Holiness vs. Humanity

It's official. I'm no longer an American Evangelical according to NPR. But I am #TeamJafael. Allow me to explain.

It’s been hard to sit down and spend time here. There’s a couple of reasons for that. First, I had a significant emotional event last week that was so upsetting I closed the store for the day. I couldn’t drive to get there, I was so shook up. Since then, I’ve struggled to sleep, having one night where I didn’t sleep at all.

Another reason is because the word is getting out that I’m writing publically again. When I imagine certain people reading, I get scared. I shrink away from the energy I’m meant to create from. I started writing here again partly because I need it therapeutically. I need to face my anger and get it out. Journaling on my own isn’t the same. Therapeutically, I need to be able to face the possibility of the disdain of others, even those I care about, and communicate my truth. After so many decades of holding it in to fit others definitions of morality and church culture appropriateness, I need freedom to say what I really think despite the possible judgment and backlash. I spent much of the first half of my life deeply afraid of it and this translated into everything from chronic pain to unhealthy drinking to inappropriate outbursts. I need to speak and write what I feel and think purposefully, but without shrinking away because I’m afraid.

The third reason is this eye candy’s fault:

Yep. I’ve completely fallen down the “Jane the Virgin” Rabbit Hole.

It's about way more than Rafael Solano, though. I need to write an entire post, at least, about why this show has me enraptured. Shout out to my friend, Annika, for finally convincing me to just do it. I’m so glad I did.

This show is touching on themes in my life profoundly. I’m being deeply affected by the three generation female bonds, the delight I find in the Rogelio character, the brilliant wit in which it’s written, and that Jane, the protagonist, is also a writer. I cry, laugh, can’t wait to watch again, and sneak YouTube montages when I should be working. And I ache.

I ache because I am so taken by the life of community the characters and the actors share. I long for a creative community of my own.

For reasons known and unknown, this is the time of life where I spend more time alone than I ever have. There are lessons here I need to learn. But my heart also hurts like never before. I am not naturally wired at all to live this way. It’s been necessary. It’s because of crisis. It’s just normal empty nest stuff. But I have had so much time to mourn the past and seriously question the future. In the language of church, this has been a dark and long night of the soul.

All that to say, Jane the Virgin is currently stirring up the feelings I have trouble dealing with on my own. So I am watching instead of writing. Fiction helps me face what otherwise lives in my subconscious that I want to avoid. Rafael drew me in, but Jane and her community keep me there. Lots of deep emotion coming to the surface for me as a result.

If you’d like to keep reading, here’s what I meant to publish last week. Happy Friday.
This morning I listened to the NPR podcast, “Thoroughline”. It discussed the history of American Evangelicalism in its episode, “Apocalypse Now”, and the role of Evangelical theology about Christ’s return in our politics. But what I want to write about this morning is how I knew after their definition of an evangelical that I am definitely no longer one. I’ve known it for several years, but the definition of what evangelicals believe helped me know how I can describe my, “Why” to others. Here’s a list of the four points they outlined about what evangelicals believe.

  1. Evangelicals believe the Bible is divinely inspired, unlike any other holy texts, by a God who is different from any other religions’ gods.

  2. The Bible is meant to be literally followed down to words and sentences, especially in the New Testament.

  3. Evangelicals believe in the transcendental experience of being born again according to John 3 for all people.

  4. Evangelicals believe in and practice the mandate to evangelize others.

I absolutely believed in and lived with this list for decades. But that has changed in the last five years as I’ve had to finally accept all four of these beliefs cannot stand up to scrutiny even among, or maybe especially among, the followers of Jesus Christ.

Could I look in the face of my ancestors and tell them what I’m about to write? After all, there are SO MANY spiritual leaders among them. My direct ancestors include missionaries that fled the Boxer Rebellion in China, William Brewster, the pastor of William Bradford of the Pilgrims fame, and the pastor who oversaw the first Protestant communion in California (the missions had issues with that). There’s a plaque about it in a San Francisco park. Could I hold eye contact with my (white male) ancestors and tell them what I want to tell you?

I’d like to think so, but issues of authority and my femaleness are still in my cells when it comes to speaking out against such a prevailing entity. People wonder how the evangelical voting block has become such an force to be reckoned with that 81% of them voted for Donald Trump. Well, I get it. I lived it. It is my mother tongue, the beliefs I cut my teeth on. But I feel like part of what I have to do is look in The Church’s eyes in small ways (most likely) for the rest of my days and say, “This is wrong and has gone horribly awry”. So that’s what I’m doing today even if one of those earthquakes in Southern California is my ancestors rolling over in their graves.

Evangelicals believe the Bible is divinely inspired, unlike any other holy texts by a God who is different from any other religions’ gods. When I was an American Evangelical I did not understand how large…LARGE…groups of other people could also believe this about their religious texts and leaders’ divine interventions and inspirations enough to create world followings. Why were we different? Well, we explained it away because Jesus rose from the dead, unlike others like (the first) Buddha, Muhammed, Confucius, etc. So Jesus must have been the only one chosen by God and only his teachings came straight from God’s mouth. This is where I admit this has been the most difficult tenant to let go of. I haven’t completely. BUT. I don’t understand how Buddhas, Muhammed, JOSEPH SMITH, etc. could also be believed by millions to be speaking the words of God. Here’s my bottom line: CHRISTIANS ARE MORE LIKE OTHER WORLD RELIGIONS THAN WE AREN’T. But we do not admit, explore, or consider this. Jesus said, “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” So if Jesus said this, it disqualified all other (unenlightened) followers of any other spiritual teachings. But I’m no longer convinced of this. Which leads me to point number two.

The Bible is meant to be literally followed down to words and sentences, especially in the New Testament. American Evangelicals are in such strong denial that they cherry pick Bible verses. This one makes me the angriest because it has done So Much Damage. But we’re still doing it. Evangelicals claim they only do this with the New Testament. But only two generations back, my grandmother was suspect by her inlaws because she wore red like a harlot and played cards which can be traced back to divination tools. One generation back has quoted the no tattoos and racial mixed marriages verses from the Old Testament several times to justify why these things are wrong. But, the Bible was never meant to be quoted as justification one verse at a time. EVEN JESUS SPOKE AGAINST THIS! But we’re still doing it. In my generation, one-tenth of our population has deeply suffered because men burning for other men is listed as a debaucherous sin. “Do we just ignore what the Bible says?” my ancestors cry. “Yes, actually. In this case, we do,” I reply. In the simplest terms, the Bible has been used for justification for genocide and slavery. It’s been used for the justification of women being considered the lesser sex and a husband’s property. Do I need to continue? WHY DO WE THINK IT’S DIFFERENT WITH THE WAY WE VIEW HOMOSEXUALITY? Because they threaten our belief of what’s holy and a threat to our power in this day and age. That is no different than our slave owning, crusading, women cannot vote because they bleed and it makes them weaker and emotionally temperamental, ancestors. This madness is not stopping and trying to change it was a fool’s errand. EVEN IF you say to me…no, this is different…it doesn’t matter. IT IS NOT OUR JOB. It was the Pharisees’s job. And THAT was the group Jesus spoke out against.

Evangelicals believe in the transcendental experience of being born again according to John 3 for all people. Ok, this one for me is pretty simple. The born again experience FEELING is not unique. I always struggled with this one and carried SO MUCH GUILT. Many, many of us…Christian or not…have life changing experiences all the time. The first time I fell in love was life-changing. Good sex is absolutely other worldly. Visiting a place where someone feels deeply connected to the people, land, and culture changes them forever. Waking up to your life purpose is transcendent. The U2 Concert at Oakland Stadium in 1987 was absolutely worship. A conversion experience at a retreat, for example, where your deep emotions have come to the surface, you haven’t slept great, and the music affects your nervous system is ripe for a conversion experience. I’m not saying God never meets people there, but the weight we put on it is way out of balance and often manipulated. I can’t participate in conversion culture anymore with any integrity or authenticity. Which rolls right into number four:

Evangelicals believe in and practice the mandate to evangelize others. This one’s simple. Because of one, two, and three, I can no longer invite others in. But the main reason I can’t imagine ever evangelizing again is because I need to add my own number 5.

Evangelicals believe God cares more about their holiness than their humanity.

In the last five years, I have had to grieve how much of myself I set aside, squashed, and thought was bad in order to “follow Jesus”. I didn’t think there was any room for so much of me. I believed I had to deny myself, take up my cross (translated: suffering for Christ was my daily lot in life), and follow him. I cannot tell you the level of sadness and anger I need to process about living this way for 25 years. Since I stopped going to church, I feel more myself than ever. I’m (slowly) starting to transition from blaming the church culture to accepting there are two people in every toxic relationship. But I know, most likely, I will never return.

It cost me my humanity to try and be holy. Christianity told me this is what I had to do. But the cost was too high. No more.