I’m usually so wary of Christianese.
You know, that sappy blue poster with Jesus-is-Lord in curlicue font. White porcelain angels on display, their eyes so dewy i want to dab them with a tissue. Pink Bibles and Joel Osteen Prosperity Gospel ickyness.
Part of it is plain old aversion, wary of anything that is covered in the sheen of Jesus but bearing the message of no-gays-here, womyn-still-are-temptress-Eve’s. Part of that is my own prejudice, my fear that there is real faith to be had even in the places that make my so-called open-mindedness run for the hills of you’re-only-open-minded-if-you’re-minded-like-me liberaldom.
And, honestly, part of it is i hate evangelizing. I doled out postcards for church services in the seventh grade because i’d found Jesus and wanted other people to do so too, but only if they felt comfortable with me asking and only if they saw the fat gay pride pin on my backpack.
I got burned. I got asked by the Christians why i could be a feminist and by the feminists why i worshipped a God referred to in exclusively masculine pronouns. And so i stopped talking about my faith, because at least feminism was more open to internal critique. Feminism sat with questions more than answers. Christianity, it seemed to me then, was all about rules and He-God and keeping the panties on of everyone who wasn’t white and cisgendered and a heterosexual male.
I got scared. I got scared i was isolating people, i got scared i was infringing on my own profession of pro-interfaith, pro-you-do-you. But frustratingly, beautifully, inexplicably, i kept going to church. Sure, i said “She” for every God-pronoun printed in the bulletin and refused to chant along certain hymn lyrics. But i stayed, stubbornly faithful and begrudging, i stayed.
It wasn’t until Erin asked me to write for what would become Talking Taboo that i even started really talking about my faith with more than my roommate and my church-going friend. It wasn’t until i fell in love with a recovering evangelical that i saw there was goodness, good faith, real love, real commitment and real truth to be found in the very same NC churches that also took public stances for Amendment 1.
My mother calls this Jesus’ ability to love the Pharisee and the leper.
And i am called to love like Jesus. Love radically, authentically, love by holding accountable and love by listening to all who i would otherwise judge.
So in ashes, i began to really fall in love with the Church again. To worshipping Mother God, yes. But also to the pews, the Our Fathers, the muddy mess of Kingdom-coming, Kingdom-not-yet. (Or as Mary Daly would swiftly correct: Sisterhood of the Cosmic Covenant-coming, not yet).
I think that’s why i so love Advent. Yeah, it’s the tacky Christmas sweater obsession, and the spiked eggnog, and draining my bank account to spoil the ones i love. But it’s so much more than that.
It’s that waiting, that dialectic of here, but not yet. Tension and pull, leper and Pharisee, shepherds coming with wealthy wise ones after.
So in that spirit of tension, of pushing to what i am not yet but planting myself also in what i know, i’ve started doing something that feels very new. Very not-lizzie. At least, not the lizzie who dragged Jonathan to the back corner pew on the first Sunday of Advent because she was so overwhelmed by the crowd of a walloping 40 people in the sanctuary.
I’ve started participating in the Rethink Church Photo-a-Day for Advent. Rethink Church is no browbeat-er but it’s big for the girl who gags in the “Christian Life” aisle of Barnes & Noble. I mean, come on, my Instagram is the holy ground on which only egregious numbers of cat photos and sibling funny faces can appear.
So, five days in, here’s my experience: stupidly scary to add #rethinkchurch to my pictures, surprisingly prayerful to think about how photographs of mundane moments can capture that tension of here-and-not-yet. Is it earth-shattering? Well, no, no it’s not. But it’s been a baby step.
Day 1: Go.
Day 2: Bound.
Day 3: Peace. (Bathroom graffiti at Mount Holyoke)
Day 4: Time. (In the Mount Holyoke Library)
Day 5: Flood, for the memories and longing of these mountains and this time in my life. Taken in Scotland in April.
And, should you like to participate as well, here are the rest of the allotted themes:
Do you have any special practices during Advent? Have you been participating in the #RethinkChristmas photo-a-day? What’s it been like for you? (Leave a comment with you Instagram name!)
I’ll post my pictures every five days for the remainder of Advent, but in the meantime, stay warm in the waiting.
current jam: Jonathan singing “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” on Skype. (“Is that your current jam?” he just exclaimed when i asked the title. He knows me too well.)