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.