It’s All Your Fault

I often find myself feeling God’s cold shoulder.

Before you launch into the solution, I just want to vocalize something that has always bothered me just enough to recognize it, but not enough to reflect on it–

Often the answer to the feeling of the absence of God is that it must be the person’s fault.

You turned away from God.

You stopped reading your Bible.

You stopped praying.

You don’t feel God? Honestly, you brought it on yourself. Here’s what I do…

Does this strike anyone else as troublesome?

Perhaps it’s because of a family trauma using this same language.

My uncle is physically disabled and spent many of his younger years going to Christian healers trying to be “fixed”.

He still can’t walk.

But you know what he was told over and over and over again? It was because he didn’t believe enough. It was his fault. If only he put more trust/love/faith in God then he would be able to walk like all of his brothers.

I don’t have a solution or answer for myself or anyone else, but we have to stop victim blaming when we are hurt by God. I know it helps maintain our own religiosity that God can’t possibly be withholding/cruel/mean, but the solution isn’t to turn it around to the person who is in pain.

If You Show Me Yours, I’ll Show You Mine

There it was for everyone–anyone–to see.

An altar. Right over their fireplace. Right next to the Martha Stewart cookbook. What were they thinking? Was that even allowed? Were they going to get into trouble?

When I was in junior high I went over to a new friend’s home and I was shocked to see such a blatant and sacred expression of faith right in the midst of…life. Messy life with its fights, hot dogs, accidents, tv watching, and math homework. This was no place for incense, icons, candles, and holy water.

It’s not that I had never seen holy objects before. We’ve all been to homes that have crosses in the living room, a mezuzah at the front door, a prayer rug rolled up in car, a rosary hung on a mirror. But I had so rarely seen such blatant, public sacred space in a home.

As I’ve gotten older, gone to seminary, and had dialogue with multiple faiths it is still (surprisingly) a rare thing to find a home altar in a Protestant home. I think there’s something placed deep in us to assume a shrine or altar is breaking a big rule. Yet, my experience has been that Protestants are still deeply moved by holy objects and aids.

I’m not talking about the crosses and Psalm passages hung up for all to see. I’m talking about the things tucked away in bedside tables and wrapped lovingly in drawers. Something so special that few people will ever see them.

But is that really a good thing? I can’t think of a better example of sharing your faith than to explain to someone why you wear frankincense oil once a week to work after your life changing trip to Jerusalem.

In other faiths that see home altars as an essential expression of faith, young people use social media to share photos of their altars (they change constantly) with each other and get such encouragement from fellow believers.

I want that for us. I want us to not only proudly show our sacred objects, but see them as an opportunity to show a glimmer of our faith. Our faith. Our human, personal, in this moment faith. Not what someone said it was supposed to be or what you think it’s supposed to be. But what it actually is.

A few friends have bravely agreed to share some of their holy objects in photos (some also providing explanations). I think there’s nothing more intimate and beautiful than sharing something this special so I want to also express my deepest gratitude for this vulnerability.

I would like to make this a series, so if anyone feels inspired to share in the future, it is anonymous and welcome to all (and all faiths).

an icon, prayer candle, and statue of the Old City all from the Holy Land

 

 

 

holy water from the Jordan given by a beloved (and recently deceased) friend after her trip to the Holy Land

 

 

a collection of Christian jewelry

 

“The rosary hangs in my car (used to carry in pocket), the pectoral cross was given to me when I was licensed as a local pastor, the pen was a gift from a parishioner (I will use it at times to write sermons), the Trinity Icon is the Trinity Icon, and a notebook I keep prayer notes in.”

 

Dear Academia: it’s you, not me

Last night while the world was quiet and dark, a still quiet voice inside me spoke very clearly.

As a baby slept next to me and a dog snored loudly next to him, I whispered to myself, “I don’t want to be a professor anymore.”

I’ve been circling around it and playing with the idea for a little while. Inevitably, however, someone either talks me out of it or my decade of brainwashing kicks in. Why have we all convinced ourselves that what we see and hear is incorrect? That the only legitimate option for a PhD is teaching? Everything else is failure?

I’ve had four job opportunities fall apart since I graduated a little over a year ago. Four. One for my progressive beliefs, two for loss of funding, and one for being pregnant.

I’m tired.

It’s not working and I don’t know why I’m not legitimate until the magical unicorn professorship fairy visits my home and grants me my wish. It’s not even my wish anymore, to be honest. It was, and I’m really good at it, but something I loved no longer exists.

This thing I really and truly loved is buried under toxicity, politics, anti-motherhood, hoops, misogyny, racism, budget cuts, and anti-intellectualism. All of it is so unappealing now.

The thing is whenever it’s pointed out, few people disagree with me. But someone leaving or deciding not to enter in the first place triggers something in this community. Leaving is not taking control of my life/career. Looking for other options for my skills are not seen as a healthy and obvious option. Instead, we’re a waste, we just weren’t talented enough, we’re quitters, our topic was too obscure (or too over-saturated), we didn’t network enough, we should volunteer to work for free, blah blah blah…

Though I know the facts are on my side, I feel this way even about myself. Deep down I’m telling myself all the ways that I’m such a loss/failure/waste.

I’m starting a conversation with a few people to figure out what other options really are out there for people like me and I’ll be sharing them in this space. Maybe it will encourage other people to break out of a bad system. I can only try for myself though.

I had/have so many dreams of what I want to do that don’t involve professorship/committee work/frantically trying to publish enough for someone else.

I want to write, I love writing, but not because I have to for my survival. I want to write because I have something to say. I want to learn how to edit and work a podcast. I want to edit and run a site that serves to educate the community. I want to experiment and make mistakes. I’m insanely good at database and records work. I’m a researcher, but I also love group work. I believe in public education on religion. I believe religious dialogue is the solution of so many global problems.

I have skills. I have experience. My two masters degrees and doctorate were not a waste. I have value outside of being “Professor Stephanie Bliese”.