"I was a teenage propagandist"


I've been, for a long time, wanting to write about what could be called my "journey of faith." I haven't really written about God, Christianity, or my take on "faith" in a quite a long time - it used to be a regular topic of mine for musing - because so much has changed, and it's so important to me, and to write it down would make things finalized in some fundamental way, but nothing is finalized by any means. I've been in a continuous state of flux for the last two years or so in terms of "faith." I just realized how appropriate it is that I should put the word "faith" in quotations, because it's really a meaningless word - in the sense that it has so many meanings to so many people that it cannot stand alone and have meaning, and needs some sort of explanation in order to establish context and, thus, meaning.

I wonder now whether a few of years ago I might have written "journey to faith," and I wonder whether six-to-twelve months ago whether I would have written "journey away from faith." I don't at present think either of those is accurate. Much of this was prompted by two very similar conversations I've had recently with two entirely different people about this topic - and my difficulty in having said conversations. Both were Christians, but one a sixty-something conservative friend's mother, and one a twenty-something very liberal very good friend of mine. The first was more difficult, but in both cases I didn't know how to describe my "relationship with God" (or whether I believe I have one), or even describe who I believe God is or whether I believe he or she exists, or really say anything substantial (or coherent) about how I view "faith."

I will make a statement here, which will hopefully serve to end these introductory remarks, assuage any non-Christians reading this, and hopefully not turn away any Christians reading it: I am not a Christian. At least, I don't think I am. I once was. I once knew things wholeheartedly - but I don't know if I really know anything anymore. That's sort of the point. This story is much more nuanced (and I believe that every human being's story is much more nuanced) than "coming to the faith" or "getting to know Jesus" or "falling away from the faith" or "becoming an atheist" or whatever. Maybe no one will want to read it. I'm sort of writing for myself, after all. But maybe it's interesting enough for you, reader, to read on.

The Teenage Propagandist

I grew up in a sort-of Christian home. By "sort-of," I mean it was like the majority of American families in that Christianity was presupposed but not overtly practiced - we said Grace at mealtimes, we went to church on Christmas and Easter and sporadically throughout the year. Once in a while my dad would be hit with a moderate form of religious fervor and would sit us down and read Bible stories to us from a Children's Bible stories book, probably the "Children's Book of Virtues," which I remember clearly, and which was a more secular moral primer for children. We also surely had more Bible-based childrens' books around the house.

My father also had some adult Christian books laying about the house, from authors such as Charles Swindoll and C.S. Lewis, which I assume he read at least once. My father was quite the voracious reader, and as I grew I followed in his footsteps (and eventually became an English major!) and ended up reading almost everything in the house, including these books. We never really had any overt Christian training; my father didn't force anything like Sunday School upon us (with any regularity, at least; I do remember some Sunday School in my childhood). Christianity was presumed the norm, but wasn't thrust upon us in any indoctrinating way by my parents. The indoctrination I later put upon myself.

"Food Stamps, Pride"

A few weeks ago, I was driving to my friend Nick's wedding with another friend, Mike. We were catching up (it had been many months since we'd seen each other) and one of the things we commiserated about was our difficulty in finding jobs and relative broke-ness. I mentioned that I had recently gotten accepted into the food stamps program (startlingly easy in Oregon) and he said something like, when he was an unemployed, recent graduate, he had considered doing the same thing - but pride, or something like it, had kept him from applying.

I was listening to NPR the other day and heard a teaser for a show on the next morning's program about people who are on food stamps, many of whom had never in their lives thought they would need government assistance. A lady quoted said something like, "I make sure to dress well when I go to the supermarket so that I don't seem like the kind of person who needs food stamps..." I was interested. I hadn't thought too much about it, but the next time I went to the grocery store I felt myself eyeing the floor as I handed the cashier my EBT card (the "official name," they aren't stamps after all), and wondering what the other people in line thought of me using it. I realized I have almost the opposite reaction - I look too wealthy to be on food stamps; do the other people in line think I'm cheating the system in some way? Do they think I don't deserve it? I almost want to dress worse when I go to the store, to avoid that kind of judgment. But all three of these reactions (not getting EBT in the first place, wanting to look like you are above food stamps, wanting to look like you deserve them) all stem from the same source: pride.


Derek said something to me tonight on Twitter about how we're both living our big city lives and yet we end up sitting home alone on Friday and Saturday nights watching television. He doesn't really count; it's the first time he's been single in... five years or so, and I guess I don't really count because I'm just passing time until I move to Seattle and this long-distance relationship thing ends.

Speaking of television, though, I was at the Mississippi Ave. Street Festival today and one booth had tons of DVDs for only $5. They also had TV Show DVDs for incredibly cheap - seasons 1 and 2 of Weeds, for example, for only $15; I think they had Grey's Anatomy, they had a few South Parks, the first season of LOST - if I wasn't 100% broke I might have picked one up.

Here's something else I've been thinking about. What's the deal with love and relationships? I know it's a super-unique blog post topic, but I just realized something about watching three seasons or so of a TV show in a matter of weeks - people in TV shows get in relationships, and then the relationships end. Ugly Betty is what I just finished watching, so I'll use it as an example - Betty falls in love with Henry in season 1, and then is on and off with him in season 2, and falls in love with Gio, and then that ends, and then she falls in love with Matt and then on the season finale Matt breaks up with her. There's a lot of love and lot of breakups. But usually the relationships in TV shows are spread out over months. I witnessed Matt and Betty's entire relationship in a matter of days. It just makes it all seem so futile. I guess it's kind of getting me down. It's making me miss Lisa.

People on TV shows always talk about the relationships "working out," or about "the future," but you know from the start that they aren't going to get married, ever. Unless it's the series finale, Betty is never going to get married. It would completely alter the fabric of the show. Think about Sex and the City - the whole show is based around her relationships, and they all have to fail. You kind of root for them to work out, especially when it's a cool guy (Like Aidan... yes, I like that show). But like I was saying before, she can't get married unless it's the last episode (or the film, which I didn't actually see, but I assume she married Big and ended up "happily ever after"). It's like all TV relationships are doomed from the start. Depressing, right?

Anyway, I've been feeling really lethargic lately; I stay up late watching television and sleep in and waste time reading comics or watching YouTube or surfing Digg. And sometimes I'll go out, like today. But I feel like for the last few months I've just been waiting for the 4th of July to be over because then Lisa was going to be here. And now she isn't. And there are perfectly legitimate reasons for her not to be, and I understand, but it still sucks. I didn't realize that that was what I was waiting for. She said something that made me think, why did I move to Portland if I wanted to be with her so bad? Why didn't I move to Plano for a little while?

But I had to take a risk, and it sort of paid off. I feel like I've taken a lot of risks for this relationship. I have never really known what was going to happen or what the future would hold. I never worried about money and it's gotten me in some bad spots but it's given me some incredible times as well. I guess I feel that there should be more risk-taking in the world. Figure out the details later, you know? Get into debt for a little bit if it means being with the people you love for a little bit. If you believe in God or the Universe or Love or something then it will all eventually work out. Plus, we are of the lucky few who have safety nets in that our parents own homes and have enough income that we can always move home and pick up the pieces if our big risks end up breaking us down.

But what I really meant to say is that, after tonight, it's final that I will not be seeing Lisa until mid-to-late August. So waiting is over. I watched my TV shows; Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, Arrested Development - I don't have those to occupy my time anymore. I have some work I can do, I have a million cool events I can go to, I have some new friends I can hang out with. I have a guitar. And I have all the time in the world to WRITE. Why am I not writing in this every day? Why am I not writing stories, and songs, and ideas for screenplays, and essays? Is that not what I want to do with my life? Am I not a writing major? Well, as Lloyd Dobler would say, "My assault on the world begins now."


I've been doing a lot of thinking. I've had a lot of time, being unemployed; what time I don't spend catching up on all the television I've missed out on for the last few years I spend thinking.

I've been wondering about the life I'm leading, I guess - being out on my own. I'm here, basically alone in Portland. Derek asked me the other night whether I get lonely, and the answer is yes. Well, sort of. I don't really get lonely. I don't get homesick. I've learned that I don't really get that emotional at all.

Talking to Lisa especially, but to Rob and Derek and Ben, about family has got me thinking. And watching Arrested Development, where "family first" is the mantra of that hyper-disfunctional family. But it seems like everyone my age has a sort of bond, a connection, that must be severed, usually with difficulty, for them to make the jump to moving out and living their own lives apart from their family. I don't really have that.

I don't know if it's a result of having divorced parents, and living in so many different places, or the strange family dynamics that have presented themselves as a result of that, but I never had a hard time imagining myself moving far away from my family and starting my own life. I had friends in college who talked to, if did not visit, their families very regularly. And Lisa surely has a difficult time with the decision to move away (though her reasons are more complicated). I was struck when Ben, of all people, told me that it was difficult for him to live far from his family.

I've always thought I was a pretty emotional person. Intuitive. Introspective. But in the last year or so I've noticed that I have a marked lack of emotion about almost everything. I always thought it was cool-headedness, or something, but it seems like it's more than that. It seems like I just don't really care, and that bothers me tremendously.

Why isn't it difficult for me to be far away from my family? To contact them only when it's necessary? Maybe it's normal for young adults to want to strike out on their own, but... it seems like everyone my age at least has a difficult time with it, even if they end up at the same conclusions that I do. My family aren't bad people. They've supported me in everything. They are loving and caring and affectionate. I love them. So what's the deal?

I've always known that I'm the kind of person that would lock up feelings and try to be calm and collected about things, but I never thought it was a lack of emotionality. I'm starting to think that it is. I don't know.

July '09 Photos

Last weekend I witnessed something so beautiful - two of my good friends getting married, to each other! I took photos and they came out BAD, BAD, BAD. Here are a couple (out of 100) that aren't TERRIBLE:







They are a little bit out of order... but you get the idea. Goodness, it was so beautiful. I want to get married.