Monday, October 12, 2009

Christian Women Today

Two years ago I was a Christian woman. Kind of funny to think about, really. I can't in any way imagine going back to that, but it is fun to look at, as this sort of "alternate road" I could have taken (or could have stayed on). I can't know with any certainty who I would be now if I hadn't had my son, or hadn't been raised in a cult. But since that fork in the road was so recent, I can say with better evidence who I might have been if I hadn't stumbled across And hey, backseat non-activist atheists, I have a bone to pick with you: Once my faith was seriously challenged, with good arguments, it fell apart within minutes. Christians are annoying you? Go deconvert them and stop your whining, lol.

The very real human compassion and desire for justice that have always been a part of me (and I think are the core of my "pre-cult identity") had always been bothered by disability and disease and death and war and famine and starvation. I remember seeing a commercial to sponsor a child when I was about six. I went back to my room, grabbed my quilt, and brought it to Giggy. "Here, I wanna give this to the kid that doesn't have a blanket on the TV." If you atheists had shown me sooner the error of my ways, I might have wasted less time on belief (and might be farther in my book, dammit). So in other words, go ye forth unto all chat rooms and proclaim "God is imaginary, and the Bible is evil." It's fun. :)

So I stumbled my way on over to where apparently Christian woman means blond. (Seriously, there are five blonds and one Caucasian brunette on this page. Can't you feel the acceptance?) I then clicked and stumbled my way to "If God is in Control, Why..." hoping that they might address the problem of pain, which is a very significant problem for those who believe in an involved and all-loving god.
What do you do when the roof falls in? I hate failure and disappointment. Why does God allow these things to happen to me if He’s really in control?
Oh, of course we're not dealing with HIV in Africa. This is about personal "failure and disappointment". This is "why me" whining. How utterly self-centered and boring.
God often allows failure to point us to one critical truth…we can’t live the Christian life on our own. Throughout our lives, there will be times when God will place us in situations that will cause us to realize our insufficiency and make us depend on Him. Only Jesus has lived perfectly the Christian life and if anything of eternal value is going to be accomplished through my life, He is going to have to do it!
Well then God's a conceited prick, now isn't He? He allows bad things into our lives to prove a point, that he created us dependent? That's not a good god, and that's not a good parent. (Parenting is the only job in the world where you spend your entire time training your replacement. "Children of God" never grow up and move out on their own.) And let's just put to bed the notion that Jesus led a sinless life.

Now consider for a moment the sentence, "if anything of eternal value is going to be accomplished" it won't be by me? Wow. I guess I should stop trying to do things of value, and just wait for God to do them through me. Or, I'll continue doing things of value, but give him the credit because Jesus likes ego stroking.
2 Cor. 4:17,18 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
"Light and momentary troubles" is a really effective way of writing off the pain and suffering of millions, isn't it? "Don't worry, they'll be taken care of later." It's anti-humanist and I don't like it. And, because literalist interpretations are fun, try to join me in the mental picture of a bunch
of Christians fixing their eyes on the invisible. You got it? They'd look like a bunch of right idiots, wouldn't they? Oh wait, they already do...
Earlier in this book (1:8) Paul says, “we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” When Paul speaks of “light and momentary troubles”, we know that actually his trouble was severe, BUT in comparison to what was being gained and accomplished in his life and ministry – it was insignificant. In fact, he says, it “far outweighs them all.” What a perspective! How do I get it?
Why would you want that perspective? Personally, rather than brushing off my pain (and the pain of others) as insignificant, I'd like to do something to mitigate it and prevent it. Actually, that's what this blog is all about, and the book I'm writing, and the way I raise my son. I want to prevent unnecessary pain. I want people to break out of their self-defeating religious mindsets; I want children to have legal protection from religious abuse and medical neglect; and I want my son to form his own identity in childhood, instead of having to piece one together in his mid-20s. But the Christian perspective being lauded and desired here is one that dampens the human impulse to help others. It removes the immediacy and urgency that the sound of a child's cry stirs in his mother, or that the sight of a malnourished child stirs in all of us. It suggests that even if we don't help that person, it'll be made right, and it excuses us from being the ones to help. It's shameful, and it's not "thinking". It's self-indoctrination.
Recognizing that God has allowed or placed me in the situations I’m in to add to my character something of eternal value is the first step to dealing positively with failure or disappointment. I need to believe that this particular situation is His special way of performing His refining work in my character and accomplishing in me that which will far outlast what is presently disappointing me. He is using this situation to teach me how to walk by faith and to equip me to make eternal investments in the lives of others. Romans 8:29 clearly states that every situation has the effect of molding us into Christ’s image and ICor. 1:4 explains how our ministry is made more effective by experiencing trouble! Circumstances are not out of control but are used for our good in the hands of a loving God!
Tell yourself that bad things are good for you and try not to think too hard. "I need to believe" (because thinking is hard!) The paragraph above really only works if the troubles you're thinking of are minor and personal - tight finances, a difficult patch in life - and not if they're lifelong or severe or massive. The Holocaust, for example, makes me seriously question the statement that "Circumstances are not out of control but are used for our good in the hands of a loving God." What can I say? 12 million dead just doesn't compute when you're adding "loving god" and "in control" to the other side of the equation. And while it may comfort her, I think the idea that a woman I know (whose mother began "turning tricks" with her when she was just 10) is going to have everything be okay in heaven still doesn't justify what she believes God allowed in her life.

And if "every situation has the effect of molding us into Christ's image" why aren't we all Jewish carpenters who violate the 5th commandment regularly? And does that "every situation" include each time I post blasphemy on ATAT? Is that "molding" me into Christ's image? Am I becoming more Christ-like with every flush?
We become bitter to the degree we don’t give thanks to God. Purpose to focus on what He has given rather than what is gone. Choose with your will, not your feelings, to form a habit of giving thanks often remembering that He is in control and is working in your life to produce that which is precious and which will not fade away but will last for eternity.
Hmmm. Well, on the one hand I do know that there is a lot to be said for gratitude and optimism. I'm an optimist. I choose to hope for the best, and prepare for the most likely (not actually the worst. Survivalism is a lot of work.) I'm "thankful" that I have the life I do. I'd like a few things to be better (income) but it's a good life. Now, I'm not gonna thank God for that, because he's imaginary and played no part.

But even if he was real, then that just means he watched while my son and I were homeless living in a station wagon. He watched when I was molested. He watched when I married my ex-husband, and didn't see fit to give me a personal revelation on what a bad idea that was. So, you know, "thankfulness" isn't the first attitude that comes to mind. But let me be clear, I'm not bitter. I grew up in hell on earth, and now I'm free. I'm thrilled. I don't think I could laugh about this as much as I do if I was bitter.

And I must say, it's easier to not be bitter when you have a roof, electricity (maybe even A/C), plumbing, and food. Millions of women don't have these basic necessities, much less the make up, clothes, books, and furniture I bought at a time when my income was better. Are the young Christian virgin girls raped by HIV-infected men in Africa not Christian women today? The "light and momentary troubles" of Paul sort of pale in comparison to living your life with a terminal immune deficiency and very little of the basic necessities like food and clean water.

I'm just really annoyed today at the vacuousness of modern evangelical Christians. They just don't seem to give a shit if poor brown people halfway around the globe are starving, or if poor white and brown people right here in the US are dying for lack of medical coverage. What happened to feed the hungry and clothe the poor, man? The best plug Christians have for "something good" that comes out of religion is charity, and is it just me, or does Christian charity seem to have dried up since the economy tanked? "Oh, your mortgage payments went up? Well, then don't worry about those starving kids. Surely God has a special and unique plan for your purpose-driven middle-class American life!"

Bah. I'm in a crummier mood after reading this than I expected. I think I've always been a liberal, and Christianity hijacked that impulse to help. What I credited to "God's love shining through me" was really me shining through the cult personality I'd been assigned.

Christians, please redeem your reputation. Please donate to one of the charities on the right. ICSA helps people get out of cults, and RAINN and Silent Lambs both help rape victims. Or are these "light and momentary troubles" that you shouldn't concern yourself with, because after all, rape victims get mansions in heaven?

Maybe I should get off the problem of pain for a while... I've made myself ill-tempered. I'll see if Dr. Demento can't lighten the mood, and go get myself out of this funk before my next post.

Lol, that totally worked :) "Gazebo!"