Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Follow UP - And Response to HUG

HUG, nice to know you are still around. I was going to respond in the comment section but decided to bring up here.

1. Yes, my crushing workload of the past 3 years is lightening up a bit along with the stress.
2. As usual, I agree with most of your comments.
3. Yes, the manuscript is the one that I use to have linked to this blog, but it has gone through a huge transformation through rewrites and editing.
4. Yes, I still have the same email address and always count it a pleasure to read your writing.

Follow Up:

I completed my sermon/talk on Sunday and met my goals. My goal was simply to face the most terrifying thing I could think of, knowing that exposure mends phobias. I don't know if anything I said made a difference as most sermons do not make a difference.

We attended the small group on Monday.  Afterwards I felt frankly depressed and awaken with depression the next morning and have felt depressed since.  I'm trying to get my head around why a Christian small group would make me feel so sad. It think it is because, almost on a subconscious level, I sense that, this is as good as it gets. When I was one of them, it was quite wonderful, but that was decades ago.

It appears in order to have a really good group of friends, there needs to be mutual respect. I could be best friends with an atheist and have been best friends with Muslims, but we had to reach that point of respect to have a really deep friendship.

In the Christian context, it should be simpler . . . right? We all share a common goal and orientation to life?  Or do we?

The problem, the way I see it, is that while we do share the fundamentals, it is the extraneous that make it virtually impossible to meet, or at least us who are disenfranchised to meet with the franchised. Yes, we can agree that God is there, that sin separated us from God (and fractured the universe away from its ideal) and that Jesus, God in the flesh, came to restore that brokenness.  We can further agree that the Bible is God's message to humanity. If it stopped there, it would be wonderful.

The problem is the American Evangelism is wrapped in many, many layers of specific extra-Biblical culture.  Differences in culture should not separate people either.  I mean, I've been great friends with fundamentalist Muslims, Chinese, Nepalese and you name it. Here is where the problem lies.  American, Evangelicalism have the simple essentials of the faith, wrapped with layers and layers of cultural beliefs and then it has been forged into a monolith. They see the whole thing as essential. So, to not agree with any part makes you suspect.

My Nepalese friends would never expect me to agree with all of their viewpoints but would celebrate our diversity. Christians treat other Christians very differently. We have this high standard (made up of many cultural, non essential parts) that our Christian friends must confirm to. If not, we must view them as a danger to themselves or to all of us.  I'm not saying this is how I think now, but how I use to think and how many still think.

American Evangelicals have forged the cultural beliefs (below) onto the simple essentials.  If I say anything in the group that is not consistent with these additional beliefs, then I know (from experience) that I will not be respected and immediately seen as a "liberal." So friendships must exist where the majority of yourself is hidden.

America is God's Country, like His new-chosen people.

America was a Christian country from the beginning and only recently did people, usually Democrats, start to put us on a godless path.

America, as a country, is always rights. All of her wars are justified, us-the good guys, against them-the bad, godless guys.

God is in the Republican party, not the Democratic party.

God wants us all to have guns.

Jesus is coming back any day.

The world is a terrible place and getting worse each day. We are on a path of total destruction of the world and it is not worth saving. Gays and gay marriage is proof that the world is becoming garbage.

Everything is divided between good and evil and we are on the good side.

God loves the grunt, because the wars they fought were God's wars.

Israel is in God's plan to be the chosen people through which we are all saved in the end. Therefore, those who oppose Israel (Arabs) are sub-human and do not deserve justice.

God hates the environmentalists because he hates the material world in general.

Miracles (meaning those things totally impossible within the laws of nature) happen all the time to people whom God loves, like the other people in the group. If miracles are not happening to you, you are an nonspiritual person. There is no concept of psychological self-deception.

Mature Christians never doubt or ask question but believe all the crap of their subculture.

Godliness is obtainable (while only a mirage) so we must loose touch with our own manipulative selves.

This is only about 10% of the things that come to mind.

So in closing, as I've made this too long, the people in our small group are great people. They don't realize the origins of their thinking. But how do you exist where you are not respected?  Do you sit in silence night after night smiling and pretending while people are saying things that are totally against your beliefs?  That is the choice that no one should be forced to make. It is the reason that young people are leaving the church in droves.


Trevor Morgan said...

I'm not sure I could sit in silence in your situation. Some of the beliefs you mentioned are not simply matters of opinion, but downright harmful; and I don't think I could morally justify even giving tacit assent to them.

For example, to be staunchly opposed to environmentalism is to be staunchly opposed to those most affected by environmental degradation: specifically, the poor. When fisheries are depleted, those dependent on fish starve. When industrial safeguards are ignored, people die. When aquifers are drained, drought follows. (There's a strong argument to be made that the current conflict in Syria in large part is caused by the 2006 drought.)

How you choose to speak to these issues is another question, of course. I don't see a value in argument for arguments sake, but I do see much value in standing up for the poor and the voiceless.

Your Nepalese friends, for example, will be affected by climate change, but probably don't have much opportunity to tell their stories directly to wealthy American suburbanites. On the other hand, you do have that opportunity.

j. Michael Jones said...

Trevor, I think you are preaching to the choir. I don't sit in silence but usually weave in one comment each week to be received with blank stares. As part of my sermon last Sunday I gave the theological basis of being a Christian environmentalist. But the dilemma that we face, and the point of this post, is that we are left with these strange choices. Be friendless or have friends but having to listen to all the non-essential rhetoric. I've spoke about not going back to this group and trying to create a new one. My wife, who I respect for her desire to have friends, has asked me not to give up on this group. I pulled her away from our past church (which was far worse in this regard) where all her friends were, and it was devastating to her. So, I must think of her in this situation.

Steve Scott said...

Greetings, Michael. I have read your blog for some time now, and I identify with a great deal of what you say and with your experience in evangelicalism. The description of what a Christian Monist believes in your sidebar pretty much sums up what I think about the matter. So, you could call me a Christian monist.

I especially like causing the blank stares.

Anonymous said...

"The problem is the American Evangelism is wrapped in many, many layers of specific extra-Biblical culture."

I can totally relate. I have been leaving that culture over the last 10 years slowly and now can barely even operate within it.

I have started to feel like they worship Plato instead of Jesus.

Since I am a Libertarian I disagree with the way you put some issues because I love freedom of choice more than anything but totally understand where you are coming from. A convo would be fun and interesting on such subjects. When did people become so scared of differing views? I grew up on them. It was considered a way of learning and sharpening iron.

On the other hand, everything from our food to our water is affected by environmentalism and as God's creation that He pronounced as "good" we must be good stewards. The earth is not evil. It is worth redeeming as much as we can while here.

This sounds corny perhaps but I have become totally committed to buying food locally and it is wonderful and can be quite an adventure. I am meeting a sub culture of people who are so interesting.

I fully believe we are most human when we reflect God back out into the culture. That is the image of God. We are less human when we hurt others or do evil. Being "human" is supposed to be a good thing. Not a bad thing.

I am in the South and live at the Neo Cal ground zero so you can imagine what it is like here when it comes to Christian culture. The problem is what to do with the kids. I discuss it with them all the time. I want them to know the Jewish, real Jesus. The perfect Israelite who was God in the Flesh. I got so sick of hearing how we are all hopeless sinners who can't help it and Jesus expects us to turn the other cheek while the celeb pastors beat folks into submission, protect molesters and whine about their hard jobs being adored from stage.

It is all branding and image here. And no one is allowed to disagree or it is "divisive". I like dividing from groupthink.


j. Michael Jones said...

Lydia, I agree that kids makes it very difficult I think I got it wrong at times when we required our kids to go to youth group and the youth group did not allow critical thinking.