Talk is Cheap…

Art has issued an apology letter.  I received a link to it: https://artazurdia.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/confession-letter-from-art-azurdia

There’s so much to write about the male dominated church and how Art is a perfect example of the dangers of that, but first and foremost, I want to address this “apology/confession” letter.  I’m tempted to just write, “What a bunch of BS, but I feel it needs more commentary than that.

Please take the time to read it, but let me warn you, it’s long,  as most everything Art writes or says.  Along with that, it has that “Look at me! Look at me!” style, so uniquely Art’s (And every other narcissistic pastor).  Please note how many times he uses the pronoun “I,’” more than 29 times.

There is so much in the letter that could have been left out, but Art being Art, had to get all verbose. He’s so flipping bombastic. He just can’t help himself and it’s because people, in his Christian world, eat it up.  From the comments I’ve read, they don’t seem to care what he did.  They are just falling all over themselves to forgive this “godly, imperfect man.” Hoping to have a seat at his table.  Here’s an example of a comment: “Thank you for your honesty.  Not only did you admit your faults, but you resigned.  I respect your bravery and the honor you showed in the midst of your repentance.”  Ugh! Are you serious?  He is neither brave nor honorable.

Let me be clear, he did not come forward on his own, he was caught.  He did not confess because he couldn’t live with himself or because a holy spirit convicted him of his sin.   Quite the contrary, and I believe if his affair had not been revealed, he would be happily screwing a married woman and destroying her life, while preaching so eloquently from the pulpit and no one would be the wiser. He did it before; why would this time be different? He’s sorry he got caught and that says everything.

With all his extravagant words, one glaring omission is an apology for exerting his power over the women he cheated with. He used his position to basically gain access to married women who were under his authority. He was not just the senior pastor of Trinity, but he was also a professor at Western Seminary in Portland. Yes, the women are culpable, but he was a man in a position of power and he abused that power, yet there is no apology to the husbands or the families which he is responsible for basically destroying and I can bet you that they don’t have “Experienced counselors,” or a “Team of qualified people” who will be assisting them in strengthening their marriages.  The women are left twisting in the wind and their families aren’t even an afterthought in his mind.  Who knows?  Maybe he even blames the women.  That’s how the church works.  Oh, those Jezebels that led a godly man astray with their seductiveness.   I wouldn’t put it past him or the people that bend and scrape at his feet to think that.  There needs to be a #metoo movement in the church, although I doubt it will ever happen. Maybe I’ll write more about that later.

My biggest concern right now is that Art may make his way back into a position of power again.  You know that’s his goal, right?  Otherwise he’s just a short little, paunchy, balding, troll of a man that is just good at using big words—lots and lots of the words—the best words.  He’s like the man behind the curtain now—exposed, powerless.  I sincerely hope he stays that way.  The Christian Church will be better for it, but the Christian Church needs to step up and make that happen.  They need to stop using forgiveness and supposed godliness as an excuse not to talk about the things that he has done, to them and to those they love.  Just because he didn’t have sex with those people doesn’t mean that his harm was not as great, his behavior less egregious.  Where’s the repentance for that?  It seems leadership in the churches don’t really care about those things.

You might find it interesting that he wrote a similar “apology” letter several years ago, while still at Christ Community.  He, read it from the pulpit. He sounded quite moving, quite passionate.  It was the same kind of thing.  He  apologized for one thing and left the things he should have been apologizing for–all the lies and the harm–unspoken.   He hasn’t changed.  He’ll be back.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

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Shoot me down, but I won’t Fall

I was trying to decide which song I wanted to post first and decided on this one.  I prefer the EDM version, but for this post, I think this video is better. It’s not really on the unrequited love theme, but definitely love lost—friend and family love.

Listening to this song made me think of all the friends I’d lost and how my mother and sister treated me.  In my early posts I wrote of  the suffering I went through from the loss. At times it was almost unbearable. I ran and hid. I was always on the offensive and always feeling like I had to be the one to mend those relationships, because I was the bad one—the one who no longer believed.

Of course, at some point I realized that it didn’t matter what I did, I was no longer a Christian and so I no longer had a place at the table—figuratively and literally.  They were done with me, but not before they did their “Christian duty.” I love the one line in the song: “Stone hard, machine gun, firing at the ones who run, stone-hard as bulletproof glass.”  They do fire at the ones who run, don’t they?  Thankfully, I kept running–in a zigzag pattern, of course, as to survive.

Most importantly the song continues to remind me of just how far I’ve come.  I’m stronger now—Titanium.  Those people can’t hurt me anymore.  They may pity me, but they are the ones who should be pitied.  They are the ones who now no longer have a place at my table and you know what?  It’s their loss.

I’m bullet proof, nothing to lose.

 

Say Something

If I could sing a song to the god I had believed in for so long, the god I loved and trusted in—my first real love—it would be the song I have attached below. As my anger toward Christians, and God and religion began to dissipate, I was looking forward to moving on, having all that stuff not matter any more.  I had no idea that my anger and angst would be replaced with incredible pain before it was all said and done.  It all came to the surface one day as I listened to this song for the first time.

All those nights I begged god to reveal himself to me, and all those prayers I prayed on my knees in the dark, and nothing.  Anger would be easier for me at this point, but that is not what I’m left with right now.  So be it.  I feel a little closer to being completely healed.  I kind of always knew that I would have to confront the sorrow at some point, and now I am.  So be it.  Enjoy the song.  I believe it will touch you as well.  (Sorry about the ad on the video.  It’s worth the wait though)

@%&#*!

anger-enjoyIt’s been such a busy time.  School’s out now. There was graduation, then college orientation, and to top it off I am selling my house.  I’ve thought about my blog every day, but just had no time to write.  Not that there hasn’t been lots of things to write about and when I am unable to put down in writing my thoughts, they race through my mind like a whirling dervish and I have little peace.  Thankfully, as I was confronted with some mind numbing stuff this morning, I made myself sit down and open my laptop.  It was either that or have my head explode.

As I watched the news this morning and saw that 19 firefighters lost their lives in a wild fire in Arizona—a special elite group of firefighters that all died together when the fire turned back on them–I was deeply saddened.  How very tragic.  As an atheist, I think about how nature sucks sometimes and there’s just no making sense of why.  It happens—bad stuff happens and there’s no god causing it or able to stop it.  Knowing this feels so much better than trying to do mental gymnastics to make sense of a “loving, all-knowing, all powerful god,” allowing or causing such a tragedy to happen.  My heart goes out to the families and I hope they have loved ones around them to comfort them in a time when there really is no comfort, just grief.

Unfortunately, I logged on to facebook and was immediately confronted with all the prayer posts.  I knew I would be, but it’s all good; “Let them pray,” I thought.  Then there was post from one of my facebook friends that sent me over the top. She had lost her ferret on Saturday and then this morning, she found him.  She posted, “I found my ferret.  Thank you Jesus.”  THANK YOU JESUS?! WTF?  You simply can’t make this stuff up. First I laughed, then I got angry and the anger grew.  It took everything in me not to comment on her post, “Oh, now I know why those firefighters died, God was busy looking for your effing ferret. Jesus must really think you are special.”  Why didn’t I?  As an atheist I have to think about everything I say.  Do they?

Do Christians even think about what they say?  As a non-believer it is so upsetting to see and hear Christians say mindless, imbecilic, and insensitive things like what the ferret owner said.  Sadly, as an atheist, I cannot say anything back, because suddenly I am a hater.  I’m trying to steal people’s faith away.  I want to ask her, since she seems to believe that God found her ferret, why he didn’t save those brave young men who were fighting to save others?  Of course there would be no answer, unless you count, “It’s just a mystery, or who are we to question god, or our finite minds just can’t comprehend the workings of god.”  What a bunch of ignorant BS!  If I did ask that question, she would think, “There she goes again.  She’s so mean.”  You know what?  She’s mean–mean,ignorant and delusional!  There, I said it.

Christians wonder why atheists seem so angry, and to be honest, we are sometimes, but we don’t start off angry; we honestly don’t.  We just want to have the same rights that Christians have when it comes to voicing our opinion, but we don’t and it gets frustrating.  When we say something they think is mean, or offensive, they point their fingers at us and say, “See? See?  Look how angry and bitter atheists are without God,” but let them say something so utterly ignorant and stupid as “Thank you Jesus for helping me find my ferret, while young fathers, brothers, and husbands burned to death,” and we had just better respect their faith.  We just need to be nice, fold our hands and nod our heads with a smile, so they will see we really are nice, caring people.  Fuck that.  Fuck them.

The Truth About Love

love-2I’ve been thinking a lot about 1 Corinthians 13.  People, not  always Christians, use this part of scripture as a reading for weddings and other events, regularly. When I heard it the other day, I realized how profound it is, and of all the scripture I have read, 1 Corinthians 13 is actually something I can hold onto as a guideline for my life:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Interestingly, these principles are the ones I have rarely seen in the Christians in my life, especially the ones that are closest to me. There have been a couple of times where I confronted my sister with these scriptures and let her know that when she says she loves me, but continues to be cruel and rejecting, she isn’t living out 1 Corinthians 13, which is part of her holy book.  Her response to me has always been the same; “I do love you, I just can’t be around you, or I don’t trust you, or I have a wall up between me and you,” etc., etc. Well, what is love then?  The apostle Paul seems to make it clear.  Maybe in “the original language” it means something entirely different.

I decided to look up the definition of love and here is a synopsis:  “Profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection; to take great pleasure in as for a parent, child, or friend.”

Most hard core Christians, my sister and mother included, do not exhibit any of the aspects of 1 Corinthians 13 love, at least not to me.  I’m not sure why.  It’s like the more you study the scriptures and the closer you get to god, the meaner, more judgmental, and more hateful you become.  I saw it in myself and I’ve seen it in my sister.  In fact, seeing it happen to my sister caused me to take a good hard look at myself.  I have to admit it’s easier to exhibit 1 Corinthians 13 love as a secular humanist than it ever was as a Christian. I wonder why that is?  The apostle says that it doesn’t matter whether you have knowledge, or have faith; if you lack love, you are nothing and yet, many Christians are great at attaining knowledge and going on and on about their faith, yet love, real love, is rarely seen.  At least I have not encountered it.

It’s as if knowing and speaking the laws of God, or trotting out the faith card are more important than simply loving.  It’s all so pharisaical and you know what Jesus had to say about them?  Let me paraphrase; they were gross.

Emptier Words…Part 2

I'll Pray for You

Yesterday, I talked about how shallow the words “I love you” can be and how evident that shallow love is in the Christian Church.  Today, I want to concentrate on more empty words: “I will be, I have been, or I am, praying for you.  Now, I realize that some people actually do pray for people after they say those words, (I’ll set aside the reality that prayer doesn’t work) but I have found that most church-going Christians say, “I am praying for you,” and then first, never do, and second, do nothing tangible for the person they are “praying” for, simply because they have already done their part by “praying.”  In my experience, it’s a lot like, “I love you,” in the sense that, like I love you, they think by saying “I’m praying for you,” their work is done.    I could give you many, many examples, but I’ll just mention a few, because those who have been in the Christian world know what I say is sadly true.  Heck, I did it myself and had many Christian friends admit the same. Even if we did pray about it, that would usually be as far as it went.  We had done our part, right?

I’m sure that’s what my sister was thinking when she sent me a scathing letter, basically ripping me to shreds and then telling me she loved me and was praying for me.  I guess that was a double whammy of empty words!  Did she call me and ask me to go have lunch or just hang out, or if I needed anything?  No, she turned her back on me—wouldn’t even have me in her home–but I took comfort in the idea that she loved me and was praying for me—right.

When my son was in the ICU, suffering from a brain injury, I sat there, for the most part, alone.  When, after having no sleep for two days, I stopped by the school to let the principle (a devout Christian, by the way) know how he was doing.  Granted, he hadn’t called to ask, but I thought he would want to know.  Finally, he took time to talk with me, and after I told him how things were going, he said, “Well, I’ve been praying for him.”  Exhausted, I looked at him, and although I didn’t say anything, I remember thinking, “So that’s what empty words feel like.”  I said, “Thank you,” and wanted to vomit.

During that time, after growing weary of “I’m praying for you” comments on my facebook, I posted a quote there: Praying is like a rocking chair – it’ll give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.”  You would have thought I had posted that I liked cooking babies and eating them for dinner.  The point of the post was to let my Christian friends and family know that we needed more than their words, but they couldn’t hear me; they were too offended.  The attacks from Christians, during that trying and scary time, were shocking.  My own nephews publically attacked me—saying really hurtful and untrue things to me. It’s still hard to think about, even today.  In some ways I think all the defensiveness posted there was born out of guilt, but I also think they didn’t know what to do when their shallow words weren’t comforting to us.  Maybe they were nervous that they might have to do something outside of their comfort zone and, of course, Jesus would never endorse such a thing.  Sadly, for the Christian, it was my non-Christian friends that cooked dinner for us and cared for us and I will never forget that.  And people wonder why I want nothing to do with the Christian community.

My final example happened just a few months ago.  I had stopped by my apartment manager’s office (again, another devout Christian) and somehow it came up that my son is permanently disabled by his accident (he has no sense of smell or taste). I told her that we are hoping that medical technology will come up with a way to stimulate the damaged nerves so that they can grow back.  She smiled and said, “I’m going to pray for him.  I believe god can heal him.  …What’s his name again?”  There was so much I wanted to say: “You mean you need to know his name otherwise god won’t know who you are talking about, or do you need to know his name so that you can share the request at prayer group so god will know who they are talking about?”  I thought about saying, “Oh, I never thought of doing that, I’ll tell his neurologist.  He’ll be so relieved, so will my son. Oh, happy day!”  I didn’t say any of those things though.  I did what most non-believers do when faced with shallow religious ignorance.  I said “Thank you,” and walked out, fairly certain she would not pray or even remember my son’s name, for that matter. Some might wonder what I would have wanted her to say.  I have thought about that.  I guess it would have felt good to hear her say, “Oh I’m so sorry. That must be difficult.  I hope he will be okay. Is there anything I can do for him?”  Maybe that’s just too intimate for the Christian to say—too real.

So FYI dear Christian, when you say, “I’m praying for you,” to a non-believer, we hear “I’m going to go talk to myself about that later.”  We want to see and feel care, not hear it.  We’re kind of evidence based.  We’re weird like that.

Emptier Words…

Christian loveAfter a recent encounter with my mother, I got to thinking about how shallow words can be and just how prevalent that shallowness is in the Christian church, where love, true love, is supposed to abound.  Here are two examples that came to mind: 1) I love you, and 2) I am, or have been, praying for you.  Today, I want to focus on the first one: “I love you,” Now, back to my mother.

When I first started this post, I found myself going into every sordid detail of the past two years involving my relationship with my mother.  I suppose it was cathartic, and in some ways I wanted others to understand just how horrible her behavior has been, but no one else needs to read all that.  So let’s just say she would tell me that she loved me “unconditionally,” but then act as if she wished I did not exist. To date, she has no idea why I gave up Christianity and she has no idea why my marriage of 24 years ended.  She claims to not understand the changes that have taken place in my life, but continues to refuse to discuss them with me and continues to basically ignore me; yet, she contends that she loves me “unconditionally.”  Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t that something you say to someone who has done something really horrible and you want to let them know that in spite of that, you love them? Otherwise, why would you feel the need to add the “unconditional” caveat?

Anyway, we are officially “estranged.” Our last conversation ended with my mother saying, “I love you and always will,” (At least she didn’t say “unconditionally” this time) to which I responded,  “Emptier words have never been spoken to me mom.”  She countered:  “So be it.”  Now, if one of my daughters had said something like that to me, I would have been devastated and done everything in my power to make things right.  Not my mom, my Jesus loving mom.  I picture her saying “So be it,” and then skipping off,  tra la la la la.  She had done her duty as a Christian mother.  ~The End.

Over the past few years, I can’t tell you how many Christians have told me they love me; this would include my sister, as well as my mother.  In spite of all this “love,” they have been absolutely absent from my life.  Well to be fair, they did show up occasionally, usually to crush my fingers as I clutched weakly to the edge of the emotional abyss, but mostly they were absent.

The thing about Christians is they think that by merely saying they love someone, they have done all they need to do.   This has not been my experience alone; it is wide spread. I saw it in my daughter’s youth group.  They would tell her they loved her, but when she was struggling and needing love the most, all she had was words.  They couldn’t be bothered with any awkward problems.  They needed to plan the next trip to Mexico, or make their next promotional video.  The sad thing about that is these youth leaders are teaching the young people to do the same thing—how to give Christian lip service.  They model the very idea that saying I love you is enough, nothing more needs to be done, and they wonder why young people are leaving The Church in droves.  I used to see the same thing on Sunday mornings in the worship service, during the “meet and greet” time—words of love were everywhere.  There was no love, just words—empty, empty words.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that Christians are incapable of love.  They love, but most of the people they express love to, they couldn’t care less about.

Love should be an act, not a word.  As a non-believer, that is the way I want to live my life.  My daughter recently said to me, “Mom, if you never told me you loved me again, because of the way you love me, I would still know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you did–more than anything.”

That, my friends, is love.

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