Tag Archives: Christians

what to do when old memories resurface

At night, thoughts just trickle down like raindrops into my brain. I really can’t control the onslaught, and I never know what form they’ll take from night to night. Last night, my thoughts turned to my year at Northwestern. It seems like an eternity ago, and I realized that I couldn’t remember a lot of peoples’ names. It was a relief, though, because most of them were people I didn’t actually know. They just knew the few people I did know, extending far out into the college life I never shared. I forget sometimes what a hard year it was. I’m honestly shocked that I made it through alive. At my worst, I had imagined crawling into the oven in the little kitchenette in the dorm room I shared with two other girls, and at my best, I successfully went to class, to the on-campus therapy, and check-ins with my hall director who needed to make sure I wasn’t going to kill myself. Even at my best, I was just surviving.

The thoughts of that year just kept streaming in last night, filling me up, like I was an inflating balloon. Chris snored peacefully beside me, and Yoshi had gone downstairs, so I couldn’t occupy myself with petting him. Instead, I went into Baxter’s room and lay on the sleeping bag I always kept in there for just such occasions. He wasn’t interested in playing with me, so I put him back in his house and lay on my back, listening to him rustle in his bedding and toilet paper tubes. With each breath, I tried to imagine thoughts leaving my body like air, as if I was decompressing from a deep dive. I wanted to become completely flat, even with the floor, and not swollen up with strange emotions.

Memories kept flying in, like the first week of living on campus where the college hosted an ’80’s costume party, and I sat watching three girls from my hall put their long hair in side ponytails, with off-shoulder sweaters and neon eyeliner, and the only ’80’s look I could possibly pull off was Joan Jett, because I owned a lot of black clothes and my hair was short like hers.

It’s so weird what comes up in the dark, with no distractions except the sound of a hedgehog drinking water. I kept picturing the little lounge area of my floor, Red Hall, even though I rarely spent time there. Then there was the “prank” some of the older girls played on the freshman when we first moved in, that there would be a table set up where any boys who came to visit would have to sign in. When they revealed that they were joking, it wasn’t really that funny, because we did still have to always keep the doors open if we had a gentleman caller, and they could only visit one day during the week. I truly can’t remember if it was part of the prank that we had to also hang little paper dolls on the door if there was a guy there, or if that was real. I knew that none of that would apply to me, prank or no, so it was a weird way to start the year.

Screenshot 2017-06-14 at 1.36.12 PM
My corner of the NWC dorm. That big squared blanket is now primarily Chris’.

That was also the year that I got really into charismatic Christianity. After one especially intense devotional session with one of the girls sharing her story of being abused, I started getting worked up during the prayer session, and when someone tried to put their hands on me to pray, I flipped out. I ended up being held down on the floor, growling. When I finally calmed down, I was exhausted, but didn’t want to go back to my dorm to my roommate who never came to the hall Bible studies, and who did not understand either my depression or hyper-spirituality. She might have been in a cult. The other roommate, who was more receptive and open, was out with her friends. I don’t remember if I talked with my RA about what had triggered the spiritual attack (panic attack, as I now know it was), but I don’t remember feeling safe or reassured afterwards. When I think about that time and my relationship with the girls in the Hall, I’m left with a big question mark. It feels like I bled all over the floor all year and everyone kind of avoided it. Occasionally, someone would ask how I was, listen intently, and I would feel better.

During the year, I felt like I had some allies in my battle, so when I decided to transfer, I wanted to end the year well. I hung out one-on-one with the girl whose testimony had triggered my attack, and tried to connect with her using the only spiritual language I really knew: charismatic crazy talk. I thought she would understand, but by the end of our conversation, I could tell she thought I was insane. I never saw or talked to her again. The older girl who I had met with during the year was nowhere to be found when I moved out, and when I texted her during the summer about getting coffee, she was always busy. My RA unfriended me on Facebook until I refriended her, and she accepted. We never spoke of why she deleted me. Unless I’ve forgotten about that, too.

I’ve blogged about these experiences before, and I’m not bitter or mad about them. It was so long ago, and so much has changed since then, I kind of feel like telling myself, “What the hell, get over it.” And most of the time, I am over it. Last night was the first time I’ve really thought about any specific memories in a long time, and I’m not sure why they just appeared again. Maybe because I’m starting this small group and on the threshold of new relationships with Christians again, and some old fears are trying to get back in, like bloated ticks eager to feed on my blood again. Vivid image, I know, but that’s what it feels like. So I lay on the floor in the hedgehog’s room, breathing in and out, until I no longer felt like my chest was going to stretch apart and my brain was too tired to absorb the raindrops of thoughts. I checked on Baxter one more time, who jumped angrily when I touched him, and went back to the bedroom. Chris was no longer snoring.

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to the Christians

We can’t only be there when the worst happens. When there’s blood and tears and fear. If we’ve shamed, shunned, or just ignored every other day, our attention isn’t wanted on the dark days. We will be met with distrust, anger. Why would anyone take refuge with us if we’ve stayed silent when other crisis build, or raged when something we don’t agree with has come to pass?

I’m not saying we all have to change our opinions.

But we do have to love. Every day.

What does love look like? Is it constantly telling people what we think of their lifestyle and nothing else?

If you want to share an opinion about someone’s life, you had better be in their life. You had better be side by side with them through the bad times and good. Otherwise, why should they care what you think? Why should they believe you even care about them? What have you done to prove yourself as a good friend?

Don’t be surprised if your attention is rejected, especially if you haven’t shown much grace in the past. Reassess what’s more important  – preaching loudly or loving boldly?

Why Are American Christians Supporting Israel?

About 20 days ago, a major conflict broke out between Gaza and Israel. Rockets are fired. People are dying. As of June 26th, 1000 people in Gaza have been killed and 42 Israelis, two of whom were civilians. These numbers may not be accurate as it is difficult to recover bodies in Gaza because of the rubble, and there is another source that says 3 Israeli civilians have been killed. In terms of defense, Israel has the Iron Dome and an early-warning system that alerts its citizens to incoming strikes. Gaza has…nothing. Israel warns Gaza citizens that bombs are coming by calling phone calls, sending text messages, and dropping non-explosives that “knock” on a roof, warning of a coming strike, but Palestinians are not satisfied with these claims. Some talked about how they were given ten-minute warnings, but others they knew were not. There is also just nowhere to go once they are warned; many have died while taking shelter in churches and government buildings, even a U.N. shelter. 

These attacks are based on the claim by Israel’s prime minister that Hamas uses civilian buildings to hide weapons. Hamas denies this. Israel has not allowed independent investigators to research its claims. Let’s say for a moment that Hamas is lying and there are weapons stores in civilian buildings. What is Israel’s plan? Destroy everything just to be sure?  I understand that Israel has a right to defend itself. However, because of their superior weaponry and defense system, Israel is bringing a gun to a knife fight and innocent men, women, and children are the ones paying for it. 

According to Israel, there are no “civilians” or “civilian buildings.” Basically, with how it is playing out, any home or structure is considered a potential threat and can be destroyed without consequence. Mosques, schools, hospitals, factories, stores, sewage lines…in 2009, the same thing happened, and the destruction cost about $1.9 billion. The commanding officer in the south of Israel was quoted on the first day of those bombings, saying that the goal was to “send Gaza decades into the past.” After the attacks ceased, any and all aid was orchestrated by Israel and with the blockade from 2007 still in place (though Gaza has essentially been under Egypt/Israel control since 1967), Israel essentially controlled the speed at each Gaza would be able to recover. The strip is basically a large prison, where almost half of the inmates are under 14. 

These are the facts. It would be difficult to prove them wrong. 

I’ve had a couple of conversations about this recently. First of all, everyone seems to think that if I don’t support Israel, I’m supporting Hamas. I rarely align myself with nations or governments, I prefer to support people. Like the ones being killed in Gaza. I don’t see this situation as a “choose one or the other” type of deal. I am aware that neither party is “innocent.” I’m not trying to prove that Hamas is going to be the savior of the Middle East. That’s not even at issue here. 

Second of all, there is this puzzling belief that Israel is somehow “noble” and playing fair by the laws of war. There’s a lot of, “Israel doesn’t do that,” and “Hamas does this, which is bad.” Yes, using suicide bombers is not good, it is an act of terrorism. You know what else is not good? Using children as human shields, which Israel has been accused of doing now and also in the past. Israel, of course, denies this. This recent slew of bombings has also gained a lot of criticism because of the sheer intensity of violence against a strip of land that could fit inside New York City and is home to almost 2 million. About 800 tons of bombs have hit Gaza. Kind of unnecessarily brutal. 

Let’s step back. Why is this important to Westerners, specifically Christians? There’s this concern that if we do not support Israel, God’s wrath will fall upon us. Ok, so, there’s some references in the Bible about not going up against the Hebrews, God’s chosen people, so I get that. But does that mean specifically the country of Israel as we know it? A lot of bad stuff went down in those ancient days, with the Hebrews constantly turning against God, coming back, turning against God. Eventually, God was just silent for like 400 years, and then Jesus came. When He showed up, the Jews were all happy. Yay! He’s going to get rid of the Roman empire and we’re going to be on top again, just like God promised! However, they missed the point. God never meant His kingdom to be a physical one, but a spiritual one. That’s what all the messages, all the signs, all the prophets, were pointing to. Jesus did not come to establish an earthly kingdom. When the Jews discovered this, they turned on Jesus. They murdered God. This was not the end of the story though; Jesus came back and this was the beginning of the spiritual kingdom of God, right then and there. Transformation was already beginning in those who accepted Him and the disciples were sent out to bring as many people as possible into this kingdom with them, Jews or otherwise. People spread out. It’s not like they all huddled together and set up a new country for themselves. Even if they did, if things started to turn bad, we wouldn’t hold anyone at fault for backing away and refusing to support something that was no longer Christ-like.

So why are we so afraid to stop supporting Israel? Israel, whose Ministry of the Interior has a history of discriminating against Christians, from making it hard for Christians to go through the visa system to forbidding Christian missionaries from teaching. For decades, churches are regularly defaced and burned. Messianic Jews have an especially rough time in under Israeli rule, as they are perceived as being traitors to their religion. Most Messianic Jews are very quiet about their beliefs and do mission work discretely. 

Again, is this me saying that Israel is the worst country ever? No. Is it any better in other Middle Eastern countries? Muslim countries? Probably not, though ironically enough, Christians seem to fare much better in Gaza than in Israel, according to The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation which was founded to “inform American Christians of the plight of Palestinian Christians. For more information on the relationship between Hamas and Christians, read here: http://www.hcef.org/publications/hcef-news/790793540-christians-in-gaza-history-and-struggle.

No one I have talked to has brought up the fact that there are Christian Palestinians in Gaza. The history of Christianity in Palestine goes back thousands of years; it is widely thought that the first person to reach Gaza was Philip, a disciple of Paul. When Israel occupied Gaza in 1967, there were 10,000 Christians. By 2007, that number was reduced by half. When Hamas came into control, the number reduced even more. Now, there’s only about 1500 or so, probably less. There is often tension between Christians and Muslims within Gaza, but both groups are suffering due to the Israeli bombings. Israel does not care any more for Christians than it does for Muslims. Everyone is a potential terrorist and this is war. 

 

So, basically what can be drawn from what I’m saying here is Israel is certainly not treating Christians well or any better than their neighbors. So why are American Christians so adamant in supporting Israel? As a nation? As explored above, “Zion” and “the people of God” are not defined by a geographical region, but by their commitment to Jesus Christ. “Zion” is referred to in the New Testament as a ‘daughter’ whose “king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” Zion comes up again in 1 Peter 2:6, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” So if asked if I support Zion or Israel as a spiritual kingdom, then yes, to my last breath. But if asked if I support the State of Israel as established in 1948, then, no, I do not. Do I support the individual people who live within Israel’s borders? Yes, I do, but I do not support actions carried out by individuals that result in unnecessary death and destruction. 

In the end, it does not really matter what I think, or what any American Christian thinks. We get our news filtered through various media channels, all with their own agenda, all trying to get us to side one way or the other, while in reality, there is no  clear “side.” Alex Awad, a Christian pastor at East Jerusalem Church, puts it best: “The Christians in the west, most of them, they don’t know the realities here. They don’t know who is occupying who, who is oppressing who, who is confiscating whose land, who is building walls to try and separate people from one another.” 

I know I don’t know everything, but I know enough to question America’s commitment to Israel and my fellow Christians’ support of the country. I know I don’t have to “pick a side.” I just have to care about peace like a river and righteousness rolling like waves in the sea. 

Sources: 

http://electronicintifada.net/content/israels-dahiya-doctrine-comes-gaza/8006

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28503420

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/23/israel-airstrike-warning_n_5614085.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/un-report-accuses-israeli-forces-of-using-palestinian-children-as-human-shields-abusing-children-in-custody/

http://citizenactionmonitor.wordpress.com/tag/israeli-citizen-violence-against-palestinians/

https://hippasus.wordpress.com/tag/how-big-is-gaza-compared-to-new-york-city/ 

http://972mag.com/israels-not-so-stellar-record-on-treatment-of-christians/43325/ 

http://www.ifamericansknew.org/history/rel-christians.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/11/kosher-jesus-messianic-jews-in-the-holy-land/265670/

 

We Are The Reason

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To everyone who says, “I’m praying for you,” but never picks up the phone or sends an e-mail to check in:

      We are making our prayers meaningless.

To the young Christians who post hateful content on Facebook and spread gossip about their peers:

     We are the modern world’s Pharisees.

To the believers who use politics and theology to cause strife and create division:

      We are destroying the Church.

To the pastors and priests who abuse their authority:

       We are shaming the name of Jesus.

To the Christian in Pennsylvania who stoned a 70-year old gay man to death:

       We do not follow a God of love.

To the members of Westboro Church, who picket the funerals of children and soldiers:

      We are not doing God’s work.

To every Christian who confesses with their mouth that they follow Jesus, but then deny Him by their actions:

      We are the reason people can still believe there is no God.