I’m not the sort of person who uses the words miracle and piss in the same post. I’m not the sort of person who uses the word miracle, but that’s what you’re getting today.
A few Sundays ago I took the train down from St. Andrews to Edinburgh with friends to visit a church as part of a class assignment, to consider architecture and a liturgical community’s interaction with space. We got into the city around 9 that morning and broke off to our respective churches. I misread the church I was supposed to go to and walked fourteen blocks down to the arts district holding a cold cortado and my iPhone listlessly, and between the galleries and the paint supply store I realised I had gone the wrong way. Or, really, I had no idea where I was supposed to be going.
Defeated, I searched Google Maps with the vague descriptor Episcopal, because it was last August I had felt at home in a church and had yet to do so in Scotland and this day was, irrationally, the day that I most needed it to work, for church to happen, be felt, be known.
Well, for Him to be. He was silent those days. (Is still, though that’s another story.) I read my Bible. I prayed. I wound the clock. Nothing. I thought I had dealt with this, had reached the place of accepting His silence with some sense of sophistication, but I hadn’t, I was pissed and tired and over it and I needed Him to show up. I told Him as much, there between the gallery and the paint supply store.
I chose St. John’s because Joan Didion’s church in New York was St. John the Divine. It was twenty minutes away on foot and I hastily began the walk back out of the arts district toward the other side of downtown.
I don’t know why you need to know this: Didion, New York, twenty minutes, but there is something that feels necessary about the remnant details, that in a post where I shall speak of miracle I’d better be sure I also speak of ordinary.
On my mind:
I am not your Holy Spirit.
-- Joy Bennet
An assortment of notes:
- I've officially become a baker for Our Story, a brilliant café project in St. Andrews. Remember when I thought about not getting a PhD, moving home, and opening a bakery? Well, it's sort of happening, just not how I imagined. My job is to come up with a unique cake idea or baked good each week and just go for it. Coming next week? Ginger spice cupcakes with bitter blood orange frosting and carmel sugar bird nests.
- I reread The Fault in Our Stars this past week and fell in love all over again. Then cried a lot. It's fine. I'm going back to Paper Towns.
- Oh, right, Nigella Lawson. That happened. I sat in my kitchen with two spots on me and a mug of Campari and ginger syrup and talked about pasta, truffle oil (which is fake, apparently? but I have doubts), and life, generally. It was nifty.
- I've begun to play with sugar, by which I mean learning to spin sugar, candy things, pastry chef it up. I'm in love. I'm also buying 5lb bags of sugar at a time. I may need help.
- I still don't understand Vine. I still think if you use it, you're close to the worst. You're not the worst you're just close to it. I'm sorry. Maybe I just don't get maybe. Maybe you're bad at Vine-ing. I don't know. I'm sorry.
- I've been thinking a lot lately about blogs, ownership, and people who know you just enough to be your friend but not enough to be your person. This is in part thanks to Jason's post, which I like bellow. There's a strange tension in which you post a piece of yourself, or a series of yourself (Twitter, Instagram, Vine), or whatever and people confuse that public self with the private self, think that because you've put a piece of yourself in the world, they own that piece somehow, have the right to critique it. They do have the right to critique, but those lines get strange when they are people you know so-so and they know you so-so. I suppose this is a reflection about rights and agency and how no one has a right to more of the story than you're ready to tell or able to tell. I think this, too, only makes sense to people who live a significant portion of their lives in the open online. There are unspoken rules here. Maybe I'll write about that at some point, about the rules of being an online/offline engager. I don't know. Maybe something about how it feels like, when you get a stray comment out of the blue or from someone who doesn't blog or from someone who has no skin in the game, you want to point out that's like walking over to a table that's been having a conversation for two hours and expecting you can get in on it and understand everything, as well as have the same power of voice. You don't. You need to listen for awhile. You need to understand how it works. These aren't abstracts for us, but concretes.
- Tomorrow begins the first round in my Sacramental Baking eCourse. I'm beyond thrilled and excited and cannot, cannot wait. Ridiculously looking forward to this.
The best I read this week:
- "I wasn’t created to be used. We were not saved, set free, rescued, redeemed, to be used. We aren’t here to work and earn our way, we aren’t pew fodder, or a cog. We aren’t here to prove how worthwhile we are for the saving, there isn’t anything left to earn. God won’t use us up, all of our talents, our gifts, our mind, our love, our energy." in In which God does not want to use me by Sarah Bessey
- "Since evangelicalism took shape largely around a common vision of sharing the Gospel, there’s a glimmer of hope that perhaps we can find unity again. However, it will never come about by signing a piece of paper or all subscribing to the same blog." in Unity As Intellectual Uniformity Is Impossible by Ed(ward)
- "Me? I’m beset by filters. I am the product of a conservative religious upbringing and have spent a decade writing within a conservative religious publishing culture. Every word that comes out of my mouth or gets tapped into my keyboard passes through a grit-removing sifter. How does this sound? What will they think? Does this align with my brand?" in Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook, and the Less Filtered Life by Jason
- "There are so many things I wish I could change. No parent wants to watch their child hurt and struggle. I wish he was able to communicate with us. I wish he wouldn't violently thrash in his car seat after a trip to Target because his little mind is too overstimulated to process the experience. When he melts down at church, I wish I could just hold onto him tightly until he calms down - but the closeness makes it worse and I just have to step back and let him try to recover on his own... usually after I've been hit or kicked in the face." in on being a locksmith by Nish
- And this, which is just making me tear-up with joy: My Very Big Announcement: A Book Deal, Baby! by Micah
What caught your eye this week? What post would you recommend? Leave it in the comments below!
I've been thinking about systemic sin lately. I've been thinking about why we get loud. Why we tweet. Why we blog. Why we do all of this.
On Monday, I went into a bit of what I was told was just a rant on Twitter, the whole of which you can read here. I hesitate to call it a rant, though, and I resent the tendency we have to excuse what we say as somehow not as serious as we meant it to be, as if claiming, authentically, that we actually do believe certain things is somehow dangerous. We call them rants to soften the fact that what we may actually have been doing was singing truth and freedom and Gospel.
It wasn't a rant. It was a moment of watershed, of realising that I have the freedom to be honest about theological things that concern me. When someone tweeted a glib response that passive-agressively questioned the salvation of Catholics, I decided to not only respond to the problem of that reasoning but also to a larger attitude in the Church as I've experienced it, and the larger Church as I know it thanks to the diversity of readers who comment in this space and who keep in contact.
I laid it all (well, a lot of it) out: I said women were equal, that conservative theology needs to love LGBT members better, that a consistent ethic of pro-life doesn't mean abortion but capital punishment and war, too, that Calvinism makes God a monster, that the earth is not 6,000 years old, that we should be grateful when bloggers stand up and call child abuse wrong and the systems that enable that abuse evil.
That last one, given the news around evangelical circles lately, that was a sticking point.
I've been in an incredibly uplifting and challenging Bible study focused on the book of Ephesians this semester and, having concluded it last week, I went back and read the epistle as a whole on Monday morning.
What struck me, what stuck in me, what became a thorn in my side, was this, from right near the end:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in fthe strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against ithe schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against lthe cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
See, this is why we blog. This is why we tweet. This is why we get loud or we rant. Because we're responding to this present darkness.
There's a trend in some Christian circles to play the unity card. We're not supposed to ever rock the boat---doing so introduces discord into the Body of Christ, which means that the person who raised a red flag of awareness is secretly trying to usurp the Kingdom of God. I have enough emails that I get daily to promise you that people play this tactic often: calling something problematic publicly or engaging a public comment with direct criticism is really a move designed to shame the Kingdom of God.
Unless, is it a recognition of what Paul is saying in Ephesians, that what some of us are concerned with in the Church is not just about individual sin? Is it that while individual sin matters, what matters too is collective sin, cooperative sin, sin that infects institutions, sins that create systems of demonic power, systems that oppress, systems that contribute to this present darkness?
I'm beginning to have a hard time engaging theology that has decided that all that matters is eternal destinations. The Gospel is bigger than that. It includes it, but it does not end there. The Gospel is larger, wilder, louder, and it's going after institutions that enable sinful people to keep on sinning, it is going against the forces of this present darkness, our present darkness:
the darkness of patriarchy
the darkness of slavery
the darkness of racism
the darkness of war
the darkness of poverty
the darkness of hunger
the darkness of sexism
the darkness of transphobia
the darkness of homophobia
the darkness of classism
the darkness of disabalism
the darkness of ecocide
the darkness of exploitation
... and so many more. Darkness is bondage, friends. Darkness is enslaving hearts. And these institutionalised sins are running wild in our world.
We sometimes think God's biggest concerns are reducible to whether someone can check the box YES on their will I go to Heaven? membership card.
What if, beyond that, God cares about dethroning the demonic forces of this world that keep women in captivity, that make children slaves, that threaten victims with violence, that hate based on identity, that destroy the good creation?
What if God cares about all of it, all of us, the whole damned-becoming-blessed thing?
What if some of us are called to be a little bit louder, to speak a little bit more directly?
To call out the hell in the midst of us as much as the Hell that may await us?
What do we fear?
I think we fear that we'll start losing our power.
I think we fear that we may be dethroned.
I think we fear that we are more part of this present darkness than we realise.
But then again ...
... this is just a rant.