Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Thing I Read Last Night

1 Timothy 4:3-4: "They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,"


Including all humans.

Everything God created is good. Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.


Friday, October 26, 2012

That Time I Broke Up With Someone For Two Weeks

Freshman year of college, I broke up with my boyfriend for two weeks. Both of us pretended it was the right idea; both of us agreed to it; both of us knew it was a stupid plan, done for really stupid reasons. There was a lot of crying, a lot of confusion, and a lot of underlying, "You idiot, just forget all this and go back to being happy" throughout the process. But let's go back in time and be really, really blatant.

It all started with the Baptist Student Fellowship and a woman I'm going to call Susie.

Susie was the most well-intentioned conservative Texan that she could possibly be. She was cheerful, had all that Southern charm, and to boot she exuded competence and kindness. She was enthusiastic and invited me to be with the Baptist folks on campus. I went to a couple of their gatherings, and Susie, being a good group cat-herder, said that as the new person I should go to lunch with her and we should get to know each other. I said sure, that sounded fine. I was at a particularly crappy spot in my life and really needed someone to talk to who knew about spiritual matters, and she was there. So we went to lunch.

Susie and I talked over Thai food, right next to the dorm that I would live in two years later. Most of this encounter is a blur. I don't remember a single word of what she asked me, up until the memory becomes quite clear in a sudden zing.

The waitress sets a plate of mango chicken down on the table. Definitely mango chicken. I remember that clear-as-day. The mangos tastes not all that great, but I'm hungry. Susie has something else, I don't remember what. I start eating; she starts eating. She asks me, somewhere in there, who I'm dating.I tell her, this guy from my hall, he's pretty cool, I like him a lot.

I ask her the question I never should have asked her, ever, but it was niggling in the back of my mind and I wasn't about to leave there without asking. "Is it okay if I'm dating him? He's not Christian."

She said that it was a sin.

That oh, but you're not going to Hell, but...well, it is a sin. You shouldn't be dating him.

And she gave me that look, the look of concern, the patronizing look that says you poor thing, you're falling away, let me bring you back. Let me dictate to you the life you must lead, the one that will bore you out of your skull, the one where you won't be able to find romantic options because MIT doesn't have that many people who are compatible with your interests and geeky in the ways you are and Christian and not in relationships already. Let me take something that is making your sad, depressed life better, and smash it to pieces.

Let me put you back in chains.

I lost ten pounds stewing over this issue. I worried so much I ate one meal a day for a month and came out of it lighter than I had been in years. I talked to my best Christian friend, but I couldn't shake it -- this woman was Authority. Susie wasn't just any person; she Knew Things. She was Right, because she was a pastor, and of course all pastors were right. If I thought I was right, well, then all her spiritual education and connection to God was worthless. She had to be right.

I broke up with my boyfriend because he wasn't a Christian, despite the fact that he was one of the kindest, most open people I knew at the time. He was great for me, at that point in my life, and we were very close friends. But Susie said so, therefore God said so, and so I had to do it. I couldn't live a life where I was sinning.

"Do not be unequally yoked." Or something. That verse would haunt me for years of my MIT life.

And in the end, had I followed her advice, I would be a sad, miserable person right now.

I broke the rules. I broke the rules because I refuse to be a Pharisee. I refuse to believe that anything in the world that makes me happy, has to be evil. I refuse to believe that romance, and caring for another person, and love, can't transcend religious boundaries. I refuse to believe that Jesus wants us to stick in our own little enclaves. I refuse to believe that God Himself, who is my Father and cares so deeply for me that He sent His own son to be tortured and killed so my sins would be absolved, would let Satan just run rings around me, that all the people that appeared in my life and loved and cared for me who weren't Christian, were just there to make me screw up. If I was truly a child of God, then God was not going to let "faux-good" things happen to me just to trip me up. God does not plant poisoned candy there for you, just to punish you for having a good thing in life. God does not set booby traps.

These non-Christians I dated had far more of the virtues that God desires, than many Christians I know. Patience. Perseverence. Kindness. Gentleness. Self-control. You know, all the Fruits. The ones that God wants us to have.

"And you shall know them by their fruit."

What Fruits have the conservative Christians I know offered me? Fearmongering. Inflicting pain. Creating despair and depression. Lack of empathy. Self-righteousness. Careless words. There is a time to hurt and a time to heal, but the people I know, didn't heal at all. They were like surgeons who went in and cut something out, then didn't finish the job and left you there bleeding, told you to stitch yourself up. After all, it was your fault you had the sickness, whatever it was in the end, so you should take care of yourself.

I am not one of them, not anymore. Non-Christians have done more for my faith, than Christians have. I'm tired of dogma. I'm tired of chains. I'm tired of being scared, and I'm tired of seeking refuge in the false sense of security that is, "So long as you don't do anything on this long list, you have no reason to be scared." I want adventure. I want experimentation. I want life to be interesting. I don't want to be constrained to boring old...fear.

I want to live.

We got back together, by the way.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

There Are Many Sins (Why I Hate Election Years)

I really don't like presidential election years.

My family doesn't really talk that much about Senate or House elections, but when the Presidency comes around, they're on that like white on rice. It gets a bit bothersome, especially since my dad loves to talk and try to convince everyone else that he's right about everything, while my mom stands by and just sort of lets people do whatever they want. I'm guessing they have never really had a political argument, if only because Mom sees it as a waste of time.

Now's the time of year that Dad appends a few political notes to all his phone calls to me, telling me I better not vote for the dirty liberal atheist Democrats, or else I'm going to be screwing over the country and we're all going to Hell or something. This is sort of exaggerated, but not by much, because dear Dad, for all his awesome qualities, believes that if we so much as sniff at compromise on social issues, we're horribly betraying society, God, and everything else. It got me thinking about how weird conservative priorities are.

I never hear evangelical folk talking about poverty in America. I'm sure they do once in a while, but I never hear one word of it. I never hear about the evils of corporate scandal, corrupt politicians, and environmental destruction. No comments about feeding the hungry, helping the disabled, or making medical care more accessible in any possible way.

I hear about the following topics: abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.

What the hell is wrong with evangelical culture these days? It's like they are centering every possible bit of effort they could ever have, on something that Jesus really doesn't seem to consider a priority in all of the Bible's lesson. The fact that my dad says not to vote for Obama because he favors abortion, strikes me as incredibly short-sighted.

I'm not disclosing who I'm voting for. As far as I'm concerned, both candidates suck, and since I'm in a hardcore Blue state and came from a hardcore Red state, my vote for the presidency has never mattered one whit. Still, the point being, you should never vote for a candidate based solely on one issue, no matter how emotional it may be, unless the issue is "should we blow up the Earth" or something. If the issue is at all controversial, in any significant way, it should not be the only reason you're voting against someone.

I don't care whether you do or don't think abortion is okay; it should not be the reason you're voting for a candidate, as a Christian. If a candidate were to have a proven-to-work, revolutionary program to raise families out of poverty, provide cheap and nutritious food, and promote inexpensive medical care without pissing off hard workers who want to keep their money, but he endorsed legalized abortion, is it really sensible to reject him on those grounds?

In a non-ideal world, we have to work with necessary evils. Even if you think abortion is evil, it is just one more ticker on the scale. Think about it this way: if God says that all sin is sin, and you can't just rank sin and say, "oh, I'll commit some little sins, they don't matter, as long as I'm better than the guy over there cheating on his wife," then we should realize that abortion is no greater a sin than anything else. Sin is sin. If your candidate turns away the poor and sick, isn't that just as great a sin as endorsing gay marriage would be? If your candidate spurns and wastes God's Earth like the Prodigal Son spent all his fortune, isn't that just as great a sin as promoting legal abortion? 

Let's not even get into the arguments of how many times various sins are mentioned in the Bible, and if they are even sins at all, and so forth. In the end, just look at the person in question, and ask yourself, how sinful overall is this regime going to be? Stack the good points on one side and the sins on the other. Make sure to count all the sins, not just anything related to people's genitalia. Despite what many evangelicals want you to think, who you sleep with, when, and in what fashion, are not the only topics for sin. Count all of them: greed, lies, cheating, taking bribes, depriving the poor of aid, fearmongering, selfishness...

Now choose, with open eyes. If you still end up choosing the original candidate you were voting for, that's fine. No one cares if you started out hardcore Romney, looked at both sides, and still said Romney was the right answer. Same for Obama. But at least make a real decision, not one based on the idea that sexuality is the only possible metric for sin.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


My boyfriend and I see God in completely different areas of the world.

He looks at numbers and sees the divine. Nature is full of uncanny mathematical patterns, and the laws of the universe fit together like laser-cut puzzle pieces, perfect in their simplicity and complexity. "I imagine God as having His hands around the world," he said one night. "He's everywhere." He sees miracles as unnecessary, as breaking the beauty of the world; to him, nature and its perfect fit, like gears in a clock, is the real miracle. He claims he doesn't need to believe in the miraculous, because what kind of God would need to go back in and patch up the work He already did? It's like Michelangelo returning to the Sistine Chapel and scratching a doodle in crayon on a corner of the ceiling. The universe is so perfectly designed from the start, from the moment God set "let it be," and the Big Bang went off, that the one miracle God ever truly did is still going, and going, and going. The things we call miraculous, are so miraculous because they are natural phenomena that were decided billions of years ago, a tiny butterfly flap that caused the cancer to be attacked at just the right time by just the right virus to pop the right cell, and so forth.

I see God in the cracks of reality. When something uncanny happens, just in the precise way it shouldn't. When a disease vanishes in a way that is impossible. When nature moves aside a little, so you can see the God behind the curtain, holding the universe in perpetually moving fingers, playing physics like a piano, throwing in a riff now and then that wasn't originally in the piece. "I imagine God peeking in between slips of time," I said. "He's hiding behind the world, always watching, waiting, and acting." All the world's a stage, and God is running the tech crew. I don't think God planned it ahead of time, or at least not to fit seamlessly; I believe that miracles are supposed to happen, that we can't actually exist without breaking reality at some point or another. That natural law is purposely and divinely imperfect and incapable of acting entirely on its own. That without God's direct intervention, humanity wouldn't have evolved; sentience would never have occurred; the nations wouldn't have lined up as they did when Jesus existed; so on and so forth.

In the end, I think we're both a little bit right.