I finally got a sign~
My politics are obviously not informed by faith (kind of difficult for that to be true when I don’t subscribe to any faith). But they are also not informed by my lack of faith; it would make no sense for my atheism to inform my politics beyond perhaps being one less thing to tell me how to think/feel/vote.
Though I am a proud feminist, I am not informed by my feminism. People might point out- “aren’t you pro-choice? Isn’t this because you want reproductive rights for women? Isn’t that feminism?” And I would say “my feminism is the part of my life that helps me make personal decisions and helps give me a drive for activism, but it does not tell me how to vote.”
I am obviously and definitely a secular humanist. If there were any kind of label that I subscribe to that informed my politics the most, it would probably be this. This is because, underlying what does inform my politics, what I am looking for are the answers to the question- “what is best for humanity?” (This can easily lend itself to “what is best for nature,” because humanity is kind of nature’s bitch, and we have to appease nature and treat nature with respect and kindness. Nature will go on without us very easily.) I think that the idea of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” is extremely misleading; one should not, in my opinion, call themselves “pro-life” if their concern for life stops the minute it exits the womb, if they care more about the potential for life than the actuality of it, if they vote in ways that aren’t informed about poverty, about education, about the death penalty, about the environment, about human rights. That is life, at least it is life in the United States, and that is what we vote for.
But what does inform my politics the most, what I look to before anything else, are facts, figures, statistics. Numbers. These are the tools that help me to grasp- what is the result of the availability of abortion, or what would the result be were there to be a lack of abortion availability? The same goes for science education, for environmental measures, for laws that have the ability to limit human rights to any one group of people. What matters to me is- what do the non-partisan fact-checkers say?
I was worried when Sarah Palin stepped onto the scene, but that was nothing compared to my fear of Michele Bachmann. The easy thing for people to say about my abhorrence for Bachmann is that I don’t like her because she has the evangelical, home-schooled thing going for her, something I obviously don’t agree with. While yes, it’s one thing that I could pick on her for, my annoyance isn’t with her faith, but with her lack of truth or reason. Out of all of the candidates for the Republican nomination in 2012, Bachmann has the worst record of stating any truths at all, and yet she is one of the top-runners for the nomination. Why? Because she “speaks our language,” which is the language of the United States Evangelical. Michele Bachmann is, of course, well-suited to become a favorite amongst the average citizen voter, because the average citizen voter is a Christian, and the average Christian’s vote is informed by faith and not verifiable fact. (I understand the argument “God is fact, and what he says is what’s important, and that’s fact for me.” But until you can supply empirical evidence to back up the claim that “God is fact,” it will still be a faith issue.
In theory, I have no problem with people letting faith be a big source of their political views and their voting record. What I have a problem with is people disregarding the importance of facts, numbers, statistics, truths, for anything. If an atheist voted for an atheist solely based on the candidates lack of faith, I would have a problem; the same with a woman voting for a woman based on her sex chromosomes, Democrat for a Democrat based on his party affiliation, etc.
I used to say that the important thing was for everybody to vote. I retract that statement. The important thing is for everybody to vote informed. Not informed by far-partisan media (such as The Daily Show, Fox News, MSNBC, etc.) but by non-partisan facts, statistics, numbers. That is my utopia.
It’s time to write about Lady Gaga again. And I’m not just doing it because the top search that leads to my blog is “latex nun.”
Obviously Lady Gaga’s new single “Judas” is many things- controversial, highly dancable, and borderline genius to name a few. The lyrics can either be read as irreverent, sacreligious, or nonsensical. But the point is: I selfishly claim this song as my personal anthem. Why? A short shory:
I grew up in a church that some would call huge beyond comfort (me) and others would call “medium-sized.” My high school youth group alone consisted of a few hundred people, most of which went to the retreats every year.
I wasn’t so “lucky.”
Which led to an awkward Sunday School experience when there were maybe twenty of us total the Sunday of the retreat, which meant that we all had to meet together. The topic that morning was when one Mary of the Bible washed Jesus‘ feet with her expensive perfume and hair. Judas suggests that she should have sold the perfume and given the money to the poor. Jesus says what was probably his most prophetic and damning statement of all: “there will always be poor.” Basically, Jesus told Judas to chill the fuck out.
“Why did Judas make this suggestion?” We were asked.
“Because he was the treasurer and the money-keeper. He thinks in terms of money,” tiny-me said.
“… Anybody else?”
“Because the Devil told him to?” Spoketh another.
“Yes! It was the Devil controlling Judas!” The speaker announced in a manner more nonsensical than anything Lady Gaga has ever said.
(The short ends in my most bad-ass moment, a moment I will never top again in my life: when asked what Baptists believe in, I answered “money.”)
I’m sure I’ll write more when the video comes out. Until then, I’ll continue to have “Judas” on repeat. And continue to try and solve the mystery of why there is a giant condom flung over that bus chair. You stay classy, Canoga Park.
It’s kind of funny to me realizing just how “secular” my life has become. A little over a month ago, my boyfriend and I decided that I would move in with him (which is an extremely dramatic story on my part, and a completely idiotic story on my part, in the interest of full-disclosure). This has, of course, sparked a lot of discussion and research amongst myself, my “heterosexual lifepartner,” my friends and my family. We’ve all discussed if now is a good time, whether Jose and I know each other well enough, whether or not this will ruin our relationship, if I can support myself financially enough to not be a burden on Jose, and every other issue you could possibly think of from a pragmatic, secular point of view.
Interestingly enough, only once was the spiritual aspect brought up, and it was, naturally, from my parents. And, interestingly enough, this was expressed in the form of “while we obviously don’t agree with you moving in with somebody you’re not married to, we just want to make sure that you’ll be okay and that you’re happy.”
This all makes me think about a conversation I had with my friend Lauren at some point either at the end of junior high or the beginning of high school. We were talking about our futures. I imagined that I would move to Germany (I was obsessed with the German language for awhile? Don’t ask.) to work in a bookstore. I imagined that I would have a few friends and that I would have (gasp!) a boyfriend. (Keep in mind that this says a lot about my optimism that, even before I had ever kissed a boy or had any person show interest in me, I could imagine that it might some day happen.) And, I remember something about discussing the finer romantic points of having somebody to sleep over and make you waffles in the morning, until Lauren pointed out that this implied sex and I recoiled from the idea immediately.
I suppose I just love that, these days, instead of reading the plethora of articles against cohabiting from a Christian perspective, I spent last night writing an e-mail to my new employer (I got a full-time position as a web artist for a company that advertises adult content websites, a.k.a. I’ve achieved my dream job), Googling tips for couples budgets, asking Jose for a cohabiting pseudo-legal agreement, and discussing with him the hard things we might face to get us prepared for the whole experience.
In conclusion, this blog post was a long, masturbatory way of saying “I’m amazing.” Just in case you were confused.
(Also, Jose, if you’re reading this- I expect waffles in the morning. We’re definitely putting that in the cohabiting agreement, just so you know.)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of condoms to buy.
What in the world could I possibly say about my friend Lauren besides the fact that she is pretty much one of the most amazing persons in the entire world (and I’m not just saying that because she reads my blog, but just in case she’s reading this right now [she will] – Hello, there!) Lauren has been a believer, a not-too-much-of-a-believer, a missionary, and a youth minister, and she’s only twenty-two years old. She has also stayed my friend through Christianity and atheism, including giving a great interview for me to post on here.
Perhaps my favorite part of the interview was when it was over and we were just discussing the differences between reality and assumptions. “Your first call as a missionary or a minister is to listen,” she explained, “People just think we’re talking about Jesus all the time. I spend most of my time giving students my attention 100%.”
And for that, I think we should all give her the attention she deserves.
Elizabeth: So despite the fact that I know, we have to set some things up for the readers. So, what denomination of Christianity to you belong to?
Lauren: I’m Roman Catholic.
E: And were you brought up in the Roman Catholic church?
E: I promise that my next question isn’t to create controversy-
L: You had better put that in your blog.
E: I promise. Anyway, most people who grow up in the church have at least a moment where they have doubts, or perhaps a rebellious period in their life. Did you ever have a doubtful or rebellious moment?
L: (laughs) I wouldn’t call it a moment; I’m pretty sure it was years and years. Well, when you’re brought up Roman Catholic, from a young age there are different rules, rituals, classes, and as a kid you don’t understand it. You go to sunday school and mass and communion, but you can’t comprehend the depths of the sacraments at that age- at least I couldn’t.
My parents were paradoxical- I was expected to go to mass and all that, but I could do whatever I wanted otherwise. I explored other “religions,” which I thought were more fascinating than Catholicism. For a long time I identified with anything New Age, and I thought that there were “many paths to God” because that’s what my mom said.
When I didn’t believe in Jesus as my savior and I wasn’t bound to the teachings of Catholicism, I did what any teenager does and I did what I felt in the moment, which caused me a lot of pain. I tried to numb the pain, but that turned into a vicious cycle. I don’t look back at that time with fond memories.
When I was sixteen, I was supposed to go to my confirmation retreat. I remember telling my mom that I didn’t want to make my confirmation or be Catholic, and so it was pointless for me to go. My mom told me to just go to the confirmation retreat and I wouldn’t have to make confirmation, so I went. During adoration (a time of deep prayer, where Christ is physically present in the eucharist) I was sitting there crying, and I remember feeling so lost, like I would never be good enough. I remember telling Jesus that I wanted to come back to him. I’ve been devout from that point on.
E: So about NET…
L: NET stands for the “National Evangelism Team.” It is a wonderful program that takes 100 Catholic young adults aged 18-28 every year and teaches them how to minister to teens on a 1-on-1 basis and retreat style ministry. You travel in a van with ten other people for a year and stay in host homes.
E: How do you feel about your experience?
L: (pause) That is a very difficult question to answer. I can’t explain what it’s like to be taken away from everything you know and be put in the middle of a cornfield, literally, not be allowed to speak to anyone you know, and be sent out to travel the country and not have any home.
For me, I idolized my parents’ past- they were hippies in a van with strong beliefs, just not in God but a lifestyle- so I saw myself like my parents but with God. It was rewarding for me. My teenage years were better after I accepted Christ, and I wanted other teens to know the same. It was just the dynamics of living as a missionary that were difficult.
E: Do you feel that you are called to be a missionary, or do you have a different spiritual gift?
L: I try to be a missionary every day- whether or not that is my formal title or what is written on my paycheck is left up to circumstances.
E: Would you do NET again in the future?
L: I wouldn’t do NET again. It represented my decision to be a devout Catholic as an adult, and I don’t need to renew that. I miss the fellowship and traveling- it’s an exotic, rewarding lifestyle, but I think there’s a time and a place for it.
E: You’ve worked with teens a lot in the past, and you work with teens now. Do you think that this is your ministry, or would you join another ministry in the future?
L: I enjoy working with teens now and in the past because I feel connected to teens- I still feel very young. I’m good at it because teens open up to me a lot. As long as I continue to be purely ministering and not trying to fill a void in my own life, I’ll continue.
E: We’ve spoken in the past- you know, like, yesterday- about different liberal movements in the Catholic church that are going on currently. Can you explain some of that to me?
L: The Catholic church is the largest organized denomination of Christianity, so you have a whole lot of people who call themselves Catholic in the world. There are a lot wh don’t follow Catholic teaching, some out of ignorance, some out of a deliberate action to undermine the Vatican and mold Catholicism to fit their views on how they should be able to fit in modern society. Some, in an attempt to separate themselves from the previous group, call themselves “Orthodox,” which I find erroneous. You’re either Catholic or you’re not, and if you are then you’re sticking to teachings of the church, and if you’re not then you’re not.
There’s a lot of controversy on whether or not to water down teachings to fit the masses, or if we should be content with a smaller group of the faith.
E: I think I already know which side you’re on, but could you say it anyway?
L: That’s so funny that you say that. Anyone who knows me at church, such as my colleagues that I work with at church, they all see me as very liberal- purely because I was raised liberally- I mean, I know what’s going on in the world, I can talk about politics and not limit it to abortion. I’m politically aware, I’m passionate about social justice, but that’s not the same as my religion. Politics, who I choose to associate with, that’s all liberal, but my faith and how I stick to doctrine- well, you could call it “conservative,” but I call it being faithful.
Jesus was friends with sinful people, I know he was friends with prostitutes and tax collections, I know he was, so I don’t choose to seclude my company to only include those who are perfectly holy. At the same time, Jesus never changed what he said or the heart of his message to better appease those he was with.
E: This has been amazing. Is there anything else you would like to say?
L: (pause) What’s mainly on my heart is Jesus said that there will always be poor. This life is not one for doing what pleases you at the moment or what makes you happy, this world will never offer everyone happiness. When I say this, this surprises people because I’m naturally cheerful and optimistic, but I know that this is because of my fortune in this life. I’ve been blessed in my station and I have a great support group, and I pray if these ever turn on me and if I experience one ounce of the pain and sorrow in the world that I’ll still believe and love God.
E: Most of my readership are either nonbelievers or headed in that direction-
L: Hence the name.
E: Exactly. Is there anything you would like to say to atheists about understanding Catholicism?
L: Catholicism teaches that God loves you based on who you are and not what you do, so it’s Catholic belief that God loved Hitler as much as Mother Teresa. I think that this fact has the ability to set you free.