I Don’t Believe In The End Of The World Anymore

   Christians, I am writing this to you.

   See, my whole life Christians have been pointing to a sign that the world is going to end. Most of them come from having seen or read Left Behind too many times. Every couple months there’s a new one. We’re obsessed with pointing them out too. Each tragedy, each new advance in technology, each political move; end times. I used to believe them. But I don’t anymore. I can’t anymore. Because these beliefs made me hit my rock bottom. I found that rock bottom was the clean, carpeted floor of my church’s sanctuary, where I was supposed to accept the God who drove me to depression.

   Because “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18.)

   Let me explain.

   I became a Christian because I was afraid. This was a good story to tell until I really thought about it. I was 8 years old, having a panic attack over the end of the world and demons and I prayed with my mom to take away my fear.. It sounds cute. Like a little girl running to God to help her. That’s how I always told it. The reality was, a little girl was so afraid of God’s wrath, that she begged Him to love and forgive her and protect her. She didn’t love Him. She just didn’t want the alternative. That isn’t love. It’s manipulation.

   That’s how it started, and that was the narrative of my relationship with Christ. I was never driven by love; always fear. I have found that many people are. I didn’t want to be punished, on earth or in eternal damnation (where all my friends were going if I didn’t tell them about Jesus.), I didn’t want to be left on earth during “the tribulation,” and I didn’t want God to stop loving me. So I lived my life as a believer would. But it wasn’t love.

   I continued having anxiety about the end of the world. But it took me a long time to realize why. Growing up, I talked about it a lot. At my church, in bible studies, and with my family. But the theology was all wrong.

   In the theology I believed, God was angry. God had to punish sin. I was supposed to be (anxiously.) waiting for the day Jesus came back and wiped out the rest of mankind who didn’t believe. I believed that God’s love is conditional, because its all about whether or not I believe in Him. (If I reject Him, He cannot love me back.) And this message of hope turned into a message of fear. Yet somehow people expected me to be okay with all of this. But I wasn’t. I’m not. I’m not okay with God destroying creation and using His characteristic of “justice” as a good enough reason. I’m not okay with people going to hell. I’m not okay with God being okay with that. I’m not okay with God being angry and vindictive and calling it love.

    To be honest, I didn’t know if I was okay with God.

   I didn’t know how much I had to believe in order to “make it” to heaven. My faith is small. Is it enough? Do I believe in Jesus enough to be saved from hell? The bible says you’ll know you’re saved by actions, but most days, I don’t behave like a Christian. I swear; does that cut me out of the group? My theology isn’t perfect, am I still saved? I lust, does God still want me? Because the truth is, I don’t know.

   And if I believe that faith will get me out of hell, then…I don’t know if I’ll have enough.

   That’s a terrifying thought.

   If you don’t know what’s going to happen in the afterlife, hearing the world is ending is the worst possible thing.

   As I studied the bible and went to church and did discussions on these things, I broke. I was so afraid. But I told myself that real Christians wouldn’t be afraid. So I forced myself to read more and learn more. I told myself that if I only had enough faith, I wouldn’t be afraid. But I was.

   It was because of this anxiety that I stopped keeping up with school. I didn’t get to plan my wedding on Pinterest in high school. I didn’t think about turning 21. A lot of days I didn’t even care about what boys did or didn’t like me. I never worried about getting invited to prom. I didn’t think about college or what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t worry about having the newest IPhone or friends.

   I actually spent all of high school thinking about the different ways I could kill myself. I didn’t plan my birthday parties because I could only plan my funeral.

   Why? Because if I added up the theology and the facts about the world around me, I would rather kill myself. That was the only logical conclusion. Church gave me panic attacks. Thinking about church gave me panic attacks. The word “revelation” in any context triggered me. I stopped reading my bible because it did more harm than good. Anything at all made me suicidal.

   At one point I realized I had to give up God in order to salvage my mental health.

   After that I realized just how, excuse my language, just how absolutely fucked up that is. If that was God, I didn’t want anything to do with it. I should not have to pick between my faith and my sanity. And that is why I had to give God up.

   These beliefs about God were making me unable to get out of bed. They were making me wish I was dead. They were making me afraid. Giving me panic attacks. These ideas about God were hurting me.

   Well, that god  anyway.

   By the grace of Jesus, I got help. I talked to someone older than me, and I re-learned who God was. I got rid of what I used to believe in order to see my Savior as who He really is. God is not angry. God is so much more loving than we realize. God knows our fears and our needs. He knows what we are capable of. There is no fear in love. That fear based theology that I was learning was not of my God. My God is heartbroken over what happened to me. I realize that now. The book of Revelation is not a book of fear but of redemption. It it the story of poetic literature, not specific events. It is history and poetry and possible futures. I do not believe the future is set in stone for the same reason I do not believe God is damning the entire world. Because I serve a bigger God than that. Yes, God is justice, but His justice never negates His love. I do not believe in a God who supports using fear to get a desired outcome, even if that outcome is salvation. Perfect love casts out fear. 

   Christians, we cannot teach this anymore. We cannot scare people into evangelism or into salvation. I can’t believe I have to even say that. What kind of God do we serve? Surely not a God of fear.

   God is love. And perfect love casts out fear. His story is of redemption and breathing new life into the world. Breathing new life. Revelation is not about death. It is about life. It is about renewal. It is a call to to love and to see the world from a heavenly perspective. It is about courage and love. Revelation is a book that was written to a certain group of people to encourage them to stand strong in their trials. It’s written the way it is because apocalyptic literature was really popular at the time. The entire book is God literally destroying fear.  He promises to remove fear and it’s hold over us.

   I do not think the afterlife is the way we assume it will be. I don’t think the end of the world is the end of the world at all. I think it’s less like the end and more like the beginning. I think God will come and breathe life into our decay and we will be redeemed. God is not coming to destroy or tear down. He is coming to bring life.

   God did not intend for the bible to be used as way to coerce people into loving Him. God didn’t intend for His words to reek such havoc in my life. He didn’t want people to twist His words and force a theology onto us that would make me want to die.

   Once I realized this, it changed my life. It made me angry that I wasted so many years of my life being afraid. It made me angry that I still get afraid sometimes. But it made me want to do something about it.

   I know I’m not the only one who has suffered like this. I wasn’t the first, but I’m hoping to be one of the last. I still don’t know a lot of thing. I don’t know how much I need to know about God in order to be okay, but I don’t know if it matters. Because God is bigger than the box I put Him in. God is more loving than I can feel He is. He is more powerful than I can imagine He is. If He wasn’t, than He wouldn’t be a God.

   Christians. something needs to change. I say let’s give the bible a new reading and instead of using a lens of fear, lets use one of love.

   “For God so loved the world, that He sent His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not parish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

   “I don’t pay attention to the world ending, because for me it has ended many times, and began again in the morning.” -Nayyirah Waheed


5 Books That Shaped My Faith

   It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? I know. I’m sorry. I’m still figuring stuff out. My life is a bit of a mess at the moment. So much is going on and I’ve been trying to stay on top of it all as well as take care of myself. I don’t have the words to explain it yet, but when I figure it out, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, however, I wanted to share some books with you guys that have shaped my faith and, in many ways, changed my life. I’ve been having a hard time with my personal beliefs lately because they’ve been changing so much, but sometimes you just need to take a step back to remember where you started.

   My faith in Jesus Christ has changed over the last couple years, which is an amazing thing. But change is always hard. I’ve had enormous doubts and had to wrestle through some issues. So if you have doubts, if you’re not on the whole “Jesus” bandwagon and have no idea what its about, if you’re seeking to grow in your faith, or if you’re just philosophically curious, I recommend these books.

   5. No More Faking Fine – Esther Fleece
   This one I actually read because one of my blog followers recommended it after reading one of my posts. It was beautifully honest and I couldn’t have agreed more. The book explores the meaning of the word “lament.” (a word that, even before reading this, held tremendous meaning for me.) She discusses the issue Christians tend to have of pretending things are fine and challenges the belief that you’re suffering negates God’s goodness or belittles your faith. It was refreshing to read a book that told me it was okay to be in pain, because I spent years of my life learning that lesson the hard way. I wish someone had told me earlier that I was allowed to hurt and I didn’t have to pretend to be fine. I learned that I don’t always have to sing the happy-go-lucky worship songs because sometimes it hurts too much. And that’s okay.

   4. Troubled Minds – Amy Simpson
   This book blew my mind. It talks about how the church needs to respond to issues of mental health versus how it’s actually treated by people in the congregation. It gave a lot of really solid, practical ways we as a body can be involved in helping individuals who are struggling with mental illnesses. For once, someone wrote that faith wasn’t going to cure depression. Simpson uses her own personal life as an example frequently, since her mother has schizophrenia. It was eye opening and inspiring. This is a must read, but especially for anyone who works in the church.

   3. The Inescapable Love Of God – Thomas Talbott
   Now, this is where my books get more theological and less practical. I just finished this book last night and it took my breath away. There were several points I physically screamed because I was so blown away. In this book, Talbott makes the strong case for universal reconciliation. (Essentially, eternal damnation isn’t real.) This was a topic I never thought much about, but a friend lent me the book and I read it on a whim. By the 30th page I was in tears because I had never heard someone speak so accurately about the problems in the theology our Western culture holds to. Talbott exposed the abuse in the church and showed how God’s love is greater than it all. It’s a bit of a hard read. I had to read it in complete silence, and do so reallllll slow. But its worth every page. Even if you don’t agree, there is a ton of truth in what he says, and its worth looking into. I haven’t found any other theological argument that would account for the plot holes I see in scripture like this one does.

   2. Silence – Shusaku Endo
   This book is actually a work of fiction written by a Japanese Roman Catholic that was published in 1966. It chronicles the lives of 2 Jesuit priests who go on a dangerous journey to Japan when they receive word that their mentor has apostatized. Let me tell you, I have never cried so hard reading any work of literature more than when I read Silence. It’s a slow read, but intriguing and beyond worth it at the end. The implications made in this book cemented a brand new understanding of God that I had been seeing for a while prior. Endo asks questions about sin, doubt, and the vastness of God’s love. He does an incredible job of answering the biggest question of why God is silent in the midst of suffering. Read this book. Or, if you’re not into that kind of thing, it was just adapted into a movie directed by Martin Scorses and starring Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield, and Liam Neeson.

   1. The Theology Of The Book Of Revelation – Richard Bauckham 
   Surprised to see this one as number one? Me too. As many of you know, I struggled with severe anxiety all my life. 99% of it was because of false teachings about the end times. (Another story for another time.) Last summer my brother handed me this book and told me if I read it, I would never be afraid again. Of course, I was skeptical. I didn’t think one book could undo 19 years worth of psychological damage. And you know what? By God’s grace, it freaking did. Bauckham takes apart the most feared book in the biblical canon and reveals the truth. He shows Revelation as a book of redemption and love and ultimate victory. He doesn’t neglect its place historically either, which gave me a new perspective on the book; I am now able to see it as a beautiful piece of Jewish apocalyptic literature. He doesn’t use fear tactics to explain parts of it away either. Again, its a bit of a tough read because its more theological and scholarly, but worth it. No book has changed my life more significantly than this one has. It opened my eyes to the actual intention of that book and gave me courage and actual hope. Not a hope based on fear. Real hope. It was the best gift anyone had ever given me.

   So there you have it.

   My list of best books to inspire faith and philosophical and theological thinking. Let me know if you read any of them and what you thought. (Especially if you read one of the last two. Hit me up real fast.)

   What about you? What books have significantly changed your life? Books that taught you to be more open minded? Books about religion, theology, philosophy, or any of those things. Fiction or not. Let me know. I’m always down for recommendations.

I’m A Feminist (And Here’s Why)

   A year or so ago I started calling myself a feminist ironically.

   It was a joke, I swear.

   My sister started it because there were so many times I would go on long rants out of the blue about, well, about feminist issues. I would say “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then proceed to say some very feminist statements. I sounded like a long SJW tumblr rant. So it became our running joke that I was a super liberal, angry feminist. (And coming from a conservative, Christian, pretty right wing household, this was quite the joke.) We’d laugh about it and make fun of me for it, but then I started to think about it. If I agreed with what feminists stood for, why wasn’t I seriously calling myself one?

   So I did my research. I studied up. I read stuff. Listened to opinions. I learned what the cause was really all about. And I discovered that I was a hardcore feminist. I had shied away from the label for the same reason that most people do: the stigma around it, the lack of understanding, and the fear of being associated with certain people or viewpoints that we don’t hold to. But I realized that was a completely illegitimate reason. After all, I call myself a Christian. (Most people who follow the biblical teachings of Jesus do as well.) Yet I don’t agree with everything in popular Christian culture, and I sure as heck don’t like being stereotyped as hypocritical or two-faced or a know it all. But I still hold to that label. My point is, there are always going to be things you don’t agree with in any group you’re a part of, but that doesn’t mean you ditch the group.

   So yeah. I’m a feminist.

   For me, feminism is the idea that woman are people. It sounds simple enough, but you have to acknowledge that there are ways that women are treated as “less than,” and a lot of people don’t see it or don’t want to admit it. Feminism is the idea that we are not things or objects; we are not here to give sexual pleasure to men and we are not here to be the sidekick. Feminism means that women get to be individuals despite their profession, sexual orientation, or marital status. We are not valuable just because of what we can give society or because of the partner we are with. We are valuable because we were made in the image of God just like men.

   Feminism is not the idea that women are better than men. It is not the idea that a woman cannot be gentle or quiet. We do not argue that all females must be in the workforce; we do not put down motherhood. We fight for the idea that women are individuals with preferences and differences and that means some women will be mothers but some will not. Some women love “girly” things and some women like traditionally masculine things. We have differing skills and abilities and personality traits so I argue that womanhood cannot be condensed into a narrow understanding because not all women fit the bill and that’s okay.

   Again, many people agree with the sentiment but refuse to label themselves “a feminist.”

   There are issues that are “feminist issues” that I am not sure how to approach. As a feminist, I do not believe in the idea of “women’s rights” meaning the women have the right to abort their babies simply because they grow in their bodies. Because I stand for the rights of unborn children to be able to live. But I also know if you take away the right to have abortions, you only take away the right to have safe abortions. This has been shown historically, before medical procedures, women would toss themselves off flights of stairs to abort a pregnancy. But I am not so naive to think that women love murdering children. I believe that life is messy and sometimes we are placed into situations that have no good outcomes; such as that with the situation of saving either the mother or the child, or issues of children of rape.

   As a feminist, I believe that women have the right to wear whatever they want. As a feminist, I feel that sexuality is precious and the human body is beautiful and should not be sexualized. I certainly don’t think that women are responsible for the actions of men in that because of the way they choose to dress they are “asking for it.” I don’t think sex work is a good idea because it devalues the incredible thing that sex is, but I also don’t think that women who choose that profession should be looked down upon as “less than.”

   Feminism is not clear cut because life itself is not clear cut. It’s messy. That’s something I learn more everyday. Life is messy. There are contradictions and times when you get stuck because no way out is satisfying. That’s just the world we live in. So I think if we can accept that, the idea that feminism has flaws just like everything else, we can move forward. Feminism is imperfect because we are imperfect. (Bad Feminst, Roxanne Gay.) But still I hold on to these ideas with every last bit of energy I have. I need feminism because I believe that there is a real problem and I need to believe that things will get better.

   So why do I believe all this? Why am I a feminist?

   A part of it started to grow in middle school when my friends and I all discovered that we liked attention from boys. It started when my best friends and I fought for the attention of boys. It started when I was angry at other girls for getting more attention, for being prettier, for being more likable. It started because as girls, we feel that other girls are our competition and that is simply not true. I thought that if a girl was pretty, I was not. I began to think that something was wrong with me because my friends had boys that liked them and I did not. I started to think that my worth was solely based on the affection I got from males. I looked to them for validation and approval because that was what seemed to matter. The girls who got boys were pretty and fun and popular. And I was not. I started to be angry at girls who were my friends because I thought it was a contest and I thought I was losing. Women face enough oppression as it is, but sometimes our number one enemy is ourselves.

   The idea grew in high school when I experienced my first rejection, my first hurt, my first guy friend who never wanted to talk to me again. I saw how that tore me apart because I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t his friend. I didn’t know how I would live if we weren’t together. He didn’t like me because I was shy and I thought it was my fault for not being more brave. I would beat myself up for not matching up to his standard. I cried myself to sleep every night. I was a complete mess because I put our relationship before everything else and when that fell through, there was nothing of me left. I thought, as a woman, it was my job to be committed and to love without limits and I thought I was supposed to make sacrifices for us. And that guy left with everything. I had nothing. I saw that my friends did the same thing. They gave their all to guys who gave nothing. I saw that guys lead on, used, abused, and fled. My friends and I would cry and wonder why we weren’t good enough. Maybe it was our looks. Our personalities. Our taste in music. Maybe if we could be more submissive, more loving, more outgoing then maybe he wouldn’t have left. I saw that we, women, put all the blame on ourselves when relationships fell through, simply because we thought we were not enough. We thought that in order to be good girlfriends, we had to change and get rid of the parts of ourselves that he didn’t like.

   When I was entering college I realized I was a feminist. See, I have a larger than average chest size. It’s something that isn’t my fault. It’s genetics, body predisposition, and simply part of the way I am. No amount of healthy eating or exercise will cut it. Now to people who just know me in passing and random strangers on the street, I am just a woman with big tits. I am not smart, I am not creative, I am not funny; I am immediately thought of as an object to lust over. I am catcalled. I am the recipient of crude comments even when I am fully and appropriately dressed. I don’t dress provocatively, but still I am reduced to nothing more than my cup size. I can’t walk down the street without thinking that men are undressing me in their minds. I can do nothing to stop it. And it’s not just me. My sister and my friends are catcalled and objectified on the daily. Women everywhere experience this. Because we have enforced this idea then women are to be sexy and women are here to be beautiful and women are here as eye candy. Nothing more.

   That’s the worst part of it all.

   That women are reduced to nothing but things to have sex with. We are nude models. We are loved for the sensation we give others. We are valued because of the size of our jeans and size of our chest. If we cannot be beautiful, we cannot be anything. If we are not beautiful, we are irrelevant. That’s why in high school one of my friends was starving herself. Because she was told she wasn’t pretty enough, and women are not worth anything if they are not pretty. So I watched in horror as she shrunk down her size by starving and binging and purging. Because if she wasn’t pretty, men wouldn’t love her. If she wasn’t pretty, she wouldn’t matter.

   What made me a feminist was the day someone I love very much told me she was gang raped. Several men undressed her and stole her virginity. She wasn’t even in high school yet. I don’t care if that’s graphic, because it was the truth. It happened and I could not ignore that, and people should not ignore that. Because I know more people that have been raped then people who like my favorite TV show. Because according to RAINN, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Because my friend wouldn’t let me put a hand on her shoulder because it gave her flashbacks. Because its 2017 and people still make jokes about rape. Because hardly anyone in my life considers themselves a feminist because they are too scared to admit that this thing happens every day. Because they won’t stand up for this real abuse because God forbid someone think they hate men.

   I’m a feminist for all those girls who hate themselves. All the girls who are catcalled and sexualized. I stand up for those who have been molested and raped. I am here for women who were told to be quiet. I’m a feminist for myself because I need to understand that I am a person who is valuable on her own. I am a feminist for all the female fans at Wrigley who were told that baseball was a boys sport. I’m a feminist for my little sisters who I hope will grow to be strong, and loving women. I’m here to tell girls to lift heavy, speak out, be different. I’m here because people say “Men don’t like it when girls…” I’m a feminist for all those women with shaved heads and all the girls who don’t fit the standard. I’ll fight until girls stop calling each other “bitches” and learn to be supportive. I’m a feminist for women of color and disabled women, who have it even harder than I do. I’m a feminist because Jesus’ best friends were prostitutes. I’m a feminist because women matter too.

   And because feminism is for everyone, I am also here to support men who cry, because it is not a sign of weakness. I’m here to fight for men who are overly sexualized and feel that in order to be a man they need to have muscles. I’m here for men who wear pink. I am a feminist for stay at home dad’s and males with careers that are labeled “women’s work.” I’m here for the men who are raped because their voices matter too. I fight for the guys with eating disorders. I’m a feminist because I don’t think men should feel the need to be aggressive; I fight for their right to show emotions.

   I am a feminist because John 15:12 says to “love each other as I have loved you.”

   Feminism means loving all people regardless of gender.

   I don’t know how you can’t be a feminist.