Yeah, so it’s official. I am a terrible person(personne/사람). A terrible person who is hanging on to my attempts to become trilingual because that may be all that redeems me. Excuse the vocabulary practice, then, please..
So what happened was this. I was speaking to someone on the subject of another person, who happened to be in the first person’s house(maison/집). First Person said, “Oh, Other Person is here…didn’t you two have an um, thing?”
I didn’t even think about my response. It just fell out of my mouth. “Yep, I hate her.”
What? What! WHAT!? “I hate her”? I hate her? WTF! I’m me. I don’t hate anybody, except for maybe The Man, and I don’t really even hate him…I just want him to go down because I stuck it to him.
Needless to say, me saying that I hated anything, let alone another human being, really disturbed me. I don’t do hate. I don’t even do nasty. I am the original annoying lily-throwingpacifist. I have literally let someone hit me with small noxious projectiles rather than fight back because I believe just that much in passive resistance(or at least, I used to). So how is it, that all of a sudden, I just casually hate folks? And mean it, too?
Well, if you ask some folks, it’s Jesus’ fault. And that brings me, however indirectly, to the topic of today’s post.
The story so far, after the jump…
So the other day, a friend(ami/친구)came over for lunch and asked me about 50-11 times, why and how I am still a Christian. This guy’s a pretty good friend, knows me and my spiritual and social background extremely well. He’s the child of a vicar(interestingly enough, the one I used to work for) and had an unfortunately-timed brush with faith that crashed, burned, and left radioactive fallout all over his personality. So he knows. He knows the bit about how sometimes Christianity is more like a Sylvia Plath novel than a musical game of Ultimate Soul Frisbee. We see eye to eye in that way.
This friend was around, and a tremendous sense of support, during a very dark time in my life. (*cue epic music*) And so, he wonders why I am still a believer and he is not.
You’ll notice, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time (that might be one or two of you), that things around here started out pretty optimistically. Back in 2007 I’d only been in England six months or so and was all starry-eyed about working in a place, and in a way, that actually made good spiritual sense. I’ve never been one for organized religion–strange, because technically speaking, I belong to one. But, I’m the type of Christian who believes in the faith and in the God who created the world. I realllllly could care less about the church folk BS that goes with it.
So anyway, I moved to the UK and started working for a charity that I *thought* was free of all that church folk bullshit and did something real. It seemed progressive, heartfelt, and effective. It wasn’t. It’s basically junior training camp for more church folk bullshit. Granted, that bullshit smells like flowers if you’re lucky enough to fit in and you don’t ask too many questions, so perhaps calling it bullshit is unfair.
Actually, just to be completely fair, the charity isn’t bullshit at all. It actually in most cases does very good work. It helps. It heals. It gets alongside people. But only a certain type of people. And NOT the type of people it says it does.
As I began to realize that the packaging didn’t match the contents, I began to struggle. Just a little bit at first.
I blamed it on myself at first–on my depression, on my foreignness, on my own skepticism, on my lack of faith. I blamed it on my ineffectuality(although, looking back, I was anything but.). I blamed it on my intellect, my gender, my sense of cultural pride, on my marital status, my family background, on EVERYTHING. I blamed my lack of blind trust and desire to fit in to mainstream Christianity–into Christianity at all–on the lamentable condition of being myself.
In retrospect, those are some of the stupidest thoughts I ever thunk.
Things came to a head with the entrance of an individual, whom I’ll refer to as I Hate Her(shout-out to Spike Lee), into my already fragile and steadily worsening life. I was 27 years old. I’d given up my career, my posessions, and my (frankly unhealthy) family relationships to join up to an organization in hopes of living out an ideal that I was steadily discovering was only my own. At this point…I went into Dreadful Blog Silence. I didn’t blog very much about anything, especially anything spiritually related, for quite some time. Major things happened, but I just didn’t have the heart to write about anything, good or bad. My life had become so emotionally exhausting that I didn’t have the energy to tell anybody what I was really going through, let alone potential strangers.
To be fair, I can’t blame it on I Hate Her. I can’t even blame it on another individual who I’ll call Her Too. These two individuals joined the team I was working on, which was otherwise full of very lovely people. They had no reverence or interest in what had already been done, the people who already lived in the community, or the community itself. Neither of these people are very smart, scrupulous, or trustworthy. What they are, is white middle-class Christians. And there’s nothing wrong with that. They can’t be blamed for how they behaved or how they made me feel. They’re products of their environment, as am I, and I can’t be blamed for how uncomfortable I must have made them either. We come from totally different social universes–there were bound to be problems.
Let me be really clear–neither of these women are bad people. Far from it. Do they deserve my distaste? Certainly. They did some very wrong things to me. But not because they’re bad. If anything, they’re too ignorant to know how deeply anything they did hurt me. It wasn’t out of malice, just self-interest. They are not to blame for anything that happened to me. It’s just how things work in the world. Can’t win ’em all.
If there’s any blame to be dealt at all, it lies squarely at the feet of the poor management techniques of the Anglican church, the optimistic ignorance of a certain evangelical charity, and most of all, with my own misguided, reality-ignorant, starry-eyed, self-promoting idealism. I truly believed–no, knew–that God wanted me there. I enjoyed the work, and I fit into the community well. I believed this was something that was held in the palm of God’s hand, and that no matter what seemed to be happening, He would take care of me. I somehow managed to forget that I believe in a God who interacts with and speaks through reality. I was arrogant in my faith and I’m still paying the price.
In any case, I slowly realized that I hadn’t joined a pure expression of faith in community at all. I’d joined nice white middle-class Christian training camp.
I am not nice, white, or middle-class. I had been a novelty item to my so-called ‘colleagues’ all along. A mascot. A house servant.
That shit murked my soul.
No, I mean it. MURKED it. I spent days and nights and random moments crying my eyes out over this, often on the shoulder of the friend I mentioned at the beginning of this story. What made it worse, was that God, who had made it so very abundantly clear in actual physical reality that I was meant to do this, suddenly didn’t seem to care anymore. He didn’t say much about what else I was supposed to do, either, except that I should study. And resource-wise…that was the last thing I was capable of doing.
Things got worse. I Hate Her actually started referring to me as her servant and developed a habit of swearing at me, waking me up late at night for counseling and prayer, and leaving me her messes to clean. Her Too stole from me and tried to default on her end of a lease. (Bear in mind, we all lived together. I was living on donations in a crashing economy at the time. Sometimes I didn’t have groceries…but this happened anyway.) I spoke up. I went to leadership and told them what was happening. I asked for help. I was ignored.
But the community remained the same, even if my colleagues were showing their asses, so I remained, and worked even harder.
I flew home to change my visa and things got even worse.
I’m not going to get into what happened to me when I arrived back in the States in 2009-2010. Nobody cared then, and I’d hate to lay it all out only to find out that nobody cares now. It was almost entirely horrible, and it’s almost entirely my fault for a)trusting people, b)trusting people and c)trusting fucking people! It was awful. I wouldn’t wish my experience during that time on anyone, ever.
In any case, this January, I found myself back in England. Studying. God only knows how. (Literally, in this case. I’m still a little shell-shocked.) I Hate Her is still working with the lighter, brighter, more redeemable parts of my former community, living in the house that I begged and bargained and prayed for, and mysteriously denying all knowledge of most of the stuff that I left in said house when I left the UK. Her Too is now a popular youth pastor at a large middle class church in the suburbs, uncomfortably close to where I study.
I am still me. Although, apparently, me has become, without realizing it, bitter and hateful. Ironically, that was my one prayer, when things started going bad. Please God, don’t let the bad things in my life make me a hard, horrible person. There have been a lot of bad things, but please, let me remember and thank you for the good. Let me reflect that good, and not the bad. I don’t want to become the kind of hurt person who hurts people. Apparently, it serves God’s good purpose to allow me to become so anyway, despite all my best efforts to the contrary. I really didn’t think I hated anybody until yesterday, by accident.
Which brings me to the question…so WHY, in the name of all that is holy and not, am I still a Christian? I believed in God and did a stupid and crazy thing at his behest. At the height of it, God abandoned me to what felt like hell on earth. Why believe in God then? What kind of a God does that? Why am I still, in the face of all of this, a Christian?
That, my friends, will be answered in the next blog post. I promise.