Sunday, July 31, 2011

Speaking Christian

This is very interesting and makes me want to buy the book it is based on and it validates some of my previous assumptions and will probably inspire future blog posts.

There is also a longer article that you can read that goes in more detain and then there is a book too. I so wish I could afford it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

More of this except with talent

Found a great new blog on wordpress, the writer really deals in very similar stuff as I do.

Go check her out.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What I don't like about Christianity Part 3: Sexism

This post hits home for me a little more than parts 1 and 2 because it is personal. As a result the tone is different. I still attempt to be rational and fair.

I don't really like being a woman. It is a topic I have explored more in another post in a rather graphic way. It is not really that being a woman is so bad, it is more like the societal pressures as one are. The stereotype of a typical woman has nothing to do with me. I have also posted before about how I identify more as a human being than a woman, call it androgyny if you want but that does not really fit. What it really is is being an individual but that is kinda vague and people don't like vague. As in the post about not being happy with being a woman and how awful it was things in society have gotten a lot better and I am really grateful about that. One place where it has not gotten better is the Bible. My favorite verse is Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine) I belonged to a Quaker fellowship when I was in the United States and they believed in that firmly. In the church and in God's work we were all equals. A woman was the same as a man in the service of Christ all was looked at was merit. I really enjoyed that and when I become really depressed thinking about being a woman and all the roles, tendencies, talents and weaknesses people try to impose on my that have nothing to do with me as a real complete person I think about this verse. It comforts me a great deal.

What about the rest of the Bible it was written by a bunch of men in a patriarchal culture that permeates the language, counting, examples etc. If you have read the Bible all the generic examples independent of gender use he. For example my favourite Psalm states (emphasis again mine):

Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

(Psalm 1)

So, the good guy is a guy and unless I ignore that it has nothing to do with me, when read in the English language (in Finnish it is not so bad because we only have one word covering both he and she). I chose this passage because it is my favourite and it, like any generic excerpt is a good example of this. Women are only mentioned in verses specifically referring to women and the roles of women and I want nothing to do with these verses because I cannot relate with them. I would like to emphasize that over all this is not a big deal, neither is calling “manned spaceflight” manned spaceflight, that is because “peopled spaceflight” sounds retarded and is not a real thing.

As for counting, only men are counted, women like slaves, children and donkeys are not mentioned except in passing like, there were 1,000 men and some women and children in addition. That is because we women were property. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Ex. 20:17) So, I am property. This is fracking depressing. As a wife I am property of my husband, just like his slaves (servants), oxen ,donkeys and other belongings. It did not say husband in there so men are not property of their wives.

What does the Bible say about women? They are usually seen as bringers of food, bearers of children. Sisters, mothers, daughters. Pretty standard stuff. In Titus 2:4-5: “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” In Timothy 3:6-7 “They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” In 1 Peter 3:5-6 “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”

What are these verses saying, let me summarize. Or at least tell you what I personally hear. I am supposed to love my family and be self-controlled. That sounds great, that would work for men too, but I am also supposed to be submissive to my husband because I am liable to malign the word of God otherwise. WTF Titus? What do you think I am? Timothy assumes I am weak-willed. If he did not he would have said weak-willed men, or people. Remember, men first and by default women only when specifically speaking of them. Peter says to be holy as a woman I am supposed to be submissive to my husband.

These can all be justified, explained away and if these were the only parts of the Bible that did this is would be fine but this is just a handful of examples. Paul says that women are not supposed to speak in the church and frequently that is justified as something to do with the times. Women who were temple priestesses in pagan temples were also prostitutes and therefore a decent woman would not want to be mistaken for a prostitute. I have also heard that women gossip and gossip is bad and in order to keep it out of God's house we should make the women STFU.

Justifying these away is like getting called stupid and then having someone explain to me that, while what they said was all true, but only applicable under certain circumstances. Still I am being called stupid, childlike and less than human and over time it starts to get to me. I start to wonder. Reading too much of Paul makes me want to book a sex change ASAP or convert to some other religion. I don't want to be that which those verses describe.

What about the good things of the Bible that are said about women? What about Proverbs 31? The passage about the perfect woman often used in modern churches to make the Bible seem feminist. It is a fine passage, equally applicable to a man. Being a hard worker, respected and loved and valued by your family is a great thing. I have nothing really negative about it. My favourite part is: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Little passages like this are all too rare and a drop in the bucket compared to all the other crap women get heaped on them.

Many people say that Jesus is a very feminist character in the Bible. I suppose that is true. He never says anything truly demeaning to any woman, in my opinion. His conversations with his female friends are not recorded. I would love to know what words he and Mary Magdalene and sisters Martha and Mary exchanged since he was around them a lot of the time. It was women who found out about his resurrection first before others. What good things he might have said to women were not recorded because the recorders were men and that did not matter to them. Women may have mattered to Jesus and been valuable friends and companions to him but they were not to the men who wrote the gospels (this may not have been more than a cultural trait, I am sure they were fine men otherwise).

How do I deal with this? The homosexuality topic is easier to think through and get past and conclude because I am not homosexual it is not personal. This is and every time I read the Bible it is there and especially in the letters of the New Testament. It is very blatant and when ever I read the letters I become angry all over again. I feel less than human. I feel like there is this exclusive club of true Christians that a penis is the passport to, just like circumcision was the passport to Judaism that also was something not possible to women. I feel like I am on the outside. I cannot use my true talents. I will always be less than. So I am still working on this. This reconciling myself with being told by the Bible that I am something I am not. I am not a Biblical woman and, barring a miracle, will never be. God just did not create me like that. It is harder still when Christians remind me of this. That is something I will explore in another post very soon.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Need Your Opinion

I still have a few posts to go in my series What I don't like about Christianity. I will edit and post another part soon. In the meanwhile I have noticed that my posts on Jehowah's Witnesses have enjoyed some popularity. Should I go to their service and write another entry on the subject? I mean I am planning on going anyway when I get around to it because I love being a spiritual tourist.

It would be the first time I have visited a "non-Christian" church. I have been to Assemblies of God, Southern Babtist, Independent Pentecostal, Independent Babtist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic so I really think I need to expand my horizons. It is shocking that I have not gone to the services of more religious groups since I enjoy the exploration so much.

So what is your opinion? Do you want to hear more?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What I don't like about Christianity Part 2: Homosexuality

In my ongoing series about what I don't like about Christianity I present homosexuality. Let me make it clear, I am a Christian I love the Lord and Jesus lives in my heart. Now that that is out of the way I have thought that some Christians focus on the gays a little too much. It is almost creepy, heck, it is creepy. Let me tell you a story.

When I was in college I went to a wonderful little international church. I loved the people there. I loved the diversity. I loved the sermons that were so simple, clear and to the point. I even liked the music and I am super picky about music. The only thing that leaves a sort of bad taste in my mouth is the memory of a Korean man. In general I hear that Koreans act as if there are no gay Koreans and as a result there is no homophobia. (Also I have never met another Korean like him.) This man certainly did not fit that stereotype. I never asked him about his views of homosexuals in Korea probably because I did not want to encourage him. I cannot remember a single conversation I had with this man that did not disintegrate to talking about homosexuals and the evils of those people. As a result the only thing I remember about this man is ignorance and homosexuality, but mostly homosexuality. I am sure he would love to know that is what I think about him. Only once I tried to debate him on a false statement he made, it was that AIDS was a gay disease and that most people with AIDS were gay men. Actually at the time black straight women were the ones with most HIV cases. I told him so and he asked me who I had heard that from. Had I heard it from a gay person? So what if I had? That did not make it untrue, I really cannot remember whether my source was gay or not. I confess I hated him.

He is not the only one with that attitude that I have met among Christians, just the only one so obsessed, makes me wonder... Anyway, when I was like 12 I bought into that homosexuals are evil thing, but once I got older and a midge of sense I saw the truth. Homosexuals are people just like me and therefore not a strawman of stereotypes and lies. They are not “other” their hearts and minds are not different except in this one little way. I also met gay people and realized they were a lot more loving and accepting than my fellow Christians usually were toward me. When I had other Christians asking me loaded questions about my faith and practice of it so they could judge me, my gay friends were enthusiastically welcoming me to hang out with them and joking with me and making me feel really accepted. What ever left over stereotypes of gays I had fell down. They had no foundation in truth they were build on sand and the wind of truth blew and the rain fell and the misconception was swept away.

What am I saying? Could I possibly be saying homosexuality is not a sin? I can't make that statement. I cannot judge others. I have read all the parts in the Bible, that you have, about how homosexual acts are wrong. Please do not quote them. I just know that there is an awful lot of stuff in this world I do not understand. While everything may be black and white to God but for me to see the world that way makes me judgmental and that is a sin, at least for me. Only God can look into the hearts of men and see the truth about them. I cannot do that, I can barely understand my own.

What is the point? The point is: Why are Christians so judgmental of homosexuals? Could it be a greater sin than premarital sex? Having lustful thoughts? Stealing office supplies? Speeding on the way to work? Lying to your spouse about how much money you spent on something you really wanted that they thought was an unnecessary purchase? No, it is not and could not be a greater sin. All sins are the same in the eyes of God. They all lead to death according to the Bible and they can all be forgiven just the same. Really, whose opinion should we care about God's or man's? Man can set degrees of sin, God does not. I am not also going to sit here and arbitrate and list all the sins someone else commits, I am not God. It is none of my business. I have hard enough time with my own, mostly heterosexual lustful thoughts. After all, having a lustful thought about someone other than my husband is the same as having committed adultery, yikes! I know I am committing sin because I know my own heart. I better fix this and the thousands of other sins I have a problem with before tackling the sins of others, or even commenting weather something is a sin or not. Regardless of all my habitual sinning I am still going to Heaven because I have a promise in my heart. I just can't see how I am better than a gay person. Maybe homosexuality is a sin but Christ said nothing about it so I am not going to worry about it and he knows best about what is important to God.

Also, scientific evidence shows therapies are rather unsuccessful at reversing it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What I don't like about Christianity Part 1: The Old Testament

I have been feeling rather angry, depressed and disappointed lately so I have decided to vent some of that by writing about all the things I do not like about Christianity. Yes my disappointment has to do with Christianity and Christians but instead of getting into that I want to discuss the Old Testament.

I really do not like the Old Testament. I don't like it in the same way that I do not like brussels sprouts. They are one of the few vegetables I hate. I mean I like the idea of them they are like tiny cabbages and I want to eat them by peeling off the little leafs one by one. The only thing stopping me is the taste. It is really horrible. My brother actually loves brussels sprouts so I know this dislike is not universal by any means. It is merely my opinion. No reading weird stuff into this and saying I am implying no one should eat brussels sprouts or they are a bad thing, no one should infer anything like that about the Old Testament either.

I was not always a disliker of the writings of the Old Testament. I used to enjoy the fun stories a lot as a kid. I did have some trouble reconciling it with the New Testament but I compartmentalized it in my head and no problem. As I got older I started to understand the Old Testament better and being able to reconcile it with the New Testament in my own way. Also as I did this my dislike of it grew. I have no idea why this is. I have no real reason to dislike the book just people's interpretations of it and the way they try to defend it.

What do I think the old testament is? This would be a good question to answer at this point. It is the chronicle of the Jewish people. It is their story. Christianity was an outgrowth or Judaism and therefore the main influence on the New Testament. It was heavily cited by Jesus and others in it. That is the simple answer that I can articulate with no problem. The long answer that I have a harder time putting into words is: What does it mean to me? Part of my acceptance of the apparent contradictions of the book and understanding them was phasing the Old Testament out in importance. Just like the New Covenant is greater than the Old, the New Testament is greater. I see the Old Testament as incomplete. It is attempting to state the same thing as the New Testament without Jesus and failing at it. Instead of Jesus it uses the law and gets tangled up in it and spans twice the pages of the New and fails to make the point. The New Testament, however, has Jesus and makes the point already in the Gospel of Mathew.

What I mean is I find references to salvation, or hints of it all over the Psalms. They are the one book of the Old Testament that lets its hair down and forgets about the rules and merely revels on the greatness of God. Rest of the time it is all about the rules, how we should follow the rules and stories about people trying to follow the rules and usually failing at it.

There was one story that bothered me as a child. I cannot find the exact location because I cannot figure out what words to use exactly. It took place while Moses was leading the people of Israel to the promised land. They attacked a town and no one was supposed to keep any loot for themselves. God told Moses someone had kept some loot so they threw lots to determine the tribe then on down until they got down to the nuclear family unit and the culprit. He confesses and gives back the item he had taken. Then in true Old Testament style he gets killed and so does his entire family unit, his kids wife and, if I remember, pack animals.

This was really hard to swallow. When my mother read it to me as a child out of her grown up Bible I really shocked and confused me but I tried not to think about it. As a little child it seemed so wrong, so contradictory of the God I believed in. With the faith of a child I shut the entire story out off my mind and separated that cruel petty unforgiving God from the one I believed in. Still it stayed with me and as I got older until I had to think about it and wonder at it. I had to either accept it as a story of my God or reject it.

It was at this time I considered the Old Testament as a whole and I considered weather or not to reject the whole thing because it seemed to me this was not the God I wanted to believe in. I have always had very well defined ideas of right and wrong, sure they have evolved over time and have incorporated a lot more gray area but they are still very well defined. The God of the Old Testament seemed to me to be so cruel, petty and xenophobic. This God did not seem to give a hoot about the rest of the people he created just his chosen people. F those pagans. Lets not even try to make them one of the Chosen people He loves. They can just go die in a fire set by the Chosen.

So you can see what a dilemma I had. The image of the Old Testament god contradicted so fiercely with the truth God had set in my heart from birth about what I saw as my God. What to do? I was able to reason away the problems I had with bits of the New Testament a lot easier. In the end I realized something. The Old Testament was given to us to show what a world with out grace was like. I personally think they could have done it in a fewer pages but it seems to make the point very well. Only a very few people are capable of even being good enough to communicate with God personally and no one is perfect and transgressors get destroyed instead of forgiven. As the Psalms hint, salvation was still there but much harder to find and not available to everyone. When Jesus came he fulfilled the law and swept it aside and we no longer had to be tangled up in it to attain salvation. We can just go to Him and be forgiven. The message of salvation is so clear when seen through the lens of Jesus and an impossible jungle of confusion and fear when seen through the lens of the law. The law can only show us our sin it cannot save us. Jesus can save us and remove the sin that the law showed us.

This is my opinion on the subject and I guess I don't like the Old Testament because to me it is a scary vision on a world where grace is so rare and the Law so abundant. I know I am incapable of being good. Even with grace I fail daily, no hourly, and the thought of not having forgiveness and understanding for this fills me with dread. This is why I hate it when people quote the Old Testament or try to defend the law so profusely as to make it seem like it is a good thing instead of a failed method only conceived to show us how woefully deficient we are. In my opinion, if you cannot make you point using the New Testament you are making the wrong point. If there are no relevant scripture in the New Testament it is simply irrelevant. Also if Jesus did not speak about it it obviously was not the point. The rest of the New testament after Jesus's death was written to answer questions people of the time had and they were written by biased flawed men about their biased flawed opinions. I am not saying they are not worthwhile and useful, I merely am saying I do not hold them nearly in the same esteem as the words of Jesus. If I can understand all that Jesus said, or nearly all, and attempt to live based on that I think I am in good shape. I have decided to focus on Jesus and his words because they are more than adequate. They are perfect and the rest is just periphery.