Anyone who knows me even remotely knows that I have little patience for formulaic Christianity. However, there are some things that I believe are good disciplines for me in my life because they help my relationship with the Lord. They are likely not things that would work for everyone, which is why they aren’t a formula for the way to do Christianity. However, I find that I do Christianity a whole lot better with certain disciplines. One, which I have talked about before, is being involved in a 12-Step program and living out the twelve steps in my daily life. For me, the twelve step concept works.
So on the day of the presidential inauguration, Christian celebrity Mark Driscoll decides it’s a good and relevant time to insult the president and cast doubts on his Christianity. Mark Driscoll apparently said: “praying for our president who will today place his hand on a Bible he does not believe and give an oath to a God he does not know.” While the USA allows Mark Driscoll to say anything he wants to, it bothers me for several reasons.
First of all, the president claims to be a Christian, and so I think that we ought to believe him when he says that, after all we have no reason not to. The second point is that just because Obama’s beliefs go against the beliefs of some of the more conservative Christians, it doesn’t mean that those Christians are right. Is it not possible that on some of the things in which Driscoll and Obama disagree may be things that Driscoll is wrong on? I’m not naïve enough to believe that Obama is right all the time; I just believe that his policies line up more with Christianity than Romney did. I’m not naïve enough to think that the president is a perfect Christian, because none of us. That means that he makes his mistakes like the rest of us and that, unlike most of us, his mistakes are made public for the whole world to see.
I see conservatives fight for causes like keeping the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, and yet I see those same conservatives break one of the Ten Commandments, particularly the one that tells us not to bear false witness. What Driscoll said bears false witness against Obama. If we want to keep the Ten Commandments in public places, we should probably be living them out so as not to appear hypocritical. I’m glad that Driscoll is praying for Obama, because Obama needs the prayer with the position he’s in. But even so, I’m sure that Obama would appreciate the prayers of others even if he wasn’t president, it’s one way that Christians can support each other.
Instead of trying to tear down his brother, perhaps Driscoll should continue to pray for the president, and remember that he is in fact his brother.
Something else that works for me is the recitation of prayers. In fundamentalism it was usually considered wrong to recite prayers and we were told that it was “vain repetition” which the Bible says not to do. But I’ve come to realize that a heartfelt prayer, even if it is one prayed every day, is hardly a “vain” repetition. It’s not repetition that God is against, he’s against vain repetition, and the two are very different. In fact, as I’ve been doing an intense study of worship these last ten weeks for college, I’ve wanted to get together with other believers for corporate prayer and reciting of creeds, but that hasn’t happened yet. Maybe I should make it happen.
I have some great moments of worship with other believers in twelve step programs when we all pray the serenity prayer together. I find that I am a lot more forgiving when I pray the Lord’s prayer daily, because reciting the words “forgive me for my sins, just as I have forgiven those who sinned against me” requires me to forgive every time I pray it, if it is to be an honest prayer.
Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grand that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born
To eternal life.
Over the last few days I read a novel by an author from New Zealand. The book “I Am Not Esther” by Fleur Beale is set in New Zealand and is the story of Kirby, a teenage girl whose mother abandons her and leaves her with relatives who are part of a crazy religious cult. They take away all her clothes, her belongings and do not allow her to know her mother’s whereabouts. They changer her into a girl named Esther who is expected to live according to the rules of her relatives cult. All through the story Kirby claims that she is not Esther, and she doesn’t want to be Esther.
When Esther finally escapes the cult and finally becomes Kirby again, she is confused about her identity and who she is. There are some days where she believes that she is still Esther, the person they tried to make her be. Then there are other days when she knows that she’s Kirby and always has been Kirby. My experiences have been similar, to the point that sometimes I still don’t know who I am. Working out who you are after being immersed in a cult is extremely difficult, in fact I’m still trying to figure out who I am, and what I like.
Now that my likes and dislikes are not mandated, I have to figure what I actually like instead of what people tell me I should like or what they demand that I like. I have to figure out who I am instead of just being the person that they made me into, the person they wanted me to be. I can wear things that I like to wear instead of wearing the things that they tell me to wear, but the problem is that I’m not always sure what I want to wear or what I like. I’m very self-conscious as I try hard to be nothing like who they wanted me to be, but not really quite sure of who I’m really supposed to be, who I want to be, who God wants me to be.
My identity used to be manufactured for me, and even though that’s not the case anymore, sometimes I’m not sure how to express my own identity, because often I’m still not sure of my identity. I totally relate to Kirby in the story “I Am Not Esther”, I still tell myself that I am not the same person that I used to be, except that sometimes I still act like the old person even though I’m not. I’m not sure when my identity crisis will be over; maybe it will be something that I always struggle somewhat with. Maybe it’s just one of those things. I don’t know, but I do know that this is a very good and accurate portrayal of some of the issues surrounding living in a cult.
The words feminism and feminist are ambiguous these days, and nobody can be quite sure of what is meant by the use of these words. Christian is another word that is ambiguous, and I think that a lot of that comes down to the fact that we are all unique individuals. Many different kinds of women (and men) claim the term feminist as part of their identity these days, and we all have a slightly different understanding of it because it looks different in each person’s life. I’ve come to believe that life in general is a lot more ambiguous than I thought it was, certainly a lot more ambiguous than I was taught it was. I was taught to see the world in black and white, but I’ve learned that there are many other colors that the Great Artist used when he created us, when he created the world (however it was that he chose to do that).
So I thought I would write about some of the things that feminism means for me personally. The word I think that encompasses feminism the most for me is respect. It’s realizing that women are equal to men in value and worth, not better than men and not less than men, but equal. One of the practical ways to show that is, while I’m not in favor of huge amounts of censorship, I do censor some of the things I allow my children to consume, and one thing that I have banned is secular rap music, because it disrespects and degrades women and I don’t want my boys to be thinking that way about women and I don’t want my daughter to think that way about herself. Someone told me that rap was no big deal anymore because people are used to it. It’s sad that women are used to women being disrespected in such blatant ways that even girls listen happily to rap music. I’m smart enough to know that my children will listen to music they aren’t allowed to listen to when they are at a friend’s house, but at least I won’t be disrespected in my own home, and neither will my daughter.
A huge part of this is teaching my children to respect themselves and each other, and for respect to have a high importance in our home. In my opinion, if people respected each other and recognized the value that each of us has to God, feminism wouldn’t be needed. But because people choose not to respect each other, and some people choose to believe that women are not equal with men, it ruins it for our entire society who is then conditioned in a patriarchal manner. What is sad is that we think that patriarchy is the norm because that is how we have been taught. The key to all of this is respect. Respect for ourselves, and respect for each other.