Monday, February 07, 2011

Oh....Oh, no. Just...No.

I consider myself to be a fairly self-actualized person. I try and live an examined life. Therefore, I am well aware of situations in which I behave in a manner that is petty or immature. This might be one of those times. You be the judge.

Facebook is a plague.

No really. It is an epic waste of time. It encourages some really unhealthy voyeuristic tendencies in people, myself included. And for some reason, it compels me to stay in touch with people with whom I have nothing in common and don't particularly like.

I would like to take a moment and point out something important I feel I have learned in the last year or so... There are some people in this world that I will not like. I don't have to like everyone. I feel that I need to be respectful of others, treat them with kindness, show love in what I do, etc. However, it is unrealistic for me to expect that I can like everyone. I just don't think it's possible (or necessary).

So, back to Facebook. I like that it is a nice way to keep in touch with friends and family. I like status updating. It is fun to try and record bits of my day into a two sentence soundbite that makes me sound engaging. BUT... it is also a terrible plague on humanity. It has the potential to ruin relationships (insert statistic about marriages being broken up over FB affairs here), and it is prime breeding ground for misunderstanding, misreading and misguiding a person's perception of others. I actually had a friend stop speaking to me for some time because i posted an update about my support of government health care. More than that, she actually REMOVED me from her FB friends list. Since turn-about is fair play, I also deleted a friend for a fairly significant period of time because he posted what I found to be incredibly offensive political cartoons. Have you ever been deleted? I mean...Wow. Burn. (Side note: We are friends again and cleared up this FB-related crisis in our friendship)

Since then, I have actually tried to tone down my political activism via Facebook. Frankly, I find it to be an exercise in futility. And it usually pisses me off. I think this is one of the best things I have ever seen about the FB political scene... And since trying to reduce my own spew of political rhetoric via the social network, I have also tried to stop being drawn in to other's political rhetoric. It isn't always easy. I should really stop reading posts and comments that I know will inevitably make my blood boil, but I'm like a moth to the flame over here. I can't resist a little adrenaline-pumping argument. But today...well... this just takes the cake. And I can't even BRING myself to comment on it!

A "friend of mine," who I assume does not read my blog (or if he does, I am sure will be deleting me ASAP) and whom I have considered deleting on many occasion, posted the following status update today:
If you were President of the USA, in your opinion, what is the greatest challenge facing Americans and what is your solution? I'd like to know!
Now there are the normal answers... education, the deficit, and one guy who just had to get a dig in at the "immorality" that plagues us and how we are a God-less nation (very 700 Club stuff)... But then I saw this response:
The deterioration of the family. And since money talks, let there be a financial reward - tax right-off or something along those lines - for attending church on Sundays - or Saturdays - or what fits the schedule - as a family. Once a person's butt is in the chair, it's then God's responsibility to touch their life!


I could start by pointing out some of the more obvious flaws with this, namely the spelling of "W-R-I-T-E" v. "R-I-G-H-T" but that's not really important, is it? Not nearly as important as the LUDICROUS NOTION that she has put forth. We should get a tax write-off for going to church as a family? Pay people to go to church and once their "butt is in the chair" leave God alone to fix the "deterioration of the family"? I am at a complete and TOTAL loss as to HOW IN THE WORLD it could ever improve the quality of "family" in this nation by providing a tax credit for attending church?! It seems like a quick way to further deteriorate the church. It is...a bastardization of...everything. I mean, this messes with everything I believe to be good. And at first, I thought it was funny in that, "Isn't she stupid?" kind of way. But it has been eating at me all day. This is WRONG. It is wrong that she thinks this, and wrong that there are probably a LOT of people who agree with her. I have a tendency to think in large spirals where I start at a single point, and don't stop until i don't even know who I am anymore, and this is a prime example of that. It started with someone saying something pretty dumb on Facebook, and has ended with me stewing angrily in front of my computer, thinking about how wounded the Body of Christ is becoming. It isn't even enough that ugliness and judgment and hatred run rampant in our churches, we should now pay people to participate in them? And then assume that this would, in some way, HELP matters?

I have to assume that I am completely over-reacting to the whole thing. But I am worried. I am worried about who we are becoming, as a church, as a society, as citizens of the world. I think this attitude in indicative of my why I worry. I mean...Oh...oh, no. Just...No. That's just wrong.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Oh S---! The Dreaded S- Word

Warning: this post contains trace amounts of Jesus and Christianity. If you are someone who feels icky about such things, then you can feel free to move on. Or, you can continue reading because, let's face it, I can still be entertaining and funny when talking about Jesus.

That's right. I'm going to talk about the s-word. But probably not the one you are thinking about. THAT S-word doesn't particularly bother me. As a matter of fact, I probably use it more often than is strictly necessary. No. I need to talk about a different word. A word that I really kind of hate to use. A word that is overused, and, I believe, entirely misunderstood. Sin.

First, let me explain. I am on a journey, of sorts. Things are changing for me and I am feeling out some stuff. A major component of my Journey of Feeling Out is reviewing and establishing some fundamental beliefs about my faith. Over the years, I have grown increasingly uncomfortable talking openly about my beliefs, and even more uncomfortable using "Jesus Speak." You know the type I mean. So I decided to make a list of key words associated with my faith and then rank them according to how uncomfortable they make me.

Why do I always have to make lists? I'm so anal.

So the top of that list was this word. SIN. SIN, SIN, SIN.

There. Now I have said it. Four or five times. And it feels sticky in my mouth. Yuck.

I think that our first impulse when we hear the word sin is to clench our sphincters very, very tight. Because it is an uncomfortable word and, usually, it is followed by a very uncomfortable (and often asinine) message. I don't know about you, but the born and raised Baptist in me immediately hears: For the wages of...DEATH. And then maybe something about being gay or having an abortion...because those are the really BIG sins.

I am working on finding grace in my please don't mind the really vitriolic reaction I still harbor toward the more "evangelical" church. I'm growing.

So...back to what I was saying... I needed to sort out, first and foremost, what (sigh) SIN really is. So I began by writing questions like: Can we really make a list of "sins" that have across the board application? Is sin still sin if we are without intention? If you are not "religious," and don't really recognize this ugly little word, how do you view or understand sin? And lots of other things that aren't very interesting (or are if you are into that sort of thing...) I was tempted to start pulling out books on the subject and seeing what all the other people (most of whom are much, much wiser than I) had to say about this, but then I was gently reminded by Jesus that this was about ME finding out what I believed, and that while I greatly enjoy the reading other people's opinions, some things I just have to find out for myself. So I looked at my Bible. It is just chalk full of interesting verses about sin.

I am going to skip over the more boring parts of this, which included my using a concordance, because a story about a concordance is never interesting. Instead, i am going to hop right into the part where my Dad happened to toss a verse out at me in the car that just changed everything.

Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
James 4:17

Now, I have read James before lots of times. I have done a whole study on James. I wrote a very convincing paper a few years ago on the authorship of James. But this verse had just slipped under the everloving radar. I think this is because what it says is 1)incredibly simple and 2)incredibly heavy. It is a message that is not just a "Jesus" message for Christians, but has a wonderfully applicable message for everyone. In itself, it answered most of my questions from above. Very simply put, it says, If you know you aren't right, you are wrong. SIN, then, is sort of hard-wired into us. We know what it is and we know how to NOT do it. We just choose to do it anyway. This is much easier to understand than, say, following the cleansing rituals outlined in Leviticus. But it is uber-hard to actually do. When faced with a choice, make the right one. If you don't...IT IS SIN.

I like writing SIN in big capital letters now because it gives it a jaunty, fun appeal. No. It doesn't. It makes it look like I'm writing a script for one of those Christian Halloween Judgment Houses that try to frighten you into accepting the only zombie that matters, Jesus. But go with me on this...jaunty and fun. Not scary.

The problem with SIN is that instead of bothering to determine what is the right choice for ourselves, we have made a habit in THE CHURCH (jaunty, not scary) of trying to make lists of sins, trying to tell other people what to do and what NOT to do. We now have a climate of legalism, and not a climate of choice. Now I'm a big proponent of Free Will (and all the Calvinists just hit the red X). IF you know what is right, and you don't do it, it is sin. If you aren't right, you are wrong. But, see, I am not in possession of any special Holy Spirit Glasses that actually let me see inside anyone's heart, and thus KNOW that they KNOW what is or is not "right." And frankly I don't want to. I can really go without having the same responsibility as, say, JESUS. And no, I don't think that there is a black and white, easy to read guide for what is and is not SIN. Not even...wait for it...the Bible. God inspired? Sure. Easy answers? Not a chance.

Let me give an example, just for funsies: We have ten pretty standard commandments, and breaking them is SIN. So... "Honor your father and mother" and "Thou shalt not steal" come up. But maybe your Mom is a crackhead. Maybe she tells you to rob a liquor store so she can buy more crack with the money you would steal (oh, crackheads, why you always gotta rob the liquor stores?). Now you are faced with the choice of SINNING either way. Honor your mom, and you steal. Don't steal, and you aren't honoring your mom... See? I think we all know that the right choice here is simply to take yourself to the nearest DFS headquarters and ask for a NEW mom, but I think you get my point.

Now, not being the child of a crackhead, I have never been faced with that particular scenario. But still, not all insight and foresight is given us at once. Sometimes we are probably acting in a way that seems quite sinful to others, but we have yet to feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to see it as such. See it now? James says Whoever KNOWS what is right, and does not do it. There IS intentionality here. And frankly, one doesn't even HAVE to be a Christian to get this. This is just common sense. Ummm, if it is wrong, don't do it. Make good choices. Make the right choice. If you are a Christian, then we have to have faith in the movement of the Holy Spirit to show what is "right." As HUMANS, we need to stop being so concerned with what the Holy Spirit is doing in for anyone else. Remember that one time when Jesus said to pull the LOG out of your own eye? Man...he was funny.

So, that's what I'm going with for right now. Not exactly masterful theology, but just the beginning of my coming to terms with my Jesus-Loving self.

Please, please feel free to toss your two cents out there. I'm formulating and entirely open to the possibility of being totally, and foolishly wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.