Tuesday, February 15, 2005

letter to my father

(here's a letter i wrote my dad last week while in the throes of a mild faith crisis. just thought i'd share it. we all go through something like this, right?)

Dad -

[snip - stuff about his 61st birthday]

I'm writing because of a bit of a crisis I'm going through, and I've been going through it for a while now. It's about faith and how Christians practice it - on the most basic level. It's not about scripture or doctrine or anything intellectual, but about basic Christianity. I realize that I'm more progressive in my ideas than most others; I tolerate gays and lesbians, I actually think the poor should be taken care of, I oppose this administration and its policies, I drink a little, I smoke a little, and no - I'm not a virgin, either.

So I realize all that. I realize that more traditional Christians would probably look at me and think, She's not really saved. Whatever. I look at them, and at all the screaming fundamentalists and self-righteous church people, and I see how unloving they are. How narrow and smug and unlike Christ they appear to be and I get angry. I get really angry. And sad. But mostly angry. And I feel disgust that they could call themselves Christians when their hearts are so small and their brains even tinier.

You know, like the Dobson/gay sponge bob thing: why can't Christians stop hiding behind scripture. We all know what those 7 verses say about men laying with men. We all know it. Just say what you really think and TEN let's see how Christian you are. Dobson should say it: "Gay people are disgusting and shouldn't be allowed to live around decent folk. We don't want them in our schools, neighborhoods, churches. They don't deserve families, they don't need to work around us. They shouldn't be tolerated at all. Shun them, hate them, disavow them because they are sinners of the worst kind of sin."

Why can't the church say what it really means, deep down underneath the piety and the churchiness? Why can't the church look into its own heart and say the things that live there? SAY IT! The veneer of righteousness over this dishonesty and callous unconcern makes me sick.

I still pray and I still go to church and I'm still faithful (despite various struggles, whatever) and I still Believe, but I have to admit that looking at these people who would rather save an embryo than care for the woman who's carrying it, who'd rather let the poor sink to the bottom, who'd rather impose their faith on others while lining up to protect the interests of the rich - I look at all this and I start thinking that present Christianity is all a joke.

It's not that I'm suddenly going to turn into an atheist. It's just that I'm beginning to harbor some really harsh feelings and thoughts about my 'fellow' Christians. I wish they'd shut up. They're ignorant, selfish, anti-intellectual, racist, misogynist, self-righteous, hateful and generally wrong about a lot. Am I wrong about a lot? Probably. When my reckoning comes, I'm sure I'll be totally surprised with stuff. But you know what - that's MY burden. That's MINE. Not anyone else's.

In May, I'm going to be officially a deacon (you can't forget that you said you'd come to Chicago for it); one of the things I'm looking forward to is volunteering for intercessory prayer. We have a little chapel and every Sunday a deacon volunteers to sit there, waiting for someone to come in for prayer. Everyone avoids that duty, but I actually want to do it. That's how I'd like to see my faith - a quiet thing waiting for someone to join in so you can partner and petition together. It's a community of shared burdens.

What I see around me is so different than that. There's no shared burden.

Ach. I guess I just want you to tell me that these people who are making me hate my own faith are just a tiny minority. That most Church people aren't like this.

Love you,



Brandon said...

Beautiful, ding.

Thanks for this!

Brandon said...

Oh, and one other thing, YES. YES, we all go through this...or at least I do on a semi-weekly basis.

ding said...

you're welcome...to my sad, ranty, letters to my father...

it's good, though, to know my little meltdowns aren't in isolation!

Wasp Jerky said...

Hey ding. Nope, it's definitely not just you. I go back and forth between anger and sadness over the Christians in this country who have hijacked Jesus pretty regularly. Thanks for being so honest. Congrats on becoming a deacon btw.

ding said...

ah, yes. being a deacon. when they ask the congregation for its blessing, i'm totally expecting the organ to start playing a Dans Macabre and the stained glass windows to shatter.

it should be fun.

jesuschick said...

hello churchgal -i read your letter to your father. i found it very interesting on a couple of different fronts. i would consider myself a conservative christian (one of those pro life types). interestingly, there are many points where we are in agreement. i, too, become disenchanted when i look at the other "christians" around me. those who espouse christ's love while holding a sign on the street corner that says "god hates gays". or the "christian" who gives money to the church because they have to and think their financial duty to the impoverished and downtrodden is thereby complete. i look at these people and start to wonder - how can you call yourself a christian? as i lay awake in bed last night ~ around 2:40 a.m. ~ thinking about your letter at thought came to me. as i drive down the highway, i see other drivers. and some of them really get me hacked. it's usually the person in front of me who doesn't use their turn signal. and the people who try to get ahead in a two lane road that narrows down to one? ugh! anything just to be one car in front! and don't get me started on those who are notorious for running red lights and or stop signs. give me a break! they call themselves drivers?? who are they kidding? but then i think about myself - i don't often drive the speed limit, and get irritated with those who poke along doing 60 in a 55. and i suppose if i can get "there" a little faster, i might sneak through a yellow light. and to top it all off, i've got a little kid in the back seat! all of this to say. . . when i look at other christians (drivers) it can be very distressing. but i need to also remember that i am not perfect - and it's only by the grace of christ that i could even begin to consider myself a christian. i cannot be responsible for other people's actions - only for mine. i can choose to respond to those "other christians" with the grace that christ has shown me or i can get angry and hurl insults their way. did i mention that sarcasm is my spiritual gift and one i should use more sparingly? don't despair, don't lose hope. remember that as upset as you and i both get with the injustices in the world, christ cares even more. and i would wholeheartedly encourage you as you become a deacon to live a life worthy of the calling you have chosen. did jesus get hacked with people? even the disciples? i can only imagine he did, but i don't recall him calling them "ignorant, selfish, anti-intellectual, racist, misogynist, self-righteous, hateful and generally wrong about a lot". as a deacon, you will be an example to those around you. make sure you are a christ - filled one.
thanks for being so honest and for sharing your letter - it was fodder for great thought.

ding said...

jesus chick -
yes, i realize that i'm not exactly the best example of christian tolerance. i've always had a hair-trigger temper when it comes to things like justice.

i remember my first political action in the 6th grade - writing a petition and getting half the school to sign it, protesting the stupid rules of the playground. we enlisted the PTA and had a showdown in the school meeting. the kids won.

i digress. yes, i can't recall christ calling someone ignorant, but he did call out pharisees for their hypocrisy. i just hope i can finde, and maintain, that balance between calling stuff as i see it and caring for those i oppose. (though i've given up when it comes to our president. i just can't. do. it.)

thanks for stopping by.

Songbird said...

One of the pitfalls of being on the accepting, inclusive end of the spectrum is finding yourself outraged by people who reject the people you want to accept, thereby leading you to reject them! It's mind-spinning. My (atheist) husband was going on and on about the Christian Right last night, and I said, "Stop! You sound just like them!"
I like to consider the possibility that love is the way, really, and that even though I may not see the global, universal change that I believe would represent God's Commonwealth of Love (aka the New Kingdom), I can do my part by living that love on my street, in my neighborhood, in my congregation, and connecting to a few things both local and far away that also express Christ's love in action. I'm not sure how much more most of us can do. I'm sure we're unlikely to change people we think are hateful by being hateful ourselves. (Although I'm with you on the President.)

Hannah Im said...

Thanks for sharing with us an honest outpouring of your feelings. So many others have all ready made good comments that I don't want to repeat what they said again. Just try not to stereotype the Christian right. There are some people just like the ones you described but there are many, many other variations, motives and attitudes too. Not all are bigoted, not all hate. Those who have other opinions than your own on issues such as gayness hold them for different reasons and some are deeply filled with love for all and care for the poor. Try to understand the various places they are coming from without judging them as self-righteous. You may find some true friends among them if you seek.

ding said...

very true. i think my impatience is one of my spiritual stumbling blocks that i haven't tried very much to lessen. when i check myself, that's always at the top of my list of Things to Ask Forgiveness For.

i guess i have such a hard time with the christian right because i came out of it. i was raised in it and saw it from the inside. i know what it's like to go to revivals, tent meetings, rally in front of liquor stores, book stores, libraries. i've heard the sermons about the evils of homosexuality and abortion but i've seen a thriving ministry implode because the church leadership felt uncomfortable when the congregation got too racially diverse.

we all carry baggage, i guess. my church history will always color the way i views the christian right. i just have to make sure it's not the only color i see.

Anonymous said...

from one deacon to another - well said. i hope you will find being a deacon as fulfilling as i have. i think it has made me even more tuned in to the hurts of people than i was before, and therefore more forgiving of their bigotry, racism, hypocrisy etc. Not more accepting neccesarily, but more understanding. btw - someone mentioned being a deacon "a calling you've chosen" - i beg to differ..i think you were chosen for this calling..you'll be great.

ding said...

thanks, anonymous.
it's a huge responsibility and i'm just now realizing it. i used to think there was a point where i'd just 'get it.' you know? you think your faith will sort of plateau and that's it.
but that's not happening. faith bends, twists, and shudders. just wish someone had told me!

(and thanks for stopping by!)