Saturday, June 18, 2016

Yeah, I Went There...

In my childhood, my family regularly attended a Methodist Church, where as a teen I also participated enthusiastically in the youth group and sang in the choir. College, however, took me on a detour through some quite … interesting … phases… Until in my mid-twenties, when I jack-knifed back into a full-on obsession with Christianity.

The church I grew up in
If you need a “birthday” or “born again day” I would consider this to be it, rather than the mild interest of my youth... although I'm not altogether sure how that works. So we’re talking the eighties… When it all got political… you know, the Moral Majority and all that stuff. I attended a church that was long on love, loose in style, but pretty tightly orthodox, theology-wise. People took the Bible literally, studied it fiercely, nodded their heads to James Dobson, and worried about the world.

There was very little grey area, so the how-tos of Christianity were pretty easy to follow… including the fact that we were all Republicans. And yes, by we, I mean me too. I hung out with a bunch of people who believed in trickle-down economics… that healthy sex happens between two heterosexual married people… that babies should be carried to term under nearly every circumstance… one of these people was actually one of those scary avid proponents of 2nd Amendment rights.

These days it’s easy to look at Christians and see only the kind of rabid conservative, hateful, person who is freaked out by the possibility of running into a transgender person in the bathroom. So it may be difficult to believe these friends of mine in the 80s/90s also believed in helping the poor and needy… in a very in-the-trenches way. They volunteered at homeless shelters, built homes for Habitat for Humanity, fed and cared for AIDS patients… and took care of each other tirelessly. 

While the Republicans one hears about on the news seem to hate everyone, these people were some of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. They believed that God loves every single person in the world and wants to save them. They just thought that trickle-down economics would provide jobs for the poor… and that the ultimate way to love people is to bring them to the One who loves them the most and the only One who can save them – that is, God… And part of coming to God involves repentance.

Honestly, I still have friends like this. At Christmas time, when the field of candidates was much larger, I was at a dinner and one woman piped up, “Who are y’all going to vote for?” The group then went on to discuss the Republican candidates as if they were the only ones on the table. And, coward that I am, I just clammed up. My friend Grace said later, “I wanted to say so bad, ‘Julie likes Bernie Sanders!’ ” Because I really do, y’all. I love how he cares for the poor and wants to change things. I’m not sure he’s the practical answer, but I do like him.

And I also love my friends and know where they’re coming from. I think for many the primary issue is abortion. I remember having a discussion with a guy and saying to him, “You act like abortion is the only issue.” And he said, “It is.” And, truthfully I love babies so dang much it is like a knife to my own heart to think of someone killing them, even if they do look like a blob of cells at the time. But there are other aspects to this debate. I am pretty conflicted about it, myself.

Mostly, though, my political feelings have jack-knifed since my early days as a Christian, although my theology has not. I still believe in the statements of the Apostles' creed, and the sweet simplicity of John 3:16… It’s how these beliefs relate to who I’m going to support in any given election that has shifted. Although I don’t believe that any political party embodies the Christian faith and its moral ideals. And no politician or party can save anyone.

If you’ve read my stuff before, you won’t be surprised to learn that this is all just a really long meandering introduction to something else that I wanted to say… And that is, I was at church on Sunday, and I found myself almost a little bit dreading what conservative thing might be said from the pulpit. I usually dread it for my husband’s sake, who is really liberal, but on this day, HE WASN’T EVEN THERE!!! 

When I realized what was happening in my head, I felt REALLY convicted about how cynical I’ve become… about my own people. And I had to repent. I had to try to let go of the anger and suspicion that I had built up in my heart. It would be impossible for a whole church full of people to agree on every single issue, but we DO agree on the love of God and people's need to know about it. 
Prince, y'all!
Attribution: Micahmedia at en.wikipedia

And the truth is I have NEVER seen or heard anyone in my church say or do anything hateful, and I HAVE seen them do all kinds of loving and helpful things. You should see how they rally ‘round when somebody is suffering. When I was nearly killing myself with anorexia back in the day, they didn’t see a selfish, skeletal, drug-taking, promiscuous goth chick. They saw someone who needed God’s love. And their love. 

Of course, I’m not saying every single Christian is made of only love, (*cough* Westboro Baptist Church) or negating any pain anyone may have felt from clumsy Christians... but I am saying… well… I know even the mildest of us look kinda judgey with our insistence on Jesus, but… it’s just 'cos we love you. So don’t judge us too harshly… 

Most of us are just trying to figure out what's right and how to do it. I mean, even Prince believed in the exclusive claims of Jesus, right? Of course when you’re Prince, well... you're PRINCE! And we can’t all be Prince, now can we? 

We CAN dig this rockin' song by him, though!