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Packin’ up and movin’ to Patheos!

Hey readers! 

It’s official. I’ve made the move to Patheos Spirituality. 

The new URL is http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sarahoverthemoon/

Check out my first post here!

When I was a kid growing up in an independent, fundamental Baptist church, spirituality was a dirty word. When many independent fundamental Baptists thinks of “spirituality,” they think of pantheism, paganism, postmodernism, and Harry Potter (Harry Potter is, of course, the worst of these). To the fundamental Baptists I knew, “spiritual” people were often depicted as lazy hippie-liberals who refused to commit to a specific religious belief so that they could justify having all the sex they want.

So when Patheos asked me to blog for their Spirituality Channel, I had to laugh a bit.

Read the rest at Patheos, my new blog “home!” 


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Creationism, Evolution, and Doing Justice to God

I’ve been reading Kenneth Miller’s book Finding Darwin’s God for a class I’m taking. Although I’ve been out of fundamentalism long enough (about two years) for most of this information to be old news to me, some parts have challenged me to think about how low of an opinion of God I had as a fundamentalist.  

In the chapter I just finished, “God the Charlatan,” Miller (who is himself both a scientist and a believer in God) takes on the fundamentalist idea that God created the earth with the appearance of age. And not just the appearance of age, apparently, but with a consistent appearance of 4.5 billion years of age.

According to Miller, “this sounds like a deception most cruel. Their Creator deliberately rigged a universe with a consistent–but fictitious–age in order to fool its inhabitants.

He continues (emphasis mine),

What saddens me is the view of the Creator that their intellectual contortions force them to hold. In order to defend God against the challenge they see from evolution, they have had to make Him into a schemer, a trickster, even a charlatan. Their version of God is one who intentionally plants misleading clues beneath our feet and in the heavens themselves. Their version of God is one who has filled the universe with so much bogus evidence that the tools of science can give us nothing more than a phony version of reality.

Art by Gerald Shepard (click for link)

Art by Gerald Shepard (click for link)

I am not a Biblical literalist. But even in a literalist perspective, is this really the God that the Bible puts forth?

Is this the God who “is not the author of confusion/disorder?”

Is this the God who “cannot lie?” 

Is this the God of whom “the heavens declare the glory?” 

According to Miller, to worship the God of young earth creationism, one must “reject science and worship deception itself.” As a former young earth creationist, I agree.

The fundamentalist God I once believed in was extremely fragile, in constant need of defense. And everything was a threat, even creation itself. The best way to worship God was to know as little about the world that God created as possible.

I don’t think that view does God justice.

I don’t think that view even does the book of Genesis justice.

In the words of Michael Gungor,

Genesis is a poem if I’ve ever seen one.

It’s full of refrain, metaphor, and rhythm.

And God said that it was good.

Over and over like the hook of a pop song, like a wave sculpting its shores…this is good, this is good.  The poetic refrain of Genesis hammers the wonder and beauty of a creator making a good creation into our hearts.

In a science book, you’d have to discredit a text like this for glaring logical errors like the creation of light before stars, or days before an earth and a sun.  In a poem, you don’t have to worry about such things.  You simply can enjoy it’s beauty and hear the voice of God as it speaks over and over.

By trying to force them into my tiny fundamentalist box, I missed the amazing complexities of nature. I missed the poetic beauty that some ancient writer used to describe that creator.

And I missed the Creator herself.

I missed the creative wisdom in the laws of nature and physics and I settled for a world that was haphazardly spoken into existence.

I’m still forming thoughts and words for what I actually believe about God. But I do know this, the god I worshipped as a fundamentalist was too small.

What if we can trust God not to lie to us? What if the heavens really do declare, and not deceptively lead us away from, God’s glory? What if God gave us brains that could at least in part understand the world around them and those brains really were good?

What if, by trusting that creation is what it seems to be saying it is–old, yet constantly evolving into fascinating newness–we are actually doing God justice? 

As Kenneth Miller says, “As we walk through the gates, aware of the dazzling richness of the genuine biological world, there might even be a smile on the Creator’s face–at long last [God’s] creatures have learned enough to understand [God’s] world as it truly is.”


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No, REALLY, I’m happy.

Yesterday, I wrote about how, for the first time in a long time, I really do feel happy.

And with this cat on my head, how could I not be?

And with this cat on my head, how could I not be?

Funny, though, how the happier I get the more people insist that I’m not happy at all. 

I get that a lot. “You’ve become so miserable and bitter.”…”Ever since you left church [read: the fundamentalist church] you’ve just been miserable.”…”Remember when you loved Jesus and church and you were so happy?”…”You’ve just become an angry feminist! Can’t you just enjoy your life?”

Last year at this time I might not have had an answer to those statements. I was miserable. When I first began questioning my faith and became a feminist, I had to go through an agonizing period of detox (something that I plan on writing about in more detail another time). Such words might have tempted me to go back.

But I didn’t go back. I pushed through to freedom.

So now when someone tries to tell me that I’m miserable, the only way I can respond is, “No, I’m not.”

But I get this now and then. Sometimes from people who haven’t seen me in years and don’t really know me well enough to make such a comment, but usually from people close to me who really should know better.

I’ve been pondering reasons why this could be and have come up with a few possibilities.

1. Maybe the mask I used to wear really was that good. Maybe, back in my fundamentalist days when you had to be “in-right, out-right, up-right, down-right happy all the time” in order to be a good Christian, I just did that good of a job pretending I did have the “joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart (where?).”

I suppose it wouldn’t help to tell people that I cried on my bed every night asking God to save me over and over, just in case I didn’t do it “right,” because I was terrified of hell.

I guess it wouldn’t help to say that I was being abused by a Christian man and sexually harassed by a pastor’s son, but couldn’t tell anyone. That I had to stuff down all the hate I had toward those men, even after I escaped both situations, because I thought I had to “forgive them.”

I suppose it wouldn’t help to say that during my first two years of college (at a Christian school) I was addicted to self-injury.

People see what they want to see and remember what they want to remember. I had some happy moments “back then,” but “happy” wasn’t a word that would describe my everyday life.

2. Maybe some people equate my outspokenness against abuse as unhappiness. When I was a fundamentalist, it was a sign that you loved Jesus and were happy about what Jesus did for you (whatever that was) if you were loud and in-your-face about it. Every Facebook status had to be a Bible verse or some note of condemnation against the enemies of happiness (atheists, homosexuals, democrats, you know…).

Now, when I talk about the things that make me happy (feminism, Universalism, a belief in love and justice), or call out “enemies of happiness,” (abusers, misogynists, bigots), that’s equated with unhappiness.

I guess I can see that. My talking about the injustice that exists in the world doesn’t put a smile on my face, that’s for sure. But I’m happy, and I want everyone to be happy to. That’s hard when so much injustice exists. I could never truly find happiness until I started working against that injustice, calling it out, doing whatever small part I can to fight it.

3. Maybe I just can’t be happy (in their minds) because my happiness is too threatening. Growing up as a fundamentalist, I learned that anyone who was not a “Christian” (read: a personal-salvation-believing, KJV-only, Independent Fundamental Baptist) couldn’t sleep at night for fear of death and hell. I learned that everyone outside of the IFB church had a God-shaped hole in their heart that could never be filled until they trusted Jesus as their personal savior, burned their rock music, converted to Republicanism, and otherwise conformed to the IFB way of thinking.

We had to talk about those who left “the faith” as if they were miserable–like the prodigal son, friendless, starving, eating pig slop out of desperation. Even if they seemed happy, we had to imagine them crying into their pillow at night, or turning their hearts into stone.

We had to think like this, because if those “outside the faith” were truly, sustainably happy then our extremely exclusive religion fell apart. If other people could be happy, maybe we weren’t the only ones who were “right with God.” If other people could be happy, maybe other people could be “right with God.” Maybe other ways of living/seeing the world were viable.

That was just too much for me to accept, for years.

So, maybe those who deny my happiness have the same “house of cards” faith that I once did. Maybe my existence as a happy person is a threat to that.

Who knows? But the fact is, I’m happy. I may not convince everyone that this is true, but you know what? To hell with convincing people.

I’m happy. Others’ disbelief isn’t going to change that.