After a five-day Thanksgiving break, I visited my personal e-mail and found it flooded with messages from friends: Amazon, Rite-Aid, Staples, Jo-Ann’s Fabrics, Calendars — all the people who bring meaning to my life.
After I had, um, disposed of these missives and checked out the sundry Facebook comments about turkey leftovers and too much pumpkin pie, I was left with three personal messages from actual people who have physically met me and had something to say beyond inviting me to a virtual turkey dinner from another one of those mindlessly endless Facebook games. (On first reading, I thought it was real: that I was actually invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house. Tired of Being Youngest took a look and said, “Sorry. It’s a game.” Facebook Friends: I don’t want to play games, literal or figurative. Please.)
Back to my messages: one of them was from Dark-Haired-Bespectacled-Man, whom the Norwegian Artist and I knew 25 years ago when we lived in the broom closet of a tin-roofed alley high in the Andes Mountains of South America. Eighteen at the time, DHBM squired the Norwegian Artist and his camera throughout the town and into places that the average Norteamericano does not get into. In our year together, we did a lot of talking, communicating, and trying to understand one another. We left as friends.
What with the postal situation on both sides and a five-year civil war in the tin-roofed alley region, we lost track until two weeks ago, when, through Facebook, we literally connected with each other and a series of other friends of that year. I will not share Dark-Haired’s message, other than it brought tears to my eyes more than once, but I will say that we are reconnecting with some very unique, important, and incredible individuals at a time that we very much need to hear from wise people outside of our cultural context.
They don’t have the term Black Friday in Sur America, and if they did, it would be connected with the concept of death, not Christmas shopping. Cyber Monday is also missing from the vernacular lexicon.
Christianity, however, is a universal word and a belief system that we share, and, thanks to our innovative cross cultural friends, we now have a way of describing ourselves: “Independent Christians,” as opposed to, “Christians Who Don’t Attend Conventional Church Services Anymore But Who Haven’t Fallen Away and Still Very Much Believe in God.”
Thanks, amigos — IC is a much cleaner and catchier acronym than CWDACCSABWHFASVMBG.
It intrigued me, as well, to see that disenfranchisement with the religious establishment is not confined to our culture, but that Christ’s people everywhere stand up and leave when the alternative is sitting down and accepting a watered down message. It’s not easy; it’s not necessarily preferable, but when the alternative is conforming to committee-led standards and expectations, it is necessary.
Harsh, I know, and before I get slapped in the face with Bible verses, I also know that there are warm and friendly and funny and fuzzy churches out there where members still have potlucks and it doesn’t matter whether you go to Sunday School and you’re not judged by what you do or don’t wear and you are completely and totally accepted for who you are because that is how Christ accepts us.
I know they’re out there, somewhere; I’m just not sure where.
I also know that there is no perfect church situation, and it is unrealistic to expect one.
However, I am at the turning point of frustration with religious establishments that are increasingly looking and acting like -Mart stores, complete with mission statements, company logos, PowerPoint presentations, rotating classes that have “facilitators” as opposed to teachers, and a vocabulary that embraces terms like “healthy authenticity” and “improper group dynamics.”
After years of trying to adapt ourselves around a system that is choking itself upon irrelevancy, the Norwegian Artist and I are opting out of contemporary Group Think — in both the secular and religious divisions — and doing our best to bring our lifestyles into parallel tandem with the message of Christianity — that there is a God out there, that He really REALLY cares about us, that we reach out to others in His name and really REALLY care about them, that our lives will look different somehow because the precepts upon which we build them are majorly weird in comparison to concepts that blur modern secularism and modern religious thought into one sticky, convoluted, unidentifiable, squashy, unpalatable mass.
I want the real turkey dinner — not the Facebook game.
After being with my family and the in-laws for Thanksgiving I am truely thankful. Thankful for my family, and that my 80 year old parents are still alive and functioning, thankful that my husbands sister is close enough to their folks that we don’t worry about his mother with early “forgetfulness”.
Thankful that we had the gas and money that we could go this year to see both sides, and thankful that we will do it again for Christmas. Also thankful that I found you on the ‘net so I can read about you and see your husbands wonderful paintings. Thank you.
You are most welcome, and I am glad that you found me and the Norwegian Artist.
The gift of family and loved ones is precious indeed. Like you, I look forward to the chaos of Christmas when we all join together again, just enjoying being in one another’s presence.
One of the best posts I’ve ever read. I agree with you wholeheartedly, having forsworn church from my life many years ago. I’m on a church fast, you could say. Throughout my life, occasionally, I’ll ponder the idea of finding a church where people don’t parrot scripted verses and where the religion is about getting closer to God rather than closer to the donation envelope. I keep waiting for the real Turkey dinner, but until then, I will also do my best “to bring our lifestyles into parallel tandem with the message of Christianity.”
Thank you, Snoring Dog. I believe that there is a significant, quiet minority of people out there who seek and follow God but are dissatisfied with the accepted means of expressing this.
Thanks to the Internet, we can find one another, and if nothing more comes from it that we recognize that we are not alone and are emboldened to speak up for ourselves, then much good has been done indeed.
I understand your occasional temptation to think, “What if I went to this place? Would it be different?” Then, as you flip through the Sunday paper sections, you say to yourself, “Nah.” and latch onto the comics before somebody else grabs them, wrinkles them, and tosses them into the burn pile.
Thank you for the encouragement, and I very much enjoy your site, http://www.snoringdogstudio.wordpress.com. It’s on my blogroll, and I’ve signed up for e-mail notifications of your posts.
Preach it! One of the most powerful verses in the Bible, I believe, comes from Galatians 3:6 “Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
To me, the key in the verse is not that Abraham was considered righteous, but that he BELIEVED GOD, rather than believing IN God. This is pivotal. Once a person makes the move from believing IN God, and actually, really beliving that God says, that person’s life will change dramatically. Perhaps that is the phenomenon in many churches, with many Christians – they sincerely belive IN God, that He exists, that He walked the Earth…but haven’t gotten to the point of believing Him, calling Him on his promises. That is a major next step – I would not be surprised if most church leaders would be hesitant to call on their congregations to make it, perhaps because they don’t believe God enough themselves…
Excellent point, and fodder for much thought.
You are right about the distinction of Believing IN God and simply Believing God. We are working on that latter part right now, and circumstances are doing everything they can to help us along the journey.
Your distinction is a crucial one in achieving the real thing from the superficial one, and yes, a significant amount of church time is spent on the believing in God part. Perhaps that’s why it feels that one is so very very busy, but really not getting anywhere or truly transforming into a better person.
I so look forward to your insight and comments. You think things through deeply and articulate your analysis and musings in a clear, forthright, yet gentle manner. I see by my e-mail notification that you have posted a new post, http://interpretartistmama.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/how-to-write-right/, and I am heading there after this to read what you have to say.
Writers are wonderful people, aren’t we?
I too am finding that God is big on Tough love (with a capital T…as in, major tough). It seems that the more you (I) try to make it work, somehow, on your own, the more eager He is to really make sure that you can’t. I think He enjoys seeing His little children fall on their faces sometimes. And for those of us most resilient, many times 🙂
Thank you for your kind words – I too truly enjoy your writing, both on an intellectual level, and also because it helps me remember those tasty words that aren’t often used in the English vernacular, but that are so cherished by people like myself that manipulate words for a living. I actually laughed out loud when I read about that great abbreviation: CWDACCSABWHFASVMBG. Hilarious 🙂 .
I battle with the concept of God being a bit of a puppeteer, pulling us about on strings and laughing. What helps me most is to examine my own life as a parent and how I interact with my children — I would never consciously do anything to hurt them.
It is extremely painful to stand back and watch as a child does something foolish that will bring them eventual heartache, and yet you know that intervening would do no good, because they’re not ready to listen. So you watch, and you wait, and you are ready when they need you.
With God being infinitely perfect and without all my issues, I recognize that His love for His children is deeper, wiser, and more profound than mine is for mine. He doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t dangle carrots in front of us. He doesn’t tease.
Those are difficult concepts to drive through my head.
I am glad that you appreciated the acronym. I checked it multiple times to make sure that I hadn’t slipped up on a letter.