Tuesday, May 31, 2005

It's the End of the World As We Know It

Right after I wrote the last post, another incident occurred dealing with this topic of prayer. Firstly, I should explain that I sometimes have nightmares about end-time prophecy. One of the perks of being raised in a religious family, I suppose. I have had them since I was a child and I accidentally caught part of one of those really bad 70s tribulation movies. I think it's strange that I still have them at my age and stage of intellectual development. But, I do.

Every night I pray that I will have peaceful dreams. I never have a nightmare when I pray this. On the nights that I forget to pray or fall asleep before doing so, I have them. It never fails.

The other night, I was praying but I was so tired that I fell asleep right at the beginning of it. I had a nightmare that woke me up at 5:00 a.m. I had to read a few chapters of Max Lucado's When Christ Comes before I could go back to sleep. (Max Lucado is good to read when you're unsettled. I'm almost always unsettled at night, so I read him a lot then.)

I discussed it with Mother the day after. I asked her what she thought about it. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "Prayer is powerful." I told her that I'm leaning more towards it being a psychological issue. The mind is powerful as well. My brain is fully aware of the fact that I pray this every night, and as soon as I don't, it might concoct a nightmare just for fun. Who knows? I don't think God would torture me for forgetting to mention something to Him. I just think it's very strange.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

I've Been Kicked Around

What a day. I met Fellow Seeker and Devout in the afternoon and we went to church together. I really wanted to go because a female bishop was going to be there. It was good. She spoke about floods, first quoting from Genesis about Noah, and then from Matthew when Jesus spoke about building your house on the rock and not the sand. Then she went on to say that God doesn't send the floods to punish us. He loves us and is there to help us pick up the pieces. I don't recall her reconciling that with the Noah story she had just quoted, but perhaps I missed that part. The most wonderful thing that she said, in my opinion, was that the ascension was Jesus taking our humanity back to the divine. We sang songs, we took communion, I lit a candle for my father, and we left.

Throughout the service I kept thinking that I could go to this church all the time. Seriously. I don't know what it is that appeals to me so much. Maybe it's the radical departure from the non-denom churches that I was raised in. Maybe it's the sense of ritual that I don't get from the more casual churches. Maybe it's the feeling of connecting to such an ancient tradition. When I go to my other church, it feels very modern and relevant to 20-somethings. This church makes me feel in sync with a tradition that was passed down for centuries. Perhaps it's the architecture. *Shrugs shoulders*

Anyway, after church we got into another great discussion. We talked about God and why He lets people go to hell and why He sanctions the slaughter of people in the Old Testament and is it wrong to sing praise songs when you don't feel genuine about the lyrics anymore?

The most interesting thing that happened tonight was when I got on the bus to go home. F.S. and D. waited with me and hugged me goodbye when it arrived. Just then, a middle-aged man who apparently wanted to get on the bus ahead of me almost knocked D. over to do so. She was taken by surprise; we all were. They walked away and I boarded the bus. The man was ahead of me, paying his fare, and after he did he thrust his foot out behind him and kicked me. I was flabbergasted. I looked at the bus driver and exclaimed, "What the...?!" and he gave me a sympathetic look. When I went to sit down, I saw the man mumbling (to me or to himself, I'm not sure).

This is not the first time something like this has happened to me. I have incredible luck. Let's see, there was the time a homeless man tried to push me down a flight of stairs, and there was also the time that another homeless man pulled a knife on me and a friend of mine while we were sitting in a park, talking. I love the city that I live in but it can be a scary place sometimes.

When I got to my seat, my heart was pounding and I immediately began praying. Then it struck me what an utter hypocrite I am. I was disgusted with myself at once. Yes, I enjoyed church, but I am constantly doubting and having not-so-nice thoughts about God. However, as soon as something happens, I pray. I'm using God like some kind of Sloman Shield. I pray each time I get into my car, I pray before I go to sleep... I don't know what I expect it to do. What else can I do, though? I don't understand how atheists go about their daily lives. Are they fearless people walking around without a care in the world? Prayer is all I have to cling to when I feel unsafe, even though in the back of my mind I don't expect God to protect me. I just hope that He will.

I'm in an in-between stage right now. I can't just rush myself out of it, so I suppose I will have to remain a hypocrite for now. I can't just stop praying and live my life with "Que sera sera" on my lips. I'm not the type. I also can't pretend to be extremely faithful because God will not be fooled by it. I guess the prayer is more for my own edification than anything else.

Prayer confuses me. I have had a lot - and I mean a lot - of my prayers answered in my life. Ever since I was a teenager, it seemed like everything I asked for came to pass. My friends in high school used to ask me to pray for them because they said, "You and God are like this" with their fingers crossed. Even members of my family would say that. I don't know if it was closeness to God or the things I asked for being part of His plan anyway or just coincidences over and over. The strange thing is that I pray for protection for my family every day. The day of my father's accident, though, I don't think I did. It was at the end of the semester and I had spent hours reading and studying until I passed out. So, what does that mean? If I had prayed for his protection, would it have happened anyway? The logical part of me says, Of course it would have, stupid. But is it mere coincidence that it happened on a day that I didn't pray? Do prayers expire after 24 hours?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey

I just read an article entitled Devolution: Why Intelligent Design Isn't. It was all about Evolution v. Intelligent Design (I.D.) and how proponents of I.D. are blathering idiots. Something to that effect. (I'm exaggerating. You can read it for yourself: he's fairly civil, although the title is telling.)

Anyway, this article crossed my path at an interesting time. I just spend two days and nights cramming for a biology final that I had to make up from last semester. I hadn't taken the class since the fall and I waited until the very last minute to study for this (hey, I had other classes this semester). By the time I took the exam I had blood-shot eyes and all kinds of facts about enzymes and electrolyte balance and ligand-gated ion channels swimming in my head. I am not a science person... it was a horrible two days.

Then I read this article and started thinking again about the evolutionary theory I had to study just days before. I can understand Orr's main point: that I.D.ers are going by faith and that their reasoning is not as scientific as they claim. Whether or not that is true is a matter of opinion. I think that it is to a certain extent. I always took I.D. to be something you infer, not something you prove, because it is unprovable, after all.

I have always believed in a higher power. Even when I get to the point of doubting the specifics, I never think that there's nothing out there. Some people believe evolution took place under a Creator's watchful eye. Perhaps. I don't have much of an opinion on that because I'm not a science person and I don't have enough information. Anything's possible; why not? But to think that no one was behind all this... I don't buy that. As I was studying biology, I was overwhelmed by how much Someone had to be. I always knew our systems were complex but I didn't realize how much. Everything is so systematic, and even though people get diseases and things go wrong, the fact remains that billions of people's bodies function in the right way, even if they have a problem in a certain area. And that's not even considering nature and its systems. It's unbelievable.

Someone came to our church book group once and asked us how we reconcile science and religion. She was either a new Christian or interested in becoming one (I suspect the former) and she said it bothered her when Christians shrug evolution off as if it's not a compelling thing to consider. I don't see why we should shrug it off... my problem comes when we shrug I.D. off. It just seems so logical to me. And before you think that it's logical to me because I was raised believing it... I was raised believing a lot of things, and I've come to question them all at one time or another.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I Me Mine

I know it was strange of me to summarize and quote the book without even commenting on it, but it has been too busy around here for me to write any more than I did. So I will resume.

I love the idea of spiritual seeking as simply another treasure hunt. It's true, isn't it? Religion is for our self-gratification just like everything else. It even admits that to us, telling us that God doesn't need us but we need God. I think everything in life is a treasure hunt. All we do is search and search for things - love and happiness and money and knowledge and God and legacy - and I think we start to fear death (or at least resent it) when we realize that it will cut us off from everything we've grabbed onto our entire lives. Some people will tell you that love outlives death or that seeking God will extend over into the after-life, but no one knows for sure. It's a nice thought, though. But is that all it is? I hope not.

I also loved the book because it shows how intellectual pursuits can really screw you with spirituality. That has definitely been the case in my life. The more I read and explore and learn, the more I realize (as most of us do) that we really don't know anything at all. According to the Oracle at Delphi, knowing that is wisdom in itself. Maybe so. Seems too easy, though. Knowing that we don't know anything doesn't seem so wise to me. It seems like common sense, and something everyone will eventually discover if they pay enough attention.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Beautiful Book

I finished Franny and Zooey today. I think it was more powerful the first time I read it because it was completely new to me, but it was still very good. If only Salinger had more than four works out there. *Sigh* There are a lot of things I'd like to say about it so if you have never read the book and plan on doing so with a fresh start, don't read the rest of this post.

Here's the synopsis: The book is about the Glass family (if you've read Nine Stories or Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters then you know about these characters), focusing mainly on the two youngest children (they are 20 and 25). There are seven altogether: Seymour, the oldest, committed suicide before the book opens... Buddy teaches writing at some all-girls college in New England... Boo-Boo is married with three kids... then there is a set of twins: Walt, the older one, was killed during WWII and Waker is a priest... Zooey is a sarcastic, impatient actor that is oh-so-reminiscent of Holden Caulfield... Franny is the youngest who attends college. All of them were on a radio program as children because they were all geniuses.

Seymour and Buddy were really into philosophy and religion - especially Eastern - and when Franny and Zooey were children, they pumped them full of it all. As an adult, Zooey resents the fact that he and his sister were raised on that stuff because he feels that it messed them up.

The book is mainly about Franny's religious crisis. She begins reading The Way of a Pilgrim, a novel that addresses the scriptural command to pray without ceasing. Apparently a person is supposed to repeat, over and over, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me," and eventually it will become involuntary like a heartbeat, and the person will really pray without ever ceasing, forming a connection with God. She becomes obsessed with the prayer but it takes its toll on her: she won't eat, she passes out while on a date, she's basically out of it. Zooey is the only one who can snap her out of it because he's so straight-forward and because Salinger endows him with cynical wisdom.

Here are some wonderful quotes:
Franny to Zooey on knowledge

"What happened, was, I got the idea in my head - and I could not get it out - that college was just one more dopey, inane place in the world dedicated to piling up treasure on earth and everything. I mean treasure is treasure, for heaven's sake.
What's the difference whether the treasure is money, or property, or even culture, or even just plain knowledge? It all seemed like exactly the same thing to me, if you take off the wrapping - and it still does!"

Zooey's response

"You talk about piling up treasure - money, property, culture, knowledge, and so on and so on. In going ahead with the Jesus Prayer - just let me finish, now, please - in going ahead with the Jesus Prayer, aren't you trying to lay up some kind of treasure? Something that's every goddam bit as negotiable as all those other, more material things? Or does the fact that it's a prayer make all the difference? I mean by that, is there all the difference in the world, for you, in which side somebody lays up his treasure - this side, or the other? The one where thieves can't break in, et cetera? [...] As you say, treasure's treasure, God damn it, and it seems to me that ninety per cent of all the world-hating saints in history were just as acquisitive and unattractive, basically, as the rest of us are."

Zooey on Jesus, thinking Franny doesn't really understand who Jesus is

"The part that stumps me, really stumps me, is that I can't see why anybody - unless he was a child, or an angel, or a lucky simpleton like the pilgrim - would even want to say the prayer to a Jesus who was the least bit different from the way he looks and sounds in the New Testament. My God! He's only the most intelligent man in the Bible, that's all! Who isn't he head and shoulders over? Who? Both Testaments are full of pundits, prophets, disciples, favorite sons, Solomons, Isaiahs, Davids, Pauls - but, my God, who besides Jesus really knew which end was up? Nobody. Not Moses. Don't tell me Moses. He was a nice man, and he kept in beautiful touch with his God, and all that - but that's exactly the point. He had to keep in touch. Jesus realized there is no separation from God."

Monday, May 23, 2005

All That We Perceive

Yesterday Fellow Seeker and I never made it to church. We wanted to go, but were led astray by *gasp* Devout and others. Instead, we wound up in a diner having the most philosophical discussion I have had in a long time over cheese fries and milkshakes (so much for the body being a temple, I know). It was so wild. There were seven people there, and all of a sudden the conversation went in this direction. We went from joking about what years we were on the Chinese calendar to "What do you think about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world?" to quantum physics, especially as it was presented in What the Bleep Do We Know? a.k.a. the best movie ever. At one point we were discussing whether or not the earth could survive without us. Skeptic's Best Friend said that everyone talks about trying to save the earth, but the truth is that the earth could destroy us and it will be here when we're all gone. Fellow Seeker said that he doesn't think the earth would exist without us. He made a comment about the importance of perception, kind of like the If a tree falls in a forest and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? question. I asked, "Isn't it egotistical for us to say that something doesn't exist unless we perceive it?" He didn't think so.

I remember Mentor asking me what 21-year olds talk about (actually, I'm always the youngest, generally in a group going up to 24). I said, "Philosophy." *Shrugs shoulders* It's true! I mean, of course we discuss movies and relationships and all that, but the meaning of life puts in an appearance quite often.

I'm reading so much right now, in between finals no less... Franny and Zooey and Killing the Buddha are the two spiritual ones that come to mind... and I will definitely post on them when I get a chance.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Make Me Smile

I don't agree with every single point this guy makes, but on the whole, this is wonderful and worth reading:

Where Are The Good Christians? The fanatics and nutjobs now running the show sure give honest believers a bad name.

Look What You've Done

Copyright Gospel Communications International, Inc.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Nobody's Fault But Mine


Last night, I did two things: watched "Tuesdays with Morrie" and finished reading My Glimpse of Eternity by Betty Malz. They were strangely connected with their theme of having to learn how to die in order to learn how to live.

First - "Tuesdays with Morrie." I had glimpsed the T.V. movie back when it was on T.V. and thought it sounded sweet. A couple of years ago I took the book out of the library and was seriously impacted by it. Not because it solved any of life's philosophical dilemmas, but merely because it reminded me of eternal truths that we already know and to appreciate my life. Yesterday, I was in my library's video/DVD section looking for a copy of Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet and instead stumbled upon "Tuesdays with Morrie." I took it home and watched it and was moved once again. I think the fact that Jack Lemmon passed away in 2001 makes it even more depressing. The thing that bothers me, though, is that even though Morrie was prepared for death and could make sense of it, he still didn't know anything about what it would be like.

Something that I found moving was Morrie's quoting of W.H. Auden: "We must love one another or die." Mitch later asks him, "But don't we die anyway?" Yet they don't mention in the movie that in 1955 Auden changed this line to "We must love one another and die." Says it all, doesn't it?

On to My Glimpse of Eternity. Betty Malz died for twenty-eight minutes back in 1959, and she claims to have been to heaven. She describes the typically Christian heaven of golden streets and hymns being sung and eternal light and a masculine-looking angel walking with her. The first time I read this book, I was around 15, and I believed all of it. I had seen her interviewed on T.V. and she beamed like no one I had ever seen before. Now, of course, I'm more skeptical, but that's not to say that I don't believe it anymore. I'm just not taking leaps as easily as I used to. It was good to read but it kind of scares me that I am such a different person from the last time I read it.

Now, what would a post be without a little rant? I was so angry yesterday. Mother told me that she spoke to So Christian It's Scary Aunt. So Christian It's Scary Aunt apparently asked Mother if she has been going to church. She then proceeded to ask if she has any sin in her life because Father will not get healed if any of us in the family have sin in our lives. I hit the ceiling. "Do we have sin in our lives?? Yes, we do! It's called the human condition!" I have come to conclude in the past few months that everyone wants to find a way to blame us for the bad things that have happened to us. I once had a professor who spoke about this. She said that victims are often blamed because people want to feel safe. People will try to decipher what the victim did to deserve it so they can rest assured that it will not happen to them. It's like hearing about a rape and thinking, "Well, she was walking in that neighborhood. As long as I don't walk there, it will never happen to me." And we live with our beautiful delusions until something does happen to us. It's ludicrous. I just wish that if people thought things were our fault, they would keep it to themselves. I wish that Cynic hadn't told me right after my cat died that I shouldn't have let her run out of the house. I wish that religious relatives didn't imply that our sins or lack of faith are to blame.

I told Mother that I'm going to record a new message for our voice mail:

If you are calling to tell us that every horrible thing that happens to us is entirely our fault, please press 1.

If you are calling to tell us that we need to face reality and that there is no hope, please press 2.

If you are calling to preach to us, please press 3.

If you are calling to say something that is not offensive, please remain on the line and we will speak with you.

She dared me to do it. *Grins*

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oh Very Young

I have been feeling so dull and uninspired lately. I think to myself, "Didn't I have a blog? Something about spirituality?" but this is immediately followed by "What do I have to say about spirituality anyway? Who cares? Blehhhh."

On Friday I had to go to Fellowship Program Headquarters to fill out some paperwork. Ran into Fellow #1. Thought there would be many more but with everyone's schedules as they are they probably all went at different times. Lucky for this guy that he is the first one to be mentioned in my blog because now he gets to be Fellow #1. Anyway, after we finished with the paperwork we waited for the elevator together and talked a little. Our respective colleges came up, and I briefly mentioned that I had originally gone to another college. He asked which, and I told him (it's a Christian college). I explained, "I wanted to be a pastor back then. But I got away from that," and then chuckled, reminded of my teenage naivete. He smiled and asked, "Why?" I mumbled something about becoming jaded and then the elevator came. Whew.

The truth is, I was extremely happy at that college, despite the fact that there were some doctrinal issues that they made into academic issues (can't smoke, can't drink, can't dance) that I personally found intrusive. Oh well, I commuted to college so they had no way of knowing whether or not I lived up to their "universal ideals." (You know, it's a good thing I have Thoreau and Gandhi to justify my intense hatred for being told what to do, otherwise I would probably have some serious ethical issues with my past behavior. This is why a Christian marriage is indubitably out of the question for me!) I hated having to leave when I discovered that they were unequipped to prepare me for my true calling, and I was unequipped to keep paying a private school's outlandish tuition fees. But, in the end, transferring to the school I'm in now was the best decision of my life.

I wish I had enough of a clue so that I could, at the very least, categorize the various spiritual stages I have been through. Were those years in youth groups and Christian college something to scoff at, a big deluded mistake? Were they the only times when I was doing the right thing? Am I doing the right or wrong thing now?

Fellow Seeker hasn't gone to church in a few weeks, which is sooo me but is sooo not him. I told him that this Sunday I'll go with him. *Shrugs shoulders* It can't hurt. I like going there... more than I like attending "my church," which I don't go to anymore anyway. I just haven't been into it.

Friday, May 13, 2005


- What do I say?
God! God! - God pity me! Am I gone mad
That I should spit upon a rosary?
Am I become so shrunken? Would to God
I too might feel that frenzied faith whose touch
Makes temporal the most enduring grief;
Though it must walk a while, as is its wont,
With wild lamenting! Would I too might weep
Where weeps the world and hangs its piteous wreaths
For its new dead! Not Truth, but Faith, it is
That keeps the world alive. If all at once
Faith were to slacken, - that unconscious faith
Which must, I know, yet be the corner-stone
Of all believing, - birds now flying fearless
Across would drop in terror to the earth;
Fishes would drown; and the all-governing reigns
Would tangle in the frantic hands of God
And the worlds gallop headlong to destruction!

-Excerpt from Interim by Edna St. Vincent Millay-

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Long and Winding Road

Today I had an appointment with Counselor on campus. I was hanging out with a friend of mine prior to it and she wanted to know why I was leaving, so I told her. She asked, "Why do you need a counselor? Are you...?" and she made the cuckoo motion around her head. I told her that I have only gone a few times; a couple of my academic advisors suggested I try it after my father's accident. She asked if it helps, and I told her that it does in a way because Counselor helps me make connections and understand certain things.

Case in point: Lately I have been telling Counselor about my obsession with death and religion and all that. Today she told me that I seem to be frustrated with my humanity. I said, "Yeah, and everyone else's, because I can't even ask someone else!" That's one of the things that gets to me. No matter how much I search, I will never get any closer to that elusive fiend called truth. I feel like the guy in Ecclesiastes: "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless" (1:2). What's the point of trying to figure it out? Anything anyone says about God or the cosmic question is and always will be mere speculation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Lying Eyes

Today in history class the topic of homosexuality came up (it was related to a historical figure we were discussing). A middle-aged woman in my class gave her opinion, and it was intense. She has grown children, and she made the claim that homosexuality is not from God, and if one of her children was gay, she would "kill him." When she first said that, everyone in the room either gasped or laughed (most did both). We assumed that she was just using that expression of wanting to kill someone. Professor then gave her a hypothetical situation: Let's say you have a son that's 25 years old. He's a genius, absolutely brilliant, on the verge of discovering a cure for a terminal disease. One day he comes home and tells you that he's a homosexual. How would you react? She said that he had better leave the door open behind him to run back out because she would kill him. The more she spoke, the more we realized how serious she was and the laughter gave way to open mouths and knit eyebrows. I hope no one in my class is gay because they must have been seriously offended. I was offended, and I'm straight! I just kept thinking to myself, Goodness, does religion really engender this type of hatred?

The figure we were discussing was also guilty of countless instances of infidelity to his wife (he was bisexual, so there were men and women involved). Professor was asking us if we think people should be able to have private lives that the public never knows about, or if knowing a person's private life helps us understand their public actions. I commented that I felt that his private life conveys the fact that he was disloyal and not a man of his word, and it definitely tarnishes his credibility. Professor (always being the devil's advocate) gave me a hypothetical situation. He asked, "You're not married, are you?" I shook my head vehemently. He then said, "Let's say you get married, and after some time your husband no longer finds you attractive. Physical relations between you end, but he doesn't want a divorce. One day you meet a man who is attractive, attentive, all the things you want. Would you have an affair?" I said no. He asked, "No?" I said, "Well, I can't honestly say for sure since I'm not in the situation, but I don't think I would, no." He wasn't defending the cause of infidelity; he was just trying to get me to think outside the box. And it's true... it's easy to say things are right and wrong, black and white, but that's not how life works. I don't, however, think that something like that is justifiable. I would hate to be in that type of situation but I don't think it's ethical to break a vow that you have made. *Shrugs shoulders*

Oh My My

Ack! Group Leader wanted to respond to the entire group about something and used a reply to my private e-mail to do it. Now the whole group got to read about my "pretty serious crisis of faith" that's preventing me from leading. If I wasn't so embarrassed I'd probably find some humor in this slip-up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Just a Test

My church book group has ended, and the members want to start it up again for the summer. The problem is Group Leader will be away all summer, so we need someone else to lead. Future Leader volunteered but she doesn't want to do it by herself, so I volunteered to co-lead. (This was a few weeks ago.) Last night, however, I e-mailed Group Leader and Future Leader and told them that I don't think it's a good idea. I explained about my crisis of faith and said that I feel it would be insincere of me and unfair to the others if I helped lead. I would attend but I don't want to have any kind of "authority." I'm supposed to have dinner with them Thursday night so perhaps we'll discuss it further.

Second Cousin just called. He's a pastor that lives a few states away. He started telling me that we need to have faith because God may be testing us, and faith is the only way to get God to work. If we don't have faith, we're tying His hands. I listened to everything he had to say and promised to pass the message along to the rest of the family. I was thinking, however... Why do we have to have faith before God works? If God's omnipotent, He can do whatever He wants. I have constantly worried about my lack of faith being a hindrance, and I feel guilty about it, but how can I help a lack of faith? I can't just conjure some up. It wouldn't be genuine. Besides, if God wants to test other members of my family to see what kind of Christians they are, fine. I can't see why He would want to test me, though. Tests are supposed to be for people like Abraham and Noah and Job, to see if their faith that is great in the first place is still great when bad times come. What would be the point of testing someone whose faith is not even great in the first place?

Also, there are times when prayer works, and there are times when it doesn't. My parents have told me the story of Sister's healing a million times: when she was a baby, she had such bad asthma that she would wheeze all night and they feared she would stop breathing. The doctor told them to get rid of every pet, rug, etc. They took her to a church service where she was prayed for and when they took her back to the doctor, he couldn't understand how the asthma just disappeared. To this day she doesn't have it. I may be reluctant to believe stories like that about other people, but this is my immediate family. I know it's true. Anyway, we have also known someone who was in a wheelchair who was not healed (Pastor So-And-So, the one I have a grievance against, told her she didn't have enough faith, which horrified my parents. He did, however, change his tune when he prayed and prayed for one of his parents to be healed and they passed away). Christians explain that by saying that it was not God's will for that person. My point: doubting is not necessarily saying God can't or won't do something. It might be wondering whether or not God will choose to do it. People seem to believe that having faith means walking around acting like everything's fine because you know it will be. But none of us know it will be, regardless of how faithful we are.

So confusing.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Do I Believe?

I have been thinking a lot lately. I suppose it began with a big disappointment that came earlier in the week. I had the best of intentions when I wrote posts like I Need You and Just For You. I don't write statements that I don't truly believe, and if I do, then I make that clear. However, it's like Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed about your faith being nothing more than a house of cards if it can be knocked over with grief. I am coming to realize that my faith really is a house of cards. It cannot be anything more than that if it is so easily crushed.

I would understand if difficulties made me doubt God's plan for my life, or His hand being in things, or something small like that. But doubting the big things like Christ's divinity and the absolute truth of Christianity... that's not normal for a "Christian" to do, regardless of circumstances. Why are those the first things to go for me? It's not like one day I believe in Christ and the next I don't. I just begin doubting everything, the whole cosmic scheme. I wonder, "Am I believing the right thing? How do I really know? How do I know anything?" It really sucks.

This is why: I was thrown off my axis years ago and I have never been able to get completely back on. There are times (like when the aforementioned posts were written) when I feel like I could definitely get back into it. But even those times require me to ignore certain questions that will never go away. I'm never certain. I know I'm supposed to be, but I'm not. For example, I was driving Sister home tonight and forcing her to listen to my John Lennon Collection. We started talking about Imagine and I said, "Well, it does have a wonderful message. He's saying that we shouldn't allow division based on religion, or worry so much about who's going to hell and who isn't. We should live for today and be good to each other now. That's great... the only thing is, if there is a heaven and hell, I think we should think about it." She said to me, "What do you mean if there is a heaven...?"

That's the real reason I began this blog. I didn't decide to do it so that I can sing religion's praises or write about what a happy peppy Christian I am. I did that in a couple of posts, but seriously, it's not as simple as that. I started it so that I could find a way to make sense of things, as opposed to the mental back-and-forth that I can't put an end to.

I have to say, I think that not having beliefs that you really believe is one of the scariest things in life. How do agnostics do it?

A couple of verses from my favorite Lionel Richie song seem appropriate here:

Golden days, night was play,
Pain was all a world away,
We went to school, we learned the rules,
We trusted all they all had to say,
Then life took a turn, we all had to learn,
And we can't go back again.


God was God, dreams were dreams,
Life was all cake and ice cream,
Truth was true, and lies were lies,
We thought love would never die,
But the world moved on, my illusion's gone,
And I don't know who to blame.


I'm looking for protection,
Give me shelter from the storm,
I just hope this light inside me
Keeps me strong.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

If I Ever Lose My Faith In You

I chucked The Purpose Driven Life. It got on my nerves. Maybe Mother will get something out of it.

Serious circumstances in my life are getting even more difficult, if that can be imagined. And - what a surprise - my spiritual life is suffering. Heavily. I don't blame God for what has happened, but I am weary and becoming disinterested in things fast. I don't have any desire to go to church or pray for the things that I want to come true because, in the words of Edith Bunker, "What good does it do?" (Today I watched the tear-jerker episode of All in the Family in which her cross-dressing friend Beverly is murdered and Edith, the model Christian, refuses to go to church.)

*Scribbles out Comfort* So, what else is on the religion list that doesn't apply to me anymore?

Friday, May 06, 2005

A Sorta Fairytale


I began reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Godmother gave it to Mother for her birthday a while ago, and since Mother isn't a reader and is quite a busy woman, it has been sitting in my house all this time. I actually had two copies of it that my church had given to me. I gave one to Devout, and the other one must be floating around here somewhere. But anyway, the book is composed of mini-chapters, one for each of forty days. Today I'm on Day 11 and I want to scream.

Why don't I just stop, you ask? That would make sense, wouldn't it? I, however, am one of those people who has a real problem with not finishing books I start. There are times that I will do this, but since I only have to read a few pages of this per day, it's do-able in my mind and so I'm keeping up with it.

Anyway, it's not that it's a bad book. I just find it incredibly predictable, full of Christian cliches. I suppose it's good for brand new Christians, but not for veterans, regardless of how crappy a veteran you are. Lines like "God wants to be your best friend" - true as they may be - are not exactly leading me to spiritual enlightenment. I feel like it's too far removed from the nitty gritty of everyday life and reality to be applicable for me. Yes, I know the Bible says this, and that, and that, but what can you tell me beyond that?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Extra, Extra

Dena suggested I do another one of these and I opted to jump on that suggestion rather than write my papers. I'm so pathetic. Bear with me. I just really like the challenge of having to come up with so much crap. (This is what happens when you create a blog about spirituality and you don't even go to church.)

100 More Things You Probably Don't Care To Know About Sojourness

1. I'm an editor of my college's feminist literary magazine.
2. We just put together our annual issue.
3. The only work I published in there was a poem called Eve's Lament.
4. I wanted a photograph or work of art that was Eve-ish to accompany the poem, but I wasn't around when they did design and layout so it didn't happen.
5. Screw it.
6. When we first moved to this house, I painted ivy leaves all along the walls and ceiling of my bedroom.
7. On the walls, I have Alice by Julia Cameron.
8. And The Storm by Pierre-Auguste Cot.
9. And Van Gogh's A Vase of Roses.
10. And Amazon Women.
11. My Amazon wishlist is 11 pages long and contains 269 items.
12. The books are mainly about topics I am obsessed with.
13. Like Women's Studies.
14. And Religion.
15. And Black History.
16. Right now I'm babysitting the kittens.
17. I have babysat a lot in my life.
18. When I was in high school, I babysat a seven-year-old terror.
19. He had a guinea pig that he claimed could fly.
20. He demonstrated this by constantly standing on top of his couch and dropping the poor thing.
21. Which eventually killed it.
22. And made him cry to me.
23. He and his mother moved to Florida, and I actually missed watching him.
24. I wish that I could be a writer, but I am no good at writing fiction.
25. If I ever wrote anything, it would have to be non-fiction.
26. Or fiction based on my life.
27. Because I have a lot of stories.
28. Don't we all?
29. I used to be able to write fiction when I was a kid, but I lost it somewhere.
30. I remember writing a story about three kids who stumble upon an underground community of Evangelical Christian elves who take them to their underground church.
31. I also wrote about a teenage girl who goes west with her family (during the pioneer days) and when she returns she finds her boyfriend cheating on her.
32. It was like Oregon Trail meets Maury.
33. I was a weird kid.
34. (Maybe it's better that I don't write fiction anymore.)
35. I wish I still had those stories, though.
36. When I was a senior in high school, we had to vote for senior celebrities (like Class Flirt, Class Clown, etc.)
37. My friends wrote me on the ticket as Class Hippie.
38. It didn't gain momentum, though.
39. Which was fine with me. I was happy to fade into senior class obscurity.
40. I didn't go to my prom.
41. My best friend and I went to a Weezer concert instead.
42. I think If You Leave Me Now by Chicago is one of the sweetest songs in the world.
43. It's not my favorite song, though.
44. In My Life is.
45. I was thinking that I'd like to play it at my wedding if I ever get married.
46. But the dead lovers and friends part is a little depressing.
47. I was chatting with a friend today and marriage came up.
48. I told him that I'm not going to get married unless it's to somebody extremely progressive who doesn't expect a barefoot and pregnant housewife.
49. He said that I have to get married because marriage and I are synonymous.
50. I'm really not sure what that means.
51. I asked him what it meant, and he said that when he thinks marriage, he thinks me.
52. Whatever.
53. I'm too bitchy to get married.
54. I am planning to be the single old woman who scares neighborhood children.
55. Can't you just see it?
56. I was wondering the other day why unmarried men are called confirmed bachelors while unmarried women are referred to as spinsters and old maids.
57. I get fed up with society often.
58. Maybe that's why I'm angry in my dreams.
59. My sister and I have a $50 bet going on who will get married first.
60. We made it a few years ago.
61. She's positive she's going to win.
62. She probably will.
63. My sister is a great writer of fiction.
64. She has a vivid imagination.
65. When we were kids, instead of having a regular imaginary friend, she used to write letters to Larry who lived in the radiator.
66. I'm surprised she never started a fire that way.
67. There was a fire in that house a year or so after we moved out.
68. But it didn't result from her and Larry's correspondence.
69. The house is still boarded up.
70. I wish I could do nothing all summer but bask in the sun and read.
71. But I have to work.
72. I'm interning at a publishing company.
73. Which has been my undergrad dream for a while.
74. A couple of years ago, I wrote up a list of things to do before I die.
75. Get Married was on it.
76. After Get a Ph.D.
77. I believe Try Sushi was there as well.
78. And Go To a Jazz Club.
79. I had better get on that.
80. I miss my cat terribly.
81. There's a stray cat on my block that looks just like her.
82. She was watching me as I was walking into the house yesterday.
83. I remember being on a date once, and as I was talking about driving, the guy looked at me and asked with a straight face, "Have you ever run over a cat?"
84. I think I have bad luck with dating.
85. I once dated a guy who was a twin, and I got he and his brother mixed up.
86. He didn't wear glasses, his brother did, and one day his brother lost his glasses.
87. My life is a cheesy sitcom.
88. This is a great stream-of-consciousness exercise.
89. I should do this on a regular basis in my private journal.
90. My mother borrowed my car tonight.
91. She just informed me that it wouldn't start until she jiggled the steering wheel.
92. Dear me, not again.
93. I love that car! I don't care if it has...quirks.
94. I named it Kate after Katharine Hepburn.
95. Because she passed away while I was trying to think of a name for it.
96. And I love her.
97. She and Spencer Tracy were wonderful together.
98. Never mind that he was married and not to her.
99. I'm almost done with her biography.
100. It's very good.

I Say a Little Prayer

Happy National Day of Prayer. Grab hold of your deity and have a gab session. It'll be fun.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Open Book

I got a paper back today. I wrote about Tarabotti's Paternal Tyranny, specifically the way she "interprets" (a.k.a. rewrites) the Genesis dialogue between God and Eve. I mentioned that she has a literary perspective that she applies to the passage. Professor M. wrote "Good. Isn't all Biblical interpretation 'literary'? The Bible is a book of stories after all." My first reaction was to wonder why he considered the point good if he went on to say that it's superfluous. But anyway, it made me think about how my religious background influences the way I look at certain things now. I don't generally look at the Bible as literature. I can, in the sense that I have heard of courses taught on it and I know that Job is technically a five-act play and Psalms a book of poetry. However, I never consider the Bible the way I consider Shakespeare or Tolstoy, so his comment surprised me a little. In my mind, literary interpretation is only one of many options for interpreting a text as weighty and significant as this. Does that make sense?

Right now I'm re-reading J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey. I love that book. It has the charm and appeal of Catcher in the Rye but there's a ton of religion in it. I'll write on it when I finish.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Live and Let Die

It's interesting how things always manage to tie in to each other. Today I was reading an article on talking to the dead called Faith in the Departed. Tonight I heard Kid Sister talking to our cat on her toy telephone. She was saying, "I wish I could play with you, but you died." It was mildly amusing and utterly tragic at the same time.

While we're on the subject, what is everyone's thoughts? Do you see talking to the dead as crazy? Healthy? Sinful? Logical human behavior or a pathetic attempt to grasp what we don't own? Do you believe people that say that the deceased have appeared/spoken to them? (And I am talking about people, not cats. As painful as the loss is - and my, is it painful - I haven't gone off the deep end yet.)