Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Directions and Deletions

I went back and deleted a few posts in the middle of the night. The reason? Well, like I said, I've often awaken in the middle of the night with this guilt feeling about things I've said or done during the day. This isn't real guilt but a false guilt that people like me live most of their lives under.

I did put a statistical analysis link to my blog. Not out of vanity but to see if there is anyone besides me and my mother (I guess even my mother doesn't even use the Internet any m0re) are reading this. If not, I was going to stop blogging and continue writing in a little leather-bound journal that I will keep to myself and throw into a campfire some day. I know Denise would prefer it if I did it that way as my public candor embarrasses her. However, I discovered that there are about 60 to 100 daily readers, so I will stick around for a while.

I have several hopes in my writing here. For one, when I first became disillusioned with Christianity (at least the evangelical version of it) about 20 years ago, I felt that I was the only person on earth to do so. The path, up until that time, was back or white. Either you drank the Cool Aid and bought into the entire evangelical agenda . . . or you were a despicable person (sees like I've heard that adjective some where of late). So I write to hopefully create an oasis for some others who are a drift in this sea of post-evangelical confusion.

I also discovered from the statistical analysis that I had faithful, local readers. That scared the bejeebers out of me. I've more than one visitor figure out exactly who I am (and I don't try hard to hide it). But really you can't talk with too much candor, using your real identity, without hurting feelings and creating a real mess.

I was involved with LAbri for a while. When Frank Schaeffer wrote his very candid books (the fictional series as well as Crazy for God) that many loyal LAbri fans and family grew to despise him. I, on the other hand, still have a deep appreciation for LAbri . . . and for Frank.

I always struggle with this balance of being total candid and honest about life's big questions, without pissing people off. I've tried to avoid venting about my relationship with the local church, but, once again I did recently. So I did some cleaning house and deleted the things that could irritate people . . . people who go to my church. But this brings me to my next thought.

I had the most unusual encounter with a patient and her husband the other day. She, the patient, is in her late 50s and I've been following her for a while. He has a complex medical history and suffers from severe headaches.

This last time that she was in, her husband came with her. I haven't seen him in about three years. He is the typical retired military (Air Force Pilot), big, stoic guy. After we finished he appointment, he sent his wife out to the waiting room because he wanted to talk to me privately.

He starts telling me this very log saga about how his wife married right out of high school to a (locally) famous jock. Soon after they were married, her first husband started to beat the hell out of her on a regular basis. Then, when he didn't make it in college sports, he became more bitter, started to drink, and increased his abuse of his wife . . . for the next ten years. The last straw came when she was pregnant with her third baby (and he was always jealous of his own children) that he got a hunting knife (and was drunk of course) and attempted to "cut the baby out of her."

It was to her good fortune that he was too drunk to cause much damage. But she got out of the marriage.

As the story often goes, she met a man in a bar who was also a heavy drinker. He quickly won her over, married her and started to use her as a punching bag just like the first husband. This continued for another decade. Finally, I think he killed himself in her presence.

So, I sat listening, carefully as this man told this story. Finally I spoke up. "Poor woman. I can't imagine the emotional pain that she must have. I mean, punches don't come in isolation. They come in an association with a flurry of verbal insults and brutal, emotional whippings."

Her husband (being third husband) looked at my in confusion. "Huh? Oh, I wouldn't know about emotional stuff. I was talking about a pinched nerve in her neck or something from all the blows."

"But certainly she suffers from deep emotional pain too."

"Oh good Lord, I wouldn't know about that or would I care. She stuffed any emotions that she had about it and sealed it up like a can. I ain't no fool who's going to come at her with a can opener. As a matter of fact, any time she starts to talk about feelings I tell her to shut up as I don't wont to hear it. Like I've always said, if you don't like something either you fix it or you shut up about it."

I felt a deep dismay. Here is a lady you has suffered tremendous physical abuse, only to be eclipsed by her emotional abuse, for most of her adult life and now she isn't allowed to talk about it. I just shook my head. "Can you get her in to see a counselor?"

"Hell no. She's not seeing any shrink. Let's focus on the pinched nerve thing."

But there is a stoicism that penetrates a lot of our Western culture. It isn't just an evangelical thing as you certainly see the ex-Air Force husband's view in many places. But, I would like to be a can opener. There is a place for venting. There is a place for hearing other people's stories so you can think in your heart of hearts . . . "maybe I'm not nuts. They feel that way too."

But, I do think the evangelical cult of niceness creates a great pressure to can it.

I wonder how many marriages could have been saved if the issues were placed on the table early on, in great candor and even with their natural cruelty. I wonder how many people could have been helped, who have left the Church, completely. Meaning that they have no claims to being a Christian anymore. But if they could have said, early on, "I hate going to church!" That others could have said, "That's fine. I hate it too. Hating going to church is not the same as not loving God." Our pastor has suggested that loving coming to church and loving God are one and the same. Woops. There I go again and I might have to come back and delete this one.

So, I've been thinking about creating a Post Evangelical Forum.

I'm a member of a couple of medical professional forums and they work very well. One, ran by the software of vBulletin, has about 6 major areas and 50 sub areas. Each person post (rather than the long-winded blogger like me doing all the writing). It would be a place where people could vent, ask for advice, share from their heart of hearts. It would be a place where some could come anonymously and talk about anything. The only catcher is that it would cost me about $250/ year. It would be worth it if people came.

It is just a though.


Hope T. said...

I had better make a quick comment before you delete this.
I would really appreciate a forum like you are thinking of starting. I have been very quiet here the past couple of months but I would participate in a forum and I will try to comment here more because I want to affirm that you are doing me a real service with this blog and I'm sure that is true for the other 99 regular readers, also.

Brian said...

I'm also an infrequent commenter but yours is one of the few blogs where I read almost every post. So, I'm glad you are sticking around.

On a side note, $250 seems a little steep for what you are talking about. I would think you could get something pretty reliable for about half that. vBulletin is a one-time cost but there are other free options out there(phpBB) that are pretty good.

If you don't want to deal with the technical side, I might be able to host it for you. Let me know if you would like to talk about it some more.

Johan said...

I also hope you will continue to write.
Even so, I understand where you're coming from, because I'm also in the habit of second guessing myself. I struggle with these feelings of false guilt a lot (was worse in times of seasonal affective disorder). People often en easily can activate my highly sensitive conscience and make me doubt my motives.
But I'm on a journey of discovering how much God loves me (amazingly: just as much as he loves Jesus, as is written in John17:20) and how central Jesus is in my belief. I also have come to the believe that besides Jesus as the revelation of Gods love and nature in our reality, all other issues are at best second tiere.
I for one have decided to for the time being not attend sunday morning services. I have chosen to act in accordance to my deeply held beliefs regarding the way God works, and seek for a more relational/organic expression of faith, the way you also sometimes describe, where honesty is valued and brokenness is not hidden away.


MJ said...

Thanks for your feedback Hope T

MJ said...

Brian, thanks for your offer. I will check out phpBB. I've looked it over but it will take some time for me to fully grasp it.

MJ said...

Brian, thanks for your offer. I will check out phpBB. I've looked it over but it will take some time for me to fully grasp it.

MJ said...

Johan, keep us posted how this works out for you.

One of my all time favorite verses (thinking of the verse you shared John 17:20) is Zephaniah 3:

17 The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."

I now realize that I took that verse out of context when I applied it to myself. But I do, like you, realize that God's love for us is incredible. But that verse did bring me a lot of comfort during many days that I felt like crap.

Anonymous said...

. . . or you were a despicable person (sees like I've heard that adjective some where of late).

Daffy Duck to Bugs Bunny?