Monthly Archives: June 2013
I realized something today. My brain and I need to take a break. A long one. I need some silence in my head for a little while.
Whenever I reach this point, the first thing I think of is Perelandra by C.S. Lewis. I know that probably seemed to come out of left park, but bear with me. In Perelandra, the protangonist, Ransom, is sent to the planet Venus, which is in a pre-sin state of perfection. There, God gives him the task of protecting Venus’ version of Eve, called the Green Lady, from the temptations of Satan. Ransom, the Green Lady, and Weston (whom Satan—or perhaps one of his demons—has inhabited in the same way he inhabited the snake in the Garden) have a long, exhaustive debate in which Weston tries to convince the Green Lady to sin, and Ransom tries to convince the Green Lady that Weston’s arguments don’t come from God (or Maleldil, as he is called on Venus). Anyway, the Green Lady quite frequently decides to dismiss both Weston and Ransom so she can sleep and be by herself.
During one of these waiting spells, while Ransom is wandering Venus by himself, he lets himself fall into self pity and reflects with frustration on the futility of his efforts, and why God is remaining so silent:
Inner silence is for our race a difficult achievement. There is a chattering part of the mind which continues, until it is corrected, to chatter on even in the holiest places. Thus, while; one part of Ransom remained, as it were, prostrated in a hush of fear and love that resembled a kind of death, something else inside him unaffected by reverence, continued to pour queries and objections into his brain. ‘It’s all very well,’ said this voluble critic, ‘a presence of that sort! But the Enemy is really here, really saying and doing things. Where is Maleldil’s representative?’
C.S. Lewis goes on for nearly a whole chapter to narrate Ransom’s struggles with this “voluble self”, as he labels that nasty tendency we have to let our minds run amok, infusing us with self-absorption even as we are pondering really important issues—in Ransom’s case, his own sense of inadequacy as the one God has chosen to confront the devil and prevent an entire world from falling into sin.
Ever since I read that chapter in Perelandra, the phrase “voluble self” has stuck with me. We all have one, and we all let it control our thought lives. But so very often, I wish my mind had an “off switch”. That would make it so much easier to hear the whispers of God among the cacophony of voices demanding attention in my head.
I know thoughts are good. Rational thinking is good. Working through your beliefs, and your convictions, and your baggage is all good. But sometimes, too, your voluble self can be your own worst enemy. Sometimes you can think so much that you dig yourself into a pit without leaving yourself footholds to climb out. And I fear I do that often. I’ve come to realize that the only thing I can do at that point is plop myself down at the bottom of my self-dug pit, cross-legged and resigned, with my chin resting in the palm of my hand, and wait for God to pull me out.
This blog post, written by theology professor Peter Enns, is the inspiration for this question. In my post, I’m going to try to address how this idea that has wormed its way into the Church—this idea that standing by our beliefs is the most important thing we could possibly do as Christians—plays itself out in my own church life.
Several months ago, I followed a rabbit trail on the Internet that led me to Rachel Held Evans’ blog. I was confused, amazed, and enlightened by her ideas. That someone could express such unabashed adoration for the teachings of Christ and the Bible, yet believe in evolution, believe in an egalitarian model of marriage, etc., didn’t make a lick of sense to me. But I pushed past my confusion and continued to read her posts. And I slowly fell in love with her words. In fact, I fear I may have come to place where I idolize her a little bit. Not cool.
Anyway, lately I had been thinking about how awesome it would be to have her come speak at my church—at a women’s retreat or something. I’d love to meet her in person, and I think the other girls in my young adult group could learn as much from her as I have.
Then I thought about Enns’ idea, and how much fear I feel at the idea of approaching the leadership at my church and being told “no” about Rachel coming to speak at my church, because Rachel believes in evolution. Because Rachel believes women can and should be pastors. Or a million other beliefs that Rachel holds, beliefs that I also am beginning to see make a whole lot of sense to me. I know that the women of my church would benefit from a talk by Rachel. Enns’ post just made me realize that my church—and many other churches too—are often so concerned with defending the “right doctrine” that they miss the opportunity to learn from someone who probably has a lot of good things to say about faith, and love, and Christianity in general.
Maybe we all need to be a little more open-minded. That, at least, is what I draw from Peter Enn’s analysis of action vs. belief in the Church.
From the moment I’d been accepted at Grove City College, I was proud to be a Grover. I was proud of my school’s reputation, and I was proud of the values it stood for. For three of the four years that I was a student there, I fit right in. I understood my peers, and they understood me. We came from a common background, we Grovers. We were all smart, ambitious, hard-working, and most importantly of all, proudly Christian.
So imagine my surprise when, a few months ago, I found out that according to The Huffington Post, Grove City College is the second-least LGBT-friendly college in the nation. Boy was that a wake-up call.
When I first stumbled upon that HuffPost article, I immediately recalled an experience I’d had at GCC. One night, during my senior year, my roommate (who had been my roommate for two years already, so we were really tight) burst into our room, her face clearly demonstrating that she was upset.
“Tiffani, I joined the Gay-Straight Alliance group on campus,” she told me, rather quietly. Looking back, I can remember now that her tone was full of sorrow for the attitudes she’d seen on campus, and a conviction to make a difference.
At the time, though, I didn’t hear that. I just heard the words. I can’t really remember what I responded to her with, but I’m sure it included some sort of nervous laughter and a very insincere attempt to show support.
Looking back, now, I hate that I was so ignorant. If I knew then what I know now, I would have hugged my roommate. I would have told her I was so proud of her for advocating for those who undoubtedly felt oppressed on this campus. Heck, I may have even gone and joined too—although I’m not sure I would have been brave enough, even if I was armed with the knowledge I am now.
I shared this story about my roommate and the atmosphere on my campus because they both helped reveal something to me: ignorance is not bliss. Not in this case, anyway. Ignorance made me feel comfortable in an environment I should have been more critical of. Ignorance made me feel concern instead of admiration when I saw someone I knew come “out” on Facebook. Ignorance made me part of the problem that so many gays and lesbians face today in a culture that is largely intolerant of them.
I will not be ignorant anymore. If I have to bend over backwards to hear and seek to understand the stories of LGBT folk, I will. I do not want to contribute to the problem any longer.