Thursday, February 17, 2005

25. anybody got a recipe for kool ade?

I'm in the middle of a couple books right now. I'm almost done with a book called, _Stumbling Towards Faith_ by Renee Altson. It's about a woman who was sexually abused by her father - think you've heard this story before? well her father prayed that God would forgive her daughter for being sinful while he was raping her. On top of this, the teachers at the Christian school she was attending were told that Renee just wanted attention and were instructed to ignore her pleas for help. Everywhere she turned in the church she was turned away or given trite one-liners ("have more faith," "learn to forgive," "trust in the Lord).
It's a miracle that she never killed herself. It's even more of a miracle that she held on to her faith (fractured and fragile but still there). Her father drilled into her a sense of worthlessness and the idea that God could not love someone so dirty and sinful (while touching her). As you can imagine, her view of God is FAR from healthy. In fact, she cannot bear to think of God as father because for her, the word "father" equals pain and abuse and worthlessness.
This book should be required reading for anyone who ministers to young people - it calls into question a lot of the advice that we give out to young people who are going through difficult trials. It shows blanket statements and cliches for what they are - inadequate, lazy, and impersonal. It shows that faith does not have to be whole, it just has to believe.

I'll get back to why I mention this book later. Before that, I want to mention another book, _Killing The Buddha_ by Jeff Sharlet and Peter Manseau. I've only begun this book and it's unlike anything I've ever read in Christian literature. The subtitle of the book is, "A Heretic's Bible" because they take some of the books of the Bible, give them to various writers and tell them to write their take on it. Now this is no blow by blow summary. These writers do the opposite of what most theologians do. Instead of spending all their time on the bits that foreshadow the coming of Jesus, or the miracles, or coming up with three-point life-lessons on various stories, these writers tackle the bits that most commentaries (and sermons) ignore - the confusing parts, the unjust parts, the parts where God doesn't make sense. They go straight for those difficult sections and aren't afraid to call a spade a spade. Here's a bit from one writer's take on Genesis:
"In Genesis, your brother is never your keeper and your family is not the solid, sunny unit idealized by the religious right. Jacob betrays his brother, Esau, and his own father; Jacob's children include Joseph, whose brothers consider killing him and then simply leave him naked in a pit; Joseph then torments both them and Jacob, civility only reigning when they act as if they are all strangers. Abraham comes a hair's breadth away from sacrificing Isaac, his own son. Lot's daughters get him drunk in order to fool him into impregnating them incestuously."
This isn't the version you learned in Sunday school. Despite the seemingly irreverent treatment above, the author(s) and this book are sincerely trying to find God - God as he truly is, not as the church has presented him.

Anyway, I mention these two books because they both (in their own way) confirm something that I've been thinking lately: I've been following a counterfeit Jesus, minted by the church. Maybe that's too harsh. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that I've been following a sanitized version of God - a God who jumps through prayer hoops, a God who can be defined, a God subject to our ability to explain his actions. But that's bullshit, that's making God in our image.
So then, from here on out, I'm going to try my best to come at the Bible anew - as if I've never read it before, as if I'd never heard the sanitized, church-version of the Bible. I want to see these storie for what they are, take them at face value and then ascribe my own meanings to them.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of thinking that births cults, but between my band and the "Old-Man's-Bible-Study" group, I think I'm safe. However, if I invite you to join my commune, please get a couple people together and perform an intervention ASAP. And if I offer you Kool Ade, run.
In a way, this is an extension of my previous blog entry titled, "it seems a million miles away..." In that blog I wrote about how I realized for the first time that God is God and can do whatever he wants - and he does. This was a revelation because I never heard this idea in church. I think it's because there's no room in the church for a God who doesn't make sense - a God we can't explain. But ask any Christian author who's tried to answer the question, "why do bad things happen to good people?" and they'll tell you that there are no easy answers (the usually admit as much in their introductions). See, the thing is, God does make sense. God makes sense to God. God doesn't always make sense to man.

Both the books I mentioned come at God on God's terms, not the church's terms. If there are things about God they don't understand, they don't resort to pretzel logic to explain it away, they simply say, "we don't understand." And they believe anyway. That's the kind of faith I want to have - that's a God that I want to worship and serve.

Okay, I've written enough (too much) already and I've got to work tomorrow. be continued...someday...

God bless,

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