Why we call ourselves Christian: Two for the price of one

Today’s post is actually two posts on the same topic, specifically, why we choose to be Christian. So, we combined them to be one post. So, without any further ado…

Is Religion my Crutch?
By Pandora

Am I a Christian because I am afraid of meaninglessness? I am afraid of meaninglessness. I can barely think about it. The whole concept of the meaning of life is so overwhelming to me that the thought of it makes me want to stop what I am doing wherever I am, lie down, and start crying. I have what is popularly termed, “Existential Angst.” I’m very proud of it and it makes me feel very smart. But also sad. And anxious.

Am I a Christian because it provides an easy solution to the answer of the meaning of life? I remember my catechism. The answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” is “To glorify God.” Isn’t it great to have such a snappy answer? No! It’s not great! It’s torture! How can the answer be so simple? It can’t be that simple. The meaning of life should be mysterious and unknowable. Anybody who tells me the answer is easy, clearly hasn’t lived long enough or experienced enough pain.

I had a friend in college who called my religion a crutch. I had no idea what that meant. I think I was too afraid to think about what that would mean. I had a lot of blind faith back then. I had been brainwashed pretty effectively by the evangelical church to think that I wasn’t brainwashed, but I didn’t have enough distance to properly self-evaluate. I majored in philosophy though which is weird. I guess I suspected a weakness in my faith and wanted to explore. I really struggled with my faith during those four years, but continued to cling to it. I constantly tried to defend it and justify it, but I don’t think that was the appropriate context. A secular institution is not the place to gain a religious education. I was very arrogant and naive. I feel bad for my professors now. I was a pain. Ironically, my senior year, I received an award from the history department for my “curiosity about life.” They were extremely kind.

I have done a lot of research on my religion and continue to search. I feel confident in my belief in the Bible, but I am still exploring my decision to commit to Christianity. Have I made my decision based on pure motives or based on a selfish fear of oblivion? Am I a Christian because I want to serve Jesus Christ, or because I want to save my ass? I’m a little embarrassed to say it might be the latter. If that’s the case, then am I really a Christian? Thus the anxiety begins anew.

Don’t Pee in Your Shoe
By Emily

I am on the planning committee for the ladies tea at our church. This year, due to scheduling issues, I have needed to take both boys with me to the planning meetings. For the most part, this works well. Last week, my oldest discovered the amazing restroom. You have to go through the lobby, past the kitchen, and down a dark corridor with several doors, before you get to the one door with the restroom label. After 3 trips to the restroom, I decided he was just enjoying the adventure, and when he asked AGAIN at the close of the meeting, not even 5 minutes after returning from a potty break, I told him to wait. A moment later, a women lets out a horrified scream, and I turn around to find my son neatly peeing in his shoe. In. His. Shoe.

Awesome.

Needless to say, he got in trouble. (Did I mention the part where he PEED IN HIS SHOE?) His response? “But why is it bad? I didn’t pee on the floor or anything.” In his little microcosmic world, life revolves around his desires and needs. He couldn’t care less whether his behavior is socially unacceptable. But as his mother, I refuse to let him grow up to be the type of man who pees in his shoes when he needs a restroom. Sometimes, I deny my son candy, and make him eat his protein or vegetable instead. Sometimes I make him go to bed right in the middle of…well, in his world, absolutely everything is better than going to bed.

In his world, this makes me a mean mother at times. He can’t see the big picture to understand why these rules are necessary. But I want him to be a better person. And someday, when his teeth don’t rot out and his kids don’t die of embarrassment when he pulls out the “pee shoe”, he will thank me. So will his kids.

And this is my understanding of God: I would like him to be the parent my son wants me to be. I want him to give me things I want, and take the shortcuts to make my life easier, but I often don’t get the things I want, and life sure as hell ain’t easy.

In fact sometimes life sucks.

My pastor once told me, “God is the ultimate recycler. He doesn’t waste suffering.” And there you have it. I don’t want to admit that all the crap I have survived is for no use. I want my pain to be meaningful. Perhaps, if there is some ultimate meaning, if there is some use behind my pain, then it makes a better. I want all the lessons I’ve learned mean that I’m becoming a better human.

I do believe there is a God. Which means that I believe He lets me experience crappy and painful things. But I also believe that he will somehow re-use my suffering. His purpose for my pain and suffering, seems to be his way of teaching me to be a better me. Suffering is God teaching you not to pee in your shoe.

Superwoman vs. Batwoman

By Emily

My son likes Batman. And by “like” I mean OBSESSED. Every morning, he wakes up, climbs out of his Bat-bed with the Bat-sheets and the Bat-blanket over his Bat-cave, collects his Bat-mask and Bat-cape from their hooks, leaves his Bat-room to eat Bat-shaped peanut butter sandwiches and begin his Bat-day. One time I took a mental inventory to see how I felt about this obsession. And I decided that I liked that Batman doesn’t rely on super human strength or powers. He relies on ingenuity and inventions (and huge amounts of inherited money).

And here is the beauty of super heroes that don’t rely on super human abilities: they are just like you and me.

When I was young, I tried to prove my self by proving that I did indeed have, well, super powers. It wasn’t enough for me to succeed, I needed to conquer overwhelming odds AND succeed (Pandora: How young are we talking? I thought you meant four years old! At four, I thought if I drank the dregs of my nightly glass of water, it would give me powers too, but I think you are taking this in a different direction. Emily: Ah. Well. I wasn’t four. It was roughly 18-24.) If normal people could accomplish the workload I had, then I could do it – with no food. Or sleep.

I had an eating disorder. I was anorexic. I tried to find control and stability in my life through food. Or, no food. I strove for superhuman strength to control my life and make sense of my life.

Today I have a “normal” relationship with food. (Who knows what normal really is, though?) (Pandora: We should watch the movie “Eating.” It’s just interviews with women at parties about how they feel about food. Emily: Ack. That sounds miserable.) But if you ask any therapist (and I have asked many), eating disorders never really go away. (Pandora: I always wondered that too) They may go in remission, or they may take a different form. I have learned to manage my eating issues, and that there are better ways to exert control in my life. There are healthier options to be a super hero. Superman, with his super strength, super eyesight, super hair, super flying skills, and inability to be injured (aside from kryptonite), is a fantasy. (Pandora: He DOES have super hair!) No one can ever be Superman. Ever. Regardless how hard they may try. Trust me. I know from experience. (Pandora: Except for the hair, you have super hair. Emily: Thank you. Purple hair IS pretty super.)

Batman, on the other hand, is human. He gets hurt. He is depressed. He is sad. He is conflicted about not killing anyone, but striving to bring order to the chaos. But Batman always wins. Because he has figured out the secret to being super: he controls his emotions, his rage, and his pain. He surrounds himself with people that help him when he is down. (Robin really is the best sidekick ever, and come on, who doesn’t want an Alfred in their life???) (Pandora: Can I have a Robin AND an Alfred? My husband does not fulfill either of those roles to my satisfaction)

For me, this means constantly monitoring my emotional well being. It often means medication. And it always means being honest with my closest circle of friends. The ones that know that under the mask, it’s just Emily. So, I’ve decided to hang up my Superwoman cape, and put on the Batwoman cape instead. (Pandora: Doesn’t everyone agree there needs to be a female action hero flick?!? Emily: Umm, yeah. But until then, I will just subvert the traditional masculine superheroes. But female superheroes may be fodder for a future blog.)

Besides, Batman has the Best. Car. Ever.

How a tablecloth saved my life…

image by Emily

Not too long ago, I was severely depressed. Life had handed me more lemons than I could make lemonade out of, and I was falling apart at the seams. It was almost more than I could handle to put clothes on in the morning, or brush my hair. One of my dearest friends (hi, Jen!) came to visit. The house was a disaster. Dishes piled high in the sink. Toys cluttering the floor. My boys still in pajamas (at 4pm). Myself still in pajamas. I could feel how sorry she was for me by looking at her face as she walked through my house. Quietly, she walked into my kitchen, cleared a space on one of the chairs, and sat down.

“Do you know what you need?” Not a lecture, I thought to myself. “You need a tablecloth. You need to have beautiful things around you, and if you put a tablecloth on the table, it will give you something beautiful to look at. Your soul needs to see beauty.”

I bought a tablecloth. A deep purple one (no surprise to anyone who has seen my hair or glasses.) And slowly, the dishes disappeared, the toys started getting put away, clothes started being worn. Deep inside, I could feel my heart take a deep breath, and scream: “YES! I need beauty!!”

Many years ago, (10, if you want to be exact), I was torn because I was expected to attend the women’s Bible study at my church, but it was at the same time as the show, So You Think You Can Dance. Bewailing my fate to my mother about how I needed to be at Bible study, but wanted to be home watching the show, my mom asked why I liked SYTYCD so much. “It’s because part of me feels alive when I watch it,” I told her. My mom promptly demanded that I stop going to Bible study and watch SYTYCD instead. “God can speak to you more if you feel alive, than if you are doing something because you think you “have” to.”

As humans, we need beauty. It makes us “alive”. Beauty may mean something different to everyone. It could be a sunset. A perfectly cooked meal. A clever puzzle. A car. A sports game. A… You get the idea. Fill in the blank. You know you have found something beautiful, when your soul inside feels like it might crack open inside you, and you can suddenly breath deeper than you thought you could. You come alive.

Never underestimate the power of beauty. It can save your life. It can make you alive.

Pandora: I really can’t think of anything to add to this. It’s perfect!

7 REASONS TO HOMESCHOOL: Or, How I Learned to Bullshit My Way through Anything

by Emily (and Lydia!)

In today’s blog, I would like to introduce our first guest blogger, my lovely sister, Lydia Cooper. (Check out www.lydiarcooper.wordpress.com here). My sister and I were both homeschooled from K-12 (relatively speaking. We didn’t really do the grade thing). The homeschooling movement has been gaining popularity since we were homeschooled behind closed doors with the curtains shut. Here, we respond to some of the main reasons people give for why they think homeschooling is the best option for their ankle biters.

Reason 1: Homeschoolers receive a superior education to public schoolers.
Lydia: Homeschoolers are able to do very fun things like reading Les Miserables in French. The only problem is, Mom doesn’t speak French so they will have to read it in English. Emily: I didn’t study enough French to be able to order a plate of pomme frites, so it is a moot point for me. However, without having to study for tests, one can learn so much more useless bits of trivia and random information that has no bearing on real life. Lydia: Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day, 800 C.E. Emily: And I can still sing most of the songs from both Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore. Lydia: The only bummer is that we never learned the other stuff, like, science.

Reason 2: Without having to study for tests, homeschoolers excel over their peers in math and science.
Lydia: Oh yeah, science: which comes from the Latin scientia meaning “denial of fact.” Emily: We took science? Lydia: Being taught that the world is 5774 years old does add a slight hint of the medieval to our bio-chem labs. Emily: I suppose next you’ll say the world is round. Heaven forbid.

Reason 3: Homeschoolers are more grounded and have more real life experience than public schoolers.
Lydia: To this day, I have never used a combination lock and am petrified of them. I once spent almost forty five minutes in a gym waiting for my friend to get back from swimming so I could put my stuff, casually, in her locker. . . . Emily: I was once a half hour late to a class. Good news, though. Now I know that classroom numbering reflects what floor of the building the classroom is on.

Reason 4: When you are homeschooled, you can do your work in bed, in your pj’s!
Lydia: Sure, but feeding the goats, making ketchup from scratch and corralling all 8 younger siblings is tough on your footie pj’s. Emily: And why would you want to wear your pj’s when you could wear a historically accurate costume to correlate with your studies? Lydia: And on that note…

Reason 5: Homeschoolers get just as much and more worthwhile socialization.
Lydia: What better way to raise kind, compassionate and worldly children than by raising them with seven other homeschooled kids who are the same race (white), religion (evangelical Republican), ethnicity (white), political affiliation (evangelical Republican), and strand of paleo-vegan (Emily: yum. Carob.) (again, white) as they are. Emily: Word.

Reason 6: Public school teachers are, of course, evil….
Emily: Public school teachers, the “fat cats” of the educational world, are paid to smoke their Cuban cigars on the back nine of their private golf courses. We all know this. What else could possibly motivate an individual to teach pre-algebra to a bunch of eighth graders? Lydia: paid summers off?!? Emily: seriously though, being a teacher is one of the most important yet thankless jobs. Pandora – do you want to add something about the altruistic nature of public school teachers and the shit you put up with? Pandora: Um no. I am not altruistic, I do it for the perks, and I don’t put up with jack. . . . .

. . .And, Reason 7: Of course mom knows best what her kids need.
Emily: As is evidenced by the new trend in refusing all vaccines. It’s so much better for your kids to die of measles or be handicapped by polio, rather than getting shot for showing up to school on someone’s bad day. Lydia: Good parents raise their kids in nuclear bomb bunkers!

Reason 8: Sending your kids to public or private school means you are a lazy parent.
Emily: regardless (note: as a previously homeschooled kid, I would NEVER use the word “irregardless”), no educational system removes your responsibility to train your child to be a moral, well-rounded, citizen of the world. At the end of the day, your kids are your responsibility, whether you choose to teach them math and science and penmanship, or have someone else teach them the “basics” of education. Lydia: Just, whatever you choose, please teach more science than medieval fan fiction. And irregardless (note: I’m an asshole), the compassion and integrity your little tykes already have, Emily, means that you’ve already figured out that good schooling isn’t the substitute for good parenting.