Monday, December 28, 2009

There Goes The Neighborhood...

Nothing says holiday cheer like a huge* freakin' T-Rex in your front yard. (Oh yeah. We're those neighbors.)

I have nothing useful to add. I'm just really proud of this.

*Ok, so he's only about a foot and a half, but the up angle makes him look really ferocious, no?

Also, yes. That's ketchup. Sometimes I wonder what normal families do on Christmas morning...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wayward And Down

The problem with being a pastor for too long is you start to view people as sheep.

No wait. Perhaps I'm viewing this all wrong. Maybe I should be flattered. Yes, that's it. I should be flattered. After all, my pastor now considers my loss of faith important enough to merit special attention.

Not special attention to the extent that he would want to listen to me, mind you, or give serious consideration to my reasons for leaving Christianity. But being willing to manipulate me behind the scenes? Well, hell yeah! Which is why he offered my husband guidance, during a private meeting last week, in stealth-counseling me back toward a reconversion.

I...wait, no. Just let that sink in. Let yourself feel the full impact of all the wrong in that statement.

It seems I need to clarify with people that I'm in no way surprised by the reconversion effort itself. That's just standard evangelical practice. I get that. Hell, I expect that. I am, however, surprised at the creepy underhanded tactics, because it seems so uncharacteristic of this pastor. I'm equally surprised that he thought my husband would actually take him up on the offer. My husband, for whatever reason, seems to view me as an independent human being with the ability to think and I'm a person. He seems to think that coercing me back into the faith wouldn't be very respectful. Pfft, I say. Doesn't he know that it's men that God designed with a need for respect? Women need love, and that love is best expressed in stern spiritual guidance from Them That Have Penises.

You've gotta love the overweening confidence of a pastor who, while unable to give me satisfactory answers back when I was grasping about for any reason to keep believing, is somehow certain that he'll magically win me back now that I'm comfortably godless. Also, let's ignore the assumption that the only possible way I could have left the faith is through ignorance of what the Bible teaches. Even my husband laughed at that one. "I may be the one they ordained, but you know the Bible a helluva lot better than I do."

I expected better of this pastor. For the past eight years, he's been like family, and throughout my deconversion---even though I grew to disagree with him, and became uncomfortable with his growing emphasis on authority---I continued to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I'd never seen him use his authority to bully people around. He seemed content to let people make their own decisions, and he'd always treated me with kindness and at least an outward show of respect. Because of that, I was naive enough to think he actually respected me.

Oh well. Ain't the first time I've been wrong.

"If your wife isn't on board with you 100%, it's going to hold you back in ministry."* And the sad thing is, he's right. Most of the fundie faithful won't give you any credibility if you can't convince your own spouse of the truth of the Gospel. After all, if God were really working in your life, there'd be no room for doubt. It's a big reason why, as my faith began to falter, I kept my damn mouth shut. Not because anybody asked me to---I knew that my husband would defend me if it ever came down to it---but because I didn't want him to catch any flack. It's not right, but it's how the evangelical church operates.

That's the thing, though: before this, I'd never known this pastor to keep himself bound to "that's just the way things are". He's always had this "fight the system" attitude to things he saw as flawed, especially within the church. He's gone against his denomination to ordain women. He's put his neck on the line for people---my husband being one---because he believes in them. And he's always treated me like a person in my own right, rather than some doe-eyed accessory to my husband's career in ministry. So it's that much more of a shame to see him behave this way now.

Even as we grew apart in our beliefs, my husband and I were determined to support each other in the searches and choices we were making. Of course this would all be easier if I could make myself believe again, but I can't, and furthermore, I don't want to, so we make it work. We're very careful with each other, because each of us values the other person more than we value any ideological stance. And then this asshole, this self-styled apostle** who presumes to speak for God, feels qualified to come around and dismiss it all as not enough. The only thing that will be enough, apparently, is my total mindless compliance. At any cost, apparently, even at the cost of the love and respect within the relationship. If he's going to play Mephistopheles in this dirty Faustian bargain, then I feel pretty comfortable with writing him off completely.

I don't care who I married, I'm nobody's fucking pawn, and I object to being written out of the equation of my own life. But then, why am I surprised? That's You Suck Christianity all over again, isn't it? You've died, and it's Christ living in you. You have no thoughts, feelings or desires of your own. You have laid down your rights. You were bought at a price.

You are a sheep---a fluffy, brainless animal with a numbered tag on your ear. And they claim you in the name of Jesus.

*To be fair, my husband insists that this statement, though spoken in the same private meeting, was not connected in any way with the reconversion offer; however, I can't imagine that the offer would have even been extended if this pastor didn't seem to view hubby as some sort of protege. It's hard not to view the whole encounter as: "Your wife has become a liability. But I can help fix that."

**Yes, he's upgraded himself from "Pastor" to "Apostle". I'm not even going to try to explain this one. Google "New Apostolic Reformation" if you want to get a taste of the crazy. But don't say I didn't warn you.

**Note: This post has been flagged for italics abuse. The author of this post shall be forced to walk all day at a diagonal slant.**

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Couldn't Make This Stuff Up If I Tried...

Grandma: Well, nobody wants to get married anymore, except those gays and lesbians...
Dad: Hmm... Do you have something to substantiate that claim? Some sort of statistic, or report...?
Grandma: Oh, your father saw something. On ESPN. About the lesbians.
Dad: Ahh. Yep. Always them lesbians on ESPN, wanting to get married.

((A deep, fretful silence from Grandma. Dad tries in vain to contain his chortling.))

Grandma: I just miss the good old days, you know? When right was right and wrong was wrong. Everything was either black or white, there wasn't any of this...gray matter in between.
Dad: Well, that's exactly the problem, Mom, there wasn't any gray matter...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Unintentional Racist Humor?

The following is from an email I sent to my stepmom, a liberal Catholic who teaches at a rather conservative Evangelical university. I knew she'd appreciate it.


"So I'm reading The Shack. (I know, I know, but it'll be nice to have people quit telling me how I totally need to read it! And how it will change my life! And anyway, I checked out a couple Christopher Moore books along with, just to balance things out.) To be fair, it's not as bad as I was expecting, but I wouldn't exactly call it a must-read. The unintentional humor, though, is pretty killer. At least, I hope it's unintentional. Here's a gem:

Just as [God the Father, apparently played here by Della Reese from Touched By An Angel] turned to enter the cabin, a small, distinctively Asian woman emerged from behind her . . . As she stepped back, Mack found himself involuntarily squinting in her direction, as if doing so would allow his eyes to see her better. But strangely, he still had a difficult time focusing on her . . . It was almost easier to see her out of the corner of his eye than it was to look at her directly. (Emphasis mine.)

Am I reading too much into this? Or did he really just introduce one of his characters as an Asian who can only be seen in your peripheral vision?"


Seriously, how does an editor not catch that?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Tomorrow morning, my sister-in-law will be returning from Iraq. After nearly a year away, she will be mom to her two girls once more, and I will return to being mom to only my own.

And thus, early Friday morning, I'll be heading up to Oregon for a long overdue break. A Sabbath*, if you will.

It'll be about a 9-hour drive, by the way, so I'm happily taking music suggestions.**

*Hat tip to A.J. Jacobs. If you haven't read "The Year of Living Biblically", do it. Do it now!

**Though my 19-month old daughter has already made it clear what she'd like to listen to on the drive up. Yesterday, at the library, she toddled over to the audiobook section and immediately pulled George Carlin's "When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops?" off the shelf. I really wish I could take credit for that level of awesomeness, but I think it's pretty much all her.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


"I don't wanna hear you say you're sorry
I don't wanna hear you say we can start all over again
I think you must think that I'm stupid
Well I might be stupid for the rest of my life
but I'll never be stupid for you again
I just want it all to go away..."

Everclear, New Blue Champion

I enter a low, small building that some people have set up as a sort of synagogue. It looks like it was someone's house, but it is bare of furnishings, even of carpet. The walls are white and the light is dim, as though lit with many invisible candles. My friend and I are hanging around by the front doorway, unsure of what to do: we are not Jewish, and we do not want to show any disrespect to anyone. We notice a sign that tells people coming in to remain by the front door until shown where to go by someone in charge, and I am glad to find that we've been doing the right thing. "Remember," the sign warns, "You are in the presence of God."

To the left of the front door when you enter is a small brick firepit, tucked into an alcove, filled with iridescent rocks. The candlelight is stronger here, though still, I see no candles. We wait, and two priests approach; they are young, friendly and welcoming, with white robes and black hair and glasses. They smile and the front one extends his hand in either prayer or blessing. I bow my head out of some combination of habit and respect. Suddenly, I feel the air in the room grow heavy, tremulous. I am dizzy under the weight of it, numb and drunken. "Do you feel this??" my friend asks me. She is pitching forward; reeling back. I'm having trouble standing up as well; I feel my head spinning, my knees buckling. I fight it. I am angry, because I'm sure it's the presence of God. It feels so warm, and so peaceful, and at the same time, so terribly, terribly threatening. It'd be so easy to sink, to let myself back in at this point. To succumb.

Isn't this what I'd always wanted? To experience God like this? Isn't this what I had prayed for every time it happened to everyone else? Some mark, some token by which I would know that God had accepted me too? But it was always withheld from me for some reason. Until now. After I'd spent so long fighting for my mental and emotional freedom. Instead of feeling accepted, I feel betrayed. Manipulated. Fuck you, dude.

"See?" a little internal voice nags, "You ARE hardening your heart! You nonbelievers all rationalize away the truth of God because you're too uncomfortable with what it would mean for you." Ugh. Fuck it. Fuck you all. I begin thinking about what I'd been reading recently about brainwaves and suggestibility, and that focus seems to make the feelings fade away. I go and sit people while they talk and eat, quietly processing my experience. Composing a blog post in my head, even.

I wish I could say I felt some sort of triumph by the end of the dream, or even when I woke up. I suppose I began to feel calmer, but never quite shook the nagging, internal voice. Thing is, even if it's right, I don't care. And I suppose that's the point.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Evacuating the Elephant

"So then. Since we're on the topic. Do you think I'm going to hell?"

There. I did it. I threw it out there.

I waited. He thought.

"I don't know."

"But what do you think?"

"Well...I mean, one day I hope that you'll experience God the way that I've gotten to. And, uh... I guess I used to worry about you more, but...I guess, not so much now. Because I trust you, and I have to trust that God's got you where you're supposed to be."

"Ok, and that's fine. But still: I no longer consider myself a Christian. Say I died today. What would you assume?"

"I...I don't know. And I'm not trying to dodge the question, I swear. I just...I really don't know, I don't even know what I think about that. I mean, there's the whole debate about know...'once saved, always saved'...and...well, I guess don't really give a whole lot of thought to either heaven or hell anymore."

I took his hand and felt him relax a bit. I know this isn't any easier for him than it is for me. Perhaps easier for me, now, since I've wrestled this out for myself already. It's one of the upsides to the way I deal with things. It isn't that I don't worry about the questions, he told me once before, it's just that...I don't think I have the same drive to deal with them all right away like you do. You get new information and you can't rest until you've assimilated it all. And he's right. I get that. There are downsides to my way, certainly. Like the two solid years I spent feeling like I was losing my mind. There's something to be said for the ability to set a matter aside for a while, let the dust settle. To be able to live in peace with a bit of inconsistency. To make a few allowances for being human.

What can I say? I'm fucking stubborn. I don't know when to quit. It's my greatest strength and my fatal flaw.

"Let me rephrase, then. Would you send me to hell?"

"Well. No."

And I didn't know if this would be crossing a line, but, well...we were already here, so I went for it:

"Does that bother you at all? To know that you're more merciful than a God of supposed infinite mercy?"

He didn't answer. I didn't force it.

"Just a thought. It was one of my crumbling points, though. That realization."

He nodded.

I squeezed his hand. "Look, ok? I know the theology. I know what I would have thought about someone like me, years ago. It's okay. For the record, I don't think I'm going to hell, if that helps. I'm not looking for reassurances or answers, pressure. The question's sort of irrelevant, really. I lost my faith in hell a long time before I lost my faith in God."

He smiled a bit. "I know."

"I was just curious, is all."

We lay there awhile.

"Anyway, thanks," I said.


"Listening. For being someone safe. And especially for...well, for taking me at my word, instead of re-framing everything I say to fit your theology and your terms. It's more courtesy than I would have afforded someone like me, years ago."

I thought a bit; laughed.

"Funny," I said.


"It took me leaving my faith to realize you were never the asshole Christian I was."

This time he squeezed my hand. We lay there for a while. When we spoke again, it was of easier things.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"You Suck" Christianity: A Roundabout Primer

I was a good hour from home. I'd missed my turn, gotten myself lost, and was now stuck in a mess of traffic near the tunnel, unable to pull off. I'm mildly claustrophobic, so traffic jams have never been my thing (not that they're anyone's thing, I guess, but I think I get a little more anxious than what's considered normal). Then, in a display of impeccable timing that seems peculiar to grumpy infants, my daughter began screaming from the back seat. I never have handled her crying very well. Other people seem so calm about babies, seem to be able to pick them up and coo sympathetically while they kvetch and howl. Me, not so much. If I can't fix it, I'm clearly doing something wrong, and I get anxious and panicky. She was my baby, though, and I'd become pretty good at fixing my baby. Usually.

But not tonight. Tonight, she was inconsolable and frantic. And so was I.

My first impulse, even in little things like these, had always been to ask God for help. I would breathe deep, focus my thoughts: "Dear God, please help me thr---"

NO, I stopped myself. No. No more, remember? You can do this.

Right. I can do this.

I can do this.

So I stared ahead at the road, forcing myself to ignore a God who I was sure was growing angrier by the moment. Hardening my heart.

And then it began to creep in at the corners of my mind. The fear. The fear they build into you when they teach you about God, the God of the Bible. That unnamed fear, tightening in the back of my throat: the knowledge of how God humbles those who don't acknowledge, at every turn, their abject dependence on him. I knew about Nebuchadnezzar. I knew about Job. I knew the God of the Bible. I knew he demanded to be first in my life. And I was terrified, because I never had been able to give that to him---no matter how I tried, I always knew in the back of my mind that my husband, my family, my friends all meant more to me. My daughter. And who knew what---or who---God would take from me, and when, just to prove that He was in charge? To bring me to the place where I could admit, dependent and chastened, that He was finally my everything?

He's a jealous God, you know? But it's only because he loves you so much. I wouldn't be so jealous if you weren't such a whore.

I wasn't scared of the situation I was in. I wasn't scared of the fact that I was lost, or stuck, or unable to comfort my baby (though these were all, admittedly, frustrating). No. I was scared of what God would do to me if I didn't immediately turn to Him for help. Even in the smallest of day-to-day trials. See, you don't pray to God to keep you safe from the bad things happening around you. I mean, God's in control of all those things anyway, right? No, you pray to God to keep you safe from God. You don't want to stand out as one of those uppity folks who think they can accomplish anything on their own.

This is why you ask things of God: so that you'll know that everything you have, you've had to ask for. So that you know your place.

And this was why it had to stop.

I can do this.

And you know what? I did. It's probably no surprise to any of you, of course, but it kinda was to me. I made it home just fine, with a peaceful, snoring baby in tow. No car accidents, no house fires, no general smitings. And no prayers. No negotiating with terrorists. A small victory, sure, but a victory all the same.

"All I have is what I give myself."

That line came to me in a dream back around September of last year. In a way, that dream saved me, certainly more than Jesus ever did. When I woke that morning, I understood for the first time that until I saw myself as worth something, nothing outside---not even God---could give me that worth. I was responsible for my own happiness; not God, not anyone else. It was, for the first time, power unto myself. But really, the only reason I got that message is because I was ready to hear it. I would have filtered it out before, because a message like that is antithetical to the idea that all fulfillment comes from God. The self is something to be denied, even despised. I must decrease so that Christ may increase. It's "You Suck" Christianity at its core. And while I was still clinging to a tattered belief in God at that time, I'd pretty much stopped treating my dreams as messages from God, and started thinking of them as messages from me. I guess what that translates to, on some level, is that I'd finally decided that I was worth listening to. That I had something worthwhile to say.

And hey, maybe I don't. But it couldn't hurt to give myself a goddamn chance for once, right?

There's a certain variety of Christian who will insist that God makes himself clearly known in the world around us, and so, anyone who chooses not to be a Christian is deliberately rebellious, rejecting the obvious truth of God out of pure spite. I don't know if I ever really bought into that idea fully---I think it always seemed a little sketchy to me---but I can't remember ever calling bullshit on it either. However, I know there are plenty of people who would probably say the same about me now---many of them old friends. And the annoying thing is that, in my case, they'd be right. See, because I'd been programmed so heavily to accept these things as true, they had become obvious to me. They are the default, even still. And in order to set myself free, I have had to actively reject them. And it's not been easy.

I'm not so sure that evangelical apologetics has much to do with winning new converts at all, now that I think of it. I think it has more to do with keeping present believers in line. Try and think for yourself, and you slam up against all these mental barriers you never knew were installed:

"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, says the Lord"

"...but we speak God's wisdom...not in words taught by human wisdom..."

"The heart is deceitful above all things..."

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."

The bottom line? You're not to be trusted. You are not capable of making good decisions, or even thinking for yourself. You suck. But Jesus loves you anyway, in spite of it all, and if you just submit to him completely*---mind, emotions and will---then it'll all be fine.

Anyone else get a creepy abusive boyfriend vibe off any of this? Just me?

Yeah. That's what I thought.

*By the way, when a person calls you to submit to Jesus, they almost always mean "submit to me and my understanding of scripture". Nobody would ever say it so outright, I think, but examine the attitude for more than a moment, and it's pretty clear.

Oh, wait, here. The esteemed Fred Clark of Slacktivist already tackled it (knew I'd remembered reading that somewhere):
It bears repeating here that Marshall Hall's claim of the pre-eminence of scripture is bogus. He claims, as all Unilateralists do, that he is treating the Bible with great respect as the final arbiter of all things. But this is not what he is really doing. What he is really doing is making his interpretation of the Bible the final arbiter of all things. Therefore what he is ultimately arguing is that he, Marshall Hall, is the final arbiter of all things. His assertion, in other words, is not really that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, but that he is.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I picked up a copy of The Power of Myth from the library today. I'd been interested in reading it for a while now for a couple of reasons, the first being that I've been on a bit of a journey of self-discovery lately---who isn't, right?---which has involved me keeping a dream journal, which in turn has led to me reading up a fair bit on myth and archetype. Yeah. Whatever, it's fun. The second reason, though, is a little more complicated, and requires a little background. But before that, I think I need to explain what prompted this post.

When I opened the book, the first thing to catch my eye was that someone had written in pencil, above the Introduction:
"...the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge and mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should decieve (sic) you through persuasive words...Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit...not according to Christ. Col. 2:2-8"
Now, I take it as a positive sign that my first thought was, "Huh. Some douchebag on a holy mission", rather than "God is sending you a warning! Turn back! Oh noes!" That was, however, my very next thought, and I had to take a moment to talk myself through the panic before I could move on...which is a pretty clear sign that I'm not all better yet. Once I got past it, though, I began to read and found that Douchebag On A Mission (DOAM) had littered the margins with smarmy little notes.

"Who defines good?"

"Never talk about truth just what seems best."

"Professing to be wise, they became fools. Rom 1:22"

"Creation tells us things about God men understand but corrupt yet God is the same."

"Those principalities went against the Gospel just like Campbell."

And much as I wanted to fling the book across the room, I had to laugh. How could I not? It was like looking at myself through a mirror into the past. If it weren't someone else's handwriting---and if I didn't have some scrupulous aversion to writing in books in the first place---I'd have guessed it was me. Which, strangely enough, leads us back to my second reason for picking up this book, which again, as I said, requires a bit of background.

See, while the Christian high school I attended was pretty solid on academics, it was equally (if not primarily) concerned with instilling the proper worldview in its students, which meant making sure we all were properly equipped to view life through the lens of their peculiar subset of Christianity, so that we could go out into the public sphere and badger others into doing the same.

Geds the Accidental Historian wrote up a great little Field Guide to The North American Evangelical some time back, which should serve as a helpful reference to any of you unfamiliar with this subculture. By my senior year, I had become #6, Answers to Everything, a particularly obnoxious little breed who, out of her own raging insecurity, seeks to amass knowledge for herself to build up a sturdy defense against all comers. I can't say for the whole staff, but a fair number of teachers there were of the Answers to Everything variety as well, and seemed to uphold it as the highest standard of Christian virtue. And I, being an obliging, codependent little wench, wanted nothing more than to give the right answer and receive a pat on the head in return.

Anyway, senior year. English class. Mrs. Jacobs. She was one of my favorite teachers, actually, and still is. She was a funny, insightful woman who, in spite of it all, genuinely challenged us to think. Looking back, actually, I notice that most of my favorite teachers were my English teachers . They seemed to have a better sense of humor and a more relaxed approach to life and human nature than did, say, the Bible teachers---but I suspect that's true of anyone who routinely deals with literature outside of a bizarre, narrow interpretation one's own holy scriptures.

But that's not to say the English teachers were entirely exempt from the little quirks of the Evangelical mindset. As we sat there one balmy May afternoon, wishing for the final bell, Mrs. Jacobs stood before us and warned us to be on our guard as we went off to college: the ideology represented in the video she was about to play for us was now standard fare at most universities, and it represented a grave danger to our faith. We spent the rest of the week watching the PBS special with Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell, with Mrs Jacobs piping up every so often to point out specific heresies we would no doubt encounter. I don't remember much about Campbell himself except that he said "metaphor" funny, and had really sweaty armpits. That much I remember. The embodiment of deception stood before us and he had sweaty armpits. I marveled at the banality of evil.

Months later, while my friends had all gone off to their colleges of choice, I was taking evening courses at community college with no real aim. I rationalized, of course. Two years here, then Berkeley. It's cheaper this way. People smiled and nodded, perhaps because they sensed that I needed them to. When two years had passed and I hadn't transferred, I had, by that time, become a very active member of a Charismatic church nearby, so it was very easy to decide that God had kept me at said junior college, in spite of my plans, for His greater purpose. Praise God. Every new turn of the story brought a new spin; a new understanding of God's divine plan. But of course it was all me: I hadn't turned in the things I needed to turn in, I had procrastinated until after all the due dates, mostly because I was afraid. I'd spent a lot of time online, avoiding friends and hiding from the decisions everyone kept saying I needed to make. In the end, I decided by not deciding, and now here I was, rotting in relative obscurity and embarrassment, while my friends were all off doing something to be proud of.

But I took deep comfort in the idea of "defending my faith", which, as most of you can probably guess, mainly meant cultivating a sense of persecution and striking back at imagined foes. In those moments, I didn't feel like a failure: I felt like a warrior. If my world looked mundane, that was only the illusion: everyday life was fraught with hidden meaning and significance, and I walked by faith, not by sight.

My first fall semester, I took a course in World Mythology. I can't exactly remember why, at the time, though I remember always liking mythology. I grew up reading Greek and Roman myths---sanitized for children, but still recognizable---and on hot summer nights, when we would sleep in the front room where it was cooler, my mom would put on the cassette of Navajo legends she'd brought back with her from one of her backpacking trips. As I drifted off to sleep I would watch the four arrows--- blue, yellow, white and black---stretching out into eternity as the world was born.

Of course, that was when I was a child, and I thought as a child, and now I put childish things behind me. I had a higher purpose, and I wouldn't be swayed. I bought the books for the class, one of which---wonder of wonders---happened to be by Joseph Campbell. The warnings from high school rang anew in my mind. My Peretti Novel Spidey Sense tingled as I noticed the black snakes entwined on the cover, and I left the bookstore with a renewed sense of importance. Campbell represented some vague, looming evil---a man who had set himself up against God, daring to address Christianity as one of many myths, instead of acknowledging, like C.S. Lewis, that Christianity was the fulfillment of all previous myths. A man who was singlehandedly deceiving millions. Not knowing what else to do, I spent the rest of the evening in the cafeteria, reading, and jotting down notes that sounded a whole helluva lot like the ones I found scribbled in the margins of the book I picked up today. At the time, I'd thought them an incisive apologia for the Christian faith. I happened upon them again when I was cleaning house a couple months ago, and found them, not surprisingly, to be an embarrassing example of Completely Missing The Point. Like DOAM, I'd been so defensive of what I'd been indoctrinated to believe, that I never really got what I was reading.

I rarely ever learned for the sake of learning, in those days. I either learned for the sake of having knowledge to put on display, or I learned for the sake of building a defense against what I was being taught, in order to preserve my brittle faith. And that's why, in spite of years of hard work, I remain pretty uneducated.

And it's why I picked up that book today. It's not entirely about it being a big "fuck you" to my indoctrinators, though I'll admit, that sure doesn't hurt. It's not even about sitting at the feet of Campbell and mindlessly absorbing all he has to say---I'm not looking for a new religion. It's about dropping the defensiveness and being willing to learn. If I were still one to couch things in Christian terms, I might call that humility*. It's about dropping the battle mindset, and being willing to see someone who disagrees with you as just that: a person, who happens to disagree with you. They don't represent The Enemy, and you sure as fuck don't represent God, at least no more than any of us do. You represent you. Why can't that be enough?

It's about liking myself enough for that to be enough.

And going from there.

* D'oh! Michael Mock points out in the comments that "humility" is by no means an exclusively Christian term, and he's absolutely right. Sorry about that. Unfortunately, for me the word had always been used in a religious context, so I still reflexively think of it as Christianese. Not sure how to fix that in the original post, so I'm patching it up here with an asterisk and a disclaimer.