A Line Exists

I started following Rachel Held Evans’ blog a few months back and I really appreciate the topics she brings up and how she addresses them with grace and love and an open mind.  I find that, through her blog, I have been able to contemplate ideas and values that I’ve unconsciously held and exercise my theology in ways I’ve rarely had opportunity to.  Sometimes, though, she worries me a bit.

Her most recent post gives me pause, not in it’s topic, but in some of the things she has to say regarding the idea of gender binaries.  I am more than happy to discuss the idea that there is some gray area between the black and white of male and female.  One need only look at the fact that some people are born with both male and female sex organs to see that it’s not always cut and dry.  It seems obvious to me that there are people who don’t fit neatly into one category or the other, but I don’t think that means and anyone who wants to can change, reassign, or forsake their gender just because they don’t identify with our society’s expectations for them.  I myself, in addition to being solely attracted to my same sex, don’t fit with really any of the typical male personality traits, but I think that means we need to make our definition of male and female fit us, not adjust our gender to fit into those definitions.  Granted, this is only my limited perspective and, having never known a transgender or intersex person, I can’t speak with any real authority on this subject, but I feel that my experiences have given my some perspective on this issue.

The thing that worries me most in Rachel’s post is the second to last sentence “But if our theology doesn’t “work” for the least of these…then it doesn’t work at all.”  While I agree there is plenty of room for discussion about what the Bible does and doesn’t say, and I greatly appreciate Rachel’s passion to be inclusive and loving of all God’s creation, I’m very concerned by the idea of trying to make our theology “work” for everyone.  God is who He is, the Bible says what it says, and I think it’s dangerous to try to re-work that to fit our idea of how things should be.  When we read the Bible and discuss theology, we need to be careful of starting with our own biases and trying to fit what we are reading into what we want it to say.  Of course, I’m not saying Rachel is necessarily guilty of this and even if she were, she wouldn’t be the only one (not by a long shot).  I think what I would most want to make sure of is that Rachel agrees with is that there is a line somewhere.  There is right and wrong and while I think there is a lot of room for discussion about where it is and while I would never claim that I know the exact location, I just hope she remembers that the line is there.

One final thought: While I absolutely believe there is one set of absolute truth in this world, I don’t think we should ever assume that we’ve found it and therefore, we should never stop seeking it.

Be Not Far From Me, My God

My sophomore year of college, I took a class called Psychology of Religion.  It was one of my favorite classes and it caused me to really evaluate some parts of my faith that I never had before.  I remember one day in particular, we were discussing worship music and that feeling you get when you really press in and praise God.  My professor told us about a study that showed that the type of brain activity that happens when worshiping God is similar to what it would be at a concert; it’s believed to be caused by the energy of the music and the excitement of the crowd which, to me, made it seem like that feeling was somehow false or dishonest.  If I could have the same reaction by just getting into live music, then maybe that feeling wasn’t God’s presence or the Holy Spirit like I had always thought.  This didn’t really make me doubt my faith, but it did cause me to stop worshiping in the way had been accustomed to.  At first, I thought that I just needed to stop making it about me and the feeling I got and just praise Him, but I began to realize I couldn’t really separate the two; when I tried, I just became bland singing with no emotion behind it.  Then I tried for a more solemn earnest worship experience where I considered the words and tried to sing them as a prayer.  This helped me feel closer to God in some ways, but the lack of energy made me feel like there was no one on the other end of my prayers.  I tried to worship God and talk to Him, but without letting my emotions get in the way so that I could prove it was really Him and not a trick of my brain chemistry, but nothing comes through.  So now, I’m left to wonder, does God’s silence, the lack of any type of touch or sense of Him, mean he doesn’t exist or do I need to let go and allow Him to communicate with me through my own thoughts and emotions and, if so, how do I know that I’m any different from someone experiencing some form of psychosis?  How do I know when a thought of feeling is God or just something in my human brain.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when people attribute things (ideas, circumstances, opinions, etc.) with no foundation.  I’ve tried really hard never to do that, but it’s possible that I may need to trust in Him, pray, and do my best to discern what’s really from God.