Saturday, March 31, 2012

I Won't Bow to Your Idols

On facebook today I saw a beautiful poster, flowers and fancy script, with these words:

A doctor may save your life;
A lawyer may defend your life;
A soldier can give you a peaceful life;
But only JESUS can give you everlasting life!

I have a bit of a problem with the line about the soldier, but overall I find nothing wrong with this little poster.  Jesus is the source of everlasting life!  He gives us life, and life more abundantly!  That is the good news in a nutshell, and it is worth telling everyone the whole world over.  The Author of life loves you, wants to dwell in and with you, live through you, and after this reality is over, receive you into an everlasting habitation, a place where you (finally and truly) BELONG.

I love Jesus.  I love the gospel.  We should proclaim the Lord's great love and sacrifice for us all, everywhere we go.  To Jesus be the glory always.

Which is why, when I read the accompanying comment, it made me so mad.  I absolutely loathe the idolatry going on in America today, where allegiance to the so-called "Biblical" political beliefs has replaced Jesus as the apex of our faith.  The person writes under this poster:

After returning home from 10 days in the acute care section of the hospital quotes such as this are more meaningful than ever. What a comfort our God is. The Biblical Worldview is the only one with all the answers.
See that?

 She posts a poster claiming that Jesus gives eternal life, and then replaces "Jesus" with the words "Biblical Worldview" in her own words beneath said poster.  It is not Jesus who has the answers to life's questions.  No, it is the "biblical worldview" that she truly worships.

And that, in a nutshell, says about all there is to say about the state of American Christianity today, at least in my neck of the woods.

I will remain loyal to Jesus and to Jesus alone.  Right wing politics, old earth creationism, misogyny, homophobia, and patriarchy be damned.  It angers me that these political positions have replaced Jesus as being worthy of praise and worship.  It angers me that people now promote that salvation lies in accepting and affirming these political positions, rather than in the person of Jesus Christ.

What a sad, sad state of affairs the Western church has created for itself.  In the memorable words of Steve Taylor, "True believers won't be snowed."

Pray for all of us who remain loyal to Jesus, that we won't be coerced into bowing to the idols set up by fundamentalism.  It's getting really creepy out there!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Unwelcome Epiphany or What Christianity is to Me

Growing up a scapegoated child of a narcissist affected my personality development in many ways.  Some of those ways have turned out to be assets; others not so much.  I like to think that the good outweighs the bad over time, as I shed the destructive traits and celebrate the positives.

I am a major Girl Scout at heart, working so hard to always "do the right thing". This drive to always make the sacrifice, go the extra mile, avoid even the appearance of any negative trait like "lazy, unconcerned, careless, sloppy" has affected my relationships in different ways.  Bosses loved it, of course.  I put my all into any  job, no matter what it paid or didn't.  It makes me an A student: never miss a class, a deadline, or pass on an extra credit.  My children received an excellent education, as I was never casual or unconcerned when it came to home schooling.  I avoid debt, pay my bills on time, and generally make healthy choices where diet and exercise are concerned.

The dark side of this trait is the motivation.  I have been accused of every evil character trait, motivation and practice under the sun growing up as the scapegoated child.  All of this pursuit of excellence is motivated by an inner compulsion to prove to "them" (my mom and sisters, the world at large) that the accusations are not true.  I live with the pain of being misunderstood, wrongly accused and rejected every day, even though most days I do not openly acknowledge that inner reality.

Another trait I have that is a direct result of growing up the scapegoated child of a narcissist, is the hidden compulsion to get angry, unbalanced people to like me.  I have a long past of falling for friendships with angry, emotionally unbalanced women.  As time has gone on and I have achieved greater levels of emotional healing, this particular trait has diminished.  Like the story of walking down the street and falling into the pit (I'll try to find a link later), I got out of these relationships with less and less damage over time. Eventually came the day where I no longer feel obligated or attracted to befriend such people.

Crazy as it sounds, I was once compelled to make excuses for such people, pray for them, serve them in love, and hope for their wholeness.  The mother of my daughter's abusive boyfriend was the last such "friend".  As awful as that was, I had finally grown to the point that after THAT betrayal, I was done trying to bring healing to crazy women.  It is so obvious to me now that I was recreating my family of origin dynamic, hoping that this time by my super-commitment to love and support, the outcome would be different.  I have had many friendships that fit this dynamic.  All of them ended with my being summarily dumped and vilified by the friend I had sacrificed so much to love.  It was a very familiar story. Except for this last situation, when I finally recognized what I was doing and summarily and unequivocally ended the relationship, forever, end of story.

Growing up the scapegoated child of a narcissist has contributed to my becoming a religious person.  The gospel to me is the story of a God who so loved me (adored me!) that He would never hold anything against me.  In fact, any wrong I was in fact guilty of, He took the blame for me and declared me "not guilty" instead.  In spite of the fact that I was full of shame, and very cognizant of every deficiency (real or merely ascribed) in myself, Jesus loved me.  He wrapped me up in His perfect righteousness and goodness.  This was His doing because He loved me.  He created me, and though I may have looked ugly to everyone else, I was precious to Him.

And so began a love affair with Jesus.  I thank the charismatic preacher who taught me that "who I was in Christ Jesus" was a reality; I just needed to renew my mind to that reality.  I needed to convince my own mind to reject the script it was given in my formative years, and replace it with God's truth.  He loved me with an everlasting love.  I was holy and blameless before him in love.  I was his chosen, royal, holy, peculiar treasure, created to be loved by Him and to share that love with others.  I was now the temple of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within me, (ME!), who will lead and guide me into all truth, and who makes me an able minister of the life-giving Spirit to others.  Christ, the hope of glory, dwells in me.  I am the temple of the Living God; Christ lives in me; I am a member of His body.

I could go on, but you get the point.

I threw myself into my walk with God with the same zeal I put into everything.  I don't regret that for one minute.  I will always love Jesus, and there is nothing on earth as beautiful to me as the One I know as Jesus.

But here is the unwelcome epiphany: the church, the religion of American Christianity, is just another narcissistic mother to me.  *ouch*

I spent the last thirty years walking with Jesus, but that's not all.  I was also trying to earn the church's approval and love.  For those (relatively few) believers who actually know Jesus and believe the (true) gospel, I don't need to do anything to earn their approval or love.  We instantly connect. The shine in their eyes and the smile of their faces match mine as we share our experiences with the Divine Love who is Jesus Christ.  The words of Jesus are true: the world will recognize we are truly born-again, Spirit-filled by our love.  It's a tangible love.  It's not something that needs to be worked up or worked on.  We have it.

The organization, on the other hand, is a whole different story.  It just struck me today how much like my narcissistic mother the church really is!  When you go to church, you will be ignored at best, unless you have recently done something for the people in charge.  Tithing is good; tithing when you're rich is even better.  Service counts, but only if you also give financially.  Service alone is suspect.  Affirmations to those  in leadership, while helpful, is only a temporary lift to your status.  Affirmations to those in leadership, combined with money AND service, that's the way to obtain approval from mother church.

Except it's not.  Even that is only as good as your most recent contribution.  If their are wealthier people in your congregation who give a higher dollar amount, are willing to do more acts of service and/or who agree more completely with everything your leadership says, then it does not matter how "faithful" you are.  It's a weekly competition, and all you have to do to fall of the top ten standings, is fail to be giving the very most comparative to others.  All they taught you about "God looks at heart" is true, but it is not true of the church. The church claims to stand in the place of God, to be God's representative on earth, but these businesses with buildings and denominational affiliations (or proud lack thereof) are not who they claim to be.

Very few churches lift up the Lord Jesus Christ and his great love for humanity every Sunday.  It is far more likely that there will be a forty-five minute to an hour harangue about sin.  If you are not guilty of this sin, then you are in denial and full of pride (definitely been the topic of at least one of these sermons, as it's a recurring theme, along with unforgiveness, and the sin of not being committed enough to the church) to even think such thoughts.  People may go to hear about Jesus, but what they get is their weekly castigation.  I used to go every time the door was open! That was a minimum of three times a week.

I went to the ladies Bible studies mid-week, worked in the nursery, and when my own children were born, dutifully set about to train them up to live within this subculture.  What should have been a weekly celebration of who Jesus is, how much He loves us, and how much He loves our neighbors too, was instead a weekly smack down of some area in our lives that was not up to par.  I did my best to conform to this mother culture of American Christianity, and try to win her approval and earn her acceptance.  I could not see that I was just recreating my family of origin issues in my adult life.

I am thrilled that someone shared the pre-eminence of Christ with me as a young child in my Grandma's Baptist church. That was the foundation of the faith back in the '60s, thought is has long since been abandoned.  Gender roles, the age of the earth, even political positions have replaced Jesus.  Of course they claim that such positions and practices have developed out of loyalty to Christ, but anyone who really knows Jesus sees the deception in such statements.  These men (and their women) don't preach the gospel.  There is no good news in what they preach or practice.

I am thrilled that I passed on the truth about Jesus to my children, and I am so glad I home schooled them so that they could see what genuine love, genuine faith and genuine worship look like. I am so glad they didn't go to a Christian school, where they would daily be taught lies about God and how He sees them and feels about humanity.  I understand their fascination with zombie movies.  I think most of the American church is being taught that living as religious reanimated corpses who want to eat (take over) the brains of the rest of humanity is what Jesus was describing when He promised eternal life and told us to go and make disciples of all men.

What I know of Jesus is not a doctrine, not a discipline, not a dispensation.  He is the Living God, and He is as real as the billion years old stars up in the sky.  He loves His creation, including and without exclusion the amazing and precious human beings who have same sex attractions.  He is above time, without gender, without limits of any kind.  He still dwells with us through the Holy Spirit, who really does blow into people's lives and fill them with Life- abundant Life, eternal Life.  You can see it in the faces of those who have experiences this Life.  It's not the result of saying words or agreeing with a doctrine.  It's the result of a real encounter with the Living God.

My unwelcome epiphany is that being a part of the American church is as futile and self-destructive as trying to get my mother to love me.  It is a waste of my time, and is doomed to end in rejection and exile.  If I could only be happy with the crumbs that will be tossed my way on occasion, I could stay longer. But if I don't leave of my own accord, I will be pushed out summarily at some point anyway.  It is inevitable, because the religious hierarchy is one narcissistic bitch at heart. That's probably why I stayed so long; it felt familiar.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My faith journey as of today, 3/20/2012

Years ago, I was so encouraged by a book that I read, and specifically challenged by a particular chapter.  The book, Your God is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan, makes an analogy about walking with Jesus in step with the indwelling Holy Spirit and journeying into the African wilds.  Once one leaves Country A, and before one arrives in Country B and begins that journey into what the author refers to spiritually as "the Holy Wild", there is a safe zone, a no man's land, which the author calls the Borderlands.  In the real world borderlands, people take up residence and live their whole lives in that small, but safe, strip of land between countries.  Pastor Buchanan challenges believers to leave the safety of the predictable spiritual borderlands and head out into the Holy Wild with Jesus.  I love that book!

One chapter especially, The Ethics of a Dangerous Faith, has been especially meaningful to me.  It speaks of how the Pharisees have an ethic of avoidance, not touching anything that might make them unclean.  Jesus, on the other hand, has an ethic of involvement, Buchanan writes, whereby Jesus went to places that were not clean and by his involvement brings healing and wholeness to them.

In my continued zeal to live an ethic of involvement, I got burned.  Not only did I get burned, but I watched as my daughter also got burned.  Her first boyfriend was from an unclean family, shall we say.  Our borderland church didn't want him around, but he seemed to me sincere in his interest in changing his life.  My family rearranged our whole lives to include him, hoping by our involvement, prayers and encouragement to bring healing not only to him but to his family as well.  We found a new church that was more welcoming.  I would get up at 5:30 in the morning on Sundays to meet this kid's mom for coffee and conversation, and then pick up her son for church.  I even home schooled him his last year of school so that he could graduate from high school.

And for awhile, it seemed to "take", so to speak.  Then came a fateful day and a fateful decision on the mom's part, one in which it was plain that she was rejecting a life of faith.  I remained a friend to her, but the writing was on the wall.  Not too long after came the day that her son also chose her lifestyle, going back to his old ways.  I tried to overlook it at first, but eventually there was no denying.  I was no longer being any kind of witness.  I was just an enabler at that point.

So I wisely broke off the relationship, but there was one big problem.  My daughter had fallen in love with the boy.  For another two years she continued to follow after his heart, seeing him against our advice.  He cheated on her, repeatedly, and was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive.  She finally cut him loose for good almost two years ago, but he continues to stalk her.  Every few months, he messages her from a new facebook account that she hasn't blocked, or opens a new email account to contact her. Sometimes he is insulting and ugly, at other times he flatters and tries romance, and on still other occasions he appears as pitiful and tries to stir up her compassion.

Thankfully she's on to him now.  She refuses to respond, but it still takes its toll on her.  He's married and a father now, and he still cyberstalks  my daughter.  I know it's not the "Christian" thing to write, but I hate him.  I don't care what happens to him, and I wish I had never shown him any kindness at all.  I would love to have back all the money and time I poured into trying to be Jesus to that boy and his family.  They sucked us dry and left us all with shattered hearts.

I thought I had found a safe fellowship of believers in which to heal and recover.  I hoped it would be a safe haven for my QF escapee friend and my daughter as well.  It may have been that way when I first started attending, but things sure went downhill in a hurry over the last year or two.  I know the pastor started listening to Mark Driscoll (not a very Lutheran thing to do) .   He's an indirect communicator, so I missed the significance when he dropped this  news.  I didn't even know who Mark Driscoll was yet! But my pastor was trying to tell me that he was a misogynist, and that I wasn't welcome there anymore. I believe his words to me were: "You won't like this, but I am a Mark Driscoll fan."

LOL at myself.  I was just as clueless as when my Plymouth Brethren brother-in-law started name dropping Phil Lancaster.  I guess because I am a woman, who is filled with the Holy Spirit and confident in the love of God for me, that these misogynists think of me as an informed feminist.

Anyway, all this to say, my faith has been discombobulated for some time.  I was/am reassessing everything I know about God, Christianity, the Bible and well, Jesus.  I came across two links yesterday that did my heart much good, so I thought I'd share them:

Mark Buchanan's blog
An interview with Jimmy Carter

I had a wonderful time of fellowship with the Lord today, and it looks like I might even go to church this Sunday.  I am looking for a church that would welcome Jimmy Carter.  Wish me well!  SS

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

EMDR and moving on with life

We just got back from a family vacation.  It was so nice to have both of my children and my husband with me, enjoying the relaxing days and nights.  It was also something of a milestone.

Two years ago on vacation, my husband was  not the man he is today.  He was (had been) an abusive bully for many years, but I was just waking up to it.  I was only beginning to read  Passive-Aggression: A Guide for the Therapist, the Patient and the Victim and visit web sites about domestic abuse, putting it all together.  For years I had been accommodating my husband's behavior (I am such a forgiving person) and putting it all behind me, only to have new painful letdowns occur every few weeks.  Since he had only been physically violent once, I was still unsure that what I was experiencing was abuse.  In fact, this blog is the story of my awakening to that fact, and how I have chosen to respond in light of this knowledge.

Two years ago, he engaged in behavior that was unmistakably, straight off of the checklist, abusive behavior. When I was terrified, confused, and shrinking against the wall, crying and praying, he snuck up next to me and snarled a loud "BOO!" in my ear.

I had my answer. No question about it: this is clearly intentional emotional abuse.  Who DOES that to someone they love?!

Now two years later, I have good news.  My husband lived a life of love and self-control on our vacation.  Any request I made, he happily complied.  Any time I was concerned about anything, he listened and adapted.  We actually had a very good time together, all the time, the whole week.  And now that he's home?

Still good.

What are the factors to his healing/improvement?

Well, I am more independent in every way.  I am well on my way to achieving my career goals.  I was accepted into the school to which I applied (I was told only 15 are accepted out of 500 applicants).  I am maintaining a high GPA.  I am in therapy, on the final stages of EMDR and soon to be done with that.  I think this determination to take care of myself, and not be dependent on my husband for anything is key.  I don't need him emotionally.  If I go to talk to him and he is aloof, I just stop what I'm saying, get my inner bearings straight, and walk away without a word.  Sometimes he apologizes and chases me down, wanting to know what I was going to say.  The thing is, it doesn't hurt me anymore.  I really don't care if he wants to be there for me or  not.  I am well capable of hashing out my thoughts on my own, or with a friend. I don't NEED him to be there for me.  Oddly enough, this inspires him to be there for me.  Weird, huh?

He is in trauma therapy and on anti-depressants.  He is getting healthier, and while it may have all started out as a mere attempt to save the marriage, now it is to save himself.  This makes both of us very happy.  He has stopped jumping when his parents call, and we don't go to church anymore.  I think these last two are milestones in his healing at this point.  When he sees his parents next, it will be on his terms.  When he goes to church again, if he ever does, it will be because he wants to, not because he should or as proof he is a good person.

Every night we read together.  Right now we are reading Divine Nobodies by Jim Palmer.  He plays golf, something he does for himself.  I study, something I do for myself.  I also do yoga now, which I love.  I started out with Brooke Boon's Holy Yoga and am exploring the discipline from there.

Some things are sadder.  No one in my family goes to church now.  So much for the home school promise of daily devotions turning out model church-going Christians.  Lolz.  As far as the Christian part goes, though, everyone in my family has a genuine faith and a personal relationship with Jesus.  We are just each and all so burned by organized American Christianity that we are not in church right now.  Prove everything, hold fast to that which is good.  =D

I wish I had a fellowship of believers to take communion with, and to spur one another on to love and good works.  If it's out there, though, the Holy Spirit will have to lead me to it as I live my everyday life.  Visiting churches is such a bummer so much of the time.  So, we'll just see where it all goes from here.

I like where we all are now.  I love my daughter.  I love my son.  I love my husband AND it even looks like he might be fit to live with, not just for the time being, but for some time to come.

This makes me very happy.  Namaste, ya'll! (Loosely translated: the light in me honors the light in you- a yoga version of the song we used to sing in Charismatic church while holding hands and looking into each other's eyes:  "Yes I love you with the love of the Lord, yes I love you with the love of the Lord, I can see in you the glory of my King, and I love you with the love of the Lord."

Peace and good will,