Fighting for Dear Life

After Bernie Sanders’ speech at LU convocation, David Nasser asked him an abortion-related question, to the effect of “Aren’t our unborn children in the greatest need of protection?” The crowd of students cheered thunderously, and for the only time in the entire broadcast I noticed, gave a standing ovation – just to that question.

Students, dreamers, protectors, defenders: please don’t forget to keep that fire alive for mothers, for children, after they are born. In the way we vote, in the issues we fight for, in the way we look at women with screaming children on the street: will we choose to KEEP fighting for life? It gets much, much harder from here.

How will your church or Christian school deal with the unmarried pregnant woman? Will you babysit for the single mother? Do you belittle your co-worker for loving lavishly on his children? Do we fight for education? For resources that so many women, families, and little ones so desperately need?

Or will be just be clanging, clanging, clanging symbols?

one year later

[written March 2014]

I’m crying and I can’t stop.

No, that’s not how it started. It started with driving out of the parking deck. It started with praying.

((our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…))

God, please help these children. Please help your children.

(crying)

God, please turn our hearts to you, to your children. God please turn our stupid stone hearts to flesh. Please God, please God.

(can’t speak, crying so hard)

“You’re young.”

So was Jeremiah. And Timothy and Josiah.

“We have to follow our conviction.”

That’s fine just don’t call it true religion.

“The gospel is at stake.”

YES IT IS. And the stakes are so high.

Someday kids, undergraduate kids, will raise their hands and ask their professors, how could so many Christians use the gospel to justify slavery? To justify the crusades? The inquisition? Pulling pledged, financial sponsorship from ten thousand children in less than a week?

And all I hear from everyone makes me cry and cry and hurt so bad.

Truth Doesn’t Care How You Feel About It

Gregory Alan Thornbury has written a piece at Christianity Today entitled Why It Matters That the Exodus Really Happened. The abstract sums up the content of the article pretty well:

“No less than Western law, the civil rights movement, and Christianity itself rest on the historicity of the biblical event.”

It’s nothing we haven’t heard before.

But it’s a disappointing premise.

Because truth doesn’t care how you feel. Actual historical events don’t have to consult you about whether or not they “had to” have happened. They either A) happened, B) didn’t happen, or C) happened in a way somehow different than we imagine.

To quote my favourite biblical studies student:

“I keep learning again and again that truth does not care about what I want. It doesn’t care what makes me comfortable, or what I’ve always believed, or what I like. Truth is subversive.”

The answer to ‘Is this true?’ will often not coincide with the answer to ‘Do I like this?’ or ‘Is this coherent with what I believe?’–but it is a much more important question.

3 Characteristics of Truth-Seeking, on Disputatious Interpretation

But people don’t want true things, I’m realizing.

Because we set up Premise A that makes us comfortable (or that we’ve always been told is true) and any re-thinking, re-hashing, or re-grouping is out of the question. We say things like,

 “Evolution can’t be true, because then we would have to completely abandon our beliefs on sin nature and salvation.”

“Common ancestry can’t be a thing, because then what does it even mean to be created in God’s image?”

“Of course the Canaanite conquest happened. If we can’t trust one biblical account, we can’t trust any of them!”

The Exodus HAD to have happened, because (in Thornbury’s own words): “Did Jesus predicate his own sacrificial death on the cross upon an event that never occurred? If that is the case, the entire covenantal nature of the biblical narrative falls apart. Jesus of Nazareth cannot be ‘the new Moses’ if Moses never existed.”

My frustration is not about the topic. It’s not about Exodus, the conquest, the Exile, Jesus’ miracles, natural selection, common ancestor. It’s not about any of those things.

It’s about what we actually want. Do we actually want true things? Are we willing to start clawing in the dirt, from nothing, to try and find them? Or are we starting our quest for truth with unshakable assumptions from which no evidence can dissuade us? We can’t call ourselves lovers of truth, if that’s what we do. We can call ourselves many things, but not truth-seekers.

If you’re an archaeologist or a historian, it’s your job to care about what physical evidence has to say about the world. When we find diaries of deceased heroes and villains, we care what they have to tell us about a world we can never see with our own two eyes. We do our best to authenticate such findings, to see how much stock we should (or shouldn’t) put in them. We work hard to match up our beliefs of the present with the historical unfolding of the past. And if new information changes things, our opinions and assumptions have to change as well.

Truth exists. And truth doesn’t care what you want to be truth.

Again on Disputatious Interpretation, Holloway discusses the fall of Jericho, a story which, “for decades” has been found to be “not a record of an actual historical event” as evidenced by available archaeological data. Holloway tackles opposition to this concession to facts and data from an author, V. Philips Long, who claims that the conquest and fall of Jericho may have to be historical in a way matching the biblical narrative in order for Christians to place stock in the Bible’s trustworthiness. Holloway responds:

“The fall of Jericho had to happen because it makes us less sure of the Bible’s overall historicity if it didn’t? This is not a reason to say it happened! ‘If this story isn’t true, then it makes me question whether or not these other stories are true; therefore, it needs to be true.’ This is a non-sequitur if I’ve ever heard one. If the fall of Jericho didn’t happen, then it didn’t happen; if that causes us to doubt the historicity of the resurrection, then we will just have to deal with that. Dismissing the problem by affirming the historicity of all of the events in Scripture is not an actual solution” (Is My Faith in Trouble If the Fall of Jericho Didn’t Happen? (A Response to V. Philips Long), emphasis mine).

So, the Exodus.

Our best guesses, from a purely academic (archaeological, sociological, linguistic, etc) perspective are that of course something must have happened to kick-start the Hebrew nation. That some leader emerged and laws were created. The nation certainly formed, after all, and it must have formed somehow. And it must have formed in such a startling, meaningful way to influence every literate generation of Hebrews to speak about the Exodus in the way that they did.

But as of right now, the archaeological evidence before us suggests that the Exodus did not happen the way the Bible said it happened. We may of course find new data in the future, but we’ve found a lot already. And much of what’s been found contradicts strictly literal, historical interpretations of the book of Exodus (as is the case for much of Scripture).

So the massive Exodus of 6 million Jews slaving in Egypt, crossing the red sea, and wandering the desert for 40 years, either happened or it didn’t. And if it didn’t, there are of course a hundred possible other (different or similar) events, or combination of events, that could have happened instead.

The past doesn’t care your opinion whether it happened. It either happened or it didn’t.

And guess what? That means we have to have the humility, the willingness, to re-evaluate our assumptions. To re-learn how to read Scripture. To better educate ourselves on these sacred texts we claim to value so highly, but that we invest so little in, and toss around like so much ammunition.

If our best and most brilliant scientists tell us that our world is almost certainly millions of years old, what DOES that mean for the way we approach Scripture?

If our hardworking archaeologists and linguists assure us that the biblical timeline doesn’t always match the physical record of what happened in the Ancient Near East, how can that inform our beliefs?

If it turns out that literature, culture, and people groups in the Ancient Near East are different than we assumed, do we continue to try and squeeze them into our own image?

What happens to our faith, our assurance, if some things we thought were simple and easy turn out to be complicated and messy?

That’s up to you, isn’t it?

It’s Really Hard

I think the last few things I wrote have been sad. Not because life is All Sad. It’s not. It’s beautiful. It’s adventures and rehearsals and vlogs and laughing and swan kids and cooking experiments and thousands of kisses. But it’s also harder and sadder than I ever knew life could be.

Is that what it’s like to be a grown up?

I think maybe that’s what it’s like to learn things.

I realize now that many people don’t want to know more. Many people like what they have and aren’t interested in more. Even people who have access to education, resources, and people who are different from them. And I can’t hold that against anyone. Take the life you want and do glorious things with it!

But I just love learning so much. I find myself constantly reading, absorbing, re-thinking, listening. Once you hear enough about an issue, talk to enough people about something, your perspective is just changed forever. Even if my conclusions are the same – I’M not the same. I don’t have my conclusions for the same reasons. I’ve cultivated more empathy, understanding – I’ve tried to wiggle around in strange shoes.

But that gets so lonely when so few people live like that. It gets so lonely when people I love retreat further and further into their boxes, when I just want to keep following light and air and growing my wings and learning to see the world through other people’s eyes.

I don’t know what to do about how hard it is.

I don’t know how to deal with brothers dying and sisters fading away. I don’t know how to deal with living thirty miles from my best. I don’t know how to deal with friends who go to toxic churches and leave compassion at the door of their social media accounts. I don’t know how to deal with false whispers and hate and smallness.

I don’t know how to be Good like I want to be – but I know Bad when I see it.

And I don’t know how so many people can’t see it.

broken

Image

//

– _ / { “ /

I can’t do it anymore.

I cannot keep crying over you.

Over your hurt and your words and your lies and accusations.

I should have run out of tears by now, but they just keep coming.

I can’t keep agonizing over what went wrong every time I have a moment’s silence. In the shower

{quick, hum}

in the car

{quick, turn on the music}

waiting in lines

{don’t think, can’t stop, don’t cry}

.

“It would be different if you were actually helping,” he told me.

It’s true. But I’m not. You keep spiraling down and down and further and further away from the one I knew.

You never saw me right, but you never saw me so very wrong, either. Now you look at me and see everything so. so wrong.

~

I just wanted to love you.

I want to have funny facebook exchanges on your wall.

I want to give you the good marriage books I read and warn you about the silly ones.

I want to talk about your dreams and hopes and your hair and where you’re going to live.

I want you to sit me down and cut my hair and tell me about all the adventures you want to have. I want to tell you mine.

I want you to look at me without hate in your eyes.

I want to know why you never trusted me, never believed me. Why you lied to me. What did you think I would do? say?

did you think I would leave you?

did you think I would throw you to the wolves?

I just want to be your friend.

I’ve only ever wanted to be your friend.

but I can’t do it anymore.

I have to stop trying to fix it.

I have to stop trying to fix
every
broken
thing

I see.

some things are just broken i guess.

[2013]

2013 taught me about some things.

1. Love looks like whoever is the least-burnt-out willingly doing the dishes

2. It’s OK to give money to a person on the street. And ask what kind of coffee/sandwich they like, before you buy it for them. And their names.

3. It’s amazing how many doors get opened by asking questions and really listening to the answers. And caring.

4. I understand now why people have to break off relationships for their own mental, emotional, or physical safety.

5. As exhilarating as it is to live in a breakneck-speed world of academia, articles, voices, debates, questions, long conversations, doubts, study, and challenges – it’s lonely. Because you inadvertently fall out of pace with so many people who aren’t in such journeys themselves, or who don’t care about so many things, or so deeply.

6. “Please / I know that we’re different / But we were one cell in the sea in the beginning / And what we’re made of / Was all the same once / We’re not that different after all.” ~Miss Alison Sudol

7. Going back to visit school gets harder and lonelier every time. Life at University is like a Polaroid of golden hour, right at the space where it’s the prettiest, ugliest, hardest, most thrilling, achiest, and greatest thing all at the same time. But that’s it. Teachers and students leave, new faces fill up, new buildings come in, new rules and regulations get set down. Eventually everything you loved about it fades or crumbles away, like when you paint the floor black after a show…erasing scuff marks, tape, tears, sweat, and everything else that went into building the performance. It’s just shiny black, now. Somewhere underneath are your memories, but nothing recognizable remains. Just echos in a familiar space.

8. I might love something so much, with so much of myself, but I can’t do it alone. It takes many hands and hearts to pull off something great.

9. Nothing will break you more solidly than learning you’ve been lied to for a long time.

10. Wanting to help, and not being able to, is the worst.

11. Being open, being honest, is worth any awkwardness or faux pas that tend to come along with it.

12. If you aren’t saying something good, beautiful, wise, or worth my time, I really don’t have to listen to you or accept what you’re saying. Conversely, I ought to listen openly to anyone’s opinion, especially if they are older and more experienced than I am. It’s finding a happy medium between the two that’s the difficult bit.

13. And finally, wise words to live by imparted to me from a world traveller with a T.S. Eliot tattoo on her back:

“You do you. I’ll do me.”

The Lie of the Slippery Slope

This will be brief.

But I have been thinking about The Slippery Slope. The idea that, “once certain events are set in motion, certain other things inevitably happen.” Put in place certain policies, America will become communistic. Allow gay marriage, soon we’ll be letting people marry children and toasters. Etc.

Now, there is some wisdom in recognizing that certain things lead to other things. That, I will concede.

But as a young adult always making connections between my lived reality and things I was taught growing up, I am becoming wary and disappointed with the messages that The Slippery Slope rhetoric is imparting, especially to young people.

For example, many people in my generation who grew up in evangelical environments were exposed to a certain strain of purity culture that emphasized: be careful who you choose, and then be even more careful about your physical boundaries. kissing leads to french kissing which leads to petting which leads to sex.

And yes, physical intimacy is a great example of how it’s easy to get carried away with things once you start down The Slippery Slope. Once you kiss someone enough that you’re madly in love with, you definitely want to move on to doing more things with them. But I want to say something very loud and very clear for any reader who may happen to be of the younger variety:

There is no LITERAL slippery slope. You are an independent agent capable of saying “yes” or “no” to anything you want.

Want to kiss your boyfriend? You are a human being capable of doing that, and not moving further than that.
It might be hard to stop there.
It might be difficult dealing with HIS desires and hormones.
But (assuming you are in safe places with people who respect you) you are 100% capable of removing yourself from an uncomfortable situation, saying “no, not right now,” or creating new lines in the sand for your relationship.

And I fear that The Slippery Slope argument, perhaps, might give young minds the impression that they do not possess such agency.

But you do. Please please know that you do.

Yes, make wise choices.

Yes, consider the consequences of what you choose to do or say. Consider them deeply and thoughtfully.

You can always say no, not tonight, not this far.

You don’t have to believe pedophilia is OK to think gay marriage should be legalized.

You don’t have to have sex just because you’re holding hands (or kissing, or snuggling, or ANYTHING THAT’S NOT SEX).

You’re bigger than The Slippery Slope. You can jump the freak off the sled anytime you want to.