Saturday, October 10, 2015

Kindness Matters

    Where there is kindness, there is goodness. And where there is goodness, there is magic.
    - Cinderella, 2015

    As children we're taught to be kind. To do unto others, follow the Golden Rule, et cetera.
    And for some reason, I still believe in those childhood lessons. I've had too many moments in my life where I wasn't treated kindly - rejection by my peers, ignorance of teachers who favored the popular kids, out-of-control anger by people I was supposed to trust - to not believe in kindness.
    I can't forget those moments, even though I desperately wish I could. But, because of those haunted memories, I can remember to show others what I wasn't given: kindness, mercy, acceptance.
    Which is why I shudder almost every time I log onto Twitter or Facebook.
    Yes, this is another discussion on public shaming and outcry. But please hear me out.
    There is verbal abuse being committed in the name of justice. There is backbiting, judging and gossip. That is not justice.
    No one who screwed up has ever changed because someone badgered them into it.
    No one who screwed up has ever changed after being scapegoated and mocked by people who don't know them.
    Maybe, instead of publicly calling out an individual and assuming their motives are hateful, maybe we should engage them in conversation, if we are able. There's no reason we can't be kind and firm and bold and even funny all at once.
    Because maybe they were having a terrible day and just slipped up. Maybe they're just ignorant or maybe they're mentally ill. Maybe they are suffering already and don't need your warrior outcry. Maybe they need a conversation or kindness. Maybe they want to learn - or maybe they don't.
    Or: maybe they are just a terrible, abusive, bigoted person.
    That shouldn't change our behavior. That shouldn't mean we can be cruel, rejoice in their downfall, shame them into change. That shouldn't mean writing passive-aggressive blog posts.
    Because if we want justice, it starts with us. We should look at our micro aggressions and bigotry - I'm going to guess we all probably have them, especially if we are white, straight, and/or male. We should listen to those without our privilege...and realize that somewhere along the line, we're going to screw up big time, too.
    We should look at how we treat others. We must be kind.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Why I Can't Say Eternity Doesn't Matter

    Growing up conservative evangelical, eternity often seemed like the only thing that mattered. The gospel was basically, "Jesus was God and died so you don't have to go to hell."
    In high school, I remember standing in the grocery store check-out line and thinking, most of the people here are going to hell. The thought was so horrifying my socially anxious self briefly contemplated screaming out the message of Jesus.
    Even in college, I was plagued by the notion that some of my best friends and roommates could die and burn forever. And I, being the shy and fearful introvert that I was, couldn't work up the courage to invite them to listen to the whole gospel. Talk to strangers? That I could do, but I could not talk to my friends.
    I lacerated myself for my cowardice and even my introversion. How dare I be an introvert, how dare I need "me time," how dare I be private when people were dying and going to hell?
    Still, I meant it when I declared that I would go to hell for my friends. In fact, I devised a plan to volunteer for hell in place everyone else in the entire world. Maybe that meant I loved others more than God, but I couldn't conceive of love, which is God, being immoral.
    Yet, even as I panicked and prayed for their salvation, even as I tortured myself trying to pray for every random passerby I even saw - because what if no one else ever prayed for their salvation? - my beliefs on hell began shifting.
    The gospel, insisted theologians and bloggers, with compelling evidence from the Bible itself, was about more than eternity. It included social justice, and it was good news - not terrible "most people will burn forever" news.
    I'd always been an "inclusivist," indignantly dismissing the idea that God could condemn those who never heard the gospel. But then I began reading about annihilationism, Christian universalism, Calvinism and Armenianism, and more theories on eternity, and I realized that hell was not as clear-cut as I'd believed.

     I cannot believe the gospel is good if I am saved but most people are tortured.
     Or vanquished.
     Because the more I reviewed the popular annihilation theory, the more repulsed I was. God wiping out the existence of people sounds like a cop-out. Oh, God won't torture people forever; He'll just take back the gift of life He's already bestowed. He'll undo his creations.
     Annihilation removes the pain of eternal torture but not the pain of lost loved ones. And I cannot think that heaven is heaven without the people I love. My love for God should not erase my love for people, because, again, God is love.
     Obviously, I lean towards an eventual Christian universalism - that everyone will be reconciled to Jesus in the end, although I suppose a temporary place for anyone who doesn't want God would have to exist. Because people being forced to love God would just be creepy. Then again, I am not a scholar and these are just ideas that pass through my mind.
     I realize there is Biblical evidence for all the Big Three: eternal torment and annihilation and universalism, but I choose the one that presents a God who is actually good, the one that leaves infinite chances for redemption.
     Now, my understanding of "good" is probably muddled due to my limited human understanding. But I don't see how rejoicing while another suffers or is gone forever could ever be good.

     Still, despite my beliefs, I can't stop researching eternity.
     People tell me it doesn't matter because no one can know (which is true). But then people tell me to focus on the here and now, and even if eternity doesn't exist, that's okay.
    And that's when I yell hogwash.
    If you say eternity doesn't matter, you say that it's too late for everyone who never got justice in this life. For the babies beaten to death to the victims of the Holocaust to those slain by serial killers, justice will never come.
    That's disgusting. How can we live in this reality?
    I mean, I can't. Maybe you can - and congratulations to you. I'm truly glad the concept of no eternal justice makes you want to work harder at justice now, and I wouldn't disagree with the notion that no eternity is better than an unjust one.
    But we're still operating under a threat. Only the threat isn't a supernatural hell - just natural injustice and pain for everyone on earth for generations and generations.
    For me, the idea that people could be gone forever, people who deserved to live, dammit, is so horrifying I want to first vomit and then invent a time machine to save them, and maybe die in their place because for them, justice will never matter. Maybe that's because I'm unhealthily sensitive, but that is honestly how I feel.
     Justice must matter for all: past, present, and future, or it is not good. That's my firmly held belief, and you're free to disagree. And maybe I'm a caught up in fairy-tales or insane with hope and empathy. There are worse things.
    But yeah. There you have it: why I think eternity must matter.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stop Pontificating on Abortion

***This is not an article arguing for either the pro-choice or the pro-life side. This is an article asking some complicated questions about abortion that we can't answer, and some we won't answer, prompted by a barrage of myopic pro-life and pro-choice articles I've read.***

    I'd like to remind those debating about abortion of one simple fact:
    You don't know when life begins.
    If you want to argue that life starts at conception, what do you do with identical twins like me? Did God just throw two souls into one egg? Or am I just one half of a soul to you? And if you don't believe in God yet believe life begins at conception, seriously, how do you make sense of my existence?
    Moreover, what do you do with human chimeras? Were these twins two people, then one died, and God just let that one's cells be absorbed into the other? Or are they two souls in one person? If you're not a believer in God, seriously: what do you say?
    What do you say about the millions of zygotes frozen in time?
    What do you say about in-vitro efforts? Are these people selfishly risking someone's life for their own desires to have a kid - really?
    What do you say about the spontaneous abortions that end a pregnancy within days of conception - whose frequency, for the record, the birth control you usually oppose lessens?
    What do you say about the fetuses who, tragically, don't have a brain? Were they ever alive?
    Where is life, as a matter of fact? Is it in the brain? Is it consciousness? Have you considered the varying degrees of consciousness that all animals have, yet you eat them?
     Is life in the soul, if you believe in souls? Again, when does the soul enter your body?
     Now, if you don't believe that life begins until a baby is born, what do you do with late-term abortions whose babies can sometimes be born alive?
     What do you do with the fact that babies can be born earlier and earlier due to increasing medical technology?
     Okay. The point is this:
     You don't know when life begins.

     "We must therefore protect anything that can be life!" is an understandable conclusion. Except you're then faced with how we don't protect life once it's born, with our society's permitting of verbal abuse and sexism and classism and racism and LGBTQ+ bigotry, etc. Plus, I'm betting precious few of you have adopted an unwanted child, and many of you view unmarried sex as shameful. And if you believe in hell, what if the baby you forced to be born grows up to reject whatever god you hold?
    Okay, but two wrongs don't make a right.
    Still, you then must acknowledge - I want to hear you pro-lifers answer this - that you are forcing a woman whose life has definitely begun to have her body rearranged for nine months, to endure a discrimination and invasion of privacy. You are taking away her bodily autonomy, and if you are a man, I would also like to hear you admit that this is something your sex has done to women throughout history in a variety of ways.
    Because on both sides of the debate, a body is torn apart. Pregnancy is no easy feat - it's painful and a woman's organs are actually rearranged in her body and sometimes this is, you know, dangerous.
     If you want to go through this, yay. But how can you command someone to go through this if she doesn't want to?
    And obviously, in abortion, I want to hear pro-choicers answer that, yes, a fetus's organs are torn apart, and there is a possibility that this fetus - whose life may or may not have begun - can feel pain. During abortion, you do risk taking someone helpless's bodily autonomy away.
    So: is it moral to risk your life for someone who may or may not yet exist? And is it moral to force someone to do this? And is it moral to pontificate and shame the experience of marginalized women who made hard choices, either for or against aboriton?

    These are serious morality and metaphysical questions here, and these cannot be answered in laws or blogs or tweets.
    So no, once again, I'm not arguing for or against abortion here. I'm simply saying that you need to acknowledge the limits of your knowledge and the implication of your beliefs, and blogs and tweets do not accomplish this (including this post, since I've never experienced anything like this).
    So please stop pontificating. Please listen and learn, with compassion and empathy.
    Because abortion is just a name for a hard situation that involves real people.
    Thank you.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Let's Be Disney Protagonists

    "Drive them from our shore!
    They're not like you and me,
    which means they must be evil!
    Let us sound the drums of war!
    They're savages! Savages!
    Barely even human!"
    -"Savages," Pocahontas

    This summer I've been re-watching my favorite Disney (mostly princess) movies. While every story is rich to me (magic, abuse survivors in Snow White and Cinderella, classism in Sleepy Beauty, cute animals!), many movies seems to have a theme of "otherness."
    See, most Disney heroes and heroines don't fit in:
    Aladdin is a street urchin who affirms his worth despite his poverty,
    Jasmine, Mulan, Merida, and Meg don't want to be playthings for men,
    Cinderella and Snow White are abused,
    Aurora, Phillip, and Hercules scorn riches and fame for the people they love,
    Ariel ignores her father's racism for Eric,
    Tiana is a working woman,
    Belle doesn't care to fit in, and, moreover, has compassion on the self-destructive,
    Esmeralda and Pocahontas belong to persecuted peoples,
    Tarzan is actually a different species from his family,
    Simba is haunted by his traumatic past, and
    Anna, Elsa, Quasimodo, and Rapunzel have been kept hidden from the world since childhood.
    Yet it's these Others who destroy their worlds' views of class, race, abuse, and goodness.
    Disney movies tell us that what is in our hearts matters more than our differences.
    Yes, even the older Disney stories. The wealthy stepsisters in Cinderella, and the beautiful queen in Snow White, lose because they have no kindness or compassion. In a sense, these princesses are saved by their own kindness and good-hearts - not their looks.
    And yet, how often do we forget this? Really, it's like us adults who grew up on a diet of Disney have forgotten this important lesson.
    Look at the oppression of black males in American society. Look at Franklin Graham's call to stop Muslim immigration, or Charisma News' obsession with the "threat" posed by Muslims and LGBTQ+ people. In fact, look up the statistics on LGBTQ+ homelessness and suicide rates. Try to pretend our society hasn't become like the bigoted Englishmen who belt out "Savages."
    Also, try to pretend the lyrics to "Kill the Beast" aren't very applicable to modern America.

    "We don't like what we don't
    Understand, and in fact it scares us,
    And this monster is mysterious at least.
    Bring your guns, bring your knives,
    Save your children and your wives!
    Save your village and our lives!
    Let's kill the beast!"
    - "Kill the Beast," Beauty and the Beast
    Because not only does this song emphasize our tendency to ostracize anything outside the norm, it also shows us what that norm is: trigger-happy manhood. The "we" doesn't include females (or anyone gender-nonconforming), yet, ironically, the heroine Belle is the only one who actually does understand. This idea is also explored in Mulan's  epic "I'll Make a Man Out of You," in which the best "man" turns out to be the woman warrior Mulan.  
    Moreover, last week I re-watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I was struck by how much Claude Frollo's persecution of the Romani in the name of purity reminded me of the way my evangelical tradition often treats LGBTQ+ people.
    In one particularly powerful moment, Frollo commands Esmeralda to be silent after she shows kindness to the bullied Quasimodo.
    "Justice!" she shouts back.
    Perhaps, we should all take a cue from Esmeralda. Perhaps, my fellow Christians should show kindness to the LGBTQ+ individuals instead of seeing them merely as sinners. Perhaps - especially to my fellow white American Christians - we should all support the Esmeraldas, the voices of the marginalized (religious, racial, sexual, gender, etc.) crying out for justice.
    "You speak of justice, yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help!" Esmeralda tells Frollo.  
    Perhaps we should not be the puritanical Frollo - or Pocahontas' racist Radcliffe or Beauty and the Beast's chauvinistic Gaston - silencing all who are different than the majority.
    Perhaps we should all endeavor to be like Disney protagonists once again. We should endeavor to see the inside of people different from us, to encourage the good, to subvert the system for love.
    This is what Disney taught me, and what I still faithfully cling to. This is the way of Jesus, who dined with tax collectors and prostitutes.
    This might be idealistic, but it is good.

    "God help the outcasts
    Hungry from birth.
    Show them the mercy
    They don't find on earth...
    God help the outcasts
    We look to You still.
    God help the outcasts,
    Or nobody will...

    God help the outcasts,
    Poor and down trod.
    I thought we all were
    Children of God."
    -Esmeralda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pope Francis, Climate Change, and That Evil Liberal Scientific Agenda

    I have a confession: we scientists do have an agenda.
    It's learning.
    We like making discoveries. I'm a graduate student at MIT; of course I want to synthesize a cool new catalyst. Biologists want to discover the cure to cancer. Ecologists want to figure out a way to stop climate change, and neuroscientists want to understand how our brains work. Discoveries are our agenda.
    Moreover, in our private lives, I'm sure every one of us scientists has a social and political agenda. We're human, and we feel and believe things things as much as non-scientists.
    What we don't have is an agenda that mixes our evil liberal ideology with our science.
    Really. I promise.
    Science is mostly gathering and analyzing data. When neuroscientists discovered that transwomen brains function more like ciswomen brains, and that transmen brains function more like cismen, that's called data. Data is fact. The interpretation - that transgender is a legitimate identity and that people aren't lying when they say "this is how I am" - can be debated. The similarities found between transbrains and cisbrains, however, are not up for debate.
    Likewise, when ecologists and geologists discover that the earth's climate is changing, that's data. The cause and consequences may be debated, but you do not get to deny the data.
    So we can debate Pope Francis's encyclical all we want. We can disagree with his interpretation all day long.
    What we cannot do is deny the facts- climate change is real. And yet...
    So many conservative Christians - the community I hail from - do. Because scientists transform the magic and mystery of the world into facts, many Christians assume we are attacking religion, which is fundamentally associated with invisible, supernatural mysteries.
    Except, I'm a Christian myself. 33% of us scientists do believe in a god, and another 18% in some sort of higher power. So, while scientist may be less religious than other American populations, it's hardly accurate to say that science has an anti-religious agenda. 
    Basically, science is not a crutch to be twisted at will, as I was told earlier this week. The scientific method relies on skepticism and repetition and fact. Yes, there's interpretation, but typically we go with the simplest interpretation in accordance with Occam's Razor.
    So Pope Francis is not betraying the Christian faith when he says we are facing a climate crisis. He isn't siding with a liberal, anti-thiestic agenda. Rather, he has read and interpreted a deluge of scientific data as accurate, and decided that, as "the earth has been given to us" by God, we should care for it.
    Trust in science is not a betrayal of faith. It is not a political decision, or at least, it shouldn't be. Science is merely our attempt to discern facts about the natural world.
     Yes, we scientists are flawed and we will misinterpret and make mistakes, but that's why peer review and verification exists. No, the scientific method is not the be-all, end-all of reality, but few scientists would claim it is. Yes, we can, and perhaps should, be skeptical of scientists - and religious leaders and politicians, too!
    What we cannot do is dismiss people, whoever they are, as driven by an liberal, evil, anti-thiestic agenda just because it upsets our notions of how the universe works. We cannot deny facts just because they challenge us.
    Because then we're the ones motivated by a dangerous agenda - pride and trust in our own beliefs as fact, when all data contradicts us.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

People Aren't Numbers: A Plea to Christianity Today

    Two days ago, leading Christian magazine Christianity Today published this article affirming their belief in one-man-one-woman marriage.
     Now, I truly believe that we must listen and learn from each other with humility and love. But I fear Mark Galli's article only serves to alienate - because despite his declared intention "treat with charity and respect those with whom we disagree," his article does nothing of the sort. Sweet words do not necessarily mean one is being respectful or charitable.
      First, despite the title, Galli cites no stats to back up his "2 Billion Christians" argument. This begs the question as to whether this estimate actually exists, or whether, once more, people's lives have been reduced to clickbait.
    Continuing with the title and lack of statistics, I really wonder how Galli intended the "Breaking News" part of the title as anything other than mockery. Again, that is neither respect nor charity. 
    Second, as I've argued before, we humans know so little about the universe and each other, that, when someone queer says "this is how I am, and God does not condemn me," perhaps it is best - the nonjudgmental, non-pharasaical way, in fact - to trust them, and let God handle the rest. To say that you know someone better than themselves is alienating, un-empathetic, and arrogant.
    Moreover, Galli claims that we who argue for LGBTQ+ inclusion are caving into culture. In this, he dismisses the work of Matthew Vines, my friend Derek, and any of the numerous scholarly Biblical interpretations that dispute Galli's opinion. 
    And, speaking of ostracism, Galli dismisses the suffering of the entire LGBTQ+ community in his implication that culture makes it easy to be queer. For many queer folk, coming out may cause ridicule, beatings, the rejection of friends and families. Coming out as LGBTQ+ poses a lot of risks, and facing those risks for the sake of justice and truth is hardly "caving into culture."
    As a Christian, I'd also like to point out that it's not caving into culture when the culture you grew up in is non-affirming (Rachel Held Evans once wrote an article articulating this in greater detail, but I can't find the link). Personally, as a straight ciswoman who could have easily blended in with non-affirming people, I spoke up because I felt I could not remain silent while any human suffered. I spoke up in spite of my culture, not because of it. 
    But Galli's dismissal doesn't stop there, and reveals something fundamentally broken in his argument. Galli claims "The church has been and remains overwhelming united," a statement that dismisses the opposing viewpoint as nearly nonexistent, mere noise created by American culture. Such a claim implies that because the opposing viewpoint has the smaller number, because these people are the minority, their voices are ultimately insignificant. The statistic that 48% of LGBTQ+ Americans are actually Christian doesn't matter. Only the majority, the privileged, the powerful, matter. 
     What Galli misses is that ignoring the small numbers only works for mathematical estimates, not for real people. Jesus, the Jesus Galli and Christianity Today and I myself claim to serve, stuck up for the marginalized. He treated every person like they mattered. 
    Ignoring the small but growing number of LGBTQ+ and affirming Christians contributes to the ostracism of this precious community. Respect and charity this is not, despite Galli's intentions. I have no doubt that he intended his article to be exactly as he claimed.
    Yet the problem is that when we aren't willing to hope the best in each other, we aren't loving each other as Jesus did. 
    The problem is that when we focus on the majority, we affirm that power, not the hurting minority, is what actually mattes. We dehumanize the minority in favor of a numbers game. 
    That's hardly respect and charity, and I hope Galli and all the non-affirming staff of Christianity Today learns this ASAP. Because this is real life, and all life matters.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

I'm Ashamed of My Christianity

    It's been another of those weeks. A week I haven't had since World Vision. A week I am revolted at the word "Christian."
    Because, what is the point of calling myself a Christian when "Christian" is synonymous with hate?
    The idea of Christianity is love, love so fierce it's gentle, love grown wild and nonsensical. God is love, the Scriptures say.
    But where do we draw the line between the thing and the idea?
    Because the thing itself, as John Pavolitz says, often looks like outrage over "a person changing their own body, than one assaulting another's." The thing itself looks like abandoning innocent children for what's viewed as another's sin. The thing itself looks like denial of science and truth, like refusal to listen to others for fear that they may corrupt good morals. The thing itself looks like the arrogance of "I'm right and you're wrong."
   We live in a world reeking of hate and injustice masquerading as good, and Christianity contributes to that more loudly than they alleviate it (I suppose I do still hope that around the quiet parts of the world most Christians do good instead of evil). How does it not eat away at us like fuming acid? How can we stand it?
   I am sick of living in a rape culture where women are continually sexualized and blamed for it.
   I'm sick of living in a country where patriotism is next to godliness, a country that advocates the worth of every human being while slaughtering precious people in war, while keeping its black citizens disadvantaged, while administering the death penalty.
   And, I'll repeat it, Christians support this.

   Yet: conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are the people who saved my life. They spoke hope into my darkest moments. They are not terrible people, despite what liberals say.
   These are good people. My liberal friends, please understand, conservatives aren't cold-hearted. They have the best intentions.
   They see their response to Caitlyn Jenner as speaking righteousness, warning her about the truth of God before she dies and faces judgement and eternal hell.
   Yet, if you're a conservative Christian reading this, I beg you: putting righteousness ahead of love is not righteousness. There's no balance to be had between the two. They are one in God, correct? They are one.
   And love and righteousness does not look like condemning a community in which the average life span is a mere 35 years. Yeah. Thirty-freaking-five. Let that sink in. Aren't you horrified? So the widespread condemnation and hatred of the trans community actually sends people to an early death, which I think is the opposite of what you want.
    To liberals: again, conservative Christians see their response to the Duggars as showing mercy to a family whose private lives are invaded, as displaying the lavishness of God's grace and forgiveness to even a pedophile.
    Except, dear conservative Christians: grace, and certainly not the righteousness you insist on blasting Caitlyn Jenner with, does not look like covering up abuse because the perpetrators have the same political and social beliefs as you. As someone who has been abused (albeit not sexually), please never say or post anything that might even just seem diminishing of abuse, because it will cause pain. Be a decent person and say "no, Duggars, you were wrong and hypocritical. Doesn't mean you're evil or inherently bad, but you and your son did something absolutely horrendous." Then pray and advocate for the victims. Because the victims must always come first.
    Seriously, conservative Christians and liberal ones, you don't have to have the right political or social views to be a decent person. I know plenty of conservatives who are great people and great Christians, much better at both than me.
    Just please be consistent in the love you show. Show Caitlyn the grace you showed the Duggars, and the Duggars the righteousness you showed Caitlyn. You can't have one without the other.

   But now I have to get angry again.
   You know what? We excuse people who cover up child abuse, lambast a persecuted minority for coming out, and then gasp when people say they want nothing to do with Christianity.
    Like, really?
    I am not ashamed of the gospel, no. But I am ashamed of us claiming to know the gospel and then throwing it away to take political and social sides.
    We've done a grave wrong this week, my friends.
    I'm a hateful mess of anger and pride, yes. I can't say I'm better than any of us. I'm not, despite the insistence of my pride.
    But I can say that we need to repent. Like a broken record, I will repeat: diminishing the covering up of child abuse, heaping condemnation on a persecuted minority is never acceptable to people or, dare I say it, to God.
   I'm hardly the person to call for repentance. I'm ashamed of my Christianity as much as I am ashamed of calling myself a Christian these days. My bitter, hateful heart that claims to follow Jesus has no desire to extend forgiveness to you. My heart prefers to flip the middle finger and storm off into the sunset.
    We'll never learn if we hate each other. We'll never learn if we think we're the One True Christian and those liberals or conservatives are beneath us.*
    Perhaps, we can make peace. Perhaps we can still learn to make the world a better place. I believe it because I can't bear to not believe it.
    Can we take steps to be decent people together? Can we repent and seek the way of Jesus together? Please?


*I do think it's dangerous to hold anti-LGBTQ views, anti-woman views, etc. I'm not saying I'll ever be cool with those beliefs or that I want to be, because I won't and I don't. I just think bold dialogue and loving relationships are how people change and learn and grow.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Regarding God, the LGBTQ+ Community, and the Universe

    Whether you're a creationist or an evolutionist or in-between, you probably recognize that we humans are an evolving species.  
    Right now we look at the Middle Ages and wonder how people thought stench caused everything from chlamydia to the Black Death. During the Renaissance, just how did the Catholic (and Protestant, for that matter) church believe that geocentrism was vital to the authority of the Bible? We look at the colonial world and wonder how people attributed authority to the whiteness of their skin (not that our current time is doing particularly well on this front, either, ahem-ahem).
    But, seriously, in a few hundred years, it's likely people will be looking back on us and our ideas and our beliefs and wonder, what were they thinking?
    Just stop for a moment and consider one of the basic teachings of quantum mechanics. Most people know visible light is part of a wave of electromagnetic radiation. But did you also know that light has mass? Light has properties of both particles and waves.
    And so do the electrons and protons and neutrons in atoms, which compose our world. You have a wavelength, albeit an extremely teeny one.
    It's hard to picture. Now go read about quantum entanglement and comfort yourself with the idea that Albert Einstein himself rejected this theory.
    I've never heard of anyone able to visualize more than three dimensions, either, although the prominent String and M theories rests on the existence of ten or even eleven dimensions - including space-time. Because, time is a dimension just like up and down, back and forth, side to side.
    Let that sink in. Try to picture it and not have your mind blown (if you can, please go into science, we need you).
    Oh, and science still hasn't solved the mystery of consciousness.
    For all our technology, we still know very little about the universe. It doesn't fit how our minds are conditioned to think.
    I mean, just watch this video of the Andromeda galaxy: just one galaxy among who knows how many. Our universe is insane.

    So let's get a little more personal. Who are we to think that we can comprehend the entire spectrum of gender identity or sexual and romantic attraction? Who are we to think we can know what someone should be like based on their genitalia?
    It makes no sense. It takes a great amount of arrogance to deny what our fellow humans tell us about their experiences, to insist that our puny boundaries work perfectly in a vast and unfathomable universe.
    But the Bible, one might say. To claim that it gives us gender and sexual boundaries isn't arrogance. 
    And I would have to disagree. Because isn't it possible, just possible, to think we've been reading the Bible wrong, just like we read it wrong on women's equality, just like we had read it wrong on geocentrism?
    (Plus, isn't it possible to assume that a community that undergoes a tremendous amount of persecution and suffering for saying that they don't conform wouldn't say it unless it was true?).
    My fellow Christians, why do we want a God who boxes us in?
    Didn't Jesus come and show us that, oh hey, justice and love and compassion are the way of God - not the judgmental violence we humans still utilize even now, two millennia later? In a sense, doesn't Jesus challenge us to rethink our assumptions about what our lives, our mini-universes, should be like? Maybe He would like us to do the same to the whole universe, no?
    The fullness of God is incomprehensible. How can we then use a God so high above us to box us in?
    Certainly we could portray God's command not to kill as 'boxing us in.' But is the command, especially when coupled with Jesus' claim that even to hate is to kill, so much a prohibition as it is a pointer towards the proper action that occurs when we love each other? Because loving someone doesn't involve killing them.
    In contrast, I cannot see how, if you love someone, you won't let them marry if they are not harming anyone. I can't see how loving someone means they must identify with the genitals on their body, no matter the pain. That doesn't make sense to me.
    Relatively, we know very little about the universe, much less the God who created it. Can we please stop pretending we do?
    Feel free to argue (with love) in the comments.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Does Christianity Make You Happy?

    Recently a friend asked me this very question: does Christianity make you happy and give you peace?
    I was taken aback by the fact that I've never heard this question before. You'd think if you followed a religion you'd want to consider if it makes you happy. But I haven't.
    Why? Well, I guess I've always equated happiness with frivolity and selfishness. After all, happiness doesn't necessarily equal good - for example, getting drunk would make me happy, but I wouldn't consider it good. And Jesus did imply that following him equaled suffering. So I'd long dismissed my happiness as unnecessary, something secular people chased after, but not us Christians who knew better (I know, how condescending - I'm sorry). But as A True Christian, I had joy, which was somehow deeper and more fulfilling than happiness.
    Except I've never actually had joy - well, not for long. People say it's a fruit of the spirit, so because I'm a Christian, I assumed I had to have joy.
    But guess what? I don't. All I've got is a gritty, bleeding hope that keeps me crawling forward (And, gee, I wonder if my dismissal of happiness has anything to do with my depression, hmm).

    Anyways. Back to the question.
    There's your answer. Christianity doesn't make me happy. I am far from peaceful for a variety of reasons, but religious turmoil is a significant contributor.
    So what do I do? What do I do when the religion that gave my life meaning inflicts misery?
    As an evangelical with low self-esteem, I would have told myself that I'm putting all the misery on myself. That it's not the religion that is the problem, that it's my depression and anxiety and my haunted past, and maybe it's my fault, too. Clearly, I just don't understand something about God.
    Except ... I don't actually think God or religion itself depresses me.
    Christian people do.
    It's like I'm hiding every time I see them. Because I'm not a typical evangelical anymore.
    My mother, for instance, doesn't know I can't do daily Bible readings without panic attacks. She still thinks I attend church on Sundays. And she still thinks those are the marks of a dedicated Christian, so how am I supposed to tell her I can't do those anymore without losing my sanity?
    The church I grew up in, the church with the people whose encouragement probably saved my life, doesn't know I've shifted to a more progressive stance (feminism, LGBTQ+ equality, evolution, leans towards Christian universalism, etc.). And I'm scared to death they'll reject me. I'm scared I'm a disappointment, that they'll use me as another example of a proverbial young innocent led astray by liberal college professors. Because that's not what happened - changing my opinions has been one of the most traumatic parts of my life. It was anything but easy. I changed because I honestly believe this way - the supremacy of love, justice for all mankind - is the way of God.
    But I so fear being misunderstood, especially by people I've loved for so long. So I keep up this appearance of the good evangelical Christian - though I'm not her, and I can't be her.
    And so anxiety plagues me and depression haunts me and fear chains me.
    No, Christianity itself is not the problem. Because you know what gives me that gritty hope?
    Jesus. A God so good and personal He lived among us, who died blessing his enemies, a God so powerful he rose again, a God so beautiful he was plain. A God who provides a physical resurrection, who is Love itself.  A God of never-ending redemption.
     So, do your beliefs make you happy? Or joyful, or both?


Friday, April 10, 2015

The Depression Catalyst

    Depression, for me, is primarily a de-motivator. Why write, why read, why research, why arise each morning, when the world is suffocating in sorrow? Let's go cry into a fluffy cat, for, like, eternity.
    Yet, paradoxically, depression has catalyzed more changes in my life than almost anything else.

    See, where I grew up it wasn't uncommon to hear or read a pastor saying that depression was a sin, the result of selfishness or jealousy. After all, if the fruit of the Spirit was joy, and I had no joy, I was clearly having problems in my relationship with God.
    And since I assumed the pastor spoke for God, I accepted their teachings. When I was down and compulsively following the Rules, surely my problem was guilt for all my sins. When I wanted to die, I was just ungrateful and selfish.
    "I hate myself," I spat out.
    "No you don't. God says that's impossible: Ephesians 5:29," was the response.
    "You'd be glad you felt bad if you truly hated yourself," said the preacher from the pulpit, and he made sense, so I kept quiet.
    How terrible I must be, unable to rely on God enough. Deceived enough to think that I hated myself, when the problem was selfishness to begin with.

    Throughout college, my beliefs evolved to the point where I would have claimed I wasn't judging anyone who took antidepressants. But doubt still tingled the corner of my brain; in a sense, you could say I didn't quite trust their stories. And I couldn't quite believe that I myself, a girl who desperately wanted to please God, might need them.
    I couldn't quite believe my depression wasn't the result of my sin. After all, my suicidal tendencies were sinful and selfish, right?
    They told me truth would set me free. But if the truth was that depression was selfish, the truth was a prison. If depression was selfish, I was so sinful, so broken and rotten, I couldn't even know that I didn't hate myself. I wanted to repent of my selfishness; I prayed over and over for forgiveness and decided to "choose joy" - while praying for the strength of the Lord to help me be joyous, of course.
    Nothing took away the depression. No, this "truth" kept me in my chains.
    And then when I confessed my depression, well-intentioned people encouraged me to read my Bible more. They encouraged me not to focus on myself, but to focus on God.
    They didn't know that I couldn't do more. I couldn't be more.
    I was so lacking in joy and pretty much everything else by that point, I thought maybe I wasn't even a Christian. Which meant I was going to hell - not exactly a soothing thought.

    So when, after months of misery and desperation last year, I finally arrived in a pharmacy with a doctor's note for Cymbalta, I was really on my last hope. I wasn't even sure why I'd made it through the last month, or if I'd make it through the next.
   And - surprise - the medication helped.
   Turns out, everything I'd been taught about psychiatric drugs was wrong.  Therapy was usually ascribed to be the cure; antidepressants made it possible to remove the overwhelming misery so that I could heal. Like painkillers for my tortured mind.
    Like painkillers, they might not work for everyone (side-eyes to Tylenol). But that doesn't mean they're part of a pharmaceutical scheme, or a device of a lost, secular society who thinks science is the answer to all our problems.
    But if I had been taught something so wrong, what else could be wrong? To be fair, my beliefs had been gradually changing throughout college, but I'd resisted some of the larger ones.
    And so I began obsessively exploring faith. God, Jesus, religion, tradition. I began listening to the voices of those I'd held at arms length - the voices of the mentally ill, the ostracized, the marginalized. The dangerous LGBTQ+ voices, both Christian and not. The atheists, agnostics, Muslims and evangelicals. Those more progressive and more conservative than I.
    And, realizing I'd never quite trusted people who said depression wasn't their fault before, I began trusting their crazy, contradictory, beautiful stories.
    Depression had catalyzed some sort of breakdown inside - not just mentally, but spiritually.
    Depression taught me to listen. To give others the benefit of the doubt, to trust that they know themselves and their experiences better than I do. To repent of my arrogance, even.
    I'm not saying I endorse every viewpoint I listen to, for that would be impossible, but I value the chance to listen.
    Because, to be honest, I haven't found God's voice again in daily Bible readings. But I have heard Him whispering through others - through our myriad stories and intricate personalities, our contradictory opinions and desire for good, our smiles and tears and whimpers and dreams.
    Depression stole a lot from me, and I don't believe I'll ever be grateful for it. But depression also gave me a chance to listen for the first time.

    So, readers, thanks for listening. <3


Monday, March 23, 2015

When Did Rules Become Tourniquets?

    I forget where I first heard this, but it bears repeating:
    I can guarantee you that there is not one person who doesn't know that you, evangelical Christian, don't support gay marriage.
    I'd also add to that. I can guarantee you, evangelical, that there is not one person who isn't aware how grossed out you are by sex not within your normal vanilla stereotype.
    I can guarantee you that there is not. one. divorcee unaware that God hates divorce.
    I know there is not one woman whose goal in life was to have an abortion.
    But I can also guarantee you that there's one thing most of the people you're preaching your truth at don't know.
    I can guarantee you it's their first question, too.
    Can I be loved?
    Can God love me? Can Christians? Can anyone?
    Yet in Christian subculture, our first instinct seems to be REMIND THEM OF THE RULEZ.
     To which I'd like to ask: if you're being so loving, then why do they keep asking this question? Why do your transgender teenagers kill themselves? Why do your women stay with men who beat the shit out of them? Why do your unmarried girls feel like the only way to avoid public humiliation is to have an abortion?
    I'm not an expert, but I don't think the problem is that we're not being loud enough in our "secularized" culture. The problem isn't "them" or their "sin natures," because for heaven's sake, they're asking if you love them. That's a good question - it's not a bad thing to want love and to want to be whole. In fact, isn't that what so many of you Christians sell Christianity as - a path to wholeness and heaven?
    The problem is, we're doing something very wrong.
    When did rules become our tourniquets? When did we start assuming we need to list out the rules before compassion and love? I mean, how many stories are there about the power of rules to save life?
    Now replace "rule" with love, and there's probably too many to list. Harry Potter and fairy tales like Snow White or Cinderella are obvious answers, but really Crime and Punishment, The Master and Margarita, Les Miserables, and more meet this criteria.
    Yet we keep acting like "taking a stand" for the rules is love. And it's not. It never has been, and it never will be.

    Love is patient. Love doesn't comment on advice columns warning you that your divorce is the fault of your own selfishness.
    Love is kind. Full stop.
    Love does not envy. It doesn't scheme to put more Republicans in power so you can keep the political control you like.
    Love does not boast about how keeping your 'virginity' will give you the happy marriage you deserve.
    Love is not arrogant or rude. Love doesn't claim that you're better than your sincere-hearted friend because you differ on your understanding of abusive power structures.
    Love does not seek its own. Love cares about the people on the margins. Love does not seek conservative approval by refusing to sell cake to a couple whose marriage you disagree with.
    Love is not provoked into a Twitter fight that ends (or begins) with labeling someone a heretic.
    Love does not rejoice in iniquity - I knew they were sexist/racist/homophobic because of one ignorant comment! I'm so glad I can call them out on this in front of all my followers! - but rejoices in truth.
    Love bears all things - and I think our divorces, questions, doubts, abortions, gender transitions and coming outs fall under "all." So, sorry, but refusing to sell cake to a gay couple is not love. Kicking out your queer and/or pregnant child is not love.
    Love hopes all things - for you to find happiness again, that there is a heaven and a good God and someday everyone will be reconciled to Him.
    Love believes all things - like when you say being  LGBTQQIAP wasn't a decision, I might just trust you on that since I am not you. Like when you say you're a feminist and a pro-life complementarian, I might just trust that you have genuine reasoning behind it, even if we disagree.
    Love never fails.
    Love runs besides you or lets you go when you need it and waits with open arms. Love prays and holds you and dances with you and sings over you.
    Love loves you.


Monday, March 16, 2015

I'm Not Your Token Angry Survivor

Content warning for discussions of abuse.

    It's a bizarre cycle that never ends: abuse victims are only taken seriously if they have the right behavior.
    Now, lately the progressive Christian internet has been pushing back against this. Fantastic articles like this explain why survivors might be loud, angry, and hysterical, and that is okay.
    I can't describe how wonderful this is.
    But. While the loud survivor needs people to stick up for her, so does the quiet survivor, the one who's cautious because she doesn't want to ever abuse someone else.
    In other words: believe it or not, not every survivor is the same.
    That means you do not tell the survivor that their actions uphold abusive powers. You do not criticize their fear of holding people accountable. You do not demean their sensitivity as complicit in abuse. 
    Because if you only advocate for the angry, demonstrating victims, because if you refuse to listen to the ones cowering and weeping in the dark because they're too scared by your actions to join and you refuse to understand why, you aren't an advocate for abuse victims. You're an advocate against power.

    I don't know much about survivors of physical and sexual abuse. But I know about verbal abuse.
    I know what it is like to be specially sensitized to every last word, to see before anyone else if someone is intending to harm you with their words because they're uncontrollably angry. I know what it's like when you read too much into words because you have to, because that is your only survival mechanism.
    I know what it's like to be flabbergasted every time you see anger handled without rage and pain.
    So sometimes on the internet, when I see Christians ripping into each other on Twitter, I remember pain. All criticism makes me uncomfortable, but I do recognize it as necessary.
    But sometimes I see dehumanization. Mockery. Repeatedly ignoring someone's point. Assuming motives.
    And I am reminded of being verbally abused. And I am scared stiff that somewhere, someone, no matter how nasty they have been, will be verbally abused. 
    No one should ever, ever have to feel that.
    I get that I can't police the angry survivor. I don't want to. I'm not a therapist, but if you were abused, at some point in healing you probably should be livid.
    But if I panic and say "this behavior seems unhealthy to me," am I not allowed that action, too? Are we not allowed, imperfect humans as we are, to survive and grow messily, with grace and understanding and guidance?
    Some would say "no." And I think that's just as dismissive, hurtful, and silencing as those who demand "good" behavior from the survivor.
    There are times I can learn from the angry survivor. Staying silent isn't helpful, I know.
    There are times I can scream with them. I can take comfort in other people's awareness.
    But maybe there are times they can learn to show more kindness from hesitant people like me.

    Basically: there's a difference between being an advocate against power structures and being an advocate for the abused. 
    You can be both, I'm sure, but, once again: if your primary motive is to tear down the systems and you find yourself ignoring the survivors who are telling you they're scared or feel marginalized, you're not an advocate.
    And, sorry, but I care more about people than systems, whether you're building them up or tearing them down.

    Now, feel free to disagree in the comments.

*post inspired by a conversation on

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Ghosts Dwell in Church

   I absolutely love churches.
   There's beautiful sculptures on the walls and quiet solitude and loud chatter (depending on denomination), and sometimes it's bright and cheerful, somethings dark and holy, but it's all beautiful. It's like God dwells among us. My heart swells.
   And then my guard leaps into action.
   Because I am haunted in the house of God.

    And your voice still rings out in my mind
    And the thorn still twists down in my side

    My ghosts eke their way out among the self-effacing lyrics in worship, between the emphasis on how wicked we all are, aboard the brief jokes about liberals.
    I didn't understand why I felt their presence here, in church. Sure, the shifting of my beliefs from "fairly fundamentalist" to "fairly liberal" was hard, but why would it traumatize me?
    Really, I was never abused in church. I love my fundamentalist and evangelical friends, and I know they love me. Or do I?
    Here I am, unable to attend a church without panic, without rage, without deep depression. Unable to read the Bible without shriveling up inside, without feeling driven to repeat prayers compulsively until I know I'm a good person.

    Maybe I'm broken, maybe it's the fate
    Maybe it's the moment you said I had changed

    Somehow my survival instincts overtook my life to the point that while I don't need these survival games any longer, I can't turn them off.
    And so I am haunted in church.

    I know all the Bible verses and the (usually evangelical) arguments, oh yes I do.
   "Do not forsake gathering together."
   "If you love God, why wouldn't you want to read His Word?" (Except the Word is actually Jesus, not the Bible, but that's another post).
    I know your arguments, but I can't. do. it.
    I do, however want to do what Jesus said. I want to love others, and I want to love God through learning about his creation and the marvelous people he's made. I want to spend time with people who agree and who disagree with me.
    I think Jesus said loving God and others was the fulfillment of the law, anyways.

    Because I'm moving on, letting go
    Forget the past, I'm giving up the ghost
    All we are is fading stars
    Life's too short to stay where we are

    So instead of experiencing the haunting, lately I've been exposing myself to the radiant sunshine spilling over creation (okay, okay, only in the last week - before that Boston's been a clouded depressing mess of ice). Lately I've been meeting friends of similar and different faiths; lately I've been spending Sunday morning cuddling with the glorious creatures known as cats. Lately I'm trying to make peace with the fact that God is good and that S/He exists despite the change drowning me.
    Lately I've adopted this addicting chorus as my mantra:
    Forgive and let live and move on, tell me that you're gonna make me stronger
    Forgive and let live and move on
    Forgive and let live and move on, tell me that you're gonna make me stronger
    Forgive and let live and move on

    Song below.


Monday, March 2, 2015

This Is About Suicide. This is About People.

*trigger warning for a discussion of suicide*

    According to The Boston Globe, five people (four students and a professor) have committed suicide at my university this year.
    The latest, his name was Matthew. He was a freshman. He was a freshman and he did not deserve to die.
    I didn't know him. I wish I had. I wish I'd been able to give him a hug.
    I wish I could have told him I knew how he felt. And that I'm glad I stayed, even though I don't know why.
    Because, yeah, I've been there. I know.
    I honestly don't know why I haven't. I don't know why, after so many plans and fantasies, I am alive. The odds weren't exactly in my favor.
    I suppose I am always afraid of hurting people. I have no desire to cause pain by my death.
    But mostly, in high school I was afraid of hell, where an eating-disorder riddled perfectionist would surely go. And in college, after I embraced God again, I was afraid of making an irreversible decision. I didn't want to call attention to myself.
    That's it. Those two ignoble reasons are mostly why I'm here.

    Why would I consider killing myself?
    I don't know. I don't know.
    I can guess anxiety, depression, and PTSD have all played a role, but the truth is there isn't a straight answer for this.
    I don't know why I am not Matthew. In fact, in a way, I think I am.

    I know the stress and the pain and the worthlessness you feel. I know the rage and bitterness at the systems that prioritize perfection and intelligence like they're somehow moral (and, for the record: they're not). I know the desire to take vengeance against the pain by hurting yourself.
    I know the frantic desperation, the smothering blackness devoid of what the apparent mockers call hope. I know you probably don't want to die, but you want to stop the pain.
    I know people will consider you evil for thinking of going, will say you're selfish and going to hell.
    They're wrong. You're okay.
    It's not okay that you feel this way. Nope. But you yourself: you. are. okay.
    I love you. And Jesus loves you (and if you don't believe in God, he was still a pretty cool person who I'm sure would have loved you).
    And I still dream that there is hope, for us and for those five who've gone. For a resurrection in which we will all be made right, in which those who've damned us will rejoice to see how friggin' wrong they were.

    Can you stay another day? Can you see the sun or a smile and dare to imagine you deserve good, too?
    I want good for you. I imagine God does, too.
    You are loved.
    Take it day by day.
    Dare to tell someone. And if you're that someone, dare to hug, dare to listen, dare to understand.
    Dare to brave the phone and call a therapist. Then dare to tell them everything, even though it's scary, because it actually helps having everything in the open.
    Hug a cat. Or a dog (this is the part where I begrudgingly admit dog people are okay, too).
    Because we - we are not alone.

Love you, dear friend.
Sushi, Patron of Loves, will always heart you, too.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I Will Try Again, Or Rambles from Life in Shambles

    I was close to closing this blog down.
    My words were found out, you see, and people were confused, and then it spiraled and I was screaming and crying at noon and so I blamed blogging and myself. (I'm surprised and a bit confused that my neighbors didn't call 911, considering I was all forms of not-quiet).

    And I thought, wouldn't it be easier to let them win and then blame them for their victory?

    And then I thought, who is them but misunderstanding and confusion and chaos? 

    I wound up with a maelstrom of one mega stress-induced nosebleed, surprisingly close friends, and emotions I'm still struggling with. Yeah, writing this hurts.
    (Oh, and a blizzard because Boston apparently wants to bury us alive in cold white crystals, and now I hate snow and I BLAME YOU, BOSTON).
    Anyhow. I am back, semi-wise, since la grad studies are picking up this semester and, well, lab is a thing. So is the story I'm working on, the story from my heart.

    I guess I'll keep challenging myself to be honest. I will try again to post the raw and the ugly and the beautiful, because all I intended was to speak and hope that others know they are not alone.

   Because you are never alone.

   This also means, you guessed it: I'll keep posting cat pictures.

  Meow. How're you doing?


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Relapse Isn't Failure

It's late and I am tired, wish I could spark a smile
The place is flying high but right now I want to be low
Don't want to move an inch, let alone a million miles
And I don't want to go but I know I gotta go

     Do you know what it's like to grip the counter, staring at your yellow reaction as it stirs round and round, with panic flickering throughout your entire body? People move around you and like lightning you feel their hatred

    - because in that moment, you know they hate you -
    and you know it's irrational but it won't stop. You grip the counter to feel something sturdy, to resist the urge to scream and cry and curl up in a ball under your desk.
    Your cheeks and throat hurt from suppressing the sobs and your muscles ache from resisting the urge to tear up your world.
    The pain pervades through marrow and soul and you wonder if your spirit is dead and is anything real?
    You know this is wrong, that you aren't thinking rationally.
    But even as the panic eases you can't stop feeling the agony. Even as you refocus and find that yes, you can sit at your desk chair. You can stare at your computer as your mind churns for help.

I just want to feel all right.

  "You were doing so well," says my psychiatrist with concern.

   I was supposed to be taking half the pills by now.
   Instead, I will be doubling my dose for at least the remainder of winter.
   As I gulp down the extra milligrams, I see the chemical structure flash before my eyes. I feel a little hopeful. I feel a little disappointed.  
   I don't feel like a failure. 

Seems like the more you grow, the more time you spend alone
Before you know it you end up perfectly on your own
The city's shining bright, but you don't see the light
How come you concentrate on things that don't make you feel right

    "Sometimes I wonder if I'm selfish or narcissistic for thinking about it, for feeling different and isolated because it wasn't normal. " I glance at her eyes, but only for a moment. I never look much into her eyes when I tell her what happened. I'm afraid to, though I don't know why. 

    "That sounds like PTSD; do you know what that is?" asks my therapist. "You feel compelled to keep thinking about it."
    Yes. Yes, I know what PTSD is. And I've long suspected I had it, but something about hearing someone else say it feels...feeling like a helping hand, really.
    There's a name. I'm not to blame. I'm not a failure.

The times you don't wanna wake up
'Cause in your sleep it's never over when you give up

    Most days, I don't want to wake up. I'm exhausted, my bed is warm and comfortable and I've been having glorious dreams, the dreams I turn into stories. 

    They instill energy. Oh God, I feel alive in my dreams.
    I have control and so I know in my dreams I'm not a failure.

The sun is always gonna rise up

You need to get up, gotta keep your head up     
     Real life isn't like my dreams. I have very little control. 
     Still, lab is soothing, chemistry is interesting, and cats always crack a smile. Friends keep me away from total breakdowns. I have a cat-loving roommate for next year. See, good things happen. 
    Yes, real life is frequently full of fear for me. Do I tell that guy I can't stop thinking about him? How much of my internal mess do I share with friends, in person and/or online? What if, say, my boss finds out that sometimes I have panic attacks - would he think less of me? Will my school think I shouldn't be here? 
    I dunno. But for now I know I can wake up tomorrow and crawl into lab. I can filter that darn methylation reaction and kiss my kitties and somehow, I can't shake the hope that there's good in people and God, even at the end. 
    I'm not a failure, and neither is my life. 

 Look at the people all around you

The way you feel is something everybody goes through
Dark out, but you still gotta light up
You need to wake up, gotta keep your face up

   We're all people. I really believe the world could be better off for everyone in it. 

    I have my issues, but I'm not a failure, and if you need to hear this today: neither are you. 



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Go With Your Heart

    These are what my doubts look like:

    Do you believe in heaven?

    I think heaven and God are inextricably tied. I'm not sure you can have heaven without a God, and I'm not sure you can have a good God without heaven.
    And yet believing in this good God is excruciating.
    I'm still set on edge by Christian cliches. I'm shocked at Christian Islamophobia and homophobia and biphobia and transphobia and racism and hatred. I'm frustrated at subtle Christian sexism, the kind that says women not being allowed to preach is an acceptable view, the kind that says women want love but men want respect.
    I'm not linking to any articles, because I don't have to. You know it's true.
    I'm sick of rule-driven Christianity.
    Really, I look at American Christianity and I can't - I can't not see a religion driven by rules. Rule one: thou shalt not sex. Rule two: thou shalt be traditional men and women, never mind that God is neither gender and hardly traditional.
    Thou shalt not listen to those who disagree, because they might sway your soul into danger.
    Hold onto your belief in Jesus dying for your sins until you're white-knuckled and bleeding, dying, bruised and broken. Until you've collapsed on the floor unable to go on because the pain overwhelms you BECAUSE OTHERWISE YOU APOSTATE WILL BURN IN HOPELESS HELL.
    Because God is good.

    Do you believe in heaven?
    I don't believe in hell, unless perhaps a C.S. Lewis or Eastern Orthodox sense.
    I think traditional gender roles are disturbing at best. Sure, when people form a relationship, they complement each other, but I find the claim that males must always lead and females must always submit in order to complement each other grossly simplistic.

    Do you believe in heaven?
    I support LGBTQ rights whole-heartedly. I just had to say that. According to some, that means I'm hell-bound, and I hope you're wrong.

    Do you believe in heaven?
    I want to believe in God. I don't know if I do.
    Sure, there's been weird experiences I can't explain, but what if they were just intense emotion? What if the day my eighth grade math teacher spoke to my tormented thoughts completely randomly and completely specifically, was actually a coincidence or some unexplained phenomena we just don't know yet?
    I mean, why believe? You can be a good person whatever you believe - and if you deny that, you don't know enough people. If God simply sends you to hell for not believing, well, then I'll take hell because hell would be the moral choice.
    I know, maybe God is right and everything else is just twisted because I'm a human. Maybe. They said my heart is deceitful beyond all things. But since conscience is so important in Christianity, I don't think so.
    Christians are so cruel. God seems so absent.
    I challenge you to redeem yourself, God.*
    Why bother being Christian?

    Do you believe in heaven?
    I hope heaven is personal. I firmly believe it must be. And God - and - and Jesus came down to be personal with people. With the people He created.

    Do you believe in heaven?

    I have to, friends. I have to believe in a happy ending. Maybe it's immature or crutch-worthy, fine, say what you wish. To me, heaven is an acknowledgement that everyone can be whole and fulfilled and themselves, the intricate stories they are supposed to be, and everyone can love each other. That's an ideal I'm not willing to give up.

    I asked that question. Do you believe in heaven?
    My friend said yes. Then she observed that I'm in a profession where religion and idealism are hardly glorified.
    Always go with your heart.
    I thought my heart was deceitful beyond measure. Yet, ironically, it's my heart and my heart alone that points me back to God through the murky doubt.
    My heart says Jesus is God.
    So right now I will follow the hope in my heart.


*Inspired by conversation with my sister, Kate Danahy.