Saturday, February 22, 2014

some confessions and then I'm done

Writing has always given me life, but lately I've been letting it kill me. With that awareness, I've decided to call it quits with the blog. I'm finished with putting my stuff out there in this venue.

To my handful of readers (my wife and few people I pay to read), thanks for the comments and conversation.

There are several reasons that I'm going to let this be the last post for the foreseeable future.

  1. I've got some personal issues to take care of and I can't handle blogging. It twists the best of me into something I don't want put out there. I need to spend time with my family, building relationships, gaining trust with people. Blogging, for me, has been damaging those intents instead of fostering them. 
  2. I have serious problems with my underlying reasons for blogging and some painful self-critiques of my motives that I need to address. My writing has increasingly taken a turn toward dumping on people and lashing out, dealing with my issues by projecting them onto "enemies" of truth and justice. It has been more and more obvious in the tone and the biting snark of my posts. That's not helpful nor community building.
  3. Ultimately, people, friendships, and family matter more to me than my own ego building campaign. It's time I put my money where my mouth is and prove it. 
  4. Blogging has been a way for me to convince myself that I'm really doing the work of justice even if I leave bodies lying in the wake of my writing. Now, certainly, the world needs bloggers and writers to challenge the systems that oppress and I hope to contribute that way someday when I'm more mature. As for now, I need to quit hiding behind the criticisms I dish out and start capturing the stories of justice in my own experience as a resource for entering the conversation instead of using my projections to construct a campaign of self-congratulatory justice efforts.  
  5. I talk a lot about listening. How ironic. It's time to stop talking about it, I suppose. 
This very post is an act of hubris in thinking that people care why I'm not going to blog, Facebook post as much, and engage social media the way I have in the past. But some have asked about what's going on and I thought it best to offer an explanation and put to words that I'm aware of the way some of my motives have strangled the larger purposes I intended. 

what was up with the f-word post?

In case you missed it, yesterday I wrote a post about the f-word (It's below this one if you did miss it).

Allow me several reflections.

My friends Geoff and Susanna offered some stunning contributions that helped bring into sharper focus the conversation. Both make the point that people should be smart with their speech and realize how it might impact others. I agree with them and think that the gist of my post allows for those nuances and complexities. It was a good conversation that helped me see some things from angles I wasn't considering as fully. Their comments, I think, extended my post and made it stronger so I appreciate what they had to say. But to add a tad more clarification, I think my friend Jared captured the most succinctly what I was trying to get at. I quote him below from my Facebook page and changed the f-word to "f" for the sake of not getting bogged down by that word this time:

At risk of being overly simplistic I'd offer this: The Christian scripture records Jesus as having said that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles, but what comes out of it. It would seem that what one says did indeed matter to Jesus. But we must also remember that in his day Jesus was a blasphemer. He said things that no self respecting Jew would dare utter. So, as I see it Jesus would perhaps be less concerned with the specific words that we say; i.e. f; and more concerned with how we use them and why. The words Jesus uttered that got him labeled a blasphemer were not said glibly. Rather, they were used with rhetorical intent. This is the point that I think Josh is making. Particularly when we worry over a common vulgar word like "f" and are thus distracted from the discourses around us that are causing real violence and harm to material bodies.

Also, some found great offense at my bringing Jesus into the mix. Some couldn't fathom that I could be a Jesus follower or one who lives into the way of Jesus and then dismiss so easily how I feel about how he'd feel about the f-word. Here's why, while understanding how simplistic this will be, I made those claims. For me, Jesus is not the end of Christianity; he was the main figure around which that movement was launched. I like the movement as far as it leans toward the orientation of Jesus' thoughts that help build a world that works for everyone (and I think there are pockets of the movement which do and I have engaged those spaces in my life). In other words, I have a low Christology. I don't think Jesus ever wanted to rule the movement, control the movement, or even start one (his followers after him took care of carrying that out). In fact, I think Jesus is a person who died a long time ago, but a person who had such a deep connection to the divine that he made a welcome and lasting impact on the world. Though it would take a longer conversation, let me just say that contained within these personal "beliefs" I figure that my participation in the Jesus movement isn't connected at all to my saying the f-word or not (granting the nuances offered above, of course). Humans bring baggage to language, and there isn't a divine, objective law somewhere out there with a list of words that are acceptable and not acceptable. We, humans, decide how to live together, and a part of that is figuring out with one another how our language contributes to us living together in wholeness. It's a constant conversation and from that perspective I'm glad to have instigated a part of it.

And there is another matter. I really upset some people. I'm still processing this part of it and will be writing about it soon. Though let me say this: I'm becoming more aware that many of the things I'm writing about are bubbling up as puss from deep wounds slashed in my spirit from a time when I participated as a Christian differently. And this isn't healthy for me or fair to those who have to deal with my unfriendly fire (a more graphic image: it's not fair to those standing around when I lance with my keyboard one of those festering wounds while every infected bit and piece of it goes flying in their faces). I'm wrong for writing from such a damaged place and not helping any cause at all. This, I think, is what Doug was calling out in my last post. And he's smarter than me and has dug his finger into something I was hoping nobody would poke around with.

Well, enough for now because I've got some thinking to do.

Friday, February 21, 2014

I don't know if Jesus would like the f-word or not...uh, don't care. Read on.

[Warning: This post contains language and the use of a word that some find offensive and triggering.]

I think there are so many ways to follow Jesus or to call oneself a Christian. So for full disclosure, I identify as a Christian, as someone who lives into the ways of Jesus and likes it. But it seems that so many people who are Christians like me also want to define the way I'm supposed to be Christian. 

Here is an example. I use the f-word in all its forms: fuck, fucking, fucker, fucked, et. al. It has come in quite handy as a release mechanism. And also as a very descriptive word for describing how I might be feeling about a particular situation. Have I overused it? Sure. Am I often unaware of when I say it? Yep. I get carried away with tons of stuff. But some in critique of my use of this language trot out the "What would Jesus say?" argument or the "Would you say that if Jesus was around?" question. Hecks yeah! And here's why. For one, Jesus wouldn't understand that word anyway because he probably spoke Aramaic. And, for two, I don't call myself a Christian because I think in Christianity there is some universal truth regarding the intrinsic moral value of certain sounds created by one's vocal chords. And, for three, I really don't give a fuck about the word "fuck" and I don't think Jesus does either. I have adopted the ways of Jesus because his teachings orient me toward justice and not because he taught how to be nice and polite and use sanitized speech. I understand Jesus to be an inspiration and shaper for the work of justice. And the work of justice simply isn't the work of assigning intrinsic value to particular words. Just think about the word "ass." Or the word "bastard" which is in the King James version of the Bible.   

I have grown up a Christian. It's the language I know. But that doesn't mean I think it has some universal or totalizing claim on my life. But let me back up a step here. I do think words are important. I think words, because they sometimes form rhetoric which in turn create narratives of oppression and injustice, are very important. I think identifying everything negative and stupid with the term "gay" creates an unsafe space and dangerous world for gay people. Words are important. Hell, I won't use the term "black" as in "black sheep" because it links the color black (and think socially constructed racial categories) with the bad, the outcast, what doesn't belong. See how words can shape reality? Yet, this is far different than using the word "fuck"--a powerful word, that has varied social and cultural meaning--for a particular affect. As in, racism and homophobia continue to fuck up people's lives. 

So, for me, to reduce a way of life to what the one who shaped it may have thought about the way language works seems a bit of a reach. I'm sure Jesus and I would have disagreed on a lot of stuff, particularly the way he assumed as a universally helpful truth the "Treat others the way you want to be treated" aphorism. 

But that's for another post. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

a snarky thought on popular christian culture and marriage

Been married for 18 years. It's been hard but we've done it and we're going to continue to do it. As a result, I've developed a biting cynicism against pop-christian culture's take on marriage. Below is a bit of that cynicism exploding into words.

Most every mainstream Christian book I've read about building a better marriage is at best bullshit and at worst dangerous because of it's fundamental heteronormativity, patriarchy, sexism, and the like.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I work at a seminary and here are some of the reasons why

Check out what I wrote over at Dmergent!

As some of you know, I'm quite critical of religion, church, and the institutions these concepts have produced. Still, I engage these communities and find lots of positives to express. A bit of that is laid out in the post above.

Friday, February 7, 2014

One can't have discussions of bullying/oppression/racism/any-ism without a consideration of power...

Really fast thought here. I'm growing tired of people, who enjoy power and privilege, crying about being told off or being criticized or bullied or the target of rage and anger.

That's like me claiming to be a the victim of racism. I'm white and that can't be the case. Based on my skin color I am privileged by years of historical and social constructions of racial categories where my race has been favored. Deference to the white race has been deeply entrenched into the way Americans live and see the world. It's just not possible for me to be a victim of racism if one understands that racism is a powerful, systemic force that excludes, oppresses, and marginalizes people because they don't match the skin color given preferences and more worth within the dominant social narrative.

Anyway, this is an incomplete thought and requires much more conversation. However, it might take a simplistic illustration to get at what's going on. Imagine I'm the biggest, strongest kid on the playground and possess all the power (social capital) possible in those dynamics because I have the right friends, the right clothes, the right stuff. Imagine I use that power, knowingly or not, to make it every day in a world that often sucks for kids growing up who don't have the power, strength, social clout, whatever to walk across the playground without much worry, fear, or feelings of worthlessness and isolation. Well, if all of this is the case then I can't cry "oppression" or "hatred" or "bullying" when one of those kids finally stands up and punches me in the nose because the way I appropriated and lived into the power I had, which consequently made his or her life a living hell.

Even after I stop the dripping of my bloody nose, I'm still the bully.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

the danger of seeking to name humanness

Think about what it means to be human. A dangerous venture. Thinking circumscriptively about such matters will sow more heartache than help.

Some people try to decide for other people what human means. Once this happens. Problems. Pain.

To simplify humanness is to limit it--to necessarily exclude some as benefactors of its defining. To reduce it is to tighten the circle of its inclusion.

Why not allow humanity to continuously surprise us? Why not engage the world in limitless anticipation of human manifestation? Why not refuse to reduce humanness? Why not embrace the infinite unfolding of human expression?

Why? Why not?

What does it matter if your humanness doesn't look like my humanness? Isn't humanity bigger than the sum of what we learn of humanness through our encounter?

Complex. Unbounded. Human.

Elusive. Good.