Friday, July 30, 2010

Anne Rice and Divorcing the Church

Anne Rice (who I didn't know existed until today) recently denounced Christianity. And to be honest, I completely understand why. In her words:

"In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and quit being Christian. Amen."

I understand the sentiment, but in my opinion, the solution is all wrong. Christianity is complicated animal to say the least. It has been used as a staging ground for some of the most horrific displays of violence in history. And it has been the source of some of the most beautiful acts of compassion in recent history. When the Church is beautiful, we all want a seat in the pews. But when the Church becomes ugly it is only natural to ask, "What can I do?" And increasingly, the Christian answer has become: "Leave."

We can't continue to do this.

Though I agree with Anne Rice in "denouncing the antis," I disagree whole-heartedly with her solution. We as Christians have to stop seeing the church as a club that we can leave when we choose, and start seeing it as a family. Anne Rice decided to renounce Chrisianity because she didn't want to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, or anti-Democrat. But Christianity is none of these things. Christians are these things. More specifically, some Christians are these things. Christianity itself is not anti-gay, anti-feminist, or anti-Democrat. Christianity is based on the one crazy notion that humankind is estranged from God, and the only way back is through the salvific force of Christ's death on the cross. Everything else is secondary.

The fact is, I think some Christians are crazy. And most of those Christians, think I am crazy. But we have to stop seeing each other as warring sides, and start seeing each other (as G. K. Chesterton suggested) as ugly protrusions on an unshapely rock.

So what is the answer? What do I think we should do when we start worrying that our reputations will be ruined by being members of this ugly organism? My answer is to understand. Try to understand why some Christians are anti-gay. Try to understand why some Christians are anti-NIV, why some Christians are anti-tolerance, and why are some Christians are anti-Church. It's not enough to simply see that some Christians are this way, and divorce ourselves from them. We have to start asking why they believe these things in order to see what it is we hold in common.

There are Christians who say that you have to read the King James version of the Bible. I have to start understanding why they are saying this. Perhaps, they recognize that the Bible holds truth, and don't want to dilute that truth by making the Bible say whatever we want it to say. I admit, it is all too easy to misinterpret the Bible. But I disagree that we can safeguard against this pitfall by only accepting one translation. Regardless, I have to admit that the desire to preserve the truths of the Bible is a goal I am struggling toward as well.

There are Christians who say that homosexuality is a sin. I disagree with them, but I have to start understanding why they are so vehemently opposed to homosexuality. It's all to easy to claim that they are homophobes who want to oppress gays. The truth is, they courageously holding strong to an unpopular belief that they find in the Bible. I disagree with their interpretation, but agree that we must continue to consult the Bible, tease the truths out of it, and live unflinchingly by those truths. And honestly, I admire the courage it takes to stand up and champion a view that is so socially repugnant. It takes a lot of courage to look the world in the face and say, I know you're going to call me a demon, but this is what I believe. I have to start seeing why they behave like they do, and try to model that courage in my own way.

I personally do not believe in a fire and brimstone Hell, or a seven day creation, or the historical reality of the flood, or the Exodus from Egypt. I am not even certain of the historical reality of the miracles Christ performed in the Gospels. Many, many Christians disagree with me. But rather than hearing that I believe this and divorcing yourself from me, I want Christians to know why I believe this. I want Christians to understand that I believe in a God who works and speaks through human beings, and that the Bible is a terribly difficult book to read and interpret. And most of all, I want Christians to know that I think everything (even the resurrection) is secondary to the salvific force of the cross. I believe that Christ's death cleansed us of sin, and anyone who wants to become a child of God can—and must—do so through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross.

I know my ideas are not popular among so-called "conservative Christians," and the ideas of some "conservative Christians" are not persuasive to me. But the fact remains, we are all members of the same body. We are all black-sheep. The sooner we start learning from each other instead of pretending that we aren't related, the sooner the world will start learning from us. The Church as a whole is a complicated collection of people holding strangely opposing views, but the one view we all agree on, the belief that Jesus' death on the cross is our only means of unification with God, is the strangest belief indeed. This one idea is so dramatically counter-intuitive to everything we know about the world, that the difference between sprinkling and dunking a baby pales in comparison. As G. K. Chesterton said, "This is knowing not only that the earth is round, but knowing exactly where it is flat."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Branden and Amy's Wedding

Branden and Amy got married this past weekend down in Cleveland so Norah and I took a trip out there. We rode the Megabus down, which was much, much better than I had anticipated. The bus felt brand new and Norah seemed to really enjoy herself. The ability to get up and walk around made it much better for her, even if we only walked to the bathroom. Now that I've taken the Megabus from Chicago to Cleveland, I'd have to say I honestly prefer it over flying. There's just so little stress involved, the people talk to each other, and you don't feel like a terrorist when you get up to use the bathroom.

My brother Jim picked me up in downtown Cleveland and I'm glad because it was really good to see him. I hung out with my brother Jeremy that night, and then drove my mom's car down to Canton for a bachelor party camping trip that was the creme de la creme of camping trips. I pitched my brother Jim's tent, which is probably the biggest tent ever made. It's a five bedroom six and a half bath sort of thing with three stories and a nice view of the river. That night we went and played just about the rowdiest game of golf I've ever played. We definitely would have been kicked off of just about any course for some of the antics that night. For some reason the grass growing out of the floorboards of the pontoon boat that was parked next to a couple rusted out golf carts made us all think it was okay to golf in tee shirts and flip flops with about a hundred beers stuffed in our bags. Basically, it was awesome. I shot just under a thousand so I was happy.

That night I played poker until five in the morning, went to bed, and got up at 9 because the sun decided to repay me for something mean I said in Junior High. We ate breakfast and then sat in our camping chairs wondering why we picked a camp site that had no shade trees. There was cornhole, and lots of water drinking, but basically the morning was a big game of "Try not to sit on each other's lap in the shade of that Honda Civic." Eventually we hung a tarp between a car and a sapling and played, "Try not to sit on each other's lap in the shade of that tarp."

Around three or so, we went down to the river to ride some kayaks. Holy cow. 1) I've never seen that many people on a river before in my life. 2) I've never seen that many coolers on a river before. 3) I can't believe I didn't witness a drowning. I'm thinking there were close to a thousand people on the river that day, everyone just floating down drinking beers and chasing kids who were squirting us with squirt guns. I don't know if it's always like that on the weekends there or if we managed to congregate on some strange vernal equinox of drunken river riding, but it was fabulous. We basically tucked our oars in, grabbed the nearest kayak, and just floated down river. Branden managed to score some free beer off of passers by because he told them he was on his bachelor party. The rest of just just got jealous and floated for a couple hours enjoying the cool river.

That night we sat at the campfire and ate hobo dinners. (Cut stuff. Toss stuff in tin foil. Add fat. Toss tin foil ball into fire. Eat.) I went to bed relatively early that night (around 1) and got up in the morning to cook breakfast, tear down camp and drive home. Norah got to spend the weekend with Grandma, Poppa, Jim, Jer and Char and finished her visit by spending the day at the farm park milking cows and riding horses. She's talked about it a good deal since we got home. Meanwhile, I drove to my folks house and we went to dinner for my birthday.

I then spent the next couple days in Cleveland with my folks before Branden picked Norah and me up to help out at the Dreniks' where Branden's wedding was going to be held. We helped build a deck there until about midnight, and the next day my friend Tammy picked me up and drove me down to Canton. There we ate some tacos (delicious!) and went for a quick jaunty to Tagarts. Then Babs, Ryan, Clay and I hung out at the fire pit in the driveway.

Babs and I went to the Dreniks' the next day for some grass cutting, deck building, posion ivy raking, beer drinking, pool playing and a poker tournament. We were in bed around four in the morning, and then ate brunch at Yours Truly. Which means we beat you at the game of "Who can eat the best brunch on Saturday, July 24, 2010."

The wedding itself was probably the most fitting ceremony I've ever been to. Branden and Amy walked down the isle together and Amy's dog followed wearing a blue dress. The ceremony was in the back yard under a great big shade tree and a blue grass band played on the newly constructed deck. After the ceremony, I followed B and Amy in the car while they drove off on his motorcycle, and Kristin hung out of the passanger windo taking pictures of them while they drove. We got back, packed up and headed off to the winery where I ate a lot of cheese and drank a good deal of vino. There was something about that night with all my Canton friends, laughing and drinking and eating lots of cheese that made me remember again just how much I love that community of people. I can't really express how much I miss them while I'm gone, all I can say is that honestly, when we get together, I don't want it to stop. Ever. It's like the most sappy unreaslistic lifetime made-for-TV-movie you've ever seen—minus the domestic violence, kidnapped children, and drug abuse.

On Sunday, we caught up with Heather and Ryan who were driving to Michigan, and decided to swap out driving partners. So I rode with Ryan and Rach rode with Heather all the way into Indiana. It was really great to spend that extra time with the Battles's because I didn't get to see anywhere near enough of anyone the whole time. The extra hours in the car were like dessert. We parted ways in Indiana and Rach, Norah and I got home in time to unpack, and play some video games until we went to bed. (Ok, Rach went to bed early. I played video games.)

So, basically, this past week and a bit was one of the best weeks I've had in a long, long, long, lots more longs, time. Thanks to B and Amy for the wedding and a deep-hearted "I miss you" to my family and all my Canton friends.

I wish I had taken more pictures, but I'm an idiot and forgot my camera in the bag for most of the time. The pictures I did take will be put up on Facebook later because, yes... I'm back on Facebook. I know, I know. I'm eating my hat.