A Series of Unfortunate Events

The mistakes that lead me to the Episcopal Church were divine intervention. I was lead there through A Series of Unfortunate Events, to steal Lemony Snicket’s book title. The first mistake I made was doing a special communications thesis as one of my undergrad courses. I loved the course and I chose to do my thesis on worship styles and correlated them with learning styles. I began to be dissatisfied with the worship at my large evangelical church, because I started to realized I craved more, I wanted to pray together, not just one person praying for everyone else. I longed for the Eucharist more often than once a quarter, and I wanted to recite creeds and corporately confess sins in community with other Christians. I wanted to observe Lent and I did on my own as best that I could, but the people who knew mocked me about it. The class wasn’t really a mistake but it made me discontent.

The next mistake was cursing out the priest of an Episcopal Church in Louisiana which six months later would become my church. After that I bought the Book of Common Prayer off Amazon, thinking it was a book of prayers that I could use in family altar, and it was but not the kind I expected. I wasn’t expecting a service manual for the Episcopal Church I was expecting just prayers. But before I got off my lazy ass to return the book, I flipped through it and saw how beautiful the liturgies were. I longed to try a liturgical church and until now had thought of liturgical churches as Catholic, now I was being introduced, via the Book of Common Prayer, to the Episcopal Church, and I remembered the priest I cursed out that his church was Episcopalian.

The major mistake was that during this whole six months of craving the liturgy and Eucharist, I was experimenting with witchcraft because I was looking for structure and ritual but didn’t realize that at the time. I was still Christian and I was still seeking God, I was just seeking God within the context of witchcraft. I did some basic magic and used crystals and herbs and centering. But God was calling me back and I realized that witchcraft wasn’t the answer I was seeking, but that parts of it were showing me the kinds of things I was seeking such as the ritual and the centering and that I could find that within a Christian context in the Episcopal Church.

Sunday (the feast of Christ the King) will be a year now since I knelt in front of the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana and was confirmed into the Episcopal Church. It was a huge deal for me because I’m so thankful for the Episcopal Church and the home I have found there.

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Jezebel’s Escape

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Women Leaving the Christian Patriarchy Movement Behind

I’d been branded with the scarlet letter. They had called me a Jezebel, which is the Christian patriarchy way of calling a woman a whore. The guilt and the shame clung to me like a bad smell, while I tried to figure out what I had done wrong this time. Was it the fact that I had said a string of swear words when my knee buckled beneath me? Was the split in my ankle-length skirt too high? Did someone find out I had secretly gotten the ends of my hair trimmed?

I had been in the bathroom throwing up, miserable with all-day morning sickness, pregnant again just two months after giving birth to my first child. They told me that my sin was that I had given the baby to my husband to take care of at church while I threw up. I was a woman, and I was supposed to take care of the baby all by myself and not to expect his help. After all, he was a man, and as such he had far more important things to do and worry about than taking care of his child.

I had also made the mistake of asking the pastor a question in Sunday school when he had asked if anyone had any questions. He had told me he would not be answering any of my questions because the Bible said that a woman was to be silent in the church and if she wanted to know something, she had to quietly ask her husband at home[1]. I had then asked him what I was supposed to do if my husband didn’t know the answer, to which he had replied that my husband was to come and ask him, and then he would decide if he wanted me to have the answer or not. But to seek knowledge outside of asking my husband was sin, and my husband was to decide what I was allowed to know and what I was not allowed to know.

I was deeply ashamed and frustrated. After all, the other women seemed to recognize their “place” in the world, as subordinate to their husbands, or to their fathers if unmarried. They seemed to take joy and delight in it, while I was miserable. I figured that there had to be something wrong with me, because I was secretly jealous of the women who wore jeans and cute shirts, who could cut and dye their hair into any style they wanted, even if it was short, for the women who got to go to college. I wondered why God gave me a mind that wanted to learn if he had forbidden women going to college. Was I his great cosmic joke? I became convinced that God had created me specifically to mess up my life, to give me desires that I was not allowed to fulfil, just so that he could have something to laugh about.

Finally, when I became pregnant with my fourth child in five years, I realized that I did not have to live like this, and left the Christian patriarchy movement. The fall-out and subsequent detoxing from having been in a cult was hard for me, and so often I thought I was alone. However, as I read more and more on the internet, I met other women who had been brave, risking everything in order to escape the movement. One of the courageous women I met through this was Anne. She says she constantly worried that she wasn’t good enough for God. “I was always told what an awful person I was, and I would cry myself to sleep some nights because I was afraid I wasn’t good enough to get into heaven.” Anne said.

Women in Christian patriarchy are expected to obey a man for their entire lives. If they are not married, they are to obey their father, no matter how old they are. If they have no father, they are to obey their brother or closest male relative. Once they are married, they are to obey their husbands. This is why Anne was still living at home as a grown woman even though she hated it and had so many doubts. When Anne left the Christian patriarchy movement, she lost her entire family, except for a married brother, because they cut her off. Her family believes that she cut them off. “My dad told me that if I moved out, they would cut me off. It was his thought that if I moved out, it would essentially be me cutting myself off from them, because he explained the consequences to me, therefore it would be my fault if I went through with it.” Anne says.

As much as I wish it weren’t so, Anne and I are not the only women that were victims of the Christian patriarchy movement. Sarah left the movement after she got married. She describes her leaving process as a gradual one, although that can probably be said for all the women that have been in the movement and then left. Sarah said that when she wasn’t pregnant within a few weeks of her marriage, that her parents began to harass her about refusing to obey God regarding reproduction. She was expected to get pregnant right away because not using any kind of birth control is part of the Christian patriarchy movement’s beliefs.

This particular belief, that one should leave their family size up to God and not use birth control for any reason, is called “Quiverfull”, which is a name taken from some Bible verses in the Psalms which say: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”[2]

Being brought up in the Christian patriarchy movement was very hard for Sarah. “My childhood diary is full of self-hatred. I literally hated everything about myself. I cut myself from around age 13 – 17 and attempted suicide more than once. In my diary I often mention how much God hates me.” Sarah said. Self-hatred, self-harm, panic attacks, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts and attempts are unfortunately common themes surrounding the women who have left Christian patriarchy behind. Many women require years of therapy and psychiatric medication as a result of being in this movement. Self-esteem is discouraged as pride in Christian patriarchy, so women who have left the movement first need to learn that they are valuable and that they are amazing.

I also met Caitlin, a savvy young grad student, who is going against everything she was ever taught by living with her fiancé before marriage. Caitlin says that she first doubted patriarchy when she was hit with the realization that there were no other paths in life open to her except that of being a wife and a stay at home mother. Since she didn’t have the desire to do either of those things (although she has since changed her mind on becoming a wife), she couldn’t believe that God had created all women exclusively for that role. Caitlin said “the patriarchy movement instils self-doubt in women, teaching them that their own innate sense of fairness, justice and love are false and that rigid hierarchical structures are true.”

One of the consequences of leaving Christian patriarchy has been the breakdown of family ties. Families in this movement have no use for women who refuse to obey the men in their lives instead of being their own independent person. Yet strong and courageous women are deciding that their freedom and their futures are important, and are making their way out of the movement.

The Christian patriarchy movement is alive and well in several conservative Christian denominations, although mostly in the Reformed circles of Christianity.[3] Libby Anne,* another Christian patriarchy movement survivor, believes that Christian patriarchy and conservative right-wing politics go hand in hand. Republican Party presidential candidate in 2008, Mike Huckabee, signed a declaration endorsing wifely submission in 1998.[4] Many of the Republicans have been making sexist statements this election cycle, such as Republican senate nominee Todd Akin who claimed that women who are raped will not get pregnant because their bodies have a way of shutting the whole thing down.[5]

“To people like my father, Christianity and Republican politics go hand in hand. My mother often says that you cannot be a Christian and a Democrat at the same time.” Sarah said. She also said that those in the Christian patriarchy movement as a whole tend to believe that liberals are all angry Atheists who are out to murder babies via abortion, crazy feminists who want to tear down God’s natural order of male headship in the home, take away parental rights to home-school or spank their children, and usher in “godless” socialism.

Caitlin said “I believe that the patriarchy movement and conservative politics have become inextricable. This is unfortunate because conservative ideology is more powerful than patriarchy alone, so taking over conservative political parties is a powerful strategy for patriarchy to spread itself.” Alisa Harris, in her book “Raised Right: How I Untangled my Faith from Politics” says that she had been picketing abortion clinics and Republican political rallies since before she could walk.[6] She describes in this book how politics gave her faith meaning, how she felt that it expressed her faith, and how she had been taught that conservative politics would make America a godly nation. She says that she viewed faith and politics as one and the same.

Anne, Sarah, Caitlin and I are all thankful for the internet, because reading things on the internet was where we all found out that there were women who lived happy, fulfilling lives outside of Christian patriarchy. We wanted that happiness, and so we kept reading, enthralled with the idea that we could do anything that we wanted to. We could go to university, we could have a career, we could join the military, or we could be a mom. Or, we could do a combination of any of those things or more. The internet expanded our world.

Apart from an informational tool, the internet was also a healing tool, as we began to network with each other, and talk and write about our experiences. “One of the biggest healing tools for me has been blogging. Writing about my experiences and reading about the experiences of others like me helped me tremendously,” Sarah said. Anne said that blogging her thoughts also helped a lot, and Caitlin and I have a blogs too where we have worked out what we believe.

We are survivors of the Christian patriarchy movement and all the abuses it bestowed upon us for the simple “crime” of being born female. While some of us are forever labelled as “Jezebels” (after a rebellious queen named Jezebel in the Bible who was thrown out of a window and eaten by dogs because of her rebellion), it’s time that the world knows what we went through, and what thousands of women continue to go through. Many women never realize they have choices, because many are born into the movement.

We were told that we were wicked just because we were born girls, that we were whores and out to seduce men. They made us feel ashamed of our bodies, they made us cover our bodies up in long skirts and baggy shirts, or ugly home-made dresses, and then they blamed us when their own lust got then into trouble. We were told that we were weak, that we were not capable of thinking for ourselves, and therefore we must have a man do our thinking for us, make our decisions for us, and tell us what to do. They told us that we did not need an education because the only thing we were fit to do was to be a “homemaker”.

I and many others were told that our rape was our fault because of what we were wearing, or because we didn’t scream when it happened. We were told that the depression we were suffering with wasn’t a big deal and was just a case of “unrepentant sin” and that if we would stop being so rebellious, we wouldn’t be depressed. Our voices were not heard; nobody cared what we had to say, because we were ‘just’ women.

But after leaving the movement, we learned the truth about who we are. We are valuable, we are precious, and we are loved. We are smart; we are beautiful, our voices matter. Our identity is in ourselves, not in a man or in how many children we have.

The Christian patriarchy movement is alive and well all across America and Australia and around the world. In fact, the Christian patriarchy movement may well be thriving right in your own back yard.

*Not her real name.

[1] 1 Corinthians 14:35

[2] Psalm 127:3-5 King James Version

[3] Kathryn Joyce, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2009), 34.

[4] ibid., 35

[5] McMorris-Santoro, Evan. Republican Senate Nominee: Victims of ‘Legitimate Rape’ Don’t Get Pregnant, TPM, August 19, 2012.

[6] Alisa Harris, Raised Right: How I Untangled my Faith from Politics, (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2011), 5

Maybe I’m Still a Little Fundamentalist…

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So I’m realizing that maybe I’m still a little fundamentalist in my thinking. I’ve been working hard to figure out what I believe about a whole range of topics because as a fundamentalist I used to know exactly what I believed. But these days I don’t have a list of mandatory beliefs, and sometimes that bothers me. I ask questions of my priest all the time seeking to know what Episcopalians believe about this or that and he usually pisses me off by telling me it’s a big tent and different people believe different things and that has frustrated me but maybe it shouldn’t.

I’m learning that the most important thing is loving God and loving my  neighbor and that all else is secondary. Morgan Guyton put it so eloquently when he wrote: “it’s so easy to get sucked into making our faith about what we believe rather than what we are inspired to do.” (Guyton, 2016, p. 74). I’ve been asking all kinds of questions of all kinds of people to try to find out what I believe about certain issues when in reality I should be worrying about loving God and loving my neighbor most of all and the beliefs will fall into place eventually.

Rather than building a list of beliefs I need to be letting my faith transform me into someone who loves God and loves her neighbor. I need to let my faith take action rather than sitting and compiling lists of what I believe. Morgan Guyton uses the images of math and poetry, saying that my faith should not be made up of formulas of things I believe and thus things that I can master, but I should let my faith take mastery of me like poetry does. (Guyton, 2016, pp. 69-74). Poetry has mystery surrounding it, and math has none. I am to revel in the divine mysteries and follow the two basic commandments, whether I can pin down what I believe on a vast array of topics or not.

As I lose all the things that are precious to me in fundamentalism, maybe I need to lose my certainty of things also, and embrace not knowing everything and perhaps the more that I don’t know, the more I’ll know and the more I’ll live a Christlike life. Jesus didn’t call me to write out a list of beliefs, he called me to follow him.

References:

Guyton, M 2016, How Jesus Saves the World From Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville.

 

Non-Christian

I’ve had several people concerned for my soul lately, telling me that I’m going to an eternal inferno to fry forever if I don’t believe exactly what they believe. I’ve had my faith called into question mostly because the person I’m conversing with disagrees with me. I had one friend concerned that I’d “converted to Catholicism” when I’ve done no such thing, rather I’ve been confirmed Episcopalian.

I’ve “gotten saved” more times than I can count. I know all of the arguments. I used to stand on street corners passing out tracts or holding up signs, I used to annoy people by knocking on their doors to ask them if they died tonight were there 100% sure they would go to heaven and if not they could pray this pretty little prayer after me and be guaranteed a place in paradise for all eternity. Heck, I’ve even been baptized three times since I “got saved” so many times.

I never told people how many times I “got saved” because they thought I was saved already. It was supposed to be a one time deal, but I always felt unsure if I had really meant the prayer enough and that maybe I was truly going to hell for eternity. Still now I have friends and well meaning people trying to get me “saved” when I’ve been “saved” over and over again.

I was earnest about being saved and getting everyone that I knew saved as well. I’m even uncomfortable with the term “getting saved” because it’s inherently linked to a belief in hell. See, being saved from hell has never been the point. Jesus didn’t come to save us from hell, he came to save us from our sins, and to bring about the Kingdom of God.

Because I’m in a more LGBTQ affirming church, I’ve had my status as a Christian questioned because people believe that a person who is LGBTQ affirming cannot also be a Christian because they believe that to be LGBTQ is sin, so therefore anyone who is supportive of LGBTQ people are going against the Bible and therefore can’t possibly be Christian. As a bisexual Christian I’m part of the LGBTQ community, and God created me this way. Saying that God would create me bisexual and that being bisexual dooms me to hell unless I repent, sounds an awful lot like Calvinism, a belief that says that God created certain people to go to heaven and certain people to go to hell, that God had foreknowledge of that, and that God chose to create people that would go to hell anyway.

If God truly did that, God would not be a loving God. God is love, the Bible says, and in him is no darkness at all. A God of love would not create someone specifically to be an abomination, just so that God could have the pleasure of sending them to hell. That would be sadism and hate, not love.

I’m a Christian whether others believe it or not. I was baptized when I was ten. “Getting saved” had nothing to do with it. I’m bisexual and I was created this way because it pleased a good and loving God to create me this way. Just like God created all the other things about me, God created this. Genesis says that God looked down on what God had made and called it “very good”. People can’t be both very good and an abomination at the same time.

Sacramental Waters

_4280358 copyI have been baptized three times. The churches I was in taught that baptism came after one had already believed in Jesus, as a public profession of faith, rather than it being the sacrament that marked your entrance into the church and your life as a Christian. I now believe that my first baptism marked my entrance into Christianity but it would be almost twenty years after I was first baptized before I would find that out.

In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate. The raging ocean that covered everything was engulfed in total darkness and the power of God was moving over the water. Then God commanded, “Let there be light” – and light appeared. Genesis 1:1-3 TEV.

In the very beginning of the earth, water covered the earth. And then God moved over the water and things began to happen. Darkness and light were separated. In the very beginning of life, there was water. At the beginning of human life is water. The beginning of the Christian life begins with water; the waters of baptism. Water, the blessed water of the baptismal font, gives new life into the kingdom of God. Just as in creation, God moves upon the waters, except these waters grant salvation.

When we enter the waters of baptism, whether we are fully immersed in water or it’s poured over our heads, our new life in Christ starts. When we exit our mother’s womb wrapped in water, our new life in the world began. There is life in water. Our bodies need water to survive. That’s why we call it being born-again, because it mimics the first time we were born into the world, but through baptism we are born into a new world.

The waters of baptism are powerful. They are the same waters of creation over which God breathed and called forth life. They are the same waters of freedom through which God lead the Hebrews out of a life of slavery in Egypt and the waters of promise through which they walked into new life. They are the same waters in which Jesus was baptized and the same living water that Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at the well. In these powerful and living waters you were born. By those waters you share in the waters of creation, liberation, promise, and new life in Christ. In the waters of baptism you were bathed in the living water where you will never thirst again. Gamber and Lewellis, 2009, p. 16.

I remember a little bit from my entrance into the kingdom of God, it was a freezing cold creek in the middle of winter and I was fully immersed into a well-flowing creek. It was done on a Sunday afternoon after church when the whole church drove to the creek to witness the baptisms. I was barefoot and my feet got dirty in the creek bank. I was wearing a denim skirt and a cream colored top with little red flowers on it. These are the details I still remember twenty years later. I remember being immersed because I was scared. I’m thankful that I remember the details of this first baptism. I’m thankful now that I was old enough to remember being baptized.

When I first came to the Episcopal Church I felt like my baptism was illegitimate for several reasons, but one of those was because I had been immersed rather than have water poured on my head. Part of me wanted to be baptized again to get it done “right” but I was also embarrassed about my three baptisms and didn’t want to do that again. My priest wisely told me that it was legitimate and not to worry about it. But I am now at peace with my baptism, and now look back on it as a beautiful event and I’m sorry I ever regretted it or got baptized more than once, because the first one did the job. I was born again into the kingdom of God on a sunny winter’s day when I was ten years old. I don’t need to get re-baptized in the “proper way” because I was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, buried with Christ into his death, raised up in his resurrection.

Most of my Sunday school class was baptized that day, it was the trendy thing to do when you reached our age and we didn’t want to be outdone by each other, so in the act of ultimate one-upmanship, we all got baptized. We had all said a pretty little prayer asking Jesus into our hearts so that was all we needed to do to get baptized. Even as the pastor baptized me I had my doubts as to if I were truly saved or not. This would be a recurring theme with all of my baptisms.

My whole fundamentalist life I was told that baptism was for people who had already prayed a magic prayer “ask Jesus into their heart” so that they could be saved from the lake of fire that tortures its occupants for eternity. Thus the point of asking Jesus into our hearts was to make sure we had our “get out of hell free” card in God’s cosmic game of Monopoly. The Bible verses that seemed to indicate that baptism was a part of our salvation were either ignored or explained away, and we were taught that baptism was only for those who had already believed, and thus it was called “believer’s baptism”.

I prayed the magic prayer more times than I can remember, and I never felt like I had done it well enough. I ended up being baptized three times because I felt like I “wasn’t truly saved” the last two times and had to get baptized again. The grace tattoo on my wrist even bears a date of 03-03-08, the day that I thought I had become a Christian. What I never realized until I was thirty was that was my baptism, the very first one, at the age of ten in that freezing cold creek in the middle of winter, was when I truly became a Christian, although I had no idea what that meant and sometimes I still wonder.

Like Rachel Held Evans says in her new book, “Searching for Sunday”, baptism is the very beginning of our faith journey (p. 35). Baptism…a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The waters of baptism are the beginning of the journey of faith, our birth into the kingdom of God. The point isn’t to avoid hell (although I don’t believe in a literal eternal fire pit in the sky), the point is to be resurrected. As the pastor who performed my first baptism said, we are raised to walk in newness of life.

We come into this world via water in our physical birth, and we come into the kingdom of God via water, our spiritual birth. Birth involves water whether physical or spiritual. Until now I’d never realized the significance of my baptism, and now when I walk into the church, dip my hand in the baptismal font, and make the sign of the cross, I can remember my baptism, and be thankful for its significance.

I used to wonder if my baptisms were legit because they happened in a fundamentalist church and I was immersed in the water, and they didn’t believe that it brought me salvation. I wondered if the intent mattered but my priest told me I’d received a sacrament whether I’d recognized it at the time or not. I’ve been baptized three times so obviously I didn’t need baptizing again but I felt that it needed to be done again for a while, and some others have struggled with that too. I guess I’ve been a Christian from the very first time I was baptized, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. Rachel Held Evans writes:

I’ve wrestled with the evangelical tradition in which I was raised, often ungracefully. At times I’ve tried to wring the waters of my first baptism out of my clothes, shake them out of my hair, and ask for a do-over in some other community where they ordain women, vote for Democrats, and believe in evolution. But Jesus has this odd habit of allowing ordinary, screwed-up people to introduce him, and so it was ordinary, screwed-up people who first told me I was a beloved child of God, who first called me a Christian. Evans, 2015, p. 15.

I was immersed in the water, just like I was when I was born, which means it’s just as special and symbolic and life-giving as my children’s baptisms which were done in the “proper” way, in church at a baptismal font with blessed water being poured over their heads three times, once each for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At their baptism there were promises made. I have come to realize that both mine and my children’s baptisms were both done in the proper way in the end, because it got the job done and it brought us to new life. It made us Christians and granted us entrance into the kingdom of God.

References

Evans, RH 2015, Searching for Sunday: loving, leaving and finding the church, Thomas Nelson, Nashville.

Gamber, J and Lewellis, B 2009, Your faith your life: an invitation to the Episcopal Church, Morehouse Publishing, New York.

Persecution

I’m a Christian, and I don’t believe that Christians in the USA today are persecuted even though some of us think that we are. I also think that it’s highly insulting and offensive to Christians in other countries who are being beheaded and suffering other atrocities to pretend that we are, in any way, as a privileged majority, suffering any kind of persecution. Christians are also not the only people around the world facing persecution, I mean just look at the refugee crisis.

I believe that we actually have a lot of privilege by being Christian and I think that it’s very important that we recognize that privilege. I’m seen as one of “the poor” and I have a house to live in with running water and electricity and food. I’ve experienced homelessness and it’s no fun, but right now even as one who is considered poor, I am so privileged that I am not in the position of many others around the world.

As the privileged majority and as followers of Christ, it is important that we be honest about things which means not pretending to be persecuted when we are not. The argument I’ve heard the most to prove Christian persecution in this country has been the argument that prayer has been taken out of schools. The truth is that prayer hasn’t been taken out of schools, we are just not allowed to require that prayers be a part of the school day and force kids who aren’t Christians to pray. Children who are Christians are allowed to pray at school and I’ve personally seen it on many occasions in my experiences with U.S. public schools.

Not being allowed to force our beliefs on another human being is not persecution, it’s basic human rights. Even God doesn’t require people to believe, God gives them a choice, and there are some who choose not to believe. If God themself allows people the privilege of choice, why should we try to force our beliefs on others? We should be living in such a way that people see the beauty of God’s way and want to be Christians, but we’re too busy claiming persecution, or fighting imaginary wars on Christmas, or pitching a fit that the government passed a bill saying we can’t do what we like.

Christians in America enjoy massive privilege, and it’s time for us to realize that and own it and strive to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves, without claiming fake persecution. The persecution complex isn’t cute and it actually hinders our message because people can see through the bullshit. Let’s change the world by doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. And maybe if we do that, we might one day experience what persecution really is.

 

Syrian Refugees

A man once asked Jesus who his neighbor was, and Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, the man who stopped and helped a stranger in need. Today I am still asking who my neighbor is, although I know the answer, because I don’t like the answer and I am trying to get out of loving particular neighbors.

I’ve been trying to get out of loving Syrian refugees, not because I don’t want them here, I think they should be here but sometimes I let some of the fear and the hype get to me. I’ve tried staying silent rather than talking about the situation because I “didn’t want to get involved” but I’m sure there were many people who didn’t want to get involved when pregnant Mary was looking for a place to stay and birth Jesus.

I am supposed to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. I’m supposed to love my neighbor as myself. If I were a refugee, I’d want doors open to me and my children. Doing justice means not remaining silent. Loving mercy means seeing these people as human too and being compassionate to their predicament. Walking humbly with God means trusting God with this mess. Loving my neighbor as myself means that I have to care.

And on Sunday I’ll kneel and confess that I have not loved my neighbor as myself, I’ll strive to do better because that’s what repentance is. On Sunday I’ll be getting confirmed, which means a renewal of the baptismal covenant, and when the Bishop asks: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” I’m going to reply with: “I will, with God’s help.” Then he’s going to ask me: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” And again I will reply: “I will, with God’s help. (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 417).

I’m supporting the refugees because I believe it’s the right thing to do, it’s loving my neighbor as myself, and treating others as I would like to be treated. That’s what I’m called to do as a Christian, and I will, with God’s help.

The Sacred and the Profane

CHOPPED TOMATOES

I’m learning that food is sacred, which is a relief to me as someone that struggles with eating disorders. If eating is sacred, then maybe there’s some help for me in overcoming my struggles which have seemed relentless lately. Maybe if I can change my attitude regarding food and actually believe that it’s sacred, I can get through this.

‘In the Biblical story of creation man is presented, first of all, as a hungry being, and the whole world as his food.’ (Schmemann, 2000, Kindle location 80 of 2220). Schmemann then goes on to say:

Man must eat in order to live; he must take the world into his body and transform it into himself, into flesh and blood. He is indeed that which he eats, and the whole world is presented as one all-embracing banquet table for man. And this image of the banquet remains, throughout the whole Bible, the central image of life. It is the image of life at its creation and also the image of life at its end and fulfillment: “…that you eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom.” This is what happens when we partake of the Eucharist, we are eating spiritual food, the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Schmemann, 2000, Kindle location 85 of 2220).

Hunger is part of the human experience, it’s something we are supposed to feel. Hunger is also part of the Christian experience. There’s a reason I was craving the Eucharist even before I knew what it was I was craving, it was because I was hungry for Jesus and didn’t know how to fulfill that hunger. Sara Miles explains that the need of the Eucharist is the same sort of craving as we feel when we feel physically hungry (Miles, 2007, p. 60), and I know that when I go to partake of the Eucharist it doesn’t matter if I have just eaten or if I haven’t eaten yet…I feel physical hunger and thirst for the Eucharist, and I feel full when I’m done. It’s a sacred meal and it gives spiritual nourishment.

Maybe if eating is sacred then I can connect with God instead of the food that I crave. Maybe instead of eating a bowl of ice cream or half a bag of chips I can pray when I have those cravings. I guess that means I need to do a fast of sorts. You are what you eat is true in the profane as well as the sacred. It’s why I’m so large in real life. It’s why when I started partaking of the Eucharist weekly, I began to thrive spiritually because I was finally being fed with the body and the blood of Christ. As I consume Jesus I become more like him because you are what you eat. As I consume more food than I need in order to try to comfort myself; I become bigger because you are what you eat.

Maybe, just maybe, the sacred can overcome the profane.

References:

Miles, S 2007, Take this bread: a radical conversion, Ballantine Books, New York.

Schmemenn, A 2000, For the life of the world, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, New York.

Becoming Episcopalian

It’s been one year now since I set foot inside the Episcopal Church, and it’s been an amazing year with faith that was once almost dead blossoming back to new life. I’m going to be confirmed soon which means that I’ll be a true blue Episcopalian. If I had a word to describe this year it would probably be reconciliation.

I’m currently working on a book titled “Becoming Episcopalian”. These are my favorite ten posts about becoming Episcopalian this past year.

Beautiful Liturgy – This was the beginning of the journey as far as church is concerned.

Witchcraft to Liturgy – Sometimes our colossal screw-ups lead us to the right path eventually.

Grace in the Sacraments – How consuming Jesus began bringing me back to God.

Cheap Imitations – This was written right after my son came out of the ICU.

Returning to the Lord – My first experience with the sacrament of reconciliation.

Feasting on Jesus – The Holy Communion has changed my life.

The Ugly Crucifix – The crucifixion wasn’t pretty, it was downright ugly but it can turn into something pretty.

Sacrament of Reconciliation – The cool thing is, this man I offended is sponsoring my confirmation for me.

Forgiveness – “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

This is my blood, shed for you – “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains”.

Food

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One day, I dared to write something anti-gun on a pro-gun Facebook post. I had complete strangers be rude, hostile and downright nasty. They looked at all my Facebook pictures and commented about how I was stupid and fat and obviously ate too much McDonald’s. There were also death threats and people telling me I should give up my newly acquired US citizenship. But the one comment I got the most was that obviously I ate too much McDonald’s and was “obviously” fat and lazy and therefore far too stupid to be allowed to have an opinion on guns.

I’ve been told by mother’s groups on Facebook that I’m abusing my children because I “refuse” to feed them organic food and that I could do so if I really cared about their health. I’ve been told that I myself caused my child’s autism and that they aren’t autistic they are just allergic to gluten and I should quit feeding such trash to them.

The thing is, people who don’t live paycheck to paycheck might be able to afford organic produce, but I’m on a food-stamp and food-bank budget and I cannot. It’s not that I don’t care enough, it’s that it’s actually impossible. Some women can afford diets and health clubs, I can’t afford either because diet food costs more and I eat what I’m given and I’m grateful for it. I’d love to go on a diet but the fact is that the food for any kind of diet costs far more, and I don’t have that kind of money.

My point is that access to healthy food is class based, we eat what we can afford and others eat what they can afford, they just happen to be able to afford better food than I. I’m not upset with those that can afford better food, but I do get a little upset when I’m judged by those who can afford better food as being a bad or lazy person because I simply cannot buy the food they are privileged to be able to buy. I’m privileged too, I have food to fill my stomach where many in the world do not, and I’ve chosen to be thankful for the food that I have rather than to obsess over food that I cannot afford. It means I can’t have the diet I want to and I can’t lose weight as easily as I want to, but I have food, and I thank God for that food.

“Give us this day our daily bread”, and God does, even when it’s not to other people’s satisfaction.