Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The married people in my single life.

Slightly off topic, but still on, I just read a quote from a great blog that sums up so much of my wonderment at the church's focus on marriage and procreation...

"but I’m also wary of the church’s intense focus on coupling up, as if getting married is the pinnacle of Christian life. That seems odd for a faith that follows the example of a homeless bachelor.

My theory on that is the church has WAY more of a Victorian influence that we'd care to admit, but I digress... 

I gotta say, I am genuinely thankful for a few of the married Christians in my life. Why? Because talking to them, you can tell they haven't chosen "a team". They're focused on their marriages, they talk to you as an equal, they're dedicated to their spouses, and you can tell that they don't worship their marital status...that their individual relationships with God take ultimate precedence. And while I'd rather get a cavity filled than sit through a romantic comedy or romance flick (I'm dead serious), when I see couples in movies working as teams to accomplish something bigger (The Mummy, Harry Potter) it does make me feel all warm and snuggly.

I've come to believe that people choose a team (married or single) well before marrying age and it's completely independent of their actual marital status. Some singles worship their freedom just as marrieds worship their wedding bands. People that worship neither, but appreciate the status for the role it plays in their lives? ...them I really enjoy. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

10 Myths about Introverts

I ran across this on another blog, and it bears repeating. I remember having each and every one of these labels applied to me as a child in church. I'm hoping people in all circles of life will become more aware of the very basic and elemental differences between introverts and extraverts, and come to see that both are valuable to the church in their own way.

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Christianity and Evolution

So I've been reading about evolutionary Christianity today. On a side note, I don't really like that title. I would think reversing it would be more appropriate, as to not imply that the faith is altered by the science...but then I guess the reverse would imply an entirely different branch of study altogether, and I'm assuming it isn't. Anyway...reading about evolutionary Christianity and it got me digging again back into my questions about Charles Darwin's faith and thoughts on theism.*


I'm honestly really excited about getting the newsletter. The relationship between Christianity and the study of evolution is something I've always wondered about, and it's nice to see people with the research chops to do it justice moving it forward. The movement can easily be dismissed as Christians living in a modern world trying to reduce at least one area of friction...understandable, because there are many. I thought that myself for a while, but I don't think it's entirely true. I believe a quote taken from the site more accurately describes what's going on:

“Studying evolution is like following cosmic breadcrumbs home to God."

I know the concept of even considering evolution is sacrilege to many believers...something I only somewhat understand. I know that evolution has been a primary weapon used against those that do believe...and I do know that some of the findings of researchers directly contradict Biblical teachings, but you could say that about any field of study. I don't know how, but the Christian junior high school I went to managed to teach us both creationism and proper science. Because of this, I never learned to see the two as conflicting with one another. Difficult to resolve? Yes, but not entirely incompatible. I believe that science and nature, like any work of art, are tangible insight into the character of their creator. One hallmark of the growth of my faith came to me early one morning in a physics lab. We were studying torque and it hit me how beautiful a science it was. Poetic. Graceful. Balanced. Infinitely complex and ever moving. Characteristics I immediately saw as a reflection of the being that had put them into motion.

What I do not understand is the desire, especially of believers, to reduce God to a being simple enough for us to understand with minimal Santa or a magician.  I think this is part of the reason so many Christians react so negatively to even the discussion of the adaptation of any species**. It is very possibly laziness. Faith aside, we as Americans are a generally lazy, undisciplined culture. We see it visually in rising obesity levels, but I think that's the least of our problems. Laziness of thought and behavior worries me much more.

I'm sure some would say it's simply better not to question, not to ask, but I don't think asking is a sin. I went through a period in my life where I seriously doubted my own existence. And I don't mean in a "what's my purpose?" kind of way. No. I'd moved past agnosticism and into hard core doubting of the existence of self. Honestly, questioning the existence of God doesn't come up on the radar of a person who questions if there is even anything there to do the questioning. In that still, small voice we always hear about, God told me it was ok. He created this creature that was doing all the doubting, and that doubting was a not-so-positive outgrowth of one of the gifts he'd given it, but it was ok and part of the process.

Through all that and now, I have to say I'm grateful for my brief membership in Mensa. Though I met some rather unpleasant, superficial and self-absorbed people, through joining a national group of Christian Mensans, I also learned that the church had other people like me.

Still though, as interesting as I do find this topic, I am, at the end of the day, a pragmatist and an INTJ. I have a distaste for the debate of evolution and creation, even within the respective camps. None of us have observed any of the processes that brought us here and I genuinely believe that all our measuring and theorizing amounts to little more than very intricate guesswork. And...we have much more important things to do. For Christians, the gospels line those things out pretty I won't be spending too much time pondering this one.

*I don't consider his periods of belief and disbelief to change the truth of his research or of God. I've seen some Christians site Oscar Wilde's rumored conversion to belief on his deathbed as some sort of proof of the wrongness of his previous if they weren't wrong enough at the time, or as if the converse never happens. I do think it's a wonderful thing, but no more wonderful than anyone else making that same journey at any other point in their lives.

**I admittedly carry a bit of a chip on my shoulder in this area, since for years I felt that the very mind God had given me was being denied, suppressed and demonized by the church. As if we weren't commanded in Luke to point that very mind in love toward him. I didn't begin healing until one day, during lunch, I heard Ravi Zacharias over the radio say "The church has done a huge disservice to intelligent Christians." I almost cried. I didn't know that anyone even acknowledged that we existed. With all the fights over doctrine and the trinity and homosexuals and race, I'd never heard anyone so much as mention us. Which isn't to say that intelligence falls into the same category as any of those things, but it does deeply shape the way we approach God and the world.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The arranged marriage of my faith.

First let me say the tradition of arranged marriage is unfairly demonized. And yet I feel it's a pretty bad idea's just that it seems no less effective in accomplishing whatever the ubiquitous "institution of marriage" is trying to accomplish, than its free-wheeling, Western-styled sister is out to do.*

Today, I had another, subtle change in attitude toward something I'd once perceived as mundane, necessary or even somber. My first was probably at age 16 when I looked at my Bible sitting on its marble windowsill and I no longer saw a textbook. Instead I saw a guidebook that had been given to me for my personal benefit. This time, it was communion. I looked up from my chair, saw the wooden trays and thought "yay communion!" and then "did you really just think 'yay, communion'?" As I child I...had mixed experiences. When I was very young, it meant my mother would be singing in the choir, so my brother and I got to sit with her over in the corner. To this day, I tear up when I hear "Come ye Disconsolate" or "Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus"...songs I've come to associate with my mothers's gentle, second soprano voice and its framing of my childhood. As a teen, it became the part of service that took church from long to REALLY long and left all us kids itchy in our seats, passing notes back on forth on TI-82s. Today though, I came to genuinely see it for what it was. Time to commune with someone I love and am learning to love more...and I was excited.

I make the comparison to arranged marriage because Christians that are raised in the faith have similar orientations to those who entered into marriages that were decided for them by someone else. They don't get the big, "impressive" stories of how they met completely by accident on a plane to Nevada or stories of constant, new and exciting revelations about seemingly superficial details about the lives of their partner.  They end up forming a relationship not of their choosing and working through it for years, sometimes for better, sometimes for a lot worse.

Still though, there persist stories of couples, who, despite not having left their romantic lives up to fate, found loving and fulfilling relationships. Like a woman betrothed, I didn't choose to go to church on Sundays as a child. I didn't choose to attend a school that included a course on Biblical study. I didn't choose to pray with my parents. All of that was chosen for me. I really didn't start executing choices until I was in high school. And yes, it's something for which I am grateful. Not because of the direction it was pointing me in...though that I am thankful for, because I had parents that pointed me toward the faith of Christianity moreso than the religion...but mostly instead because it makes the transition easier.

There are spiritual disciplines and concepts that are hard. They just are. Financial discipline, serving, Biblical study, prayer, personal sacrifice, controlling of the tongue, controlling of the body, regular service attendance, patience, forgiveness and understanding with other members of the body of Christ. Those take time, effort and sacrifice to learn, put into practice and make habits of and I'm willing to bet none of them come instantly with salvation. Kind of like love seldom comes instantly in arranged marriages. Sometimes it grows. Sometimes it never comes. Sometimes the relationship turns into resentment and hatred of something familiar and confining.

In any case, I'm an thankful for the arrangements that have been made...and honestly for how they were my life.

*I make a very stark personal distinction between marriages God has "endorsed", and those that are done simply for the sake of being married or not being single. The latter is what I'm referring to in this post.