I am a writer.
Technically, I was a daughter and a wife long before I became a writer. I was a daughter and a wife before becoming a spirit-filled Christian, before becoming a writer. I am a daughter whose mother remained my sole tangible evidence that a benevolent God existed as bible belt churches offered reams of evidence that God is a pissed off Caucasian giant standing in the shadows wielding a hell-fire heated baseball bat.
I am a wife known to argue against the viability of love and marriage successfully coexisting. My husband won me over to marriage at the age of twenty-one. A southern charismatic pastor won me over to true spirituality eleven years later.
On the first day I visited his church, that amazing pastor started his sermon by posing a question: What’s the leading cause of atheism? With a steady gaze he looked over the congregation a full minute before answering: Christians! I was the only person among two thousand or so that laughed out loud, then stood to applaud.
Five amazing years under the tutelage of that pastor changed my life. Even so, the deep fundamental arguments I had against leaders of organized religion, in general, and their rampant, deliberate perpetuation of unkindness, fallacy and superstition were not dispelled. (And I am still prone to cuss a lot.)
When I earnestly began working toward making writing more than a hobby, I envisioned a day when my writing might splinter the power of such deliberate perpetuation of unkindness, fallacy, and superstition. Frustration won out, and so I am a writer who often avoids writing about any personal beliefs beyond literary likes and dislikes.
I am a reader.
As the story goes, my mother noticed me “reading” when I was eighteen months old. She found me sitting in the living room floor with a newspaper opened across my lap, my stubby little fingers gliding carefully along black-inked lines, my lips moving silently. I looked up at her and smiled, then went back to my task. She started buying books for me soon after.
I read the bible the first time (not the little comic-like pamphlets handed out in Sunday School, but my grandmother’s extra-large family bible) when I was eight years old. I was fascinated by all the “begats” in the front of the book, and the red-inked lines near the back. I was fascinated by the story of all those animals traveling two-by-two toward Noah’s handmade boat … were the other animals aware they hadn’t been chosen? Were they okay with that? Did they send the others off with friendly goodbyes?
The beehived blondes that facilitated Sunday school classes for children ages 5-9 hushed all my questions and pursed their lips a lot. Apparently it’s rude and quite unladylike to be a curious skeptic third-grader. The eventual encounter of true kindness quieted my most antagonistic questions for a while and I kept showing up for Sunday school until the seventh grade. Deliberate, shocking cruelty chased me out before the first day of eighth grade. Cruelty from a spiritual teacher … if God would ever wield a hell-fire heated baseball bat, jerks like that are in for it.
I am a student.
I was a student long before entering public school. One of my earliest memories is a frustrating incident in which I tried to articulate to my father that WHYs must be solved and he and my mother were responsible for explaining everything to me. It was their duty to answer all my questions so why did they fumble … I suspected them of keeping secrets on purpose.
Why? How? Show me. Prove it. Teach me. My parents really didn’t know what to do with me and hoped fervently that once I was enrolled in school they’d get some relief — they had probably hoped the same for Sunday school, but that only afforded them lengthy naps once a week.
Most of my elementary teachers didn’t bother to hide their annoyance. I was labeled a troublemaker in the first grade. There were many parent-teacher meetings. Mama and Daddy perfected a simultaneous eye-roll and sigh that would have been pretty comical if I hadn’t understood it was all my fault. By middle school I was just tired of asking. I was tired of adults in general. So I read.
That charismatic pastor I met years later won me over because he was a REAL TEACHER. He encouraged study. He encouraged questions. He appreciated skepticism. Why can’t there be more people like him leading churches?
I thought of him with every page I read during a comparative religion study in college. I think of him every time I encounter an illiterate bible thumper determined to bring back tar and feathering to town squares across the nation, or a stubbornly ill-contrived thesis composed by an overblown, self-serving atheist professor. I think of him every time I do a study on a long accepted Christian principle borne from a mistranslated line of scripture. I truly miss that pastor.
He is a missionary now. It’s just a shame that God thought he’d better serve hungry people in Africa rather than people of the southern U.S. suffering spiritual starvation.
I am not an Evangelist.
Among many (erroneous) teachings in the church, I find one in particular problematic — all Christians must accept the duty of evangelism. I don’t buy that … I have no confidence in the accepted definition of evangelism. Just because a person enjoys some success managing their own checkbook, doesn’t mean they should teach finance seminars. The same applies.
Spreading the gospel is a weighty responsibility taken far too lightly by far too many and done badly for centuries. I want no part of knocking on front doors to ask complete strangers if Jesus Christ is their personal Lord and Savior. I want no part of any organization that might lend leadership status to a lone, fallible human without understanding how far he or she might go to fulfill his or her personal agenda.
I will not take up this charge. Instead, I will be a daughter, a wife, a reading student, and a writer confident enough in her own faith not to go around stomping on the faith, or abnegation of, desired by others. According to those red lines near the back of the bible, salvation is ultimately a personal choice. Who decided salvation could, and should, be harangued? Maybe someday I will get over my personal frustrations long enough to write about the power of just shutting up and staying away from other people’s front doors.