24 December 2012

Merry Christmas Eve

This year's Christmas is very odd for me. I've been doing all of this reflecting and thinking about my beliefs in the last year. And I love the season, but I haven't thought of the religiosity of it this year. Not until this weekend. Then here it is, right in my face, CHRISTMAS.

What I wish Christmas was like.
I love Christmas because of the twinkle lights, the Christmas tree smell in the house, baking cookies, sitting and doing nothing, listening to Christmas music, opening presents (yeah, I never grew out of that), singing Christmas carols, watching Christmas movies.

I hate Christmas because it's another holiday I have to juggle family. Now that my mom is remarried, there's more extended family to add to the mix. People who are essentially strangers. I don't want to spend the holidays with strangers. I'd rather be with my sister and my grandma right now.

I remember at one time back in college, I had a really hard time with reconciling the non-religious parts of Christmas with the religious ones. Because Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ and Santa was evil. But more and more I've been thinking about how the 'secular' part of Christmas is actually the Christmas that everyone gets all nostalgic over. And considering the evolution of the holiday, it's okay. Because trees and lights and songs about 'Winter Wonderlands' have more to do with celebrating the winter solstice than Jesus. And it's okay to celebrate the winter solstice because this planet we live on turns round and round the sun and we are part of this world. It's a seasonal marker and I think it's important for us to interact with our world and enjoy it.

Also, if you think about Christmas from a Jewish perspective, Christmas is EVERYWHERE and there's no escaping it. I like Jon Stewart's take on this:
The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The War on Christmas: Friendly Fire Edition
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

It's sermons like the one I heard on Sunday at church with my mom and her husband that make me hate Christmas. The pastor used Titus 2:11-14 has his text basis, which is: "11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

To sum up, he brought the death of Christ into the birth of Christ. His primary message was, 'we are waiting for Jesus to come back, because then we can leave this world, so make sure you live a moral self-controlled life and think about how Jesus' death was the only way you'd ever be a good person ever ever.' Then he used an analogy. He said that God's Judgment is like a big fast train, and you are in your car, stuck on the track. Door locks are stuck, car won't start, and you're about to be hit. Then Jesus, who is in the car right behind you, pushes your car out of the way and he takes the hit of the train.

I hate it when pastors do that. Can't they let go of the 'you don't deserve this salvation from God' for just one holiday? The one that is supposed to be about celebrating life? It makes me sick. That analogy turns God into an angry out of control machine who has no control over who gets punished because he has to dole out the judgment according to these certain rules that God can't break. Even though God is supposed to be able to do anything.

The message of righteousness and self control is all well and good unless it's the only message you have heard for your entire life. Self control only led to self denial and self hatred for me. It made me loath myself because I had been brainwashed into thinking that I haven't got a good bone in my body and that I don't deserve love.

My hope is not in his death, my hope is in his life. The one he lived. Why should 33(ish) years be overshadowed by three days? The Gospels are primarily ministry stories. So let's celebrate his birth as the beginning of the forgiveness and redemption of his life.

Basically, you know, it's a weird Christmastime for me this year. Full of awkward extended family interactions, a continuing anger at evangelicalism, and not opening my mouth when I want to scream at my family to wake the fuck up and have compassion for those who live outside of some strict moral code. Because I'm one of them now.

So Happy Birthday, Jesus (even though it's supposed to be in April).
Happy birthday.

06 December 2012

Interruptions to the Creed series

And no, I don't mean Creed as in the 'can you take me higher' stuff.

I mean, this exploration of me trying to understand the Nicene Creed and my own current belief system.

This is an interruption in several ways.
  1. I've been super busy and haven't had the time to write down my thoughts.
  2. My personal down time from being busy has been consumed by reading lots and lots of interesting articles online (thanks facebook friends! :D ) that have actually been making me think about things in a completely different way. I'm wondering if it's even a worthwhile endeavor to go through the Creed, when I don't think that having the right 'belief' is the most important thing anymore. Here are a few of the articles I've thought are noteworthy, and you should take a look. I might try to go into more depth on what I think of them at a later time.
3. I went a little crazy last night. Like delirious from being stressed. I had to go to the doctor without insurance and the last of my money only paid for half of it. Flabbergasted at generosity that I don't deserve. Getting lost on the way to work and being late because of the stupid doctor's office taking three frickin hours. Trying to balance wardrobe crises from both of my jobs, while not being able to be present for both. My car almost got towed. All of this on a less than stellar sleeping and eating pattern that I've barely maintained since August. Or maybe even since I started grad school.

So I went a little crazy. I yelled at God while driving home from set. I don't think I've ever yelled at God. I always assumed that it's something you Just. Don't. Do. Don't disrespect or anger the guy in the sky, because he might punish you for it. Just like how I've heard people say stuff like, 'don't ask God to soften your heart for such-and-such, because he just might give you what you want.' Yesterday was simply one of the most stress-filled days I've had in at least the last five years (which happens to include senior year at Westmont, an incredibly stressful time and nothing compared to my yesterday). I'm so tired of feeling the way I do. And the funny thing is, I felt better after yelling at God. It felt amazing to completely express the anger I feel toward God and the world. I have been so angry this past year because of how very 'not okay' everything is in my life and the world. Afterwards, I felt goofy and weird and free. I felt more like myself than I have in the past year. I was willing to just say anything and do anything. I didn't care if it was wrong or going to offend or make me look stupid. Because all the yelling and all the anger I let go at the guy in the sky meant there weren't any consequences because I probably pissed him off anyway.

Except for the fact that that very line of reasoning goes against everything I think I believe about God. It's a thought pattern that lives inside me and I can't shake it. I hate it with all the brain power I can muster. I feel like I've never known how to understand grace and forgiveness of God. All my life I've been told about the truth of it only to have them (usually pastors and their sermons) turn around and say that I'm not good enough, I don't deserve anything, you're a big fat ol sinner. Come to the cross, they say. Nail your sins to the cross. What about the sin of not loving yourself enough? Because I'd like to hear one.

4. I'm angry that I don't understand where or when my faith as I knew it up and left. I'm angry that I'm so lonely. I'm angry that 'being a Christian' has never helped that loneliness go away. I'm angry that the ritual of non-denominational church practice is paraded as the best way to discover God and I feel like I've never known 'him.' I'm angry that I don't know if God actually exists. I'm angry about how conservative Christian political right values pervades my existence despite my best efforts to run away from it. I'm angry at all the ways that I have felt shamed by the church for no effing good reason. I'm angry that 'freelance' means that I work 90 hours a week, seven days a week for less than minimum wage. I'm angry that beliefs I don't agree anymore with are ingrained into my consciousness that my knee-jerk reactions are things that I don't want. I'm angry that healthcare costs so much, with or without insurance. I'm angry that it's not feasible to take public transportation for my job because gasoline ruins both my budget and the environment. I'm angry at men like Todd Akin. I'm angry that this world doesn't treat women with more respect. I'm angry at the constant focus on sex. I'm angry that the church has an obsession with genitals rather than compassion for the poor and needy. I'm angry that I'm so busy trying to make enough money just to buy food that I don't actually take action on my beliefs about helping the poor and needy. It makes me feel guilty, even though I'm just trying to survive my own damn life.

I need love so badly.
Where is the redemption?

04 December 2012

I love this. I want to have that kind of sass.

14 November 2012

The Nicene Jesus, Part 1 of 4

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,


This upcoming section is the bulk of the Nicene Creed. It's all about Jesus. God the 'Father' gets five lines, the Holy Spirit gets four lines, and four lines for 'miscellaneous.'

How many does Jesus get?
Twenty. Twenty lines of clarifying a belief about a person.

Now, I get it. Jesus is super important, guys. Also, considering the roller coaster that the early Church went through, they had to get specific. They needed to make sure that everyone knew that Jesus was a certain kind of Person-God and not something else. If I had Harry Potter magic, I would legilimens the sh*t out of that Council. Seriously. I am very very curious about how it actually went down. Because, let's face it, the victors write the history. God only knows what Constantine told them to write.

Wow, that makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist of history. No wonder the History Channel keeps making those shows about aliens, the Knights Templar, and the Illuminati. So much intrigue just in second guessing someone's intentions. You can't ever really know what's true if people burn letters. Or delete facebook posts.

Right. Jesus. Let's get back on subject now, shall we?

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

'Lord' Κύριον or Kyrion in Greek. Meaning lord, master, owner or sir. Much like the use of 'señor' in Spanish. It is a title designating superiority. 'Jesus.' Yeshua in Hebrew. A common name back then. A common name in Hispanic Catholic culture. The Western English correlation is Joshua, or Yehoshuah in Hebrew. Yeshua means 'to rescue, to deliver' or 'he saves.'

'Christ' Χριστόν or Christon in Greek. Coming from the Hebrew of meshiach or messiah. The Anointed One. I actually have 'Χριστός' (Christos) tattooed on my back. Not too many people know about it, mostly because my clothes cover it about 95% of the time. I got in back in 2007. '

I don't know how I feel about it anymore, just as I don't know what exactly I believe anymore, which is sort of the whole point of this experiment. I thought back then it was a good choice because Christos is the one thing that I never thought would change for me. A 'safe' tattoo. The truth is, nothing is 'safe.' I've been thinking about adding to it by getting a gnarled looking tree to spiral up my back, a metaphor that Christos is the root of the tree of life. Or maybe a phoenix, the letters being the beginnings of the resurrection, the rebirth, and all that changes.

Anyway, back to the point.
One Lord, Jesus Christ. One Kyrion Yeshua Christon.
The Anointed One who Saves and is Superior to all.
I can dig that.

Now why exactly is he considered Superior to all? That's what's next.

the only Son of God

No one else is the literal Son of God. We are metaphorical sons and daughters to God, but Jesus is THE Son, and there is no one else like him. An invisible God has a physical child. Really, the idea is just plain weird.

Okay, okay, I'm forgetting the context I think. Back then, Caesar was the son of god. The king was born of god and held divine rights over all. As king, they inherit the rights of god. I think contemporary Western sensibilities about equality make me question that ideology, but it was common in the ancient world. I mean, they made all kinds of statues of these guys.

There's also the Hebrew tradition of the Son of God being the hopeful redeeming figure of the Scriptures to help the people through their years in exile in Babylon. He is the Son of God as a prophetical fulfillment. There's a line later about the virgin birth etc, so I won't go into that now. But that's a really grand statement to make, 'only Son of God.' Not really sure my little explanation even covers what that actually means and what the implications are.

eternally begotten of the Father,

Now that idea is just kind of nutty. Okay, not nutty, it's just...strange. Strange phrasing, strange declaration. 'Begotten' meaning has been born or has been caused. A past participle that is eternal, somehow. It's a paradox. And what does this mean to be eternally, or continuously born? It's like when Nicodemus asked Jesus about this business of being 'born again' (a phrase that has been butchered to death by Protestants, I don't think it has the right meaning anymore). Essentially would this mean that Jesus' eternality of birth means spiritually, not actually? It would make more sense in the context of how Jesus has talked about birth himself.

Back then, birth was something the average man would have known nothing about. Now, I'm no expert on ancient midwifery practices, but I would say that it's likely it was mostly women in the room. And Jesus probably never experienced a birth other than his own. I find it a little odd that there are so many birthing metaphors in Scripture when it's been predominantly written by men (the book of Hebrews being the only exception scholars have proposed as being written by a woman). Which makes the definition of 'being caused' for 'begotten' make more sense to me. Except I think there's a heresy about Jesus 'being caused.' I'll have to look into that.

Google translates that phrase as 'begotten before all ages.' Now that is much better. That suggests that Jesus was present at the beginning of the world and even before that. Though I think we still have to go with a spiritual understanding of 'begotten.' Because if he physically existed in a time and place on earth, then that physical existence would have to abide by our laws of physics and he could not exist prior to that birth. Unless parallel worlds are real. Because I have this idea relating to that about the resurrection of the body, but that is still a few posts down the road.

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,

God, Light, True God. These little phrases are an affirmation of the theology of the Trinity. That Jesus comes from God and is also God. I like the mention of Light. Because I think of the first chapter of John, which I think is a beautifully poetic description of Jesus' entrance into the world. It feels like it comes from the same vein as the creation poetry of Genesis 1, an idea that Paul latched onto in Romans 5, by calling Jesus the Second Adam. Maybe? I think I need to look more into the exegesis of Romans to grasp that idea better. But I'm here to talk about the Nicene Creed, not Paul.

But if you think about it in another way. How does one produce light from light that already exists? A mirror? Would that make Jesus a reflection of God?

Now my brain hurts.
Thus ends part one of four.
Four? Really?
Yep, for realsies. Otherwise these posts would be even longer than this one.

31 October 2012

God the 'Father'

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is,
seen and unseen.

We believe in one God 

Really, this seems quite straight forward. But there are so many, many assumptions. 

'One God': yes, I believe in one God. But I think that humans call 'him' many things. I see more God in my agnostic/Buddhist/whatever friends who help me move from one house to another, who offer advice and love when needed, who have more grace for my pitfalls than any of my Christian friends, who have more faith in me to do great things than I ever could. If God is Love than all expressions of that Love are the One True God. That includes all religions. Because if we/I truly believe that God is bigger than all I can think or imagine...well, I can imagine that God has been so desperately trying to connect with the world that he shows up as the Allah, Brahman, Zeus, Jesus, the source of Higher Consciousness and it's up to the humans to get that revelation a little wrong. Believing that God is all of these does not make the understanding any less potent, that is a deception of an us vs them worldview to say that if one thing is right, then the whole belief system is right and everyone else's is wrong. That's outdated modernity. God has been subjected to cultural interpretation for as long as humans have had a consciousness of a power outside themselves. He is the oneness that connects us all together, and makes us all the same at the foot of the cross. And whatever actions that are done in his name, if they result in love and peace, then they come from God. Actions that result in hate, anger, bullying, or any multitude of sins, they are not from God. 

the Father, the Almighty

There is this whole question of 'he,' or 'Father.'

God is not a 'he,' it's simply the most convenient way to refer to God especially since English does not afford a pronoun of neutrality other than 'it.' It is also the most traditional way because of the rampant misogyny of the church. I really don't like referring to God as 'it' because it's not personal enough.
And I still believe in the personhood of God.
I don't really think of God in terms of 'he' or 'she' anymore, it only comes out that way in speech, but not in my thought patterns. But in terms of being created in the 'image of God,' I honestly don't know what that means. I think the super religious Christians are overly obsessed with genitalia. The thought of ascribing God both physical features of a male and female is not weird to me, because I have become used to what the drag world looks like, it is simply the incorrect focus. God is both 'he' and 'she' without us knowing what that means physically. Just as you do not know, nor need to know if someone who is transgender still has all the sexual organs they were born with or not. You don't need to know, it's not your business. But in all honesty, God the Mother/Father is probably not physical anyway. Jesus was/is. 

maker of heaven and earth

Yes, I believe God made all of heaven and earth. But I'm not a creationist anymore. I left that behind about four years ago. God was the Big Bang. And he was there with creation as it formed. 
I'm interested in what it might mean if there are other Earth-like planets out there. Are there any human like creatures out there?  Did Jesus die for them too? And by 'out there' I mean completely beyond the reach of our telescopes. Something so far, we don't even see the light. The light is one of the things that really converted me to a Big Bang/evolution believing lady. That and string theory. Because if the light takes a million years to reach Earth, you would have to say that God defies his own laws just to prove that he could make the world in six days. That idea seems so ridiculous to me now.  

Those passages in Genesis are poetry, not science.

If God didn't want us to creatively use our minds to discover and be enraptured by his world and all its complexities, then we would still be monkeys. Even then, what are the laws of physics when they are discovering such things in the quark world that completely defy what we observe to be true about the big things?

Also, belief in evolution completely changed my understanding of God. Because if God is a God who likes to watch his world change, unfold, grow and develop into something new every day, then that is how he sees us. This mentality of 'create, perfect, done' that is spouted by creationists then puts the pressure on the human being to think of themselves that way. 'God made you perfect, why are you not behaving perfectly??' is how I have felt most of my life. It helped me feel ashamed of who I was rather than accepting that I am a growing changing person who will always be growing and changing and that God loves me that way.  

God loves this planet so much. 
 He loves this universe. It's gorgeous in the gaseous violence that occurs in the stars every second of every day (which, to be fair, I'm using a metaphor with concept of time, which is a relative thing depending on gravity and rotation and doesn't exist in the same way on other planets, stars, or in the darkness of empty space).
This is the core of the difference between the political left and right on environmentalism. If the right's worldview says 'the world was once perfect, now it's all just going to hell in a handbasket,' of COURSE they aren't going to care about trash heaps, pollution, climate change, etc. But the left says 'this world is constantly changing and evolving and we must help it change for the better,' then of COURSE they are going to care more about clean energy, recycling, all that green hippie stuff. It's one of the reasons that I switched sides politically.

of all that is,
seen and unseen.

Now, see, I actually kind of love this. Because this gets into my obsession with string theory. At least, that's how I interpret it. We can't see the other dimensions that are proposed by string theorists and the maths and all that jazz. I know that the original writers of this probably meant the angelic/demonic realm, and I think that on some level that those things actually do live in another dimension that exists within our three dimensions.  That's the only somewhat scientific understanding I can make of it. Because it's those tiny unseen vibrating strings that have only been proven in the math of the universe. But they found the Higgs Boson this year!! And still God created it.

I apologize to anyone who is not familiar with string theory, because that all probably just sounded like a bunch of crazy talk. Suffice it to say, that scientific discovery has me more interested in the creation that is unseen rather than thinking about supernatural forces that might be at work. I really don't know if they exist or not. I have no personal experience of it, though I know people who have. But at the same time, Radiolab has nearly convinced me that that stuff might all just be a glich in the chemical processing of the brain.

Though, to be honest, I'm kind of hoping that the Doctor exists in one of those parallel worlds.

an experiment in belief

I have not posted on here in nearly a year. It's been over a year since I've written.
My, how things change.
My thoughts and beliefs have changed so much in this period of time that I feel the desire to write here again. To express things that are difficult to put into words. Because the fact of the matter is, I'm not sure that I'm really a Christian anymore, or that I know what that word means, or I even wonder if I ever truly was. I'm more inclined to think that I never actually knew what it meant rather than I never was or that I'm not. Rather, I am attempting to redefine who I am and what 'Christian' means to me. But more on this later.
This experiment is an exploration of my belief. Belief is something I question a lot these days (what does it mean, why does it matter, blah blah blah) and I had an idea that I might truly assess what I still believe and what I don't and what I question by going through the Nicene Creed, step by step, line by line, and see what happens. I will start this endeavor with my next post. Below is the text I will be using, which is the form I memorized when I attended All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal.

And so, dear world, I jump back into the blog. Without knowing where I am headed, but with a good deal of hope for some clarity of mind and spirit.
I warn any who might read the posts to come that I'm not looking for an argument; this is for me. Comments from anyone, even those who disagree with me, are welcome. BUT I'm not looking to debate on the internet. Call me up and have coffee with me if you want to debate something.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is,
seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.