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Guest Post for Alise Write

Hi friends!

My research project is done, my exams are finished, and (though I still have a few summer classes to take) I’ll be walking in the Oakland University graduation ceremony at 4 pm today. I think it’s time I start blogging again.

So, let’s mark my triumphant return with a guest post for the wonderful Alise Write! I’ve written for Alise about how I’ve navigated my relationship with my fiance, Abe, as we both travel along in our individual faith journeys.

When I first met my fiancé, Abraham, I was a fundamentalist who had recently realized (with trepidation) that I believed in evolution, had just become a feminist, and was considering leaving the Baptist church that I grew up in.

When my fiancé, Abraham, first met me, he was a Southern Baptist Missions drop-out who had recently left the church and was considering atheism.

I remember our second date clearly—Abe had taken me to a seafood restaurant that he really couldn’t afford because he wanted to impress me. In between mouthfuls of flounder and scallops, we discussed religion.

I listened, nervously, as he explained why he had stopped pursuing a career as a Southern Baptist missionary.: “They wanted me to teach ‘once-saved-always-saved,’ and I just don’t see salvation as a one-time event.”

And he listened (with I’m sure just as much nervousness), as I explained that I thought maybe a Creator God could use evolution to form the heavens and the earth.

We disagreed on these points that seem almost laughably insignificant, looking back. But to a couple of people not-quite-yet grown out of the bible-clearly-says mindsets we’d both been raised in, those insignificant points seemed like a big deal.

Read the rest at Alise Write!

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Why I’m a Unitarian Universalist

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Not sure of the original source for this. Found it on a website about how the UU Church is “Satan’s Church.” Hah! I found it beautiful.

I want to talk about faith for a second.

I’m a Unitarian Universalist. People often ask me what that means. Basically, it’s an interfaith religion that celebrates diversity, yet finds unity. Unity is found, not an agreement on doctrine, theologies, images of God, etc. but on these seven principles (quoted from UUA.org):

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Being a UU is more than just having a universalist mindset about the afterlife. In fact, I’m not sure if I believe in an afterlife in the first place. I definitely don’t believe in hell. I’m skeptical about heaven.

But I believe that love, justice, truth, and beauty all point to God. Or maybe God is just a metaphor for those things. But I don’t believe that only one faith holds a monopoly on them.

As a UU,unlike in fundamentalism, I never have to fear information and learning. I don’t have to hide from science and history, or music or literature or other religions anything else that might challenge my faith.

New ideas nourish my faith now. They keep it alive. They help it grow and mature.

Being a UU doesn’t mean I don’t have any individual religious beliefs.

In fact still call myself a Christian, because those are my roots. Christianity is my home. It’s the primary lens through which I view the world. It helps me process new ideas and gives me a framework to define myself within.

The love of Jesus and the passion for justice spoken of by the Old Testament prophets fuels and inspires me. The community I see in the stories of the early churches gives me hope.

Being a UU just means that I don’t think every different religion is a different path leading to a different destination. If I am following a path formed by the seven principles I shared earlier–love, respect, truth, justice, care for one another and for the earth–then I share that path with many others.

I share it with Atheists.

I share it with Muslims.

I share it with Buddhists.

I share it with United Methodists.

I share it with Catholics.

I share it with feminists.

Being a UU means that I believe there are principles that transcend the seemingly infinite religious doctrines out there that all claim to be right. Being a UU means that (unless a doctrine is abusive or harmful) we don’t have to go to war over these doctrines.

We can walk together.


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Intangible Christianity

I was raised to believe that salvation was a shadow of things to come. An image of an otherworldly kingdom that could never be realized (even in part) on earth. Jesus’ death on the cross was an ethereal magic trick…

It’s an illusion, Michael…

…that somehow, in some way washed away our sins.

But our sins were still here.  We still sinned. That didn’t matter. They were washed away in the realm of the almighty. Covered somehow by a metaphorical river of blood.

This was always explained as a “great mystery.” Something we could never fully understand. But “God’s ways are higher than man’s ways,” they told me. And I was forced to be satisfied with the shadows of things to come, and to trust that these shadows weren’t simply smoke and mirrors.

The same reasoning was given for how Christians should live in day-to-day life. Because salvation was an intangible concept, the worst of Christian “sins” also dealt with intangible concepts.

Like sex. Sure, folks would give lists of the tangible consequences of premarital sex, but if you questioned, if you pushed, if you broke down the tangible consequences the driving force behind them were the ideas of purity and virginity.

And what is purity? Who is pure? What makes someone a virgin…or not a virgin?

You could have sex and then become a born-again virgin. TaDa! No physical transformation required. You just pray a prayer and trust that somewhere in the world of the heavens, that magical blood is somehow covering your sins.

And what about helping the needy? Well, we feed them with God’s word. Nourish them with the scripture. We save their souls but their bodies don’t matter. No one’s do. Bodies are too real. Too solid and physical. They need to be hidden and shamed while the soul is exalted.

More shadows, being cast by a world to come, but nothing to cling to.

And when you start asking questions, they give you Faith to cling to. I never really knew what that Faith was faith of. Faith that something magical happened on the cross that we don’t understand, I guess.

But really, it’s the Faith we’re worshipping and serving. We wait. We watch. We keep ourselves pure.

But do we fight injustice? No, because we’re afraid the oppressed will take over us, the oppressors, if we give them too much freedom.

Do we feed the poor? No, Jesus said the poor will always be with us.

Do we change our world? No, because there is another world waiting for us.

Our salvation is from the horrors of spiritual death, not the pains of physical life.

When I asked, “what’s the point?” they called me unfaithful. They asked me if I was really saved, because if I was really saved I’d be satisfied with the shadows. I wouldn’t be searching for anything physical and real. I wouldn’t be craving a salvation that I could touch and see.

But didn’t Jesus pray “thy will be done on earth?” Didn’t Jesus promise us “daily bread?” Can we really keep pretending, even as we read about him filling the empty, physical bellies of thousands, that the bread he spoke of was just a Bible passage and an accompanying devotional?

If our salvation has nothing to do with this world and with these bodies, than why did God come to this world? Why did God become a body? Why did God feed bodies and heal bodies and rescue bodies from drowning in the ocean?

I think of salvation differently now. Yes, there are shadows that give me hope for a world to come. But these shadows are cast by things that are happening now. When the mighty are brought down and the weak are exalted. When the hungry are fed and the poor find justice. When the oppressed find freedom and the marginalized find love.

If the shadows that you’re grasping at aren’t being cast by something that exists here and now, how do you know you’re not being fooled? How do you know your faith is something more than just smoke, slipping through your fingers?

I want a solid salvation. One that is here. One that I become a part of, continuing Christ’s work on earth. I don’t want to wait passively and blindly for it to come to me when I die.

Today is the day of salvation.


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Guest Post at Travis Mamone’s blog!

03.365 (02.08.2009) Faith

03.365 (02.08.2009) Faith (Photo credit: hannahclark)

Hey y’all! I wrote a guest post for Travis Mamone on fragile faith that can’t handle questions.

If our faith is at the point where it is not truly living, but a vegetable that can’t survive without a constant connection to the things that we’ve always “known” to be true, maybe it’s time to pull the plug. Maybe it’s time to let our sickly faith die in peace. If we are so afraid of questions that we can’t help people who need our help and love people who need our love, then our faith isn’t really alive anymore anyway.

Read the rest here! 


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Sometimes I yell at God.

I hesitate to write this post, since, with my previous posts about cutting, I am well on my way to becoming the stereotypical depressed blogger, and I prefer to refrain from things that are stereotypical. But, let’s be real here. It’s been a painful year. I’ve had to get up just to get kicked back down; I’ve had to turn around and face a past that’s been lurking behind me my entire life; I’ve had to pull more than a few knives out of my back; I’ve had to rely on a mustard seed of faith to keep me afloat in a sea of doubts. It’s been rough.

So, what does one do when the pain grows so thick that it clouds all hope? When the fog is so deep that God can’t be seen through it, who does one turn to? When everything that once seemed permanent crumbles, what does one hold onto? When Life’s mountain path reaches a steep, jagged cliff, how does one get over it?

Since we’re being real here, I feel like, for the first time, I am truly going through this alone. God isn’t here. I mean, I know He’s omnipresent, yeah, yeah, yeah. But I don’t know. I don’t feel. I pray and no one answers, for weeks at a time. Every now and then I’ll hear a whisper- “I’ll never leave you,” or “I made this day for you.” And I cling to those words for dear life. But, they aren’t enough. Where are you God? Why are you making me do this by myself? How can you just ignore me like that? If you really loved me, you’d carry me through this instead of making me crawl. To quote a song by the Fray which has defined my life lately, “You’ve got some kind of nerve.” My prayers lately have been more like one-sided yelling matches.

Is it wrong to think these things? Is it wrong to talk to God in this way? Probably. But He knows me. He knows what I’m thinking. Why pretend that these things aren’t going through the mind that He created? Why pretend that I have perfect faith? I don’t, God. Sometimes I hate you. You know that. Sometimes I wish I could punch you in the face. You know that. Sometimes I don’t even believe that you exist. You know that too. But you know I’m holding on to that tiny seed of faith. I don’t even know why I’m still holding on, except for the fact that holding on is the only thing you’ve given me strength to do.