I still don’t know what this is. But I’m writing because I have words that bubble up inside like Tetris pieces. They build up if I don’t direct them to a place to fit together.
I had intended to make this about about the Plagues that have infested this summer. I intended to complain about how I found bedbugs in my mattress and everything I own no longer feels like my own, but instead the property of this infestation. One which has meandered even into my thoughts, a constant very breathing presence.
I have nightmares. I’m not sleeping. I can feel things that aren’t there. I’m still waking up every few hours and have a hard time falling asleep. Moments of apathy are the waxing moon of something inside me. It might be triggered by some past heartache, some fear of the impending future, anxiety over something I’ve said. But I’m going not going to talk about that either.
The PCUSA didn’t mean much to me growing up. I didn’t know what a presbytery was or what it did. I thought every church was simply like mine, a place of puppet plays during the worship service and grape juice every month or so in little plastic cups. A never ending place to play and dream and grow. The very notion that churches had different traditions or sang different songs was not something that crossed my mind. I didn’t need a title, God was real and present and Jesus just simply was. Faith like a child. I’ve heard it before, that our faith should be this strong and this present, like one who is a child.
But it isn’t. My adult faith is completely weak by these standards. I am a bottomless pit of questions, of doubts, and of fears. I struggle with bearing it, with owning faith. Seminary has made this worse (Faith based post-baccalaureate education). I am surrounded by people who claim this childish faith, or at least pretend to. They are at home where I am the least comfortable. Where they were enthralled I was bored and frustrated. Where they were attentive and nodding I furrowed my brow. There were times I was so frustrated by what I heard I admit that I tuned it out.
Christian is a loaded term. It is a burden of a thousand different voices all claiming to be doing, being, understanding one little convoluted book. Christian means so much more than a follower of Christ. It is being someone who claims a number among that throng, who bears that cross if you will. Christians are millions of human voices all clamoring to be heard the loudest, often over God’s own voice. I fear that I am not one of them, and even if I were to be, I fear I am not loud enough to be heard.
Here is my voice. It is not very loud, nor can I claim it is perfect or even correct. I don’t have special knowledge of God, only a distant burning feeling in that place you might call a soul. I see things and I hope and pray that they are proof of flame.
God came to Elijah as a still small voice. I fear we talk too loud, have too many agendas. We push these agendas on each other, and push God out.With our words, we extinguish the match instead of build the fire.
Here is that struck match inside of me: I love you.
I am imperfect: vindictive, gossipy, and stubborn. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about things for which I am passionate. I try not to have agendas and remember that equality is a multi-faceted issue that reflects light into more dimensions than I can comprehend. It isn’t just being poor, black, transgender, or an immigrant without papers. Inequality is something that hangs on many hooks, as intricate as a spider web. Paying attention just to one issue doesn’t solve, and may even hinder the others. I realize the difficulty. So here I present a moment with an issue anyway, knowing all these things.
About a week ago I meandered around the PCUSA General Assembly with a friend, both of us on a break from working and promoting the booth for the summer camp where I spent the last few summers. On our way back, there was to our right a table full of rainbows. Now, not many people were there yet, mostly booth attendants and people setting up for the tsunami of this major event. The table full of rainbows were hundreds of knitted scarves, a free representation for those to wear who stand in solidarity with the GLBTQ(etc.) community.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is on the edge. The ordination of those who identify as other than straight and their rights to marry are the present issues at the forefront of that battle. Both sides stand with their noses turned up at the other claiming not only their own version of events, but also hatred, bigotry and lies on the part of the other side. These voices belong to that garbled throng of Christian voices all with their own interpretations. They claim that God feels a certain way, that they know what the bible means and what we should be doing. They may say these things aren’t the truth, but there are the words hidden beneath… I am right and you are wrong…
These are human words and even though I struggled every day in this class, I have taken one thing away from Systematic Theology. God is not a sentence. Our words are incapable. So often we are caught with our feet in our mouths squeezing and squabbling with our experiences trying to make them moments of God working in our lives. We stumble over things we can’t explain trying to make them tangible things as real as the bibles our fingers can flip through. We try to pretend we are beyond needing that sensual experience, but sometimes the stars just feel so far away and belief is just not enough.
I don’t have any answers, just a mouthful of questions I can’t spit out fast enough. I’m drowning in questions. I don’t even know if I can take a stand saying God wants things one way or the other. What I can say is that there is a match struck at the base of me. It gives me only this feeling I can barely put into the words I love you. It says that the choice is not mine. It burns with the thought that everyone who wants to, should feel a part of the community. The buzz words hate the sin love the sinner, I stand on the side of love, celibacy, abomination, Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, Love your neighbor as yourself, stop being important and carry no meaning.
So here is a little of what I think I understand (note that passive language!): According to the bible, Jesus hung out with the leper and the samaritan woman. He was not just the person who hung out with the outcast, He was the outcast. He suffered an embarrassing death. Jesus’ last hours were right out of a Saw movie. Terrifying, lonely, and disgusting.
So why then, do we continue to leave Jesus outside the gate? Why do we call out our neighbors sin and hold them above others? Why don’t I see that log in my eye? Why do we claim to know the will of God? Why does the word Gay strike a fear into our hearts and have us lobbying at Pilate’s door? Why do I moan about and call for the dismissal of the professor who stands in front of his class calling for the casting out of homosexuals? Why do we put ourselves on one side of the line or the other?
Why, when a man I should call my brother hurts for the church and prays for the salvation of his gay brother do I think to myself that I am angry at him?
Now, where do we turn from here? GA 2012 left a lot of hurting Presbyterians in its wake. It left a taste in my mouth like something rotted on the way down my esophagus. I’ve been hearing a lot of fear. Fear of a divide where the crack is wider than our arms can reach. But here is the truth, the divide has already happened. We are casting each other out faster than we invite the outsider in.
Until we can come together and say that polity is our VERY LAST PRIORITY we are living in as much sin as the other. It isn’t that we shouldn’t stand for something, it’s just that the hand we reach out should not be one of vindication or being the bigger person. It shouldn’t be one that tricks our neighbors into an argument or a battle. It should not be one so concerned with numbers and who we let in our door, but rather who aren’t we letting in.
Our hands should be those of grace and goodwill toward the atheist, the lesbian, the baptist, the biblical literalist, the homophobe and the one stuck in the middle. We shouldn’t take our toys and go home because we didn’t get our way. We should be looking to find a way to work together despite the imperfections of regulations. We shouldn’t be in the business of conversion (Jesus certainly wasn’t) but in the business of loving. Not the backhanded love that comes with stipulations of how to live, but genuine love that takes you as-is and offers you a home without expectation.
We need a change of heart. Because I don’t know about you but mine is breaking.