I Didn’t Register to Vote Until I Was 28

I fought with myself as to whether or not I’d post this because this is more of a confession and almost more of myself than I’d normally be so open about. But, in the end, I’m trying to break myself of those kinds of insecurities. This is like therapy to me. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

“I shall tell you a great secret my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day.” ― Albert Camus

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Let me be abundantly clear about something just in case you haven’t already come to this realization. I have never completely fit in. Anywhere. Ever. I’m a strange breed of human being that vacillates between introversion and extroverted tendencies, creative spurts and severely logical arguments, and then there’s the teetering between misanthropy and philanthropy. I deal a lot with dualities in what feels like some very curious ways that has one or two good friends referring to me as an anomaly. I can’t say I disagree. It’s something I’ve grown to embrace over time but, by my very nature, sometimes I’m extremely insecure about it. On top of that I am prone to both depression and anxiety, so I really relate to the words Hunter S. Thompson used to describe Raoul Duke’s lawyer, Dr. Gonzo, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

Something you should also know about me is I’m a Bible believing Christian. I believe Jesus came as God and man in one to redeem the world. I sin a lot but I believe I am saved. It’s the only thing that has kept me from going off the deep end and becoming an alcoholic like my father or done something else to completely ruin my life. I went to college and got my BA in studying scripture and so I like to believe I am very theologically conservative. I attend church regularly (though not recently) but even there, where most people know me and I have friends I still feel disconnected, like I don’t completely belong. In an environment that is, thankfully, the first I’ve belonged to that is mean to be all inclusive, I sit by myself and strain myself to be social with people after. It just doesn’t seem to do any good. Since I teeter between seeking acceptance and not really giving a damn (yes, a Christian who occasionally uses swear words!) it can be really hard to cope.

I used to think I couldn’t get any farther away from belonging. Then I became a Liberal.

This deserves some background. I didn’t register to vote until this month. I didn’t care about politics or the state of affairs of this country until this past year because of something that’s actually rare for my generation: apathy. Nothing I saw politically seemed to affect me or how I lived and I was extremely jaded thanks to the media coverage of the Presidential terms from Clinton all the way up to Obama, and let’s not forget the glorious thing that is the electoral college. Not to mention my own personal demons kept me pretty well occupied with myself and trying to sort through abandonment and depression on and off for the four years I was in Bible college and the year and half that followed. My gaze was too busy looking inward to care about the world around me.

Something happened to me when I came out of what was easily the longest bout with depression I’ve experienced in my 15 years of dealing with Bipolar II and Seasonal Affective Disorder. It may seem silly to some but I needed a laugh and, in my boredom one night after work, I watched an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Hulu Plus. While, admittedly, Jon Stewart is not a journalist but a comedian and a news commentator (like Bill O’Reilly, Shawn Hannity, or Rachel Maddow except, you know, funny and not insane) it made news accessible to me for the first time and showed me political issues I wasn’t even aware of, world news I hadn’t paid attention to, etc. This was kind of like the spark that ignited the flame. Since then, I’ve consumed books on American history, media bias, politics. I started following the news and I started to feel like I was more of a global citizen, hell, a citizen in my own country.

What I began to discover, though, was I was not the conservative I was raised as and I definitely was not the conservative of my early environment here in Nebraska which is a red state through and through.

I watched the conservative side, though, and I couldn’t fit myself into that mold. There are too many issues where I lean heavy on the constitution and heavily eschew the legislation of morality. And right then and there, when I discovered that about myself, I did something I never thought was humanly possible and made myself feel as if I fit in even less in the one place I came the closest to belonging and that was within the realm of the church universal. I can feel the scorn naturally creep up on my face as I write this.

In my experience, and this is not to put anyone down, the evangelical church is replete with registered Republicans. In Nebraska it can come fairly close to the caricature later turned photo sharing trend of holding a gun in one hand, a bible and American deity (excuse me… flag) in the other. I don’t particularly like watching people tote guns around for the same reason a dog licks it’s testicles but it’s their constitutional right, I guess. And while I believe YHWH, the God of the Bible is the one true God, and I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, I draw a very large distinction between the workings of government and legislation and the teachings of the Bible. That is to say the Bible teaches Christians about their faith and how they should live, but the U.S. Government is, in no way, beholden to those teachings because America is not, despite die-hard politically conservative believers, a Christian nation. It was not founded as a Christian nation; it was founded on the basis of religious freedom. To impose the doctrines and beliefs of just one group of a widely diverse nation is tyrannical, unconstitutional, and actually unbiblical.

Why unbiblical? Look at the model for salvation presented to us in scripture. God seeks out his people and makes a treaty with them before they are subject to his laws and statutes, establishing a Theocracy. Then Jesus came and gave up his life so those who believe in him would be part of the same treaty. America was founded by sinners and Christopher Columbus was definitely not the second coming of Christ. He was barely a saint if you know your history.

So, when I found my footing in the political realm I really started with no boundaries or ideas of what I stood for but, as I read, watched, researched and encountered, I found I could not identify with what felt like a staunch hatred, anger, self-righteousness, and even indifference I saw in the GOP’s representation of their constituents. Now, to be fair both sides of the aisle are not without blame. Politicians are a curious folk to be certain so I’m not absolving either party. However, I did find myself identifying more and more with stances, especially on social justice issues, that would put me in the Liberal camp. So, I didn’t really choose to be this way; my convictions led me there.

Would a few examples help? I’m sure.

Let’s start with my favorite hot-button issue: LGBT rights. This was one issue, as far as civil rights are concerned, I did not really have to think very hard to come to a conclusion on. Biblically, I still wrestle with some issues but that’s a whole other blog post. I’ve had gay friends, I have gay coworkers, which personalizes the issue for me quite a bit.

As a country we believe all people are considered equals. Discussions I’ve had with conservatives and news articles I’ve read by conservative “news” sites essentially renders these people as subhuman, undeserving of any rights for various reasons. It depends on the particular issue which, quite frankly, the government is still ill-equipped to fully address. Some of the issues are just too new, like which bathroom a transgender student should use in a public school. We, as a country, are having to adapt.

My conviction here is this: I cannot define people by their sexual orientation, gender, or sex alone. As creations of God they are all on equal footing as sinners in need of Grace. As human beings, we all struggle with pride, lust, idolatry, etc. The sanctity of marriage argument is null and void to me because America doesn’t hold marriage all that sacred anyway. The church, now that’s another matter. But, as someone from the ACLU said to me, “it’s not like we’re going to force your pastor to marry anyone he doesn’t want to.” As long as the rights of the church are upheld, then the LGBT community should get all the rights associated with marriage. Why? They’re people. Ultimately, no one should be allowed to decide who is and is not a person.

I’m a Christian. I should be pro-life, right? I am, yes. I believe everyone has the right to live from conception. I cannot support legislation to see that all the way through. Given the choice, I would vote for a pro-choice candidate over a pro-life candidate. It is inconceivable to think a woman of sound mind gets an abortion because it’s the easy choice. I know women who have had abortions and they count it as one of the hardest decisions they’ve ever had to make. Abortion is not taken lightly. But pro-life beliefs lead to the closing of women’s health centers which also provide contraceptives to women which can help prevent pregnancy and therefore removes even having to think about abortions.

This is where my stance on legislating morality kicks in. Banning abortion isn’t going to stop abortion. There’s a huge crack in that line of logic for me. We tried to do that with alcohol and we got speakeasies and well-funded mobs. We did that with marijuana and we got the war on drugs; a complete waste of US tax dollars especially since we were selling arms to the countries supplying the pot in the first place. Removing a woman’s right to abortion doesn’t then necessitate she take the option but, if she does take that option, it will be done by someone who is qualified, in a sterile environment, with the proper tools thus avoiding complications which could ultimately end another life prematurely.

And yet I’m still pro-life. I think as Christians, if we’re willing to be so adamantly against abortion we shouldn’t be picketing abortion clinics because that just lumps us in with people like the Westboro Baptist Church, we should be working to offer alternatives that protect both mom and baby. I’m still pro-life because I think people should be paid a wage that allows them to support themselves. I think the death penalty is a joke because our legal system thinks money is free speech and rich dudes who molest young girls can’t go to prison because “Do you know what it’s like in prison?!” I think life is sacred and all sin is redeemable in the eyes of God. I believe if you’re pro-life you need to be pro-life for the duration a human is alive.

So, there you have it. I have declared to the internet I am a Christian who is theologically conservative but culturally and politically liberal. That’s been hard for some to accept but it’s how I’m wired. Maybe I’m inconsistent, maybe I don’t have all the facts mustered, but I know where I stand. In Christendom as well as government that’s the best place you can be, I think. And I don’t think where I stand is mutually exclusive because they share one thing in common.

We the people.

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Why I Will Never be a Theologian

Let me start off by telling you that I spend a lot of time reading books.  I’m a full time student at Nebraska Christian College and I like to read books on the side.  If you look in the messenger bag that I tote around everywhere you’re likely to find at least two or three books aside from my Bible that I’m reading concurrently.  I just love to read.  I’ve given up trying to count how many books I’ve bought in the last year so much so that I’ve never even attempted to count the number of books that I’ve read.  Truth be told, I’ve always wanted a library of my own and one day maybe I’ll have a nice office or house to do that in.

Being a student, I’ve been forced to read some – not a lot – but some things that are irritating.  I go to a Bible college near where I live and, for the most part, I try and do my best to soak it all in and learn as much as I can.  I breezed through the first year without a whole lot of difficulties (at least academically) because it was mostly stuff I already knew or had picked up in my reading in the six or 7  months before I actually enrolled. But at my school there’s something I was told to expect sometime in my career at the college and it’s been affectionately titled my Hell Year.  And this is where the fun really starts because this is where this whole thing was going.

This school year is my Hell Year.  It’s been tough and it’s only gotten tougher as the months go on.  This year has consisted of my theology course and Hebrew for both semesters and then the classes I’ve thrown in with it. I spend a lot of my time, probably 12-20 hours a week just reading and working on homework so I feel that my brain is going to swell and spill out my nose with all that I’m being required to absorb.  The killer has been my theology class not just because it’s a class on Systematic Theology because Systematic Theology is interesting to me.  However, in reading for the class I have run into a certain conflict and it’s been souring my thought processes these last couple of weeks.

Let me just preface this by saying that I don’t think I could be a theologian as a career. I don’t think I’ll ever write books or commentaries that will open people up to the scriptures in some new and exciting way. I’m just not wired that way. “But, Jeremiah, you’re such a smart young man!” you might say.  That’s neither here nor there. So far, this semester I have been subjected to what seem to be two rivaling ideas in the realm of hermeneutics and its use constructing, supporting and creating large and expansive writings in the form of Systematic Theology.  I know that sounds wonderful and exciting to you. I’m actually writing this to put myself to sleep.

For anyone who have studied hermeneutics then you’re familiar with the concept of studying the text within the realm or culture of ideas that it was created first.  My OT professor described it as being etic but getting as close to emic as humanly possible, a desire that is essentially as possible as reaching zero by dividing a number by two. You’ll approach it but you’ll never completely reach it.  That is, if you’re speaking of a text thousands of years removed from your own culture like the Torah. In that realm of thinking the text starts to unfold and make more sense in its own purpose and then you can begin to bridge all the gaps between then and now.  What I’m learning in my class over the Pentateuch right now is basically an extension of what I learned in my hermeneutics class and it actually makes a lot more sense with some application.  But I really dig that approach and it’s really been helpful to know some of the language as that helps in the process of becoming more emic. What does that have to do with my being a theologian? I’m glad you didn’t ask but probably made the logical next step while you read this ceaseless rambling.

Anyway…

My conflict arises when I read things from my theology textbook or things that are provided by my theology professor.  I love my theology professor. He’s a genius in many respects and comes off as extremely staunch and conservative (of which he is the latter… very much) but he’s got a really warm personality once you get to know him. He goes to my church so he also has to look me in the face almost every Sunday. So, perhaps it’s easier to acquiesce to liking me than anything else.  Whatever the case may be, he has provided us with a wonderful textbook (can wonderful be perjorative?) by Dr. Jack Cottrell of Cincinnati Christian University called The Faith Once For All.  What I am told about this particular author is that he is the big voice of the “Restoration Movement” of which I’ve been absorbed into. Just as a sidenote, my professor was a student of Dr. Cottrell some years ago.

But what I’m starting to see a lot of – and I’m not entirely sure why I missed it before – is theologians including my professor and his mentor, the Apostle Jack, is doing some wonderful exposition on the text then taking some very odd leaps into applying their studies and writing to the current culture.  A prime example would be an article that I was given to read as an assignment to be discussed in class.  It began as what could be a simple explanation as to why Jesus, as a Jew and the Son of God, would not have a literal “tattoo” on his thigh as described in Revelation. Fine, I can accept that even though one could take the logical step of asking who would have the opportunity to get that close to the Messiah with a tattoo gun before he come back and exacts His perfect justice? But what I did not like was the next “logical” step I was asked to take in the verses in Leviticus that somehow apply to my life.  According to what I was given, tattoos, piercings, long hair, colored hair and trimming my beard are all wrong because they are all somehow degrading to my image bearer of God.

And it’s not just that article. I don’t want you to think my theology professor is a nut or something just because of one article that he provided to me because really, I think he’s an OK guy and he hasn’t said anything to me personally about the things I have chosen to do to my body and, really, that’s not the point I’m trying to make.  So, let’s move forward.

My problem is that I’m seeing this more and more in the theology that I’m reading. Either I’m entirely jaded and they are explaining how they got from point A to point B and I’m just glossing over it because I think I know it all or they’re making some serious jumps into pools of water they ought not be jumping into quite so hastily.  Dr. Jack does this quite frequently at least that I’ve read so far in his section on Anthropology.  It goes from a basic overview of what the Bible says which is what you’re supposed to do in Systematic Theology to a rant on Calvinism and their view on the sovereignty of God and how that affects people’s free will  and  it gets to the point where I really want to throw the book against the wall just out of sheer frustration.  Is it so wrong to want to learn something without having to be fed someone else’s view on yet another party’s doctrinal views?

**Deep Breath**

So, right now that is affecting my view on what I’m going to do once I’m done with my undergrad work. If I keep doing as well as I have been I probably have a good shot at getting into a decent seminary which would take me out of the God foresaken state of Nebraska. But do I really want to spend more time being frustrated or go into doing the things I’m actually good at.  I’m an introvert by I have a lot of extroverted tendencies.  I like people and I think they’re sinners like me which puts us on even ground no matter what inferiority complex I feel I may have.  I like to keep to myself so I like to study a lot and I’m really into studying original language which, right now, is Hebrew. Next year it will be Greek. I just don’t see why people with such heart and so much intelligence feel the need to take stabs at people when they’re trying to teach.  I guess I’m just a stickler for doing things the right way and the ways that make sense which is usually the right way and that’s why I’m feeling so affected by it. It’s the word of God we’re talking about, ultimately.  Isn’t it?

Keyboard Theology

This is becoming more and more evident to me as I find more and more excuses to keep my laptop positioned well… On my lap.  I had read that Christianity is slowly going the way of the Dinosaur.  I disregarded it because it was on Fox News, but it made me think nonetheless.  More and more I’m finding some extremely intelligent people with a lot of Bible knowledge and I’m wondering why I’m not finding more people like this on the [rare] occasions I actually do leave my home.

I guess I could answer that for you.  I could count myself alongside these keyboard theologists in a way, if only just recently.  This came to light just today, actually.  There is a forum I frequent for the Blessed Resistance which is an official community that you have to pay for to get into.  Therein lies an insane amount of intelligent conversation ranging from predestination to the existence of Satan.  I had dabbled in trying to answer simpler questions about the gospels and whatnot on websites I won’t even mention now.  I found they caused to much anger in me and so I cut that proverbial hand off.  Anyways, to get back to the original question, the reason you don’t find these people much in the outside world is because they are like me and perhaps don’t get that chance to get out and talk to people or can’t find a lot of people to discuss their understanding beyond just witnessing to people.

I know the online community gets eschewed quite often by a lot of people because there is this misconception that it’s nothing but a bunch of geeks tapping away at their keyboards in their parents’ basement.  I know a lot of geeks who are part of this, two of which are on my links.  Mark Driscoll bashes on the bloggers who have nothing better to do than pick things apart and complain, Zao even wrote a song about their message board antagonists in the song “Trashcanhands”.  But there are those of us who use this as a platform to reach others across the spans state lines, sometimes oceans.  In a lot of cases, these people are challenging me even beyond the boundaries of those who live near me and I have in-depth conversations with.

So, I would say that while bloggers and message board members can be a thorn in the side, perhaps a major irritation.  If you’ve ever been engaged in a flame war, you know what I’m talking about.  I guess what I would say we’re not all like that.