Doubt

“Doubts are the Devil whispering in your ear,” she told him, when he wanted to know how he could be sure that the Gospel was true. “I have doubts too, you just have to tell the devil to go away.”

He was just a little boy. I wasn’t there, I only heard about it after, when she bragged about it online – just doing the Lord’s work. And sometimes it seems that the Lord does want you to believe blindly – Jesus chastized Thomas for wanting to put his fingers in the nail holes in his hands before he’d believe. Jesus seemed upset that Thomas ‘only’ believed after seeing. But why should he have believed what was highly improbable, without evidence? I’m sure he wanted it to be true, but he knew that didn’t make it true.

Elsewhere in the Bible, however, such as in the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered into a building through the roof, Jesus DID offer evidence to believe in him. He healed the man to prove that he had power to forgive sins. So even Jesus doesn’t expect everyone to believe in him without reason all the time. I think we owe it to ourselves to know why we believe what we believe.

I wish I could tell the little boy, doubts mean your brain is working. Doubts mean you are thinking critically. Doubts mean you are less likely to be taken in by lies and ‘vain philosophies’.
Always listen to your doubts. Investigate them. To listen without doubting is to risk wasting your life on something that isn’t true.

To push away doubts un-investigated is to be willfully blind. If something is true, won’t it stand up to scrutiny?

Treasure your doubts, treasure your ability to reason things out for yourself.

Doubt away little boy – figure out the truth for yourself. Don’t believe something just because a grown up tells it to you.
Read a lot of books, look at a lot of evidence, and never ever stop asking questions.

The Greatest Story Ever Told?

“Has it got any sports in it?”

“Are you kidding? Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles.”

~ The Princess Bride

Growing up, I always thought the Gospel was the greatest story ever told, that it had all the elements of a brilliant, epic hero tale. That it was THE hero story, and THE romance story.

God makes people, God loves people, people turn away, God (or God’s son) becomes a man to save the people, he dies for the people, the people become the Bride of Christ, and in the end Christ would return with a sword and conquer evil and bring the Bride home to Heaven.  Everyone, everyone who mattered anyways, would live happily ever after.

When I left the faith, I genuinely wanted to keep believing that the Gospel was a great story. That  even though it wasn’t true, it was up there among the great stories of the world. Maybe I thought that would help redeem some of my childhood. Maybe I wanted the common ground with Christians. However, last Easter, while a very new agnostic, I watched part of the easter program (it was too triggering and my kids were too poorly behaved for me to watch the whole thing), and realized I couldn’t honestly call the story of Jesus a great story. I don’t find the gospel story beautiful – i find it highly problematic. It’s a story of damnation as much as much as of salvation.

The reason the human race needs saved is because sin was passed down from Adam. Here is hypocrisy, because the Law (Dueteronomy 24:16) clearly states that children should not be put to death for the sins of the father, and yet all of mankind is doomed to die – an eternal death if mainstream evangelicalism is to be believed – because of the sin of one man.

And what was the sin? Eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God wanted man to be kept ignorant, and the serpent persuaded them to eat the fruit.

“The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it.” Proverbs 18:15
I’ve never quite understood how Eve’s quest for knowledge was a bad thing.

But at any rate, she and Adam ate the fruit, thereby dooming all their offspring for eternity – except if they can be saved.

And of course, Jesus comes to be the savior. But only for those who truly believe. And the way is narrow, and few shall find it. So this happy ending encompasses very little of humanity. Most of humanity is going to burn in hell and be eaten by worms forever. And we’re supposed to rejoice? This is the best happy ending God could come up with?

I know Christians have answers as to why people deserve hell for refusing the gift, but frankly those answers fall flat. NO ONE deserves eternal torture for disobedience. No one.

Then comes the salvation plan itself – God actually sacrifices his son. God OWNS the son and can sacrifice him. Children are property in that world. He doesn’t even have the decency to keep watch over his son, as he lets his son take on the sin of the world. No, he turns his face away because God can’t look on sin.

At church, I have often heard people marvel at God’s goodness in sacrificing his son. “I couldn’t do it” they would say in awe, as though if they were really loving, they would kill their child to save the world. This frightens me. I have a hard time honoring anyone who (hypocritically, I might add) practices child sacrifice. How is God the hero in this story?

So in the end, the Hero comes on a faulty premise and (again, if mainstream evangelicals are to be believed) saves only a fraction of who he comes to save, and the orchestrator of the whole thing sacrifices his child’s life to himself.

I can’t like that story. I don’t even want to like that story anymore. I watched and read the story with a foreigner’s eyes last year, and it was not beautiful to me.
I appreciate the contribution that the Bible has made to literature, and I think it’s worth reading just because it’s such a major part of our culture.  But I don’t think it stands above all the other stories of its time. And more importantly, I believe people have used it to do a great deal of damage. They use it to bash homosexuals, they use it to teach children that they are dirt and inherently broken and evil, they’ve used it to condone slavery, they’ve used it to slaughter jewish people, they’ve used it to take over countries, they’ve used it to damage relationships and tear down people and abuse children. And none of this is okay.

I usually try to be charitable towards Christianity. I know many Christians who are liberal minded people. I love many Christians who are kind hearted. But right now all I can feel is anger at how this story has destroyed so many lives, and at how it’s affected my own life. There is good in Christianity, but there is also the ugly, and people need to acknowledge that.

This Easter, which used to be a spring festival and has been co opted by this bloody holiday, I will celebrate by acknowledging the harm done in my life in the name of the Gospel, and I will leave it behind again and again, until I can see myself as beautiful, and not inherently broken. This is my spring festival – a new life for myself.

Why I Don’t Like Everything My Husband Likes

Luke likes this British TV show called Spaced. Don’t ask me how he even finds some of the stuff he watches ;)

So he excitedly had me watch an episode of Spaced. I like to enjoy the things that he enjoys.

But I really did not enjoy this show. I thought it was weird, and it stressed me out for some weird reason. I’m really sensitive to media and careful about what I take in.

Once upon a time, i would have felt really bad and tried really hard to like it. But I don’t feel that way any more.

Luke is his own person, and I am my own person. Even though we are married to each other, we retain our own likes, dislikes, hobbies, and personalities.

I used to feel like being married meant my entire personality was subject to Luke’s likes and dislikes. I thought I could only have hobbies that benefited the family, that I could only enjoy things if they were enjoyed with Luke, that as my ‘lord’, he was supposed to absorb my entire being.

I went to church even though it made me physically ill, I ran errands for his role in a play that I didn’t want him to take, I dreamed of one day starting a home business with him, so I could help him with it. I did my best to be a perfect helpmeet. And I was happy. Sort of.

I was still me, and Luke wanted me to be myself, but there was a very real part of me that I lost in him. I had zero boundaries.

Then Luke lost his job as a magazine editor (and i lost my very part time job helping him edit once a month), and got a relatively normal desk job.

And he really liked it, and didn’t forsee quitting to start his own business any time soon. And I felt so lost. How could I be the perfect help meet if he had a desk job that I could barely understand and couldn’t help with at all?

He had, at that time, no hobbies for me to help with, no friends for me to encourage him to go out with… I felt purposeless.

And so I have slowly had to get myself back, to learn that absolute submission does not allow for healthy boundaries, and to learn how to be a person in a marriage while still being myself.

And that is why I said ‘no thank-you, I don’t think I will watch any more Spaced’. So he watches Spaced and British horror movies on his own, and I watch Dance Academy on my own, and I write my blog and he writes what he wants, and together we talk over things and watch Doctor Who. I listen to music he finds but if I don’t like it, I tell him so.
He works and I go to college and keep the kids during the day, and I read books just to learn, to become a smarter and more self-actualized version of myself.

Our marriage is no less healthy for me being a person with boundaries, in fact I think it’s only getting better.

God’s Not Dead – a roundup of posts

I have not yet seen God’s Not Dead, but I have read many posts about it, and wanted to pass some of them on.

How ‘God’s Not Dead’ Gets Nietzsche Wrong - by Justin Hanvey. an explanation of what Nietzsche actually meant when he wrote ‘God is Dead’. As many people have been posting ‘God’s Not Dead’ on facebook lately, I have been greatly annoyed that none of them seem to understand the quote they’re playing off of.

A review by Christopher Hutton – God’s Not Dead (but this film may be close to it) - there are spoilers aplenty in this detailed review of the movie.

And finally, Dan Fincke at Camels with Hammers wrote one post about the movie based on the trailer, and 3 more after it came out. I love his thoughts on the movie because he is a deconverted christian and a real life atheist philosophy professor.

The Atheist Philosophy Professor Strikes Back! (Or, “You’re Right, God’s Not Dead, But He Will Be When I’m Done With Him!”) - in which Dan surmises the plot of the movie from the trailer, and criticizes the old trope of the brave student speaking against the evil atheist philosophy professor.

How “God’s Not Dead” Makes Christians Look Even Worse Than It Makes Atheists Look in which Dan writes his first thoughts on the movie, and on how inhuman it makes some christians look.

A Philosophy Professor Analyzes God’s Not Dead’s Case For God - this is the one I wish I could share with all the christians who liked this movie. in this post, Dan does so much more than analyzes the case for God, he analyzes most of the movie, including it’s portrayal of all non-christians, and he makes the case that the filmmakers have some massive logs in their eyes. This is very long but worth a read.

Final Thoughts Inspired by “God’s Not Dead”: What Makes Some Evangelicals So Intolerable - and in his final post inspired by the movie, Dan delivers a hard hitting demand that Christians have good reasons for their beliefs, and not depend on sincerity to be enough to save them from criticism.

Have you seen other informative or thoughtful posts about God’s Not dead? have you written about it? If so, please share in the comments below

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

A year ago today, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries posted it’s final episode on Youtube.

I discovered LBD sometime in July 2012, I believe. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book, and i was skeptical at first that a youtube series could do it justice. But I watched an episode and then another, and then another….. I binged at first, and if I recall correctly, by the time I caught up we were in Netherfield and were just meeting Bing Lee in person. I then was stuck waiting for every Monday and Thursday, like everyone else.

I left church that late summer/fall (i can’t remember) and it was a difficult time. It was nice to have a different world to escape into several times a week.

LBD was still going strong into the new year, 2013. That is around the time I became deeply depressed. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries were one of the things that kept me alive during that dark time. It was around this time that I began watching them like my life depended it – every episode within minutes of airing. They were my way to a happier world that I couldn’t quite be a part of. But thanks to transmedia, I could be a small part of it. It was like it happened in real time. We could even tweet at the characters, and sometimes they responded to us. The actors themselves sometimes tweeted at the characters, and that always amused me.

The retelling of my favorite story brought the characters into modern times, and added a lot more depth to many of them. Writer Rachel Kiley and actress MK Wiles made Lydia a complex, likeable, and sympathetic character. I saw her in ways I’d never seen her before, and the story of her relationship with Lizzie became one of the most important story threads. I loved it. It was new and fresh and brilliant.

The regularly scheduled episodes and more random tweets gave me something to look forward to when i was incapable of enjoying most things due to depression.

When spring came, I finally started to get help for my mental illness, my depression finally began to lift a little, and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries aired their final episode.

That massive work of art helped me in so many small ways to make it through depression, and I will be forever grateful to Bernie Su, Ashley Clements, and all the other writers and actors that brought my favorite story to modern times.

The Cycle of Abuse in Fireproof

My husband recently rewatched the Christian movie Fireproof. I’ve seen it many times, and caught most of it this time.

I’ve always had trouble listening to the beginning of the movie, when Caleb (the main character) yells at his wife, Catherine. I didn’t know when I first watched it, but the word for my response was ‘triggered’.

The husband, Caleb, is verbally abusive.* The movie makers don’t intend it that way. I think they intend us to see both characters as equally flawed, but he’s screaming demeaning things in Catherine’s face, backing her up against the wall, and later beating a trashcan out of his anger at her. Verbal abuse. It’s really messed up.

Luke said he couldn’t really fault anything that Catherine did in the movie.

The movie gives us every indication that Caleb’s temper in this scene is normal for him, only this time Catherine says ‘I want out’.

Caleb tells his father about this, and the father responds by sending Caleb a handwritten book called ‘The Love Dare’. For forty, Caleb will read the book and do a ‘dare’ to show love to his wife, in an attempt to save their marriage.

When Caleb starts the love dare, there is NO communication. He just acts differently. But the scary thing here is, the change he makes is textbook abuser behavior, according to the cycle of abuse.

It’s called the reconciliation phase, and it often happens when the victim, like Catherine, is getting ready to leave.

Now, I’m not saying people can’t change for good (although abusers are often repeat offenders), I’m just saying Catherine was right not to trust the change. The movie NEVER addresses this.

 

Honestly, this is a couple that could really benefit from facilitated conversation in counseling. They have deep issues that they need to hash out, but they never even communicate on their own. We’re supposed to think that Caleb getting saved will suffice to heal their relationship, but the fact is he’s still a flawed person who has broken Catherine’s trust, and even with a permanent change, this is going to take time and discussion to heal. The sad probability though, is that Caleb has not changed for good, not completely. Christians abuse people all the time, there isn’t any reason to think just because someone professes belief in Christ, that they won’t abuse their loved ones. Even with a positive life change, that change is often not complete.

But that isn’t what the movie teaches. According to Caleb’s dad, his and Catherine’s problems are all because they aren’t Christians. Standing in front of a cross, the father tells Caleb ‘you can’t love her, cuz you can’t give her what you don’t have’.

The idea that only christians can love their spouses and have a successful marriage is not only offensive to non believers and members of other religions, it’s out of line with statistics – the same percent of ‘born again christians’ get divorced as the rest of the population (evangelicals have lower rates).

 

The couple in this movie is already married, but other than that it fits a common pattern for a romance movie. the two persons who will eventually get together have problems, one person falls in love (this time it’s ‘again’), there’s a love triangle even. Eventually, after a stunning lack of communication and some problems, they get together, and they enter the honeymoon phase of the relationship, and we leave them there.

Unfortunately, there’s also a honeymoon phase in the cycle of abuse. It’s what often keeps a person in an abusive relationship, the hope of lasting change and happiness. The problem is, the honeymoon phase seldom lasts. Unless the abuser really changes (and in the movie, Caleb’s temper problem is never addressed, it’s just wiped aside when he ‘gets saved’) the abuse will start again.

The way problems are wiped aside and never dealt with in Fireproof is troubling. In real life, they would be almost certain to come up again.

This movie is scary because it is intended as a ministry to struggling married couples, the Love Dare is even sold in stores, and there is a marriage curriculum based on the movie, but its example to couples of not communicating and letting their faith in God do all the work in the marriage is unhealthy and unhelpful.

 

*Hat tip to Sarah Moon for livetweeting the movie a few months ago and making me realize this for the first time. She wrote a blog post about it here.

a review of Complex PTSD by Pete Walker

Complex PTSD was recommended to me by a friend on a forum I’m in, and I have found it very helpful.

It is, by it’s title, a book for those with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I think it would be helpful for anyone who grew up in a sometimes traumatic family, who has a strong inner critic, or who struggles with depression that includes negative self thoughts, especially if those thoughts are echoes of your parents’ voices.

The most helpful concept I learned in this book was the emotional flashback, when the brain shifts back into younger thinking patterns and the old feelings of being attacked. An emotional flashback, unlike a standard PTSD flashback, is usually not visual, and it may last a very long time. The book discusses how to recognize an emotional flashback, and what to do when you find yourself in one.

The book also delves into the concept of the inner critic, a concept i was already familiar with, and spends a great deal of time talking about how to shrink the inner critic, and also how to shrink the outer critic (the inner voice that directs criticism outwards at others).

I appreciated the practical advice, and I recommend this book to anyone who grew up in a traumatic home, or who loves someone who did.

I made a goal of reading at least one book a month for learning, and this is everything I have read so far this year:
The God Delusion – in january.
Fiction- carpe jugulum – in January
Are you my mother by Alison Bechdel – February
Fun home by Alison Bechdel – February
The Drama of the Gifted Child by Allison Miller – February
Complex-PTSD by Pete Walker – March

next up is The Ethical Project, by Philip Kitcher