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The God I Know: Religion And The Real World

As I sit alone in Good Enough Mother World Headquarters, I am overcome with emotion. What is the deal with me crying all the time, is it hormonal or what? Nonetheless, the tears are here so stick with me as I try to decipher why.

Yesterday, I wrote a story on this site based around another blog post a friend directed me to. You may have read it – it’s the piece with dozens of comments!

Basically the blogger, a pastor’s wife, who calls herself warriorwoman, wrote about how she and her husband would not allow their kids to date, but instead engaging in courtship.  I’ll be honest, reading her post literally made my head spin and the tough-as-nails Rene took action, using it as a jumping off point for my own piece – and a debate I wanted to have on the site about dating and abstinence in 2011.

I know it will come as no surprise to those who know me and follow this site, but I was direct, blunt, provocative and spiky. The pastor’s wife, on her own blog, thanked me for linking to her piece and then fired what would be the first of no fewer than three insults at me. When I asked her via her own site, to please explain to me how this courtship would work, especially as her kids went off to college, she was cordial, but did not miss an opportunity to insult again, letting me know how she and her children had a good laugh at my post and the comments made by my readers. At 9:25 last night, she was complimenting me on how beautiful my kids and I were. At 10:25 she did everything but call me the devil incarnate. It was as if someone else had inhabited the space in front of her keyboard. From that point on, she continued to insult me, calling me narrow-minded and questioning my ability as a journalist, which of course, I no longer am. It was whiplash inducing.

That brings us back to GEM World HQ and the tears. They are not the result of the pastor’s wife’s insults; no not even close. They are because there was a real opportunity here, to educate, to share, to find common ground and above all for people to learn more about God, yes, even on this spiky website.

This is the entry to my home. The wall is filled with about 70 crosses and there are probably another 70 or so around my house. But I don’t need them to remind me that I am a sinner and Christ died for me. This one is my favorite.

Now, as we have seen in the exchanges between the pastor’s wife and myself, religion, like politics, is the third rail of our society. People hold it dear and have been known to die for it. That’s why those things don’t make good dinner-party conversation or blog post commenting. But because I seek to learn as much as teach, I am bravely venturing into those churning waters. So pull up a chair as I tell you about the God I know.

THE GOD I KNOW TAUGHT ME TO TURN THE OTHER CHEEK: When I woke up this morning to check my site statistics, I saw the sort of traffic my post was driving to warriorwoman’s site. My first reaction was to take down the link that points to her blog; after all, she’s taken to calling me “this woman” and “someone”. But I stopped. Why? As I mentioned before and have left on the comments section here, I am interested in finding out the logistics of how a courtship with her family would work, particularly as her kids go off to college. I am still open to hearing that. But after her last two salvos directed at me, I doubt it will be from her. The other reason I did not take down the link is because, contrary to what she has labeled me as, I am very definitely not narrow-minded. Just as I welcome her opinion, I want to give my readers a chance to see what she is talking about, to hear the message from her own mouth. I will not deny them that privilege. I believe we learn and grow when we expose ourselves to opinions that differ from our own. We don’t have to agree with them, but respectful, challenging debate is a good thing. Too bad she’s not doing the same for her readers.

THE GOD I KNOW DOESN’T MAKE MISTAKES: I believe in a tolerant, benevolent God, one who is omnipotent, omnipresent and does not make mistakes. It is the last part of that which leads me to believe that people do not choose to be gay and are good just the way they are – and that’s why I support gay marriage. I have a number of gay friends, two of whom I sang with in the church choir at Christ Community Church a thousand years ago. They are both now in happily, committed relationships, one of 16 years, the other more than 20. My friend Phil, knew he was gay since elementary school (how is that learned behavior?) but wasn’t able to be true to himself until he came at 21. His relationship, with his husband (who he legally married in California a few years back) and God is none of my business, just as my relationship with my partner is none of his.

THE GOD I KNOW TAUGHT ME HOW TO FORGIVE: I harbor no ill will toward warriorwoman. In fact, I noticed a funny thing; my sense of peace about her and the exchange seemed inversely proportionate to her ire. While I won’t forget that she insulted my intelligence or insinuated that I was no good at my former profession, I do have a soft spot in my heart for her. She let her emotion get the best of her, who among us hasn’t? But surely warriorwoman is aware of how, accurately or not, very religious people are portrayed in society and the media.

When she started slinging insults at me (I never, in my initial post targeted her, rather questioned the courtship method) then picked up her bat and ball and said game over, well, that’s exactly what people expected her to do. They expected her to retreat to that position where no one could reach, challenge or ask questions and that is too bad. If she had maintained her cool, she would have seen that I could be reasonable, logical, open to debate and new ideas. Heck, she might have even made me think about the way I will approach dating with my own kids. Warriorwoman had a chance to give more than just broad strokes; she could have really gotten into detail, to tell more about how the courtship went with her own husband, to share more of what she believes and to even teach someone outside her circle of believers, more about the God she follows.

THE GOD I KNOW IS LOVE: Love, Love, Love.  In one of her comments to me, warriorwoman took umbrage with me calling her out for insulting me. “Oh, and since I’m a pastor’s wife, I’m not supposed to set anyone straight? Why? Because Jesus wouldn’t? He certainly did.” Yes, warriorwoman, Jesus set a lot of people straight but He did it from a place of love. He did it because He was concerned for their spiritual life and because they were His Father’s children. He did not do it because He was trying to settle a score or make people feel small and insignificant with cutting remarks.  I’m not a pastor’s wife and have no doubt spent far fewer hours sitting in church pews than you have, but I know this to be true; the God I know loves me, despite my faults, which are far too numerous to list here, just as He loves you.

So this morning I was a little confused, I guess because I went to warriorwoman (after the initial post, which I again admit was spiky and provocative) seeking information and she shut me down. Instead of searching for some common ground, she dismissed me as someone not worthy of her time. Earlier, while the conversation was still cordial, I mentioned that I had seen her church online and it looked welcoming, like the kind of place I probably would have tried out had I still been living in my hometown of Sacramento, CA. After the turn of events though, she wrote, And don’t kid yourself, you wouldn’t have visited my church anyway.” I wondered how she could be so certain in making that claim, especially because she was wrong.

In the midst of all that confusion, Pastor Bill Stack of the Salem Full Gospel Church, in Salem, Missouri, wrote in, praising warriorwoman and her methods. I approved the comment because, as I have said before, I am open to hearing other people’s sides. Well, it didn’t take much (I am a trained reporter and the internet is a wonderful tool) to figure out that Pastor Stack was related to warriorwoman, a point I made in my response to him. In his follow up comments, he thanked me for allowing his views to be heard and said this of his sister, “It was wrong for her to have gotten defensive and rude when her ideas and character were challenged, in an audience as large and diverse as yours, but her ideas on children and family are sound…she has the living credentials to prove it.” But it’s what he did next that took my breath away and renewed my faith that people of diverse beliefs and backgrounds can have respectful disagreements.  “Your children are blessed to have you as their mother.”  Wow.

To Pastor Stack, thank you for the kind words and the kind place in your heart from which they came, for acknowledging that there is value to both warriorwoman’s approach and my own and for giving me a glimpse of the God I know.

So all you Good Enough Mother’s out there – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. How do you reconcile your religious beliefs with the real world and your day-to-day lives? Keep it respectful and I think we can all learn a great deal from one another… I hope so…

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