Posts Tagged ‘my personal journey’

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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

images-183I think I might have lost an old friend this week. We’ve known each other for 25 years. This sucks. And it isn’t the first time this has happened to me in the past couple years.

My buddy’s main complaint, boiled down…I’ve changed.

And I have. He’s correct. The biggest change, of course, and the one that is the most troubling for him, is that I no longer identify myself as a Christian. He, on the other hand, proudly states that he believes the same things today that he believed when he was 21.

Yes, I have changed. A lot, in fact. Including my religious beliefs. And I can understand why this is difficult for many of my old friends. I wasn’t just a back-pew-at-church once-a-week-on-Sunday Christian. I directed Christian ministries, which is where I originally met many, if not most, of my old friends. I led worship. I was an interim pastor at my local church. I taught a thriving Bible study in my home for four years. I counseled people from a Biblical perspective. I prayed with people. God/Jesus was the center of my life, which is still true for these old friends. So I get it. I know how exclusive and all-encompassing the Christian faith is, at least for evangelicals. It’s the defining factor in their lives, like it was for me, and because of this you are either in their club or you’re not. And although these folks have no problem reaching out to non-believers (this is not a group of people who behave like judgmental assholes toward non-Christians), they do find it difficult to be close to people – even long-term good friends – who no longer share these same core beliefs and motivations.

And I have to be honest about this. I’m finding it harder to be their friend, too, but for a very different reason. This buddy of Broken_church_in_the_jungle_by_Linolafettmine mentioned to me this past week that “Satan is deceiving me.” He also made a comment about my “shaky morals,” which I truly don’t get. (I consider myself more morale now than I ever have before.) It’s hard to feel close to people who think these things about me. Does that make sense? I accept this guy…I love him as a brother. We’ve walked with one another through difficult life events and have shared honestly and openly about our deepest struggles and greatest victories. Because of this long-term commitment to one another and the respect and love I have for him, I can handle the fact that we think about things differently. In fact, differences don’t scare me anymore. I celebrate them. I can disagree with someone about things – even important things – and remain committed as a friend. But I have to admit: it’s truly hard to be close to someone who thinks you’re going to hell and who considers you immoral.

Yes, I have changed. This is true. I’m on a great adventure of change, in fact. I have walked away from a faith that was really good for me for many years but that I probably should have walked away from ten years before I finally got up the nerve to do so. And there have been other changes, as well. I like myself better. I’m both more confident as a person AND more gentle with, tolerant of and understanding toward others. I listen better. I’ve become quite a bit more liberal and even progressive in my politics and beliefs. I like rap.

Where I haven’t changed: I’m still committed to social justice and doing whatever I can to help unfuck up the world. In fact, I’m probably more committed to that than I was before. I still love my wife, am faithful to her and plan on being with her for at least another 26 years. I love my four kids and would do anything for them. I consider myself a faithful friend, although not a perfect friend. I still make people laugh. I talk too much. I take risks. I’m not afraid to “come out” about who I am and what I think, and I know I can offend others, which is something I’m still trying to self-monitor. And I still get hurt and feel lonely when people who have been important to me find themselves unable to remain close, and I still feel badly when I’m judgmental and intolerant toward them.

images-184Where I might still change: Who knows? Faith may grow or shrink, ideas may change, opinions may modify. It’s an adventure.

One last thought: I have some really great friends. I am accepted and loved for exactly who I am by some old friends who are still “in” the evangelical world and by old friends who are no longer or never were in that world. I also have some awesome new friends. I am a lucky man.

Mike

PS. Click HERE for my “In which I come clean about my faith” story from last year.

UPDATE: The awesome Facebook page and blog “Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented” reposted this story this afternoon, and I received many touching comments. One of them, by Emmett, was a great reminder for me. He said:

I wouldn’t fall too harshly on the Christian friend mentioned in this story. I mean, friendships can fade; people who became very close over something that was the most important thing in the world to both of them can find it difficult to reconcile the loss of that thing. Speaking as someone who is non-religious, it’s easy to say, “(The friend) is not a Christian, then.” But I imagine it must be difficult for him as well. He likely feels like he’s losing a friend as well.

What a great comment. Thanks, Emmett. It renewed my empathy and understanding for this old friend. I will continue to reach out, yet will learn to be satisfied with whatever depth of friendship we end up with.

 

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download-1I’ve just been nominated for a versatile blogger award.  I didn’t even know bloggers had awards, and I’d certainly never heard of this one.  (I’ve only been doing this for a few months.)  I’m honored!  Thank you, Sreejit Poole, for the nod.  You can read his really interesting stuff at:

http://ofmindormatter.com/author/ofmindormatter/.

He just returned from India – good stuff!

The rules of the award say that I’m supposed to share 7 things about myself:

1.  Things that annoy me:  Automatic toilets that flush before you’re finished.  Tiny salad bowls at restaurants that make it impossible to toss your salad without half of it falling onto the table.  Splashy urinals.  People who say “right?” or “you know what I mean?” or “does that make sense” throughout everything they say to you, trying to force you to engage with them verbally while you’re listening.  Trying to use Word for Mac – it’s making me very angry.

2.  Things that make me happy:   Kindness from friends and strangers.  High mountain lakes.  Campfires.  Lattes.  “The Walking Dead” and “Homeland.”  Snow Patrol.  Eating/drinking/talking with my good friends. Holding my wife in my arms.  My kids’ sarcastic humor. Dilbert.  A well made gin and tonic.  Beautiful art.

3.  Things that make me angry:  Politicians who make decisions based on the money they get from special interests.  I’m livid, sometimes.  I often can’t even talk (or blog) about it, it makes me so mad.

4.  Things that make me confused:  Spirituality of all kinds.

5.  Things that embarrass me:  A few years ago I was running on a treadmill in a hotel fitness room at 5:30 in the morning.  I dropped my water bottle, forgot I wasn’t running outside under my own power, stopped to pick it up, and had my feet flung out from under me.  I landed face first on the moving treadmill and got a bit of a face shave.  Having to explain the scabs was embarrassing.   Two months ago I was looking at my phone while on the way to the bathroom during a break in a class I was teaching.  I went into the bathroom and stood at the sink, finishing up whatever I was doing on my phone, and two women came out of the stalls behind me and stopped cold when they saw me standing there.  These were women in my class.   I once ran into a friend of mine at the mall, who was with an older woman, and I asked, “Oh, hi!  Is this your mother?”  It was her sister.

6.  Things that worry me:  The Christian political right.  Corporations as people.  Money in politics.  Angry guys with guns.  The destruction of the environment.  My adult children experiencing the pain of life.

7.  Things I’m going to do today because I’m alive and life is good:  Hold my wife.  Blog.  Work outside in the garden/yard.  Read my Lee Child novel.  Have a latte.  Work stuff (6 hours). Text or call my kids.

anne_lamottPerfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully Perfectionismenough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Lifeimages-110

One of my favorite bloggers, Danika Nash (no relation!) wrote this.  I wish I had written it.  Please read this if you’re young.  Please read this if you’re older.  Please read this if you’re a church-goer.  Please read this if you’re not.  

Church,

I got to go to the Macklemore concert on Friday night. If you want to hear about how images-97that went, ask me, seriously, I want to talk about it until I die. The whole thing was great; but the best part was when Macklemore sang “Same Love.” Augustana’s gym was filled to the ceiling with 5,000 people, mostly aged 18-25, and decked out in thrift store gear (American flag bro-tanks, neon Nikes, MC Hammer pants. My Cowboy boyfriend wore Cowboy boots…not ironically….). The arena was brimming with excitement and adrenaline during every song, but when he started to play “Same Love,” the place about collapsed. Why? While the song is popular everywhere, no one, maybe not even Macklemore, feels its true tension like we do in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. If you’re not familiar, here’s the song:

WATCH/LISTEN HERE

Stop–did you watch it? Watch it.

Before the song, Macklemore spoke really simple words along the lines of: “Hey, you can all have your own opinions on how we treat gay people in this country, but this is mine.” And I held my breath in anticipation of some kind of uproar or walk-out…but the crowd cheered louder than they had yet. In our red state, in our conservative little city, the 5,000 young people in that arena wanted to hear about marriage equality.

During the song, almost every person at the concert had their hands up and their eyes closed…it reminded me of church. The whole crowd spoke every word with Macklemore. We were thirsty for those words. We want to hear about equality and love in a gentle way. We’re sick of the harsh words of both sides. Say what you want about my generation, but we can smell fake from a mile away. This rapper from Seattle had brought us truth in song form, and we all knew it. I live in such a conservative bubble that I couldn’t believe the crowd’s positive, thankful reaction. But I shouldn’t images-98have been surprised. No one knows the tension of that song like my generation in South Dakota does. So many of us were brought up in churches and Christian homes, and even if we weren’t, we’ve experienced the traditional Christian culture that just resonates from South Dakota’s prairie land. We know conservatism; we know tradition. But we also have Twitter, we watch SNL, we listen to Macklemore, and we read Tina Fey. We’re more in touch with the rest of the country than the Midwest has ever been. Some of us love the church and some of us hate it, but there aren’t too many people for whom it’s irrelevant. So when Macklemore takes on that tension with his poetry, his South Dakota audience listened. We practically yelled with him when he spoke the lyrics:

“When I was at church, they taught me something else: if you preach hate at the service, those words aren’t anointed. That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned.”

We yelled because we knew that holy water too well. We knew that hateful preaching too well. We had all been hurt by it in one way or another.

My point in writing this isn’t to protect gay people. Things are changing—the world isimages-99 becoming a safer place for my gay friends. They’re going to get equal rights. I’m writing this because I’m worried about the safety of the Church. The Church keeps scratching its head, wondering why 70% of 23-30 year-olds who were brought up in church leave. I’m going to offer a pretty candid answer, and it’s going to make some people upset, but I care about the Church too much to be quiet. We’re scared of change. We always have been. When scientists proposed that the Earth could be moving through space, church bishops condemned the teaching, citing Psalm 104:5 to say that God “set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” But the scientific theory continued, and the Church still exists. I’m saying this: we cannot keep pitting the church against humanity, or progress. DON’T hear me saying that we can’t fight culture on anything. Lots of things in culture are absolutely contradictory to love and equality, and we should be battling those things. The way culture treats women, or pornography? Get AT that, church. I’ll be right there with you. But my generation, the generation that can smell bullshit, especially holy bullshit, from a mile away, will not stick around to see the church fight gay marriage against our better judgment. It’s my generation who is overwhelmingly supporting marriage equality, and Church, as a young person and as a theologian, it is not in your best interest to give them that ultimatum.

My whole life, I’ve been told again and again that Christianity is not conducive with homosexuality. It just doesn’t work out. I was forced to choose between the love I had for my gay friends and so-called biblical authority. I chose gay people, and I’m willing to wager I’m not the only one. I said, “If the Bible really says this about gay people, I’m not too keen on trusting what it says about God.” And I left my church. It has only been lately that I have seen evidence that the Bible could be saying something completely different about love and equality.

So, my advice to you, the Church: if you’re looking for some intelligent biblical liberal opinions on the subject, have a little coffee chat with your local Methodist or Episcopal pastor. Christians can beall about gay people, it’s possible. People do it every day with a clear biblical conscience. Find out if you think there’s truth in that view before you sweep us under the rug. You CAN have a conservative view on gay marriage, or gay ordination. You can. But I want you to have some serious conversations with God, your friends that disagree with you, and maybe even some gay people, Christians or not, before you decide that this one view is worth marginalizing my generation. Weigh those politics against what you’re giving up: us. We want to stay in your churches, we want to hear about your Jesus, but it’s hard to hear about love from a God who doesn’t love our gay friends (and we all have gay friends). Help us find love in the church before we look for it outside.

Oh, and can we please please PLEASE stop changing our Facebook profile pictures to crosses in a protest against gay marriage? You are taking a symbol of hope and redemption and using it to make a political point. No matter what you think, that has to stop. It’s a misrepresentation of what that symbol means.

Love,

A College Kid Who Misses You

Click HERE for the full article…it’s worth the read.  (Even if you don’t fully agree.)  Note:  My wife and I homeschooled our four children for between one and eight years each.  We weren’t this sort of homeschool family…it wasn’t really a religious thing…but there has been some negative “fall out,” nonetheless – and many wonderful results, too!     

What do you think???

medium_82945847From the article:

  • Why did we have so many children?  How do you know when your quiver is full?  Would we have had this many children if we hadn’t listened to specific teachings?
  • Who invented the jumper dress?  Why did I sometimes feel guilty if I didn’t wear my denim jumper?  I no longer own a denim jumper.
  • How did I get to the point where I believed that I may be treading dangerously if I was not a member of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association?  How many homeschool families printed out instructions on what to say to government officials  if “they” came unannounced to our door to interrogate? Where did all of this fear come from?
  • Why was I corrected when I said “public” school instead of their preferred “government” school?  Is there an agenda going on? Who is feeding all of this?
  • How did the homeschool movement influence my views as far as who I voted for or how involved I was in politics?
  • How did they convince me that I was eating improperly and I needed to grind my own wheat and make my own bread?
  • How did the homeschool community have the inside scoop before my traditional-schooled friends from church when it was going to become the end-of-life-as-we knew-it during the Y2K scare?  Who brought that hype to the homeschool community?
  • When did I get to the point where I looked down at my friends who were Christians and either sent their children to public or private schools when “they should” be teaching their own?  How did all of this happen?
  • Why do so many homeschoolers balk at immunizations?
  • And why is my husband responsible for my faith and the faith of our children? And why do we have to go through him on spiritual matters?  Does God not speak directly to homeschool kids and wives?
  • Who told me about modesty and how I should be dressing and how my daughters should be dressing?  What does modesty have to do with homeschooling?  Why do all homeschool boys look alike with similar short haircuts?
  • Who convinced me that my children could never “date”, but must only “court” and that my husband gets to choose our children’s future spouses?  How did “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” become such a popular book?
  • Who made up this purity ring ceremony — and that our teen daughters should wear their purity rings symbolizing their virginity until they replace it with their wedding ring?
  • Why are organized sports so wrong?
  • When did Young Earth creation become a primary issue to be a Christian and that if you didn’t believe it, you might not be Christian?   Why are scientists looked at as if suspect?  Psychology is of the devil.
  • What’s with all of those pictures of large families with matching clothes on the covers of homeschooling magazines?  Are my children supposed to be wearing matching clothes?  Who decided that was the right way to dress kids?  Who decided that women should only wear dresses?
  • Why is it that homeschoolers brag about their children being able to interact and socialize well, yet you can “pick them out” a mile away because they look and act so “different”?
  • Who has been instigating the us-vs-them mentality regarding so many of these topics?  Who decided that the only job that we should be teaching our daughters is to be “keepers of the home” and serving their fathers and then serving their future husbands?
  • What single man decided that fathers were an umbrella of authority over the family below God?  What same man also encouraged men and women to get vasectomies and tubal ligations reversed to allow God to control the size of their families and then paraded post-reversal children in front of the auditorium at conventions?