This will be unorganized. My apologies.
My small group is going over Andy Stanley's Christian series. This is something that's sitting heavily on me, which means that I will think it to death. Maybe I'll listen to another few parts at work tomorrow, since my earphones are in my bag. Part two of that series discusses Anne Rice. Here's what she said:
"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten ...years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.
I quit Christianity in the name of Christ on this page so that I could tell my readers I was not complicit in the things that organized religion does. I never dreamed others would be so interested, or that they would feel the need to talk about their own religious struggles. But they do. And the public conversation on... this is huge, and I think important."
(This isn't new. This was in 2010. But it's relatively new to me, since I've never paid attention to her before.)
"Q) I wanted to ask you about that, because you have said that you quit Christianity "in the name of Christ." From a practical standpoint, what does that mean, how do you follow Christ without a church? Are there rituals that you intend to maintain?
A) I think the basic ritual is simply prayer. It's talking to God, putting things in the hands of God, trusting that you're living in God's world and praying for God's guidance. And being absolutely faithful to the core principles of Jesus' teachings."
(Essay-ish blocks from her website; Q&A here.)
It resonated strongly the first time I heard it, but now it's ringing in my head and I can't let it go. I'm not saying that I'm 'quitting' and walking away. It's very important to me to serve and work with preschoolers. But I'm starting to wonder if I've 'quit' in other ways. I never have fit in properly with that subculture, despite growing up in it, despite meeting one of my best friends in it (who also didn't fit in). Anne's reasons, at least as I've seen them, are largely political. Mine aren't. Mine are (microcosm) social. And I stopped even trying to fit in a social scene years ago. I joined a small group more out of my desire to talk to adults and women my age (as opposed to preschoolers and 45-65-year-old men) than wanting a social circle. I don't really crave 'fellowship.' I'm content with streaming my sermons (because Andy is the bomb) online from my dining room.
At first it was because I didn't feel like I fit in. Which was fine, whatever, I got over it eventually and moved on. I didn't overanalyze it. I just went. I just knew that I was better at befriending and having relationships of any kind with non church-goers and shrugged it off; it wasn't like they were 'pulling me down' like I've heard. I very commonly hear that "you are the best/most awesome/etc Christian I've ever met" and "if there were more people like you, I wouldn't have left the church." I am a glowing example. Or something.
It's only been more recently that I've starting actually thinking about it, and after I heard that statement of Anne Rice's this spring, started thinking that maybe I'm not the only one.
It's not that I hate the stance on gay marriage or birth control. It's that I hate being told how to live, who to talk to, and who to love. How to dress, what to like, who to date.
And no, this is not an Aaron-thing, although that's helped throw a bigger light on this in my head.
Ever since... ever, really, having grown up in this, it's been don't date non-Christians. Don't be best friends with them. Don't hang out with them too much. Don't listen to secular music. Don't dress like them. They're going to mock you, drag you down, persecute you, defile you, ruin you, shame you.
And you know, some people need to hear that. Some people with weaker personalities need to avoid temptation and bad influences, especially in middle and high school. I can't begin to list the Christian friends I had that fell away entirely. They dropped like flies. I knew one girl who lost her virginity (of some degree) to a boy she met at a Catholic retreat. So I don't blame youth leaders for hammering that in. It takes a blunt touch and some extreme language to get through the screaming weasel lust of adolescence. I'm basically a robot, so I'm more an outlier. I'm cool with that. I didn't take it personally. I just got... bored with it.
Outside of high school, into college, it was more of the same, only better and worse. Better, in that it was less hysterical and frantic-eyed and clique-driven. Worse in that now it was time to get married.
Okay, look. In the last week, I've been asked almost every day about marriage and kids. NOT. ANY. TIME. IN. LIKE. THE. NEXT. FIVE. YEARS. I don't care that suddenly I have a boyfriend. Yeah, and have for like, two weeks, and also, he is in Afghanistan until 2014 (as of now). DROP IT.
But now the pressure is on. Don't date non-Christians! Okay, that's cool. That was actually a tenant of mine, because I want, like, so badly I've almost cried before, to sing together. There are some beautiful traditional call-and-answer formats. Want. But don't date them, don't seriously date them, and for the love of all that's holy, don't marry them.
I can see the reasoning, and like I said, it was something I was inclined to go along with anyway. And even now I can't see myself marrying someone without similar beliefs and faith, because it's such a huge part of me that is non-negotiable. But for all that it's good advice, the spirit of it is wrong.
A pastor I follow on Twitter had this: "Oh, so you're dating a non-Christian? Glad to see you prioritize looks or personality over beliefs."
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME
Really? Insta-condemnation and mockery? No discussion? I don't usually let things get under my skin, but I'm still kind of seething over that one. And not just because I'm taking it personally, because I'm not. I'm not getting into them now, but I've had this religion talk with Kacy, Aaron, and God. I'm comfortable with what's been hashed out. And--and oh, here's the big kicker--the only one who knows the truth and content of any heart is God. Not any mortal plunked here on Earth. Every time someone puts down a hard and fast rule regarding any kind of relationship, and I can think of a hole in the logic, and raise my hand, it's always "if you're going 'what about this,' then I am talking to you.'" Um, no, you're not. You're talking at me. And you are not answering my question.
What's interesting is that attitude right there is explicitly not Biblical. Quote me that verse about being unevenly yoked. Then check out Hosea. Dude married a hooker. And she was an object lesson, sure, but dude married a hooker.
I'm sorry, but my God is bigger than principles and rules.
It's shit like this that makes me want to quit, that frustrates me so much that I don't want to be associated with this subculture. I'm not going to rationalize other beliefs. I'm not going to jump on the Relativism train. I'll be the first to say--because I am still cynical--that sure, that justification can be a cop-out. But just because it is repurposed doesn't mean that it's still not true.
Just because you don't agree with someone's beliefs, where they are spiritually, or their lifestyle, doesn't mean that you can divide a line between them and you. It doesn't mean that they're inferior. It doesn't mean that they're filthy or contagious. It doesn't mean that they're unlovable. And your own beliefs and faith shouldn't be so weak and ungrounded that exposure to something different can break them! Everyone is a sinner under Christ. And He died for everyone equally. WE ALL SUCK. It's the response to sucking that differentiates us. You can love someone without loving what they do. I'm pretty sure you learn that when you adopt a dog or have a kid and they poop on the carpet. Just because you hate that there is poop on the carpet doesn't mean that you excommunicate the dog or the kid.
This... isolationism, the paranoia, the groupthink, the clique-ish behavior, the alienation, it all drives me crazy. I've seen this in teen literature for at least ten years, too; pounding it in that just because you were blessed with the financial resources to go build a school in Guatemala DOES NOT MAKE YOU BETTER than the kid who had to work part-time over the summer to help feed his family. YOU. ARE. NOT. BETTER. It's so... fake, and plastic, and self-centered, and shallow, and I hate every bit of it. Oh, well, I wear cardigans to help my brothers in Christ control their thoughts! Oh, really? Is that why your gaping one-piece bathing suit is more revealing than my string bikini when you bend over?
So now we're in our mid-twenties. We're out of college, which has kind of helped. (Did I get crap for my field of study, as opposed to something nice and polite and fuzzy like early education? Why yes, yes I did.) Now it's the race to get married. Because clearly, we all need to meet a nice God-fearing man and get knocked up immediately. So it's all about how to meet that nice man and having standards and not putting out or dressing like a skank. Basically, the same-old, only applied to marriage, not dating. Which is a bit more serious. Which means the judgment all around is a bit more serious.
I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this. I'm just ranting at 1am.
So yeah, I think I quit this social scene. I mentioned to my small group that if something is marketed as "Christian" I'm actually more likely to avoid it. I was thinking earlier today about all the guys I know that love Skillet--they couldn't be more different from each other in terms of religion/lifestyle. I'm thinking about the response of the Christian community when Skillet, POD, Flyleaf, etc when mainstream. I'm thinking about the responses toward me.
Looking at the people I know, the people I care about, the people I've had long talks with about religion and the definitions of love and marriage, the people who have been willing to give God a second chance because they sure like whoever I'm following, the people I'd dare say I love--and knowing that if I want to fit in I'd have to walk away from them--breaks my heart.
No. And you can't make me. Loving people outside this hallowed little circle and safe shiny walls is way more important to me than being "cool."
Which, ironically, was the point of all those lectures as a teenager all along. That when you dare to be different and commit yourself to Christ-like love, the cool kids may well kick you out.
Have anything to say about that, cool kids?
So yeah. One of my roommates for two years and a best friend? Practicing Mormon. Best friends now? Haven't been an active member of a church in years. Boyfriend? Inactive Mormon. Accountability buddy? Hates the entire idea of weddings. The guys I talk to every single night about everything under the sun? BOTH RECONSIDERING THEIR STANCES ON JESUS BECAUSE OF ME.
Suck. On. That.
And in the meantime, I drink. I swear more than I should. I love v-necks and tight shirts and short shorts and bikinis. My biggest hobby is hard rock and metal music. You know, that angry violent stuff that we should avoid because it's scary? Where there is more respect and honesty and passion and love than any conference I've ever been to? Yeah, that.
I'm not going to hide away in your bubble of rules and regulations and perceived holiness pissing contests. Wear your sweaters, have your kids, form your cliques. Have a blast.
Just leave me out of it.
Sometimes, if you're going to help someone up, you have to get right down there in the dirt with them. Get dirty, get hurt, experience the darkness. But you have to be strong enough to in the first place, or you'll just get swallowed up. THAT is what the message should be. Not 'avoid everyone at all costs.' It's funny how going to Africa to feed the AIDS babies is okay, but loving non-Christians isn't. Loving people isn't done from a safe distance. There is nothing safe about love. Loving people means you get down in that mire and roll around and connect with them. You get your hands dirty. Sometimes you get your heart dirty. The kicker is that you know where to go for a bath. You don't love people by throwing money at a social problem, as someone else has defined it. You don't love people by liking a status on Facebook. You love people by standing next to them, even if you disagree with everything coming out of their mouths.
And you cannot stand next to anyone if you're locked away in your Christian social scene listening to your Christian music watching your Christian TV shows with your exclusively Christian friends while your Christian plumber repairs your Christian leak and you complain about what your Christian neighbor did at your Christian retreat.
Drives me freaking nuts.
Despite all that ranting and the time, and the bad cramps this afternoon, and Kristen unsurprisingly bailing on our pool plans, I had a fairly good day. I got a pizza. I played with Legos. I talked to Aaron on the phone for a whole hour. I had a text chat with Travis. I emailed my dad that I have a boyfriend and am waiting for asplosions. Collin officially approves of my relationship and may or may not want dibs. Good times.
Aaron: So if I read your message right, you are in your genocide hut with a box of pizza and a two-liter?
Me: Well, I already ate 3 slices, so I left the pizza downstairs, but I have the Pepsi. And I'm next to the fort, but surrounded by Legos.
Aaron: ...there is another XKCD comic I need to send you. Where this guy goes to a girl's apartment, and opens the door--
Me: Is the the ball pit one?
Me: I've been trying to figure out how to replicate that for years.
(from yesterday, via FB messages)
Me: I don't feel loved today. :P
Him: ...This is a guilt trip, isn't it? :P I do <3 you, you know that, right? You'll be getting my full reply back tomorrow around noon-ish, I promise. I was reading.
Me: I knoooooow. I can't hate on reading. I JUST MISS YOU/THESE MESSAGES, OKAY. hmph.
..."these messages." Heh heh heh.
Him: "Ax, why aren't you wearing a shirt?" "Because I am young and restless. Young and restless people do not wear shirts." "Ax? Put on shirt."
... O_O Holy Crap! You just went whiny girlfriend on me! That's it! It's legit now! :P <3 As if it wasn't already. ;)
Me: I feel you, Ax. I feel you.
I AM AN ACCOMPLISHED WHINER. Particularly after vodka + midnight. :P Geez, did I need to do that earlier?
Him: o.O You don't like to wear shirts either!? *kneels to pray* Dear God, thank you for this woman.
Me: Most clothing is overrated. That said, down, boy. :P
Him: Lol. <3 you, babe. <3
Yeah. I've been lol-ing today.