Let the religious baggery begin

My apologies to those who expect purely creative literature from this blog, but a five-minute-conversation-turned-uncalled-for-crying-fit-of-self-centered-stupidity is weighing heavy on my mind and I need an outlet which can bring on further discussion. If it is long-winded, I am sorry. I am rambling off the cuff.

To begin, I have been raised in a Catholic home (from a maternal angle, anyway).  My mother takes her religion to heart, and I mean to heart.  And I am completely respectful and understanding of that.  I can proudly say that the Church has given me guidance in my childhood and brought a lot of important things into my life.  I can also honor the fact that people need religion, whether by habit or to fill a spiritual hole.  My mother, by both of these needs I believe, holds her religion highly and put a lot of time and effort to make my sister and me into practicing Catholic women.  My sister has not followed this path, and her being the older daughter, my mother put extra effort into my younger years.  I was put into Catholic school, again a great move for my life, where I met my first and only love, and my current boyfriend of 6 years, along with a multitude of life-long friends.  And I cannot begin to narrate the moral grounding I have established through this lifestyle.  But I have also developed my moral understanding from my father, a non-denominational man who lives his religion by being a good person.  The fact that he could be such a great man, in intellect and personality, without the Church’s direct influence on his life, has been an extra outlook on life that I am glad I had, and possibly is an inspiration to my current stand.

Now a couple days ago I began a simple conversation with my mother on floral arrangements versus hand-made center pieces for my future wedding. (I am not engaged yet, so no congratulations or anything, please.)  My mother made a reference to her church, as if we would be married there.  Jake (my boyfriend) has a Catholic family as well, and we have, through his youth group, grown close to a lot of people in his church.  Since I have no ties to my mother’s church besides her, I made it clear we would likely use Jake’s church instead.  This somehow snowballed into my mother’s ‘talk’ of my not going to church on Sundays anymore.  The result of this attempt at a talk was her selfishly crying over the fact that, in very different words than were used during the conversation and cry-fest, I am another of her failures at making another Catholic follower, and I am a disappointment for her, just like my sister.  Again, not nearly in those words, but being the therapist of my mother since I was age 3, I know what she means.

I have given her my explanation for not going to church a few times now, and it seems to go in one ear and out the other, as many opinionated statements do when my mother confronts them.  I have grown to appreciate the concept of a god which in some way created us, or at least has interest in our well-being.  But I see it as this: a god, whether creator or observer, is not an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-great being if it needs weekly conscious and petty worship from us to consider us worthy of its love.  To me, an all-powerful being who creates on a whim simply to create would have an interest for us to use the gifts we are given to whatever end.  Yes, to be a good person, to benefit others around us, is looked upon fondly, but every person makes a good, and in turn a bad decision in life at some point.  If I use my gift of choice at all, it is a good thing, even if my actual choice is bad.  If this all-powerful god did not want us to utilize our ability to choose and experience all the results of free choice, it wouldn’t have given us choice to begin with.  Perhaps in another world/universe this god has made that utopia world we vainly try to accomplish, but it is not here.  I feel this god wants us to experience it all, even to bad ends.   And that is a god worth thanking.  I can take a moment out of each day to thank that god for what I have, and I do.

But church is not the same as this.  The concept of mass has a lot of spiritual and ritualistic aspects to it, all of them I have learned through my Catholic education, and I do not agree with most of them.  My greatest enemy is hypocrisy, and I lose that battle a lot.  This is one battle, though, which I have now conquered, or at least I thought I had.  I stopped going to church because it was hypocritical and disrespectful.  I do not believe in the need for the moments of prayer during mass, I do not believe in the need for spiritual guidance from a priest, whether through a sermon or some idiotic ritual such as confession, and honestly, even sadly to a point, I do not believe in the Eucharist. And this is where I become a disappointment.

The concept of the physical church and of the mass, to me, is a tool for those who do not have the will to believe through their own soul alone.  People need religion. I will never deny that.  I will never put someone down for needing it.  But for me, for now, I don’t need it.  I have a concept of god which is personal, beautiful, and fulfilling to me.  I do not need the institute of the church to reinforce what I already know to be my understanding of god.  And I will happily discuss my belief and listen to another’s belief in due turn.  I simply ask that the other person not force their belief on me, and do not say you are right and I am wrong merely because you have a religion and I do not.  No one is wrong and everyone is right in the realm of religion.  Whatever makes you feel comfortable, happy, and content when it comes to a higher power, the afterlife, what have you is okay.

It is not okay, however, to my mother.  She has a longer life experience with the church, I will give her that.  And again, that is fine with me, and a happy thought that she has that grounding in her life.  She has not made a move to re-convert me.  She does not look down on me in disgust.  She simply sees a disappointment, a failure of her ability to raise a Catholic.  And that is not fair to me or to herself.  She has created a good, moral person in me, and I am grateful.  Instead of looking to the positive, she takes her all-too-well-known path of pessimism and makes the whole issue about herself.  It saddens her that I am not a practicing Catholic, completely disregarding the fact I am not a Catholic at all from my own point of view, aside from being baptized and confirmed. I am sure she will deny this for many more years.  It upsets her that I do not go to church, despite my solid reasoning of avoiding disrespect toward those who do find church as a sanctuary and place and time of worship.  She even went so far as to say it upset her that I had ever talked about taking birth control, which is all-together off topic at this point.  Suffice it to say I have never had sex and taking the pill would have nothing to do with actually preventing a child, but would be taken for the other effects of the drug.

And so this little discussion, beginning nowhere near the realm of religious debate, ended with my mother’s tears and her running from the discussion as it she was the only on hurt by it and it could not be continued simply on principle.  I have no idea when this talk is going to resume; I could see it being months or even a year or two.  But it will still gnaw at me, because I don’t understand what response I can give which will be honest and still comforting to her.  It bothers me that I am a burden on her conscience, and yet it angers me that she cannot be happy that I have found a sense of peace in this matter.  I am happy with my current choice, and to me that should be enough for her.  The fact she has made so much of her life into my religious status is just pitiful to me, and so I cannot sympathize.  What else can I do but restate my position and hope that eventually she will understand?

 

Okay, it’s almost 1 am and I am done my ranting for the night.  I would love to get feedback on this, either advise or comments on my view on god.  I would prefer no religion pitches, please, but if you feel you must, go for it.  I will respond accordingly.  If you think you can explain my mother’s side of this better than I am may understand, by all means go for that as well.  It might really help.  More creative stuffs to come, I promise.  I’m in a bit of a slump with the time travel short story, can’t get motivated.  But I may post the first half for you all just to see if I can get myself going again.

Thanks for your time, everyone.  Cheers.

~S. Virginia Gray

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19 thoughts on “Let the religious baggery begin

  1. I, too, was raised in a strict religion. As the daughter of an elder, I was brought up to follow strict religious patterns. By the time I was sixteen years old, I was pushing against the confinements of them–and by the time I was 36, I was strangling on them. I walked away from everyone and everything I knew. I had been taught not to question, but I did question. I’d been taught I must have faith, but I no longer believed. And I thought the fault lay within me.

    When I broke free, I went looking for the truths that were within me. My truths. My mother felt much like your mother, and I felt like a failure. The problem with many religions is that they force you to wear a coat, so to speak, not of your own choosing.

    I tried many times to have that conversation with my mother, but she only knew she must try to save me. Like you, I had found a deep peace, and, for me, a deeper spirituality than anything I had ever known. I had been raised with a detached view with God, being way out there watching over us. Now, I had a spiritual view of everything around me–but my mother could not see that, or share in my sense of peace.

    After a few years, we found a type of truce. She still tries to send me things. But she does so out of fear. I feel sad that she must follow anything in fear. I wish that she could find peace too. But I cannot change her coat for her–anymore than I can wear that same coat. It is not for me. I can only seek some kind of common ground with my mother, with my sister too, and stay centered within myself. Over the years, it has slowly become better for them as they accept tiny parts of what is true about me.

    I admire your courage to be true to yourself. It is not an easy road, but, for me anyway, it was the only road to inner peace and joy. Living a lie to keep things okay with others only brought me grief. Maybe someday she will sense your peace–and find some of her own.

    *hugs
    ~Lenore Wolfe~~

    • 🙂 Good to know I’m not the only one on this battlefield. Luckily for me, my mother’s ideas are not to ‘save me’, at least I don’t think so. She is more concerned with her failure than my salvation, which is even more perplexing to me, knowing her religion and knowing this should be of great concern for her. During our conversation she made a comment which I am still trying to deal with: that she would rather I be a hypocrite and go to church when I don’t believe than to just not go at all. She seems to think the former is more forgivable than the latter, and that to me is just sick. I’m dreading the next ‘talk’, simply because it’s all her talking, and I have to talk over her, just like with other talks of religion, politics, and my sister. It will be a long fight, but I’m sure I will get through it. Thanks for the kind words, Lenore. ^_^

    • See, to me, this is your belief, not a fact or what you ‘know’. And again, I completely appreciate and respect your belief, and if you want to believe it is a fact, all the more power to you.
      In regards to god being insensitive to suffering, I don’t think it needs to be sensitive to it at all. It put us here to live, to make choices and live with the results. If we make choices which cause suffering, that is our problem, and if we suffer due to the world around us (natural causes) then we find a way to cope. It isn’t its business to interfere in our use of our gifts of choice. If it did interfere, people would argue and disagree on its decisions for us and that would just turn into another war on government/religion.
      It is not interested in a ‘relationship’ with us during our lives. That would be a distraction from living our lives and using our gifts to the fullest. After death, yes, perhaps it will be interested in a ‘relationship’ and explain itself to us. But why interfere in the development of its creation? This god’s lack of interference in our lives is its love for us, where it is sacrificing its want to make us happy in our current lives by letting the world play out on its own. To me, that is a great higher being who loves its creation. Not some big guy who creates us, makes us have the ability to make choices in life, and then tell us we are wrong and the only way to be right is to worship him constantly. If this god wanted to have worshipers, he should have just made worshipers, not people with free thought and free choice.

  2. Rana,
    Breaking the box:
    First of all, you’re an interesting person, with a rare mix of viewpoints that usually do not cohabitate within the same person! (I say that with a bit of a chuckle and curiosity.) For instance your dislike of feminism (which I read from other postings) and your never having had sex do not typically go with your very open views of God. Regarding the sex thing, I say, good for you. You will save yourself untold pain and confusion by reserving it for the committed relationship and respect that “your all” deserves. Respect for your femininity is much easier to establish this side of marriage than after the knot is tied. All that is delicate, feminine, and involves beauty needs protection, propriety, and to be cherished and valued.
    Regarding your mother, just love her and hold your ground. Think of her like someone tied in the fetters of religious bondage. These fetters are tradition, fear, guilt, obligation, and God reframed into church structures. My mother is now in her upper eighties, is a devout catholic, and in her dementia often brings up the question of “Why did you leave the church?”, etc. But she knows I love God (and she will often say it), is a dear woman, and approves of the way we have raised our children. (We homeschooled them, etc.) Stick with discussing God, and sidestep actual issues of religion. (And God and religion are not at all the same thing) They say Thomas Edison did not go around breaking all the oil lamps, he just showed them a better light.
    I would agree with you that the religious trappings obstruct and interfere with our relationship with God, more than anything. That is not to say that structures are bad. But they must be structures of the Spirit. For instance, when my days are very open, I will plan and introduce structure into them so that my day is not adrift and purposeless. But when my days are driven by external events, these same structures become bondage. God brings structures (and even law) into our lives in order to shape us and mold us, then removes them when we understand the spirit of the law. Structures are for us, not us for the structures. We bring children up with many “do’s and don’ts. This gives them a foundation for making their own decisions later on. But in time they begin kicking at the mold because they no longer need it, or because it needs to be loosened. Some of us need more structure in certain areas than others. When it comes to the church, God can bring in structures to facilitate a certain purpose. God has developed a great deal of strength in me in standing and standing alone over many years in preparation to address church systems, leaders and structures. What was necessary for my call, would by unnecessary for others. The problem is that God moves on and men end up worshipping the structures and programs – making idols of them. I believe it is right and necessary in your search for God for you to cast off the confining and counterproductive structures of the Catholic church. (and the protestant churches have them too!) I believe you’ve broken out of a box that was working contrary to your growth in God. One caveat: In coming full circle, be open to new structures by the Spirit. God will bring structures in and out of our lives as He performs different works in our lives. In fact, we become comfortable with our old structures just like an old shoe. (The Bible calls them “wineskins”, and warns us that new wine cannot be placed into old wineskins – or the skins will burst, the wine (life of the Spirit) lost, and the vessel broken. At some point we becomes masters of our structures, and God often wants to pull us away from works that reinforce pride and bring us into works that require dependency upon Him. This is where real spiritual growth takes place. We need structure in order to do anything. For instance we must break up our time. Your writing has structure to it. Our bodies have bones. We also need boundaries. You’ve (wisely) decided to keep sexual intimacy within the bounds of marriage (If I understand you properly) God brings both structure and freedom, and as we follow Him we will grow in being both free-spirited, and respectful of boundaries. Boundaries protect us in our freedom. Fences keep us from tumbling over the cliff. Electrical enclosures keep us from electrocuting ourselves. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”. But that same Spirit operates best within us both freely and creatively as we respect God’s boundaries. I’ve noticed that some of the best art involves both hard lines and free-flow. By God’s creativity, we can distinguish thousands of faces that all look “normal”, yet are very different from one another. But a hand growing out of our forehead would not be yet another expression of God’s creativity, but rather a monstrous deformity. (And this describes the difference between sin and freedom – freedom operates within bounds, while sin operates out of bounds, and is destructive like any deformity or corruption of what is good. The other difficult in discerning sin from freedom is that our perspective alone is not sufficient to discern the difference, until we are already bound in sin’s power.) God’s boundaries keep us from self-destructing in our freedom. This pertains to food, sex, work, coffee, alcohol, boundaries of roles, and also spiritual boundaries. Within is safety; without is danger. On the other hand, when we make idols of boundaries, they destroy us by suffocation (too small) The ocean is good within its bounds – providing food, transportation, recreation, and so on. But out of bounds it kills people (as in a tsunami), and if we do not respect it on its own terms, we may become part of the world’s largest graveyard.
    What I am saying is that, having cast off the mold and artificial restraints of the Catholic Church, your views of God may be a bit amorphous. (And I am somewhat comfortable with this – in a sense) Let God give shape to them. In Creation, it says “Now the earth was formless and void, and God said… Let their be light, trees, animals, man, etc. (in steps) God began with formlessness. Let God firm up one thing at a time. I feel confident that when you search with a heart of integrity, that you will grow in truth. I spoke of the danger of “radical openness”. Rethinking this a bit, I believe that when we keep pace with the Spirit, He will protect us in our openness, as He solidifies our understanding in one area at a time. For me, I had an experience with God that superseded all my religious background. I didn’t know what to do with the old stuff, and felt the Lord just wanted me to “shelve it”. Little by little, some things dropped off. Other things, such as my parent’s love for children remained, and I specifically remember the Lord speaking to me that this was one part of my Catholic heritage I could keep. Anyway, you may be quite surprised at how things take shape. I know that in my own life, things have gone nothing like I thought they would as I gave God the reigns of my life. You seem to me to be a person who has cast off the old bondage, and are standing at the threshold of a great big world, stretching your lungs and taking in the free air. But there are dangers out there too. Interestingly (and this is a little off topic, but a great analogy loosely based on one of Steven Covey’s books), as infants we are very dependent, very one-dimensional (we want mom!). Our world gradually opens up. We learn to speak, go to school, get our first job, learn to cope with others, consider a carreer, and think about college and a future spouse. We’ve just gone from extremely dependent infants living in a tiny little world, to having the whole world before us. (And this is where I see you – that is, in my very limited knowledge of you) We could marry anybody, and take any career path. But suddenly we come to college, and must begin narrowing our choices. We cannot be everything and cannot marry everyone. So we choose a career, and the more time that goes by, the more binding those choices become. (For instance, at age 54, I could not suddenly drop all things and decide to go to medical school to be a doctor) We also choose a spouse – thus ruling out the three and a half billion people of the opposite sex that exist in the world, in favor of one. Children come along. (Do you see how our hypothetical person here is greatly narrowing again?) Interestingly, after the kids are raised, be begin to open up again, then narrow in old age as we hobble about in our little apartment and can no longer drive, and have difficulty reading and hearing. At the end we stand at the threshold of eternity, with things vastly opening before us. My point is that I believe that where you are at is good, but God may not let you stay there. You may experience a narrowing process as God brings definition and form to your good intentions. (Just my thinking – don’t let me stick a heavy on you) This narrowing process will likely feel welcome, rather than enslaving, should it come – more like someone who is at first enthralled by a big city and all its bustle and lights, who suddenly just yearns for home and friends.
    Earlier today I browsed your blog site, and commented on your post about people giving negative feedback, thumbs downs, etc. on critiques. I’d written about two pages – completely off of spiritual topics, then my browser went down and I lost it all. Some day I will reconstruct it, but not today!

    • I thank you very much for your kind and understanding words, Greg. I’m afraid I lost my cool a bit with Marvin on our old thread on Yahoo. He has quite an insulting way of believing his view to be the only acceptable answer to his own discussion. But ah well. I told him if he wishes to continue his talk, he can come here.

      I surely admit that my perspective is very amorphous. One of the reasons my mother’s attitude toward my views bothers me so much is that she too left the church around the same time I did. She didn’t leave for as long as time, and went back to the same church (Catholic). Despite this, and despite my telling her (or trying to) that I’m actually open to the possibility that later in life I may go back, she still feels so upset about it. She has no understanding, and more than that, no patience. But I do agree with you. In front of here, I can have all the patience in the world, but that usually ends with me not getting to say what I need to. And most of my internal patience has worn down pretty thin. But it will never completely disappear. The more time goes by that we give each other space, the stronger my patience becomes for when we do discuss again.

      You have all the time in the world to bring those comments back! I’d love to see what you have to say when you have the time again. My blog isn’t going anywhere. I’m probably going to have a new post on my novel sometime soon anyway. Haven’t had the chance to update my other readers on my storyline changes lately.

      • Rana,
        Patience running thin while in each others presence is pretty normal in these things, and I think you are seeing wisely and clearly in your idea of giving each other space. Many issues in life cannot be addressed head on, and as we do what we need to do, we may find our paths meet in a way we did not expect later on. It seems clear to me that you love your mother (and she, you), and that is what will allow you to grow separately without growing apart. (As all children and parents must eventually do) When you said, “I can have all the patience in the world, but that usually ends with me not getting to say what I need to.”, I think that dynamic is typical with parents their children – where the parents are difficult to convince, and slow to change, and the best thing the grownup child can do is to move on in life, and accept the fact that Mom and Dad are somewhat set in their ways. The positive side of this coin is the stability the parents offer while their children enter young-adulthood, which is intrinsically full of change and challenge. In the midst of it all, it’s good to have good ol’ Mom and Dad just the way you left them! I guess what I’m saying is that the process of respect when it comes to parents can be long. But one day you’ll look back and realize things have changed – both you and she. God at times has to cut us out of our families and their culture and traditions, reveal Himself to us, then send us back into them to help them. I believe (as you’ve alluded to) that many religious structures can interfere with our discovery of God. While we’re being cut out and rearranged by God, it’s usually not a good time to address our families (It’s all we can do to keep up with God’s address of us!) But later, it can be different. I had that experience within my own family – being the first to break from the Catholic church. (Can you say, “black sheep”? Actually, they were just happy to see good changes in my life.) My parents still do not agree on a theological level, but very much believe, somehow, that I am following God. (And I am talking 31 years later!) I am close to both, however.

        Regarding “losing your cool a bit with Marvin”, I don’t really think you did. He was being direct (and I am not faulting that, merely acknowledging it), and you were being direct back – in a sense, matching strengths. Directness is fine where the relationship can sustain it. The difficulty with the internet is that it is hard to assess the relationship, and we often do not give our comments the same relational consideration that we would in person. As for me, I’ve tried to stay out of your discussion with Marvin. I think the discussion between the two of you has its own merit. I can see some of the things Marvin is trying to say to you. I think he is holding up a standard of God’s objectivity apart from our personal beliefs about Him. (Which I affirm.) I think what I am seeing in you, however, is this: That though you may be worlds apart in your view of God (with both me and Marvin), I sense a sincerity and integrity in you that, at a fundamental level – your heart of hearts if you will – that when you see truth you will embrace it. This allows me to rest in the disparity, and I believe that God will reveal Himself more clearly to those who acknowledge Him when He bears witness within their hearts. When this right condition exists within the heart, I believe your image of God delighting in watching you as a child learn, grow, and explore applies. I personally find your interest and curiosity in regard to God delightful, and believe He does as well. (And this dynamic may change later on, even as children grow up and take on responsibility and serve) The negative side (which Marvin fears, by the way), is when a child learns things about the world and God, and denies them in favor of self-will. I do not believe that this is where you are at, however, though you, like all of us, must always guard the heart and re-affirm the decision to abide in the truth as we come to know and recognize it all throughout life. God does not expect us to make blind leaps on the say-so of another. He bears witness within our spirit, and our hearts within say, “Yes!”. Faith is nothing more than God connecting with us at the heart level. When He does, what is born out of this union is more real than anything else – real because God, the source of all reality is involved, and real to us because God has connected with us at a heart level – the very core of our being. Our heads also come to bear witness. Faith does not defy intellect, but rather supersedes it. The natural world is very real, but is a subset of the spiritual world. I guess what I’m saying is that I feel a confidence within my own heart (God connecting with me at a heart level – faith?) that you are on a path to knowing God. (And He is knowable.) No external logic – neither mine nor Marvin’s – can substitute for what can only occur on a heart level between each person and God. (And after all, it is our hearts, not our heads, that God is after. The head will follow, though it can be stubborn and unruly. Words and logic alone do not convince the heart. In fact, a head-knowledge of God without the more essential heart-knowledge does very little to help or change a person. It is better to err in one’s thinking than in one’s heart. Issues regarding God involve a battle within the heart much more than within the head.

        Your hearing of God
        When you decided to take our conversation to your blog, I noticed there was a thrill – an excitement that sprang up within you. You were on a mission! I would suggest to you that this was God speaking within your spirit. (Though I would caution that not everything we get excited about is the voice of God – and that is a whole other subject) In fact, I said to my wife that when I saw how energized you were about it, that I felt that God’s hand was somehow in this. This came up out of you. God works with us and within us, and with our gifts and talents. When He moves and speaks to our spirit (God is spirit, and communicates spirit to spirit), everything within our inmost being says, “Yes!” (In those areas where we are open to Him, anyway) In fact with many of the things of God, we understand in our hearts first, and our heads only process it later. I was hearing and responding to God before I got my doctrine straight. (The Kingdom of heaven is within) It’s not in this building or in that church. In fact, the true church is the sum total of what goes on by those who follow the Lord. The church is alive! It’s not a stone, organization, or structure. It is made of “living stones”, which are people aligned with God. When God speaks, He does not deny who we are. Rather, there is a union between God and man, and out of this union something is conceived within us (just like a baby!) that is eternal (Everything God does is eternal.) Having finished (finally!) a five-book series that I published on Amazon, I found myself somewhat floundering for direction. The books were taken from some 800 letters I’ve sent to the leaders of various churches over a seven year period, followed by nine months of intensive, ten-hour a day writing. These letters were highly personal and confrontational to these leaders – addressing issues of hypocrisy, control, traditions of men, etc., and I never intended to turn them into books until after the fact. As a result of looking into your blog, I found myself with new direction in beginning my own website using WordPress (and I never heard of WordPress before), that will involve the beginning of an “underground church within a church” in America. (Also another subject, of which I speak in the last of the five-book series) I did some research on WordPress websites, purchased a “how to” book, and will be getting to work on it. Now I’m on a mission! I felt the Lord spoke to my personal direction through this encounter with you and your blog site. Being a generation older than you, I am not as keyed in on some of these internet things. (I just recently got around to placing my profile picture on Facebook, and have never issued a tweet on twitter in my life – I could not imagine keeping track of all those tiny little comments! But maybe at the right time and in the right context I will embrace it.)

        Respect
        Regarding the Catholic church, you may be in a similar state to a child who was raised under an abusive father, who at first rejects all men and all fatherhood because that is all it has ever known. Later, the child comes to realize that all men and all fathers are not the same, but along the way there were many things to separate out. Perhaps discipline equates in the child’s mind to abuse, firmness with restriction, or even affection with sexual abuse. So the person, in a sense, cleans house – wipes the slate clean. That’s where I see you. (Regarding the church, not your father. I would guess by your attitudes that you have had a very good relationship with your father.) But let God put each piece back in to order – one at a time and affirming each in your heart as you go, as you start not with your old structures, but rather a clean slate. In fact, regarding Marvin, I would suggest to you that there may be a greased slide in your mind where certain attitudes (especially regarding the notion of certainty) all slide into a compartment in your mind where things like arrogance, intolerance, judgmentalism, rigidity, and other negatives are stored. What I am suggesting is that the slides themselves may be part of the problem, and the destination storage place may not be accurate. Perhaps what Marvin should realize is that a lifetime of mental and emotional framework cannot be changed in a moment. Conclusions we come to that are not built by logic, but rather by upbringing, emotion, and culture, cannot be fixed by raw logic. In other words, adjusting those greased slides (our processing framework) can take years (or even generations!), and when we find others making conclusions that we don’t feel our logic should be leading them, we need to step back and process within the person’s existing framework (at least as a beginning). Anything else will feel like something is bypassing our processing system, feel disrespectful (though the disrespect may be unintentional), and feel like someone is trying to cram their thinking down our throats. For instance, if you do not accept scripture as a foundation, any argument from that foundation will raise objections in your mind, and the person will lose you. This means that the other person must seek some common ground, and I think that this is what you are trying to say to Marvin. (And I would say that the onus is on Marvin to find the common ground if he seeks to influence you) The difficulty within any close group of people, is that they share assumptions (whether a church group or any association of people), greatly facilitating communications, while also sharing possible blind spots, since they are all operating from the same group of assumptions. Marvin is assuming you are not willing to look at logic, when the issue is that you have not accepted the foundation and assumptions of his logic. (You seem to me to be a highly logical person) He may be assuming you are not processing in good faith, when you may be very much acting in good faith, albeit from a completely different set of assumptions. To me, you do not seem rigid in your assumptions (I said “amorphous”, right? ) I believe Marvin is viewing this same lack of rigidity as an unwillingness on your part to nail anything down. But I believe you are in a place where, having had things “nailed down” via the Catholic church, and having been disillusioned by that “nailing down”, that you are saying within your heart, “I won’t accept it just because someone says I should. It must bear witness at the deepest level of my being.” I see you as not wanting to nail anything down until you have poked your head up out of your former church box long enough to really take in what is going on. I actually think this is a good place to be in! If that is the cry of your heart, I very much believe that God will meet you in it. Sometimes we get to a point where we’re just tired of the nonsense. We want to KNOW! Your relationship with God cannot be based on your mother’s relationship with God, or Marvin’s, mine, or anyone else’s. For it to be enduring, you must prove this God yourself.

        And finally, when I try to think of the name of your website, my thoughts go something like this, “Virginia the… Virginia the virul… viruli…” Then my thought line joins with the picture of the freaky little “Stompandon stuffed animal you have posted and it somehow comes out, “snuffeleupagus!” “Virginia the snuffeleupagus!” (The Sesame Street woolly mammoth with no tusks) And sometimes it even degenerates further in my mind to “I am the Walrus”! (From the Beatles) Hope this botching of your website name doesn’t go viral and ruin your site. It may be viruliferous! People may start calling you “Snuffy”.

  3. 😀 Greg, your intelligence, grace, and overall wisdom are without bounds. I’m going to move past the comments on patience, as you hit the nail on the head.

    As for my excitement behind this blog post, it was simply because I found someone with different views but who was willing to sit and calmly discuss those views, and respectfully listen to mine at the same time. I had a conversation with my boyfriend’s mother about my own mother’s outburst, and she and I had a 2-hour conversation just like this one. It was incredibly uplifting. I would say that, from my perspective, these discussions are god’s reinforcement of my beliefs, if not indirectly. I feel my personality and views on the world as a whole compliment my beliefs (at least for now), and that these kinds of dialogues encourage me to stand by those beliefs.

    I’m going to have to download your books! I’m surprised you haven’t tried blogging before; trust me, you’ll be a natural! Be sure to use some visuals along the way. Sometimes it really helps bring in readers to break up long, complex discussion with images and videos. You’ll likely get a much bigger following than me. although most people have accomplished that by now. XD

    But back to the topic at hand, you are quite correct in your deduction of my father. He is actually quite an inspiration to my beliefs. He is not a practicing Christian, although I believe he does follow Christan ideals. He has always practiced his beliefs in private, living a calm, quiet, yet actively kind life. He lives his belief in his heart and is content with where he stands on the issue and how he performs his faith in his daily life. I can see in his eyes when he has contradicted his beliefs; his mood changes and he seems personally humbled by his mistakes.

    My mother was always one to preach, preferably to me as I couldn’t have an excuse to get away from it. She used me as an outlet, and to a point I can understand, as she never felt she could discuss these things with my dad. She would be so set in her perspective that she had no way of accepting there are other perspectives which lead other people to the same goal she is after. When she would go against church teaching, I saw no remorse. She wouldn’t even realize she was doing it. She seems to live her life for Sunday mass so she can apologize to ‘God’ for all her mistakes, instead of catching herself in the act and actively working to make herself a better example of ‘God’s’ teaching. Granted, this is my observation only. But to grow up every day with that attitude pushed on you, and then seeing my father quietly accept her views and go about his business of faith within, it is no wonder I chose to follow his lead instead of hers. My father reminds me of one passage of the Bible which I truly hold close. A piece of advice from Jesus: “When you pray, go into your closet and shut the door behind you, and pray to God in secret.” I strive to live this advice every day, and no one around me needs to know how I come to be the person I am. All they need to know is that my intentions for them and myself are good, because I like being good. Sometimes I delve into the bad, but only because without bad there would be no good, and so a balance must be made.

    As for Marvin, I continued my discussion with him again. I do wish he’d just come and talk on the blog. Yahoo isn’t doing too well keeping me up with his responses. And I agree, and I understand that he is coming from a much different perspective, much like my mother’s perspective at that. In a way I suppose that is why I keep responding; in an effort to figure out how to have this conversation with her, I’m practicing with him. My intentions for that conversation are really just to get him to speak his belief in his own words, and clearly, not with quotes and not in half sentences that only make sense in his mind. His second to last comment did well, and I was hoping it would continue, but I have no idea where in the world he is coming from in his comment on the Lord’s Prayer. Other than his slight connection with “our Father,” and god referred to as ‘He,’ I don’t get where he’s coming from. I think that’s just a miscommunication through writing that we won’t get over. Ah well.

    Hahaha, I love your interpretation of my blog title. I couldn’t find another really good ‘v’ word that wouldn’t be some reference to V for Vendetta (a personal favorite movie of mine). I quite like this long-lost word viruliferous. I still have not found a spell checker that knows it, aside from Google search. And I hope people call me Wally the Walrus before Snuffy. I was never a fan of the snuffelupagus. XD

    • Rana,
      Regarding your blog title, I’m just teasing you and having fun. (I think you know that) The title for your site is just fine, and I just yesterday caught the “I am a state, that’s one thing… (I was a little slow, but I liked it) I just responded to your post about critiques, and you said you like the full force of a person’s critique. Well, here goes! In “I am a state, that’s one thing…”, I’m pretty sure you need a semicolon, rather than a comma between “state” and “that’s”. (Two two complete sentences) I hope you have your support people around you now. Don’t jump off a bridge or anything.
      If you seriously would like to peruse my books, I’d be happy to email copies to you so you don’t have to pay. You should have my email address through this blog site. If you send an email, I will attach them in a reply. By perusing the tables of contents, you will gain the greatest sense of them. Just so you know, the books are intense, and extremely hard-hitting. I am essentially addressing the “leaven of the Pharisees” within my own evangelical church. I also lay out through the books what I believe the church is and is not. You might find the “Greg” in the books a little scary, but in addressing systemic resistance to reform, I truly believe that both the directness and intensity is warranted. Jesus treated the average person on the street with a great deal of patience and compassion, but He hammered the religious leaders of His day because they knew better, and because of the detrimental effects they had on the sheep. Remember also that I am addressing my own – people who hold to the Bible as the standard, and I am addressing men who proclaim that standard in their deviation from it. There is a great deal of scripture in the books, which I use as a “contrasting dye” to the politically correct church we have going on today. I’ve been addressing church systems for some 25 years, have been thrown out of one church twice, and the leaders of my current church of about 3000 people are forbidden to respond to my emails. I’d have to say that reform of the church is the heart of my call, and I’ve stood alone on a lot of issues over many years in doing it. In a sense I love it and hate it at the same time. It is my passion, and also the source of a great deal of pain and loss in my life. (Anything worth doing will eventually cost us something dear) If, after having skimmed over them, if you do not feel inclined to read them, please do not feel compelled to slug through them. In thinking about your father and mother, there are things in the books that speak to men’s vs. women’s spirituality, and how most churches hold little interest for the men. I call the men to stand up, take responsibility, and assert where they are truly at. In book II, I also have a chapter devoted to feminism, called “Feminism, the third rail of political correctness” Anyway, let me know and take care.

      • First, you are right. I figured it could go both ways, but not it’s going to bother me. 🙂 And yes, I’ll be strong. XD

        I would be honored to have copies. Honestly, I’d rather buy them simply to contribute to your work, but I can’t turn down books straight from the author! I’ll likely buy copies for my Kindle in addition to the solid copies, so I can take them around with me a little easier.

      • Hahaha, nevermind the other post in terms of the books. Didn’t read thoroughly enough.

        Also I can’t seem to access your blog account, so we’ll have to figure out a different way to send them. I’ll get back to you on that.

  4. I think semicolons are on their way out. But it’s not like I was asking you to waste an entire colon on it or anything – just a little semicolon!
    Regarding the books, I appreciate your willingness to buy them. I just don’t like making money off someone I’m having an ongoing conversation with. (Notice the forbidden ending preposition in my sentence. Who ARE these grammar police that decided these things for the rest of us poor shlubs? – making us feel too guilty to relax, but not guilty enough to change it!) If you can figure out a way to get an email address to me, I’d be happy to send them. (I only published them as eBooks so far) I’m a little queasy about throwing my email address up on a public blog because of spammers, etc. I wouldn’t mind doing it for a day, if you would then remove it from the site. (What the heck, I’ll post it immediately following this post, if you would just delete the post afterwards) Anyway, I was initially concerned with the books that you may find them irrelevant to your life, since they are heavily focused on evangelical church systems. But as I re-read the outlines again myself, I wondered if they may be helpful to you and the questions you have – with the church, and with your parents. I also wondered if the long view coming from a different paradigm that includes hearing from God in close connection to the Word of God, God’s speaking in dreams, through others, and all sort of things might somehow explain some things – in other words, my assumptions, ideas of power within the church – all sorts of things – that is, if you can endure those things which are specific to certain evangelical church situations. I in turn would be honored if you would comment on whatever strikes you – whether content, style – anything but my punctuation! I realize I’m talking five books here (about 200 to 270 pages or so each) If you go to Amazon.com and type in “Greg Heesen”, they all five come up. The first is “A Church Hostile to Her King”, Book II is “A Church Hostile to the Nuclear Family”. Book III: “Paradigms of Impotence, Paradigms of Power”. (With a comma, not a semicolon!) Book IV: “Men and Prophets”, and Book V: “Engaging the Culture Through Unconventional Means: The Birth of the Underground Church in America.” The main introduction and the tables of contents will give you the best sense of them.
    I read over your conversation with Marvin ending in his speaking about the six-sided box. Without getting to the deeper issue of faith, I for one am just giddy that you are not a feminist! (“Hey everyone look here! A lady on the internet that doesn’t hate men!”) That buys about two years of patience with me on the other matters, and for a while anyway, you can do no wrong in my eyes which are blinded by that one critical virtue.

    • Hahaha!!!! Why thank you for the feminist comment. I honestly love getting into bouts with feminists. I have nothing against all the freedom their original work did for me, but the fact is there will always be some ‘majority,’ and someday it may be white women. But that’s just going to have the black women in outrage, and all blacks in general will still be in outrage, and all other ‘minorities,’which I just find stupid. Someone has to be majority, there’s no way around that. I am a woman and I live a very free and fortunate life. Why? Because I work for it. Modern feminists want everything without working for anything, the general trend in this country at the moment. It makes me cringe to think people have such an entitlement attitude (not to be used as political jargon, just the right word for the situation).

      Sorry, big tangent! XD As for Marvin’s current turn on the discussion, I’m quite happy he’s trying to use his own words and thinking about it more than quoting things he believes he understands completely. Even the words of the Bible can have different interpretations depending on the person reading them. Thoughts are more malleable, and so easier to find common ground on, instead of demanding one’s own interpretation as right. That is where I wanted this to go, and I’m hoping the end of his ‘gruesome tale’ is something he is not too set on. He just needs to finish it! -.- But it’ll get there.

      I did get your email (will email you shortly, in fact), and deleted the post. I’m hoping I deleted it fast enough. I don’t know how long it will take me to get through them all, but I greatly look forward to starting!

  5. Pingback: A quick question, and back to writing… | Virginia the Viruliferous
  6. I have a different perspective than most. I spent 8 years studying all the books of the bible and the history of the age in which they were written. I came across 1st Thessalonians 4:11-12 “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

    I too do not need religion or their institutions. I need the wisdom of God to make it through this life. Sometimes we parents (I have a 28 yr old son and 25 yr old daughter) just want to see that our children have a small grasp of the teachings that once held families, communities and a nation together. To me, in the end it is my actions that I will strive to perfect. So I’ll continue to lead that quiet life, work hard an hopefully win people’s respect. That’s truly about all one can do.

    • Your quote from Thessalonians reminds me of the greatest wisdom of Jesus from the Bible: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your god in private.” (that maaaaaay be paraphrased, but you know what I mean) I have had this conflict for a couple years now, wondering how to raise my future children when I was raised in the Church. I hope to guide them on my own right, and teach them that it’s okay to feel a connection with a religion and follow it, but never lose sight of your personal faith, and never confuse your faith with your religion. Being a good person for your own sake and for the sake of those around you (not because you think it is expected of you) makes you a far better person in the long run. Some can do both, be genuinely good people and lead very religious lives. I’d rather just do one and leave those who need the other way of life to it.

      I simply wish it wasn’t such a taboo kind of thing, to have faith without religion. But ah well, it’s still nice to find a person or two in the world with the same kind of idea, and it’s great fun to bounce ideas of faith around. Thanks for sharing with me! 🙂

      • You are welcome and you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with questioning and holding on to your own interpretation of religion or religious text. Remember it was men who decided what was to be included in the bible. For those that hang on to the institution of religion without questioning they run into the potential of belonging to a false church as revelations speaks about. And that doesn’t have a good outcome.

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