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.