Category Archives: Group in-/ex-clusion

Scapeygoat

“Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another — physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion.” — The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

‘Twas beauty and romantic love
Did gyre and gimble in her heart:
All mimsy was the dreamed-up stuff
That caused her dreams to smart.

Beware the mythic blue-eyed Doll!
The hair that’s blonde, the cheek that’s white!
Beware Maureen, she comes in Fall,
bewitching folks she’s right.

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the diz’ying drink he drought.
To rape his girl was not his plan;
To love a doll he’d sought.

And as in uffish state she cow’red
Old Soaphead Church, with eyes ablaze,
Came promising an iris flower,
But doll-eyed death, the gaze.

One, two! One, two! The blood is shed!
Pecola’s self-esteem and child,
She left for dead, and dropped her head
Gone crazy for a smile.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come, give an answer, Miss Pauline!”
Our sons and daughters in the stocks
Condemned; the Doll, serene.

‘It seems very pretty,’ she said when she had finished it, ‘but it’s rather hard to understand!’ (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) ‘Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate.’  — Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

Voices from Beyond

Recent messages I have received from people from my alma mater. The first is a response from the alumni office about whether there were any alumni groups for non-Christians (I had offered to form/lead one if not). The second is from an acquaintance from my time at college.
“Hello, ____.  My staff passed your note along and I wanted to take a minute to respond.  Since all alumni events and groups sponsored by the College are representative of the College’s commitment to the Christian faith, we don’t have a formal group for people who no longer consider themselves Christians.  That said, I hope you’ll stay connected with ______ no matter where your faith journey takes you.  You’ll always be part of the ____ family, ____, and I wish you the very best.
Take care,
______”

Interim Vice President for Advancement & Alumni Relations
———————————————————————————————————————
“Hi ____.
I don’t know if you remember me from being in ___ at _____, but I wanted to tell you that I really find a lot of comfort from the blog you write. One of my former roommates from ______ sent me your blog because she thought I could relate to it, and I can. I went to _____ because I was losing my faith and I never really recovered from being on the fence. I wasn’t raised Christian, but became Christian in high school. I found a lot of meaning, comfort, and friendships in Christian circles and from what I thought was God. Its still something I deal with and can’t really walk away from or embrace. Its not fun to go through, but it is comforting to know that I am not the only former _____ kid who is dealing with this type of thing. Its really hard to find a niche to have doubts and not be ready to move back into Christianity or entirely away from it. So thank you for sharing your thoughts on your blog. I feel creepy reading it, so I thought I’d tell you I was a fan haha”

Atheists Among Us

Atheists Among Us.

What follows is the text from the above link. Enjoy! (This explains – partly – why I, an agnostic, go to church. And why you should like having me at your church!)

April 9, 2014

Molly Baskette

“For the rest of you who are in mixed marriages—Christian married to non-Christian—we have no explicit command from the Master. So this is what you must do. If you are a man with a wife who is not a believer but who still wants to live with you, hold on to her. If you are a woman with a husband who is not a believer but he wants to live with you, hold on to him. The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband.” – 1Corinthians 7:12-14

There’s a bumper sticker on a car in my neighborhood that never fails to chap my hide. “God is just pretend,” it gloats.

It angers me because the driver of that car is not just trying to state their (non-) belief. They are trying to undermine the belief of others.

But not all atheists are like that, and we shouldn’t tar them with the same brush.

There’s an atheist who comes to our church regularly. He’s married to a committed Christian. I often see him in the kitchen, doing dishes at coffee hour. When his wife joined the church, she said at one of our new members’ classes, “Steven just can’t believe that you accept him for who he is—even though he doesn’t believe in God. You even let him do the dishes.”

Uh, yeah. We’re really liberal that way. We will let absolutely anybody do our dishes.

Some positive psychology research suggests that churchgoing makes people happier, and more generous. Even the atheists report higher satisfaction with life as a result of regular engagement with a community of faith. (Tell that to your 14-year-old when he sulkily insists he shouldn’t have to go to church anymore because he doesn’t believe in God.)

I don’t have stats on it, but anecdotal evidence says the reverse is true too: the atheists and agnostics in our churches make our life together better. When they ask challenging questions, they make believers examine their faith and throw out the fluff. And when the people who say they “don’t believe all that much” pray out loud: well, I feel the power of those prayers more than the pretty words of those to whom prayer is as natural as breathing.

And then: there are those dirty dishes. They won’t do themselves.

Sometimes, our scriptures seem a little incomplete, like this bit from Corinthians. Because holiness flows, not just from the believer to the unbeliever, but in both directions.

Prayer

O Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelievers—and not by making them just like me. Amen.

Language games

Language is a game. We all play it. We can bend its rules. But if we break the rules too frequently, we are no longer playing the agreed game; we are playing a different game. Only others who are initiated into that game and familiar with its rules will be able to successfully play with you. Those who have played the card game “Mao” know something of what I’m talking about.

These are more or less the ideas of Wittgenstein anyway. And this all makes sense to me: I think it’s a fitting description of what language is: twin systems of rules (grammar) and pieces (words) that we manipulate in order to communicate meaning.

I’m starting to think of this in other ways too, now. Even my studies and the disciplines encompassing them are language games. Cynics would say that’s all they are (I entertain this cynical sentiment in Rough Day).

I write to say that I’m learning to play those games. And, actually, I think this is a good thing. Even if we’re merely spinning words that don’t affect anything outside, I’m learning what the rules of the games are and how to play them. I hope I’m even beginning to succeed, start winning.

This sounds really cynical but I don’t mean it that way. I thought this would be an interesting and perhaps helpful insight to fellow students, that one way to think of our task is that we need to become fluent in the language of our disciplines. That requires gathering all the right pieces, knowing all the rules and beginning to learn strategy, effective combinations and moves.

Who are we playing with? Our peers and future colleagues, and teachers. I can’t say there are no losers. There are. When someone destroys another’s argument, book, or opus using his own words, that is a major loss. Ouch. I don’t know what you can do after that, but fortunately that’s not for me to worry about yet. However, the objective is not necessarily to squash the competition; there can be room (somewhere…) for them and they are needed, too (to write the top review for the book jacket of your next book).

There is a comfort in knowing that (in one sense) it’s all a game as well. Playing does not require you to believe in or love the game. You just have to be good at it. Which is what I’m hoping to do. For now. And if I’m not good, if I’m not “picked”, there are other games I can play. I must take hope in this.

Welcome to our church!

People are awkward.

Several weeks back I saw someone at the church I’ve been attending who I wanted to get to know better (read, was physically attracted to said person). We’ll call this person Jordan. At a church social I introduced myself, got talking with Jordan and their friends, and before I knew it was scheduled to go get coffee with Jordan and some friends of theirs. The day of the coffee outing came, we went and I had a great time. I got to ride there and back with Jordan and found they have some personality/character traits I really appreciate/connect with, we have some things in common, and Jordan still floors me physically.

Naturally I Facebook friend Jordan and others I went with, writing a short sincere message in friending Jordan.

Immediately Jordan’s friends accept my request and write back. Jordan has yet to accept the request or respond. It’s been a month, and I can tell Jordan’s been active on Facebook. If that were the only thing that’d be fine. And to be fair, I’ve only been to church/outings with Jordan’s friends two/three times since the coffee outing. But Jordan also has not approached me in church during passing the peace and hasn’t made it easy to say hi before or after the service. People can converse with friends in such a way that they are ready to expand their conversational circle, or they can stand pretty closed-off-like which is mostly what I’ve seen. I haven’t really heard anything back from Jordan’s friends since then either.

Well, this hurts. I get it that Jordan is not interested. That’s been made painfully clear. Was it necessary to go so far as to just reject me as a person? I am the new person at the church, I reached out and then I got shunned. Or at least that’s how it feels on a rainy day like today.

Giving the benefit of the doubt, I know interacting with people you have recently met or hardly know can be awkward and difficult. Perhaps no one is really to blame here. Or perhaps it’s all my fault. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so shy and should just try a little harder to include myself in that chatty circle of friends after the service? Perhaps I should not care about how the situation feels and just make sure to say hi to Jordan and chat if we can? Or perhaps I should never have introduced myself, should have known they have a significant other (which I still don’t know), should have known they aren’t into people of my sex (which I don’t know)?

You can probably tell I’m a verbal processor (hmm, not a computer processor: I am a processor of words… I weigh them, spit them out, receive feedback and repeat). My hope is that through writing about this, and getting responses, I can understand the situation better and more clearly discern what I should do now and should anticipate in similar future circumstances. Do you know what I mean?