Archives For April 2013

Land Locked…

Brett Gallaher —  April 30, 2013 — 3 Comments

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As a child, when people spoke of God the Father, I frequently envisioned King Triton from The Little Mermaid. A father, who loved his children dearly, was ferocious upon provocation and who more often than not was prone to helicopter parenting. And I certainly identified with Ariel as the daughter who felt her soul was… restless. There was an inexplicable more, something far beyond the atmosphere calling my name. I believed my life would never really be mine, unless I found my place to walk in the sun. With that longing, came the notion someone was waiting for me and my voice was would save them.

There’s no good way to explain such intense desire. But what can I say? I was young and I really liked The Little Mermaid!

Little girl dreams, however, get crowded out by the sharp scream of reality. As a teen I discovered that precocious behavior which once endeared me to strangers was now wholly taboo. I attempted to resolve the dissonance between my natural self and various socially acceptable versions of me. Like many others, I traded in my raging, ineffable hunger for the stale satisfaction of survival.

Last year I commenced post-cult trauma therapy. For years I’d lived under regulations thrust upon me by parents, teachers and spiritual leaders. Little of my life came from my own conviction. So I dipped a toe into what I considered possible “heresy” and questioned some of my faith. I found myself engaging in conversations about the problems with Christianity. And I repeatedly paused at the thought that freedom was abdon’t know what to do with it.

Occasionally we spout platitudes like “live and let live.” But that requires an allowance of freedom extended to others which I suspect the church at large does not support, since we more often speak of freedom as the potential for too much of a good thing. Those of us steeped in religion know freedom wears a warning label: “use with discretion”. We fear going too far and falling down that proverbial slippery slope.

Yet we yearn to be freed from limiting confines around our hearts.

Too much freedom is difficult to measure. Every sect has their own idea of which beliefs and behaviors are non-negotiable. Should any of us exercise a little too much, it might very well mean our mortal souls. 

That’s what I feared–losing my soul. As I began to exercise freedom, I worried about losing my Christian status. I wondered if I would “go atheist” or become agnostic (as if my life would be over). While I zealously reached for freedom with one hand, the other hand prepared to fan the flames of my eternal damnation.

I bit my lip and prepared for the demons to descend. They never did.

My first freedoms? Embrace Eastern medicine, study open theism. Entertain the idea of neither hell nor heaven.  Attend a church where the pastor thinks God may not know “everything”. Date who I love. Swear like a sailor. Be me without apology.

Along the way, I did realize who I am and what I need. I refined my definition of salvation and pulled away from much of my previously “Christianese” behavior. Then it hit me.

I had no previous comprehension of freedom or what it was good for.

True freedom is the dispensation to fall. It is the permission to hold more questions than answers. I submit to you that freedom goes far beyond the license to do whatever we selfishly desire—it is instead living more by faith and less by fear.  

Freedom accepts our religious beliefs cannot save us. There are far too many versions of truth for any one person to get it right. So freedom is the great sigh of relief that we don’t need to have all the answers and more to the point, perhaps we never will. We are all in the same boat, so to speak.

I don’t know about you, but such freedom dares me to reengage and enjoy my quest for answers once more.

Whether your home is land or sea, I do hope you’ll join me.

——

ImageShannon Ashley is the Director of Social Media for We Occupy Jesus. An aspiring writer, she lives the hipster life in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, where it is a well-known fact that nine months of consecutive snowfall is nothing short of fabulous. When Shannon isn’t kicking ass for Wojian pursuits, she’s blogging about spiritual abuse or shopping fair trade to counterbalance her superlatively high consumption of Hello Kitty merchandise.

Follow her on Twitter @jashleyshannon and www.recoveringalumni.com

 

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Lex Talionis…

Brett Gallaher —  April 22, 2013 — 1 Comment

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Friday evening, Americans let out a collective sigh of relief after suspected Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured. As the nineteen year old Chechen was on his way to a local hospital due to severe injuries from a shootout with authorities, the debate over his fate was already in full swing. In a country that has recently endured such tragedies as the Newtown massacre and a string of shootings coast to coast, many will be calling for justice with a renewed vigor. In many ways, I fear the manner in which we will judge this young man will only serve to reveal how truly far we are from justice. More discouraging still, we will be reminded of how many want nothing to do with justice whatsoever.

Now I will begin by stating the obvious. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a terrorist. He is a murder. While the fact he is so young saddens me, it does not excuse the horrific actions for which he is suspected to have carried out on April 15th, 2013. The victims and their families are obviously undeserving of this unspeakable evil that has befallen them. I could not begin to imagine the grief, the anger, the flood of emotions that would accompany such a world-shattering event. Such things often make me doubt the existence of a higher power, a God who would allow such things, who seemingly allows unspeakable atrocities every day like genocide, famine, and natural disasters. But regardless of divine intervention or a lack thereof, we all can relate to an overwhelming desire for answers when such events transpire.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will quite possibly be put to death for his crimes, assuming he is convicted. Some would praise such a ruling, proclaiming this boy has felt the full weight of justice. Others will throw their fists in the air in protest of this bloodthirsty system of state-sponsored retribution. Who is right? What is justice?

“An eye for an eye”, aka Lex Talionis, is still the rubrik by which our social conscious measures balance and order. Those who oppose the death penalty are not immune to this standard. The same men and women who march in opposition to the perceived tyranny of the machine, the systems of power that rule over us, are the same men and women who envision a day of reckoning, a day when the powers that be will finally be cast down in shame. Deep down, many of us feel there are those who will reap what they sow, and we are not ashamed to wish this upon them.

After all, is that not the essence of justice itself?

This concept has lived a long and bloody life. Jesus of Nazareth, a naive and somewhat idealistic first-century Palestinian Jewish rabbi (perhaps who have heard of him), offered up an alternative to this redundant cycle of retribution.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:38-41).

Whether you count yourself a follower of this man or not, ask yourself a few questions. Does retribution bring peace and healing? Does it bring new life? How does paying back wrong for wrong, an eye for an eye… how does this separate us from a terrorist seeking revenge? How easily can we rebrand our evils as justice? Is murder now up for interpretation? Is violence not violence if the majority votes in favor?

If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is put to death, what does that accomplish? Will we be any closer to understanding what brings someone to commit acts of terror? Will we feel more secure? Will the true evil behind such motives be exposed? Will this safeguard our future? Will we become more humane, more civilized, more evolved as a species? I doubt it.

Instead of seeing justice through a lens of paying back those who have wronged us, what if we could look this evil in the eye and say:

“I am nothing like you.”

“I do not wish to resemble you.”

“I am everything that you are not.”

We must begin to see our own roles in history as a new antithesis to the status quo. But how? I do not pretend to preach to those who are suffering. These are questions we must ponder in our hearts. What is beyond debate is the immediacy of the crisis. We must let the question drive us, challenging us to respond to injustice with mercy and a newfound courage to resist evil in all its subtle forms.

They say another world is possible, but are we willing to build it?