Tuesday, July 11, 2006

71. Personal Jesus

So, I’m reading this book right now called The Culture of Make Believe on the recommendation of one of my coworkers.  It’s a fascinating book, dealing with both historical and modern injustices and how the people who are committing the injustices deal with their role in the equation without admitting guilt.  To reference a fairly simple example, the slave owners often justified their position by insisting that they were bringing Christianity to their slaves, thereby saving them from their ‘savagery’.  

Anyway, in the author’s lengthy discussion about slavery (and I have to stop here and admit that I have not finished the book… it is huge! So perhaps he continues this discussion at some point, I don’t know), he makes some off the cuff statements about Christianity and the Church that angered me.  One of them particularly stood out, because it was only half of a thought, and he doesn’t seem to ever come back and complete it.  The statement was this (not necessarily completely accurate as I don’t have a copy of the book right here, I’ve left it at work): “To say that Christianity is opposed to slavery is to not understand Christianity at all.”

It frustrated me, because the other half of that coin was never exposed… which is “To say that Christianity supports slavery is to not understand Christianity at all.”  What I mean by this is that it is quite clear if you read Scripture that Christianity was never meant to be concerned with politics or economics.  Democracy, capitalism, etc… these are not “Christian” ideals, these are Western ideals.  Every time anyone tried to engage Jesus in a political discussion he always shut them down because that was not what He was about.  It’s not like there weren’t injustices going on all around Him that He couldn’t have spoken out about.  It’s not like there wasn’t immorality inherent in the system of the day that He couldn’t have opposed.  That just wasn’t His intention.  And Paul, as the writer of most of the New Testament, upheld this standard, he never told anyone to support or reject any particular system, even one as abhorrent as slavery (even though it is fairly obvious in his writing that he did not approve  -- “there is neither slave nor free” etc…).  Christianity was never meant to be about anything more (or less) than an individual’s personal relationship with God through Christ.  This, incidentally, is one of the reasons I get so aggravated with the Religious Right movement… this attempt to use Christianity in a way it isn’t meant to be used (at least, according to how I see it).

So, what does this have to do with what I normally write about here?  Well, again this is one of those times when you’d have to live in my brain.  (Which, yet again, you can all be thankful isn’t possible.)  I was responding to a comment when this idea of the ‘personalness’ of Christianity came up.    I found myself being perhaps too curt with this commenter because again I felt frustrated by what seemed to be a lack of understanding, or to put it more clearly, an assumption that they did understand something that, from their comment, it appeared that they did not.   What was this statement?  Well, among other things it was that I need to stop seeking the approval of others.  Because I’m in a chatty mood (it’s 1:32 in the morning here and I’m very verbose in the middle of the night), I’ll say that I believe that community is very important, and that the Western Church often puts way too much emphasis on the ‘individualistic’ aspect of Christianity, ignoring the fact that our faith was meant to be lived out in community (much like how I believe that life in general is meant to be lived in some sort of community).  That having been said, this debate I’m having really has nothing to do with seeking the approval of others.  Do I want this approval?  Of course I do.  I’d love to think that no matter what I do, or where I land in this debate, my friends will approve of my choices, but I know that that is just not possible.  Some people will be upset and disappointed should I end up choosing celibacy and others will be upset and disappointed should I end up choosing to pursue a relationship with a woman.  

If it was merely about other people’s approval, I’d be out trying to date women right now.  I know it would probably mean losing a lot of friends, and I’d almost certainly have to leave my church (not that I think I’d get kicked out, I just don’t think I’d feel comfortable fellowshipping with people who probably wouldn’t think I was a Christian).  And my mother… man, that’s just a nightmare to think about.  Perhaps I wouldn’t tell her, if I’m perfectly honest.  And I’d probably end up leaving Ottawa (a city that I love) in order to find a community of believers that I could fellowship with.  As much as all of that would suck, and I know I’d cry (a lot), I’d do it.  I’ve been uprooted enough times in my life (both forcibly as a child moving around with my mother, and voluntarily as an adult eager to explore the globe) to know that I can survive it.  I can make new friends and start again.  It doesn’t scare me.  And it would be worth it to get what I think people get from those personal and intimate relationships they have with their partners in life.  

And the debate between Side A and B (and even X, even though I tend to dismiss that side of the equation) is not even to see which side ‘wins’. (Although, I admit to wishing that one side could just ‘win me over’ and then I could be done with this.)  

No, the ‘debate’ (I even hesitate to call it that right now) is about how I live my life as God wants me to.  As self centered as this sounds (and really, how else is it going to sound on my blog?), this is about my relationship with God.  It’s not about other people’s approval, it’s about His.  And it’s not even so much about His approval as it is about our relationship.  I want to be able to relate to my Father, my Friend, my Lord… and I can’t do that if I’m engaging in behavior that I believe He has said is wrong.  (Not that our relationship is all that great right now, but that’s an issue for another post.)  And, as I am unconvinced on this issue either way, I do nothing.  

There’s a Christian cliché that is often used to bully non-Christians into listening to us talk.  I’ve heard my mother do this on more than one occasion as some poor waitress, or mechanic or whatever tried to politely get out of a religious debate by saying “I’m just not religious.”  My mother counters with this Christian cliché, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship,” and then she keeps talking while they try and figure out what on earth she just said.  As much as I’m not a fan of this phrase (it cost me a lot of money, as I often went back to our table and left extra money as a tip because I felt so bad for the poor waitresses, as my mother would bombard them, and then leave pittance as a tip!), it’s true.  What Christ was concerned about was not ‘religion’ as we tend to use the word today.  There was plenty of religion in Israel at the time.  What He came to do was to provide a way for us to have a relationship with God.  A personal, intimate, individual relationship with God.  And if that was what Christ was concerned with, then it is what I want to be concerned with.  

Anyway, it’s now 1:53 am, and I should try and go back to sleep.  


Boo said...

So what exactly are your feelings on whether or not it is possible to have an intimate relationship with a woman compatible with a relationship with God? If it's not too personal.

I'm glad you're clear about not going either way just for someone's approval, but I can understand the frustration some of your friends seem to be experiencing with you. Honestly, there are times I just want to reach through the computer screen, plant a big wet one on your lips, and go "See?! Not such a big deal!"

But I would never do that ;-)

JJ said...


I though you'd vanished. Excited to see you back.

My thoughts on the whole compatibility issue? Outlined in my last post... and they basically are that I have no thoughts. Or rather, that I have too many thoughts. As I stated in a comment to that post, I do believe that this is a personal thing. In that, whatever side I land on, I won't insist that people on the other side are wrong. Mainly, if I end up Side B, I won't judge Side A and say that they (you guys, I guess) aren't Christians. I'm not a relativist, but I do believe that there is grey in the world, and the Bible acknowledges it. The whole "food sacrificed to idols" issue... you know, if you think it's wrong to eat that food and you do it anyway, then it's a sin, but if you have no problem, then eat away.

Anonymous said...

Hi JJ!

I left you the comment on your last post regarding the "approval". Let me first say that I did not find that you were too curt with me, so don't worry about that.

I did not mean "approval" in the sense of everyone who walks the earth, or even everyone you might consider a friend, but rather those who have a firm belief in one of the "gay positions" (i.e. A, B or X).

Having said that, I do understand and believe that we as people have a cetain need to be validated and supported in our actions and lifestyle. I guess I bring that up because once you decide exactly how you will live your life, whether that be celibacy or to have a relationship with a women, hopefully you will surround yourself with those who do support you and will simply disregard those who don't (to a certain degree anyway)....you'll always have to put up with you mom, we're all in that boat! :)

I think that your friends who pressure you "to just get laid, or kiss a woman"....etc are really just wanting you to stop depriving yourself of happiness. I understand how these comments can frustrate you, as it would anyone in your position. I think in some ways, they are a little jealous of you and here's my theory why:
Relationships come and go and with that can come a lot of pain and angst. They know that your indecision has inadvertently avoided that type of pain as you have not had and then lost someone with whom you were deeply in love ...cause that's a whole different kind of misery than what you currently deal with. I am not suggesting that they only want you to experience that, but it's usually something you want to get through early in life in order to find who you are (within a relationship) and what you want in a partner. They want you to have the deserved excitment of a new love, the butterflies in your stomach and finally to know that all of it is reciprocated.

Anyways, I can clearly see through your writing that you are quite an intelligent woman. I just feel that sometimes when one begins a debate like this or any other, the more it is debated, the harder it can be to come to any decision.

My last comment was not one of misunderstanding, but perhaps I did not articulate myself too well...hopefully a little better this time?

Maybe when you return to Ottawa, we can chat over a Tim Horton's double double.

jasmine said...

hmm.... i see your point. im not sure what to think about that though..

Shannon said...

Here's my bias right up front - as I've read your blog over the past few months I've found myself hoping that you would decide to have a relationship with a woman at some point. I also understand the dilemma that you're in. But here's my opinion about whether or not God would approve of you being in a relationship with another woman (feel free to take it with a grain of salt if you want to since I'm not a Christian and don't really even believe in God). From the reading I've done of the Bible I was always amazed at how little the laws factored into the things that Jesus did. Obviously that doesn't mean that they don't matter, just that they are secondary to His mission. He stated that love for fellow man was higher than any of the rules in the Old Testament. I don't think that a Christian God would create a person with attractions to only the same gender as themselves and then demand that those attractions never be acted upon. It seems very cruel to me and not something that the God that you worship would do, as He is all about love. It just doesn't make sense to me. I can see how people would arrive at the opposite position because laws are stated explicitly, but people seem to forget Jesus's disregard for certain laws. I'm sure my opinion is not a new one. Others have probably argued similar things. With all the books you read on the topic, you've probably come across it before, but I still wanted to express it and hope that it helps a little bit.

JJ said...

This is a quick comment as I'm heading to bed... directed at Anonymous,

do I know you? I'm just curious. You used my real name in your last comment.