I’m about 40 pages into my latest theological read and I figured I would give some first impressions. I picked up How (Not) to Read the Bible because I’ve come to question what I really believe about the Bible. So I’m trying to dive in and study different view points.
I’m not very far in, but my first critique is that Kimball is redundant. This could be an attempt at helping with memory consolidation, but it comes off as mildly annoying. Also, a huge pet peeve is that he used a scene from Star Wars as an example of taking a line out of context (relating it to taking Bible verses out of context) and he got the context of the Star Wars scene wrong.
So those are just some first impressions. Figured I would use the excuse to update the blog.
My husband has found a new church that he loves, and while he naturally wants me to go with him, he has been exceedingly respectful of my deconstruction journey and knows that I’m not really ready to start going back. But the pressure is on, even if it’s just self-imposed pressure. I’ve gone with him to service once before, and it’s a great little community. Yet, the idea of regular attendance sends off warning bells and makes anxiety bubble up in my stomach. It would be lovely to have a church where I can deconstruct my faith and still be surrounded by people who love me and accept that I question pretty much everything. However, I’ve already experienced a church that was “accepting” of your struggles – up until you weren’t magically cured of your doubts and sins within a reasonable amount of time (and for them, reasonable was less than two months). So I have a healthy dose of skepticism when a church family says they accept you right where you are. There are usually terms and conditions to that statement.
But the work day beckons, and I must heed the call of gainful employment. Hopefully I’ll get to write more on this soon.
I don’t know what I want to believe any more. Part of me wants to continue to be a Christian. I can see beauty in the theology and in Scriptures. However, the moment I look around me and see all the brokenness, I just don’t know if I can believe in a God. I know Christianity has answers for this (this brokenness and suffering is our fault and our own doing, among other things), but those apologetics no longer bring comfort or peace to me. I’m struggling to determine if it’s Christianity itself that’s holding me back or my resistance to Christianity that’s holding me back. But holding me back from what? Peace of mind? Growth? Fulfillment? What do any of those things really look like?
I have decided for the time being, I won’t be attending church. I have had many bad and some even traumatic experiences at every church that I have attended. I under stand that “people will be people,” that does not mean I have to submit myself to such treatment. In many cases, if these events had taken place outside the church, no one would hesitate to encourage me to remove myself from the situation. Why should church get a special pass? I can forgive and walk away. By leaving for a time does not mean that I’m unforgiving or even hostile, though I have had my share of those moments. It is possible to forgive someone (or many someones) and still protect your own dignity. I have been belittled, overlooked, gossiped about, had harmful rumors spread about me, etc. and I will not tolerate this any more. I can forgive those who have hurt and damaged me without sticking around for them to continue to do so.
There is no biblical reason to stop going to church; in fact, the Bible warns against it. But part of deconstructing is learning it is okay to do something without biblical justification. Church is not a healthy or safe place. Full stop. A thousand arguments flood my brain at these statements, all berating me as a terrible person. Ultimately, I have to take care of my mental health and enduring guilt-laced sermons every week just because I “ought to” no longer makes sense to me. And I’ve been learning that not acting the way I ought to is okay.
The past few weeks I have dove into considering what it means to deconstruct my faith. I’ve written snippets of blog posts, expanded out my reading, and have been listening to audiobooks. I felt like I was starting to see the path ahead when my depression decided to flair up again. I’ve spent the past two days unable to write, not even able to journal- a daily habit that usually brings me clarity and contentment. I’ve slacked off on my reading, and sitting in contemplation has been a bigger struggle than usual. I’m fighting my three biggest stress reactions: shopping, emotional eating, and the urge to lay in bed and stare at the wall all day. I’m still doing my hobbies, but it’s forced. And what to do spiritually? I have a goal to finish reading a book on deconstruction in the next few weeks, but the thought of opening up my Kindle app and engage in what I’m reading feels overwhelming. So how do I interact with all of this while battling depression at the same time? My brain has wired itself to bring up false guilt: that I’m not good enough if I feel too blah to have a deep thought of any kind. For years I’ve seen things of faith as duty, and so giving myself permission to be free of my goals and intentions, even for a day, feels wrong. I need to give myself more space to just be, even if that being involves a chemical imbalance at the moment. I need to remind myself that deconstructing is a process and I don’t have to already have my conclusion.
Prayers to Mother Jesus. The divine feminine encompassed within the Trinity. This concept seems totally foreign but has come up several times in my reading lately. Trying the words “Mother God” in prayer this morning felt awkward and uncomfortable, but just how much of that discomfort is from traditional evangelicalism? Yet curiosity has me pondering this Mother God. I’m not sure where these thoughts are going (if any where).
“Kavod [respect] is far more than mere civility, politeness, or the thin veneer of tolerance that may mask a barely concealed disdain; rather, the word kavod is etymologically related to the word for ‘heaviness,’ ‘weight,’ and ‘significance.’ Truly honoring a human being means you regard them as inherently significant, weighty, worthwhile and having something of value that they contribute to the world. Kavod means you see the other as a beloved child of God as indeed he or she is – to not necessarily agree with all they may have said or done but to recognize the essential goodness within their souls for that too is God’s will.”
One thing that irritates me is Christian nonfiction that belittles Western culture while ignoring the privileges that culture gives the author. This issue is of note in Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus. I agree with Tverburg that the Bible is an Eastern document and that for too long the church has tried to reinterpret it through a solely Western perspective. However, she falls into the trap of disparaging Western culture with its individualism as being inherently selfish. Tverburg and other authors fall into the trap that one culture is inherently superior to the other, not just different. However, these authors ignore a major point: this “inferior” Western culture gave them privileges that they would most likely not have gained in other cultures. Tverburg celebrates being an “armchair anthropologist” and encourages her readers to pick up some basic Hebrew vocabulary for their Bible studies. And there is nothing wrong with that: except it ignores the fact that that level of academia, even the causal “armchair” level, is a privilege of Western societies. To have the free time, the money, the opportunity to study, to purchase books, to read, to further your knowledge is a privilege we have. It is ignorant to dismiss Western culture as somehow less, and ignore the fact that it was that very Western culture enables so much of what you propose are good things.
That’s not to excuse Western culture or to crow over other cultures. We have a lot to learn from Eastern cultures. This lack was recently seen in the “controversy” over wearing masks during the pandemic. Many have focused on their individual rights (such as the “right” to ignore government mandates) over the good of the whole (preventing the spread of a pandemic-level disease that is extremely fatal). Eastern cultures see the good of the whole over the good of the individual, and have been wearing masks during cold/flu season for years in order to stop the spread of disease.
But excuse my minor rant. I’ve been thinking on this while reading and wanted to get it out on “paper” while my brain was somewhat enlivened by my morning cuppa.
I’ve started a handful of posts for this blog, but can’t seem to find the inspiration to write. I feel like I’m getting nowhere with this deconstructing, but neither have I actually put any effort into it. Thinking about religion triggers anxiety and anger and I don’t want to be driven by my emotions. Somewhere in my long, storied religious history, I learned that emotions were bad. They always led to sin somehow. My love, anxieties, frustrations were evils I had to control. Any excess emotion had to be quelled. This education started with my parents labeling me “sensitive” in response to any expressed emotion and continued with my religious education. Now I feel like I have to face everything on a cool, intellectual level, and I’ve equated this coolness with religious correctness.
So here I am trying to face something that is intellectually and emotionally turbulent with a coolness that I simply don’t possess (because my parents were right, I am sensitive). However, when I feel like I can’t maintain an academic aloofness, I avoid. I have stockpiled a small collection of books to help me process my deconstruction, but I can barely make it through three pages at a time. I begin to feel suffocated.
How the hell am I supposed to sort this out? I want to be practical and measured, but my mind revolts; I can’t divorce my emotions from this and frankly, I need to stop trying. It’s okay to feel emotional about this. I’ve spent a lot of emotional energy in my pursuit of Christianity. The mental patterns I built within evangelicalism can’t simply be shrugged off. Most of these patterns were unhealthy and reinforced by an unhealthy approach to religion. A large chunk of it is that I fall into the trap of almost every cognitive distortion covered in therapy, and that’s me without religion. I think and process poorly in all areas of my life. It was through therapy and seeing my cognitive distortions that I first realized that my religious thought patterns were harmful to myself. I had incorporated countless sermons straight into an arsenal of distortions that I daily used to convince myself I was overall lacking.
It’s one thing to know that you’re brain is twisting every thought into an attack. The hard work is re-wiring your brain to stop those thought processes before they even start. If I hope to reconstruct anything from this, it will be a lot of hard, emotional work. I have to stop avoiding the hard, painful things.