I wrote something to an acquittance of mine, Anna L Davis, in response to a post she wrote and it got me thinking. I thought about the degree to which being part of a church is not about Jesus. Anna spoke of a group of former prostitutes who know try to lead other prostitutes to Jesus. For whatever reason (My morals, of course, intrinsically compromised by my atheism) I don’t like prostitution and I think it is good for women to be lead out of it by people who have been there, regardless of motivation. She mentioned how she would like to see more of this sort of thing.
I don’t think she will. Christianity is dying in the west, at rate of about 1% per year. Do you know what the fastest growing religion is? Wicca. The number of people who identify as Wiccans is doubling every 30 months. (Ref) So, I offer to concerned Christians everywhere my little guide book to how to keep your church from going the way of the brontosaurus. You can get Wiccans and other Neopagans (people who believe a fairly arbitrary re-imagining of neolithic and bronze age paganism, only without the blood sacrifice.) to go your church and stay there.
Its profoundly simple, actually. White suburban does not equal Christian. Tell me which picture is a group of Christians….
I like how the photo of the Christian teens (it’s taken from the Youth for Christ web page) uses careful lens flash to make the token black guy the whitest one there. So tell, me what exactly have the goths done wrong here? They are dressed as modestly as the Christians. There is no more hair dye, and no more make up on the right then on the left. You can’t see any skin really, no naughty words, no pentagrams.
But you know, don’t you? You know instantly they aren’t Christians because they don’t look white bread enough. Wicca takes these people with open arms. Wicca says “Your uniqueness is blessed”. The Christians say, through a tyranny of frowns and subtle digs, that these people aren’t right, no matter how much they love Jesus. I know someone is reading this and saying “Oh NO! Not I! I would love these people into Christianity. How long could person come to your church dressed like this before someone felt the need to say something to them? If Christianity wants to exist in another 50 years, then it needs to stop acting like being a Christian means having a Christian image, and needs to start acting like the inside is more important then the image….
Or be content with young people leaving droves from the hypocrisy.
P.S. If you got this far without ever realizing that only God can see the heart and the group on the left could be Satan worshipers and the group on the right could be local Baptist teen group then you don’t need me to tell you what the problem is.
The room was tiny, not with the spartan cleanness of a jail cell, but with the claustrophobia of a coffin. He kept it neat, everything in place. The books on the desk in an orderly row from large to small. Anything that rested on something else was centered, and the squares of the quilt in perfect form with the posts of the bed. Closer inspection would reveal that this order, this cleanliness was in spite of the shabbiness of the room. The bed frame was scratched and rickety, the dresser missing boards, and the quilt tattered beyond all reason.
He stood in the room, naked and still damp from the shower, combing his hair with total focus. He was making part line down the center, imposing order on the chaos. He puts on a a black pair of underwear, a black pair of socks, a pair of Levis, a black t-shirt, and soft black boots. He takes one last look at the boy in the mirror, and sighs deeply. He’s not hearing voices, but his feelings are so conflicted it feels like a dialogue.
You don’t have to do this to yourself.
I’m not doing anything to myself! I just want to be happy.
Nothing can make you happy but Jesus. God will make you suffer until you turn to Him.
I am already suffering. I’m all broken and dead inside. When I do this, I feel something.
Sin brings pleasure for a season but the gift of God is eternal life.
He walks out of the room, over the torn carpet and broken down furniture, pausing to pet the dog who was sleeping in front of the space heater which warms the shack. He stares into the warm, brown eyes as he strokes the fuzzy ears.
Oh God, why did you make me a man? Why couldn’t you have let me been born a dog so it wouldn’t be a sin that I wanted to have sex? If you’d made me a dog, I wouldn’t be such a disappointment to you. I’m not sure if what I am going to do is sin against you or against my own body. I’m so sorry that I hang you on the cross again everyday. I’m so sorry.
The dog, looking as mournful as only a hound dog can, rests it’s head on it’s paws again and closes it’s eyes. The young man walks through the kitchen, the whole wall a library. He feels the weight of the great dead men on that shelf, pressing him to do something great, to change the world. He walks past the classics, the theology texts, and the paramilitary training books he’s memorized, to his mother at the table. She’s studying for work, and the whole kitchen table is covered with her books.
“Mom, I’m going to cruise the loop, I’ll be home before curfew.”
His mother glances up, not at him, but at the clock. Her face is pained from the effort of trying to discover what the new and arbitrary changes to the care plans are. Studying in hard for her, but she doesn’t want anyone to get hurt on her watch and she reads the guidelines cover to cover over and over again. She drops her eyes from the clock, and rises taking a sip of her chicory. She looks her son over head to toe, and frowns.
“Be safe tonight OK? If it starts to snow harder, pleas come home, I worry about you.”
“I know, you do Mom” he says as he slips into his black trench coat, and gives her hug.
“I love you” he says. “I love you too.” she replies, going to the kettle for more hot drink.
He walks out the door, slipping his black beret on his head as he walks out to his Ford Festiva. Like everything else he owns, the car is third hand trash, but with it, he can go where he wants to go and do what he wants to do. He’d sell his soul for it. He digs on the radio as he drives the eight miles to town, finally settling on some classic rock. He watches the snow blow by, like the trails of stars when warp is engaged. The inner dialogue is quiet. The car has a broken muffler, and it the roar of dying motor and the strains of Pink Floyd push away reflection.
He’s going to the big weekend shindig in the boondocks town he lives in. The kids drive in circles and congregate in the town square, showing off their parents’ expensive cars. At the corner of the square, between the gas station and the movie theater is the VonHoff Insurance agency. He pulls into the parking lot as the lights inside go off. A young woman opens front the door, and steps into the November cold, her fingers senseless in gloves, she struggles to lock the door.
Every time he sees her, it’s a dream. Like him, she’s seventeen, but unlike a lot girls his age, she’s shaped like a woman, not a girl. She has full hips from eight years of ballet. When he sees her waist he wants to put his hands on it. She wears “real bras” not the padded push-up junk that other girls do, and she has a lovely 50’s pinup profile because it. Her auburn hair falls halfway down her back. She’s like a woman out of time, a War World Two vamp dropped into his little pointless town and he thinks he might love her.
He watches her bend over to get the key into the lock, and turns his eyes from her curvy backside, mixed up bible verses pressing into his mind
The lust of his eyes comes not from the Father but from the world.
If you look upon a woman to lust after her, you have committed adultery in your heart.
Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.
The wages of sin are death.
If you eat of the forbidden fruit you will surely die.
It is good for man not to touch a woman.
It is better to marry than to burn.
But he can’t look away for long. She’s beautiful and she likes him. She bounces to the car and hopes in. Her face is pure electricity with a smile. Her grey eyes sparkle in the yellow streetlight as much as the snow flakes caught in her lashes. She reaches grabs his hand holds it in hers, blowing on it.
“Hi, babe.” She says between breaths.
“Hey.” He puts the car into gear and backs out. They drive and talk. They talk about the world, about the nature of things, about everything and nothing. They talk for hours, but it feels like minutes. Soon it’s almost ten, her curfew. He drives her back to her father’s office, and as they do, he broaches the topic he’s been thinking of all night. His heart is racing.
“Natalie, do you remember how you said you wanted to kiss me goodbye and I turned my cheek to you?”
She nodded, flopping the pompom on the top of her stocking cap. “Um hmm”
“Well, you said when ever I was ready for more I could tell you?”
The pompom flopped again. “Um hmm.”
“Well, I’d really likely to give you a real kiss goodnight, tonight.”
Her brows knit in concern.
“Are you sure you aren’t going to feel guilty about it? I don’t want you to just disappear like that again,” she asked.
“Oh, I’m sure,” he lied.
This is going to feel so great, this is going to be what I want. When I kiss her I’m not going to feel broken anymore.
You are just using her for her body you selfish bastard.
It’s OK. She’s so perfect for me, she’s going to be my wife, that’s what God put her in my life for. We’re going to get married
Maybe the guilt of this will make me hurt enough to really commit to God.
I think I really love her.
Maybe this sin will make me feel so horrible I’ll finally have the nerve to kill myself.
A coy smile spread across her face as they pulled into the office. “Well, if you’re sure,” she said as she got out of the car.
He jumped out to help her clear off her car. She starts her Buick and and steeped back to him. She pushed her hands into his open trench coat and wrapped her self around him, her pink sweater like star against his blackness. She held him tight and then raised her lips to his.
He kissed her, pressing his lips against hers as he held the small of her back in his hands.
No, no, no. Oh God, please forgive me. I’m sorry that I can’t control my lusts.
Her tongue found his, and his breathing quickened. He had an erection so hard that it hurt. He felt betrayed by his body. Now she would know that he was not doing this because he loved her, but because he wanted sex. She’d know what a pervert he was. He shifted against her, and tried to remember what he had read about kissing in books. He moved his tongue mechanically in her mouth.
I’m a whore. I am such a whore. She’s so sweet and innocent and I am such a filthy whore.
She gently broke away from the kiss, and looked at him, trying to find his eyes.
“Joseph, you have such beautiful eyes, I want to see them.”
It scared him so much to have her look in his eyes. They said eyes were the window to the soul. What if she saw all the perversion in his soul, what if she saw how fucked up he was inside? She was such a nice girl, and nice girls didn’t think about sex. All he could think about right now was having sex with her. He was so ashamed. He raised his eyes, trying to hide the darkness in his soul, but pain is transparent.
“Oh honey, are you sure this is OK?” she asked.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m just, this is just, new for me.” he said, staring into her eyes. His pulse was pounding, but not because he was aroused. He was terrified. He wasn’t pressing his hands against her because he loved her, but because if he didn’t they would shake uncontrollably. Every part of him, his body and his soul wanting nothing more than to let himself go, to fall into her and never take a breath. He never been so tempted to not have control before, and he didn’t know who he would be if he didn’t have control. What if he couldn’t stop? What if she said stop and he couldn’t? Was that who he was?
She began to kiss him again, and he kept going through the motions. He felt dead inside, laughed at. Empty. But not quite enough. He didn’t hurt enough to give up on everything he wanted and seek God. He didn’t feel hurt enough to kill himself. He didn’t feel anything but a sort of dark nothingness, a disillusionment as real and solid as the woman in his arms. Finally, with one last concerned and wistful look, she slipped out of his coat and into her car. She waved sweetly and drove away.
He climbed into the Ford. He hadn’t hurt himself enough inside to die, just enough to carry more pain. It had been in the back of mind the whole time he was with her, it always was: How to deal with the pain of failing again. He always failed to be the man God wanted him to be. As he drove he fingered the big combat knife he kept in the car. He knew God didn’t want him to cut himself either but the Bible had far less to say about self mutilation than sexual sin. Surely it was less of sin than the sexual sin he had committed tonight?
If cutting himself took away that loneliness he wouldn’t have to kiss Natalie again. Everyone knew where kissing lead. It lead to sex, it was unavoidable, and since Natalie would never have sex with someone like him, it would be sick and wrong. She would, of course say she wanted to, because she loved him but if she knew the real him, she would say “No.” If he slept with her, it would be a kind of rape. If they kept kissing, he would become a rapist. Kissing was a gateway sin, and once you turned your back on God you would do anything.
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, because of this God gave them over to shameful lusts.
Her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the death none who go to her return or attain the paths of life.
If cutting myself makes me not feel so broken and lonely, then it keeps me from kissing Natalie. Which keeps me from becoming a rapist and going to hell. I have to cut myself or I’ll go to hell and hurt this person I love.
Joseph leaned back in the seat, at peace. Maybe he had found the inner strength to be a better man after all. Perhaps his first kiss wasn’t a complete loss after all.
Once upon a time, Sunday morning was a hectic time for me. It was a time to get shaved, get dressed, hurry through breakfast, and get to church. Becky and I gave up on going to a church building Sunday mornings about a year ago. We still fellowship with people we love, which of course was the point of the commandment, but that is a blog for another time. The point here is that Sunday morning is a delightful time of lolling in bed, munching toast, and taking the time to really talk to each other.
If there is a better feeling than lying around indolently on a big, puffy quilt with the most beautiful wife in the world, I can’t imagine what it is. We talked about how things would have been different if only we had met sooner. We’ve been married for 6 years now. One of my only regrets about our marriage is we had to wait so long to meet, fall in love, and marry. If we could have met at 15, we could have gotten married at 16, and then, we would now have been together for 11 years. Since the last 6 years have been the best in my life, the idea of having another 5 on top of that is very attractive to me.
We’ve talked about this before, but today I said something that hadn’t previously crossed my mind, or at least I hadn’t spoken it to her. My wife, you see, is quite curvy. I mentioned to her that when I thought of her at 16, I thought of how much fun her uniquely curvy 16 year old self would be in bed. And she said…
“Really? When I think about being in bed with you at 16, I mostly think of you not knowing what the hell you were doing.”
That, ladies and gentleman, is the difference between men and women.
As I write, I let the music flow through my soul. I see the little white house at the end of the lane. I see the row of abandoned cars. I think about the way people looked at my clothes; the way people asked why my family didn’t do the things that theirs did; the way people laughed at me when I talked about my dreams.
Last night my wife and I had a friend over. My wife and I are not the people that we married. People grow, people mature, but we love each other still. Becky talked about how different she would be if she could go back to where she was but being who she is now. She wondered aloud if I then would still be interested in her if she was so different now.
Considering this I said, “If you had said, ‘I’ve never met anyone like you before. I want you. I want more of you. I want more of all of you. I want to know you better. I want to see more of your soul and your body. I want to go deeper and know more of everything that makes you, you.’ I would have melted chocolate-like into your hands.”
Upon hearing this speech our friend remarked, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. If a man said that to me I would be his. We would go through the pretense of courtship, but I would just be his in every way.”
So, these are the magic words. As our friend said “That is the most beautiful thing…” I was suddenly a younger man. I was not the man I am today. I did not have my own place, I lived with my folks. I did not have a new car. I did not have a good haircut. I didn’t have any of the outside things that mark me as who I am. I was just a desperately lonely boy, the seed of a successful life planted but not yet growing. Many years ago and miles away, I laid my heart of the table with those words “I just want more of you.” It wasn’t a plea for sex, as she well knew. It was admitting to her that I loved her, as she had told me she loved me tearfully months before. But I, thinking that a woman wanted a man of integrity, had told her, to wait. She’d said it while crying over the loss of her boyfriend (my best friend), and I wanted to give her sometime to really think about whether she meant it or not. She cried then too. I was so understanding, so mature, so kind. Yes, of course she would think about it and give me time to think about it. Anything for me, this man who treated her with so much respect.
And those words, “I want more of you.” Followed not by a smile, but a sneer. It was all a mistake, Israel. As if I would feel that way about you.
I was the same man, the same heart pumping the same blood. The only thing different now is that I look on the outside like what I always knew I was on the inside. Hearing ‘today me’ say “I want more of you” a friend says its beautiful. Hearing ‘then me’ say “I want more of you” a friend says, “You?!”.
Once, I believed that I had forgiven everyone who ever hurt me. This was because I believed forgiveness was pretending everything was cool. Well, it’s NOT cool. Some 10 years later it still stings around the edges. She could see the broken down cars and little shack at the end of the lane, but she couldn’t see the man who was going to rise above it. She could perhaps see the the brittle brokenness in me, but not the steel at the core.
I’m sneaking up on my life. I threw it away when I was about 16. I not quite back to where I should have been when I was 16, but I am sneaking up on it. So to the chorus of voices who saw the Wal-mart glasses but not the fire behind them, I just want to say one thing for closure to each before I move on.