Monday, July 30, 2012

A Thought About "Worship"

I'm a little hesitant to write this post because I'm afraid it's going to come off a lot worse than I mean for it to be. However, I've been thinking about it for awhile and then I saw this on PostSecret:

So. Here I go. 

I always loved worship time at church. The church I grew up in was a little unusual in that we had musicians who took turns playing each Sunday but they didn't prepare "sets" according to the message or according to anything. The idea was instead that they could lead a song but so could anyone else in the church. If the Spirit led you, you would just start singing the song on your heart and the rest of the church would join in as the two teenage boys that ran the projector furiously flipped through overheads until they found the words to the song. I know this sounds chaotic, but it really wasn't. You might think that multiple people would start singing different songs at the same time, but they didn't. You could stand or sit or kneel as you wanted and it (forgive me for this buzz word) all felt organic to me. Most of our songs were scripture set to simple music and I loved it. I've never known anything like it since.

Then I got older and went to a more "hip" church and worship became something different. More like a concert. Somehow, I never noticed until I had been happily participating in the concert vibe for years. Maybe it's because I hadn't been to many concerts or because all the ones I had been to were Christian bands so I had the expectation they should feel similar to worship times. I seriously never had any issue, no crankiness, no cynicism about worship time. It was always when I felt connected and could put down my questions and confusion. 

A couple years later I was at an Arcade Fire concert, my first secular concert and after a year long absence from church I felt the same feelings I used to feel during worship. Euphoria. This could be interpreted 1 of 2 ways: 1. God was making me euphoric via Arcade Fire (and later Death Cab and certain musicals) or 2. Music makes me euphoric. Wonderful, sweeping, emotional music. Now, I'm more inclined to lean toward choice 1 but I had to acknowledge that choice 2 existed. Which made me more conscious of worship times. The words I was singing. The promises I was making. The peer pressure involved. The way worship leaders tell you what to do. 

[That last bit really bothers me. "Lift your hands up! Kneel before God! Feel his presence here! Tell God you love him! Tell him you're sorry! Let's all weep for the nation!" Commands like this leave you in a place where you are forced, if you don't feel what they want you to feel, to either pretend you do or, not participate and have people wondering, "What's up with Sara?" And, don't tell me no one thinks that because they do. I know that they do. Not only have I thought that myself, but I have had people directly confront me about myself and my spouse. "Why didn't you take communion? What's going on?" None yo' business.]

Now, I've never led worship. I have no idea what the "behind the scenes" of creating a worship time is like and I have no idea if the emotional manipulation is intended or it just happens. What I do know is that it definitely happens, to me if to no one else. Also, I think, to whomever wrote in that Postsecret. 

I will not speak for anyone else or any other situation but my own. For me, worship is tricky.  It's all about feelings and feelings are not to be trusted. Worship songs today, they say things that I think aren't always true. They want me to tell God things that might not be true. I don't like that. If there is one thing I try not to do, it's lie to God. When I was a kid, the man who led chapel at my Christian school said that if we could not sing the words of a song honestly, then don't sing. It made sense to me. But now, if I go to church and I wait through a song I don't feel I can sing honestly, I feel like I'm being watched and judged. Maybe someone thinks I'm making a statement that I'm not. I don't like that either. Music stirs up my emotions. It makes me cry, it makes me laugh, it makes me think a lot. It shouldn't be treated lightly, it shouldn't be trite. 

[Two fast songs to get people excited for the message. One slow song to calm us down. [Message] Two more slow ones so we can contemplate the message and feel sad for our sin. One fast song to end church on a happy note! Tell me, does this sound familiar?]

I hate being cynical, I really do. I hate to enter a time I used to really love feeling nothing but wary, but I am. I want honesty in my life so much right now, more than anything. I don't want to be manipulated by fear or emotion. That Postsecret really shook me up. I think it's something to think about. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012


There used to be a post here about the Chick-Fil-A drama. I have since decided I did not want it here so it has gone bye bye.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

You've Got to Be Taught

The spouse and I have been in the serious talks about having kids in the past year so I've tended to think more and more about what's going to happen to our lives when there's a child present. What will we tell them about God? Will we take them to church? What will our parents say if we don't?

Heavy stuff that I guess we're going to mostly play by ear.

I worry a lot about being a parent and all that it entails. I worry about who my kids will be and the ways I'm certain to fail them. I worry about teaching them the right things and making them feel safe and loved. I feel anxious about disciplining them and getting them ready for being adults. I wonder how we'll relate when they're my age and have lives of their own.

I hope I can at least teach them to love and have open arms. To be kind, polite and thoughtful.

This post by Dan Savage has been preying on my mind for weeks since I ran across it. It's quite old and I didn't see it when he originally published it. At that point I had no idea who Savage was. Now, I know that he's kinda obnoxious and very controversial. A lot of people don't like him and I completely understand and wouldn't try to change their mind. But, I like him. I think he's got a temper and he's sometimes a little loose-lipped, but I also think he's intelligent and an excellent writer. He's made me think about things I never could have come up with on my own and given me some understanding of what it can feel like to be discriminated against.

Anyway, back to my point. In this article, Savage says,

"You don't have to explicitly "encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate" gay kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It's here, it's clear, and we can see the fruits of it."

Now, Savage is talking specifically about teaching children to hate gay kids, but it's true of hating anyone. Feelings about all kinds of things. We are taught.

I grew up watching South Pacific. I could probably sing you almost every word of every song even though it's been years since I last saw it. But, it wasn't until I read that article in which Savage inserts a video clip of the brief and poignant song, You've Got to Be Taught, that I realized how much that musical is trying to teach people. If you're not familiar with the musical, a French man who has lost the love of his life, an American woman, because she is disgusted that he was once married to a Polynesian woman, angrily insists to an American soldier that he doesn't believe that this racism is born into you. And, reluctantly and with a lot of emotion, the American soldier confirms his suspicions with this little song:

You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught....
You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are 6 or 7 or 8
to hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught

I want to believe that as long as I never say anything to teach my children to hate, I'm safe. But, I'm not. It's beyond not saying something hateful. It's not doing something hateful. Not making a snide comment, getting road rage, being overly sarcastic or just plain uncaring. So it's not just that I need to be careful to NOT teach hate, I have to be care TO teach love. Scary stuff. As another great musical, "Into the Woods" says,

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say "Listen to me"
Children will listen

Monday, July 9, 2012


I said it. I have one. I learned this only when I started my period at the tender age of 11, and for the next 15 years was taught nothing about it, only to ignore it. No talks, no classes (my best friend while school offered sex ed classes was a Jehovah's Witness, who was religiously unallowed to attend the classes. I just wanted an excuse to hang out with her in the LIBRARY, where all things wonderful lived), and so I found myself a pseudo-adult, trying desperately to "catch up" on knowledge about my own body, and clinging to my gynecologist like the therapist I only recently found. What's this? What does this mean? How do I? My poor doctor. Mostly her nurse. My nurse is my favorite. Literally hugged her the last time I went in for my annual exam.

That's ridiculous. I love my life, I love that I found a doctor and a set of people to help me through my ill-formed adolescence, and BEFORE anything unexpected or terrible happened. BUT. This is my body I'm talking about, something I live with every day. I should know it intimately. Nope.

And to think there are other people out there who most likely had a similar upbringing, that other girls and boys are growing up being taught to ignore or dishonor their bodies. That groups like "1Flesh" are touting falsehoods to scare teenagers and young adults into doing the exact things they're scaring them into not doing. Sara will have beautiful insights into this as she sent it to me this morning to enjoy over my lunch break. This website reads like a horny college boy trying to lure girls into becoming baby mommas: "Condoms ruin my experience", "Birth control will make you pregnant", and my favorite "Condoms don't lower STD rates". Stop lying. Really. It makes you look fat.

But too many people can't step up and think for themselves and that's why this website and others touting its views are abusing power. I can't help thinking it's all about control - if it can scare you enough, you'll follow the rules and become the group so that the group leader will say, I have this much power, look at how many people believe what I say is true. Yuck. Cults went out of style with David Koresh and his push-up bar glasses. Think for yourselves and ask some real doctors, not religious organizations. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Chance to Rest

So my co-author and I have gotten the amazing opportunity to visit each other in the last month and it was awesome. We couldn't manage to get enough words in; there was so much to share and say and laugh about. So we've been a bit distracted (not to mention the other Sara had a grievous injury she is recovering from) but, fear not! I will not give up on writing at this blog. There's still too much to say.

Something I noticed when Sara and I were talking to each other last was how we both are walking the line between hope and cynicism. I think we both desperately want to be hopeful but we're also both sensitive, especially to harm done to people that we love. Those awful moments send me into a spiral of anger and cynicism, throwing my hope by the wayside. But, once I've calmed and got the chance to see a gorgeous sky or trees lit up by wildly flashing fireflies, hope floods through me and I find myself reaching for a God who loves me, who loves us all, and made these beautiful moments to restore me.

Sometimes, I still want to be simple and naive. I want to ignore all the questions, complexity, translations from Greek and Hebrew, ugliness, contradictions and confusion. I want to just bask in the love of a good Creator who cares and the people I love around me.