Second-Class Souls

So, I'm re-reading Blue Like Jazz... it's one of my favorite non-fiction books. Living where I am has about at decade loading time for 'culture' to finally make it here, so it's funny to watch the little local versions of 'hipster Christianity' slowly poke its head around the Hannibal/Quincy area. Most of the newly rebranded Christianity has sleeker logos and carefully re-manuscripted topics... but it still smells like the area, if you know what I mean.

I have a weird relationship with my religion. (No, don't worry, I'm not going into a preaching diatribe here or anything...) If you've ever read my 'author bio' then you know one of the titles I claim is 'Pastor'. Honestly, I'm happy my little church invited me to preach there. Back when Steph and I had first moved back to the area, we were having a hard time finding a church we liked. Even then, (about six or so years ago at the time I'm writing this), it seemed all the area churches had all these great answers to none of the questions I was asking (and am still asking). If it hadn't been for Payson Christian Church inviting me to pastor, I don't think I'd go to church here.

See, even when I write that last sentence, in my head I know there's probably a split crowd reading it - one side thinking something like, 'Well, you OUGHT to be going somewhere no matter what', juxtaposed with the other side which is probably thinking something like... 'huh? that's a thing? Ok, cool. You do you.'

I feel like a creature of two worlds (sometimes more). This duality comes up with things like my writing, my conflicted sense of identity, and deeper issues like what I want to try and do with my life. It's not a simple thing. I feel like it's come to a point with the religious stuff where I'm like this secretly disavowed agent still walking the halls of the Church. They think I know all the lingo and am down with the current flavor of the grape juice... but each day, the whole thing just gets a little more alien to me, you know?

I'm not an organized theology kinda guy. I'm just not. I like wearing Celtic symbols because I'm proud of my heritage. I drink and don't care if people see. Sometimes I swear (hey, the right words are the right words, sometimes) Awhile ago, there was this series of mini books the people who do demographics on the western church... and one of the subsets they said a subsect of people my age self-identify with are 'exiles'. People who feel a deep disconnect with mainline conservative evangelicalism and consider themselves 'outside' the Church today.

This is divisive because while the people inside the Church would call these self-identifyers 'Lost', they would simply call themselves... well... I don't know... Thinking?

Have you ever been in a room or a house which you knew so well, you didn't really have to even bother engaging with it? Like the blind, you could locate and pick up any item. You could find the hallway bathroom without bothering to rub the crud out of your eyes at night.

- this is what it's like.

Steph and I have had I don't know how many late-night conversations about how, growing up in this culture, we were encouraged to 'think for ourselves'... then, once we started doing so about the Church and stuff, we were shunned for it. It was as if we were encouraged and loved on, with huge unspoken condition that we agree with the status-quo; and if we dared not to, we were marginalized and 'prayed for'.

In a religion which purportedly values Freedom, we were treated like second-class souls. It's hard not to be resentful, you know?

I've been thinking for a long time about writing a book on something like this. Who knows? - Maybe my current posts will wind up being chapters in the book. I worry about putting my name on the book that doesn't yet exist. I wonder just how honest I'd be allowed to be? I mean, would it be easier for me just to use a pen name?

After growing up and hearing my whole life how 'gay people are bad' and 'liberals are bad' and what have you, I find myself totally identifying with 'Coming Out'. I get it. So long as you keep going incognito, no one really looks twice at you.

If we really value honesty - why are we not honest? If we say we really value Grace, why are we not graceful? If we say God is love, why are we so party-line?

Honesty and Grace are hard things for writers. Hemmingway sets the bar high when he says 'writing is easy, all we have to do is sit down and bleed.' Good stories reveal the story teller - where their mind and heart are at over a long period of time. How much of our True selves do we let slip?

- Ryan

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