7 Quick Takes: You Might Be a (Fundamentalist) Christian School Graduate If….

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1

You bought long tank tops or camisoles to wear under your blouses to ensure dress code compliance. To be extra careful, you tucked them into your pants or skirt. After all, you wouldn’t want the Bible teacher seeing your red lace thong.

2

The school had complex rules about which books, music, and movies were overly sexual, graphic, or just “inappropriate.” However, the entire middle and high school went to see Passion of the Christ at the theater, and on field trip bus rides you watched gruesome persecution scenes in Tribulation and Left Behind movies.

3

You always wanted the pastor’s wife directing the high school play. Some plays were irredeemable, such as Cinderella – that darn Fairy Godmother! Others, like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, or the song “Doing What Comes Naturally” from Annie Get Your Gun, mysteriously passed muster – as long as the pastor’s wife was directing. Of course, you might end up with interesting compromises, like permission to sing Chicago songs as long as you change the words “where the gin is cold” to “where the ice is cold.”

dancing
Still not pure enough for a Baptist school.

4

Dancing leads to fornication, so your school had a prom “banquet” comprising of chicken breast dinners. As an alternative, someone always held a house party where you could booty dance to Sir Mix-a-Lot and lose your virginity in a bathroom with Precious Moments figurines.

5

You didn’t read most of the classics because they had corrupting language and compromising morals. Instead, your English teachers assigned Lori Wick or Frank Peretti novels for summer reading. (Alternately, you read classic literature with the bad words covered in white out. That was how our English teacher got The Great Gatsby approved.)

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Your “science” textbooks were Creation science apologia. For instance, if you had Bob Jones University Press textbooks, you learned that evolutionists think that giraffes have long necks because they kept stretching them to reach tall branches. Or you learned the following gem from my chemistry textbook: “chemical reactions are like the Holy Spirit entering a Christian’s heart.”

ICP

You’re not so different, Insane Clown Posse and BJU: neither of you know how magnets work.

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And you absolutely went to a Christian school if you could use the following to get your teacher hopelessly off-topic:

1. Is Lord of the Rings demonic like Harry Potter?

2. Did Jesus drink alcoholic wine or was it just grape juice?

3. Are there black people because of the curse of Cain or because of Noah’s son Ham? (Bonus points if there was one black kid in the class trying to look invisible).

Happy Friday y’all!

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7 Quick Takes: Favorite Easter Hymns and Songs

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Disclaimer: these may not be specifically “Easter season” hymns. They just make me think of Easter.

1

Cece Winan, “Alabaster Box”(This is the perfect song for Maundy Thursday too).

When I first heard this song in high school, I knew I’d heard a Christian song that, for once, was authentic and not some canned, three chord travesty played on Christian “always positive” radio. Cece Winan is a Gospel singer, and this song is a beautiful musical telling of the Mary who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. It’s not the kind of thing you’d sing as a congregational hymn, but as a personal hymn of praise, it could not be more perfect.

2

Nicole C Mullen, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”

Mullen was my favorite Christian musician in middle and high school because of songs like this one. If you’re Protestant you’ve probably heard it – for awhile it was overplayed. However, since I hadn’t heard it in awhile, it still sounded fresh and beautiful. The lyrics perfectly express what it means to be a Christian on Easter, and the music is triumphant.

3

My Song is Love Unknown

OK, so technically it’s a Holy Week hymn, not an Easter one. I don’t care; it’s one of the best hymns in the world, and it deserves more love than just getting sung on Palm Sunday. When it’s Easter season but you feel a bit contemplative (and maybe a bit sick of the “He Rose! He Rose!” variety), here’s your song.

4

Carol of the Exodus

I didn’t grow up knowing this one, but now I’m in love. Talk about goosebumps.

5

Hail Thee, Festival Day

(I had a bear of a time finding a good recording of this: they all seem to be of congregational singing, which is wonderful, and the way it should be sung, but those recordings lack auditory clarity. This had the clearest vocals.) Perhaps that’s the sign of a good Easter hymn though: that it’s always sung in unison, in large groups, with all the stops pulled out. I didn’t know this until my first Easter vigil, when we had bells and noise makers for the chorus. I have never felt so much like a kid, so happy and full of joy, as when singing this Easter hymn.

6

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, King of Creation

This one I did grow up with, and it can be sung all year, but seems especially apt during Easter.

7

O Sons and Daughters Let Us Sing

That seems as good a place as any to end.

How I Became a Feminazi

When I went off to college, I was warned about the Godless Professors Who Want to Steal Your Soul. Most importantly, there were feminist women professors, probably lesbians who didn’t shave their legs, who gave bad grades to straight white males and recruited young women. In my PCA church and Southern Baptist school, feminism was verboten. My church wasn’t against women working or voting or wearing pants, but in church women could only teach children, because “the woman shall not have authority over a man.” I was advised to read Phyllis Schlafly, the prophetess who opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. Rebelling meant being feminist. Then I went to college, and all of a sudden, the powers that be were self-consciously feminist. If you’re used to rebelling, old habits die hard. I thought women should work and vote and stuff, but I was most emphatically NOT a feminist. Feminists were crazy people who hated men and wanted to make sex boring. Camille Paglia told me so. Before long, I discovered that being a vocal anti-feminist was an excellent way to collect male admirers. I liked being the only woman sitting with the guys at lunch, matching dirty joke for joke, bragging about only writing “he” instead of “he or she.” The college gave us comedic gold when they posted anti-rape posters in the bathrooms. The pamphlets scolded us for using rape jokes like “that test raped me like a sand-paper condom.” Whoever wrote those words has never spoken to an 18-year-old. That phrase, never before used, became our by-word and in-joke. “Don’t forget your sandpaper condoms!” A girl friend and I considered making “I support the Patriarchy” shirts to wear on the day when others wore “This is what a feminist looks like” shirts. The first chink in my armor came one evening at work. I served up slop in the cafeteria and was closing my station one night when a “friend” of mine came by, drunk. He wanted to escort me back to my dorm after the shift, “to protect me.” Finally, I held a batch of steaming creamed corn over his head and threatened to pour. He stumbled out but yelled that he’d “be waiting for me.” I closed up my station as quickly as possible, feeling some strange combination of shame and fear and fury. Had I lead him on somehow? Surely it was impossible to get turned on by my cafeteria uniform, complete with shoe covers and a hair net. Was it safe to leave? I could have called a male friend and asked for protection, but I knew that if I did I wouldn’t feel safe again, so I went home alone. Nothing happened. The next day, he sent me an apologetic email, which I accepted all friendly-like. I don’t want to seem like a bitch. But I stopped sitting at the guys’ table and got new friends. The second chink followed the next semester. I was sitting at my desk, back to my roommate and her boyfriend. He had a rep as a creeper, but he was purportedly faithful to my roomie. So I was shocked when his hand appeared on my breasts, squeezed each with purpose, then withdrew. She hadn’t seen. I had barely seen. Seen what? “I was just standing here.” No, best not say anything. Junior year, I started volunteering at a rape crisis center in town. I was trained as a survivor advocate and eventually was promoted to supervisor. We were taught to put aside our own judgements, our own assumptions, and act only on behalf of the survivor. Our job was to get them on the road to being a survivor, not just a victim, individuals with agency and control of their own bodies. Even then, I didn’t call myself a feminist: at most, I was pro-women’s rights. I was still at college, protected from the worst of sexual discrimination. My thoughts were respected regardless of my sex and gender, and I was happily sheltered from the real world. I didn’t see rape as part of a structural problem; it was a horrible crime that individual men chose to do. And then I got a job at a law firm. For the most part, I enjoyed my time there. However, anyone who has worked at a law firm, especially one with majority male employees, has known a Pete Campbell or two:

  When I first saw the premier of Mad Men I nearly cried with laughter and recognition. The scene with Peggy in the elevator, in which Pete talks trash about women in front of her, was right on point. It nailed that feeling of invisibility that happens when male co-workers have inappropriate conversations in front of you. While they ponder the horror of sex before women shaved their legs, what should you say? When one complains that fat chicks shouldn’t call themselves curvy, because real curvy girls have small waists, should you laugh? Should you be a humorless bitch and say something? If you’re silent, will that look like approval? I had never understood why women in the workplace should mentor one another, or why there needed to be a balance between the number of men and women. My young, naive self thought that only skills matter when it comes to hiring. In reality, there’s an atmospheric difference based on the ratio of male to female co-workers. It’s also important what type of women are hired. If the only other woman in your department is a flirt who wears mini skirts, that’s a loss for your team. If the only women hired are less educated than the men, it creates a bad dynamic. All sorts of details matter, because we’re not so far from Mad Men as we’d like to think. I’m a feminist because we’re not past it all, and my generation was fed the lie that we are.

Why Being an Episcopalian is Hard

… For me, anyway. It goes back to my childhood religion, PCA (Presbyterian Church in America). This is a very conservative, Calvinist Presbyterian denomination that split from the mainline Presbyterian church when it got too liberal in the 70s (the Southern Baptists formed for similar reasons). The denomination was very young; some individual churches didn’t make the jump until 1990. It was full of idealistic, energetic evangelicals who felt burned by the split. “We didn’t leave them; they left us” was the common refrain. They saw themselves not as new and young but as old, reaching back to the Westminster Confession and the Puritan tradition.

Mild-mannered, middle of the road folks don’t split from churches, but people full of passion and vigor often do in the Protestant world. The PCA attracted a certain personality type: well-educated, bookish, and almost Type A. It attracts folks that like the world to make sense, who believe that if you read the Bible with the right lens everything will fit into black or white boxes. It’s not just bookish nerds though – there’s an evangelical, energetic bent that gives it missionary zeal and focus.

Luther-Meme
Just putting some memes in here to keep things light.

The church I grew up in was very small: on an average Sunday we had between 30-40 people. On a very, very good day, maybe 50. There were just a handful of kids, none exactly the same age of course, so growing up I talked to everybody regardless of age. If you’ve ever been part of a very small community, you know the drill. Everybody pitches in and participates and likes it. If the doors were open, we were there, probably teaching something. When someone leaves it’s heart-wrenching, and we had lots of people leave. We couldn’t offer snazzy children’s programs or beautiful choirs or a praise band or overseas mission trips. Being part of that church could be so rewarding, but also so stressful, and lots of people, especially families with small children, decided it was too exhausting. Every time this happened the pain was overwhelming, and to heal I began to get prideful. Those people weren’t devoted to Biblical Truth. Those people worshiped youth groups instead of a sovereign God. They didn’t have what it takes to be Real Calvinists. Calvin Thug Life Remembering that now makes me want to vomit.

Pride and hurt feelings aside, there were benefits. You had a real community, a family, that had your back. One of the blessings of the place was its acceptance of the weirdos. I was a shy, odd kid, but people loved me anyway. We had kids with disabilities, both physical and otherwise, who fit in just great with the rest of us. The church’s motto seemed to be: we’ll accept anyone, no matter how different, as long as you believe exactly like us.

Becoming Episcopalian after this background was a hard transition, and I still feel like a recent convert. I even attended a breakaway Anglican congregation for awhile, perhaps because being part of a conservative schismatic group felt like home. Some of the challenges are cultural. When you come from an evangelical background, mainline Protestant churches feel off in a thousand ways. The ratio of elderly to other age groups is much larger than you’re accustomed to. There’s this thing called “coffee hour,” which was designed to make young introverts feel uncomfortable. Mainly though, the congregants lack a certain outward emotional zeal.

Part of the evangelical DNA is an outward display of religious affections (see, I know my Jonathan Edwards). Whether it’s anger, or sadness, or happy-clappy-joy-joy, evangelicals can provide it in spades. Enthusiasm comes naturally. This can be emotionally exhausting, especially if you’re an introvert. Many the revival meeting has passed in which I quietly panicked in the back: “Should I go forward? Do I feel enough to go forward? Should I raise my hands? I don’t want to look like I don’t care. Maybe if I quietly raise one hand that would be sufficient.” You end up faking it, and then you wonder how many others are faking it, and the whole enterprise feels inauthentic.

So part of me was happy to be in a church with so scripted a liturgy, where you’re told when to stand, sit, sing, and kneel, where you’re not required to emote on a weekly basis. However, I also happen to be an emotional soul, albeit a private one. Hymns can make me cry. I’m regularly overcome by the experience of the Eucharist. So being in an Episcopal congregation, in which everyone carries on quietly and feels, or doesn’t feel, in their own heads, can be disorienting. The English temperament was stolidly preserved in American Episcopal congregations, and evangelicalism is so stereotypically American that at times I feel like an immigrant.

However, the difference lies deeper than just culture. The Presbyterian view of church is that specific beliefs are preeminent. Pastors and elders must sign off on the Westminster Confessions and the Book of Church Order. Congregants don’t have to, but if you truly disagree with them you will be unhappy and probably won’t last. I’ve known churches to change the words to hymns to make them fit the Calvinist TULIP. (At one PCA church I visited, they sang To God Be the Glory which included the offensive phrase “and opened the life-gate that all may go in.” They changed this to “that we may go in.” I think that moment was when I decided I was definitely not Calvinist).

Episcopalians flip this on its head. They process beliefs through prayer and worship. The central text is The Book of Common Prayer, not a doctrinal dissertation or confession. They say that Jesus, not the Bible, is the Word of God. Most sermons center on a Gospel story, not a letter-by-letter analysis of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Not everything is black and white and engraved in stone. This is simultaneously refreshing and frustrating.

lex-orandi-batman

My religious background was designed to make you think a certain way. Everything was all or nothing. You’re elect or you’re not, and there’s nothing you can do about it. God is exactly the way we say He is, and if you don’t like it that means you are irreverent. You are a worm, and your good works are probably the result of pride or some other bad intention. Don’t rely on your instincts or trust yourself; the heart is desperately wicked!

Since I have severe anxiety, I was ready to be told exactly what to do in every instance of life. I have panic attacks trying to chose shampoo brands, so don’t trust me with making moral choices! Tell me what to think, what to wear, exactly which actions are sinful in exactly which scenarios, exactly how to live. Don’t tell me to be a grownup, to use discretion and self-control.

In the meantime, I’ve accepted that I’m on the Anglo-Catholic end of things. I’d say it’s because they have a high view of the sacraments, but maybe it’s just because that way I can express my emotions in a positive direction.

Seven Quick Takes: BUGS (No scary pictures, promise)

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1

If you live in the Deep South, bugs are a fact of life. There are different ways of coping with this reality. When my parents moved to south Georgia in 1985 (and inexplicably stayed put), their introduction to the lifestyle was watching a neighbor eat a sandwich covered in gnats. On a field trip in elementary school our class was served cornbread crawling with live black ants; the country women serving us didn’t understand why we wouldn’t eat them. Some folks admit defeat and acknowledge that the bugs have won. It’s their world; we just live in it.

2

If, however, you prefer your protein in chicken form, you devote a significant portion of brain power to the art of bug prevention. Those who live in, say, Ohio cannot fathom how much labor goes into this. When I lived in a 1920s apartment in South Carolina, my roommate and I, both with severe cockroach phobia, went to great lengths in our battle for dominance. Windows were sealed shut with packing tape from April-October; it’s too hot in the summer to open the windows and expect a “breeze.” Every night I dried out the sinks and poured bleach in the toilet and down the drains to discourage cockroach water polo. I made a mix of borax and sugar – borax for poisoning and sugar so they’d eat it – and scattered it liberally in our dark and terrifying basement. In case you’re wondering, yes we did have a landlord, but he was of the “if you can’t fight ’em join ’em” persuasion and failed to comprehend our neurosis.

3

Before my husband and I moved to Savannah, we met up with a local priest and went to dinner on Tybee Island in early May. I neglected to pack bug spray because I did not foresee an evening of outdoor dining overlooking a swamp. (A pretty swamp, I hasten to add. Swamps down here can be breathtaking).

I can drive somewhere like this in 3 minutes.
I can drive somewhere like this in 3 minutes.

This was one my top ten worst life choices. As I bathed in hydrocortizone cream later that night, I reflected on my future life in a city that named its minor league baseball team the “Sand Gnats.”

sand gnats mascot
Not kidding.

 4

You’ve never heard of sand gnats? Allow me to educate you: they are foul, tiny insects whose sole purpose in life is to torment the citizens of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Unlike regular gnats (the kind my townsfolk eat on sandwiches), they bite. Unlike mosquitoes, their bites hurt. Also unlike mosquitoes, they are so tiny that the locals call them “no-see-ums.” And I swear they can bite through clothing. Those of us from some foreign realm, like western Georgia, did not build up an immunity to the bites as toddlers. Tourists, if you get bit twice on the ankle it will look like you got attacked by fire ants and then had an allergic reaction.

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Not familiar with fire ants either? They were an introduced pest carried over accidentally on boats from South America that escaped in Mobile, Alabama and, thence, to the greater Deep South. One of the pivotal life experiences for a Southern child is stepping in an ant-hill unawares. This subject is giving me flashbacks; excuse me while I pour a strong drink.

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My consolation is that south Georgia does not, so far as I know knock on wood, have camel crickets. Ever heard of those? I hadn’t either until we moved to Northern Virginia and had a panic attack in the basement laundry room. I’ve already done the terrifying internet research for you, metro DC citizens, so you don’t have to google “scary crickets in Northern Virginia” with one eye open and your exterminator on speed dial. According to this website (do NOT click unless you want a picture), the “frightful camel cricket” is found “lurking” in basements and cellars and can “grow into a persistent menace.” It goes on to describe an experience I’m all too familiar with, in which the crickets’ poor eyesight causes them to panic at sudden movements and “jump on people out of fear, which can be a terrifying experience… likened to a bug jumping on a pogo stick.” Sorry, these crickets are not frightened. I have encountered lines of them guarding the laundry entrance, like a defensive tackle, just daring me to try and get past. It almost makes me affectionate for the no see ums.

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All this to say, Charleston Edell attendees, know what you’re getting into and pack quality bug repellent. Don’t rely on some essential oil bullshit. Get something with a warning label about ingestion or the words “Deep Woods” on the bottle. (Look for the ingredient “Picaridin.” It’s safer than DEET but more effective than citronella nonsense). You may think “Oh but I’ll be in civilization.” Sorry, but the word “civilization” is not in a no-see-um’s vocabulary, other than “hey look guys, there are lots of human targets over here.” You are gearing for battle, and you are outnumbered. Plan accordingly.

The Beat Goes On

If you grew up evangelical Protestant like me, the religious part of Easter stopped with the benediction Sunday morning. After that, the goal was to get sick on chocolate bunnies and jelly beans while spreading Easter grass all over the house – my goal, that is, not my parents’.

(An aside: do y’all still put Easter grass in children’s Easter baskets? Because that is masochistic.)

Even adults in evangelical churches don’t think of Easter as a season though. Once the day is over, it’s back to business as usual. In fact, some churches don’t have Good Friday services, so Easter Sunday has to cram in all the truths of holy week into one hour. This leads to the odd experience of singing O Sacred Head Now Wounded in a church full of Easter lilies.

My whole life, my favorite holiday has been Easter, even as a child. This might be because winter in the South is kind of like a cooler summer without bugs, so Christmas lacked a certain magical element that you get when snow’s on the ground. But springtime – the Deep South knows how to do spring. Folks move down here and have to get allergy shots for all the pollen. Moreover, this flower fest starts in March, sometimes even in February, so no matter how early Easter comes, it’s warm enough to wear that new Easter dress and sandals and have a sunny Easter egg hunt. It never made sense that the fun had to stop with one day. When I found out that Episcopalians, along with Catholics, celebrate Easter for 50 days, it sealed the deal. (John Knox, if you wanted to keep me Presbyterian you should have kept the church calendar.)

A few years ago, a priest told me that some Christians prefer certain seasons to others. His particular favorite is Advent, which might be my least favorite because it’s so damn hard to practice in our culture. It’s not just a preference thing but a spiritual one – some people are drawn to particular seasons because it provides something their soul needs. Well, I’ve always known I needed Easter; I just didn’t know there was a whole season for it until a few years ago.

Soon after I had this revelation, I found my mom’s calendar from the year I was born. I’d never known what time of year I was baptized: Presbyterians baptize infants, but it’s not seen in same light that Catholics see it, so there’s no reason to celebrate the day in a particular way. Turns out I was baptized in April. Feeling goosebumps, I found the date for Easter and started counting forward, and yep, I was baptized during Easter (a week after Ascension Sunday, to be exact). It’s almost as if God stamped my soul right then, giving me exactly what I would need.

If you’re new to the church calendar, it’s hard to know what to do with it, especially when it comes to Easter. There are multitudes of articles about Lent, more ideas than any one person could try in a lifetime. But when it comes to knowing how to celebrate resurrection for 50 days, the pickings are slimmer. Why is this? Is it really harder to celebrate than to fast? Does Jesus still need to tell us not to fast in the presence of the Bridegroom?

For those who are new to the party, here are some things I’ve seen online in the last few days that have helped keep me in the mindset of Easter:

1. Easter People Podcast: Easter Joy in a Messed Up World. This podcast is run by two dear friends of mine up in Virginia, and I highly recommend this one in particular. They talk about finding joy when Easter Sunday falls during hard times. I really liked the idea that Easter gives us fuel and stamina for the coming year.

2. Resurrection of Dolls. You may have seen the story of the Tasmanian mom who finds second-hand Bratz dolls, cleans off the makeup, and creates natural-looking dolls for children. It’s truly beautiful how these trashy, scary cast-offs are remade into dolls with natural faces and home-knit clothes. As the article says, the new creations look “more at home on a tire swing than on the runways of Milan.” While this is not religious or explicitly about Easter, it struck me that this is a real resurrection for something that was ugly and unwanted, that now has new life and brings happiness to others.

3. The Women of Holy Week: Mary Magdalene. You should see the entire series that Rachel Held Evans wrote on the women of Holy Week, but this was my favorite. Both the church and the world have gotten this Mary’s story wrong over and over again. It strikes me how all the world wants to see women only in terms of our sexuality: at times in the church good women were just “virgins” (check out the descriptors for female verses male saints), and in today’s sex-saturated culture good women are sexually available and titillating. Rachel looks at how based on one inaccurate sermon, Mary Magdalene’s story got mixed up with that of another Mary – because women, who can keep them apart – and it stuck. Even though Mary Magdalene is not portrayed as a prostitute in Scripture, she got branded for hundreds of years. Only in this century was she exonerated by the Catholic church, and secular culture never got that memo. This story says who she really was: an apostle to the apostles, the first person to see Jesus alive and to proclaim the resurrection to unbelieving male disciples.

4. Introduction to Eastertide from a Presbyterian. If spite of what I wrote above, it seems some Presbyterians do practice Easter season after all! I love this article, because it presents the idea of Easter tide to those who have objections and even names those objections. (I can hear my mom saying “but we’re supposed to celebrate Easter all the time!” Whenever a Presbyterian objects to something in the church year, you can bet it’s because “we’re supposed to do that all the time.”) I was not familiar with Bach’s Easter Oratio, but now I’m going to look it up!

5. Catholic Culture: Fifty Days of Rejoicing. This is an awesome resource for us newbies. I knew about some symbols like the phoenix, but I had never thought about bees or beeswax having anything to do with it.

And finally, the Pascha Nostrum:

Alleluia.

Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;

therefore let us keep the feast,

Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,

But with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;

death no longer has dominion over him.

The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all;

but the life he lives, he lives to God.

So also consider yourselves dead to sin,

And alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

Christ has been raised from the dead,

the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

For since by a man came death,

by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die,

so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

He is Risen! Why Do We Say this Every Year?

Tonight my husband and I went to an atheist group meetup at Whole Foods. This is not an unusual activity for us. About a month after moving to Savannah, he looked up groups that were not Christian in order to engage ecumenically. For almost a year now he’s been going to those social meetings in his collar, and often I go too. We’re not there to preach, to “win souls,” to bring them to church (although that has happened – a story for another time). We’re there to talk and be with people. We’ve made good friends with wonderful people, and I’ve learned more about a small community that feels discriminated against in the Deep South.

While chatting with one woman, she mentioned how difficult Facebook was today. She wondered why people seem so surprised that Jesus rose, yet again, and feel the need to declare it in the exact same words that all their friends use. From her perspective, it’s as if everyone decided to say, every Friday, Thank God it’s Friday, as if there was any doubt that it could happen yet again.

Perhaps for this reason I rarely say “He is risen!” On a few occasions I have said it full of joy, with tears streaming down my face, full of wonder. Mostly though, when someone says it to me I feel awkward. I know what to say in response – “He is risen indeed!” But I’m more likely to say “yep,” which is awkward for everybody. Part of me, the irreverent part that’s never been good at this whole Christian thing, thinks “Yeah, well it’s not like any of us didn’t know how this story ends. We remember this every year, and every year it’s the same result. And we get all emotional and happy and eat deviled eggs and buy new dresses and start wearing white shoes, and not a bit of it feels real.”

But maybe I’m picking on the wrong thing. After all, this Holy Week was hard for me because it was different. I had work every evening, which meant I missed out on my favorite service of the whole year, the Easter vigil. Thankfully I was able to attend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, but I had a medication issue and slept through Easter Day services this morning (mea culpa). So I left the church on Good Friday after venerating an empty wooden cross and hearing the Passion narrative and taking reserved communion. Everything was bare bones, as it should be on Good Friday. But then, I didn’t really experience Easter: no vigil, no morning Eucharist. Just waking up late after sleeping through all my alarms, with that sinking feeling of having missed all the good stuff.

God was risen once; He’s not dying and rising every year, so why is that our shared experience of the crucifixion and resurrection? If we know the story so well, then are we participating in emotional manipulation?

Maybe it’s the same reason we smile when the first flowers come up in spring. It’s not a surprise; no one’s thinking “wow, I had no idea that spring came after winter, what a revelation!” The thrill is not dependent on surprise, but on repetition. Maybe we are all children begging our parents to read it again, read it exactly the same way every time, with dramatic voices and gestures. And if you dare skip a page we’ll call you on it.

The Love that does not Discriminate

I was blogging at another site, theinklingsetc.blogger.com, and decided that I needed a change of pace. The title wasn’t working for me, since I rarely write about Lewis or Tolkein or any of the other inklings. For a new title, I chose Love Bids Us Welcome as a twist on the George Herbert poem “Love Bade Me Welcome.” Listen to the hesitant going and withdrawing, as the soul considers Love’s invitation but knows its weakness all too well:

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
      Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
      From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning          5
      If I lack’d anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
     Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
      I cannot look on Thee.’   10
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
      ‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
      Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’   15
      ‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
      So I did sit and eat.

Growing up a Calvinist, I believed that God did bid some welcome, but not me, and not most people. He bade His chosen few, those happy elect who would spend eternity in paradise, far from the madding crowd. I could never come to terms with this dogma. For one thing, I felt keenly that I was part of that horde, and nothing could make me assume that God had picked me out. For another, I did not want to part of a chosen few, a secret Inner Ring that got to live forever with a God who kept an eternal concentration camp full of babies who died in infancy and burned “for His holy will.” Was that Love? Then Love was worse then Hitler.

It has been a long road, and yet I feel at the beginning. Still every day I struggle with this notion, that love bids us welcome – that love bids me welcome.