Wednesday, April 29, 2009

why i'd sometimes rather not be called a Christian

i love the Bible. i think it's full of divinely-inspired ideas to help us live our best lives. however, when i see how some people interpret the Bible, it both devastates and terrifies me.
(if you would like to know what, exactly, this blog is in direct response to, please read this article: Rebranding Hate in the Age of Obama. apparently, the coming-to-office of a intelligent, articulate, popular African American has brought about a surge of Bible-fueled racism. really?)
in the Bible (NASV), the word 'love' is used 320 times.
the word 'hate' is used 90 times.
in the New Testament (where Jesus' life is), the word 'love' is used 189 times.
in the New Testament (where Jesus' life is), the word 'hate' is used 12 times.
(courtesy of
i'm not here to discount the Old Testament - certainly there is much to be gleaned from Israel's colorful history and the ongoing efforts of people to commune with God (something we've yet to perfect). be that as it may, i cannot deny that the New Testament has a certain special relevance, a voice into my life that speaks words a bit different than many of those from the Old Testament. Jesus himself said (in Matt. 5):
43"You have heard that it was said,
and hate your enemy.'
44"But I say to you,
love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you.
though these are only two verses out of an abundance of text, this idea of putting ones own grievances aside in order to show love to those for whom hate naturally rises, saturates the teachings of Jesus (the man for whom this faith is named, by the way). i could copy and paste a hundred or more verses into this blog, in which we are compelled to show love to everyone (especially those we consider enemies), but i will not.
the point of all of this is to express my bewilderment at the ability of people (fellow Christians) to take this book and build hate on it: racism, sexism, homophobia, general judgement on the 'thous' who are not 'holy'. how do they do it? how do they live lives devoted to God that embody the opposite of the thing that permeates the heart of God (love, in case you weren't paying attention)?
more importantly, how do i do it? what things in my life, what ideas, opinions, lifestyle choices, judgements, etc., do i continually uphold in the unfounded belief that they are godly? scary, right? i don't believe that these members of KKK offshoots believe that they are in direct opposition to the will of God, though I believe they are. could the same be said about me?
these are the times that i begin to think that the Roman Catholic Church of the middle ages had it right - only learned, holy, clergy-people should be able to read the Bible and then tell the rest of us what it means. sure, some have argued that the corruption of the church in that era surpasses that of any other time or place - church+simony+the plague+docetism+state=general licentiousness, to describe the tip of the iceberg - but i think there is something to be said for a bit of discrimination when it comes to Biblical exegesis.
i suppose the biggest problem is that, for every single person who opens the Bible (or visits, there is a different set of lenses through which the text is seen. no wonder there are thousands of (sometimes feuding) denominations. i guess the only thing we can do is recognize our own prejudices, and pray for clear vision. example: if i knew that i had a tendency toward homophobia, i would say to myself 'self, try not to read your own homophobia into the Bible'. and then i would say to God, 'God, please help me see/hear your words clearly, apart from my own biases.' if every Christian (including myself) practiced this sort of honest pursuit of truth, abandoning tradition and convention, if necessary, i think that there would be less times that i would rather not be called a Christian.

Monday, April 20, 2009

beautiful baptist babies

the blog title may or may not make sense when you've read this, but i am a sucker for alliteration.

i have had a few blog ideas floating around in my head for a while, but haven't sat down and written them. ideally, they would have come at three very different times, each fully developed, written and posted before the next arrived, but here we are. they are very different, too: one is reflective/spiritual, one is more creative/subject to your own interpretation, and the other is a bit political/ecclesiastical. i'm just going to write them all here, now. that's right, it's a three-for-the-price-of-one sort of deal, except there is no actual currency involved, just thoughts and reading . . .


i do not have children. but i do, from time to time, take responsibility for my two young nieces. they are dears and i love them very much. there are, however, times when they are in my care that i am grateful that i do not have children.

one of these times was just this past week. i was babysitting, and, like the fun aunt that i am, letting them watch a new movie that nana had given them for easter. we were watching it in the 'back house' (not their house, though only a yard away - not yard as in the measurement, yard as in a grassy knoll). anyway, one of the girls (who will remain nameless, to protect her sparkling reputation) was being particularly whiny, even though, as I saw it, she should have been enjoying herself thoroughly.

from time to time, when she would express herself in an inappropriate manner, i would threaten to cut her movie-viewing short and bring her back to her house. these threats bounced right off of her grumpy little aura and it soon came time for me to prove that i was serious.

i threw her over my shoulder and carried her home.

she was displeased.

in her defence, she had been sick, it was getting late, and she is only 4 years-old (her anonymity is slipping).

i did feel bad, but i needed her to know what acceptable behavior was and was not. in fact, i tried to reason with her - telling her that if she was obedient, calmed down, brushed her teeth and put on her pjs, then i would take her back to finish the movie. these offers, like the earlier threats, went unheard. i could hardly hear them myself, above the crying.

in the end, i sat on her bedroom floor, watching her stand with her fists clenched toward the floor and her open mouth toward the ceiling, as if she were about to take-off.

eventually (after about 45 minutes), she stopped crying , apologized and was as cute as ever, but i couldn't shake her tantrum.

i love her. she knows i love her and she loves me. the terrible woe that had befallen her was of her own doing, but she built a sort of wall between us for those 45 minutes. she did not want my help or comfort, even resented it. there really was nothing i could do until she decided to warm up.

i was effected by this because, as i watched her in her out-of-control state, i couldn't help but see myself.

i know that many people don't get christianity, or why anyone would commit themselves to such a thing, but i think, in it's most timeless, simplest form, christianity is just a relationship with the Creator. that's all. kind of like being a sister is always just a relationship with a sister - something you can't really be rid of, but the nature of which, you can control.

what does this have to do with caelia (anonymous no more)? well, i can't help but think that what i experienced was a bit like what God experiences. i just wanted to give her good things, and then comfort her, help her make the best of the situation she had tainted, but she wouldn't let me do any of it.


i wanted to tell her how pretty she looked. and she did look pretty. her hair fell perfectly and it's dark hue framed her fair face and light eyes with stunning precision. her make-up was bright, but she wore it well. her green dress fit close around her body, and her dainty shoes lengthened her graceful stance.

she was beautiful. maybe more beautiful than i had ever seen her.

but i couldn't say so.

i was too hurt. i still am too hurt. i smiled and nodded, wishing that such trivial gestures could carry with them all that i meant to say. all that i wanted her to know.

to tell her she was beautiful would be to pretend that these compliments were the most important things i had for her. they were not. they probably never will be because my mouth would never form those words - forever frozen, bound by chains of inner conflict.

and so, i will see her again. she will be beautiful. maybe even more beautiful, but i will not say it. it will not be able to say it. it seems a crime to let such loveliness go unpraised, especially in one for whom i have such love. it seems a crime indeed. but many more crimes have been committed before this one, and it is these crimes that close my mouth full of honesty into a sweet smile.


evangelical christianity.

let us, just for a moment, compare christian denominations to ice cream flavors. i love vanilla ice cream. i think it's great. it's tasty, it's trusty and i know what i'm getting. but, i would never pretend that vanilla ice cream is the only flavor of ice cream worth trying. if i were to decide that it's vanilla or nothing for me, then i would be viewed as ignorant and borderline masochistic. why would i ever deprive myself of the joy of other ice cream flavors? they have so much to offer - endless horizon-broadening potential. sherbets, for instance, promise a tangy, fruity bite - something that vanilla, in all it's deliciousness, couldn't hope to achieve. why would i forever deprive my pallet of such an experience?

i wouldn't. i shouldn't. i wont.

to be honest, and forgive me for being a bit dramatic, i have felt oppressed by evangelical christianity as of late. despite all of the wonderful things that it has to offer, sometimes i find it short-sighted and bound by conservation conventions that have questionable roots in scripture and seem to be in direct contention with the heart of God. beyond that, maybe it is just sort of oppression i would feel if i were to only ever eat vanilla ice cream - like i'm missing out on other great parts of the catholic (universal) church because i've found something that i like.

i have thought very seriously on and off over the past few years of joining the episcopal church. especially after my time spent in the anglican church (in england), i think it would be a good fit for me right now - it's physical reverence and routine devotion might be just what i need to recover from years of very emotional and, at times, narcissistic worship.

i'm still not sure. i really do like the church i attend now, and it has a relatively faint few of the things from which i seek refuge. who knows, maybe i wont ever leave, i will just keep talking about it. i suppose it's different if you admit that there is more out there and choose not to partake - better than pretending you've found all you need.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


on saturday, i bought a small bottle of perfume that smells of lilacs.

i wear it.

i love it.

it makes me feel that, though the rest of my body is enjoying the beauty of spring in north carolina, my nose believes itself to be in new hampshire, where the lilac is the state flower, and its gentle, yet invigorating scent fills the air in the bright northeastern spring.

the scent makes me feel happy and new. there is something special about spring in a place where there is a real winter from which to recover. when those lilac bushes finally bloom, proving themselves unbroken by the months of frost, it refreshes the spirit. what can i not overcome, in the face of this delicate purple flower, one that is just as delightful as it was before the snows came? which of us can boast such resilliance?

i am told that there are lilacs in carrboro.

i must find them.

Friday, April 10, 2009

it's been 17 days

oh my. it's been 17 days and i haven't posted anything.

you know what i blame? my job. i've been actually working all day, every day over the past few weeks. isn't that nuts? i know, i'm about to ask for a raise if i'm going to actually be doing things.

i jest, i jest. it's been nice, actually. i feel like a real professional, with real responsibilities who doesn't online shop more than the average real responsible professional.

there is a lull right now, and so, though i'm not particularly motivated to write, i will, just so i don't forget how.

there have been a few developments in my life:
i have health insurance for the first time, well, ever. so i've had an eye exam, a physical, and there's a dentist appointment on the books. i'm actually getting glasses for reading and computer stuff, apparently i'm far-sighted. who knew? i picked out these really hip banana republic glasses, but after being told their cost, i opted from some lovely little glasses out of the (not-labeled-this-way-but-i-assume) bargain drawer. they're nice, black and simple. i resisted the temptation to make gains in my life-long quest to appear intellectual and artistic by choosing simple frames. i think it's good for me.

i started going to classes at the gym - yoga first and now i've been to one 'body pump' class. i plan to go to more, but it's been 3 days since my first one, and i am just now able to walk up and down stairs without gripping the railing for my life. i'm hoping it will get easier as i get more ripped. i also went to a 'body jam' class because i like to dance. it was kind of fun, but full of middle-aged women who have been doing that same routine for months. i wasn't crazy about the choreography either. maybe i'll try a different instructor . . .

this happened a while ago, but i think it was pretty great and i never blogged about it: my lovely friend johannah and i, while she was here visiting, were the 'featured performers' at jack sprat's (a fun local bar) weekly open mic, which happened to fall on st. patrick's day. it was great fun. the guy running the thing (alex, i believe), plugged us between each act that preceded us, which was fun, we played a whole mini-set and even got paid a bit. it was johannah's first paying gig, and my first gig in nc that didn't involve any of my family members. it went well - everyone was already having a good time, so it was a good crowd to play for. johannah played some of her lovely original music (which can be found here:, and i played a few covers: carey, by joni mitchell (for the second time at that venue, but i'm sure no one noticed), what if i stumble, by dc talk (which spurred the following conversation with a jovial young man up front -

young man: was that jars of clay?
me: no, dc talk, but you were close.
young man: i knew i heard it at church. what, are you trying to make me feel bad?
me: (laughing) that is not our intent. we're just here to have a good time.)

jo and i assisted each other with back-up vocals where we could, and overall, it was a great experience. playing with friends is always a lot of fun. just like playing with family, but different. i closed out the set with closing time, by semisonic, which was particularly fun because all of the responsibly-enjoying-their-alcohol folks sang along.

speaking of gigs, oscar begat had a show last week. i was not really that pumped about it. i don't know why. it was in durham on a thursday and it was a shortish set, so i didn't' really invite many people. sometimes those shows, those ones that i'm not that excited about, end up being some of the greatest. this was like that - there was a lot of energy and we just had a whole lot of fun. it made me sad in light of the impending dissolution of oscar begat, but i guess it's better to go out on a high note.

speaking of gigs, again, i went to a show at the pinhook in durham last friday: the last show of tooth, a wonderful durham-based metal band including my friend noah, the drummer, who is an animal once you get him behind a kit, and sometimes when you don't : )

i stood on a chair against the right wall of the venue so that i could see and so that i would not be moshed. i kind of felt like a mom, watching the mosh-pit. i was glad that everyone was having fun, but also very concerned for their safety. it was a great show, lots of energy and adoring fans.

an ending little story: i just joined i sent an email to some people asking them to join too, so i can see what they're reading/have read/recommend. i started the email with 'i'm bored at work . . .'. i, without thinking, sent the email to my boss at her work email. that's all.