Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I hope I don't suck

This post brought me to tears (this is a trend; I am a weeper). And it made me mad (another trend?!)

And for a THIRD trend that starts now but is sure to keep on keeping on: I've been married now for almost 4 glorious years and I guess my husband's biological clock is ticking because he is quite keen on procreating. Don't get me wrong, I'm keen on it too but I'm also terrified. My somewhat recent struggles with issues of faith and my beliefs has made me even more frightened because I keep thinking, "What will I tell my kids?"

With that question constantly floating around in my mind, this quote from the posting I linked above really struck home.
Keep [these words of ignorance and hate] away from all our kids. It's my responsibility as a mother, as a human being, to stand up and say "No more." No, you are not allowed to say those things in front of my children, not unless you want to deal with me. Because I will not allow any of my sons to be viciously attacked without seeing me defend them. They will never have to doubt for a second exactly where their parents stand, and never have to live in fear of who they are.
Because since August 16, I have learned that hate is the virus we all need to be worried about.
Hate is something I am deeply concerned about.  I know that my kids are going to be their own people. Maybe they'll like to read like me or be able to run fast like their dad but they'll have their own things too. The one thing I really, really want to rub off on them is that in our family, we love people. I want them to be as open and accepting as their dad and as desperate to make other people feel loved as their mom. I hope we can pass that along to them. I hope we don't suck. I hope that my kids will know that whoever they turn out to be, their parents love them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't you think it's weird that oftentimes (in my experience) Christians seem to believe we humans have ALL this power over salvation and eternity but anything else that goes right or wrong is God or Satan pulling the strings? I've been thinking about this a lot lately after getting into a grand debate with one of my friends over whether or not gay marriage being legalized in New York and the "homosexual agenda" (in this case we were discussing diversity days in public schools) in schools was indeed the work of Satan to undermine the morals of our country. I didn't think so, but she disagreed.

Which is fine, I'm not writing this to say my friend was wrong or I am right because frankly, I'm not 100% positive either way. I do know that if I was a same-sex parent of a child in public school I would not want my child to be discriminated against or told that our family was not "normal" or "okay." A public school is a place, in my opinion, where discrimination, inequality and favoritism (which all mean essentially the same thing) should not exist, as far as that is possible. Every parent should be respected and treated equally.

But enough about politics, this is more about the following quote by my dear friend and co-blogger. It's mid-rant (we like to rant to each other) so it begins as a fractured thought but I think the point is clear:

"To claim that God isn't micro-managing life for everyone, that sometimes things happen because we affect each other in daily ways every day and it's those interactions that positively or negatively influence our emotions, circumstances, etc."
 I agree with her but it raises the question in me- how concerned should I really be about Satan's agenda or influence? Should I be watching the political climate, trying to ferret out the schemes of the devil and oppose them? Are we living on God and Satan's chess board? I'm not trying to mock at all, these are things that I really wonder about.

I guess my thought is that if I'm doing my best to bring heaven to this world and striving, as the blog title indicates, to live a life characterized by charity, mercy and restraint, then wouldn't that be combating evil effectively. Do I need the additional fear of "Look out for the devil!" to motivate me? I don't want to. If there is one thing I'm trying to get away from, it is the motive of fear. It seems that Christians play the fear card all too often and that is something I don't like. I don't want to serve God and do the right thing because I'm afraid of death, Satan or hell. I want to serve him because he's good and service to him makes me good.

Does that make sense?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I know I'm not the only one

Maybe by virtue of being named "Sara", we share similar views - you know, based on our namesake who started the Israelite nation. Can't get much cooler than that. Consequently, we Saras laugh at convention and know there is something else waiting around the bend that will blow the world's ever-loving mind. But I digress.

My world began to change when my brother came out. I didn't know it at the time, I was a youth group leader for an amazing church in New Jersey (hollah back at me) and I thought I had everything religious wrapped up in a pretty bow and shelved. I had my devotional routine, I had my packaged set of services I "provided" for God - my work for the church, my views all aligned with mainstream Christianity (our my perception of it). I was set.

It was a conversation with a fellow churchgoer friend of mine that slowly showed me there is more (there is always more) to think about. She was what I termed a "liberal Christian" (oh those labels!!) one who I considered lackadaisical - when really she was open-minded and understood that there are more shades of gray than most of us are willing to accept.

Because above all, I think we all want to be right. We want to be the people who have our proverbial shit together. We want to be the top dogs, the ones everyone else is jealous of. And even if it isn't as coarse as that - we want to know we are ok, so we can stop WORRYING about stuff all the time. I think the hardest lesson, still, to learn is, we aren't. And it's those of us who never give up, and don't get discouraged when we are wrong and continue to keep pushing on, that make this life worth living.

And I was wrong, a lot, in my 20's (oh my 20's!). So much so, I still find myself apologizing to people for the things I've said or done to them 10 years ago - in the name of "guiding them towards the light", when really, that "light" was a flashlight with a dying battery that I pretended was real.

My overall goal is to keep learning - to understand that if God is as big as He says he is and we all claim him to be, that I will be wrong - A LOT. And for the first time in my life, I ENJOY people. Really truly enjoy them. There isn't some hidden agenda in my head for converting them. Because, let's be honest - if any group has some fucking hidden agenda, it's CHRISTIANS. We INVENTED hidden agendas. Oh, hi friend. I'll be your friend, your BEST bestest friend IF (IF) you accept Jesus into your heart. Only then. Because until then, I'm going to keep sneaking "church" "Jesus" "look what God has done in my life" conversation tidbits into our hang-out times. Because I have a hidden agenda.

That's me. I knew I wasn't alone, and I know there are others out there who feel the same way. I'm glad one found me :o)

Exercise Caution

I have no patience with a blog post like this saying how dumb it is for those of us who are rich and have lots of fancy toys to not just wallow in enjoyment.

The problem is this:
I couldn't have said it better myself. Heck, there are times when I hear a story like that and I think, I guess I must not be on the good list with God because bye-bye [job, money, health, whatever]. I like the blog post the second link leads to because I agree with the author- poverty is complex. Our response... it can be tricky. Your insides war. I think the war is good. Life is hard. The end. Don't try to make it simple and easy because if you do, you're lying to yourself.

I don't want to accuse anyone because I'm sitting writing this on a laptop (not a much cheaper desk top), in an apartment that's bigger than my needs, in a chair I bought because I wanted it, with all manner of luxuries. Tomorrow I fully intend to go shopping and buy some clothes that I want, not that I need. I'm not great at this but I don't know if anyone is. What I do know is taking our blessings for granted is wrong and blithely snuggling down into our luxuries while we confidently assert that God gave them to us is insane. If God shows favoritism like that.... yikes. Why would the poor and bereft ever want to follow a God that just doesn't really like them as much?

It's odd to me that so often I find Christians who do not remotely acknowledge that our actions as humans are incredibly important. That our decisions matter very much, that we are the ones who are shaping this world. While I still believe sometimes God takes the reins and does something crazy, most of the time it seems pretty clear that the ball is in our court. We're responsible for the poor and orphans. That's an expectation. But so is living a joyful, abundant life. So while I think it's vitally important to contribute to clean water for the third world, sponsor kids, and send a flock of chickens to a needy family, I also don't think that God is mad at me for picking up a bottle of wine tonight to enjoy. It's a balance. It's a constant tension. I think it's good to keep it in mind.

I feel anxiety about a pastor with as much sway as Mark Driscoll making a grandiose statement like that. He leads a HUGE congregation and he essentially just chastised his followers for struggling with the fact that they are comfortable and wealthy while others are suffering and dying. Does not compute. They should struggle. He should struggle. Frustration.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's time to think carefully

While perusing the news during my lunch today I came across this video

For those who don't want it or should the link ever be disabled, here is a quick summation: A 14 year old boy took his life due to extreme bullying over his sexual orientation. He is one of too many teens who have taken their lives for the same reason. Many schools are enacting or trying to enact anti-bullying. Many groups are protesting because they believe that enacting such [insert applicable legal name here] promotes the "gay agenda" and discriminates against children who have moral opposition to the gay lifestyle. Representative Mike Harmon of Kentucky explains, "...someone, just in conversation, says 'Well, you know, I think homosexuality is a sin'. Well we don't want that child to be bullied because they have a certain moral or religious belief, and we certainly don't want them labeled a "bully" just because they have that particular belief."

I watched this video and cried. I'm glad I was alone when I saw it, though I suppose I could have gone to the bathroom. I listened to this hurting teen encouraging other kids like him to believe it gets better, knowing those messages of hope weren't enough to sustain him. I thought about how devastated Dan Savage, who founded the It Gets Better project might feel after hearing this news story. About the boys parents. And then the second half of the video came and I cried even more when I saw that Christians are standing against anti-bullying. Because they don't want to lose the culture wars. Because they are afraid. Because they don't want their child being taught it's okay to be homosexual. At least, those are the reasons I can grasp, maybe there are more I'm not thinking of.

These are my thoughts. I'm not a parent, so I can't speak with authority about how to raise a child but these are just my thoughts as a human on those three reasons:
1.  Culture wars. I hate them. I hate them very much. I don't see how waging war and drawing lines ever leads to anything good. It leads to hate, anger, separation and misunderstanding. I'm still waiting to find that bit in the Bible where God or Jesus suggests that Christians legislate morality.
2. It's easy to be afraid of what you don't know. I get that, I really do. But as decent humans, and especially as someone who is supposed to speak for a God of love, it's really important to try to overcome our fear. I read Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink recently and he claims that it is impossible to overcome prejudice toward another people group without engaging personally with that group. So here's my suggestion. Go find someone gay to love. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. 
3. If you're really worried about what your kid is being taught, put them in private school. Or home school them. Or realize that you don't get to dictate public school. 

What really hurts is that it seems like Christians are letting their moral stand and desire to "win" completely overwhelm their compassion and love for people that are in pain. It's not right. 

Ummmm..... Really?

I decided to attempt to enter the modern world of communications by beginning to follow blogs. This began with my friend's blogs and has since spread to a few stranger's blogs. My own blog has not really reflected my recent thoughts/struggles with my own belief system but that struggle exists. In an effort to examine and test my beliefs I've been reading and thinking a lot (too much?) and one of the things I've been doing in reading various Christian writer's blogs, some being very liberal and some conservative.

Little did I know when I entered the blogging world that I was jumping in right at the time the Christian subculture was all in a tizzy over the book Love Wins which explores the idea (one that is not new) that maybe the prevalent thoughts and beliefs about heaven and hell aren't necessarily accurate. Bell dabbles in the idea of a more Catholic/purgatory view of the after-life and the possibility of post-mortem salvation. Essentially, he posits that God is all powerful, God loves everyone and if they will receive and return that love, then love will win. If you really want to understand what he's saying, do not google it, read the book.

But I'm not writing this to talk about Rob Bell's book. This is really a rant post because I've been frustrated, angry, confused, overwhelmed and baffled by the reaction of so many Christians to the message of God's love maybe being bigger than we had imagined. I can understand the fear and wariness of Bell's message but honestly, even if you don't agree with him, does not any part of your heart wish for that? For salvation for everyone? Mine does. Maybe I'm being naive or stupid.

Another example. The song White Man by Gungor says that God is not restricted by our conceptions of him but God is love and God is good. When I first heard it I got teary-eyed because I was so thankful to hear such a positive, wonderful message. But check out the link (or don't if you don't want to find yourself considering throwing your computer) and you will find the youtube comments quickly turn from the inane but cute comments of  "great song!" and "God loves you! yay!" to
"Yes, God indeed loves everyone. However, this song makes it seem as if everyone can continue to live sinful, unrepentent lifestyles and make it to heaven. Yes, as Christians we should love everyone, regardless of their lifestyle. But we must also teach that God hates sin (not the sinners), and we must repent of our sins and live a new life through Jesus Christ. Does God love murderers, terrorists, and homosexuals? Yes, He absolutely does; but He HATES their sin (and we're all sinners)."
Must we? Must we teach that? Does Jesus say that anywhere? Because I honestly don't remember the verse where Jesus says, "verily I say unto you, tell others how deeply God hates their sin, yet not them (if they repent)." I missed that one. And frankly, I think Jesus specifically did not tell us to "hate the sin and love the sinner" (though you would think that was in the Bible with the way people throw it around) because he knew that we suck at love already and trying to love a person while hating what they do is not really going to work. I used to ramble about loving sinners and hating their sin until I realized it was ludicrous because that was not resulting in real, true love if for no other reason than that I was standing in judgment of someone else. (oh, hey person. You're a sinner, not like my Christian friends or myself. I will love you but I will hate your sin. Too bad you're such a sinner. So sad.) Don't worry about hating their sin, that's not our job, our right or our calling. Just freaking love people. 
Ummm....what god is this? No mention of the law of God, sin, hell; therefore no need for a crucified; risen Savior. God is love, it is true, but He is also holy; the righteous law of God condemns us ALL to hell , we all are by nature objects of His wrath (see Psalm 5:4-5, John 3:36; Eph. 2:3). But, God, in his rich love; mercy sent His Son,  Jesus Christ, fully God; fully man to reconcile sinners to Himself (John 3:16, Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:1-9) through the cross. 
To this person and those who have a similar reaction: GET A GRIP! Are you crazy? Firstly, since when does every song related to God have to encompass the whole freaking Bible? Secondly, SHUT IT DOWN. Stop converting the Bible into a gospel of fear made up of scare tactics and threats (God loves you BUT you better do what he says or YOU ARE GOING TO HELL.) Enough! Enough already. Was there an asterisk when Jesus said "Love your neighbor as yourself"? Was it really "Love your neighbor as yourself and be sure to tell them that if they don't behave they will burn in hell for all eternity. And definitely picket the heathens. And engage in culture wars because if you win, everyone will become Christians for sure." Oh... wait.... nope, no asterisk! Just "Love your neighbor" and pray for your enemies... hmmm...

I can't stand this crap. I really can't.

Velvet Elvis - Rob Bell

Oh man, I don't really know how to review this book because the 5 stars I'm giving it is very much a result of my current place in life. I've been questioning the faith I grew up with for the last 5 years in a half-hearted kind of way but only in recent months truly began to feel things I've believed in my past and things I currently feel are right have been in direct opposition. It's become a full out struggle that is scary and disheartening. As I have learned some of the terrible atrocities currently being committed in the name of Jesus, my heart has broken and I lose hope daily.

This book has given me back some hope.

There were a lot of parts in this book that made me feel that all my doubts and thoughts, questions and fears were validated, but this is the one that stands out to me the most.

"....so many people are hostile to the church, many for good reason. We reclaim the church as a blessing... not only because that is what Jesus intended from the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of the church are ever going to change. This is why it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians picket and boycott and complain about how bad the world is. This behavior doesn't help. It makes it worse.... We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, "God shows no favoritism." So we don't either."

I feel like I'm oversharing but the immensity of the relief I felt when I read this book with my father and he agreed with me that this is actually "good news" made me cry. Maybe I can still be a Christian after all.

Not one to speak my mind anymore...

... at least, not in cyberspace. 

It's funny, when I was in college I blogged constantly. Mostly my random thoughts on life, God, friends, my own inner turmoil. I loved it and I guess I fancied my thoughts worthy of other people's time. It made sense, a lot of my friends had blogs and we would all read each other's blogs and leave little comments. 

The funny part is I still write my random thoughts on life, God, friends and my own inner turmoil. I just never publish them. I write and write and then save the draft because I don't really know if I'm ready or willing anymore to just put those thoughts out there for people to read. It feels arrogant to even think that people would read them, but if they do... I don't know. 

Maybe it's because I've become less confident in my own convictions. Or maybe it's because I have a much more diverse group of friends now than I used to and I'm afraid of offending people. It's probably both. 

I follow this one blog called "The Agnostics Wife's Blog" and sometimes I really envy her. She started this anonymous blog and she can just say whatever she wants. So I decided I would do that too. I don't have to keep blogging where people know me. I can wrap myself in anonymity and speak my thoughts to silent cyberspace.