Archive for May, 2011

all-inclusive definitions

May 22, 2011

Perhaps you’ve heard Christians say, “God is in control, God loves me, and God will always take care of me.”  And maybe you’ve heard the skeptical response, “God sure has a poor way of taking care of his people.”

But have you noticed that “taking care of” can fit just about any definition, and is, in fact, desgned to do so?  God takes care of people in so many ways, keeping them both rich and warm and homeless and starving.  What does it all mean?  That God loves some people better?  That he can’t do everything at once?  Or that he never promised to make you rich, that’s not what “taking care of you” means?

The broader a definition is, the less it actually means.  Unless you spell out and agree to what things mean– as in marriage vows, for example– there’s no standards and objectives, much less is there a way to maintain accountability to those standards.  So when I say to a friend, “I appreciate you, and I’ll invite you over for tea,” there’s the statement and there’s the proof.  But when God supposedly says “I love you,” anything that follows is the proof: I got a raise, I found $20.  Even the bad things are proof, because God is giving you the opportunity to trust him.  Even if death and destruction follow, God is teaching you to rely more on him.

What’s interesting is that if you think God hates you, you’ll base that on events.  What do you think that says about people?  About religion?  About God?

Why do I suddenly sound like I am writing an essay question?

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Young and Old

May 18, 2011

Sometimes I feel like a young naive person; then, in the same day, I suddenly felt old and mature.

What had always seemed like confidence on the part of a friend finally spilled over into vanity. Of course everyone’s got it– vanity, I mean– but this being somewhat at my expense I did not appreciate my friend as I once did.

This friend and I like each other, a bit– not just as friends, but in the way boys and girls do. If certain things were different about our circumstances, we’d probably be pursuing that. But things are as they are, so we hang out and enjoy each other’s company on terms we are comfortable with.

But the last time we saw each other– was a date. A capital D-date, with some full-frontal flirting, achingly lovely physical tension, and a quick detour to the beach to watch the sun set, for Christs’ sake. So I had to recover from that. And I told him frankly that I had to recover from it. And he was understandably flattered. So I let him go on talking while I listened (AN EXCELLENT SKILL. Everyone should be able to do this. Doesn’t matter how uncomfortable the silence gets, just wait it out, and the other party will talk to fill the silence. This has never not-worked, excepting on the person who was equally as good at it as I was, and then, the conversation was simply over because neither of us gave up.)

I let him reassure me that he wasn’t pursuing me and that he was, in fact, pursuing another person. (This being the part where I felt like a foolish child.)

I told him it wasn’t that I was trying to get him to quit any behaviors or accusing him of breaking our terms (we don’t literally have terms, but I think you know what I mean), I was just managing myself. (And I wanted to know his reaction when I told him.)

And then he did the thing that took me aback: he said it was a family curse, being irresistible and charming. And I know he was only fooling around, but I very nearly stopped in my tracks. He didn’t notice my reaction for some reason; he was probably making it up as he went along. He went on joking about it. But I thought to myself, wow, just wow. He seemed suddenly so young, because I saw him and I was the one looking down this time, and he didn’t even realize it. There it was, the reason I really don’t fully trust this person, the reason I’ve told him more than I probably should about what goes on in my head, the reason I enjoy his company. He is charming me. And the second I noticed it was the second it stopped working.

Charm is what got me married to my ex and kept me there for nearly ten years. It’s how people get more out of me than I intend to give them. I am lonely and trusting, and the prevaricating, flirting, flatterer always gets my guard down. I interpret friendly confidence and a sense of humor as friendship material instead of seeing it for the shallowness it is. And I don’t mean stupid-shallow, because my friend is intelligent. I mean that the easy-going cheery person who gets along with everyone– you know, the Law of Attraction types– I mean they are simply shallow. He didn’t work for my friendship; we just have naturally good chemistry together. He didn’t earn my trust; he simply has a knack for keeping secrets (mainly his own, I sometimes suspect.) He doesn’t know me; he only has a knack for seeming to understand– who knows the actual distance between what I say or feel and how he interprets my words and expressions.

So now I am in the position of pulling myself back into myself. I can easily avoid him; he hasn’t been initiating contact with me much since our Not-A-Date (but he did ask me why he hadn’t heard from me much lately. Odd.) — which makes me think he realizes our mistake more than he lets on.

And that’s the final thing I learned: I finally recognized a lack of honesty in him– a lack of being honest with himself, or me, I’m not sure which. I’ve seen this before in people– I find it difficult to maintain friendships after I see it– and I wonder how I can learn to detect it earlier.

Not that I’m the Crown Princess of Honesty, but I am pretty good at facing ugly truths about myself and the world (see any post I’ve written on losing my faith in god).

And I don’t want to seem like I’m holding a grudge because this guy seems to have gotten over me more quickly than I got over him. I confess that I’m mostly in this for the attention from a tall handsome male; I don’t see how I can hold it against him for hanging out with me: a pretty female who laughs at his jokes. But it does leave me in the interesting position of wondering what this friend is really good for me for. Sorry if it sounds selfish to put it that way, but I really don’t need the angst of suffering attraction for a person outside my current relationship. And I do see the way he looks at me. So maybe…

Oh, it’s so obvious. I know what I’d tell anyone to do if they approached me with this problem asking for advice.

And then I have to laugh, because I think to myself, “She broke up with him already!!”

Ah. Being unmarried is weird.

Unbelief

May 3, 2011

[I wrote this months ago, finished it today.  Gotta get this thing going again because I need an outlet!]

I was reading the blog of a friend from high school today– actually, I suppose I was browsing it, because she’s heavily involved in Christian ministry and having babies, neither of which I can particularly relate to… In any case, right at the top of the blog she had a quote from a Christian pastor:

Unbelief is safe because it takes no risk and gets what it expects. – Bill Johnson

My first thought was, “Are you kidding me??  Unbelief is the scariest fucking thing in the world!”   Now, I realize I don’t have the context of this quote; and I certainly don’t know whether he is talking about the “sin” of unbelief, as far as Christians doubting God, or whether he’s talking about unbelievers in general.  He may very well have meant the former.  But I react pretty strongly against this Christian idea that non-believers [a] choose their unbelief [b] because we decide it is better or easier to live our lives this way.  This idea especially focuses on how we atheists think we are free to sin without guilt, but really we are slaves to our sin nature; and we believe we have no lords and masters but ourselves– but really, God will send us to Hell one day for our rebellion.

I disagree.  Having no gods or afterlife or easy answers is not fun, and it’s not comprehensively freeing, and it certainly doesn’t feel safe. It feels lonely, the world seems dark and unfriendly… and after a person loses faith in gods, religious people (that’s pretty much everyone) seem sad, or stupid, or dangerous, or like liars.

If you’re not at least slightly optimistic by nature, your whole outlook on life takes a serious beating.  I’ve considered antidepressants just because I’m tired of it– and I used to consider myself optimistic.

Yes, there is wonder and beauty and majesty and stuff that is just freakin awesome.  That’s another post.

But I once was Christian, and now am not; and growing up with that belief system shaped me.  I’m not sure I’ll ever recover.  And some days, I think that if I could take a pill to make myself believe again, I would take it.

Belief that God is good, and has a plan for me, and has chosen a husband for me, and gives me employment and income and every good thing, and wants to be with me forever… believing that is safe.  There is no risk there– if you die in your belief, you only die, and that’s all.  The only risk in believing is in the risk that you will get something, and expectations always carry a risk of unfulfillment.  But even a Christian can be safe from disappointment because God had a reason for that, too.

Belief is safe.  Belief offers comfort and assurance and an eternity of bliss.

Belief can be very risky, depending on the instability and extremity of your beliefs, and the risk grows the longer you have your belief, because to lose it becomes more of a loss.

Belief always gets what it expects, because to believe in something is to believe in something.  It may not be tangible, but it is technical and precise with just enough mystery to keep it interesting.  It is flexible; you can always be satisfied… if you believe you should be.