28Jan

Focaccia

Pearl Jam is exactly the right music with which to have a religious crisis. You just know that Eddie Vedder is singing from the depths of his own dreadful, gravelly crises and that he would understand if you suddenly shouted a very bad word into the angsty void. (I like Catherine Newman’s use of “focaccia” without the last two syllables.)

I am writing this knowing full-well that it is not socially acceptable to have a religious crisis, at least not in the Christian world. I imagine most other religions are the same way though, too convinced of their own rightness to allow wiggle-room. Admitting weakness to churchgoers inevitably spawns a feeding frenzy, and you haven’t met sharks until you’ve ticked off a Southern Baptist. I know. I used to be a Southern Baptist poster child, a preacher’s kid with curled bangs reaching up to heaven and more righteous indignation than the Bible. Yes, I would very much like to smack my former self too.

I managed to survive the “God loves my parents and thus hates me” crisis when I was thirteen, and then the “God might not exist” crisis prompted by my Christian apologetics class at age fifteen (Feel free to bask a moment in the irony. Are your pores opening yet?), and then the “God doesn’t listen to me,” “God doesn’t talk to me,” and “God is a misogynist” crises in college–all without telling a soul. The idea is to get over your shameful lapse of faith quickly and quietly and then tell everyone your “testimony” of how God brought you through.

If you’ve ever hit a rough patch in your spiritual journey, you know just how much it sucks. You feel like you’ve done something horribly wrong. You feel embarrassed for not having it all together. You feel like a hypocrite for not understanding the system you’re supposed to promote. Most of all, you feel a bottomless, inky-black loneliness. If you can’t talk to God, who’s left?

If I were to name my current state of loneliness, it would be “God exists, but I don’t like him.” What does one do with that, not liking God? Everything triggers it–mealtime prayers, bedtime stories with Natalie, news reports, movies, that sharp doorway that deliberately gets in the way of my elbow. When we eat, I think about all the people starving across the world. How can he say he cares more for humans than for birds? When I hear news about the Middle East, I think about the endless violence and terrorism. How can he say the government is on his shoulders? When I cuddle my precious Sophie, I think about the baby he sent to be tortured, murdered. How can he call this the “good news?” When I read the Bible, I can’t see past the God-sanctioned warmongering, the murdering, the animal-sacrificing, the salt-pillaring, the earth-swallowing, the flooding, the exiling. How can he call himself good?

You have no idea how much I feel like the first un-closeted gay right now. I mean, am I normal? Do any others exist? How do they… uh, do this? Will acceptance possibly outweigh the judgment aimed in my direction? Will anyone be able to help me without just trying to cure my “condition?” Where is the backspace button for my mouth?

It doesn’t matter; I’ve said it. I don’t like God, at least not right now, and hopefully that’s not as scary in his mind as it is in mine. I also hope he’s not offended if I take this opportunity to say exactly what’s on my mind, that being FOCACCIA. (Imagine that being growl-screamed, Eddie Vedder style, please.)

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8 comments

  1. Before I comment, I’ll introduce myself – I recently discovered your blog and I’m the mysterious feed in LA. I’m also an English nerd that lived abroad (Japan). And I like your style.

    But this post is the first I feel compelled to comment. I just want to say, “Good for you!” Good for you for being mad at God. And good for you for telling everyone about it – that isn’t easy. I say this as a Christian myself, one who agrees that faith isn’t peaches and cream, one who has been where you are and one who has been fortunate to have others who affirm the truth about God without condemning and judging.

    Now, if you’d take the word of a stranger, I’d tell you this: You haven’t done anything wrong. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are NOT a hypocrite. And now I could tack on “you’re not alone”. Which would be true, but wouldn’t take away the loneliness.

    I don’t like God, at least not right now, and hopefully that’s not as scary in his mind as it is in mine. If God is any god, I doubt he’s overly worried about that. Like a mother knows an angry child doesn’t really hate her, God’s probably more concerned with how your feelings affect you than him.

    For my part, I don’t think a god that can’t handle questions, doubts, or anger, is much of a god at all. I’ll say a prayer for you. Not a prayer that you can “feel better” or “return to the fold” or “stop doubting” or, heaven forbid, “get saved again”. Just a little whisper that God will meet you in your loneliness and alleviate any guilt.

  2. I say you’re normal, otherwise the rest of us are screwed.

    Seriously, my worst moments are when I don’t care about God. And that worries me the most. I’ve started reading Judges for the first time in a long time and already I’m just wondering at how weak we are as humans, the fact that we need to reminded again and again, and though it always comes, we always find a way to fail. (What embarrasses me the most, though, is that so few talk about the hard times while in the middle of it, that there’s a resulting applause of “You’re so brave!” and “It’s amazing you can say that out loud!” because, what, am I supposed to lie and say everything is all right?)

    I don’t think I can say anything to make you feel better, though I wish I could. But it says a lot that you’re still asking questions, still acknowledging God, even if it is in a pissy way. I wish you weren’t overseas, otherwise I’d sit with you for a cup of coffee and commiserate on how we just don’t understand Him a lot of the time.

  3. I’ve felt many similar emotions, frustrations, doubts, etc, as you wrote about here, but I’ve never seen them written out by another Christian! (David mentioned some of these in his Psalms, but that’s tougher to relate to.) So I want to thank you for going out on a limb and expressing this stuff!

    Similar to what Jennifer said above, if God can’t handle our anger, doubt, etc, He wouldn’t be a God that I’d want to worship. He has taught me in the last year that He will meet me where I’m at, whether it be in a time of anger or a time of joy and awe.

    I will be praying that He gently meets you in your frustrations!

  4. First of all, you = wonderful. Thank you so much for your encouraging comments and letting me know I’m not the only one who’s been hiding behind fourteen rows of awful ’80s dresses in a closet.

    Jennifer – I’m glad you introduced yourself! I really appreciate your last paragraph. All of it. Thank you.

    Samantha – You, amazing lady, are one of the reasons I felt brave enough to post all this; you don’t seem to flinch away from being real, and that’s pretty dang inspiring. I wish I could have a cup of coffee with you too. Want to take a little European vacation?

    Zippy – I agree that David’s a little hard to relate to, at least for me (and apparently you!). Maybe the language is just too archaic… David’s saying somthing like My soul yearneth within me, and I’m thinking Why can’t he just say he feels like crap? Anyway, thanks, thanks, and thanks again for your understanding and support.

  5. 🙂

    Chances are I’ll be taking a big European vacation in Summer 2009 – a long ways away, but I think I can fit in some coffee.

  6. Hi, Bethany. I usually make Tom post for me but I had to chime in on this one (loooove the way you write, by the way!). Did I mention I hate Christians? *gasp* That’s my current spiritual crisis. I can’t believe I’ve said it. And yet I go to church every Sunday to meet God and somehow he gets me through the time of being with “his people”. I love God, though, and REAL people…I just wish the two could intersect more often. And hope my “loving God” doesn’t offend your current spiritual crisis 🙂 It’s not their kind of “lvoing God”, know what I mean? Anyway, thanks for your honesty. (Lindsey Elliott)

  7. Hi, Lindsey! Thanks for you honesty too. I know exactly what you mean about God and “real people” rarely intersecting. (Donald Miller helped me through that one… Searching for God Knows What put the problem of people [hehe] in perspective for me.) And no, of course you haven’t offended me; if anything, I’m glad to have friends to go through spiritual crises with! 🙂

  8. maybe it shouldn’t be about disliking god but rather disliking the church that has given so many people such high expectations.

    ‘the nearer to church the further from god’ as the phrase goes. it has real meaning for me.

    i’m not a member of the god squad and believe in something more through my lack of understanding of things like infinity but i am certain that religion – all religion – promotes an unhealthy amount of guilt in its followers.

    i live in poland and polish people tell me that they feel guilty all the time. if they have a good day, if they have a bad day there is no difference.

    the word of man, it could be argued, takes our attention away from the message of god. a message that is and has always been most probably unspoken.

    i hope you feel the harmony you deserve….soon. 🙂

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