Monday, October 17, 2011

Barbie goes to the mall

When I started this blog, I was even more neurotically freaked out about privacy than I am now.  There are still things that I would never write about here, but back then, there were entire catalogs of things I didn't dare post.  So some of my early posts, about why I originally left evangelicalism were.... not the whole truth.  It's been so long since I wrote those early posts that I hadn't really thought about this.  But a few weeks ago, in connection with processing my father's death, I revisited a few of them and realized that some revisionist posting was in order.

I said in this early post that the original catalyst for getting out of the religion of my youth was my realization of the logical inconsistencies of what I believed. And it was true to an extent.  This mainly had to do with answers to prayer, or with feeling like I had direct access to guidance from God.  For example.  If I went to the mall and a parking place opened up right in front of the entrance just as I got there, I would think, "God opened up that parking place for me. God wants me to go shopping."  It perhaps wasn't quite that bald, but at some sort of not-quite-conscious level, that's what I would think.

But once I got out of an entirely Evangelical environment, the thing I started to realize was that if I got to the mall and there were no parking places at the front, I didn't then think, "Oh, God must not want me to go shopping," and then leave.*  I just found a place at the back and walked.  *Unless, as a special case, I was undecided about whether or not to go shopping, and then I would pray that if God wanted me to go shopping, there would be a parking place, and if there wasn't a parking place, I would know to leave.  (I am not making this up.  If you weren't raised evangelical, I hope you find this amusing and not appalling.)

I was young.  Don't judge me.

The point is, I had this completely absurd picture of what it was like to have faith.  I was basically just talking to myself in my head, taking the coincidences of my life and making them into something meaningful.

Right.  We could get into a big discussion about that, I know.  Lots of people, many of them not Christian, believe that there are no coincidences in life.  And on certain days, I might agree with that.  But with this caveat:  I think you can realize that in hindsight.  You can drive yourself nuts trying to figure out the "meaning" of every single little thing in your life.  Sometimes there's a pattern when you look back.  Sometimes there's not.

On the other side of that argument, which I would agree with on other days, human brains look for meaning.  If we can't find it, we create it, or impose it.  I first realized this when I was working at a school, and had to spend many hours typing student ID numbers into the "child count" database software.  After awhile, my brain would start looking for patterns, for meaning, in these completely random series of numbers.  My brain was so compulsive about this that after awhile it made me laugh.

Wow, is this ever not going in the direction I thought it would when I started.  ha.

Back up.  So there I am at the mall, blithely confident that God cares enough about me to manage parking spaces for my benefit, while children are going to bed hungry, or have stepfathers that molest them, or are dying of cancer.  So if God cares that much about me, what's happening with them?  It's impossible for me to believe that God surveys the earth and chooses some people to valet park at the Galleria, and others to starve to death.  It was the age old problem of "How can a good and loving God allow Evil in the world?" with my own little "It's-all-about-me" spin thrown in for fun.  My 19-year-old self would go through this convoluted bit of reasoning about how it's not God's fault that children are starving, because God allows human beings free will, and human beings hoard resources and mismanage food supplies, and thus there are starving children.  And then I would go to the mall and expect God to have someone vacate their parking place so I could go shopping.  The undefined "they" who were causing world hunger got free will, but poor Jane Doe who was just trying to find her mother-in-law a birthday present would have this sudden compulsion to leave the mall-- a complete denial of her free will-- so that I could have a parking place.

So where am I going with this?  Because all I'm proving here is what a brain-dead 19-year-old I was.  None of this proves anything about who God is or might be, let along whether or not any such being exists.  It just proves that there were a lot of logical inconsistencies in my faith.  and maybe that's all the point there is to this one.  I started seeing these big holes in my logic, and not knowing how to plug them up.

to be continued.


  1. First thing. Most of us, at 19 are, not necessarily brain dead as far as faith is concerned, but don't really know what we believe. And when you throw in the faith that we have grown up in....all I can say is EGADS! I told HHBL recently that I have spent most of my adult life trying to overcome the crazy theological thinking that I absorbed growing up in a Baptist church. I hate to single out Baptists is what it is. The legalism. The judgementalism (I didn't spell that right I think. Whatever).

    Getting off soap box now.

  2. Interesting insight into the evangelical religion. I'd never known that. I'm one of the one's who believes in free will and coincidences. I expect Julie will be along momentarily to tell me there's no such thing. ;p

  3. Well, although I don't think I'm entirely alone in this, Debbie and I both know many very intelligent Evangelicals who are not nearly this convoluted in their thinking. A large part of this particular issue was just me being young and immature, and that doesn't have much at all to do with being Evangelical. It sounds like I'm trying to backpedal and not be offensive, and I am. sigh. More coming. This has had me thinking all day.

  4. Lol, nice Dee. I might just come along and say that! ;)

    I do kinda see where you are headed with this Barb, and I also agree with Debbie somewhat, although at 19 I was WAY head-in-the-sand about any and all faith, so maybe I'm not a great one to speak on this topic.

    I'll continue reading (two posts in one day?) and come back if I need to, or just keep moving forward.