Saturday, April 21, 2012

"The Teacher is Silent During the Test."

...What was left out of this quote that appeared on Facebook the other day by the mother-in-law of the church member woman who's in fistocuffs with me? A key word. "Always." Implying that my supposed heresy against the tenets of the Lutheran church were a test of the woman in question's faith in Christ, the mother-in-law quoted "The teacher is silent during the test." But "always" was missing, thus the quote was misquoted. Indeed, God's not always silent when He teaches us things. Sometimes He screams in our faces. Sometimes He provides outward signs of His power and presence. Sometimes God is trying to teach us important life lessons via unconventional ways and means, i.e. NOT just through the Holy Bible. Through people, through music, through poetry, through meditation and prayer, through sacred texts. Through the founders of our denominations. Every day.

I can't tell you how many people in my life have told me personally or written to me that my nutty irreverence towards my faith in God has brought them closer to their own God, be God in whatever incarnation suits those individuals. That's what's called, in Christianity, "witnessing." I'm an unlikely witness. An oddball witness. A punk witness. I witness for Christ, most definitely, for I am a Christian. But can I quote random Bible passages at the drop of a hat with which to witness? In truth, no. Not since I was in my early teens. But I still have my Confirmation Bible, highlighted with all my favorite verses in it, which I refer to (and refer others to) from time to time.

As part of my offbeat witnessing, I posted this to my Facebook today, which I found hysterical. Over on Twitter (@AndreaMiklasz), my tweets are protected and only the select people who ask to follow me can see the 140 character musings or observations I post. There are various sarcastic "Jesus'" and "Gods" and "Satans." But I received an email that garnered me that elusive 100th Twitter follower...a glowing achievement, if I do say so myself.

Keep in mind: Satan wants to follow ME, not the other way around. Sneaky asshole that he is. Naturally, I accepted his request.

Some Lutherans are so stuck in their ways that the witnessing of the Contemporary worship service is scary and unfamiliar to them, and they don't like the unconventional Christian music we play. I wish that weren't the case, but the band is part of *how* I witness, even though, as I've said many times, I don't listen to CCM in my daily life. I don't listen to KLOVE radio. I'd sooner listen to Iggy Pop duets with Yoko Ono. (How cool would THAT be?) Some of the songs my band plays? I honestly don't like them. It's a matter of musical tastes, not the message. It's been better since Pastor's been picking out the set lists, rather than our old guitarist, who would compile sets of songs that sound exactly like one another (maybe that's just the nature of the genre..but it seems like, sometimes, I'm playing the same beats and fills for like 3 songs in a row. The songs we play need more diversity, to me, anyway, as a musician).

But I digress.

A lot of what I pray for includes God making things REALLY obvious to me, because I need it. I don't do well with God's subtle cues and clues. When God showed me what my purpose was in life, I took it head on, though I feel like I'm treading against the tide, mostly because of medical setbacks that continue to impede on my stampede on jump-starting my career in psychology. I know what I want out my love life; it just seems out of my grasp at the moment. I know I'm raising a fantastic son, that much is at least on track with God's plan. I continue to ask God to bless me with the blessings He's given and continue to ask for forgiveness, patience and understanding. I ask God to relieve me of the physical challenges that engulf me and threaten my health on a continual basis.

The embattled church member posted this strut-worthy status update to Facebook the other day. It's amazing how naive and humbled, yet egotistical and grandstanding one can be in the same statement:

"I unashamedly believe what the Bible says. I believe God created the world in 6 days (dinosaurs included). I believe He flooded the world and saved Noah and his family. I believe Jesus said He was the only way to heaven. I believe all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I believe Jesus will return. I believe I am imperfect and cannot do a thing to save myself. I will not apologize for these beliefs."

Dinosaurs included! I don't recall shaming her into believing what she believes. I take no issue with most of what she says. I believe that God created the world in 6 "days," but that those days were billions of years long, and the concept of "days" was a metaphor in the Bible chosen so that humans who followed a 24-hour clock could comprehend. I believe He flooded the Earth, now whether or not God had Noah on the World's Largest Ever boat with Every Living Species of Anything (in pairs!), ok....we know He saved Noah and his family...anyway, I, too, believe that Jesus said He was the only way to Heaven. He is the Messiah. Jesus wasn't about to tell His followers to follow other gods. And yes, we have all sinned (from birth) and are imperfect. Christ will indeed return to judge us, though as I told a friend recently, I don't see it happening in my lifetime or my child's children's lifetime, though who knows, with all the crazy shit that has been happening in the world. And no, there's nothing we can do to "save" ourselves. Only God can save our souls. So no apologies necessary from this woman on what beliefs she holds to be true. I don't believe I ever questioned her having those beliefs when we were in religious combat on Facebook.

My brother is a very Christian man, raised LCMS, though now belongs to a more casual yet even more Bible-based and charismatic denomination, River of Life. He plays drums in his church's band, too. Several holidays ago, Luke got me a book by Buddhist philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my favorite philosophers, called Living Buddha, Living Christ. My brother wasn't happy about the book, and thought it would inherently teach me erroneous things about the comparisons to Buddha and Christ.

But Hanh raises very salient points in this book. For example:
"But we must distinguish the 'I' spoken by Jesus and the 'I' that people usually think of. The 'I' in His statement is life itself, His life, which is the way. If you do not really look at His life, you cannot see the way. If you only satisfy yourself with praising a name, even the name of Jesus, it is not practicing the life of Jesus. We must practice living deeply, loving and acting with charity if we wish to truly honor Jesus. The way is Jesus Himself and not just some idea of Him. A true teaching is not static. It is not mere words, but the reality of life. Many who have neither the way nor the life try to impose on others what they believe to be the way." (55-56)
SEE: ORTHOPRAXIS. AGAIN. "Correct belief, correct action."

In Paul's letter to the Romans, 1:16-19:

 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.' For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all un-godliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth."

Read: "He who through faith is righteous shall live." But as long as we're speaking of wickedness, the mother-in-law said this about me on Facebook, for all of our mutual church friends (and former church friends) to see:

 Do not waste your time dealing with a dysfunctional loser that is screaming for attention, she needs professional help. The silence of other church members is only an indication that they also don't care to deal with her rants. Be at peace, ***, and know that "the Teacher is Silent during the test."

I can't find to whom the quote is attributed, but let's say my presence in this woman's life, which as she put it, makes her physically tremble in anxiety and discomfort, would be reason enough to keep our lives separated. Perhaps the silence of the other church members wasn't based on the fact that they didn't champion her religious beliefs; but rather, using their collective wisdom and intelligence, they were able to piece together that I'm not one of Jesus' lost lambs and that I wasn't inherently evil OR insane. True, I'm not your average Lutheran. But I'm not your average anything.
"God God God
A voice cries in the wilderness
God God God
It was on the longest night
God God God
An eternity of darkness
God God God
Someone turned out the spiritual light..."
The woman replied to her MIL:

 Please, no more name-calling. I'm done with it. Just let it rest.

The MIL didn't let it go and retorted back with the following snark:

just sayin she should take her Meds and do MORE PRAYIN !!!!

Oh, pardon me! This "dysfunctional loser" didn't realize that sitting in the Seat of Judgment was plopped upon by the ass of this trembling young woman's haughty, bejeweled mother-in-law. I thought that seat was reserved for, well, GOD. I appreciate her suggestion to take my meds, which I do, every day without fail. As for doing "more prayin'," she has no concept of how or when or why I pray or chant or meditate. What should I be praying for, MIL?

(The MIL likes to brag at church about what computer geek geniuses her twin sons are, one of whom is married to this woman. Well, among the many gifts God has blessed me with so richly, are the powers of logic and reasoning, intellectualism, humor, artistic ability, a photographic memory, musicianship, writing, and PS--I'm damn good when it comes to computers. We'll get to more of that later.)

But I digress. Some philosophical examples to ponder:

In How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, as translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, it is said:

"The pain which is yet to come may be avoided.  There are three kinds of karma: the karma that has already been created and stored up, so that it will bear fruit in some future life, the karma created in the past or in some previous life, which is bearing fruit at the present moment, and the karma which we are now in the process of creating by our thoughts and our acts."

Essentially, karma is just the Hindu/Indian/Sanskrit version of the Christian "Golden Rule," as Jesus taught us, to do unto others as we would do unto ourselves.  Different culture and different reference, but the principle is almost exactly the same.

 Nietzsche said:

"Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one."

Keith Richards said:

"There's nothing wrong with the gun. It's the people who are on the trigger. Guns are an inanimate object. A heroin needle's an inanimate object. It's what's done with it that's important."

Further on in Paul's letter to the Romans, he says (12:19-21):

"Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. No, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

"I'm done with it. Just let it rest," she said. The woman from my church literally almost begged me to stop arguing with her, because it caused her so much stress and she said she was more anxious than she'd been in the last year, so much so that she blocked me from Facebook altogether. Fine by me. It put her in such a tizzy that she couldn't remotely enter into an intelligent religious dialog with me, because the entirety of her religious intelligence comes from the Christian Bible and no other religious resources. Theology is not the easiest subject to understand. The load of engaging in a religious debate with me was more than her brain could process.
"God God God
You are the wisdom that we seek
God God God
The lover that we miss
God God God
Your nature is eternity
God God God
Your are Existence, Knowledge, Bliss..."
Which is why I find it SO utterly fascinating that she visited my blog 13 times in the last 2-3 days, several times a day, for lengthy stretches, as bad as the gang at Balderdash & Verities bad and it's just begun. I know she's using a Mac. I know that she's searching me on Google by my name. I know that Firefox is the browser she's using. Her "unknown ISP" she's trying to hide behind anonymously traces directly to a domain that includes her last name, owned by her husband, so it was literally less than a minute's time before I knew who my new blog fan was. 

Even though the woman said, after quoting from the Bible, gasp, AGAIN:

 I understand why no one said anything now. Everyone else understood the verse I shared later that day and knew saying something would only prolong the issue.

Prolonging the issue? Everyone else understood? Still, no one from the church came to her defense against me. Because getting involved in a pissing contest (like the mother-in-law was trying to start) would be worthless. Not terribly Christian. Mind-numbing (for me and my friends). As my one friend, who is in the LCMS said, the mother-in-law's behavior was "inexcusable."

She said, before her mother-in-law got involved:

 I never thought I would have to defend such a position to a fellow church member. Nor did I ever think I'd belong to a church where other church members, after seeing both of us post, me defending the position that, theoretically, we all believe, would stand silently by while I'm insulted, by this church member, for my Biblical position.

And I never thought I would have to defend my positions which weren't even insulting, they were fact-based, logical, and thought-provoking, overtly liberal and humane. 

"God God God
Won't you lead us through this mess
God God God
From the places of concrete
God God God
Nothing's worse than ignorance
God God God
I just won't accept defeat..."

I said this to her, after reading what she and her family had said about me: 

"Why didn't anyone come to your defense from the church? Probably because you lost the war of intellect. I'm sorry I ruffled your feathers in such a way that you experienced physical symptoms of anxiety but, in all fairness, your MIL decided to essentially call me a psycho who needs to take her meds to the REST of our church community. I just took them, as a matter of fact. Making fun of someone who has mental illness and addiction issues isn't very Christian of you, S*** (or your MIL, who's the one who said the aforementioned). FYI, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are all recognized as diseases by the CDC and the DSM-IV. In case you're wondering, the DSM-IV is the psychiatric BIBLE. Homosexuality is STILL not recognized as a disease. 

My "loony rants" are nonesuch. You have no opinion of your own, and I urged, begged you to think, for just a moment, outside of the Bible box and consider other peoples' perspectives outside of the LCMS, like a lot of my friends, many of whom are also Christians but practice other denominations, like my Episcopalian friend, Jennie. Maybe you would've liked to discuss your fears with my United Church of Christ minister friend, Nicole. Or my Unitarian friend, Laurie. Or my atheist friend, Sreedhar. I don't expect you to apologize for your beliefs just as I won't apologize for my own. I'm going to Heaven. You're going to Heaven. Jesus loves both of us. Again I say, I don't need saving. I know I'm saved through Christ. 

How about instead of the scriptures from other religions, I point you in the direction of Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason?" Einstein read it when he was 13. You should be able to handle it by now.

Next time you want to go off on your own rant about how your feelings were hurt and nobody from church saved you from the Scary Liberal Punker Chick, you'll think before you post. There is that old "hide conversation from" option. Just sayin'. 

My salvation from the material world is through Christ. Your capacity for un-forgiveness and a lack of Christian ethic in your own Facebooking is astounding."

She spent the following day doing little but quoting Scripture, which was totally self-aggrandizing and not, I believe, in the true spirit of Christianity. It was to prove her point, to appear to be the obedient Lutheran, reinforcing it with the only armor that she carries, the armor of the LCMS. Though she blocked me from Facebook, I have several other resources with which to see what she's posting. She accused me of "attending a Lutheran church" but not "practicing Lutheranism" because I disagreed with some (but not all) of the denomination's doctrines. I challenge anyone from St. Paul to agree with EVERY SINGLE doctrine or position that our highly conservative denomination professes. I believe in Christ as my personal Savior, was baptized, confirmed and am an active member of the church. Is that not enough to satiate my accusers? 

I've always said that I thought Jesus was a radical punk who hung out with other radical punks. He didn't cater to the high and mighty, the wealthy, the holier-than-thou, the over-indulgent (like this chick's mother-in-law). During His time on Earth, Christ spent time with the poor, the lowly, the outcasts of the world, not the aforementioned. I still maintain that Jesus was a radical punk in His time, who picked a bunch of other punks to break away and follow Him. 
"God God God
Must be something I forgot
God God God
Down on Bullshit Avenue
God God God
If we can only stop the rot
God God God
Wish that you'd brainwash us too..."


Anonymous said...

I would challenge you to consider this woman with compassion. Whatever you think of her intellect or whether you believe her reliance on the bible is blindeye and without reflection. I challenge you to see her as Christ sees her (and you, and me) -- through eyes of tender, patient, accepting love. She, like you, is striving to live out her faith in Christ in the way she believes he requires. Neither of you is 100% right, as you both are 100% human and fallible.

Andrea Miklasz said...

I TRIED coming towards her with compassion in early emails once we started debating the tenets of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. I encouraged her to open her mind to the belief systems of other denominations and other religions, to educate herself.

Christ does indeed look at us with tender, patient, accepting love. But her calling homosexuals and alcoholics "sinners" who have "diseases of bad choices" is intellectually preposterous.

I flat out know that I'm 100% human and I sin. We all do. We all must repent for our forgiveness. But she's said of me that I don't "practice Lutheranism" if I don't subscribe to every doctrine in our denomination, another incorrect assumption. She may believe she'll see folks of other denominations in Heaven, she believes that Lutheranism is the only correct denomination of the Christian religion.

My impression is that she considers herself above reproach because she can counter-attack every position I have backed up by the Bible, while I can quote from not only the Bible, but multiple other resources when we spar, and her mother-in-law's nastiness was indeed NOT an example of living as a Christian.