where i am these days

these days i’m in the middle all the time, and i don’t think i have the courage or the stamina or whatever that takes because i’m exhausted. and that’s hard, really hard to admit, because i don’t think i deserve it, to be exhausted.

here is a secret: i came from the rural evangelical South to the urban mainline North because i thought i’d see a way towards  reconciliation between the two expressions of Christianity. but i don’t. what i see is all the stereotypes perpetuating themselves. At home i attend an extremely conservative Reformed evangelical church, 15 years old; in New York i’m at an extremely liberal Methodist church of 120 years; and they’re both exactly like you’d expect. Meanwhile i travel between, and the Presbyterians tell me how misguided the Methodists’ theology is while the Methodists tell me how intolerant the Presbyterians are. and the very most frustrating thing is how wonderful and beautiful they all are, these people, and how imperfect and blind they can be at the same time – in short, that they are breathtaking frustrating humans like all the other humans, like each other. If they could separate the person from the position, they’d be delighted with one another.

and it is all compounded here, online, how desperately in-between i feel. everyone sees themselves Defenders Of The Good in their pet debates, pet accusations, pet proof-texts. my twitter feed scrolls past – feminism, prostitution in Southeast Asia, thoughts about diversity, and arguments about welfare, all of which are extremely personal to me. i have something to say about all of these things; but i can’t muster the energy to say it, not least because it’s never to take a side and Defend The Good but always to weigh both sides, devil’s advocate, no-man’s-land. And the children of God go on fighting like, like children who can’t see that The Good is not in nearly as much danger as they think.

That’s where the blog here keeps getting hung up; i have things to say but i need a lot of words to say them, and the energy keeps getting sucked out of me by all the stupid arguments i encounter from the very best of well-meaning people – again, online and in real life.

it’s tempting to just get out. you know what i want? i want a good long backpacking trip in the real world. but when i got back – here’s the scariest part – this would be waiting here. my vocation. i can leave the blogosphere, but somehow i’ve decided to entangle myself in the absurd world of academia; i’ve embarked on this cross-cultural experience as some kind of idiotic ambassador from the South; i love my evangelical roots but i see a desperate need for some changes. so i’ve got to find some kind of place here, in the middle.

but right now, it’s hugely uncomfortable. it’s the airplane seat you’ve been in for too long. i’m irritable and distracted all the time, because i just can’t find a single place that feels normal, comfortable, OK.

can i tell you what i’ve been waiting for someone to say?

I love the Bible with all my heart and read it every day, but I can’t pretend there’s always a straightforward interpretation of it.

I worry about making concessions to The World. I also worry about being close-minded out of fear.

Being a liberal in a conservative place affords more opportunity to feel self-righteous than being conservative in a progressive place.

Speaking of which, “progressive” is a silly term; our generation has no more and no fewer blind spots than any other age.

Anger is a helpful tool, but it shouldn’t be a place to dwell. Hope is a greater motivator.

Blogs and online arguments have their place, but almost everyone doesn’t read them. You have to do things in real life to change the world – or people’s minds.

You can’t know your “enemy” until you know them. Whenever you make unfair caricatures, straw men, and attacks you remove yourself farther from the truth; from a solution. People don’t change their minds and attitudes because you shame them. And you don’t know your own argument til you’ve entertained someone else’s. You don’t know poverty til you’ve been here for a good long while. You don’t know rich people til you’ve seen under the surface. You don’t know the North til you’ve been here. You don’t know the South til you’ve been here. You don’t know young people til you’re friends with us.

The point of “telling your story” isn’t just to speak and argue and talk and “own things” and fight and claim authority because of what did or didn’t happen, what you did or didn’t do or feel. The point is to add your voice to all the others, because in the storytelling we should become better storylisteners.

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  1. Lindsey. This is…great. So great. Sitting on the fringes of these conversations, and navigating similar denomination transitions & dialogues, I say a hearty AMEN to all this.

    (also, I recommend a backpacking trip. Particularly the Camino de Santiago. Life will be waiting when you get back, but you might not be quite the same…)


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