Monday, April 23, 2012

The World: (Not So) Evil and Dangerous!

From hanging around with people such as Scott Lively in my fundamentalist Christian homeschooling community, I understood the danger that America was facing from the gay agenda.  I believed that the gay lifestyle was depraved and corrupt and a sign of rebellion against God.  I believed that God expected me to use political activism to stand up for righteousness and his design for the family.  I believed that my "pro-family-values" activism was actually me being loving to the deceived people around me, people who were just taking the easy way out by accepting every type of lifestyle.

Then one day I accidentally met a gay person.

It was at my first real job, when I was 23 years old.  My favorite manager, Chris, called the store one day while he was off-duty.  He chatted with the on-duty manager Katie for a few minutes; when she hung up, she remarked to me, "He's so funny!  Why did he call me from a gay bar? haha!"

I was extremely confused.  "Yeah, that's weird," I said, trying to process the information, "Why would he be at a gay bar?"  Her jaw dropped, and she stared at me for a minute.  Then she said slowly, "Um.....because he's gay.  Didn't you know that?"

It was a huge moment for me, but a million panicked thoughts flooded my mind at once.  How was it that I hadn't noticed anything "different" about him?  He seemed so normal and sweet, not at all detrimental to society!  He had always been so thoughtful to me, even from the first day I walked in the store in my awkward unstylish clothes and shyly handed him my resume.  He was the first guy to tell me that I was pretty, that I looked like his favorite childhood actress Molly Ringwald (he couldn't believe that I had never heard of her).  But he was gay??  What was I supposed to do now??

I started to feel a huge spiritual burden for him, the feeling that I had a responsibility to help him get out of that damaging lifestyle somehow.  But how should I approach that topic with him?  Should I try to talk to him about turning away from that lifestyle and starting to follow Christ?  Or should I just invite him to church and let God speak to him through the sermons and the pastor?  I couldn't really see either scenario playing out very well, so I waited and thought and prayed.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had no idea what was inherently wrong with gay sex and gay love!  Why was it not equally valid?  It started to seem a very arbitrary thing to forbid, and reality didn't match what I had been taught about it in Christian culture.  In some ways, I felt like my gay boss was a better example of love than many of the Christian people that I knew.  After all, he had hired me willingly, even though he knew that I was a very conservative homeschooler and very likely to be strongly anti-gay.  I knew he would not have gotten the same treatment from many conservative Christian employers.  Cautiously, I started to think to myself, "Maybe homosexuality is ok after all."

And that was just one of many cracks that formed as my Christian worldview hit reality.  For the first time in my life, I was hearing about other worldviews directly from their source, instead of a filtered, watered-down version presented merely to strengthen my own worldview.  And, for the first time in my life, I realized it was possible to hold different opinions from my own without being "blind", "deceived," or "in rebellion against God"--my worldview was not so obvious, and "unsaved" people were not so bad after all.

But what were the implications for the Bible?  I had always tried to approach it simply, ready to believe the literal interpretation even when it required personal sacrifice.  To me, it was a timeless book, orchestrated by God, without contradiction, the only reliable source of truth.  But as cracks formed in my carefully-constructed Biblical worldview, in the end I had to decide what I thought about the Bible.  I had always avoided my natural curiosity about how the Bible came to us in its current state--it certainly didn't fall from the sky in its present form!  Acknowledging my questions about it was terrifying, but ultimately necessary.  If it were really from God, and if I really genuinely wanted to know the truth about it, I shouldn't have anything to fear.  So, very gradually, I looked at my beliefs and asked the hard questions.

My worldview said, "The Bible is the source for morality!" --But then why does it condone things like genocide, and call men "godly" when they offer their daughters to be gang raped, and advocate forced marriages between a girl and her raper?  Why doesn't it condemn slavery and child sacrifice and polygamy with child brides?  My worldview said, "The Bible is written by eyewitnesses, and their accounts don't contradict each other!"  --Then why was I afraid to look at the supposed contradictions?  They are there, after all, and just saying they don't exist isn't a valid argument.  The Bible has internal contradictions on theology and history, and there are significant variations between historic manuscripts.  Also, many of the books have unknown authors and were first written sometimes hundreds of years after the events took place. In its present form, the collection of books we call the Bible doesn't have even more contradictions because those other books were thrown out as "uninspired" simply because they contradicted too much.  My worldview said, "The Bible is the source of truth about salvation through Jesus!"  --Then why are there over 2,000 language groups in the world today that have no way to access that truth?  Why have billions upon billions of people lived and died without ever having a chance to hear it?

I was rooting for my Biblical worldview to win, I really was.  It was comfortable because it was all I knew, and I really don't like change.  However, in the end, it didn't hold up very well against reality.  In the end, there were too many cracks, and my worldview shattered.  And when it shattered, I finally saw what a tiny box I had been living in, and what a huge, beautiful, and interesting world was out there to discover.

Since much of my personal growth happened while I was in college, some have said that my changing opinions were the result of "liberal college brainwashing".  To those people, I doubt that I could say anything to change their opinion about that.  However, the fact is that at no time during my education at community college or Christian university were my opinions mocked or belittled.  At no time did anyone tell me what to believe or not to believe.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the fundamentalist Christian homeschooling environment.  That is where you are told what to believe.  That is where other opinions are belittled.  That is where even questions are dangerous.  I don't want to be part of that culture anymore.  To me, a worldview is not worth keeping if it requires ignoring or twisting reality to fit the worldview, pushing down your questions and doubts, and only listening to those who already agree with you.

These thoughts took a very long time to process, and my ideas are still a work in progress today.   For now, I am finding that many of my new ideas fit within a looser interpretation of the Bible, one where I don't completely abdicate my responsibility to think about what's right in today's world.  I see that morality was a work in progress in the Bible, and I accept that it still is today too, and that I have a role to play.

8 comments:

  1. I applaud you for writing this down and sharing it.

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  2. "In some ways, I felt like my gay boss was a better example of love than many of the Christian people that I knew."
    THIS THIS THIS. I've often mused that my non-religious gay friends act more like Christians than most of the people at my church.

    Great, great post. Thank you for writing it. :)

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  3. "For now, I am finding that many of my new ideas fit within a looser interpretation of the Bible, one where I don't completely abdicate my responsibility to think about what's right in today's world. I see that morality was a work in progress in the Bible, and I accept that it still is today too, and that I have a role to play."

    The further from the Bible you get, the more responsibility falls on your shoulders. It can be overwhelming at times; my escape from the Catholic teachings of my youth was slow and erratic, because I had to really think. However, the journey is worth it.

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  4. Wow, incredible! I feel like I could echo so many of the experiences you describe here; about how the cracks started to form in the image of an inerrant Bible, how finally that worldview shattered altogether, and when the dust had settled from that I began to really discover reality and truth and beauty and freedom for the first time. Also the part about people believing "liberal college" has brainwashed me.

    I found you through Libby Anne's blog, and will definitely be reading more of your posts. :)

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  5. I had a similiar experience during my doubting stage about 2 years ago. I started becoming a regular poster on a local dicussion site. I got to know some of the people there on facebook, and one well known poster there was a man who was a National Guard veteran, a factory machinist..... and gay. He really smashed all the preconceived notions I had about gay people. Then I get to know a woman from the site in person, her and her husband own a music store in my town, and I began to realize getting to know her that many of the lies I was told about Wicca growing up were not true. She is one of the most wise, and loving people I have ever met, and has much better character than most people I knew in my 21 years of being a Christian (I'm agnostic now).

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  6. One of the first major cracks in my worldview came in the form of Michael Jackson. I had always been told he was crazy, if not evil. When I actually listened to his music and watched his music videos I realized he was an amazingly talented singer and performer. I remember having a very clear thought at the time, "I wonder what other lies they've told me?" The next major crack was when I, as a single woman, moved out of my parents' home and the universe did not implode. Then there was the agnostic boyfriend. Our relationship was the healthiest I'd had up to that point, a lot healthier than previous dating/courtship relationships with christian guys. The final blow to my worldview was studying soil. There's no way to hold onto a creationist worldview and study soil.
    I like what you say here, "I see that morality was a work in progress in the Bible, and I accept that it still is today too, and that I have a role to play." I am still sorting through who I am and what I believe. My family is very critical of anyone who is not their type of Christian. This means that it will not matter if I end up on the Christian, rather than agnostic or atheistic, side of things. To them, being a liberal Christian is just as bad, if not worse, than being an atheist. Makes me want to go be an atheist.

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  7. "I was rooting for my Biblical worldview to win, I really was. It was comfortable because it was all I knew, and I really don't like change." This is where I'm at right now. It's kind of terrifying.

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