Author Archives: Brandi Mitchell

About Brandi Mitchell

(RP Bio coming soon!)

Why Jesus?

There are a few things about me that are pretty consistent. I drink a lot of Pepsi, I frequently forget not to cuss in front of other peoples’ children (sorry other people and your children!), I hate reality TV (unless there are ghosts in it, then I think it’s hilarious), stuff like that. One of the things that are pretty consistent is a question I frequently ask, which is “Why Jesus?”

Let me start by saying that I believe in Jesus. I believe he did all the stuff people say he did, up to and including the dying thing. The difference is that I don’t believe in him the way most people do. In my head it’s really easy for me to accept that Jesus is also God and God is also Jesus (and the holy spirit fits in somewhere as well) so there’s no huge need in my mind to differentiate between one and the other. When I say “Hey God, would you >insert request here<?” I know I’m talking to all three of them. Jesus/God knows I’m thankful, and Holy Spirit/God knows they’re invited to come hang out with me. I don’t feel the need to make the distinction, or place him on a pedestal, or worship him exclusively with pictures and love songs and whatever else. Once I heard someone say “Jesus prayed to God, we pray to Jesus.” I thought it was all the same, so I was a little boggled.

Anyway, stuff like that makes me ask “Why Jesus” and it wasn’t until recently that I think maybe I might have found an answer for that.

Let me explain. No. . .there is too much. Let me sum up.

What the Faith: Only stealing from the very best since 2011.

What the Faith: Only stealing from the best since 2011.

A couple of weeks ago, my phone was stolen by someone I thought was my friend. This was a person that, while I wouldn’t say I was “tight” with, I had gone out of my way to be cool towards. I had really thought that there was some sort of mutual feeling of friendship and community. Imagine my surprise when five minutes after this particular person left my house I reached for my phone and found it gone.

Little bit of background story here, I live in a very poor and very ethnic section of my city and have felt very strongly called to love these people and to fight to shine light on the good things about the community in which I live since I moved into it.  Then again, maybe “called” is the wrong word. To say I was “called” implies that the feeling somehow came from outside of me. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I have oddly, but strongly, felt love for these people and, that I’ve oddly but strongly had a compulsion to fight to shine light on the good things they bring. So some time ago I began building bridges with my neighbors, who are as different from me as .  .two really different things.

Some of them are barely older than teenagers, others have children older than me. It didn’t matter. We were all piled up on my tiny porch, hanging out, drinking, eating, laughing or whatever. Color, age, sexuality, creed, ceased to matter in the little world we created, so perhaps it isn’t surprising when it started to grow from my neighbors to my neighbors’ family and friends, and sometimes just a random person walking by. I guess they saw something happening on my porch that they wanted to be a part of. I don’t know.

I’ll be honest, I loved it. I’m not very good at loving, or maybe I’m not very good at letting myself be loved, but when you’re in “the hood”, and all the hood homies tell you that you’ve been adopted, and you’re fam now even though you’re one of two white families in the whole neighborhood and the ONLY one on the block. . .

. . .not everyone gets that.

I felt special. I felt loved. I loved them back. That’s not why I started building the bridges, but it was a pretty cool by-product of it.

As opposed to the UN-cool side effect of bridge building - a boom in the troll population.

As opposed to the UN-cool side effect of bridge building – a boom in the troll population.

So when all other possibilities as to my phone’s location had been exhausted and I had no choice but to accuse this person who I had let come into my house, who I had fed, and bought bottles for, and given rides to. . . I was pissed. I didn’t want to think he would do it, but when I couldn’t deny it any longer, I was furious. I was so enraged that I saw black. I was ready to end his life and throw mine away over a cell phone. Granted, it was a new cell phone, less than 3 weeks old, and worth $500, but unless I missed the point of everything here, $500 does not equal the value of a life. I feel like maybe that reaction was disproportionate.

Anyway, that’s not the story. The story is that I felt amazingly betrayed. Here I am, learning to love and be loved by strangers, which if you’ve followed this blog at all you know I’m terrible at, and the thanks I get for trying to learn these things is getting robbed!

So perhaps understandably, I sat on my porch fuming dangerously, fantasizing about all the ways I was going to hurt, injure, maim, murder or otherwise teach this shiesty little bastard a lesson in respecting other people’s property. I was about to go full on hood on his little ass.

I’m not proud of this, but for a while I was lost in it, drowning in a sea of black.

Those of you who know me know I’m prone to outbursts which are loud and angry but which quickly dissipate. If you know me well enough you know that those outbursts are relatively harmless. This was different. This was a cold, calculated anger, and it was scary. Scarier was how easy it was for me to be there.

I didn’t think of any of this while this was happening. While it was happening I was sitting on my porch fantasizing about hurting a teenager for the theft of a phone. It never occurred to me that any of this might be wrong, and I might have been lost there forever, but as I was sitting there, full of hate and murderous intent, a thought occurred to me that changed everything and broke through the tempest of my thoughts and mood like light cutting through the clouds after a storm.

The thought was, “What if I were Jesus?”

If you re-read the beginning of this post, you’ll understand why the “W.W.J.D.” was so alien to me that it couldn’t possibly have come from me. It was so strange that it startled me out of my black and violent thoughts and cut through the hateful ink I was floating in like a scalpel. Immediately, my brain tried to answer that question, deflating all my rage with one fell swoop and taking away all the wind from my sails. I wasn’t ready to not be enraged, and in a blink, instead of enraged I found myself sad. I’d seen this kid a handful of times, and I don’t think I’d ever seen him wearing a different outfit. What kind of place must he be in, what kind of deep seated hurts must there be in him that would make him steal, not from some random person, but from someone who’d been nothing but loving and friendly to him, someone who had fed him for nothing, who’d given him things asking nothing in return? My heart broke for him and I knew in the deepest part of me that if I were Jesus, that I would track him down and say, “Hey, you left so fast with that phone I gave you, that you forgot the charger and headphones I was going to give you with it.” I cried for him a little bit. Admittedly, I cried for me a little bit too.

Pete called it “The Les Mis Moment” and it broke me.

If I had to rate my weeping, I'd say it fell somewhere between "I Dreamed a Dream" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables."

If I had to rate my weeping, I’d say it fell somewhere between “I Dreamed a Dream” and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”

I thought about this uneducated high school drop-out, who at 17 is already so hopeless that he thinks the only way he can ever come up in this world is to go banging around with his clique and stealing from people who only wanted to love him. He didn’t even sell the phone for drug money, like some (I) might have thought. He was using it, making calls and texts and leaving a paper trail a mile wide if I wanted to press charges on him. He even offered to sell it on Facebook. . . where I have him friended. Clearly these are the actions of a master thief, right? Somehow, these stupid decisions broke my heart even more. This isn’t a strung out druggie, or a rabid kleptomaniac, this is a desperate kid who wanted to be able to have the status of having a new S3 and thought the only way he could ever get one was to take it.

My friends and neighbors don’t understand my reaction to this. They don’t understand my decision to not go after him despite the fact that he’s sort of handed himself to me on a silver platter. They don’t understand why I should care about what happens to the life of the kid who wouldn’t spare a second thought for what happened to mine. They don’t understand it, and it’s led to questions that have led to conversations that always lead back to God. These conversations have led to more questions, which have led to these boys coming over with their Bibles, opening them, and asking me questions about stuff they’ve read inside of them. These conversations never could have happened if I had reacted the way I wanted to, the way any of them would’ve, the way their life and background demands that they do. They wouldn’t have been angry at me for tagging their friend with a felony for stealing my phone. In their mind that was a reasonable response to his action and he brought it upon himself. They would have continued coming over and hanging out with me, but we couldn’t be growing together as friends, and searching together for what the Truth looks like.

I’ve already replaced that phone, It cost me my deductible and a few days. I still haven’t pressed the person who stole from me. If I saw him today, I would invite him over to my porch and ask him if he wanted to share a cigarette with me. I might talk some shit about him walking off with my phone, but maybe I wouldn’t. I’m not sure. I know that I wouldn’t shut him out, for sure. While I might not let him back in my house, I feel like it’s important that I keep loving him despite the thing he did to me, and that I show him that, not so that he thinks its ok to steal but so that he knows I see the person he is beyond what he did, and that he is loved.

And, I think, this is “why Jesus”. Whatever else there might be, without Jesus we would have a book that illustrated an all-powerful God constantly smiting us for getting it consistently wrong. The Bible without Jesus would be a book about how God acts. Jesus shows us how we should act, even when it’s hard, even when it sucks, and even when we’d rather be furiously fantasizing about maiming and murder.

Jesus fills the gap between “I believe in God” and “I’m a person that other people see God in”.

This experience was an emotional roller coaster, and I’m exhausted from dealing with it. But I’d do it again for the realization that I really can emulate Jesus, and even if I never see that kid again, the bridges that have been built between me and my neighbors and his friends because of it have been worth every moment.

Well, worth ALMOST every moment. . . . goddamn trolls. . . .

Well, worth ALMOST every moment. . . . goddamn trolls. . . .


God is not dumb.

This morning I was praying casually, as I was feeling my way through the still-dark house, trying not to wake anyone up. I didn’t have a keyboard handy so I was praying in that distracted silent way that I do when I have to pray “in the rough”, and I noticed that at some point, I’d stopped “talking to God” and  started giving God this laundry list of wants/needs. What I call a “Father Christmas” prayer. I stopped myself because that’s not generally something that I do. I try not to ask God for for things I need, much less things I want, because I feel like He is much smarter than I am, and His perfect plan is not something that my tiny brain will ever be able to grasp. The things I perceive as needs might not even be good for me, much less an actual need. I generally feel like God knows what I need. He knows me better than I do, so He definitely knows what will make me happy. I feel like asking for needs and wants that fit my perception of reality is redundant, and also kind of childish.

I think its fitting that I should chose the word childish, there, since that’s how I feel a lot of times in my interactions with God. Sometimes God is a friend of mine hanging out with me in my office, and we’re having this conversation about shit in my life and I’m asking for advice, or I’m asking what He’s up to and being amazed. More often though, My interaction with God is more reminiscent of my kids clumsily trying to fit into a grown up world and impress me, making adorable (and sometimes tremendous and disastrous) mistakes as they do.

 

"Whelp, ma'am, I think we can agree this job was done even faster than our estimate. A tip is necessary, but traditional."

“Whelp, ma’am, I think we can agree this job was done even faster than our estimate. A tip isn’t necessary, but traditional.”

 

So I stopped myself from praying that way, but it got me thinking.

I said, “I don’t pray that way”. 

Taking a step back, that seemed a little bit of a superior stance to take, so I examined it. I trust that God is gonna work things out for me one way or another. I’ve seen him do it a lot of the times, but I’ve also sort of been taught my whole life, “Be careful what you pray for.”  I wondered if there wasn’t a part of that in there. Was I not asking for those things because I was afraid God couldn’t, or wouldn’t, grant it – and I didn’t want to be disappointed? Did I think, worse, that I was so dumb that I would ask for something disastrous (which, to be fair, I might) and that God really might be like some sort of jackpot genie, that gave it to me and ruined my whole life to teach me some kind of monkey’s paw lesson?

Sometimes, I think, we have these perceptions of things that are so deep-rooted in our culture that we don’t even recognize where we’ve set specific boundaries, and definitions, and labels that God never intended to set. With a proper lowering of expectations, we can prevent ourselves to seeing the magic God can work. I’m sort of terrified of that, so I try to shine light on those cultural perceptions and weigh them for more value than, “I always heard that” or “They always said this”. These things I keep, or throw away, as needed.

 

"Jesus Christ, there's a BABY in this bathwater! What the hell is this tub good for now?"

“Jesus Christ, there’s a BABY in this bathwater! What the hell is this tub good for now?”

 

This morning was one of those times. As I started asking myself these questions I realized that no, I didn’t believe any of those things would happen. God is infinite, and I am a child. I’m a blip on the radar, whose name He happens to know. A blip that for some reason, this infinite being loves. How could I really think that he would deny me good things, or give me hurtful things, to teach me a lesson? Even subconsciously, how could I really think that? So out it got thrown – hopefully for good.

I still believe that it’s unnecessary to ask God for the things that I need and want, because He knows, and will give them or not on his own time and terms. But I wonder, is it wrong to pray certain kinds of ways? I mean, I recognize that I am dumb, and that I’m always gonna be like a million steps away from “getting it” but I kind of turned that over in my mind. When Jesus gave us the template in the Lord’s Prayer, he even threw in a “give us our daily bread” section. Should it stop at saying, “Lord meet my needs today” or can that get into specifics? God is the ultimate filter for our prayer, in the same way we are to our kids’ requests for things we know they shouldn’t have. Just because they ask me for 532 things in a given day, from candy to ice-cream to some random thing they just saw a commercial for (wtf, Dreamlight? anyone?) that doesn’t mean they’re going to get all of it, or even any of it. I think my kids get like .02% of what they ask for. I mean, unless you’re spoiling the crap out of your kids, you tell them no when what they want isn’t going to do more than give them instant/temporary pleasure. Sometimes you will say yes, that’s a treat, but you know they don’t really need that toy or those shoes or whatever. So if God is our ultimate filter, did I have a right to be taking a superior stance of, “I don’t pray that way”? Or should I just trust that he is smart enough to see me, dirty faced and tugging on his pant leg asking for something ridiculous and know better than to give it to me?

 

"Look at 'em down there - daddy's adorable little idiots."

“Look at ‘em down there – daddy’s adorable little idiots.”

 

What about you guys? Anything that you don’t pray for, or ways you don’t like to pray? Why do you do that?


When being Christian is the opposite of lame.

Daniel made a very valid point in a recent quickie that we here at Wtfaith headquarters can sometimes be, shall I say, somewhat hostile people? And that, perhaps, in our zealous attempts to right the wrongs that we see in and among Christians (at least as they’re perceived by other people) we may come across as distinctly confrontational and sometimes, dare I say it, even anti-Christian.

We make a very serious attempt at honesty on these pages, and in these posts, so if we’re struggling with some concept of our toddler-level faith, or if we disagree with some primary Christian concept, tenant or action, we say so. Sometimes we say so in brutally honest ways. Sometimes we can be a little bit. . . harsh.

 

We don't REALLY think that Jesus hates people, we just have very poor impulse control.

We don’t REALLY think that Jesus hates people, we just have poor impulse control and notoriously bad taste.

 

When Daniel said that he wanted to take a moment to talk about the things about being a Christian that were kind of cool, it made me stop and think. I realized that I do tend to focus on the stuff I don’t like with a real “Kill it with fire forever” mentality. I’m a bit more internalized with things that I like. I’m not sure why, but it’s easier for me to bitch than to praise. One of those choices feels more natural to me, which is a sign of how unhealthy a place my mental state can degrade to when left to my own devices.

There are two things to me that really stand out when I think of what it is about Christianity that I find to be super awesome. Both of them are from personal experience and I guess, in a way, stem from my own personal testimony. I’d like to share them with you. I know what I’m about to say is going to sound old hat to my Christian peeps, and completely crazy to my non-Christian peeps. I know it, and I’m sorry. Sometimes I genuinely wish I could say anything else here with honesty. But crazy or not, old-hat or not, it’s the truth. Maybe it’s an experiential truth, but even so, that doesn’t invalidate it for me.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of what I like about being a christian is that being Christian has helped me talk to God. It sounds crazy, I know.  The second thing is that being Christian has made me both feel and be better, all around.

Let me back up a bit. Throughout my faith journey I’ve been a lot of places, I’ve done a lot of things, I’ve tried out a lot of different religions, ideologies and philosophies. Generally speaking I only tried out things that seemed to make a certain amount of sense. I’m not the logical thinker that Daniel is so the things I tried didn’t have to hold up under merciless logical scrutiny. I’ll be honest with you, I would have gotten bored with being that mercilessly logical like five minutes in and gone and played Mass Effect or something. My brain just doesn’t work that way. Logical or not, the things I tried out did have to make me feel a certain kind of way, though. I wanted something real. If magic had been real, I’d still be a witch. If philosophy had changed my life in more than just brief epiphanies, which were exciting but ultimately not very deeply rooted, I’d probably be one of those thinker types. I grew up in a really fundamentalist church. It’s not like I was forced into the lifestyle, mind you. I started attending church with my parents at the tender age of 2, and while I didn’t “Give my life to Jesus” (as if you could give something that’s already His) right away, I waited until I was old enough to be accountable for my actions. In other words, I waited until I was about 5.

 

"I'm pretty sure I can be trusted to make this decision."

“I’m pretty sure I can be trusted to make this decision.”

 

Once I’d “prayed the sinner’s prayer” I enthusiastically drank the Kool-Aid with everything I had in me. I’d gone to church twice every Sunday and even once on Wednesday nights as far back as I could remember, but it wasn’t long after my “getting saved” that I threw myself whole-heartedly into Christianity and serving within the church. I did everything right, man. From the age of 5 to the age of about 14, I was a total Jesus-Freak. I lifted my hands super high during song service, I closed my eyes and prayed fervently during the raucous breaks in between songs that I assume were for prayer. They were kind of loud and chaotic, so I’m not sure.

There was a point around age ten through fourteen where I was quite literally attending church – or a church sponsored function -every day of the week. This included, to my shame, street preaching. Apparently everyone thought the skinny pre-teen with a thick Tucson accent was really cute when she was screaming at them unintelligibly about hell through a bullhorn.

 Thinking back it seems to have been a lot of show, but I was a kid, so I joined right in. I enthusiastically evangelized at my schools, single handedly starting bible studies and “prayer at the flag pole”. Why did I do all this? Well, besides a massive case of indoctrination, I saw people who were claiming to have been so moved, so touched, so change by this Jesus guy, as to have completely reconstructed their entire lives.

None of the following is exaggerated:

I’ve known people who claimed to have been seriously long time addicts (pick your poisonous addiction, it doesn’t matter) who prayed and God moved and they dumped out all their beer, flushed all their weed, threw out their crack pipes or stepped on all their cigarettes and 20 years later have never looked back.

I’ve known people who claim to have been severely mentally sick, sometimes undergoing treatments, or on constantly monitored medications to keep the voices quiet, or keep them stabilized, or help them not try to murder themselves. Whatever the case was, their interactions with God had been so miraculously moving they not only no longer needed their medication but were now perfectly stable human beings!

I’ve known people who had some sort of physical malady, ranging from mild to severe, which prayer and faith seem to have healed entirely.

I’ve known people moved to tears for the simplest motion of the “spirit” in the church.

 

"Oh man, did someone say 'Jesus'? Someone said 'Jesus', didn't they? Here comes the works!"

“Oh man, did someone say ‘Jesus’? Someone said ‘Jesus’, didn’t they? Here comes the works!”

 

 

I watched all these people, decent people at their core (aka: not people I would call liars), seemingly really moved and changed by this “spirit”. I wanted that. I fought for it, I did ALL the somatic components to the “Summon Holy Spirit” ritual, and you know what I felt? Nothing. Nothing at all. In fact, I eventually left the church in my teenage years for just that reason. The lack of follow-through after I had intentionally allowed myself to be completely taken in by the game and ritual led me on my journey through all the other religions I played around with just desperately trying to find something real.

In the midst of all this, and this is where it gets cool, there were times when God interacted with me. There were times when I felt that overwhelming presence in my life that moves me, a salty little scrapper, to tears for the simplest of reasons. It didn’t seem to matter what religion I was following or trying out at the time. Religion is a man-made institution designed to give us some understanding and ability to relate to an infinite being who our tiny little finite minds can’t even really grasp. Every ideology in the world is gonna have its places where it seems to conflict with itself, or not make much sense. I was looking for something bigger than the answers. I trusted the answers would come. I wanted something bigger than that. This was always so much bigger than that, and while it generally lasted for a short while, for that small amount of time, I really did feel something special.Something that was very close to real magic was happening in my heart. Of course at the time I didn’t understand what that was, but every glimpse, every touch made me want more and more. So I looked more and more.

Now I’m a Christian, and I guess I should embrace it even though I have a lot of damage from the church of my early years. I’m a Christian because I never stopped looking for that something real, but eventually I put aside the ritual and just started being something real while I was looking. Sure enough, I started to be able to interact more and more with this entity I’ve come to lovingly refer to as God.

It started with the God-Experiment, as Daniel and I call it, which was us reaching out to God from a place full of honesty and devoid of any religious trappings of any sort. That led us to make a huge life change – moving to Duluth – where we were eventually led, through trial and error, to hillside church. Sometimes, our interactions with God would seem to be one sided, but more often there would be these little inexplicable signs, little things that would happen in the people around us that would confirm everything we thought we were being told.

With that comes a sort of comfort, at least for me, that even when I’m not hearing God, he’s clearly there. I’ve never been great at faith, and too many things have happened for me to be able to have the faith that those things are mere coincidence.

Does that mean I never feel alone? Does it mean I never feel like I’m praying for no reason at all? Does it mean all my prayers are answered? No, not at all. But you know what it does mean? It means that occasionally, when I need it the most, God is there in very physical and undeniable ways. That God, the creator of everything, this crazy, infinite being I can’t even wrap my brain around, takes time to interact with me. . . . That is so amazingly cool to me. . .  It’s precisely the something real I’ve been looking for.

In the spirit of perfect candidness, I did say God talked to and interacted with me while I was pagan, Buddhist, agnostic and just confused. That’s true. The difference is, he interacts with me much more now. Maybe that’s a result of me reaching out more from a place of honesty without all the trappings and ritual, and maybe it’s a result of the fact that I’m in a Christian church (though one could hardly say I emulate all the Christian beliefs or even follow all their rules). Either way, coincidence or not, I’ve noticed an increase since becoming “Christian”. I think it’s awesome, so I’ll take it.

The second thing that i think is an awesome byproduct of interacting with God through Jesus, is the general improvement of my mental state and character. Now I didn’t start following Jesus and lose my ability to reason about my fellow man. I’m still pro-choice, and for marriage equality, and the equal rights of gays and women. Its just that being Christian, directly interacting with God, has made me feel better and has gently encouraged me to stop doing things like complaining about my lot in life and being an asshole to my family. Why spendi time doing those things that make me feel like shit when I could  help, love or give to someone because that makes me feel algebraic! The fact is I’ve always been pessimistic at best and tending toward a black hole of depression and self-loathing at worst. I once asked our pastor friend PB how one was supposed to interpret Jesus instruction to “Love your neighbor as yourself” if one hated oneself. Pete’s response was “You know, most people don’t REALLY hate themselves.” And he went on to give me some valid examples to back up that statement, which I may talk about in greater detail in some other future blog post. At the time when he told me this, I was being particularly angsty and emo, and I kind of shrugged and was like, “Whatever you say dude. You don’t know my pain. Life is darkness”. Or something like that, I’m paraphrasing. The point is, I didn’t get it then.

 

"You'll never understand my pain. . .my beautiful, glamorous pain. . ."

“You’ll never understand my pain, Pete. . . my beautiful, glamorous pain. . .”

 

Since then, since my relationship with God has grown, since I’ve found ways to answer, or at least try to be at peace with my questions, I’ve noticed something else. I feel better. I genuinely feel better! For a while my issue was so severe there were times I couldn’t even summon the strength to get out of bed. For a while, right after moving here, I was so unstable in my struggle with depression that I was medicated for it. I took Zoloft every day just to be able to face my day, my life, my family. I hated everything about myself. I don’t feel that way anymore. And while I’m not sure that I love myself yet, I think I have a better idea of what Pete was talking about, when he said that. Having God show you exactly what to scrape away to get to the person worth loving underneath is pretty fucking epic, too.  

There’s tons more to say on the subject of the things about Christianity that I think are cool. Today I focused on the things I personally have experienced, and picked two of my favorite bennies of being a Christian. Even though this post is longer than some stories I’ve written, there’s still more to say. I’d be happy to chat your ear off about it if you ask, but I’m done focusing on me and my experiences for a while.

What about you peeps? I would love some stories about what your favorite benefits to being a Christian are! Do you have any wicked-rad moments as a Christian that you mark down on your spiritual timeline? Are there things you’ve seen God do in someone else’s life? Maybe just a feature, like that peace without understanding that Daniel mentioned? Let’s hear your stories!


To Serve Man

As a result of my daily internet-ing, I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff lately about “actually living life” and “making a difference in the world” and “having meaning in your life”. I’ve seen those ideas in memes, in Facebook updates, in Tweets scarred with that most hateful of hashtags, #yolo.

Can we, as a society, please agree to kill this phrase with fire?

Can we, as a society, please agree to kill this phrase with fire?

Whatever else they said, all of these various messages implied that living, real living, happened out there. Somewhere very distant from the office, desk and computer chair that most of us have to spend our day to day lives. Sometimes it would be stories of missionaries doing this crazy meaningful work, sometimes it was people who dedicated their lives to art and beautification for very little reward beyond leaving the place a little prettier than they found it, sometimes it was people who had felt God’s calling and sold everything to go travel around the world touching people’s lives in any way they could.

All of these different articles and blog posts and calls to action posed the same question: didn’t you want that? Wouldn’t you love to have that life that somehow made a difference in the world? Didn’t you want to leave some impression on this place when you were gone? Wouldn’t you rather feed some hungry people, clothe some poor people, teach some children, volunteer in a clinic, do anything that meant something? And I, as was their intention I’m sure, took a look at my life, and my office and my desk and my slacks and I thought, “Why, yes. Yes I do want that. Whatever it is I’m doing now (which, for the record, is answering phones for a cable company) it sure isn’t living. Not living like the people in these stories are doing. I want to live.”

Now, anyone that truly knows me knows that those are dangerous words for me to say. It’s a dangerous concept for me to have in general. You see, I have this . . . fear, I guess, of being anything I might interpret as “caged”. Freedom is very important to me. The idea of Living – with a capital “L”, and often italicized – is very important to me. These two things flow through the heart of everything I do and pull me, like a river current, from one life decision to another. It’s overall a good thing, I think (though Daniel might stridently disagree), but it has led to such remarkably stupid actions as two failed marriages, both of which I ran as fast as I could from for various reasons that really came down to feeling trapped somewhere I didn’t want to be. It’s led to not one, or two, but several large moves between cities, states and even across the country. I’ll probably do that one again at some point – can’t get too static. It’s driven me to get several tattoos and piercings that I got, not because I was being particularly artistic or expressive, but because I thought, “Fuck it, I wanna be different”.

I’ve been in my current family situation now for 9 years. That’s forever in Brandi years. Daniel helps my natural restlessness by being constantly willing to deal with my crazy new ideas and life directions, and long-suffering enough to be willing to pretty regularly pack up his whole life to follow me on one of my crazy adventures. Seriously, he’s a saint.

 

Here he is - St. Daniel of the Plaintive Self Pic

Here he is – St. Daniel of the Plaintive Self Pic

 

In all seriousness though, that concept of wanting to Live is prime breeding ground for completely uprooting my life. Even with all that Daniel does, there are still times I feel this tug to something more. Not more than my family, per so – I don’t want to make it sound like I’m ungrateful for them (though sometimes, admittedly, I’m ready to make all of my kids move out and I don’t care if they’re only 12, 9 and 6. Honestly. My kingdom for some quiet.) In reality it’s just that same pull to freedom and meaning. It makes my feet itch. I know there’s some amazing thing out there for me. It’s waiting for me. I was made to do this thing, and no one else can do it. I feel these things as capital-t Truths. I’ve felt them since I was a little girl.

And that’s great! I love the idea of everyone having their own personal legend, their own adventure, their own story. The fact that I feel I have one waiting for me is awesome! The problem is that while I feel this in me, sometimes so strongly I can hardly think around it, I get impatient for it. That leads me to resent where I presently am. That resentment leads to restlessness, which builds into this need to move, to start over, to find something new and maybe stumble upon my calling. Sometimes I feel like those upheavals to my life were genuinely the prodding of God to get us to a certain place, like my move from Arizona to Duluth, for example. At other times though, it was just my restless impatience, my equivalent of giving my handmaiden to my husband because, “I waited a really long time and nothing happened, and now its getting too late, so this must be what God meant”. (Disclaimer: I do not have a handmaiden to give to my husband. Sorry, Daniel.)

 

Editor's Note : Quite alright. This shit is creepy.

Editor’s Note : Quite alright. This shit is creepy.

 

Probably for the last year or so I’ve felt this flaring up. I’ve been getting restless with everything in my life. The mess and chaos of day to day living with three kids, one of whom we’re pretty sure has Asperger’s, another with ADHD, and a third who’s about to be 13, makes me want to run away screaming. The doldrums of working, day to day, in a call center taking calls from people who want me to explain their cable bill when I could be, I don’t know, building a community garden or volunteering in a clinic for the extremely poor, leave me looking out the window and dreaming up ways to give up my life.

The clincher is, I don’t really want to give up my life. I love my husband and my kids, even though they can be real idiots sometimes. I don’t hold that against them any more than they hold it against me when I let them down, which happens more regularly than I’d like to admit. I just feel like I was destined to do something that mattered, and I feel like my current life is the opposite of that.

But I can’t just throw it all away, give up capitalism in favor of more humanitarian work, like I might have once done in my misspent youth. I have a family, I have kids, I have a car payment and a mortgage and the computer I’m typing this on or the smart phone that I access the app I respond to comments with. I have bills. How do I contemplate leaving all of that behind to go run off on some crazy soul-revealing adventure in some derelict country? I can’t take my kids, because I know from experience when you do this sort of thing on the fly there are a lot of times when you’re hungry, exposed to the elements or otherwise not safe or secure. Did I mention one of my kids very likely has Asperger’s? That will never work. I would feel like a shithead for putting them through that. Plus, I’m pretty sure my offspring aren’t ready to experience actual poverty without losing their damn minds.

 

“Oh, did your IPod charger die? Well, let’s drop everything and find a Radio Shack.”

“Oh, did your IPod charger die? Well, let’s drop everything and find a Radio Shack.”

 

So what are my options? Stay in this meaningless rut, answering call after call and listening to people whine about their first world problems so that I can earn a paycheck to provide a safe and structured (if not exactly stable) environment for my family? Well, I could do that. It’s the easiest option,  actually, since all my stuff is already in my house, and I kinda like my family. But that could seriously mean I’ll live the rest of my life in this rut, with no hope of resolution to this feeling I’m meant to do something that has an impact on the world. Ok, then – while we’re taking an honest look at the options, I could alternately just go. Leave it all behind, leave the kids with Daniel and my parents where they’ll adjust, eventually, to my absence. Go live a life that has some purpose behind it. Sure, that would let me feel like I had some forward momentum toward making a difference, but at what cost? Could I ever enjoy living, even Living, if I had to hurt and betray and lose all of the people I love? Clearly, that’s not an option. I couldn’t go anywhere without Daniel, life would be way too boring without him. So what’s left? Can I have more than a sense of longing and unfulfilled purpose?

I’ve been tossing around some big questions onto this blog lately, and a lot of those questions, and a lot of your comments, have caused me to stop and take a hard look at myself. The reflection I’ve seen has, at times, been a little unflattering. Maybe a lot of the people I’ve been criticizing were getting it wrong, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t, too. And maybe there are a lot of opportunities to get out there and really make a difference in this world, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities closer to home. I began to see the problem wasn’t the hypocrites I was mad at, or the office I was forced to work in for the sake of my family. The problem wasn’t even that I had this unfulfilled destiny. The problem was my selfish worldview – my problem was that I was putting myself before everything.

Through your comments, and the prodding of the Holy Spirit to look closely at who I am and what kind of person I’m exemplifying, I began to see that the problem was me. Not only was I being selfish, but I was letting that selfishness, that longing for greater purpose, blind me to opportunities I had to impact people every day.

Aren’t we all part of the same world? If I make a difference in the lives of my friends, my family, my co-workers, isn’t that still impacting the world? If I could serve here, wasn’t I serving everywhere? It’s so easy to forget that, while there are huge problems in some third world countries out there, the world where we live every day is still broken.

We touch the lives of people every day. For good or ill we make differences in the lives of the people around us. Maybe they don’t live in a dump on the Thai border. Maybe they’re not living off of three dollars a day with penicillin a distant dream. Maybe, though, they’re a single mother who got walked out on by their man and now has to struggle, even turn to desperate options, to feed their baby. Maybe it’s someone who has suffered the sting of verbal, physical, or mental abuse, and now honestly believes that they’re worthless. Maybe it’s someone who has been sexually assaulted and feels unworthy of real love. These are examples of the broken lives that people live around us every day. Are their lives less important, less in need of healing from the brokenness of the world, than the people who are drinking sewage water in some remote, extremely poor corner of the third world? Does God mourn more for the poor in Mali, or Haiti, or Thailand than he mourns for the broken and discarded of America?

 

I tried to think of a funny quip for this picture, but I can't because this situation is fucking tragic.

I tried to think of a funny quip for this picture, but I can’t because this situation is fucking tragic.

 

The answer is, of course, no. The problem wasn’t that I hadn’t found my calling and that I needed to keep moving and running hoping to stumble over it. My calling has been all around me from the start. The problem was my selfishness and my greed created a pretty lie that the hurts and worries and fears of the people I see every day were somehow less important, less noble,  because they were first world. “How bad can they have it?” I thought, when I thought of it at all. “They have full time jobs, cars and regular meals.” Obviously, I was wrong. My whole attitude was wrong. Maybe that stirring in me, that longing to serve and leave the world somehow better than it was when I got here wasn’t put there to prod me to change my scenery or location, but to change myself so that my life could have impact and meaning even if the only people I ever spoke to were in line at Cub, or in the pod next to me at work. I could start to change the world, to affect the future right where I was standing.

In chapter 25 of Luke, a crafty man famously asks Jesus to define who God considers a neighbor. The implication in the scripture is that the man wanted to limit his sphere of influence to the people he already interacted with on regular basis, and Jesus defied his expectations by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Your neighbor, he seemed to say, is whoever you run into, anywhere, anytime. In my ignorance, I was asking God the same question but from a different perspective – I assumed that my “neighbor” could not literally be my neighbor. Now that my perspective has been straightened out – now that I have re-oriented myself, or, so to say, repented – the world seems pregnant with the potential to act as the saints act. And if that isn’t purpose, then I literally do not know what the fuck “purpose” means.

I often end these articles with a question, but this time, I’d like to end it with words of thanks. The What the Faith readers have become an invaluable resource to me as I try to figure out what a more Christ-like Brandi looks like, and I would be a dick if I didn’t give credit to all of you for helping me through the rough spots on my spiritual journey. I owe each and every one of you, individually and collectively, a Pepsi. Hugs!


The Man Jesus

My last post talked about my struggle to determine whether I believe in Jesus at all, and it (kind of) explores why I chose to do just that. That’s a big question, and one that I needed to answer before I could delve into the subject matter behind this post. I’m a girl who loves extremes, so why stop at, “Why do we believe that Jesus was God”? when I can uselessly speculate on “What do we know of Jesus the human?” In this post we will discuss Jesus as a man, exploring such varied subjects as  teenage crushes, workplace boredom, and poop. You have been warned.

I’m not sure this entire subject isn’t sacrilegious, but it’s one that sticks with me, nonetheless. See, its easy for me to think of Jesus as this distant “grown-up” who did some pretty awesome stuff (miracle wine, zapping insulting fig trees – you know the stories) and then changed the whole world. That’s pretty epic, but the point you should have taken from that sentence is that Jesus was distant. Its easy for me to think of Jesus the way I might think of some politician or other kind of world changer – important, notable, good for the world as a whole, but not actively involved in my day to day life. I can’t imagine being an omnipotent man-God with super powers. Not me. I’m too normal, too “every day”. I get up in the mornings and I smoke a cigarette and I take a shower and I put on my poly/cotton blended blouse and my slacks. Then I go spend all day taking calls at a call center, doing nothing of any miraculous import. After work I kill time by being generally foul-mouthed and lovingly disrespectful with my friends. How much could someone like me really relate to someone who was perfect, and did miracles, and was fucking God for God’s sake?

One of the points of being a practicing Christian is learning how to retrain your brain toward focusing on Jesus and his example. I’m still working on it. But no matter how hard I try to put myself in Jesus’ sandals, even with him being more relatable than the Big G, it’s still pretty hard to imagine Jesus living a life like my life. That’s probably why the question of whether or not to believe in him comes up so frequently. It’s one thing to read the Bible and to take the stories of the characters described within as metaphor. I mean, who cares if Joseph really had a technicolor dream coat before his asshole brothers threw him in a hole and sold him to slavers? The point is that Joseph served God even in the worst of situations and ended up being the ruler of Egypt (or damn near enough). You can take that story, sift out the moral, and move on. But it’s another thing to treat Jesus the same way – his stories are more than just colorful fables written to show us examples of how to behave in a given situation (even if his parables definitely include that). Even a little kid can point out how different Jesus’ stories are from the others – his are in red ink. Without Jesus, without the character of the personification of God, the very nature of God is defined in Old Testament terms – and many of us Christians believe that God is more than wrath, plagues, and the divvying out of virgins. How would we know that, if not for what is written about Jesus? Christ is the legend by which the rest of the Bible can be understood. Without Jesus, we’re just reading a bunch of books.

Knowing this, how am I supposed to justify the fact that I do kind of clump him in with the rest of the biblical characters? Or, more importantly, how do I mentally separate him from those secondary characters and re-envision him as someone who seems more real, more relatable?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Jesus a lot more than I used to. It started with late-night conversations with Daniel (I would just like to pause here a moment to say that deep and thoughtful conversation/debate with one’s spouse is a huge help in untangling yourself from the weeds and keeping yourself focused), then I wrote my most recent blog post. Now it’s almost Easter and so Jesus stories are basically freaking everywhere. Not to diminish what Jesus did for us, but the stories that get played (and played, and played, and played) throughout the holiday season are so familiar that even atheists know them by rote.

This year, though, I’ve been thinking about things a little differently. The holiday (literally, the holy day) that occurs this upcoming Sunday is supposed to focus on the culmination of Jesus’ life. Obviously people will focus on his death and subsequent resurrection. But I find myself wondering about the life of the man that lived as God among men, knowing where his road would lead, and drinking from that cup anyway.

Did the fact that Jesus died willingly mean that mean he never felt torment? We know he struggled in the garden of Gethsemane, but how did he react the first time he learned that he would be tortured to death? Was he tempted to stick with carpentry?He accepted God’s will, but did that mean he wanted to?

Did Jesus’ divinity mean that he was never hungry, or too cold, or too hot, or sick?

Did he, as a youthful apprentice carpenter,  ever fall in love with someone he knew he would never be with because of where his path would lead?

Did he spend days teaching, all the while looking out across the Sea of Galilee and watching the sun sparkle invitingly on the waters, wishing that he could be doing something else? Did he feel those things and serve anyway?

Jesus was a man – but was he a man like us?

Of course these are questions we can’t ever answer. Jesus lived two thousand years ago, and the only people that actually hung out with him are super dead. The main source of what information we actually about his life is in the Bible, and the Gospel writers chose to focus on his supernatural side. That’s fair, as that is the part of Jesus that separated him from all the other dudes around him. It seems to me, though, that focusing on Jesus’ divinity only tells us half of his story.

I’m not alone in my musings about the man Jesus. Author Johnnie Moore wrapped up the whole subject really nicely in his article, where he basically explores Jesus and how relatable he must have been to the average poor person of the time. Why? Because he was probably dirty, stinky, and occasionally suffering from dysentery. Just like you or I! Its an awesomely insightful read and I’d take a few minutes to do do if you haven’t. It went a long way toward showing me a side of Jesus, albeit a grosser one, that made him much more relatable to me.

A cigarette smoking, slacks wearing, foul mouthed American girl might not have much in common with a messiah, but I can relate a bit more to a carpenter who gets his hands dirty just like I do (metaphorically. . . I work in an office.) I feel like this Jesus is the sort of dude who wouldn’t be offended if I had to leave the Sermon on the Mount to make a potty run. Additionally, I imagine he would enjoy just chilling around a fire pit listening to Daniel and I suck at the guitar. That is so cool to me.

Thinking about Jesus’ story lately, it occurred to me that Jesus’ mission started when he was 30. That’s exactly my age. That shed light on him in a whole new way. Suddenly he wasn’t this grownup who had it all figured out. Suddenly I’m in his shoes, still feeling 21 and immature and irresponsible. Hell, sometimes it takes a forklift to get me out the door to work, and I’m not facing crucifixion at the end of my job. I can’t imagine knowing I had three years left before I was horribly killed. I can’t imagine being able to find motivation to keep going – especially after he went back to Nazareth and was so disrespected that he couldn’t do any of his messianic stuff. Didn’t they like chase him out of town and try to pitch him over a cliff or something? One of them is noted as saying something like,  “Isn’t this that carpenter’s son??! Wtf?”

In his hometown, he wasn’t the messiah. He was just “that guy Jesus. Y’know, the carpenter’s kid. Big scandal over his birth, I’ll tell you about it sometime”. When he tried to be more than that, they mocked him right out of town. Feels like my highschool years all over again.

And when exactly did Jesus become aware of his destiny? There’s some suggestion he knew fairly early, like when he got left in Jerusalem during that Passover. His parents didn’t realize he wasn’t with the caravan until they were halfway home. They found him right where they left him, posted up with the rabbis. I think he was fairly young then, and there’s a whole lot of life between prepubescent temple Jesus and 30 year old homeless missionary Jesus. Did he ever have a sweetheart? A schoolmate that he crushed on before realizing that marrying that poor girl would be a horrible idea? Did any girls secretly crush on him? I had tons of relationships in my life between “dating age” and “grown up”. A few of them I even thought were pretty serious and I hung out with them for a few years during that space of time. I wasn’t focused on dating, I didn’t care all that much about sex, and I was brainy and I still managed to break double digits. . . I think. I didn’t count. Either way, I wonder if there were any flames in young teenager Jesus’ life. I wonder if he dealt with heartbreak or separation or even the temptation of jealousy.

I know Jesus was sinless, but does that mean he never felt that prickling of reactionary emotion that you or I might? Does feeling that, regardless of whether you act on it or not, count as a sin in and of itself? I know Jesus got fed up with things. The story of him and the fig tree was such a wonderful mix of divinity and human frustration that I feel closer to him every time I read it. I just smile and nod and say, “Yeah, I’ve been there.”

Putting Jesus’ life in the perspective of my own makes it suddenly mind-breakingly obvious what a huge and awesome thing it is that he was willing to do what he did for us. For me at least, these meanderings make me feel closer to Jesus, and through him, God. It makes his death, celebrated yesterday on Good Friday, all that more poignant.

What about you guys? Any casual meanderings about Jesus that make him seem more real and relatable to you? Any real moments of humanity you see from him in the scriptures that make you see him in a new light?


What’s up with this Jesus guy, anyway?

I said last week that I wish  the group of Christianity that I seem to exist within could be called something else –  anything else, actually. Whatever it takes to separate ourselves from the Neanderthal nonsense that certain types of Christians spout on a regular basis. I’ve mentioned this to friends of mine, none of whom are Christian. All of them immediately respond with something like, “Ok, so you’re not a hate-filled fundamentalist. That’s good. Ok, you say the Bible has been used for so much harm, and is also too contradictory, to be useful as anything but an interesting text amongst interesting texts. That’s valid. But, the real question is do you believe in Christ?”

And I guess that is the question isn’t it?

I’ve always thought of Christ as, for lack of a better term, an avatar of God. I believe that the breaking of this world caused a schism between our finite world and eternity that only Jesus could breach. I believe Christ was God made flesh, that what he experienced went directly back to the entity that is God. And I believe that happened so that God could experience humanity without the separation that normally exists between the finite and the infinite.

 

Like this, but with slightly higher stakes.

Like this, but with slightly higher stakes.

 

In addition, I’ve always found the Christian practice of Jesus worship (particularly their fixation on the instrument of his death) to be bordering on maudlin idolatry. Despite believing in him, I’ve noticed through my faith journey that I talk directly to God, and that only twice has Jesus been the focus of my worship specifically.

The first time, I was thinking about the Jews, and how they had the automatic in with God. (Not really, but . . . you know. God’s chosen people and all that. You get it.) And then I thought about how it was only because of Jesus’ sacrifice that I was able to experience the things I was experiencing with God. I was so struck by that for a moment that I, for the first and only time in my life, said the words “Thank you, Jesus” without a hint of irony.

The second time was a particularly bleak period for me; I was having some first world problems and being a big baby about the whole thing. Long story short, I generally felt like shit. I was about at the end of my rope, when I had a dream. In the dream, Jesus and I were hanging out. Just hanging out, like any two friends might. We were talking, and through the process of our talking, Jesus did what I imagine Jesus did to practically everyone he met. He looked at me, and in seconds broke down all of my walls, saw right to the heart of me, and said some gentle thing that unraveled the entire core of my problem.

“Well, *I* recommend a hot oil treatment once a month, exfoliate daily, and try to eat lots of foods rich with Omega-3 fatty acids.”

“Well, *I* recommend a hot oil treatment once a month, exfoliate daily, and try to eat lots of foods rich with Omega-3 fatty acids.”

 

The whole dream was striking and vaguely uncomfortable because I HAAAAaaaaAAAAAAATE being on display like that, even to Jesus himself. But, it was also comforting because I felt such love and unconditional acceptance. When he suggested (not commanded) that I change some behaviors or habits, it felt like a suggestion given out of an undeniable and tangible sense of love and a desire for my well-being. I’ve never felt so exposed or so accepted in my entire life. The sensation of that dream stayed with me for days. For weeks.

Aside from those two situations, Jesus doesn’t enter my thoughts as anything other than the way I am able to do the things I am able to do and experience the things I’m able to experience. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one gets to the father but through me,” I read that as, “Because I did this thing, you get to talk to God.” Most people seem to interpret that statement to mean something more like this:

“Immediately disregard everything I said about not worshipping me. I never wanted that before, but now. . . I died for all you assholes! So . . . make with the worship or be forever condemned to the fires of hell!”

"Awwwwww, are you SERIOUS? And I paid for supper, too!"

“Awwwwww, are you SERIOUS? And I paid for supper, too!”

 

Now, I’m not sure I believe in the fires of hell – at least, not in the way that hell is often portrayed. But that’s another blog post entirely. Either way, when left to my own devices, I don’t pray directly to Jesus any more than I would express profuse thanks a computer for allowing me to access the internet. The computer isn’t the internet, it’s just my doorway to it, and no man comes to the WTFaith blog but through it. (Disclaimer – I do not pray to the internet.) So it is with Jesus and God, in my mind – because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I can pray directly to God.  And that’s great – but that doesn’t mean my prayers need to be directed toward Jesus.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate what Jesus did for me. Really, it’s more to do with the difficulty in determining what I know about him. The problem is, the only place Jesus is ever talked about is in the Bible. I have some issues with the Bible, more-or-less because I have issues with people.  Everything humans touch, we tend to fuck up – and the Bible has been touched so much it has to point at a doll in a closed room meeting. I doubt its infallibility, because I recognize how easy it would have been for power hungry people, with access to the early books,  to change the Bible to suit their desires. People tell me that wouldn’t happen, because it’s the Bible and people worked very hard to preserve it. I find that to be a very sweet idealism, and I hope they never see the cynical, stop-at-nothing face of humanity that I have seen. Call me paranoid, but I just don’t trust us. Even if it started as the inspired (and therefore infallible) word of God himself, it has been used to justify and cause so much pain and harm that it no longer resembles its original self at all. I don’t know about God, but when I’m dealing with my kids, and they start using some toy I bought them to hurt their siblings, I take the damn toy away and revoke their privilege to use it.

And yet, despite all of the reasons I shouldn’t, I believe in Jesus. With my inability to believe the Bible as infallible, why do I believe in Christ? Why is it Christianity that drew me through the door? Why is it, despite all of my issues with being associated with the beliefs and actions of (what the majority of the world considers to be) Christians, here I am writing an off-color blog about practicing the Christian faith? I have an answer to this question, but it is kind of simple and unsatisfying. I believe in Christ because that seems to be the direction all the signs and portents I’ve experienced point to. More importantly, no matter how pissed off I seem to get at Christians, when I think about throwing Baby Jesus out with the bathwater, it feels . . . wrong.

I compare the feeling I get when thinking of no longer believing in Jesus, while still maintaining my faith in God, to looking at a car’s engine and trying to fix a problem. I know it’s an engine, but that’s about where my understanding of its mechanics stops. That engine is very complex,  and since I’m only kind of sure what I’m looking at, I should probably not mess with it. I should probably call in a professional.

Something tells me I can’t fix one of these with pithy  comments. . .

Something tells me I can’t fix one of these with pithy comments. . .

 

That’s kind of how I feel about maintaining a belief in Christ. The interpretations we have of who Jesus might have been or what he was trying to teach us differs a lot from person to person. I’ve heard people that depict him like a vegan, hippy sort. I’ve heard people depict him like a biker or hunter, kind of a grizzled sort. I picture him as a dude wearing a hoodie, hanging out and enjoying being with the people around him. We have such a brief glimpse into the life of this person, all of it only ever documented in one place. It stands to reason we would compartmentalize him to be someone we could relate to. Because of that, though, we tend to put our own interpretations on his character, his actions and his words. That makes it hard to really know who he was. Be that as it may, I recognize him as important even if I don’t fully understand all the mechanics and inner workings of that importance. Given my lack of understanding, I should probably leave that alone and get a professional if something breaks with it.

So, why, if I don’t believe the Bible as a literal and infallible word of God, and if I disagree with most modern day Christians, why do I continue to associate with them? The best answer I can give is that the things I’ve felt from God and his interactions in my life are, for me, beyond doubt. When I was lost and looking for a home, God led me to Hillside – he made his stance on Jesus pretty clear. And, most importantly, despite how uncomfortable some of the things surrounding believing in Christ make me, when I think about separating that from the experiences I have, it just feels wrong.

I’ve decided to trust my instincts and my intuitions on this topic, and thus far it hasn’t done me wrong. How about you guys? Has there ever been a core tenant of your faith that you found yourself struggling to believe? Did you find it hard to keep your faith around it, or did you determine you were just getting lost in the metaphoric weeds and got over it?


SO not a fundie, kthanx.

What does it mean to be a Christian, to you and to the people around you? How do you find a balance between what you believe and what people think you believe,  between your understanding versus  their mental associations with your faith? What do you do if your personal beliefs are drastically different from the primary tenants of what, in reality, is a small (and crazy) faction of Christianity – but one that the majority of the world fails to distinguish from the rest of your religion? How do you overcome people’s animosity toward the Christian faith as a whole when, pound for pound,  the majority of the religion’s ignorant crazies are part of the loudest and most media-focused faction of American Christianity – the Fundamentalist Christian community?

That’s been my conundrum recently. See, I find myself with this odd amalgam of beliefs in which God is central (not Christ, necessarily, but I’ll get back to that in another blog post), and I don’t buy into a lot of what most Christians consider to be fundamental beliefs one must hold to in order to be considered part of the club. Inclusion into this very exclusive club was never something I really wanted, since upon examination of the members’ handbook, they seem to tack on tons of rules and responsibilities with no tangible benefits whatsoever. In fact, doesn’t the Bible actually promise toil without reward and separation from the majority of society as a result of following God through Christ? Sure, Christians are promised eternal life, but I have yet to meet anyone who’s actually been paid out on that. All in all it seems like a pretty crappy deal, sometimes. Honestly though,  I’m still willing to explore it, but there’s still that pesky problem of these asshole fundies.

"Howdy! Come to church! You're welcome to come as you are, whether you're straight and Republican, or Republican and straight!"

“Howdy! Come to church! You’re welcome to come as you are, whether you’re straight and Republican, or Republican and straight!”

What can be said about fundies here that hasn’t already been said? They’re loud, they’re ignorant, they spout whatever crazy hate from whatever crazy verse in the Bible they want to at any given moment. Then they do stupid shit, like putting that loud, ignorant hate on loud, ignorant placards. Then people take pictures of them so we can all laugh and shake our heads.  People like me roll their eyes and say, “Thank God there’s another type of Christianity”. The rest of the world shakes its head, rolls its eyes and says ,“Christians.”

And therein lies my problem.

How do you counter that? How do you even begin a discussion about God with people who think that all Christianity looks like that? You hear your friend, neighbor, or coworker is going through some raw shit. They talk to you about it and you, wanting to be helpful but having nothing else to offer, say something like, “I’ll pray for you”.  Instantly the person you’re talking to is thinking of all the things they’ve said or done that you’re secretly judging them for. If not that, then they’re thinking of  the things they feel or believe that they’ll never tell you because they’re automatically filing you away under the mental file of, “Christian: crazy”.

Honestly, it’s enough to make a girl renounce her faith.

Well not quite, but the lack of any sort of accountability for the things fundamentalists say and do in the media  bothers me tremendously. By itself that wouldn’t be enough to make me doubt if the whole thing was worth it, but if you add to that quandary my ongoing struggle with believing in the Bible, the end result is a person who’s looking at the vast majority of Christianity going, “. . .I’m not sure I actually believe the same things these people believe.  Does that mean I can’t continue to call myself a Christian?”

So that puts me in an uncomfortable position. Neither my call to morality nor my faith in God are in question. I can never again believe that God does not exist (though I can be mad at him, which is another blog post as well). However, when I sit down and look at all the points of dissension between myself and fundamentalist Christians, and then I add to that how blatantly and proudly off-target fundies seem to have gotten from whatever it was Christ was actually trying to teach us . . . I just find it really hard to swallow the idea of being in any way associated with them.

"Thanks for paying attention, idiots."

“Thanks for paying attention, idiots.”

Does that mean I want to give up my faith? Previous suggestions to the contrary, no, I don’t think so. My faith is more than what people think of me, or how other people act out beliefs that are similar to mine. Faith is very personal. That said, I fight with this regularly, because it’s hard for me to separate what I believe from what people think I believe. In a world where image and brand are paramount, how separate can those two things really be? I know I’m not a prejudiced asshole – have other issues, certainly, but exclusion isn’t one of them. But if everyone else in the world thinks I am a prejudiced asshole, and I’m reacted to and treated accordingly, does it matter what I really am?

I doubt I’m the only one with this issue. I think that until we, the reasonable and rational Christians, stand up and get as loud (though not as ignorant, please) as the people who are damaging the whole of Christianity’s brand (while making the devil laugh and dance with every word), we will continue to lose my generation. If we don’t find some way to reclaim ourselves and our image as people of love and charity, there are tons of people who are making the decision I didn’t, and join the ranks of “the nones”. If you haven’t yet heard about “the nones”, you can do so here – and you might want to, because that’s the future the church is facing if we continue our current course.

On behalf of all of the people struggling with the issues I’m struggling with, and I’d put money on the fact that there are thousands. . .  Christians, we have to do better. We have to; we have no choice. I don’t know what that means, but we can’t keep letting the ignorant, narcissistic assholes in our community separate us forever from people who would make wonderful Christians if they could only see we weren’t all hate-filled monsters like Marc Monte.

So, long story short, I don’t know what to do. Do we give up entirely and make up some new faith that allows us to separate ourselves from that tarnished image forever? Do we make our own placards and signs, organize our own rallies and try to beat those Westboro Baptist Church douche bags at their own game? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I’m sure I’m far from the only budding Christian who’s ever wondered what the hell they were doing being associated with these crazy people. I don’t have the answers for this query, except that I know that something needs be done, and Christians. . . I’m sorry, but I’m afraid the responsibility to hold our own people accountable to a higher standard falls on us. If we don’t do it, someone else will do it, but in passing the buck we do more damage to our image.  If ongoing scandals within the Catholic Church show us anything, it’s that people are very unforgiving when it comes to large, powerful organizations that don’t police their own for misconduct. The world needs to see that we’re not all crazy, and that we’re willing to call out our own when they are.

What do you think? Is there more that we, as a community, can do to take accountability for the hatred and ignorance within our ranks? Do your non-Christian associates think less of you because of the tarnished “brand” your faith has earned?