Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A response to the responses

Many of my friends responded to my previous note on Facebook, with all kinds of concerns, admonitions, and encouragements.

And it's 8:22am, I'm working at the polling place in Northgate with nothing to do because we get about five people an hour, and I only help the disabled voters with the AVU, of which we've had a grand total of 0.

Plus, I forgot my copy of Brothers Karamazov at school, so I can't read that until I go down to the library during lunch and pick a copy up.

So...some clarifications, thanks, and responses, in general. I'll start with a general overview, and then some individual responses.
The first response is that I would love to go to Gwinn or coffee (or better, tea) with any of you guys, or stop by for a chat sometime, and I'll do my best to do so - talking to people is how I figure things out, alongside writing things out, so if I don't get back to you soon, be sure to hunt me down, because I really do want to talk to you guys.

In general...some clarifications as to what my feelings are, what I'm thinking, and what the general tone of the note was, or should have been, after some more thinking. Some of my note was stream-of-consiousness style, which is unfiltered and may be more extreme than what I actually settle on after thinking about it, so I may have seemed angrier or more distressed than I was. Basically, I'm very type-B, so I don't get too stressed out or angry about much of anything.

As far as being a bad Christian, I didn't mean to imply that I was terribly distressed about it and think I'm a horrible person that's going to hell. It was just a statement that if I'm going to be a Christian, I actually have to start putting some effort into it, which I haven't. It was looking forward to improvement, not looking back at failure. So don't worry about me in that respect - as far as I'm concerned, I've only been a Christian nominally for the past 19 years, so I can only improve - lukewarm Christians are the worst, says God. The fact that I actually care and am giving my faith serious consideration is an improvement.

Also, the "box" isn't as big a deal as I may have made it out to be. It's certainly not going to prevent me from doing anything that I want to, like being a Christian. I'm also not really angry at anyone in particular, mostly just frustrated by it. And I certainly DON'T think that I have to conform to the package to call myself a Christian. As I have said before, if that was the case, I couldn't be a Christian. It's just kind of annoying and frustrating, but I can deal with it.

The reference to various atrocities by the church throughout history wasn't to rip on the church, or discredit Christianity, or anything like that. Mostly, I wanted to point out the dangers of the church being over-involved in the government - it's always led to bad things, and I don't like the idea that America should be a Christian country, because it's not, and shouldn't be. There are a lot of Christians here, but there are also a lot of non-Christians. Our country was founded on religious freedom, and codifying Christian morals into law just doesn't make sense to me. Another thing that I wanted to point out is that just because the loudest Christians say something, doesn't mean it is critical to the faith.

And about Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll. As I said, I went there for the first time in a long time. I'm not saying that I agree with everything he says, or even everything Mars Hill believes (in fact I know I don't), but I do agree with him for the most part on the subject of how men should treat women.
I know there was a whole hullabaloo last year about Driscoll being a chauvinist and all. I admit, I haven't actually seen that sermon, I plan to do so and get back to you on that. But here's my position, from what I have heard, and what I think. From what I've heard, he was grossly misrepresented. Just because he detests feminists (who also drive me nuts, by the way), doesn't mean he detests females. In fact, the primary concern of mine (and I'm pretty sure Driscoll's) is that we as men need to respect women, put them before ourselves. It's not about patronizing them, it's about loving and respecting them. If you as a woman have a problem with that, I'm sorry, I'm going to annoy you.
But to be clear - I'm not declaring myself a Mars Hillian, or hanging on every word that comes from Driscoll's mouth. It's just that in this specific case, his views lined up with mine, and it got me thinking. That's all.

A little more generally, I don't have a grudge against anyone specific. I am extremely grateful to my parents for raising me like they did - I can't imagine where I would be if they didn't raise me in a Christian home, instilling the morals and education in me that they did. Just because I don't agree with them on some things doesn't mean I'm dismissing them. I am frustrated with Focus on the Family, and the various other Christian organizations, but moreso at the environment that they have created. I don't think they're terrible people, or that they're really stupid. What they're doing works for them, but it doesn't for me - I think Christianity is big enough for the both of us, when the things that are different are the fringes, the package, that isn't important to salvation.

So basically, a summary of what I want to say to everyone...I am probably not as angry as I seem. None of this is going to keep me from being who I want to be, be that a Christian, a democrat, or what have you. And I still am not entirely sure where I land - I just know that a lot of what I believe is Christian, and a lot of the problems I have with Christianity are not with issues that are critical to the faith. Christianity is one of the things that I'm trying to reconcile in my life with what I believe, so we'll see where that leads me.

And to those who are concerned about me, I know you guys love me and care about me which is why you respond. So don't be offended by this, but I don't need a sermon at this point. I've had plenty of sermons in my life, I know the Christian line. I would love to have a chat with all of you - don't get me wrong. But it would be just that - a chat, a discussion, an exchange. At this point, I'm not looking for a mentor. I need to make this decision for myself, and I'm still nowhere near settled in a path to need a mentor at this point. I don't need to, or plan to, agree with you guys on everything, and that's just fine with me. I'd love to answer your questions, and hear what you guys have to say, and discuss things with you, and go back and forth, bounce things off. I love you guys, and look forward to our chats - my schedule is on my Facebook :)

Note: The original note included some further individual responses to the original Facebook note, if you want to check them out.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

<insert title here>

Page length: Three and a half pages single-spaced
Writing time: A good hour and a half
Reading time: About 10 minutes, give or take

Okay, so this note is about a lot. It's about the following:
Mars Hill
My life
My parents
William Tyndale
...and more.

I don't know how to fit it all into a title, so for now, it's blank, and it might stay that way.

As a sort of introduction after writing this note, I'll give you a little heads-up. This is mostly about what I've decided, with some ranting. Now, the ranting is actually important to me, and I think you should read it too, because it will help you understand why I'm where I'm at. But I've marked the rant sections off, so if you just want to read about what happened tonight, you can do that. Cheers.

I don't know where to start, so I suppose I'll start at the beginning. Sort of.
So today, I was planning to go to Quest at 11:00, but my body decided that it would rather sleep. So then I was talking to August at lunch, and she mentioned that she was going to Mars Hill, and the subject (dating) sounded like it would be interesting and a fun one, so I decided to come along.
And it was fun...and then it was like bam, things are happening in my head and yes this is exactly where I am and wait a minute why am I having so many problems with Christianity and then oh yeah that's why and then dangit that makes me angry oh yeah there's a sermon going on...man, that really connects with me like 100% and he's talking about me except for the "Christian" part that I'm unsure of...now why am I unsure of that again? Oh yeah, because too many Christians are stupid and obnoxious and fundamentalist and focus on the family and frick what do I do with this...
And so on. For an hour and a half. Call it a God thing, I'll probably do that when I've figured out my life. But being there called into stark contrast why I:
a) Am so freaking annoyed and disconnected with Christianity
b) Don't want to throw it out completely.


Firstly, you should watch this sermon. Because it is awesome, and 100% true and what you need to hear. (edit: okay, changed the link to actually point to the right sermon...it's up now, btw)
Now, what I got out of it isn't why you should watch it. You should watch it because it's true, and too many women have an incredibly wrong idea of what men should be like, and how they as women should be treated by men, and too many men have a horribly skewed and wrong idea of what women should be, and how they should treat them. But that's the subject of another note.

(End rant.)

The reason that it meant so much to me is this. As he was sermoning (I can make up that word, I'm a PK), it was resonating with me. I was hearing every word he said about everything, and it fit in exactly with what I thought, and what I was passionate about, and what made me so mad about males in relationships screwing up women, and women not holding males to the standard that we need to be held to, and everything. Everything he said fit in exactly to what I aspire to be as a man and a husband in the future. Except for the part about being a Christian, because I'm not sure where I am in that. And I cringed a bit when he said not to date non-Christians, because everything else he was describing was what I wanted in a relationship, what I wanted in a wife. If women that I were interested in followed that rule, I may miss out.

And so I thought, why? If this is where I'm at, if it fits so well, why can't I be a Christian? If the things that are coming out of this guy's mouth as the model of a good, healthy, Christian relationship are exactly what I strive for, why shouldn't I just be a Christian? And I thought about morals in general, and I had known for a while that I think the Christian moral system is by far the best way to live overall. Regardless of where I end up, I know that I want to raise my kids in the Christian moral system, because that's how I was raised, and I am eternally grateful to my parents for raising me that way. So what's the problem?

Christians. Now, I know when I say that, many of you are going to think of the quote (like I did) at the beginning of a DC Talk song, that goes like this:
"One of the greatest sources of atheism is Christians--people who acknowledge Jesus with their mouths and deny him by their lifestyles."
Now, that's not my problem. The hypocrisy does drive people away, and is a problem for sure, but it's not my problem. My problem is the idea that Christianity comes with a package. I was taught in 8th grade (I went to a Christian school) that my worldview should be defined - not even just shaped, but defined, created, even - by my religion. That means 7-day creation, that means gays are the scourge of the earth, that means Harry Potter is the work of the devil. It means that George Bush is the best thing to happen to this country in a long time just because he's a Christian, Democrats are evil because they don't believe that this is a Christian country and as such abortion and homosexuality and other such non-Christian things should be entirely illegal, and everything I do has to come directly from God and my love for Jesus, and if not, it's frivolous, if not worse.

Now, some of that is extreme, and exaggerated. But I won't apologize for it, because that's the box I get put in when I say I'm a Christian. In America, Focus on the Family, the Religious Right, the Conservative Christian movement has defined Christianity for us.

I don't fit in that box.

At all.

I would die.

Which is why I have such a problem with calling myself a Christian. Because with that comes the assumption that I believe all the rest of that. Which I don't.

So where does that leave me? I'm pretty sure Christianity is the moral system that I adhere to and believe in. And I kind of think that's the main function of a religion. Sociopolitically and in matters of science, I'm not a Christian. Not a Christian as far as America, and perhaps my family, hometown, and church, are concerned anyway.

But I think that's okay. Because I don't believe that being a Christian really means that you have to accept the whole package. And you know why? Because over the years, the package has changed. Three, four centuries ago, the package included believing that the universe rotated around the earth and that the Bible belonged in only Latin. But the core has stayed the same. The Christianity that I think I adhere to is that core, and not the package.


And just to make sure that my contention is fully known - I've heard random things about how history is a conspiracy to make Christanity look bad, and the church didn't really prosecute Galielo and such.

But I'm pretty sure that William Tyndale was burned at the stake because he translated the Bible into English. Christians hold it up as a story of martyrdom and heroism. But it's never mentioned that the church killed him. THAT WAS THE PACKAGE. In 1535, the package included burning people who translated the Bible into English. No Christian today would agree with that. If they did, they would be shunned and ridiculed. So if today the package is Young-earth Creationism, and being a Republican, who says that I have to adhere to that? It's the ones that didn't adhere to it - say, William Tyndale - that are often hailed as heroes, for righting the Church that had gone horribly wrong.

Oh, by the way, another thing - people will argue that that wasn't the church, but the government. That because the Church and the government were one and the same, it was corrupted, and therefore not really the Church.

And yet these same people want to legislate morality. They want to make sure that Christian moral code gets codified into American legal code. They insist that this is a Christian country, founded on Christian ideals, and it should stay that way. Well I've got news - power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Religion and government don't mix. This has been proved over and over and over again throughout history! Whenever Christianity gets its way, and takes over the goverment, BAD THINGS HAPPEN. Inquisitions, Crusades, persecution. America CAME INTO BEING BECAUSE THE GOVERMENT WAS CHRISTIAN. The pilgrims left because the goverment defined a religion.

So why, in heaven's name, are we trying to create that again? Why are we trying to get our country to be a Christian nation? That's what our founding fathers were trying to avoid! It's the job of the church to define people's religion, and it is lazy, irresponsible, and dangerous shoving that responsibility onto the government.

(End rant.)

So...where does that leave me? Well, I think this is kind of where it leaves me. I'm not sure about any of them, but it's where I think I'm headed.


Why? Well, here's what I'm sure of:

Somewhat cynical.
Fiercely logical.

That's what they come out of. Now, I'm a bad Christian. I play heathen, and skip church occasionally. I hardly ever read my Bible. I don't pray, except for other people. I don't go to Group, or Chapel. I don't have a relationship with God, or Jesus, and have never felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.

But I think that God put me where I needed to be tonight. Working through my friends, my sleeping through Quest, he made sure I ended up where I needed to be.

Now, I don't feel that way. And it feels weird to say that, it feels like a cop-out, like I'm a Christian that just uses God to explain everything, and cares only about loving Jesus and couldn't care less about the rest of the world. And that annoys me.

But it makes sense. Facts:
1. If I'm supposed to be a Christian, God would probably try his best to get me there.
2. I haven't been to Mars Hill since at least spring quarter last year
3. I had no intention to go to Mars Hill tonight, and was in fact planning to go to Quest at 11:00
4. The sermon happened to be related to something I am particularly passionate about*
5. I have been thinking about this stuff a lot lately.

That all seems to me that God made sure that I was there tonight. But only logically, only because it makes sense.

So, I think I'm a Christian. At the core. But not a normal Christian. I don't know what to do with that, because I'm a bad Christian, and fixing that involves a lot of things that annoy me about Christianity and Christians. So we'll see how it works out. And I'm hardly settled. But I'm headed in a direction. And that's good.

*By the way, Mark did an awful lot of saying exactly what I say and stuff that I really, really, really care about a lot when I say it. In fact, men not being men and women being okay with it is one of the two occasions in my whole life that I have used a profanity, because I am so passionate about it.