Today, I revel with the Pagans, Wiccans and Druids. Tomorrow, I testify at the King Ave. Methodist Church. Welcome to my life.
[Post ammendment and disclaimer as of 5/1/12: I have been sufficiently raked over the coals for this post, so I apologize for its unintended offense. My point was, and is, to make fun of my own [unfounded] fears, which were hardwired through a lifetime of being brought up as an evangelical Christian. Please note the actual point of this post in a paragraph below which is…”My issues offer a prime example of the power of stereotypes, especially of things we don’t understand, which is all the more reason to push down my fears and head to the campground. Experience is the first step to understanding, and understanding is vital to tolerance“. My next post will be dealing with my actual experience. Here is a link to a blanced view of Beltane as explained on Witchvox http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usma&c=holidays&id=2765. One other note: I am not the only person who holds misunderstanding and/or fears of alternative religions. I just happen to be someone who is actively trying to chance my perceptions. So, Please honor that if you can. Most people never take the time to A) realize they have an unfounded issue and B)do something about it.)
Confession time: I am afraid of Witches, even good ones, excepting, of course, Glenda from the Wizard of Oz.( I envy her pink dress…and who wouldn’t want to disappear into a sparkly fairy dust?!)
I also fear today’s celebration of the Pagan high holiday Beltane, a two-day camping celebration of Spring . (I will not be camping. There is a limit to my spiritual adventuring; spending all night in dark woods with Witches and Druids is it.) Intellectually, I realize today’s activities are more likely to include dancing and laughter than dark cloaks and animal sacrifice, but emotionally I’m imagining all manner of Dark Rites. Every witchy image I’ve ever encountered is flooding my mind, from Disney’s Ursula to Stonehenge to several entirely-unsuitable-for-children books I read at age ten detailing Christian encounters with “real” witches (who used their powers to throw them across the room and channel demons). [A nod to my own upbringing. NOT PAGANS]
[How did I obtain said books? They were lurking about the house. Every good charismatic Christian needs to Know thy Enemy in order to properly prepare defenses against said enemy!!! Sidenote: I never feared ghosts or monsters as a child. I had real things to worry about, like demons! And Satan! And being Left Behind in the Rapture!]
My recent exchanges with Wiccan Priestess fanned my fears due to a suspect warning at the bottom of her emails: NOTE FROM WITCHVOX: This email was sent to you via a secured email form at the Witches’ Voice – www.witchvox.com —-As with any contact in cyberspace we encourage you to use wisdom and caution in your dealings with strangers – Witchvox Staff. Question: Was this disclaimer added as a legal defense in case someone’s eyeballs end up in a cauldron? Shiver. [KIDDING!] Also, due to my Pagan research, cyberspace apparently thinks I’ve already turned into a Witch: Google is helpfully advertising sites to purchase magic spells, wiccan spells, and witchcraft spells…now, if only I could find my pointy hat and broomstick…! [KIDDING!}
[5/1 Please note the point of this post below:]
I realize this really isn’t fair to the nice folks I’m sure to meet today because they constantly fight against the evil stereotype of witches. The vast majority use Nature to perform good Magic, and Pagan gods and goddesses are surely as harmless as all the others I’ve encountered this year. My issues offer a prime example of the power of stereotypes, especially of things we don’t understand, which is all the more reason to push down my fears and head to the campground. Experience is the first step to understanding, and understanding is vital to tolerance, so… watch out, here I come!
I’ll let you know how it goes, provided my typing fingers don’t end up in a potion. Just kidding.
PS: My buddy Andrew Bowen was Wiccan for a month. Check out his Project Conversion for excellent viewpoints on the subject.
In the course of Thirty by Thirty, I’ve jumped headfirst into many an uncomfortable situation. But never have I been ACTUALLY afraid, nor reduced to shaking, anxious tears in my car until yesterday, directly before the Nemenhah Itsipi Sweat Lodge Ceremony. In entering the lodge, I would be piling into a tiny space with twenty strangers, plunging into darkness and nearly unbearable heat, and thereby be facing several major fears: claustrophobia, severe heat/bodily pain, darkness AND the unknown. (Points of reference: I once had a panic attack in a small, crowded airplane, and I’ve nearly passed out in hot yoga class.)
Now. With 33 experiences and a thirty-day fast behind me, you’d think I’d be ready. Courageous. Able to face any challenge! And you? Would be wrong. Because I was a sniveling mess: cry-dialing my husband, my mother and my best friend for a pep talk (none of whom answered). So, it was between me and God in the car: with the choice to peal outta there, tires squealing… or face my fears and see what the Great Spirit had to say in the Sweat.
So, I dried my eyes and listened. And I could almost hear the Divine sigh. After this entire year, do you not believe I can sustain you through a little heat? Ok, Ok, I get it. Come to the end of myself (again). Blah,blah,blah. See how You miraculously work. Blah, blah, blah. Ugh! For a person of faith, I certainly lack it and am often in need of a Major Spiritual Attitude Adjustment(MSAA).Which I received… approximately five minutes after slamming the car door and marching my scared self straight towards that lodge.
[To explain MSAA Part 1 , I need to back up and explain this: On Day 29 of my fast, I had a revelation of truth...as a disco ball. (I know, I know, a Divine Disco Ball is a total cliché of the type of vision incited by severe hunger.) In reality, the picture was more like a prism, so not quite so dance-club chic. But for ease of use, I've been explaining this to people as a Disco Ball because it's easier to understand. Here's the short version: God is bigger than any one of us can see, because we only view one facet of Spirit (represented by each little mirror), based on all kinds of factors: birth, family, history, experiences, etc. So what we see? It's all valid truth...for us. But it isn't the full picture.]
So. I round the corner, and what, pray tell, is sitting on the Chief’s blanket-altar? A little DISCO BALL. I could hear the Divine laughter. After this entire year, do you not believe I can sustain you through a little heat? So I laughed too, out loud, and all my fear fled. When I told the Chief my story, and he tossed me the Disco Ball. It’s yours.
Then…the Divine laughter got louder. Because another Chief/Shaman showed up, laid out his blanket altar right next to me, and my mouth dropped open.
[To explain MSAA Part 2, I need to back up and explain this: Last month, I was led through a Native American meditation to find my spirit guide. And in my mediation this guy with long, flowing, silver hair, nearly to his waist, standing in a field: I am here to teach you to heal.]
I’ve been confused, because I haven’t seen him again….until yesterday, in the field outside the Sweat Lodge. Because The Chief? He was totally guy with the hair–a dead ringer. Except, I observed to him after relating my meditation, his hair was a lot shorter now. And he laughed: I just cut my hair…it was to my waist.
Of all the foreign (to me) traditions I have experienced this year, I identify most with the Nemenhah. The sweat called to me; it pulled me; it changed me. So…I was supposed to be there yesterday; it was completely incredible. (All of the above was in the first half hour! I hadn’t even crawled into the Lodge yet!)
So the moral for me, which has been a continuing theme this year, is:
The more afraid you are to do something you are called to do, and the more you don’t want to do it—read those emotions as a flashing, neon sign from the Divine–You need this more than anything else. Do it.
(Note: There is absolutely NO reason to be afraid of a Sweat Lodge as long as it is conducted by experienced spiritual leaders who understand the primary importance of health: physical, mental, emotional and, of course, spiritual.)
With accidental start and end dates of Pentecost Sunday (’11) and Easter Sunday (’12), I have successfully completed my 30+ visits.But…I’m not done yet! The completed are, in no particular order:
1.Living Word Church (my childhood church) 2. King Ave Methodist (GLBTQ Reconciling) 3. Lake Erie Drive-in 4. Buddhist Temple 5.Pentecostal Mega-church 6.Baptist 7.African-American Baptist 8.Movie Theater Rock 9.Hindu Temple 10.Synagogue 11.Roman Catholic 12. Eastern Orthodox 13.Vineyard 14.Jehovah’s Witness 15.Mormon 16.Atheist 17.Stadium 18.Christian Spiritualist 19.Emergent Independent 20.Quaker 21.Hare Krishna 22.Scientology 23.Unitarian 24.Baha’i 25. Storefront Redeemed 26.Christian Science 27. Stone Village 28.Sikh 29.Naturalist 30.Taize 31. Vertias (church of the boot camp) 32. Seventh Day Adventist
(Note: My blog checklist is typically behind because I have to rely on my web programmer to change it.)
I was heavy on the Christian churches, especially in the beginning, so I am doubling back to attend a few originally on the list and several additions before the 5/15 deadline:
–Native American–Amish–Pagan and/or Wiccan–Kabbalah–Mosque
Though I’ve not had luck locating the following in my area, I am still interested in:
–Zoroastrianism–Tao–Sufi–Xenos–African/tribal–Voodou–Virtual–Rastafaria–Gnostic–Jainism–Confusionism–Shinto–New Thought–Polytheistic (any culture, but particularly Celtic)–Shamanism–Snake-handlers
With continual help from the Spirit, I’ve gone from Post-traumatic Church Syndrome (barely being able to enter a church) to being able, and excited, to attend places of worship of all faiths and even non-faiths. I’ve also completed a Thirty-Day fast, studied Ancient Christian and Buddhist meditation, read extensively on multiple religions, sorted out my own beliefs, found a faith I can believe in, known and seen my God, changed my career, discovered my ministry and calling, started this blog–thanks to the good advice of someone wise, written nearly 100,000 words for the book (probably only 10,000 that are any good!), survived three physical and one spiritual bootcamp & , (surprise!) found a church, and much, much more. But these are stories and conclusions for other days! I still have much more to write about. So, let the quest and the blog continue
I nearly quit Thirty by Thirty at least a dozen times. So…for all those who have followed and encouraged this journey…thank you! For those who have criticized it…thank you as well. Everyone who has touched this path has helped it toward completion. I’m not done yet. And probably never will be!
All my love–Reba
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I’d like to address a few of the questions I’ve received on my recent Thirty Day fast:
So…what did you eat? Nothing. I didn’t chew for 30 days, nor did I drink alcohol. I also tried to limit medications. I did take in copious amounts of vitamins, lots of juice (organic if possible), and sugar-free protein on workout days. (Yes, I still did boot camp.)
Isn’t that UNHEALTHY? Well, not for me. Obviously I’m here, I’m fine and, it could be argued, in better health than I have ever been. But I would like to be VERY CLEAR that an extreme fast could ABSOLUTELY be unhealthy for a given person depending on factors such as overall health, weight, lifestyle, mental state, etc. PLEASE DO NOT CONSIDER an extreme fast without A.) A very specific calling to undertake it and B.) Consulting your doctor.
Why did you choose to fast for thirty days? First, I didn’t choose to fast for 30 days. God asked me to. (There will be much more on this when I cover the fast in depth between April 15th and May 15th). A 30-day fast is something I never would have thought of, nor did I think I could do it. I was called to fast in December, and it took me nearly three months of wrestling with the concept and telling God there was NO WAY I could possibly ever do that before I surrendered and… just did it. Once I got towards the end, I wanted to do 40 days, but that was made impossible by a pre-planned family vacation.
How much weight did you lose? It is inconsequential….that was NOT the point. This was purely spiritual venture. I like to say some of the excess weight enabled me to complete the fast, but it was in no way a diet attempt. There isn’t enough willpower in my world.
Why did you stop blogging during the fast? Part of the reason fasting, especially long-term fasting, is spiritually effective is because it clears out your life of everything that isn’t entirely necessary. Due to the vast physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strain, fasting forced me to re-evaluate every activity in my life by these two questions: 1.) Is [activity] actively bringing me closer to God and/or 2.) Is [activity] absolutely necessary? In addition to ceasing blogging, I limited my activities to work, prayer, meditation, necessary household duties, spending time with my husband, and LOTS of sleeping.
Why didn’t you tell anyone? Fasting is a personal matter between you and your God. It is extremely difficult, and there is no place for the critical negativity of others. You’re already doubting yourself…you don’t need anyone else to doubt you. Also, to be brutally honest, I often thought I was going to fail. (Daily. Sometimes minute-ly.) I didn’t want to announce, “Hey, I am doing this 30-day fast!” only to say, “Hey, I quit on day 10.”
I hope that clears a few things up! Also, as mentioned, I will be writing in detail about the fast and what I learned starting on April 15th. But if you are interested in the basics of how I got through it…check out this post.
BY TOTAL ACCIDENT on my part, I am visiting the 28th Place of Worship on the 28th Day of my Super-Secret 30-day Project within the Thirty by Thirty Project. (Project to be finished Monday and revealed Tuesday morning.) Other interesting “Accidental” tidbits:
–15th visit (halfway) was exactly 6 months to the day through the year
– First visit (to a charismatic/pentecostal church) coincided with Pentecost Sunday
– Secret project overlaps Ash Wed., Lent, Nineteen Day Fast (Baha’i), Purim (Jewish fast and celebration “Esther’s Fast”),Magha Puja Day (Celebration of the Buddha and the happening of auspicious events), Holi (Hindu) and (Hola Mohalla – Sikh). [And probably many more I do not know about!)
–30-day project ends TO THE HOUR with the end of my meditation class.
But my personal favorite is:
On the same day I was so discouraged about Thirty by Thirty that I was about to quit, I just happened to be at a forum on religion the Exec. Producer of a major network new shows show was attending, and just happened to ask a question to the panel regarding my project, and just happened to forget to mention that, “Oh, I’m writing a book about this,” which caused the Producer to ask me if I was indeed writing about this because, “It’s the most original book idea I’ve heard in years,” and she just happened to encourage me to, “Keep going. Someone will definitely pick this up.”
Coincidence my friends? I think not.
This morning, the questions pulling at the hem of my faith are whispering:
What if, when God said I AM, we misunderstood?
What if God simply said I AM to us, to all of humanity, but that wasn’t good enough ? Maybe we wanted more, needed more: like the Jews of the Old Testament, who rejected God as their nation’s leader. We want a King, they cried. They needed more: more than Jehovah, more than Abba, more than I AM.
Perhaps we needed a predicate nominative, a fill-in-the-blank ad-lib in Whom to place our faith. An I AM______________: summed with words that we could understand, we could see…Something we could draw lines around and call our Own.
And what if, after we consumed the _______________,with our utterances, we still needed more?
Did we add to I AM? Did we follow all the nouns with verbs, round out phrases with adjectives? Did we complete all the parts of speech that never really existed? Did we create sentences wrapped into paragraphs which filled up pages and flowed into sacred texts? Did we cry out with words that formed Religions…whole cultures of grammatical dissent?
We fight and war, debating the -ologies with Holy Fervor: today, here, with our Voices; yesterday and elsewhere with our Weapons. All to defend the words that define our beliefs.
What if, What If?, the only phrase, the original origin of the world, was quietly I AM? An affirmation of Divine Existence… of all Creation…of God…of us…and the whole Universe. The whole Godiverse.
The simplest statement of Being, the first noun and verb we learn in any language.
What if all God really said was…
Next Post: The story of my hilarious visit to a historically African-Amercian Baptist Church… who won my Award for Best Talent and tied for Miss Congeniality!
Continued from previous entry: Unitarian Universalists…Upset my Universe
…So the Truth, it sucker-punched me, in the car, on the way to Panera Bread. An inconvenient time, to be sure, when one considers the combination of a hungry husband and a sobbing wife.
The Truth of The Very Bad Mood? It was Fear. (Is it ever anything else?)
I’m afraid.(Sob) That I’m never going to fit anywhere. That I’ll have to do this whole Faith journey by myself, for the rest of my life. Or, I’ll have to shut up and sit in a pew with doctines I can’t buy in to, just to have a community. (Hiccup) And I’m afraid this book is never going to get published because I’m not going to have any story to tell because I can’t figure things out and (double-sob) I’m a total disaster. I’m even more afriad, that I’ll never be able to inspire anyone! And writing and inspiration are my purpose…I thought I was making progress, so much progress, and look at me. Look at me! (Continued tears)
My husband, ever the Voice of Reason said: Since when do you think you have to fit somewhere? You didn’t start this thing to find a church. It even says so in your About page.
(Wail.) Maybe I lied! To myself. I think…Part of me wants to just give up! Go back to where I used to be, before the whole Breaking. Just so I can let someone else do the thinking for me, tell me what to believe. Just so I can feel safe and secure in knowing I have all the answers. Yes, I want to give up. Lay down the fight. Curl up in a regular pew and die there (eventually)
Voice of Reason: You didn’t lie. You’re just going through a process. This IS good. This IS progress. If it was easy, wouldn’t everyone do it? And you KNOW you don’t want to give up. This, right here, this is going to be what inspires people. Because you’re doing it, you’re getting through it. And you’ll be stronger for it on the other side. And that is what counts,the process, not that you figure it all out.
(Sob.)I guess. You’re right. (Calming) Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t go back. Once you’ve seen, you can’t unsee. I can’t give up now.
Then, we ate sandwiches. Because carbs make almost everything better. (Sidenote: Upon returning home, I noticed mascara running squiggly lines down my cheeks. Next time, Voice of Reason, could you reason me right into cleaning up my face?)
I’m still not quite sure why the UU’s brought this all out for me, but I’m glad they did. Because I realized: when I am done with Thirty by Thirty (and beyond) I will have toiled and struggled to weave a Faith I can wear proudly.
But until then? I’ve given myself permission to dance around in my underwear, figuring things out, one messy piece at a time.
During my pre-visit research on the Unitarian Universalists (UU), I was pleasantly surprised by how well their statement of belief aligned with my own. So I bounced into their service, happy about their seven tenants….
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person 2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations 3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations 4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning 5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large 6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all 7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
…What’s not to like?
Well, Nothing. And Everything. I discovered that, FOR ME (and me only), believing in Everything seems a lot like believing in Nothing. Not that I begrudge the UUs their Everything, but something about the Nothing left me feeling a little…frozen. And by Nothing I mean: no set of concrete beliefs about God. Because whatever you believe, man, it’s totally cool. He can exist, She can not exist. There can be an afterlife, and there can be none. You can be an Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Pagan, Christian…Anything, or Everything, and be fully part of this place.
Given the intensity of my Openness to spiritual experience and the whole Interfaith thing, I should love this, right? Wrong. And I’m still not sure why. I walked in with the same tacit agreement with myself and the religious world-at-large: Whatever you believe, dude, I’m hangin’ with you. It’s cool. Yet, when actually face to face with the Everything-is-OK approach of a few hundred peace-be-with-you folks? I bailed. Not intentionally of course; it was a totally involuntary soul-jerk. Unexpected, unwelcome. Like when the doctor hits your knee a little too hard and you kick him in the shin. Oops.
The gender-neutral hymns featured politically correct lyrics saluting country and vague faith, but there was no mention of God. The special music jazzed and scatted with a rousing Spiritual, minus the Spirit. The Children’s talk, prior to dismissing them to [Sunday School? Themed Craft Time? Interpretive Movement?], given by the [Reverend? Lecturer?Director?] caused much laughter, but lacked any obvious moral. She wore a [Prayer shawl? Scarf? Drapery?] which I later discovered signified Nothing except its personal meaning to her. The building resembled a country club: wide windows letting in nature and streaming morning light, but lacked the look or feel of a Sacred space. The sermon and readings leaned to inspirational, but where was the transcendence? The familiar rhythm of liturgy? The tangible connection to centuries of history? I shivered spontaneously, but not because I was cold. I noticed the [Altar? Stage?] presented with multiple plants, a symbol of growth, of life. Yet I was shrinking, and feeling more lifeless by the moment.
Throughout the totally innocuous, completely uncontroversial, blandly unceremonious ceremony, my soul kept kicking me in the shin. And my mind kept trying to keep it still. This is good, I tried to sooth.See? Everyone getting along, Everything peaceful. Nothing to make you cry, scream or run for the door. This is eating plain, lukewarm oatmeal when other churches (the ones that give me Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome) are getting hot sauce in my contacts. I should love this. It should go down nicely, filling my belly with comfort. But it didn’t.
Please understand, this is not a reflection on the Unitarian Universalists; I still believe their premise of Peace is beautiful. This is me, gazing into a mirror, not recognizing myself. Who am I? What do I believe? Apparently not what I thought I did this morning. The same questions I started Thirty by Thirty with, still haunting me here, and causing me to wonder, Why am I still here, doing this at all? Not simply the service, mind you: this whole darn, difficult, exhausting project.
I did NOT realize all these Issues at the time, while happily standing and sitting, singing and thinking quietly (not praying, that would be too invasive a demand to issue from the [Pulpit? Lecturn?]). All This was swimming around in my subconscious, without my intention or knowledge, churning up ugliness I thought I’d packed away.
I left in a Very. Bad. Mood. I attributed The Mood to PMS, or a hangover, or a possibly brewing sinus infection (none of which I actually had), to everything except the blooming spiritual muckiness quietly overtaking me. Upon arriving home, I slammed cupboards and doors, growing annoyed (for no discernable reason) at Husband, Puppy, the couch, the messy countertop, everything within close distance. My sweet, amiable Trent, the one who usually adores me, declared, “I want to go to lunch, but I’m not sure I want to go with you.” Soul-jerk. Ooops. And I’m all apologies and sweetness on the surface.
But The Truth about myself? That the UUs smiling acceptance manifested? It socked me hard and fast, in the car on our way to lunch.
Read more about this in my next post…
Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome (PTCS) is the term I coined to describe the myriad of symptoms: mental, emotional and even physical, and aftershocks following a departure from a stringent religious culture. PTCS presents as follows: 1) Sufferer is exposed to a trigger, such as a televised minister, extreme talk show host, religious song or discussion 2) Sufferer experiences one or more of the following: disgust, mental anguish, flashbacks, anger, rage, sadness, depression, crying, headache, nausea, vomiting, and, in rare cases, hives. If the sufferer is somehow immersed in a religious situation, whether by accident or coercion (such as attending a church service or being blind sighted by a fundamentalist at a dinner party) all symptoms may occur simultaneously, causing the victim to run (possibly screaming) out of the sanctuary/cocktail party/dinner table and seek refuge in the nearest bathroom/car/basement/dark hole. The sufferer may or may not later experience a spiritual hangover for several hours or days, wherein the symptoms continue unabated.
Though the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: the primary text used by doctors to diagnose psychological conditions) has yet to pick up on my idea, I am hopeful for the next edition. [And, while they're at it? I'd really appreciate a diagnosis for the neuroses I deal with when faced with large numbers of numbers, such as spreadsheets. Preferably one that would give me a doctor's note to avoid creating and/or interpreting said digits. Perhaps something along g the lines of Severe Numberlexia and Excelphobia? Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the psychiatric world, for your serious consideration!]
If you think I am being facetious, I assure you, IAM NOT. [Well, except about the numbers.] An occupational hazard of conducting a project like Thirty by Thirty is being verbally vomited on by fellow PTCS victims who are so glad to find someone who understands! (It is, quite frankly, exhausting. Especially since I am still dealing/healing from my own case. Still, I welcome my fellow sufferers because solidarity and support are important components of recovery.) My personal experience is that there are PLENTY of folks suffering from PTCS out there (of people I talk to, about 20%), placed along the spectrum from mild cases: my parents dragged me to church and I hated every minute of it!, to stubborn cases such as my own which require extreme measures such as Spiritual Shock Therapy (enter: Thirty by Thirty) for there to be any chance of recovering faith.
Many people assume the origin of PTCS is spiritual abuse: that is, being wounded by fellow believers/religious folks all in the name of God, and the spirit of brotherly love! This is not the case. Or, perhaps I should revise my statement: spiritual abuse is not the exclusive cause of PTCS. Typically, limiting theological beliefs and their attachment to the identity of the individual play a large role in the onset of symptoms. Not that spiritual abuse should be dismissed; it is a very serious issue running rampant in the church today, usually employed to cause members to conform or be punished. However, the core belief system, and the breaking away from it, comprise a large percentage of severe cases.
In my own life, the below beliefs (and my decision to cast them off) has caused the majority of my PTCS, perhaps as much as 70%. The balance was inflicted by fellow believers, but those are stories for another day. So, here goes:
1.) Everyone (except us!) is going to Hell. And if you don’t share the gospel with them, their blood is on your hands. Do you want to get to heaven only to see all those you could have saved from eternal damnation? Really? Everyone from the beginning to the end of time, regardless of race, family origin or life circumstances is damned to hell for all eternity? Even a democratic people who believe in their laws have judges and juries to make sure justice is carried out. And sometimes “justice” means setting a person free who did commit a crime, because of extenuating circumstances. Do we really think an all-powerful, all-loving God would not have some sort of sliding scale? That we have the exclusive corner on truth?
2.) Your identity is found in God and your family. These are the things you can always rely on! Everything else is temporal and will fade! So what happens when your family falls apart, or someone passes away, or you fail to believe in the God you were raised with? A shattered person. Very dangerous.
3.) It is better to be hot or cold in your faith, lest God SPIT YOU OUT OF HIS MOUTH!!! (Referencing Rev. 3:16) This is further extrapolated to mean God will quite literally vomit you up if you fail to be (their version of) a “hot” believer. [The common interpretation of this passage is that ‘hot’ means enthusiastic, wholehearted or zealous. ‘Lukewarm’ means half-hearted, uncommitted, wavering, indifferent. Someone who is ‘cold’ would then be antagonistic and hostile, rejecting the Gospel. Referencehttp://makestraightpaths.com/hot_cold_lukewarm.htm] Talk about social control!
4. Believe it all, or believe it none. This is intrinsically related to #3, but (for me) BY FAR the MOST DAMAGING. It was this ingrained belief in fact, that forced me to walk away from my faith completely and totally because I didn’t think I was allowed to consider options outside the (very clear) boundaries of what I should and should not believe. Special note on #4: Once I got past this belief, with the aid of Thirty by Thirty, my faith found a place to root and started to bloom.
So there it is folks: an explanation of PTCS and the origin of my Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome. Or, part of it at least. (And my confession that I hate numbers, spreadsheets, and most especially spreadsheets with lots of numbers. DSM-IV–here I come!)
“What if churches were like…beauty pageant contestants?” I asked my favorite beauty queen Scholarship Pageant Contestant friend.
We were playing hooky on Wednesday afternoon, contemplating life and her upcoming Miss Greater City appearances over $3 martinis (Weekday afternoons are the best time for cheap drinks! Unless said drinking causes you to question your status as an alcoholic… Which I did not.)
“Hmmm…” she gravely considered. (As gravely as possible over cheesy fries.) ” That could work. Though you’d have to call them Scholarship Contestants as to not offend.”
“I’m fine with that. Bartender, one more! And blank receipt paper, please!” I grabbed a pen and started my list, with much help on the particulars from Miss Greater City. A note on MGC: she is an ebony beauty so pretty that it hurts my eyes to look at her.I have to wear sunglasses to deflect the glare from her multiple crowns. (When we go out I content myself with being Number 2 Vanilla because Number 1 Chocolate? So much better…especially when she comes with sparkly sprinkles!)
So, without further ado…the envelope please! Awards for the first half of Thirty by Thirty go to….
-Beauty and Swimsuit: Catholic! There was a unanimous decision by the judges. Catholic cathedrals really have no competition when it comes to glitz & glamour…from slate roofs and soaring towers to marble floors, these churches have it goin’ on!
Best-dressed: Eastern Orthodox! Bishops’ robes include a fabulous display of color (red!blue!green!), gold sparkle, lace and satin. Their fantastic head-ware sealed the deal for us.
-Talent: The historically African-American Baptists! Another unanimous decision by the panel…is there anything more rousing than an hour of rhythmic harmonizing combined with clapping, stomping, and “Praise the Lords!”? We don’t think so! Not to mention their creative use of the organ trills to punctuate the sermon…chills all around…Hallelujah! We dare you to not tap your toes while listening to the Power of the Gospel choir.
Miss Congeniality: Hindu...but it is worth noting that it was a close race with the African-American Baptists. The head judge received many more hugs from the latter, but the former were the most radically welcoming.
Interview: Pentecostal Mega-Church! (The panel offers that this winner was eliminated in the first round due to rule-breaking including abuse of other contestants and refusal to compete in beauty/swimsuit portions. However, the interview award was given prior to dismissal.) One person is responsible for earning this award…Dot, a fellow pew-sitter who was kind enough to give the judges a briefing on the Gifts of The Spirit, including the Speaking of Other Tongues, which she proudly demonstrated for us.
Scholarship: Quaker! This was a near-tie with the Atheists because of the academic nature of the discourse. However, the Quakers invited the judges to lunch, over which they discussed spiritual theory of multiple denominations. Several of the participants work as college professors or scientists which increased the overall smartness factor.
Team Spirit: Stadium. “Nuf said. See post regarding stadium worship here.
And the GRAND SUPREME WINNER OF ROUND TWO IS …..
The Historically African-American Baptists! Due to their overall greatness in Talent and Congeniality, with honorable mentions in all other categories. Best Dressed: Colorful choir robes! Team Spirit: Obviously! Scholarship: We learned much about Joseph of the Old Testament from the Sermon! Interview: They interviewed us as visitors! (More to come on this story!) Beauty and Swimsuit: Lovely stained glass was complemented by all the beautiful hats worn by the Ladies of the Church!
Please note these awards are only the second round! The final winners will be announced after May 15th, 2012.