Letting God Laugh at Us (is probably a good idea)

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”
– Woody Allen

I started teaching Sunday School this year. A group of 5 or 6 wonderful, wonderful wide-eyed girls (age 7 to 12) stare expectantly at me in our small church clubhouse, every week. Every. Week.

I don’t know why they’re all girls. It just worked out that way. Since my siblings are all capital-D Dudes, this is definitely new territory.

For better or for worse, I can be a wishy washy teacher. I know it, and so do the parents. I’m a goofy, guitar-strumming, United-Churchy-Half-Agnostic-Historian-Jesus-Feminist, so honesty and nuance rule the day: I can teach biblical literacy. I can teach general values. But, no, I don’t know what exactly really happened, or what exactly we’re supposed to get out of these stories. I have no indoctrination-esque end goal, not really. I just teach what I understand, whatever that means. And maybe the girls will be inspired and Jesus it up and light a candle. Or maybe, they will raise their hands and shout “Shauna, that’s craziness.”

As long as they’re using their minds and their hearts at all times, it works for me.

And so it goes: Insert life lesson here. Insert scripture here. We make thank you cards. We celebrate holidays (and normal days, too). We laugh and we read and we use way too much glitter. Money is raised for charity. Songs are written.

And sometimes the lesson doesn’t quite work. Sometimes there’s apathy, or chaos, or I am overshadowed by the air hockey table. (Why is there an air hockey table, you ask? I don’t even know. Because Canada.)

“Okay girls, I’m going to turn away from you for 10 seconds. When I turn back I want to see you all sitting calmly on the couches. 1…2…”

Last week, we were starting the Christmas story. Yeah. I was worried. The whole “Mary” narrative is a difficult subject for a United-Churchy-Half-Agnostic-Historian-Jesus-Feminist (who really doesn’t want to explain the word “virgin” to your 8 year old). My carefully-crafted plan was to talk about how our plans and goals are good, but God is great—basically, it was this article steeped in Bible-talk.

Yeah, my plan was to talk about how shaky plans are. I’m an irony whiz, clearly.

I pulled out the markers and paper, suggesting that the girls draw pictures of their lives 20 years from now. They took to the project immediately, drawing themselves as Olympians, doctors, zoologists, geologists, rebel graffiti artists… the works. Some of them were very careful, drafting their dreams in pencil first. One was hyper-detailed and ambitious, another was just plain goofy. By the time I was ready to explain the point of the exercise, they were too excited by their dreams to really care about my message. I wrapped it up quickly:

“You guys get what I’m saying, right? No? Yes? Good. Okay.”

My plan hadn’t really worked. Their plans were strewn around the classroom in bright, goofy marker.

And somehow, it was all perfect anyways.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”  I used to see these words as an invitation to avoid plans altogether.  But as I felt my classroom shake with the joy of best laid possibilities, I reconsidered.  

What’s wrong with making God laugh, exactly?  

God probably likes to laugh. Laughter is good. Silliness and vulnerability and hope are good.  

Plans are not bad in and of themselves. They’re actually kind of beautiful. Those dream-fueled drawings in my Sunday School classroom were beautiful.  Same with the laid-back, loving lesson plans. Same with your fallible to do list, daydreams, and drive for the future.

Plans happen when our gifts and dreams and brainwaves and feelings manifest into a motivational timeline. And when those plans don’t totally come to fruition, that doesn’t mean they were wrong. It just means something else became right.  It means that life is beautiful in a very different way than plans are beautiful. 

If you can be idealistic enough to plan something, but reasonable enough to not be debilitated by disappointment when that plan doesn’t work out, then do it. Do it. And then change it.  And then change it again.

For my part, I’m going to continue making and breaking lesson plans. The girls are probably going to keep dreaming and suggesting.  We’re all going to keep changing. And that’s okay. That’s okay.

We’re just making God laugh. I’m sure (S)He doesn’t mind.

 
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Three (Real, Factual) Reasons the “Hail Satan” Controversy is B.S.

First of all, can we all just agree this story is a joke?

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1) The pro-choice movement does not collectively worship Satan.

2) The pro-life movement is NOT made up of only people (and, erm, news networks…) who hatefully characterize pro-choicers as Devil Worshipers.

3) Over-the-top people do and say ridiculous things at protests all the time. Those people are not an appropriate representation of public opinion.

This is not news, is it? This cannot be seriously relevant to the abortion debate.

But it has been trending on Twitter all day–and to my stereotypical millennial/blogger brain, that means serious business.

What’s worse, influential people (faith leaders, television personalities, etc) all seem to be chiming in with fallacy after fallacy.  So, fine. Fine. If we’re going to have a conversation, I think this conversation needs some common sense and facts, don’t you?

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abortion

Wrong.  Many people of faith (or people respectful of faith) are pro-choice, or have nuanced views on abortion policy.

Note that I say abortion policy–that is, how the state directly addresses abortion and its legality.  While I’m pretty sure all Christians value and advocate for “life,” not all believe that legislation denying woman access to safe, early-term abortions is the best way to go about that.  The promotion of maternal health, contraception availability, social safety nets, and comprehensive sexual education are other ways that some people–and, indeed, many Christians–choose to promote “life.”

For many, the abortion debate may be black and white–but for others, it is not.  Christians are absolutely called to value life, as well as being called to be compassionate.  This means that the life of the mother and the potential life of the fetus both need to be taken into consideration. That can lead to many different stances on the issue, none of which are rooted in “satanism.”  For a really great conversation on this, check out Rachel Held Evans’ post on progressive Christianity and abortion.

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Wrong. I mean, obviously he’s being satirical, but even the sentiment is wrong. There are many differences between Republicans and Democrats in the United States. Abortion policy may be one of the differences, but five out of six Americans say it is not the only “voting issue” for them. This means that while Republican and Democratic bases do have life/choice tenancies, they aren’t as strong as you may think–especially on the Left.

A Gallup poll showed that 62% of Democrats are pro-choice, while 32% are pro-life. Hardly a strong enough majority to call out the entire Democratic Party in this case.  Bring religion back in and it is even more divided: of the 734 of these Democrats who attend church on a weekly or nearly weekly basis, 50% are pro-choice while 42% are pro-life.  Some Liberals do go to church, and some don’t. Some are pro-choice, and some aren’t. Either way, it makes zero sense to suggest that liberalism=satanism, that Democrat=100% pro-choice, or that pro-choice=evil.

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abortion3

Dear Mr. Ryan C…I think this tweet is meant to be a joke? Right?

Too bad that every inch of it is wrong, too. I do like a good joke.

I already explained that there are Liberal Christians (as well as a whole bunch of somewhere-in-between Christians, as well as non-Christians who are pro-life…) so I won’t even go into that.  What I believe Mr. Ryan C is trying to say is that people who speak out for the separation of church and state (however crassly they decide to go about it) or, heaven forbid, speak out against religion at all…well, they must just not be familiar with religion. They must not understand what they’re up against.

While this may be true in some cases, and while I agree that Gospel is here for everyone, the overall assumption that non-Christians are unfamiliar with the Bible has no factual basis. A recent study shows that in the United States of America, Atheists and Agnostics have the highest level of religious literacy, with Mormons in close second and Protestants trailing (way too far) behind. Not all pro-choice advocates are Atheist or Agnostic, but if you run into one who is…just because they reject your theology doesn’t mean they aren’t familiar with it.

– – –

Obviously, yelling out “Hail Satan” isn’t a good way to promote any cause, especially not in Texas. I think a lot of people were insulted by this story.  I understand why.  When you actually look at the facts, however, a few girls at a protest who didn’t think before they shouted isn’t worth this kind of outrage.

Instead, I’ll point my outrage towards a few other things: The denigration of a serious conversation about Christianity, abortion, and society.  The serious implication the current legislative battles in Texas will have on women and families. And the fact that THIS is actually being considered news:

Your move, America.

A Tale of Two Churches: Living in DC During the Gay Marriage Showdown

I’m living in Washington DC.

The very same Washington DC where the United States Supreme Court will commence hearings on whether  marriage freedom is a constitutional right this week.

In other words: It’s a gay marriage showdown. And I have a front row seat.

I see a serious mix of messages on this subject, and not by accident.  I intentionally attend churches which disagree with each other.  I am a regular at a liberal United Church of Christ.  I also spend time at a very Conservative Roman Catholic Church.  Ten-thirty United Church service. Noon Mass. I do this for the same reason I wear one earring that says “Oui” and one which says “Non” every Sunday–because Truth usually hangs out “somewhere in the middle.” Also, because I can, because I like to pray, because it’s fascinating, and because it gives me a real perspective on organized religion.

In case you were wondering, it usually looks something like this
In case you were wondering, it usually looks something like this

Here’s what the gay marriage debate looked like on Sunday, presented from two very different Christian angles:

The members of the United Church of Christ prayed for marriage equality during the service–twice.  Everyone was encouraged to gather at the Supreme Court and stand for “marriage equality”.  During coffee hour, a new church member marveled aloud at the incredible support for gay marriage.  A clergywoman overheard and said “Well of course! Love. Equality. No questions asked.”

Catholic Mass, meanwhile, is a little (lot) different.  The members have been encouraged–strongly–to march for marriage.  Translation: Keep it between a man and a woman. That is the Bible’s word, and God’s design, period. No questions asked.

Well, now, this is interesting.  Both congregations serving up prayers and protests related to gay marriage.  Both praying to the same God. They make reference to the same Bible. They know the same Jesus. They both have scripture to back up their points.

But their positions could not be more different.

Christians who support gay marriage have the golden rule. They have affirming and inclusive scripture like Galatiens 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” They take a non-literal, contextual stance on scripture which condemns homosexuality, and reach instead for messages of compassion. They argue stuff like this, and this, and this.

Christians against gay marriage have words like “sin” and “family values.”  They claim to take scripture very seriously, especially bits like Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” They sound something like this, and this, and this.

Side by side, it’s all kind of confusing.  Again, these are all people, talking about other people, making reference to the same Bible/Messiah/God.

It gets more confusing on street level.

This is the logo for the big anti-gay marriage organization:

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…and this is the logo for the big pro-gay marriage organization:

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Here’s an anti-gay marriage advertisement:


Now here’s a pro-gay marriage advertisement:


.Here’s a kid testifying about her parents:


Here’s a kid testifying about his parents:


Want to hear more anti-gay marriage rehtoric? Visit frc.org
Want to hear more pro-gay marriage rehtoric? Visit hrc.org!

Want to show up to protest on March 26? GREAT:

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If you’re for same-sex marriage…
If you're against same-sex marriage...
If you’re against same-sex marriage…

So, ladies: Wear red. Bring your kid. Quote the Bible.  You’ll fit right in.

(…wherever you go.)

I’m not trying to make a point with this, exactly (although, full disclosure, I am personally a big supporter of marriage equality). I just find it interesting to watch, especially from my current vantage point. Even though there are fundamental differences between the two movements, the superficial similarities are just so striking.

And with that, I present:

The ‘Which Side Said It?’ Gay Marriage Game!

Can you tell whether the quote is from an argument for or against gay marriage?

  1. God promises to find the lonely and place them within families. We are cautioned against the idea of making an idol out of our familial relationships, foregoing any alliance above that of our affiliation to Jesus.
  2. We first learn about diversity and acquire a respect for difference through the complementarity of our parents.
  3. Very few people would have believed just a couples of decades ago that the definition of marriage would be debated in the US Supreme Court, but here we are. The fact that so many have gathered in response to these critical court cases should give everyone hope as we find our way forward.
  4. It is our job to stand up and yell “sin!” any time we hear someone manipulating the words of Jesus to prove their own personal beliefs, to remind the world of the greatest commandments.
  5. Since Christians are a “people of the Word,” we look to the Bible to justify our thinking. That’s essential to Christianity, although all too often we get it wrong, at least at first.
  6. The single greatest argument we can present to the world is to live out marriage in all its God-ordained fullness and beauty. Every generation has its moment: This is ours.
  7. At some point along the way, we decided it was acceptable to misquote the Bible to prove whatever we felt like. It is in this that Christians have truly missed their mark.
  8. If the constitution says ‘marriage is this,’ then people whose marriages are not consistent with the constitution … (shrug.) I’d love to think that there was another way of doing it.

[Answer key: 1) For; 2) Against; 3) Against; 4) For; 5) For; 6) Against; 7) For; 8) Against]

Alright, Washington. Bring on the romance.

Alright, Washington. Bring on the love, and the freedom, and the rights, and religion.

…whatever that means.