This entry is from Week 6 of my Questioning Faith Journal, which I wrote during a year of allowing myself to question evangelical Christianity and my place in it. I have gone back and removed the woman’s real name from the entry as I’m not sure it serves a lasting positive purpose to name her. The point of my writing was that her choices starkly revealed a behavior/belief of my own – and a value of evangelical, Biblical Christianity – that I needed to face and eradicate from my existence: putting righteousness above relationship.
Week 6, Entry 1
Christians who apply the Bible literally are awful. Was I this awful? Gosh, I hope I wasn’t even while I’m fairly sure I was as obnoxious, uncaring, self-righteous, judgmental, rude, and harsh as these people. How embarrassing.
To use a Biblical phrase…the scales have fallen from my eyes. I see clearly.
To use the original Hebrew…I was a schmuck.
Last night, a Facebook “friend” (in truth a former management client who is now an agent herself) posted that her first grandchild was about to be born. Glorious event, right? New life! The continuation of the family with the birth of the next generation! Except this woman – I’m going to call her Jane in case I get hit by a bus and someone finds this on my laptop – felt the need to post on Facebook that she was not going to be present for the birth because her daughter – Jezebel (not really her name) – didn’t manage to get married to the father before this blessed event.
I read that post and was immediately and righteously furious on Jezebel’s behalf. How dare Jane insert her judgment into an already emotionally fraught experience? Giving birth is insanity. I know. I’ve done it. Twice. I flew between deliriously exhilarated, murderously furious, terrified, and triumphant in nanoseconds the entire labor. It took three days for my first to be born. Almost a full day for my second. Every emotion ever invented coursed through me, I assume so that it could be implanted into my child and available for use whenever their life experience called it up.
Or so that I could guilt trip them about it the rest of their lives. It’s a toss up.
Anywho, Jane’s post infuriated me. And then I got more indignant as I read her friends’ replies praising her for her “Biblical stand.” Ugh. I think that may be one of the worst phrases on the planet. “Biblical stand.” If these people believe the Bible is a “sword” and “powerful” then why does it need them to stand up for it? Why can’t it just stand on its own? Why does it need the prop of a human?
Half of me wanted to use my new “unfriend” power and just remove this hateful situation from my existence. The other half of me remembered situations with my own mother and how much I’d have loved for someone to tell my mother what a wrong-headed, self-righteous prig she was being. So, I posted something about how Jane’s post was the saddest thing I’d read on Facebook in a long time and how, given the inconsistencies and gray areas within scripture, all Bible readers know that it is not a sole reason or justification for any behavior. I affirmed that Jane gets to make calls for her own kids…but that putting those choices on Facebook makes them everybody else’s business. (I mean, really, why did this woman put it on Facebook if not to further shame her child and get what she got – a bunch of people patting her on the back for being such a good Christian?)
Within the hour, I decided I’d rather not engage in a Facebook debate and so I deleted my message in Jane’s thread. No one had responded to it, so I put the phone down and went to bed thinking it was a done situation.
And then I got up this morning and Charles brought my phone downstairs and noted that Jane had responded to my message. What ensued was insanity that involved me THRICE saying I’d like to just let it go and Jane informing me “What you need to do is apologize,” and re-posting my original response on her thread. So I guess in Jane’s mind I don’t get to decide what I do with my own words, and I need her instruction as to what actions I should take as a result of my own words. In the end, I used that old Biblical phrase “live at peace with each other” (amazing how this mother is so Biblically-minded in her actions toward her pregnant daughter but loses her ability to obey Romans 12:18 and Hebrews 12:14 when she wants to go off on social media) and stated I was leaving the conversation.
All of which made me realize another serious problem with the Bible. Not only did my reading of it over and over and over again open my eyes to the ludicrousness of believing it is infallible or word-for-word applicable to modern day life, but I’ve also now experienced firsthand how humans use it to set themselves up and apart from others. They don’t do this because they actually are above others in terms of maturity or capacity for kindness, love, grace, mercy, and decency – they do this so that they can feel as if they’re right and someone else is wrong. And then they cloak it in this notion that to love someone is to demand that they live right, with “right” being their understanding of the Bible.
Jane went so far as to explain to the other couple of bravely objecting souls on her feed that she was doing this because she loves Jezebel…she just loves God and her theology more and finds it more important to have no relationship with Jezebel now if that means Jezebel ultimately gets to spend eternity in heaven.
Those are her words.
Which I guess makes sense to the idea of Christianity. God doesn’t have relationship with humans until they come into full acceptance of Him and obedience to His ways. So, Jane isn’t going to have relationship with Jezebel until she comes into full acceptance of Jane and obedience to her ways. Somewhere in there I’m sure Jane would note that she isn’t God, but is supposed to model His ways in how she behaves with her child.
She’s got scripture that could be used to back her up on putting her relationship with God above family. In Matthew 8:22, Jesus tells a guy to follow him and when the guy responds that he’d like to go and bury his dad first, Jesus tells him to let the dead bury their own dead and come on.
But Jane’s (and, in some views, the Bible’s) crazy concept doesn’t work in the face of reality. I went through hell, insanity, and near-loss of life to give my kiddos life. There is no entity on earth or elsewhere that will ever, ever get me to believe that I should not have their back, be in their lives, be dependable as a constant ear and heart and brain that are open to them, and be as present as they will let me until I take my last breath. My daughter can give birth to an alien’s child and that alien father can have 50,000 alien offspring all over creation and I will still be at that birth, telling my daughter how strong and capable and beautiful and smart she is, and then loving that little squirmy being she births with every breath in my body. If my son screws up and gets a girl pregnant before he gets married (please, please no because that brings lots of pain and confusion into both their lives), I will love him and her and I will be at that baby’s birth and heap so much love on that baby they won’t know what to do with me. And by love I mean showing up, giving, caring, cuddling, cooing, feeding, clothing, changing, rocking, and more. I mean showing my son how to change a diaper. Showing the mother of my grandchild how to breastfeed. Spelling them both so they can sleep longer than 30 minutes. I don’t mean some ass-crazy definition that requires someone else to agree with me first or mature into an understanding that mirrors my own – especially if that understanding is of an ancient book written before a telegraph was even invented much less the internet.
Actually, did wheels even exist when the Bible was written? I think they were invented somewhere along the way of the writing because Pharoah and his folks rode in chariots and we know chariots had wooden wheels. So, we know at the very least that rubber wheels didn’t exist when the Bible was written.
Which is insane to think about: people are basing their lives – breaking their relationships – on the words of a book that started before humans figured out how to make a wheel bounce over rocks. And not only are they doing this, they are proudly proclaiming in the public square that they are doing this. And then casting a look askance at anyone else who isn’t doing this.
Meanwhile, a young woman agonized over labor pains in a hospital and needed her hand held while her mind exploded over the reality that new life was coming from her body.
What dumb f*** can’t see that the place to be is by that woman’s side?
Even if you believe in God and Jesus and the whole nine yards, what idiocy is required to think that your god’s “miracle of life” doesn’t merit your observance and presence? That you have the right to ignore it? To remove yourself from it? Who the hell thinks that much of themselves? How in the world is it okay to cuddle self-righteousness while your own child writhes in pain?
You know what, I AM going to write her name here because if I get hit by a bus and someone finds this I want you to know you should steer clear of ***** and her hurtful ways. If you ever run into her daughter, give the new mama a hug.
She professes to be a Christian.
She is like most of the Christians I know.
She is like the Christian I was.
I have never been more happy to be out of all that. I am free to care for people without strings. I don’t have to hesitate to love. I don’t have to check my desire to be kind or present with my family and friends or even strangers. I can just be that way. No judgment call needed first. I can simply be nice. Or not. If someone is mean, I can be nice or not in return. That’s my call. No checking in with a silent, non-existent being or poring over ancient words trying to ferret out some modern-day instruction toward the situation or going through seventeen iterations of how my behavior may or may not cost someone eternity in heaven. I can look – really look – at the person in front of me and be.
I can invest a little of myself, even a lot of myself, in that person if I choose.
Or I can walk away and keep myself to myself.
That’s my call. I decide when and how and to what extent I invest myself. I filter that through my own promises and identities that I’ve already allowed to exist in my life, and which I value. Can I give some of me to this person or does that harm the others I love? Do I have time to help an orphan or will that hurt the two children already needing and deserving of my “mom” capacity? Is there enough in my tank to help this friend through trouble in his marriage or am I sacrificing relationship with my own husband for his sake? I cannot do all and be all to everyone and so I must choose over and over again, in each instance. Who am I in this? Who could I be in this? A helper? A silence?
But the main filter for me isn’t the Bible.
How do I love best here?
Love is not judgment. Love is kindness, care and presence.
I walked away from that Facebook conversation with Jane because to engage with her cost me things I value: paying attention to the kiddos and really being present with them as they prepared for school this morning and talking to my husband as we planned out our day. I loved best by ignoring Jane. I don’t have to worry about whether she finds truth or learns to live righteously or hurts the witness of the church. We’re not in some worldwide “family of believers” that requires me to see and treat her as a “sister.”
I’m just me, right here on this little patch of a planet, making a choice to love this by ignoring that.