DEAR PHARISEES

We both say we’re Christians, but we don’t agree 

On everything you say a Christian must be 

Your church is a building of brick, glass, and stone 

My church is creation; I worship alone 

You say God’s a man, like it says in the Book 

But God’s everywhere if you know how to look 

You follow the rules, you keep protocol 

I follow the rule to love one and all 

Love to my family, to haters, to jerks 

Want proof of my faith? Just look at my works 

It’s fine to be focused on things from above 

But always remember – the greatest is love 

Faith (and Other “F” Words)

faith-vs-reasonWhile riding the train home from downtown this afternoon, staring out the window as I often do, I noticed something that struck me as odd. A young man on a bicycle pulled to a stop in front of a large, ornate cathedral. He dismounted, then hurried up the steps and disappeared inside the church to confess his sins or pray or whatever it is good Catholics do on a Monday afternoon.

I wanted to bang on the window and call out, “Hey, you forgot to lock your bike!” After all, it could have been an oversight. Perhaps he didn’t mean to leave a perfectly lovely bicycle resting, unchained, against the base of the cathedral stairs, where any number of dishonest people may come along and steal it. Maybe he was simply in a hurry to attend mass, or so distracted by the burden of his transgressions that he forgot to lock the bike.

Or maybe it was a matter of faith. What if that man just happens to place so much faith in the magical supernatural powers of that cathedral, that he doesn’t think anyone would dare steal his bicycle? Not in front of God’s house! It must take a great deal of faith to believe such a thing — that despite crime statistics in the neighborhood of the cathedral, and despite the fact that he made not one effort to secure his property, that somehow, God would watch over his bike.

brainI personally find such a faith both admirable and foolish.

It is difficult not to feel a sense of admiration when a person, against all odds, against the pressures of society, and even against scientific evidence, continue to have faith that something they choose to believe is true. What security such a faith must bring! What a sense of peace such a faith must offer – no need to wonder, to doubt; none of the skeptic’s dilemma of constant questioning. Only certainty.

And, perhaps, foolishness, at times.

After all, faith in the unknown must have its limits. No matter how much one prays for God’s protection or provision, or believes that God will supernaturally intervene, one must accept that if they were to jump from a rooftop, no miracle will take place to keep them from falling. And as for that young man at the cathedral, well, I can only hope that the downtown thieves were too busy this afternoon to notice his unlocked bicycle. Faith, no matter how admirable, makes a lousy security system.

Back when I used to pray, I truly believed, thanks to the widespread teachings within the conservative evangelical Christian church, and perhaps my own naïvete, that my prayers, and the prayers of other believers, could influence God’s choices. Pray incessantly. Pray with insistence — keep knocking on God’s door until he grants you what you seek: wisdom, peace, healing from disease, money. (Wait…what? Well, some people believe that, too.) Later, I came to prefer the explanations of believers who took the bible less literally. Their faith was not in their ability to change the mind of God, but in God’s ability to change them. Ahh…now that is a faith that I can truly admire.

quote-skepticism-is-the-beginning-of-faith-oscar-wilde-3552261

                                                                                        I doubt this.

“How does God help you to make life choices?” I asked this question once during a gathering on young Christian college students, because I earnestly wanted to know. So many people in my peer group held a strong faith that if they were to seek God’s guidance, then He would offer it to them. “But how do you know that the conclusion you reach comes from God, and not from yourself, or other influences?” I asked.

“You just know,” was the general consensous. You just know. Like a gut feeling or a lucky hunch. Or intuition, or psychic revelation. I was never satisfied with such a fallible theory. What if the warm, fuzzy feeling about taking Plan A instead of Plan B was just my intelligent brain making a logical decision, and had nothing to do with the guidance of a deity? How can anyone possibly know?

Maybe one cannot know. Instead, one must have faith.

faith-vs-science

Jumping on the Bandwagon (aka: Trustworthiness and Culture)

My 13yo daughter is suspicious. “Sure you’re just a regular mom,” she said to me yesterday. “You run superfast. You know all this computer and networking stuff. You speak Spanish and watch all these foreign movies. I mean, who just watches movies in Swedish?”

“Please,” I said. “I’m just a mom. Seriously. An ordinary, cookie-baking soccer mom.”

“Yeah right,” she said. “Let me guess…you work at a bank.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have let her marathon-watch Alias.

Secret Agent Mom

It was a funny and cute accusation. But it also made me wonder. You see, this wasn’t the first time in my life that another person had accused me of being fake, of covering up my so-called true identity with something less sincere. (My ex-husband, in fact, was among such accusers, hence why he is now my ex-husband). On one hand, I find it amusing. I mean, maybe there is something about my personality that makes people say hmmm… Maybe it is the way I constantly walk my own path instead of jumping on political or cultural bandwagons. Maybe it is the way I refuse to reblog those ridiculous memes that shout in bold letters: REBLOG THIS POST OR YOU ARE A TERRIBLE PERSON WHO KILLS KITTENS! Maybe it is because I run superfast, watch Swedish movies, and have an interest in computers and networking stuff. Oh, and bake cookies.

Clearly, such a person can’t be trusted.

trustworthyI wonder what qualities make a person seem to be trustworthy or untrustworthy to others? It’s not a new scientific concept that most people make decisions about another person’s character based on outward appearances. Something as simple as eyebrow height, the pitch of a voice, or how “average” a person’s face appears to us can make a huge impact on how we perceive their trustworthiness. Want to make people trust you more? Try to appear just like everyone else.

fast fast fast runner
Ah, there it is again. The curse of the lone wolf. Perhaps, apart from outward appearance, a person’s life choices and ideology must also be deemed “average” in order to gain the trust of others. Perhaps we find ourselves unconsciously drawn toward people who not only look more like ourselves, but behave more like ourselves, according to the customs of our culture. Perhaps, in a white-collar, wine drinking culture, the blue-collar, beer-guzzling man will have a hard time gaining trust. Perhaps a conservative, rule-oriented group will have a hard time trusting a freethinker who questions authority. And perhaps down-to-earth, simple-minded folk may have a hard time believing the sincerity of a superfast-running, foreign-film-watching computer lover who may or may not be from Jupiter, no matter how delicious her homemade cookies may be.

But that will not keep me from trying to live the most honest, sincere life I possibly can. Even if no one believes it but me. Believe

 

My Zodiac Playlist

12 Signs of the Zodiac People in my extended family take astrology very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that I remember being punished as a child for being too noisy while the daily horoscopes were being read on the radio. Many of my relatives, including my mother and sisters, believe that there exists a very real and powerful connection between the alignment of the stars and occurrences in the real world. They also believe that the time of year in which a person is born affects that person’s personality and character.

“Oh how sweet – a little Sagittarius! They are so much fun!” my sisters cooed when one of my sons was born near December. And then, “Uh-oh, look out! Cancer babies are moody,” they warned when my third child was born one July. I just rolled my eyes. Really, even though my Sagittarius son is actually the happy-go-lucky playful type, and even if my little Cancer is the moody male version of a drama queen, I still think that star signs and horoscopes are a bunch of superstitious hooey.

“That’s because you’re a Virgo,” my mother and siblings tell me whenever I dismiss the zodiac as ridiculous pseudoscience.

Is it?

Apparently we Virgos like fields of wheat, because we are so natural and earthy.

Apparently we Virgos like fields of wheat, because we are so natural and earthy.

Well, according to the internet, Virgos are critical, fussy, down-to-earth, sensible, reasonable, practical, analytical, creative, distant, nature-lovers, aloof, shy, intelligent, prudish, earthy, perfectionists, organized, imaginative, insightful, and shrewd. See? That doesn’t describe me at all. Okay fine – it describes me to a tee (except, perhaps, for the organized part). But still, I find the whole thing silly, especially when people feel compelled to check their horoscopes before making decisions about who to love or where to go or whether to leave the house that day.

Maybe I am not being very kind, looking down on the beliefs of my extended family, and of so many people around the world. This is something that I have observed: people just need something to believe in. Whether they turn their beliefs toward God, toward humanity, or toward the alignment of the stars, I suppose it is not up to me to judge them for that faith, no matter how unbelievable I may find it. Isn’t that so Virgo of me?

virgo14

My Zodiac Playlist

Capricorn (Dec 22 – Jan 19) Money (Pink Floyd)

Aquarius  (January 20 – Feb 18) – Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine in (Hair by James Rado & Gerome Ragni)

Pisces (Feb 19 – March 20) – The Joker (Steve Miller Band)

Aries (March 21 – April 19) – We Are Young (Fun. ft. Janelle Moráe)

Taurus (April 20 – May 20) – Our House (Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young)

Gemini (May 21 – June 20) – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2)

Cancer (June 21 – July 20) – Bitch (Meredith Brooks)

Leo (July 23 – Aug 22) – All Star (Smash Mouth)

Virgo (August 23 – Sept. 22) Down to Earth (Peter Gabriel)

Libra (Sept 23 – Oct. 22) Peaceful Easy Feeling (The Eagles)

Scorpio (Oct 23 – Nov 21) Superman (It’s Not Easy) – (Five for Fighting)

Sagittarius (Nov 22 – Dec  21) Pocketful of Sunshine (Natasha Bedingfield)