Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

I can't believe that it's 2009 already. We had planned to have some friends over, but the kiddos were running fevers earlier in the day... and while we love to share with friends, we try not to share our germs! LOL!!! So, anyway, we spent a quiet evening in.

We started what I hope will be a new tradition this year with the girls. I bought some sparkling apple cider, and we toasted to the new year as a family! The girls even got to drink the cider out of champagne flutes! They really thought they were grown-ups then!

In 19 more days, we will have a new president. I couldn't be happier. I was never more proud to stand in line for almost an hour to cast my vote for Barack Obama. I literally had goose bumps when I hit the "vote" button on that computer! I am optimistic that he will help unite our nation and soothe tensions with other nations. I also feel that he is humble enough to draw on the expertise of those he has chosen as part of his team to help advise him in making the right decisions for our nation. I am ecstatic that the leadership of our country has swung back to the left, at least for a while.

I watched a very scary documentary the other night called "Jesus Camp." I literally sat watching with my jaw on the floor, in pure disbelief of what I was watching and hearing. It chronicled the lives of three young children who are being raised in very conservative Christian households... homeschooled and taught some pretty radical views about the world. They have been taught to reject all conventional science... that global warming is not real... that if you go to a "quiet" church, it's a "dead" church... that you are to believe what your preachers tell you without question.

Now, I know that I am (admittedly) a liberal democrat. I know that my views are far different from the right. I am, however, a Christian. I regularly attend church. I look across my congregation and see not only white, but African-American, Indian, and Asian members. We have ordained women as ministers. We have women deacons. My church also happens to be Baptist. I believe that the Bible was written in a time when not all laws of science were clearly understood, and that this great book should be read and personalized, not interpreted by someone else and that interpretation forced upon you. I believe in evolution, and believe that evolution is God's will. I believe that God created us with an intrinsic curiousity and the intelligence to understand all the processes that He has set in motion. He did not create a human race to act like sheep and merely follow.

What scared me most about the documentary is the parents' and church leaders' choice of words when describing the children. The children's minister profiled said that the children are perfect to USE in God's war. (War? Does God really want us to go to war? With opinions like this being filtered throughout the airwaves, it's no wonder that so many hate Americans.) In another scene, a very sweet child witnessed to a complete stranger. I would have had a chat with my child about the dangers of talking to strangers without an adult around, but the child's father congratulated her on being OBEDIENT. (Again, are we like sheep? )

Maybe my fears of these views come from growing up next to quite possibly the most self-righteous Christian family I have ever met. They professed their faith in God, yet were possibly the meanest folks I have ever had the displeasure of meeting. Since they were so much more obedient to God than the rest of us, I suppose that gave them the right to be hypocrites. They own a huge bus to drive around gospel groups, and they start it once a week, letting it run for hours, stinking up the neighborhood. They called our house one Christmas Eve and yelled at my dad to clear the street of our leaves. (It was raining, so the leaves were backing up water in their gutters.) We came home one day to find the evergreeens which created a border between our house and theirs had been stripped of all the branches on one side. (the branches had grown a few inches over their property line, so they took the liberty of destroying the trees rather than having a civil discussion about it.) Oh, and did I mention the multiple times that this family's son, who was much older than me, tried to molest me? Oh yes. Disciples of Christ, this family is. I have clearly forgiven this family for all they have done to mine. (LOL!!!)

Another shining example of excellent behavior from another self-righteous conservative (this is a woman who regularly witnessed to patients and played religious music at her desk for all to hear): I was pregnant with my first child. I was pulled aside by this co-worker and told the following: "It's bad enough that you are pregnant and showing, but the fact that you talk about it too is just shameful." Huh?.... It turns out that someone in my office had miscarried and was having a difficult time with it, and the fact that two of us in the office were very pregnant did not help her. Well, I was devastated, as any extremely hormonal woman would be... and on my wedding anniversary, no less... and barely a month after 9/11. I took the issue to management because I felt I had been harassed. She was forced to apologize. Her letter went something like this: "I'm sorry that you misinterpreted what I said." Hmmmp. Some apology.

Also, I, too, was a victim of the Jesus Camp mentality. I went to a church camp when I was in elementary school. One of the speakers told us that our friends would go to hell if they did not believe in Jesus... even the Jewish ones. My best friend happened to be Jewish. I told her what he said. At the time, I believed what I was told. After all, he was a grown up. He had to know better than me, right? To this day, I wish I had never told her. I'm pretty sure her parents hated me after that. So that fundamentalist camp misguided me severely... and cost me one of my dearest friendships.

I think the last example is actually the most disturbing. I took my kids to the neighborhood Easter egg hunt that happens to be hosted by a very fundamentalist Baptist church. I deeply appreciate their ministry, but I did not appreciate this: my older daughter was making a "prayer bracelet" with the help of one of their church members. The lady was explaining to my child what each colored bead meant. One of the beads she said meant that "you are a bad person." Huh? Are children created bad? I thought we were created in God's image? Anyway, my daughter was in tears. So, I had to explain that what she really meant to say was that all people do bad things. I thought this was an isolated, misspoken issue on the lady's part until I got a little card on my car one day. It had a hologram-ish square on the front that appeared to be like one of those mood detectors. It asked you to hold your thumb on it for ten seconds to see if it changed color, indicating that you are a good person. I knew it was not real, flipped over to the back, and read this: "Don't worry. We are all bad people." It gave me a bible verse to read. Maybe I am just so stupid that I can't read the Bible myself and need to be scared into believing God. Is that what I'm supposed to take from propaganda like that? I think what it needed to say is that we all sin... not to imply that we are all bad people.

Anyway, thus, my fear of the conservative Christian.

I have found great comfort on the left side of the pendulum. In my happy little world, God is compassionate, loving, respectful of humans (since He did create us in His image, after all). In my happy little world, all people are equal, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion (or lack thereof) or class. I am not naive enough to believe that all people think this is truly the case, but I am hopeful that our new leadership will guide us one step closer to getting our nation, and perhaps our world, to that happy place. I think that would make God truly proud.

If you have read this far, thanks! If I have offended you, I am truly sorry. If you do happen to identify more with the right, I hope you will consider how a typical liberal feels when confronted with conservative views. I don't admit to being the best Christian, but I do hope that I am at least real.


Pamela said...

Great post! I have had many similar experiences. I too am a Christian, but I also am sadden by how many "Christians" act and by what they say. Nobody is perfect...I get that, but if Christians aren't more careful of the things they do then they will run off every person. I often wonder "Are you talking about the same God I know?" or "You must not know Christ as I know Him."

Jenn said...

Rock on girl. I could tell you all kinds of stories of how people tried to "witness" to me being Jewish in a predominantly Christian world, including one from a very young child. Casey could reflect a lot on your blog, as much of what you note she has spoken of from her experiences as well. The world would be a much better place if we could respect one anothers differences, don't have to go so far as to accept, just respect. Talk to you soon-