Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Imperfect Circles: A Letter to a Passing Year

    Hello, 2014.
    Seems you're in your last week, ready to pass.
    I'd mourn but your memories are as close to immortal as we'll ever be.
    And we can't abandon your memories -
    - or the fact that we've lived through you -
    even as we cheer your end. You happened, so I might as well acknowledge your existence.
    Okay, stop. Wait a sec.
    Can I admit - can I just say - that you were kinda mean?
    I think of plane crashes and ISIS and World Vision and Ferguson and Peshawar - a waterfall of misery unleashed its fury inside you. I'm sure no year was much better, but certain individuals were alive in other years that aren't now because of the world being screwy and it's kinda cruel, you know? I wish you could have felt the pain, but you're a year, a chunk of an inanimate dimension I'm personifying, so I guess you can't.
     On a personal level, you're the year I lost my Mimi to a little bitch called vascular dementia. And I ... I really miss her.


    You're also the year I survived graduated college and started a PhD program in the ever intoxicating and intimidating organic chemistry.
    You're the year I experienced abandon and joy and people and dare-I-hope God in the Middle East. The year I started this blog and met some pretty cool people online.

    You're the year I embraced people.

    You're also the year I was blessed with Sushi and Myshkin, saint and sinner kittens, so that counts for more. Ahem.

    I started you so depressed I wanted to die. I'm ending you so depressed I feel as if scorpions are eating me from the inside out. #improvement.
    No, really, it is an improvement. At least I felt the light for eight months before the depression sucked me back.
     Because I experienced the light your year, I can't circle back to where I was. Your ending closes an imperfect circle and I'm thankful.

    You're ending and I think I'm supposed to feel super-hopeful and psyched and I don't.
    I do, however, feel like hanging out on ze Adelaster for a little while longer, however long and however infrequent that while may be.
    Who knows, I might be entering this new year curled up on the floor of a tiny bathroom, but at least I'm entering it.     
    Nothing may feel much different. But I remember the light and there are two kittens by my side.

Happy New Year and I love you all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Don't We See 145 Faces?

    Yesterday happened, guys.
    Yesterday happened, and 132 children died.
    Do you understand that 132 children, and at least 13 adults, are dead? For what - going to a school funded by the military?
     And I'm heartbroken. Pissed, that too (sorry for the language, but "ticked" doesn't work here).
     I'm about to be harsh here. But I am furious and heartbroken, and You said "I am near to the broken hearted," so I will take you up on that offer. I will throw all my words and anguish out because they can never be enough.
     I want to rage and scream and claw at the sky and demand,
     Do you see this, God? Or have You blinded Yourself already?
     Did you hear their prayers, or did the name 'Allah' render You unable to care just like, oh, I don't know, ninety percent of Christians I know.
     I hope and believe You're strong enough to take my doubts and fury, God, so why don't I just lay it on right now:
     Everyone lamented Sandy Hook, but few give a damn when it's Pakistani Muslim children.        
    The media conversation has already turned to 9/11 comparisons, and a review of Pakistani military offensives against the Taliban. No time to grieve.
    They were kids. Whether American or Pakistani or any nationality - which, really, what is a nationality but a name and a border - they were innocent and had their precious, beloved lives stolen from them.
    Are You grieving with their parents and friends? Are You holding the hands of the ones who are left, scared and injured and in pain I cannot imagine?
     Why the bloody freaking hell didn't You stop them?
    And why don't more "progressive" American Christians, so fond of denouncing nationalism and Islamophobia, speak out? Or at least mention grieving with these people? Don't they see 145 faces? 
    Or do they just see Christmas lights and the virgin birth debate that hardly matters when 145 people are slaughtered in a school?
    Look, I get that prayers are quiet and you don't have to shout your grief from the rooftops to be sincere (maybe you often shouldn't). But maybe, just maybe, a show of solidarity and empathy should happen.
    See their faces. Lament, light a candle, say a prayer, cry out - do something, please. In solidarity, in grief, in love and pain for our brothers and sisters of Peshawar who lost 145 lives too many.

*Much of this is taken from a previous conversation with the lovely Kate Evelyn Danahy.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I Am the Destructivist

    Hey y'all, hey. I only lost part of my soul to finals, meaning I'm able to write again. So let's start with something fun - like The Face of Evil.
    The Face of Evil? How is that fun?
    It's fun when evil is a cat, that's how.
    Given my position as a perpetually insane organic chemistry grad student, if you remember last August I got my little Sushi a brother: Myshkin.
    Secret Identity # 1: The Destructivist.
    Whether it's climbing the wall, swinging from the curtains, ruining each and every decoration I've put out, burrowing under the covers to attack my feet at 3 am, or eating my homework three times, Myshkin loves destruction. In fact, you might say he is in love with destruction. 

    Secret Identity # 2: The Face of Evil.
    Evil has never looked this cute. When I first met him, he was a tiny four month old huddled in a corner of a cage in a rescue home. Shy and sweet. 
    A timid personality, I was told.
    "Purrfect!" said I, naive and innocent.
    Inwardly, I'm sure that's when he started smirking.
    He hasn't stopped since.
"I may be little but Imma clog up your sink, Mommy."
    Secret Identity # 3: Ultron.
    I've never seen a cat scream for food louder than this kitten. Every morning when my alarm goes off, he squeals with delight - and pounces on my chest.
    (He's a good masseuse).
     We then proceed to cuddle until he decides to run into the kitchen, and then and only then may I feed the hungry barbarian.
     As he yowls and Sushi jumps up and down, as I scoop kibbles into their bowls, I tease him that he's a classic villain.
     With furs.
What flavor is this, debit or credit? Nomnom.
     But all in all, he's a sweet, attention-craving love. And life would be super boring without him.
I love my brofur, Sushi.

    There are...no strings...on him...


Saturday, November 22, 2014

You Can Watch Me Cry

   "You can cry if you want. Crying is good. Sometimes it helps," my therapist encourages me.
    It's Friday and I'm confessing all that's happened this week. My grandma, my Mimi, is dying. I'm starting lab and classes and teaching are ongoing, and it's such a maelstrom of wonderful and horrific I'm grappling for any distractions and numbness I can find.
    "I don't like crying where anyone will find me," I reply, avoiding her eyes. There's a box of tissues on the table between us, but I don't want to use them. I don't like using tissues.
     I've told her my history of depression and anxiety and suicide in disturbing depth and I haven't choked up at all. I can get through this.
    "Is there a quiet place you can go here where you can cry?" she presses.
    "A bathroom, I guess," I say hesitantly. "But I'm afraid people will hear me."
    I don't want anyone to see me cry.

    Anyone who knows me knows I'm pretty sensitive.
    I'm easily overwhelmed by crowds, and I cried regularly at my favorite movies and music - in fact, I even cried watching the new trailer for Disney's live-action Cinderella.
    I analyze every word people say - if there's a hint of negatively, I'm scared, and careless comments often hurt. On the flip side, I'm neurotic about whatever words come out of my mouth.
    I've been known to scream and collapse into a sobbing ball every time I see another ISIS killing or school shooting on the news.
    The single sighting of a fluffy animal will change my bad days into good.
    So, yeah, I've always been told I'm sensitive, and it's true. Too sensitive, really.
    But I had to be, didn't I, because I always wanted to keep people from anger? I believed that if I acted a certain way, if I was sensitive to their emotions, I could control the people I loved. I believed that hyper-vigilence and sensitivity would elevate my relationships to the point that no one would ever feel angry at me. Sensitivity would keep me safe.
    But this sensitivity backfired whenever I cried because someone misunderstood me or because someone was reacting with anger greatly disproportionate to the event. I was told my tears were childish, ridiculous.

    Then I went to college and allowed myself to be influenced by the scientific stereotype: the stereotype that tears are emotional, illogical, stupid.
    And then, as is typically the case with stereotypes, I actually met scientists. And the vast majority, well, showed emotion and it was absolutely scary and wonderful.
    But I have to admit, though the fear has greatly lessened, I'm still a bit scared to show my emotions around my scientist friends.
     These things take time, I suppose.

    "I don't want people to think I'm stupid or weak," I confess to the therapist after explaining my confusing relationship with emotion.
    "I don't think that's weak," she replies in surprise. "I think you are tough."
    "I've never heard someone call me tough," I tell her. Never.
    Well, yeah I've been through more depressive bouts than I would care to admit - the dark depths of which I would be scared to show you. I'm alive despite my mental health and I'm not engaging in my eating disorder habits. For some reason I can't give up writing or chemistry despite the fact that they don't always fit, and I want to be a Christian despite all the reservations I feel. I mother two feisty kittens, doggone it.
    We talk some more about my love of mystery and magic (more on that in a later post), and then it's time for me to leave.
    "You are tough," she repeats.
   I think maybe, just maybe, we're all a lot tougher than we give each other credit for. And maybe - oh how I hope - the tears I cry alone and occasionally in the hospice with my Mimi are a sign of weakness that is actually strength.
    Maybe strength comes in weakness.
    So here's a hug.

Love you all.

P.S. Is anyone else out there thinking the entire universe is probably just a gargantuan, mysterious paradox?

Monday, November 10, 2014

I'm Backkkkk...And So Is My Unwelcome Fiend

    I really didn't mean to pull a vanishing act. My muse just...died.
    Along with my feelings, it seems.
    Because my depression decided midterm season was a fan-tast-ic time to return.
    And I was like: no. Depression can't come back. I'm on medication and I have friends and cats. Please. I'm just a bit down because my grandma is sick and my synthesis exam was the intellectual equivalent of a crucio curse.
    Never ming the familiar dull ache, the lack of interest in pretty much everything slowly spreading throughout my life. Never mind that day-after-day I felt the urge to scream and cry while sitting in my physical organic chemistry class (which I really like, for the record). Never mind the restlessness, the need to flee and find magic far away because there's no more life around or in me.
    Never mind the lie that this blog is crap and I'm going to lose all my friends by blogging terribly.

    Maybe I need to see a counselor again, but it's normal to feel stressed because look at all that's going on. I'm not depressed. I can't be. I'm supposed to wean off these antidepressants soon. I've been doing so well.
    I'm not suicidal this time, not even close, so I'm fine. 
    And yet...I'm not fine. I just want to cry. I'm scared and abnormally tired and sleep just sprays weird dreams across my weary mind. (Not that I altogether mind the dreams, since they're great fodder for stories, but more rest would be welcome).

    Still, I don't want to return to a counselor. Not because it's not helpful - it is. Not because I'm scared of them agreeing that my depression is back. Looking back, I've probably had depressive episodes since I was thirteen.
    I don't want to return because what if the counselor says I'm not depressed? What if she says I'm just a selfish, self-deluded narcissist who blames everything on her mental health because I like excuses and want to feel special?
    Ouch, that hurt to write. I guess my fear, after all this time, remains that I'm a horrible person.

    I guess I could deal with having depression, even though depression is hardly okay. I just want myself, me, to be okay. To be lovable and a good person.
    I just want to feel worthy of love. Maybe that's weak or silly or whiny, but love must be paramountly important, right? Look around us - we all need love. I really believe that.
    So I guess maybe that's why the phrase "God is love" sucks me in.
    I guess that's why I just want to hug all my friends, online and in person, and hope they know I love them, too - I love them fiercely even through the numbness.
    (Actually, I'd be down to hug nearly everyone who ever existed. If that makes me crazy, so be it).

    In working through this not-so-sane post, I see it's a good thing I made that weekly therapist appointment again. And that I found this picture:

    So, yup. That's what's been going on with me. What's been going on with you? How can I pray for you or listen to you? <3


Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Worst Nightmares

Trigger warning for eating disorders and abuse.

    I figured out how to fly in middle school. And to this day, I still use that magic necklace.
    On a thin gold chain hangs a small, rounded rectangular stone encapsulated in crenelated gold. The colors are mystifying, innocent swirls of pink and cream. But when you place your forefinger on it, the stone churns blood red, and as long as your finger stays there, you stay invisible, and you can fly.
    Hey - flying is hard work - you have to tread the air like swimming, but it's worth it, to rise above the trees and see the birds whizz past your face.
    The best part, however, is the invisibility. No one can even feel you. No sword can hurt you, and if you touch someone else, you can bring them under the safety of invisibility.
    This necklace has won wars, certainly, but it's also the necklace I invoke in all my nightmares. Whether I'm chased by a human murderer or an orc, I can invoke the necklace, and I and those I love will be safe.
    I'm not sure how I remember to do this in my nightmares, but I do.
    In my nightmares, hiding is the only safe spot.

    Yet the worst nightmares lack stalkers and a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex. The worst nightmares aren't solved by my necklace, because in my worst nightmares, I would have to hide from myself.

     I've been begging for reassurance about my weight since I was eight. And I've been having nightmares for almost as long.
    Because there's so much safety promised in hiding. The monsters can't get us. People can't judge our love handles and hips. People can't know we're rotting inside.
    But in these nightmares I know I am, and there's no hiding from myself.
    In these nightmares, the fear isn't what the monsters will do to me. There are no monsters, only people. People who see me despite my efforts to hide.
    They see me, and they reject me because I have grown fat.
    They use my weight as an excuse to hurt me.
    In my dreams, my own parents lament what they have done wrong to produce a fat daughter. They're almost as repulsed by me as I am by myself.
    In my dreams, a stranger torments me over my thighs and I retaliate - violently. Then the stranger says it's okay, he or she knows what it's like to be fat like me. But there's no comfort in their words, because I hate myself so much.
    I'm trapped, I'm trapped, I'm trapped - in my dreams I want to shave off my fat with a knife, and I hate myself so much.
    And then I wake up.

    With an unsettled feeling in my stomach.
    And then I realize with relief: It was just a dream.
    No, I am not fat. I am not violent. And even if I were fat, the violence would be the problem. Not my weight. Weight can't add or subtract worth from me.
    But I still can't shake the unsettled feeling.

    There was an incident - I don't know if I was seven or eight or nine - when something very similar to my nightmares did happen. My parents got mad because I was too tired to take a walk after soccer practice. They ranted that I was getting chubby and they forced us to take a walk, and the entire time they berated us for the whole neighborhood to hear. To call the incident humiliating doesn't do it justice.
    For what it's worth, I was a rather thin kid. I think they were just mad about something else and took it out on me and my sister.
    But in my dreams, I am actually fat.

    Maybe that's why I'm writing this here. I don't know if anyone can relate to these nightmares (although probably you can), but maybe by telling you all about them, I can reduce their power.
    Because being what society deems fat or skinny doesn't mean squat in our lives. And health is, as I'm sure you all know, usually found in the middle anyways.
    But I can know and support all this for everyone else, and I do, yet my own feelings say something very different regarding myself. Inside, I feel shame every time I pull on pants.
    And so I will write it out here until the shame disappears.
    I won't be invisible, but maybe I can still fly. Figuratively, at least. :)

    And if you're trapped in nightmarish secrets and shame, I will pray for you and love you right where you are. I'd love to talk further, friends. <3

*Please note that my parents are not bad people and I will not tolerate any disparaging comments towards them.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Question on Inerrancy and Sex

    *Content note: a scientifically frank discussion of sex and women's bodies. The horror.*
     So if you're a girl, chances are you learned at some point you're supposed to bleed the first time you have sex, thanks to a vaginal barrier known as the hymen. (Obviously, I can't say if boys learn this or not).
    I do remember, however, being confused by this. Women shed blood every month, out of the same opening. Like, how is that possible if it's barricaded by a membrane?
    Well: it's not.
    The hymen is not a barrier - it's simply an open scrap of membrane that protects the vagina when women are growing up.
    So all that stuff you hear about maidenheads, about an intact hymen and blood proving virginity?
    It's a load of crap. Cultural hoopla descended from millennia of patriarchy. Some pregnant women have intact hymens, and some women have none at all. The hymen only tears during sex if you are too fast or too violent.
 Language warning for video, but it is quite informative.

    Yet, enter Deuteronomy 20:13-21.
    "If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her 14 and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ 15 then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16 And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17 and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip[a] him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels[b] of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin[c] of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father's house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst." 

    According to the Bible, in these verses God says virginity is proven with blood. God says something demonstrably false.
    I've never seen any Biblical scholar address this issue (possibly because it involves a culturally awkward discussion of vaginas?). One article mentions that lack of bleeding would not necessarily condemn the woman due to the need for at least two witnesses, but the author still acknowledges that it is evidence against her virginity.
    Something scientifically false could witness against a person in a life-or-death situation. I find that extremely troubling.
    Frankly, it seems to me that this verse is incompatible with a literal Bible, unless you want to argue that hymens have evolved over time. Or that God is advocating marital rape, I suppose.
    Honestly, it makes more sense to say the Israelites were adopting a cultural misunderstanding/norm into their law, than to say God is a liar.
    Don't get me wrong. I confess that all Scripture is inspired by God, a good God, whether I like it or not. Maybe this passage exists to emphasize the importance of commitment to one person. Maybe, much like Moses' law of divorce, this this was God permitting them their hard hearts - I don't know.
    But I do think Deuteronomy 22:13-21 is evidence that Bible is not flawless. At the very least, I don't see the notion that the Bible is scientifically accurate as tenable.
    Inerrantists, if you have another explanation, please let me know. I say that in all sincerity.
    Thanks for listening, friends.


*Update: I love getting answers on Twitter - yes, really. As my friend Peter at The Places You'll Go Music points out, equating the modern body with a body from 4000 years ago is probably not the most accurate comparison.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Abandoning Answerianity

    Am I allowed to ask?
    Am I allowed to say it is ridiculous to bar a gay person from committing to the one they love, just because of a few controversial verses?
    Am I allowed to ask why some people insist that Jesus had to die for our atonement in some sort of child-sacrifice, when that's a very recent opinion?
    Am I allowed to say I think mainstream Calvinism, and definitely genocide, is cruel and wrong?
    Am I allowed to say I love liturgy, I really like Catholic Mass, and I believe evolution is the most realistic origin for life?
    Am I allowed to say I only want God if He is good, and if He is not good, I'd rather be in hell?
    Am I allowed to ask if God exists?
    Now for the age-old question: am I allowed to do this and still be a Christian?

    If you answered "no" to any of these questions, if my questioning is "proof" of me sliding away from faith, then...okay. This post isn't my defense of my orthodoxy or lack thereof.

    But if you're angered by my opinions and you want to know more, then please listen.
    Please, church, please listen. I am begging you.
    Can you hear our tears? Our howls of despair?
    It's the despair of a generation of evangelicals who were told Christianity is so, so much more than loving God and our neighbors.
    We were told Christianity was a culture war, to never listen to our hearts, to keep those legs shut before you ruin yourself. We were told Christianity was the Right means to heaven and the Last Days were upon us and the Earth was damned, so we might as well let it go.
    And when we started searching, we didn't find x amount of questions. We found questions that led to more questions that led to more and more (in math: not Q * x, but Q^x).

    Look at the condemnation heaped upon Gungor for questioning evolution. Look at the smug claims of "heresy" toward Rachel Held Evans for using feminine pronouns for Our God and for questioning if God really wanted Abraham to kill his child. And, of course, all those claims are done in online blog responses that leave me wondering how much you actually care about the person versus asserting how awesomely orthodox you are.
    Look at ten thousand faces abandoned by those who needed to prove their disagreement on LGBTQ issues once more, as if most people don't know how most of the church feels about them.
    Then look at those running out of church.
    If you don't see a correlation, you are very, very wrong, my friend.
    Brothers and sisters, do you know, every time you condemn them in the name of upholding what your think is true, you condemn us, too? We've gone through science classes and seen and loved people so, so different from ourselves. We cannot fit into your bubble without amputating our heads and hearts and we'll die if we do.
    You don't have to agree. I respect your differing options, and you're not evil or antiChrist or stupid for thinking differently.
    But your condemnation, your rush to prove a point over a person, your caution that we're asking the wrong questions just because they involve messy human bodies and/or weird emotions - nothing disgusts me more.
    Hey, we're a generation who's pretty screwed-up in a lot of ways, but for the most part we want justice. We want our neighbors to be loved as ourselves. And we constantly see the church denying that justice far too often.
"I'm locking you out, hooman. Hahahaha." - church and cats.
    I don't think my questions and doubts make me a heretic. I want orthodoxy. I want every. word. in. this. creed.
    I want the messy beauty of a God and Man in One, of three Godheads in One, of dying and love and resurrection and forgiveness and life everlasting.
    I'm willing to be wrong on many things. Correct me if you want. If I am heretical, feel free to email me or something. I'm willing to listen.
    Can you please do the same?
    Because every day, I'm still searching for Jesus. For the most part, I am finding Him present in Christianity, not black-and-white Answerianity.
    Only God alone is good, so only God alone is right.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Lock in My Pacifism

Update: I am talking about my confusion with the pacifism I see commonly represented in the more left-leaning Christian blogosphere, and in no way mean to diminish the importance of ending violence or the work of personal heroes such as Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I'm sorry for any confusion and I will try to do better next time. 

    You can call me a wannabe pacifist.
    The Bible is clear...
    Just kidding. I won't do that to you, I promise.
    But I do find Jesus' instructions to "do good to those who hate you, bless those who persecute you" pretty compelling.
    So compelling, in fact, that I can't escape the beautiful thought that good in the face of evil could transform, could even save, the world. What would happen if we were brave enough to do good, not just "understandable?"
    Ah. Oh. Right.
    That's the lock in my pacifism, I think.
    Because if someone was actively hurting my family or friends, I would certainly be furious. And honestly, I very well might respond violently in defense of those I love.
    Sorry. But it's true. And, in short, that's why I am a "wannabe" pacifist.

    I also fear much modern-day Christianized pacifism frequently comes from a place of privilege. For instance, it's easy to say submit to authorities when you've never been abused. It's easy to say "no war!" when thousands of your friends aren't being slaughtered for having a different religion or a different color of skin.
    I'm not saying you don't care about the abused or the murdered - but it is always different when people have names, faces, that are known to you. There's more feelings involved, whether that makes it right or wrong.
    And what of the extreme cases, like World War II, what then? Maybe pacifism, civil disobedience, would have stopped the Nazis in their infant stages (I'm not a historian so don't quote me on that). But, by, say, 1941, was there really another option besides fighting?
    I mean, besides everyone rising up and saying "we have decided not to be afraid." Which would be cool, but how realistic is it when someone is pointing a gun at your family?

    Let me be clear.
    What is good?
    Not war. Not violence.
    Ending violence is good. By non-violent means. Because in our many thousands of years of human civilization, violence has not brought peace.
    Pacifism is good.

    Still, I guess what I want from current pacifists is more grace and understanding. Jesus was about grace, was he not?
    So those who join the army? Maybe they're joining because they want to help something larger than themselves. Maybe the people who support war do so because they genuinely think it's the best way to help others.
    Now, history is proof that violence doesn't solve anything. Keep spreading that message, sure.
    But please don't draw dichotomies that say you can't be a Christian and be in the army, or support wars. Please.
    Instead, please, keep your idealism and keep suggesting and implementing ideas for justice. Keep challenging us towards pacifism.
    The more cynical of us, we need you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Monster in the Mirror? It Isn't You

    Every morning, I shuffle to the kitchen to feed the ever-exuberant kittens. Then I shuffle to the bathroom, where I dress and clean my face and brush my hair, where I decorate my sleep-filled eyes with makeup. Where I stare at my dim reflection in the mirror.
    Every morning, before breakfast, I also twist open a white-capped, translucent orange bottle and take out a green and blue pill.
    And every morning, I swallow it with water and a twinge of thanks.

    I need us to know, I need us to understand: there is no shame in being sick.
    There is no shame in crying curled up in a corner, in clawing at despair - and sometimes, yes, ourselves.
    There is no shame in losing yourself to the black depression, in collapsing under the loneliness, in trampling yourself with anxiety, in burning yourself down with mania. In losing another battle against the addictions that provide a fleeting reprieve. Whether you swallow down the panic attack or are ravaged full-force, there is no shame.
    There is no shame.

    It is okay to be sick.
    It is not okay that we're sick, oh no. We don't deserve the torment in our mind and whatever - genetics, trauma, sensitivity - triggered it. But we are not wrong for being sick.

    Maybe there's a part of you, and me, that hates ourselves.
    When I was younger I heard preachers say we can't truly hate ourselves. There was always a small part of me that scoffed at them.
    Because somewhere deep inside, I did hate myself. I knew I deserved the bad things, the pain and anguish and tears and shame.
    I. Hated. Myself.
    And in that grotesque, insidious piece I knew I could never be loved because I wasn't strong and I wasn't brave and I wasn't...I wasn't what I was supposed to be.
    It never stopped screaming, You are not loved!

   There was a part of me, you see, so sick and black I couldn't clean it out. Devotion to prayer and Bible studies, grades, and even inviting God Himself inside me, didn't clean it out. Hatred and denial, desperation and rage didn't bleed it out.
    So I took the blue and green pills, unsure if I was condemning myself deeper, unsure if I was just plain damned. Blue, the color of tears, met green, the color of life. My favorite colors, on a simple aromatic compound that would somehow regulate the chemicals in my brain.
   It's a fierce fiend, that demon. But the cleansing only started when I talked about it - in therapy, with friends who (surprisingly) did love me, on this blog.
   The shame fades and fades, because the more you open up and the more people and God come in. And the more we open, the more we are changed.
   It doesn't leave easily - it's still there. Oh yes. I got a B on a homework assignment recently, and oh, how the shame washed over me again (that's why I'm writing that here, I suppose). But it is fading in the light of grace, of God and of people.

   But first, I need you to know, I need you to understand: we are all loved, and more than that, we are all wanted.
   You're not the monster in the mirror.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

God Our Author: Annihilation vs. Creation

    As a writer, I get crazy excited about God the Creator.
    I mean, just think, He invented color. And quantum mechanics and atoms and organic chemistry and space-time.
    And people, all of us unique.
    And cats and cats and cats (I had to mention them in here somewhere).
Aren't you glad I spared you the actual Nyan Cat song?
    In Him, a God somehow three in one, a paradox of possibilities, lives redemption and resurrection and hope and love and stories. He so deeply loves His creations He became one of us.
    This seems like a God who is supposed to be good.*
    Which is why I'm always puzzled by annihilation theory - that those who don't know God simply cease to exist when they die.
    Look, I get the appeal: no eternal torture!
    But there's no peace for the annihilated, either. There's nothing. They. Are. Not.
    Annihilation is the opposite of creation. Annihilation (like eternal hell) says redemption can never be found for someone, that someone is hopeless. But unlike hell, annihilation also seems to say that God's image doesn't matter anymore. I'm not a theologian, but it seems like God's image must separate from a person, somehow, for them to be extinguished.
     I don't know whether that means God's image in people gets destroyed or taken back, but I find that quite disturbing.

    Now, I love crafting my own stories. I love developing characters, getting to know them, sometimes imagining what would happen if they appeared in my life.
    And sure, there are some stories I have decided to scrap or adapt, some characters I've merged into one or deleted from a story. But rarely, if ever, do I cut out a character without using at least a part of them in another character. It's like I can't forsake them. And I can never forget them - not even Lemon-Lime, the yellow and green cat from the first story I wrote in first grade (she had a scary encounter with a shark and ever since her narrow escape, all cats have feared water, if you must know - and yes, I did name her after my favorite sherbets).
This poor cat may want people in hell after this, however. 
    If I, a mere mortal and a sinner saved by grace, cannot forsake my characters, how can God utterly erase those He has created?

    Maybe there's an explanation outside of this world, since that's where God is.

    But wouldn't He have to stop loving the annihilated? Wouldn't love have to stop, because the person no longer is? Because, in annihilation (and ECT), love can no longer "hope all things."
    The idea of a perfect love like God's ceasing is, again, quite disturbing.

    I know there's plenty of compelling evidence for annihilation in the Bible. There's plenty of evidence for ECT, too, and even Christian universalism. So if people want to believe that, I'm not one to judge.
    But - but - can we stop pretending it's more merciful?
    Because it involves a person extinguished. That's really disturbing. To me, it's more disturbing than eternal hell.
    I know, I'm getting emotional here. So...if I've overlooked or misinterpreted something, do let me know.
    What are your thoughts? If you believe in annihilation, what have you found compelling about it? How do you reconcile annihilation and the Imago Dei?


* Problem of Evil to be incorporated into third post.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I'd Risk A Thousand Shelobs For You

    Do you know, I'd cross the expanse of space-time to get you back?
    Do you know, when I say hello and you look everywhere but my face, I'd risk a thousand Shelobs to have you smile at me?
    Do you know I'm sorry I kept thinking I'd have time to talk on the phone to you, but it was always, always later? I'm so, so sorry.
    I'm so sorry.
    I'd sacrifice my own mental health if I could feel your tender arms around me, knowing who I am.
    I'd go through a hundred Odysseys, descend through a million circles of hell, to find your memory and relieve your suffering.

    I'm still praying for you. You've got me praying regularly again, of course you have.
    I know you always prayed for me, and honestly, I wonder if your prayers are the reason I survived this far.

    You seemed to recognize me for a little while, twenty minutes or so. You told me the story of when you were little and a hurricane blew your roof off.
    You grew up so different from me, an extroverted model, the second-youngest of seven siblings who married a wonderful Italian-American while she was still a teenager. I remember you telling me about your adventures with your sassy sister Phyllis, about your boyfriends and your ice cream job.
    I remember how you got your license even though you didn't need it, how you went to college when you were older,  how you worked until 82 because you liked it.
    When I was little I wanted to write a novel based on you. Sometimes I still entertain the idea.
    Do you know your house was my safe place when I was little? How I looked forward to our visits like vacation? The rhythmic rush of cars down the main street, Papa chasing us twins as the Big Bad Wolf, drinking "fizzy water" at your minibar and playing in the triangle-shaped tub, they were such soothing treats to my little soul.
    Your generosity, in true Italian family style, is still what I think of whenever I'm serving pasta or ice cream.
    It's only a slight exaggeration to say your fudge changed my life. And the bacon - my word, I got sick on too much bacon at your house once!

    And do you know your orange tabby, Terry, was the one who triggered my love for cats?

    I love you. I miss you.
    Mimi, I hope I'll see you again soon, in the hospital or (I hope) back home. And I hope this time you'll see me, too. There is so much love, you know, our days can never be enough, but I guess that's how love is.
    I guess you already knew that, though.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

God Our Author: When Love Tortures?

Random: I still love this movie.
    The idea of hell never used to bother me. Like any good Christian child, I knew it was a necessary evil, something Jesus spoke about more often than heaven.
    Then I went to college. And met more and more people who didn't believe in God, or Jesus.
    My heart and my head and my stomach pounded, twisted, vomited, at the thought of them in hell.
    I would go to hell in place of them, were it possible. Perhaps that meant I didn't have a proper view of the glory of God, but I couldn't let my loved ones suffer for eternity (a theory called Eternal Conscious Torment).
     If they were in hell because, for whatever reason - be it suffering, confusion, unanswered prayer, lack of belief - they didn't follow Jesus, there was no heaven. Not for me. Either God would have to brainwash me to forget them, or His glory would simply outshine everything else.
    But forgetting someone you love? Ceasing to love them?
    I felt even queasier.
    They were people, created by God. In that sense, can not loving people can be a way of loving God? How could ceasing to love them be moral?
    My morality is depraved and confused.
    Now, I don't deny that this is true. My thoughts towards, say, ISIS at the moment involve quite a bit of F-bombs and murder (sorry).
    But how is torturing people alive (be it through actual fire or the lack of His presence) for a few years, for a vapor, of evil, justice?
    My morality is intact enough to know that it's wrong for me to, say, kidnap a terrorist and torture them for the rest of their life. So how is it good for God to do that for eternity?
    I don't grasp the evil of sin.
    Since I still mock and hate and gossip and lust like many people, yeah, clearly I don't.
    But I know, good heavens, God has to be just, because justice is good and God is good.
    So is hell justice for a crime I can't even see?
    I'm not convinced. Because what if justice is mercy, and mercy, justice? What if they are, pardon the cliche, two sides to the same coin? (For instance, for a murderer, maybe punishment in prison is a mercy because they now face the reality, at least physically, that what they did was wrong).
    So is hell a mercy?
    I don't know. I don't think so, honestly. Prison is really not the same as eternal torture.
    Now I fully realize we're all trapped in this world and, yes, it's true that we don't grasp the depravity of our sin. But because of this, we also don't grasp how good God is.
    I'm unconvinced that I can be more merciful than God. I don't deny that I'm a worse sinner than I know, but I'm not sure my conscience is wrong for being too sensitive, too good.
    Because I'm not sure God can ever be too good. It truly bothers me that the same people arguing for our inability to discern how evil is really good for God, are often the same people arguing that our consciences prove His existence. I know their argument is that only a semblance of conscience remains, but ... it doesn't sit well with me.
    The Bible says God is Our Author.
    As a writer, I love my characters after a fashion. I delight in them, the good and the bad. My heart sometimes aches when they make wrong decisions and do terrible deeds. My ire awakes, and by the end of the story, at the very least some sense of hope must remain.
    I cannot imagine creating a character, even a deplorable one, and writing about their eternal torture forever and ever. I even have sympathy for the villains I'm writing about now - so many factors, good and bad, have influenced their decisions.
     What kind of sadist would I have to be to write about a bad person for a chapter, say I love them, and then revoke my love (because Love Does Not Torture) and describe their hideous, beyond repugnant agony for the remainder of the book? (With an epilogue saying "the anguish will never end. Glory be!").
    Hey, it might sell nowadays, who knows. But that's kinda sick.
    God isn't sick.
    And so this is why I am very, very uncomfortable with "Eternal Conscious Torment" theory.
    Do you believe in hell, and if so, why? What are your thoughts, questions, sentiments?
    Eternity is kinda a topic I like looking into, even though it's impossible to know. But I do think it can have a negative or positive effect on human relationships, so I will talking about it on this blog for the next few entries.
    As for annihilationism and Christian universalism, stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 of us exploring eternity from the perspective of God being Our Author (but, spoiler alert: don't hold out hope for a conclusion).


Sunday, October 5, 2014

We Celebrate a Wedding, We Celebrate Life

    I may be melodramatic, but, you know, the world is still falling apart.
    Instead of marrying his girlfriend, a man lies very, very sick with Ebola in Dallas.
    An aid worker had his head cut off by extremists who mistakenly believe that violence will fulfill them.
    And now another aid worker, who isn't that much older than me, will might be next.
    Justice has been reduced to a wisp of a word down in Missouri.
    All my concerns about exams and perpetual singleness, all my fascination with chemistry and atonement theories and fantasy stories, stories, stories - they feel very small indeed.
    No, in truth, they feel stupid. Shallow.
    When people are dying, when a psychopathic North Korean dictator imprisons people based on preposterous lies, how can I dream of romance and idealism and mystery? How can I smile, even?
    And yet what can I, what can we, do?
    People are dying, and I can't help them, and it is killing my soul.

    They tell me to pray. Why?
    It feels hopeless. What good will prayers do when a body is too weak, when a person is too brainwashed, when a person is too trapped to save themselves?
    And yet I remember that night, on my knees, screaming up at God.
    I remember crying when someone was saved from death.

    I remember not only that answered prayer, but also the epiphany of sorts I had afterwards: I can no longer give merit to the power of evil.
    This isn't a dismissal of evil. It exists, oh God! it exists.
    This is a choice, of sorts. A choice that says I am trying, desperately trying, not to let evil have credit in any more of my life. I don't want to cower before its blackness, to believe its caustic despair, to be enticed by its smiles.
    I just want good, whatever it is. And ultimately, I hope and put my faith in good being God.

    And so when I ask what point are our stories, what point are our hopes and dreams, what point are our smiles and laughter and weddings, I wonder if the point is the things themselves.
    Because they are life.
    Stories begin with creation, with life. Stories testify to life.
    Hope keeps you hanging on. Dreams inspire you forward. Smiles and laughter, they celebrate.  
    They're all life.
    And weddings - if even two people come together when everything else has fallen apart, death and evil have not won.
    And so we will celebrate a wedding (like the Weasleys during Voldemort's takeover), because maybe in a wedding, a small part of the holy grace of hope comes alive.
Kittens are life too. Don't deny it.


P.S. Congratulations to the lovely cousin and her fantastic husband whose wedding inspired this post. :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Killing My Church Darling

    Within the the never-ending advice to writers, one common phrase is "kill your darlings."  
    That beautiful passage you've written?? That scene you love, love, love so much, even though it doesn't quite fit into the direction your story is taking?
    Kill it. Edit it out. (I have personally spent many an agonizing day on editing issues).
    And man, is it painful. Because, like, my story won't be the same without that golden metaphor right there...AND I LIKE IT THERE!!!

    Now, there's probably many real-life analogies we could make here. One particularly relevant one for me of late has, for better or worse, been church.
    Church had been my darling for a long while. My attendance proof that I was The Good Christian Making Effort to Keep Up With God. Oh heck no, I wasn't walking away from God. Not me.
    Then, last winter, when I started climbing back up after months of severe depression, I realized I was just plain sick of church.
    Not of God or people (okay, not most people), but I was sick of doing What I Was Supposed To Do. I was sick of following a formula that, for me, led to more anxiety and frustration than anything else.
     Simultaneously, I began reexamining my beliefs in general, a reexamination catalyzed by the advice I'd often received: "spending more time with God" would cure cure my depression. Because I now knew this wasn't necessarily true, I began wondering what else might not be true.
    And as welcoming, as nonjudgemental, as lovely as my church in Boston was, I became very angry at Christian Culture in general. I was furious that mentally ill Christians are largely considered "lesser" for their struggles. I was furious at the way many denominations reflect our culture's oppression of women, dressed up in hollow words like "God's design." I was furious at the way many Christians thought abandoning a child would convict gay couples of their sin.
    I'm still furious, to be honest.
    So I killed my darling. Meaning I cut out church out of my life for nearly a full semester. Silently I fretted that I'd slipped away from God and was sliding down a path of eternal damnation, but those Sundays at home certainly left me in a less anxious go-go-go state of mind.
    Then I went to the Mideast and saw people who acted out the part of church for me. I finally felt what my pastor had been saying for years: church wasn't a building or an event, but people. I was safe, happy, loved, and free, free, free, with these people. We could question and doubt and cry and laugh and embrace and be embraced and all that truly mattered was Jesus loves us all. Not to say there wasn't conflict and everything was perfect, but we were a community.
    So when I moved to Cambridge this fall, I was like, sure I'll try church again.

    And then I realized just how many churches there are in Cambridge.
    Thus far I've visited a modern evangelical church, a Southern Baptist church, a Catholic Mass, and an Orthodox Liturgy. And, yeah, I had some fears about all these services, along with some admitted prejudices against Southern Baptists. But instead of having my fears met, I found lovely communities where people were friendly, welcoming, and not judgmental.
    There were no assumptions that I was a heathen who needed to be interrogated on Gospel 101. Only kindness. Love, maybe I would call it.
    "What's your name?" asked countless of the people at the Baptist church.
    "You're so colorful," said the Catholic priest by way of greeting, which made me grin (I wear bright colors because they make me happy).
    "You can't do anything wrong here," assured the Orthodox Father with a gentle smile.
    And then I realized "I like all these churches now-what-do-I-do," and "Oh yeah, I wanted to try the Episcopal church and that other Baptist church and the Lutheran church too. And the UCC" - now that I finally realized they're not universalist.
    And that's how my anxiety started settling back in.
    So: I decided this semester will be dedicated, on Sundays, to visiting churches of all different traditions. So far God's shown up in the music of the evangelical church, in the people of the Baptist and Orthodox church, in the hymns of the Catholic church. Maybe next time He'll show up with a talking cat, who knows.

    I don't know exactly what I'm looking for in a church. Someplace where questions are encouraged and people love God and me.
    It'd be kinda nice if God would drop a sign and say "Here is Where You Should Attend Church Kelley," but I doubt He will (feel free to surprise me, Jesus).
   Until then, I guess I'll have to content myself with waiting and searching. Nice life lessons, I suppose.
    In retrospect, killing my darling wasn't so bad after all.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Religion and Evolution Without Gymnastics: A Response to David P. Barash

    Keep calm, I tell myself. Keep calm.
    But illogical arguments don't sit well with me. Typically I ignore them. Okay, half the time I ignore them. And by ignore, I mean I don't rant online about them, just to my cats or my sister.
    But since this latest piece deals directly with science and religion, two things I'm pretty passionate about, I'll respond. (Also my dear twin asked me for my thoughts).
    So, last night my sister forwarded me an opinion article published in The New York Times, written by a biology professor named David P. Barash. Dr. Barash presents, once again, the argument that God and science are incompatible masked as a defense of evolution.
    I've heard this a lot, and I used to believe it. Now I don't, so I'd like to respond to Dr. Barash.
    But, first of all, I'm aware that Dr. Barash is a distinctive scientist, whereas I'm, uh, just starting a PhD program. I respect him as a scientist who knows a heck of a lot more than me about science, but I don't think that means his arguments are above critique.
    Also, I'd recommend you read the article before continuing, or I might sound (more) nonsensical.

    Okay, ready? Let's go through this.

     1. I’m not a legal expert, but I would like to know if this "Talk" violates separation of church and state. If I'm wrong, do inform me. Update: see comment below. It doesn't. It helps having friends who know legal issues. :D
     But I still find it problematic that he's saying he wants his students to choose, while telling his students "they will have to undertake some challenging mental gymnastic routines.” That’s as close to saying “your belief is wrong and as a scientist you can’t believe in it” as you can get without saying it outright. And if they’re not asking him his opinion, he has no right to give this indoctrination - I mean, talk. They signed up for biology, not philosophy. Your job as a professor is to prove evolution, not the lack of logic in religion. 
     2. Granted, he says his point is that evolution is correct and we can’t twist science. Well, yes, we can’t twist facts - including evolution (yes, I agree that evolution is true). But in his essay, he focuses more on disproving God’s compatibility with evolution than ACTUALLY proving evolution, which makes me question his true motives. But, again, I don't know him personally and it's hard to guess his motives based on one essay. So, pardon the cliché, take my opinion here with a grain of salt.
     3. Most importantly: in his essay, he engages no argument for the Bible not being a science book. He doesn’t mention Francis Collins’ work, or Peter Enns’ work, or any of the number of scientists and scholars who don't engage in “gymnastics” or “nostalgia” (which we all know are code words for “your belief is irrational”).
     Personally, as a scientist (though not a biologist) I don’t see a conflict. Now, I've heard that the Bible uses an intersex term for the first human before creating man and woman through Adam's rib, which could imply evolution. But whether you buy that interpretation or not, the Creation story reveals the truth that God put His image in us, that God intends for a good, restorative creation. Not chaos. Not evil. Not a balance of good and evil. Good. If we read the Bible to glean this message, there is no mental gymnastic - or nostalgia.
     4. Why is there no nostalgia? I could be wrong, but I’m guessing Barash views the Christianity-is-compatible-with-evolution faith as nostalgic because we don’t want to give up our Imaginary Jesus Friend. Except, we don’t read Genesis to understand Jesus; we read Jesus to understand Genesis. Jesus shows God’s ultimate act of restoration, which God started in Genesis. That’s not nostalgic, it’s a logical and reasoned interpretation of a text using Jesus as our hermeneutic.
      In essence, Dr. Barash has constructed a straw man in which He views Christians who believe in evolution as ignorantly as Young-Earth Creationists view us (in fact, if he would have his students accept his arguments based on a straw man, he is using the exact same tactic as a YEC, only his threat is “nostalgia and lack of reason” rather than “ unbeliever").      

     Unless he engages in a Christian evolutionist’s actual arguments, listens, and thoughtfully explains why he believes otherwise - and presents ALL evidence to his students - why on earth is he giving this talk? And, for the record, should he actually accommodate other views into this talk, I personally believe he should still present this in a philosophy of science class, or in office hours. Not in biology lecture. 
     All that being said, I'd like to make it clear that Dr. Barash is entitled to his opinion that evolution and religion are incompatible. I just don't think he's entitled to imply that's the only conclusion one can reach.

    *End rant.*



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Round and Round: Me and My Body

***A very serious trigger warning for eating disorders, friends.***

    According to my medical reports, I've gained weight over the last year.
    I originally requested my doctor not to reveal my weight to me. But then last Friday happened.
    I frantically looked up my medical records online. I also searched how to lose 10 pounds in a week, and considered starving and dehydrating myself because, you know, water weight.

    I tend to use food as my comfort. Sugary food. Like frosting. I <3 frosting. Cake drowning in frosting.
    Well, apparently that, and not my refusal to starve myself, has led to me gaining 10 pounds this year.
    And I want it off. I'm tired of pinching my fat and wearing loose skirts and oversized pants because I can't look at myself in a mirror anymore.
    I'm tired of being terrified to wear a bathing suit.
    I'm disturbed that I still envy the anorexic girls I pass on the street, with their thigh gaps and frail arms.
    I know that weight is not sexy. But it always felt comfortable for me (even though I could probably lose half my body weight and never have a thigh gap).

    I thought I was done with this.

    It's easy to scream and blame the jerk who catcalled me for my "big booty" Friday night. But I have to admit these feelings - these feelings of self-revulsion and insecurity, the appeal of 1200 calories a day, and the fond memories of being stick skinny - were brewing for a while. I guess the sexist jerk just brought them to the surface quicker.
    At least I've learned to appreciate my reddish hair and blue eyes and even to like my face, which I never did before. I'm gaining a personality and I love chemistry and I love writing. I especially love people.
    It's a start. A good start, I hope.
    But it's not an end. Which means I'll have head to back to my counselor and have a conversation about something I thought was over and done.
    But this cycle needs to end like my neighbor's music. I don't want this, not really. I know the damage to my mind soul is a hefty price that will never be worth it.

    Yeah, there's no real point to this post. Other than honesty, which I hope is a bigger deal than I feel it is. Edit: yes, there is a point. Sometimes saying stuff, the hard and sticky secret stuff, aloud can reduce the secret's power. 
    So, no, old and new eating disorder temptations, you don't have absolute power over me. I prefer to give my power to Jesus and help others with it, not starve myself. Kthnxbye.
    Here's a hug for you all.
    And some kittens.


Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm Afraid I'll Become an Atheist

    Can I tiptoe up to you? Can I whisper in your ear?
    I have a secret.
    I know, I know.
    I ask too many questions.
    Look, I'm a scientist. I live on questions. But wonders on chemical bond formations aren't the type of questions I'm talking about.
    I'm talking about those questions, the questions that raise eyebrows and churn my stomach with fears of heresy. The questions like is God good? Is Christianity true? What's the point of life in light of eternity?
    So can I tell you my secret?
    Here goes.
    I'm afraid my questions...will turn me into an atheist.
    Side note: I know atheists who are among my kindest, most intelligent and helpful friends. I sincerely hope they know I'm not insulting them here.
    It's just, I like my faith. I want it to be true, so I don't want to be an atheist. (And maybe there's a tiny part of me still afraid of excommunication followed by an eternal barbecue...will you just stop, inner fundamentalism?).
    But, yeah. I want to be a Christian.
    I love the idea of God as Creator. God as Storyteller. A God Who believes in redemption and love and hope and good. A God who is so deeply intimate and personal He came to Earth to become one of us, a God who sees value in every. last. person.
    I want the chance to love everyone who ever existed (well, nearly everyone. I'm not perfect, so I freely admit I'd be icky about, say, Hitler and Nero and Genghis Khan - sorry).
    I want the chance to know that subverting oppression is not in vain.
    I want to see that everyone is special (as much as I love The Incredibles, the phrase "when everyone is special...nobody is" is nonsense. If everyone is special, everyone is special).
    I want redemption. Forever. I don't want this to be it.
   - Not for the victims of the Crusades and the Holocaust and the IS and North Korea
   - Not for the privileged but suicidal transgender American teenager
   - Not the inner city kid enticed into a gang, shot dead before he even reached two decades
   - Nor the bitter old man who's all, all alone
   - Not even the bigoted, venomous people who don't understand good.
    I want love to win, to really win, and I want God to be Love (Thanks, 1 John).
    Y'all are too wonderful and I hope and pray we actually have a God who is up there and Who is good.
    I know, I need rational reasons for belief. I have them, but I won't pretend they're hard proof.

    This post isn't a defense of my beliefs. It's not even a complete explanation.
    It's something I just wanted to say.

    I feel (gasp!) that many of us Christians are so caught up in defending their faith, we make it sound like eternal blackmail. A no-way-out situation. You have to believe or suffer eternal sadism, so you'd best do it.
    Desire isn't really mentioned. Maybe we realize we've been bad people and desire forgiveness, but we don't generally hear about people wanting to be a Christian because it's good.
    What if we admitted that the "good news" isn't behavior modification or get-blessed-quick schemes? What if we admitted that the good news is, well, goodness? Redemption, forgiveness, salvation, justice and grace and mercy, humility and listening, freedom from oppressors, they're all part of this good.
    Plus, I have this smidgen of an feeling that all good reflects God Our Author (to bring this full circle: hence my many questions. I'm looking at you, genocidal Book of Joshua).

    So if you ask me why I'm a Christian? Yeah, I'll be honest: a large part of it is because that's who I want to be.
    Why do you believe why you believe (or don't believe), and do you like it?


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Bible Can't Save Us

    The Bible cannot save me.
    The Bible can't save anyone.
    Certainly the Bible is profitable for doctrine once understood in its context. But the Bible cannot save us.
    The Bible did not redeem me. The Bible is not the Word in the Beginning.
    The Bible cannot love me, or you, or anyone.
    The Bible cannot whisper the voice of God. Certainly God can whisper through the Bible, but the Bible is an object. A holy, inspired collection of stories, both poetic and narrative, yes, but it's still an object.
    The Bible is not God. We were created by a Trinity, not a Quarterinity (which isn't even a word, but you get the point).
    And so, the Bible cannot save us.
    I've been wanting to pen this post for a while, but I hesitated because people will judge me I know I'm a bad Christian could anyone relate?
    But a few days ago a lovely post went up at Sheloves Magazine from a writer named Heather, explaining that she stopped reading the Bible because reading it shredded her heart every time.
    Which is basically my story, too. Tears pricked my eyes when I read Heather's words because I thought that, just maybe, I felt God whisper to me through a blog post.
    I've written a bit before about my struggles with scrupulosity.
    So when I hear the typical evangelical encouragement to memorize Scripture, I cringe, because they don't know how much I've done that. How much I chanted verse and prayers in my head whenever I faced temptation, repeating them until I got them worded exactly right. Exactly.
    When I hear a well-meaning pastor's encouragement to get up early each morning and read the Bible, I feel cold. Because they don't know about the times I spent an hour meticulously reading every. word. of a chapter, making sure I knew every freaking definition, making sure I gleaned meaning from even the most tedious verses (hence why I hated Ezekiel: and he took his rod and measured, and the temple was this many cubits by this many cubits...).
    These compulsions were so ingrained in me that, even when I ignored God in all other aspects of life in high school, I continued my chants and prayers.
    And naturally, when I finally decided I wanted God again, I started reading the Bible with renew purpose.
    Every. Day. Making sure I underlined and reread anything I wasn't getting meaning from. I took special care on the days before college exams, so God would bless me on the test and not punish me for putting biology/chemistry first.
    I was scared, I think. I wanted to Do The Right Thing, and the Right Thing was a formula that fit everyone.
Geez this image triggers anxiety.
    But formulas and feelings only take you so far. When the stress and anxiety began piling on junior year of college, and when the depression collapsed senior year, my Bible reading collapsed into a formula devoid of meaning.
    I kept reading, determined to affirm I was still following a God I doubted and couldn't hear from, so people couldn't accuse me of being depressed because I'd fallen away from God (for those who don't speak Christianese, "falling away" describes the unintentional process of prioritizing the secular over God until we no longer care about Him).
    Heck, even when I started recovery and my church attendance plummeted whilst I began re-examining every belief, I still read daily. No longer a chapter, however. I just read a story of Jesus' ministry.
    I was disappointed that nothing changed. I was still doing it because I had to. Bible devotionals incited rage or gave me panic attacks.
    When I returned from the Mideast, I have to admit, my daily Bible readings went the way of the dodo bird.
    Strangely, not reading my Bible every day, I felt closer to God.
    I want to love the Bible.
    I don't think I do.
    I love what the Bible reveals - a God who loves us, who told us to love Him and others as the greatest commandment. A God who came to earth to live among us, a God who would rather die Himself than kill us. A God who defeated death, a God who promises that life ought not be how it is, who promises that He is alive and restoration will occur.
    But I'm horrendously confused by the Old Testament stories of God-approved genocide, and I'm ripped apart inside when I read of a lake of fire. I'm repulsed by the use of Bible verse to bash the victimized while we conveniently ignore Matthew 7:1.
    I know there are books dealing with these messes. Peter Enns just released a book on it. Maybe I'll do some reading and come away with a different perspective, ready to read the Bible again.
    Heather said she just wasn't ready to read the Bible yet. I guess you could say that's where I am, too.
    It'd be nice to wake up each morning and treasure the Bible. But I'm not there yet, and I'm not sure when or if I will be.
    I guess it's good then, that the Bible doesn't save us; God does.