, I discover the interior logic of viewpoints I don't hold. That is not the same thing as agreement. But it may approximate understanding or empathy or even reaction (as in, contending for an alternative). Usually I read other views to sit with them, to allow them to live in me for a bit and to see how they impact my former understandings.
When I've written about valuing multiple viewpoints, that doesn't mean always balancing one's own viewpoint. It means actually standing in the shoes of the other and "getting it" - letting go of your need to control the outcome.
However when articulating one's own viewpoint, it's equally important to reveal the conditions that create it, to own up to your biases, loyalties, "agendas" and so on. So my purpose yesterday was not to alienate, but to allow you to see inside what animates me and what purpose this blog serves beyond the chatty window into my daily life. If someone is interested in how Christianity looks to ex-fundamentalists and ex-evangelicals, then you'll get that here.
I'll go one step further, then I'm off. There is a vast difference between insider critique and outsider reaction. It's the difference between you criticizing your family and someone else doing it. Another example. Those who leave a job, for instance, will have much to say about the conditions that provoked the leaving. Those who stay have a stake in protecting the benefits of that space. Totally reasonable.
I read your blogs (and many others!) who write about being happy, satisfied Christians and enjoy them, learn things, have my views modified. I read and participate at Jesus Creed most weeks even while differing on almost every doctrinal point. Why? Because it is useful for me to stay in touch with why and how Christians believe and what benefits they get from those beliefs.
On balance, I think we all have something worth saying, and all of it taken together gives a rounded picture.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Of course not. Some of my best friends.... (you know the drill). And while I love the saints, I hate the unexamined life and culture.
So I'm out to expose the crazy-making, not the sincerity.
Because I want to. Because it helps me and some other people who read here. When I was in that deconstructing process myself, I looked everywhere to find someone who'd listen and help me think, reason and clarify.
I found out pretty quickly that Christians can't do it. Once you say something that appears critical, the closest you get is "Well, that may be true of some obscure minority that I've never heard of, but you must have had a very Unique Strange Hurtful Doctrinally Incorrect experience in Christianity because what you express is not at all normative nor correct."
Oh really? You don't recognize any of this in your church?
Well, then some of the nice ones come back and acknowledge that Yes, of course, there are excesses, and you can find extreme people in every group, but the truth is, there are lots more people who have better theology, who are loving and kind, who don't do the weird things you cite on your blog, who see faith as mysterious, who act generously, and so on... You overstate the case, they say.
That line of reasoning reminds me of arguing with my husband. You know how you get frustrated and say, "You never take the garbage downstairs after you take it out of the can." And then he's all, "That's not true. I take it out sometimes." But like, the point wasn't the frequency of his taking it out. It was the fact that today and enough times previous he hadn't and now you feel all up in his grill about it and want him to get just how irritating it is so you say "never" to get his attention, but that diverts it to a semantic argument until one of you attacks the other with a pillow and wrestles him onto the bed for a make-out session... Oh wait. TMI? Sorry.
Anyway, the point being... the emphasis in "overstating" or in what I consider "isolating" a behavior is to draw specific undiluted attention to the issue. Why would that be helpful? Why is it helpful for your bank to pay undiluted attention to each deposit or withdrawal on your account? Do you really want them to get it right "mostly" and to be generous to themselves as they process your experience of your bank statement?
H-e-double hockey stix no!
And while Christians are human beings with flaws (hopefully your bank is a machine without them), they are guided by what is called Absolute Truth. I'm looking at the damaging impact of that overarching belief on flawed human beings (not the good that that belief does) and expressing it here. That's the focus. That's the agenda.
I isolate behaviors because they affect (on balance) how everyone feels about Christians (all of them, regardless of what brand they are because the general population doesn't make the nit-picky distinctions between varieties that Christians make). Most Americans get a general impression and that impression is based on real, concrete, frequent applications of Christian identity to issues of faith, salvation, community, moral posturing, and (some would say, regrettably) politics.
So I bring that stuff here. But not every day.
I also like writing about postmodern theologies, feminism, black theology, Bonhoeffer, and the Jesus Seminar. Those interest me even more, though I don't write about them as often. But it appears by sheer number of posts that besides my fan-girl enthusiasms for Los Angeles, Tiger Woods in his red Nike underarmour, the Bengals when they win (which this season is like never) and the obviously clever, original comments of my children, deconstructing Christianity takes up the bulk of my posts.
But it seems like you have an ax to grind because you can't stop talking about it.
Well, yeah! I do. I might have to talk about it forever. Because if the only people who have anything to say about what it's like to leave that brand of faith stop talking, there is nowhere for those who are in that deconstruction process to go. They need writers like me. I need bloggers like them. And those are the people who like to read here (at least it seems like it; they never complain).
Are my experiences representative of evangelical Christianity? Of course, they are. I've got the resume to back it up. Are they the sum total of Christianity? Of course they aren't. But I'm not writing to be balanced or to describe the whole of Christianity. I went to graduate school to learn how to do that and it worked.
And as I thought about it all in the shower while shaving my legs, I realized that what I like? What really makes me happy?
...is creating a space for people who need to talk about their evolving disenchantment with Christianity.
It's a singular, startling, mostly liberating, sometimes painful, relationally isolating experience. Blogs and forums help.
If you're looking for balance or someone to find the jewels in the midst of the manure, go read someone else's blog.
For those who enjoy my writing, thank you. It's really gratifying to read your deeply thoughtful comments that contribute to me and the others who read and post here. And all of it's a lot of fun.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Consider the following accounts (all real encounters).
1. A Christian teen on a bus equates homosexuality to adults having sex with children. He reasons: "If it could be shown that there was no damaging effect on the child, what would prevent society from ruling that sex with children ought to be legal?" The kids on the bus who were not from a conservative evangelical background responded: "Kids can't consent to sex. Minors are protected by the law. And what's that got to do with being gay?" The Christian responds: "The Bible is clear. Homosexuality is wrong just like sex with minors. We have to obey the Bible." Who is the "we" in this statement?
2. A Christian college student explained that she and her roommate had prayed for the last year that non-Christian students would feel welcome in their dorm room. When two non-Christian boys spent an evening with them in that dorm room, they considered it a triumph of faith. You have to wonder: why would two attractive, nice college girls feel concerned that guys in their dorm wouldn't want to spend time with them? What is it about being a Christian that even Christians know they are naturally alienating and need special help from God to simply "hang out" with other people who aren't Christians? Do non-Christian kids worry about whether or not other dorm-mates will feel comfortable with them?
3. One high school group in a church I know has divided into the homeschooled and the public schooled. Kids who are in the homeschooled group are the ones who go to the mall on the weekends sharing the 4 Spiritual Laws. The public schooled kids are playing sports (and therefore seen as less committed). Even among pastors, there is division based on home educated versus public schooled. Should teen activities be ranked according to devotion to the faith? Do kids pick up parental values and then use them to rank themselves among themselves?
4. Why are high school students and college kids pushed into leadership positions? I remember in college I had barely converted to the faith and was already "discipling" two new Christians. I knew little more than they did about the Bible, yet it was considered necessary to my growth to lead right away. I actually taught what would have been heresy according to Campus Crusade had they paid attention to my Bible reading so new was I to the faith. Worse, so many kids are measured according to their "leadership" qualities. Why? What is this drive to be sure "everyone is a leader" of someone else?
I know one wonderful 20-something kid who is literally burning himself out with worry over his Bible study group. There are cliques, there is competition, there are those who turn prayer request hour into therapy sessions. You have to wonder: would life be easier on some level if everyone chilled out at Buffalo Wild Wings and watched sports over beer? Why create relational stress in your life for the sake of "leading"?
5. Barna shows that this next generation is unimpressed with the baggage associated with the terms Christian and evangelical. Some people have opted to call themselves "Jesus Followers." Does changing the name make any difference? One of the criticisms is that this cadre of Christians is known more for what they oppose than what they are for. How do Christians reverse that trend and get known for what they are for?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
One of the supervisors called a Wal-Mart and ordered a cake. He told them to write: "Best Wishes Suzanne" and underneath that, write "We will miss you." Here's the cake that was delivered:
Monday, October 22, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
"And I think what happens is sometimes you got to break your own narrative."
"We all have stories we're living and telling ourselves," he says, laughing. "And there's a time when that narrative has to be broken because you've run out of freedom in it. You've run out of places to go."
He explained that he could see where he was headed but knew that growth included disrupting the expectations and going into new territory. He eventually reunited with the E Street Band (they are touring right now for his new CD), but the break enabled band members to also explore avenues they may not have (such as Steven Van Zandt in "The Sopranos" etc.).
The idea of "breaking my narrative" deliberately has been playing around the edges of my thought life all week. Ruts can be comfortable but they can also be confining. And while a change of pace is sometimes helpful in re-energizing your experience of daily life, it struck me that a narrative break raises the stakes. It's a deliberate exile of self from the comfort zone, perhaps even relationships and beliefs.
"I was probably one of the smartest kids in my class at the time. Except you would've never known it," Springsteen says, laughing. "You would've never known it. Because where my intelligence lay was not, wasn't able to be tapped within that particular system. And I didn't know how to do it myself until music came along and opened me up not just to the world of music but to the world period, you know, to the events of the day. To the connection between culture and society and those were things that riveted me, engaged me in life," Springsteen says. "Gave me a sense of purpose. What I wanted to do. Who I wanted to be. The way that I wanted to do it. What I thought I could accomplish through singing songs."I got to thinking about the connection to a "narrative break" and "obsessions" and those things that "eat" at writers.
"It's not just the singing. It's the writing, isn't it, for you?" Pelley asks.
"Of course. Every good writer or filmmaker has something eating at them, right? That they can't quite get off their back . And so your job is to make your audience care about your obsessions," Springsteen says.
What a great way to see the dramatic moves we make in life. And how curious that our brilliance is sometimes confined by the system designed to free it.
Monday, October 15, 2007
The Chiefs won (got your message K-Bob) and deserved to. I'm glad they could have a good day after such a poor start to their season. But what will become of the Bengals? So much talent, so much waste.
In other sports news: My perfect start to FF came to an end last night when Kim beat me with Tom Brady. That guy is a machine!
Here's hoping I can re-enter the land of blogging with more to say than how disappointing my football teams are. :) Peace.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
If you open the door to allegory in Scripture, you open the door to your own agenda.
Historical truth is necessary to unpacking a tradition.
Propositional theology is a 19th century phenomenon; prior generations focused on theology as wisdom.
The Kingdom of God is in our presence - midst, not within us.
History is about survival of insight... how we adjust to what is happening around us.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Well, yeah, sure. But let's not forget who he was playing to get that win:
This time, Notre Dame (1-5) knocked UCLA quarterback Ben Olson out with a knee injury late in the first quarter, then hounded freshman redshirt McLeod Bethel-Thompson into a string of mistakes.Even I know that third string QBs who haven't ever thrown a pass in a college game are likely to be easier to overcome than University of Michigan's back up for Henne. So yeah. Every time the Bruins fumbled or Bethel-Thompson threw an interception, sure the ND squad got a chance.
A walk-on pressed into the backup role for UCLA (4-2, 3-0 Pac-10) because of an injury to Patrick Cowan, Bethel-Thompson had not thrown a pass in a college game.
The Irish picked off four of his throws, with Crum getting two of them. He also recovered the quarterback's fumble and ran it in for a touchdown.
And they might as well feel good about finally converting those into points. But let's not crown Clausen king just yet. ND still has a long way to go to be anything worth more than a chuckle.
The Bruins, however, look pathetic and shouldn't. They were supposed to be a top 25 team this season. They have to face the rest of the fall with a third string QB whose first game was appallingly bad. Or in the words of Colin Cowherd, "Unwatchable."
Actually, we witnessed utterly unwatchable football on both sides of the ball. I have not watched a worse game of football that I can remember. The pee wee Trojans and Bruins at halftime (made up of 7-8 year old boys) injected more excitement into the stadium than all four quarters combined of the big game.
My buddy Steve Norris (who hosted me on the first night of the trip to LA) sat in the opposing end zone. What kept both of us in quasi-good moods? Texting. We leveled creative critiques at our beloved Bruins for 3/4 of the game.
It might have been tolerable to be at the worst game of the season if I hadn't been seated in the Notre Dame section. Oh the pathos! I used to root for ND before my undergraduate days. And there I was again, with my dad and two Erins (my sister and step-sister have the same name - the cruel irony). The Erins are not football fans. They asked questions like, "If the Irish are in the lead halfway through the fourth quarter, can we leave early?" Are you kidding me? How far is Ohio from LA? Why did I come?
Still, they were thrilled with the Irish victory and enthused, "We were your good luck charms!" to my Dad. They turned to me, "It's much better that Dad's team won. He deserves it and you won't mind as much." What the $#**%$@? Can I just admit here to my intimate crowd of cyber friends: Of course I minded! A dagger to the heart. Come on. I was outnumbered in every conceivable calculation (fans, family and first string quarterbacks). Was there no designated Bruin fan assigned to me in my misery?
And for the first time in my adult life, I felt what my dad has modeled for lo these forty-five years - surly disgruntled resentment against the opposing fans following the loss of a beloved team (particularly one that was supposed to win). I glowered, unable to rebound and join in the family post-game chatter.
And that's why it's taken me three days to write about it.
Other than that, I had a great time in LA. Thanks for asking.
My sister, step-sister and Dad are all smiling so big their lips are strained. I am not smiling, nor am I in the photo.
One footnote: the moment of unity between UCLA and Notre Dame fans occurred when the commentator announced that USC had lost to Stanford. For 30 blissful seconds, the entire stadium erupted into a deafening roar. Yeah, we hate SC together. Family bonding redefined.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
What is totally weird... my opponent in FF had 50 pts. At the start of the game I had 23. Literally every play eeked me forward one tiny bit at a time. Interceptions and Bills scores dropped me. I hovered over 34-35 for most of the game.
Then right at the end, Romo gave the ball to Barber (my RB) enough to put me right at 50. I needed one point. The Cowboys needed 2 pts to win. They missed a 2 pt. conversion but successfully recovered an onside kick! Then Romo threw a pass... and TO "caught it" until a replay overturned the ruling on the field. That pass would have given me the win. But wait, they get to try it again. And that pass had to go ten yards and be caught for me to win with 13 seconds left on the clock... Witten made the catch! 51 pts. A win for my team, the Footsies.
Dave, however, had to suffer through TO not catching (how many did he miss last night) and then watching the kicker pull out the win for the Cowboys who had to kick 2 field goals because the Bills called the timeout right after the first snap. But they did it.
What a night! Far better game than the Bruins v. Irish. More on that game later today.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
Spent yesterday at the Getty Museum. All my photos from LA so far can be viewed here.
I'm with my family now. No Internet at my Dad's house. He has one of those little Dell Verizon cards that slides into his laptop that hooks him up anywhere he goes... but that is not the same as wi-fi (which he still doesn't quite understand) and it's not the same as DSL (when there is no modem).... So.
That means I hunted strip malls for outdoor tables laden with businessmen typing on laptops. Found none. Finally got redirected by a competitor coffee shop to Bad Ass Coffee. Success. They have Bad Ass Wi-Fi!
I'm caught up with work but not with personal email, facebook comments or blogging.
Oh, I am all set for FF week 5, though. Priorities. Why do you think I was desperate to find my wi-fi? :)
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Jon and Susie were from Columbus Ohio. They lived in an apartment in Pasadena when I first met them. Later we both moved to Orange County together. When Jon or Susie talked about Columbus, I rarely spent time imagining the place. They might say, "My mom is coming in from Columbus for a week" and I'd hear, "My mom is coming in from waah, blah, blah, waah for a week."
Columbus was a guy who discovered America and liked people to take school off in October. I don't know if I thought about Columbus as being in Ohio since I didn't even know Ohio bordered Kentucky at that point in time. Ohio = pale faced middle aged men with bellies who came to the Rose Bowl to watch OSU get beat by a Pac-Ten team.
Yeah, that was me. A southern California snob slash narcissist.
So when Susie's Jon told me that he really missed "hardwood deciduous trees" and hugged them when he went home to visit, I blinked. I didn't know a deciduous from a tulip bulb. And here he was, all male and top sider-ish telling me that he longed for a specific kind of tree. California was too arid and closed up with fences and yards and trees that didn't lose leaves, like ever, since it was never fall.
I smiled the smile of sympathy without understanding.
Then three years later, I moved to Ohio.
And I saw what Jon saw. Those trees are worth hugging. They so are. They're big and give shade and have leaves that make great piles for raking and jumping into. The bark is textured and the moss grows at the base and makes fairy houses for small children. So one day I "got it." Jon missed *those* trees. Of course he did.
And then, about a year later, in the middle of nuclear winter when the Ohio trees were laid bare, my heart panged. I looked out the window to the dreary landscape and.... longed. Like Susie's Jon. Only I didn't long for the trees in my window. I longed for the California palms.
I missed the tall skinny trunks, the funky 1960s fringe hairdo they never get over, the way they stand up higher than buildings weaving and bobbing for twenty years yet never coming down. And they don't even give shade. Palm trees have a sense of humor and they stay green. I missed them.
But not today. One trip to Target in Burbank and instant gratification to my southern California senses. Target goes better with palms, don't you think?
Yeah, I'm here in southern Cal. It's awesome.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Nationwide, misidentification by witnesses led to wrongful convictions in 75 percent of the 207 instances in which prisoners have been exonerated over the last decade, according to the Innocence Project, a group in New York that investigates wrongful convictions.Read more...