Friday, October 26, 2012

Because I listen to the words (Part 27)

They started a new slogan at my Christian radio station a while back.  It irritated me in the way that these things usually do when I know they are created by nice people with good intentions who just don't think things all the way through.  The first day they were trying out this new slogan, the DJ jovially identified the station call letters and then went on to say, "where you don't have to worry because the lyrics are safe for the kids."

Now, I know what this means; I speak evangelical enough to know that this means there is no swearing or talk about sex.  I know this radio station prides itself on being family friendly, positive, uplifting, encouraging, etc.  (I know this because they say it approximately 100 times a day.)  The thing is, sometimes things that are positive and encouraging and safe for the kids due to the absence of swear words and sexytimes are things you still have to worry about because they're bad theology.

I mean, maybe it's not as embarrassing for your kids to publically sing the words to Citizen Way's "Should've Been Me" as, say, "Last Friday Night" by Katie Perry.  * (See Note below.)  But do you really want them unconsciously accepting the prosperity gospel nonsense "Should've Been Me" teaches?  The song as a whole is not necessarily theologically face-palm worthy; the exception is the verse where the singer talks about how he lives in a nice house in a nice neighborhood with nice friends and a good wife and lovely children and how he feels bad that he often forgets that this is what Jesus died for.  Upon mature reflection, I would like to believe that these lyrics are another example of people just not thinking it through (possibly because it's such a nice, bouncy song, and the rest of the message is good to think about), but . . .

My very first thought after I stopped being stunned and appalled was, "Really?  You think Jesus died for your middle class yuppie American dream comfort and happiness?  That's . . . wow.  Really?  How very sad."  Because my Jesus died to take away the sins of the world and bring abundant life to the suffering victims of attempted genocide in Africa and the terrified, frequently injured in drug battles folks in South and Central America and the persecuted and imprisoned people in the Middle East and Asia and all manner of other humans who do not live middle class yuppie American dream comfortable and happy lives.  He died to give us all the same thing: eternal life as adopted children of God and membership in a universal body of believers past and present.

The thing we all share is what Jesus died to give us, not the temporary comforts some of us have because the rain falls on the righteous and the wicked.

However, I can see why "where you don't have to worry because the lyrics are safe for the kids as long as you make sure they understand the lyrics and discuss any problematic theology with them to help them learn discernment" just doesn't roll off the tongue in quite the same simple, positive way.  So of course we have to go with the one that's easier to say.  (And then we wonder why people don't bother to try to listen to and understand Christians.)

I guess this should serve as a warning to those who don't already know that mindlessly consuming "Christian culture" doesn't necessarily have fewer pitfalls than consuming "secular culture."  Just different ones.  It's a reminder for those of us who are tired and weary and don't have the energy to deal with it.  Maybe we can turn our brains off once we get to heaven, but we've gotta' leave 'em switched on down here.  It's a fallen world, and there are lies everywhere, often cleverly and attractively disguised in wrapping paper of safety and comfort.

* (Or maybe you would.  Maybe hearing your child mindlessly chirp the sad, reduced, lie of prosperity gospel in public would embarrass you more and lead to some good conversations with your kids.  If so, way to be awesome!)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lord, teach us to pray (Part II)

So I stand here panting from the effort of figuring out what to say, silent in another hour of need. 

What I want to pray is,"God, please don't let me lose my job in the layoff the day before I talk to the surgeon.  God, I know I complain about the arm and how much simpler things would have been if something was just ripped/broken/torn and repairable, but I think maybe I take that back in this case.  God, please don't let me need surgery.  Please don't let this be torn or worn away or dented.  Please don't let this be arthritis."  So many things I am asking for.

"What I want is for this to go away quickly because the magic cure to this one thing--God, please, just this one damn thing--exists, and I can afford it, and I'm not allergic to it, and it won't make things worse, and my inability to heal quickly due to exhaustion won't matter, and then this will be over, and I can go back to concentrating on the pain in my arm and my jaw and my foot and my wrist and my shoulder and my knees.  Please, Lord, aren't those things enough?" 

There are so many people who have it worse, and I feel like a jerk for praying for me instead of them.  "What should I be saying, God?  Please tell me."  These are some of the things I consider saying.

Instead I stand silent on the official prayer channel. 

What if I once again pray for the wrong thing?  (And then get what I pray for?)  But what if I just need to pray one more time for the answer to be yes?  Is it sinful for me to wonder if it's like that parable about the old woman getting justice because she kept at that corrupt judge, or was that the point of the parable "always pray and never give up."  But this is a young woman and a righteous God, and how do I know if what I ask for is justice or just selfishness?  And maybe I'm supposed to just be whimpering help, but it feels like a cop-out, like laziness, like weakness, like failing.

"Lord, teach us to pray," one of His disciples said.  Oh, please, God, please.  Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Standing silent in the armory, crying (out) (Part I)

I used to pray a lot to arm myself when facing "battles."  I would pray all the time during volleyball, basketball, racquetball, and softball games, concert performances, plays, presentations, the science fair; whatever the battle, I prayed for help and victory.  As I've dealt with chronic pain, there have been days where all I could muster was a whimpered help to God every few seconds.  I think back then, God was always very aware of what I wanted. 

Now I am afraid to pray like that, like a selfish, demanding brat.  I want, I want, I want, please, please, please, me, me, me.  And so I don't pray as much.  There're still a lot of whimpering helps as I add new pains to my total, but I don't know that I consider this quality time in communication with God. 

I am so afraid of praying for the wrong things that I just don't pray much at all unless specially called upon.

There is too much pain in me.  I have asked for it to be removed (this cup, this thorn in the flesh), and the answer so far has been no (or, charitably, not yet), and I am tired of praying the "wrong" thing, tired of hearing no, wait, not yet, no.  Tired of not knowing what to pray to get a "yes."

And so I am silent. 

And so is He.

I am afraid to want the wrong things.  I was so glad when my arm wasn't fractured, when nothing big was torn, when the nerves weren't ripped.  But now that I float in a sea of uncertainty that will remain unresolved because I am at the mercy of OWCP, sometimes I think maybe I shouldn't have prayed, "Let it not be broken, let it not be torn, let it not be ripped."  As if praying these things led to this result.  As if my pain is somehow my fault because I asked for the wrong things and God did what I asked just to spite me.  The pain interrupts sleep, which makes it hard to think, and I am so unreasonable sometimes I can hardly stand it. 

Continued next post . . .

Friday, October 5, 2012

Adopting embryos: Y'know, I don't even know what to think about this

Possibly the only thing here that didn't totally creep me out here: 'These are image-bearing persons who are endowed by their Creator, not by their “usefulness” with certain inalienable rights. Opening our hearts, and our homes, and sometimes our wombs, to the least of these is a Christ-like thing to do.'  I guess I would still suggest that Christians prioritize adopting currently-born children and teenagers around them who desperately long for a home and a family.  As Christians, we really aren't doing a very good job at this whole "looking after widows and orphans" thing, leaving aside this idea of adopting embryos.

On a related note, I have to say that every time I read an article about the tens of thousands of dollars people spend trying to get pregnant while so many kids sit around now waiting for families, I get pretty irritated.  I don't talk about it much because I'm usually told that I just don't understand since I am not a person who is looking for another person to have children with.  Maybe this is true, but I do understand cold, hard, numbers, and I think I have a basic understanding of stewardship.  I guess that's why I can't fathom why people think it's a better use of their God-given resources to desperately try to get pregnant while abandoning the orphans in their communities.

I'm told I don't understand the desperation of women who can't get pregnant, like Hannah and Sarah and Elizabeth.  This is true.  However, they prayed, as far as I know, and didn't spend thousands of dollars to get their babies.  (This might not be true.  Maybe they did sacrifice extravagantly while praying over the years.  I guess the Bible just doesn't mention that, so I can't really know.)

Sometimes you get a baby, and sometimes you don't.  Sometimes a terrible person who doesn't want kids and mistreats and raises them badly gets to easily have lots of babies, and you, a decent person, do not.  That is the cold, hard truth of the matter.

I don't understand why this is so devastating when, as I have mentioned, there are plenty of parent-less kids around who want parents.  If you want children to love and care for and raise, there are plenty out there waiting desperately for you right this very minute!

I am told that this is not really the point.  I guess I just don't understand what the point is.

As I said, I don't talk about this much.  It doesn't seem helpful or really sensitive to toss off around people who might be having fertility issues because I really don't understand their pain at all (which does not invalidate that pain).  But I guess I think it does need to be said, to be tossed out into the sea of possibilities and ideas because maybe it's something someone really needs to hear, and maybe it could change the life of a child somewhere waiting for a parent and a home, especially since some states are staring to make it illegal for single people to adopt.