Sunday, March 16, 2008

Maybe this is really all about... my mom.

Mom, this morning: "You need to know that when you come home or come on the family vacation, you two are not sleeping together."

*****

My mom has been in town visiting my sister and me for the last week or so. Last night, my boyfriend and I invited her to join a dinner party we were hosting with three other couples. The plan was for her to stay overnight because it was too long a drive back to my sister's.

It occurred to me only after I extended the dinner invitation that I had a decision to make: would I sleep in my boyfriend's bedroom (as I always do), or on the couch so as not to upset my mother, who would be sleeping in the guest room? My mom, as you might know from other blog entries on here, is a conservative evangelical, i.e. very very very against premarital sex.

Well, for better or worse I decided to go with honesty as the best policy even though it would be uncomfortable for both of us. My logic was that I shouldn't pretend to live by a moral code or set of rules that I don't actually live by, and that it was more egregious to deceive my mother than to upset her with the truth.

I knew after the guests left and the three of us were left that she was upset with the arrangements. She kept trying to wash the dishes, which we were planning to leave til the morning. "C'mon Mom, we'll do them in the morning. You were a guest tonight - go to sleep!" To which she responded "How am I supposed to sleep?"

Cue the daughter really and truly falling off the good-Christian-pedestal.

This morning she left early to meet my sister for church (the "good" sister who takes all the kids to church and has basically had a nice revival of faith after her own wayward period which included sleeping with boyfriends). In the awkward quietness of her drinking cranberry juice at the dining table still covered in dishes from last night's party, Mom looked me in the eye and said: "You need to know that when you come home or come on the family vacation, you two are not sleeping together."

She went on to say how disrespectful of her values it was for me to sleep with my boyfriend (in his house where she was a guest), even though she has known, tacitly, that we have been sleeping together for months.

I didn't quite know what to say except that I was sorry for being such a disappointment and that of course we would respect her rules when in her house. "I didn't want to deceive you," I said. "When you're a parent, you'll understand," she replied. "I still love you," she said on the way out the door.

I couldn't help but start crying when she left because it feels so incredibly shitty to let down your mom. And to still feel like a child when I am 34 years old. And to feel like all she sees and thinks about now is how morally corrupt I am because I am having sex with my 36-year old boyfriend. Never mind all the other things I am; the only brush that matters now is the one that paints me as a slut in her eyes.

21 comments:

OneSmallStep said...

Slapdash,

I'm very sorry to hear about the troubles with your mother. It doesn't sound like you were flaunting anything, but rather just being truthful with her about the situation.

**And to feel like all she sees and thinks about now is how morally corrupt I am because I am having sex with my 36-year old boyfriend. Never mind all the other things I am; the only brush that matters now is the one that paints me as a slut in her eyes.**

It doesn't sound like this feeling is unwarrented. To be extreme, it seems that you could win a Nobel prize, but that would pale compared to the fact that you're having pre-martial sex. You're getting pushed into this tiny, tiny box.

**Mom looked me in the eye and said: "You need to know that when you come home or come on the family vacation, you two are not sleeping together."**

Perhaps your feelings go beyond simply carrying the idea that you let her down? It sounds like you do respect your mother, you do love her, and in response to that, you'd follow her rules when in her house. One of those rules would be that your boyfriend and you would sleep in seperate rooms while at your mother's house.

Maybe you also feel that she should've known this, and yet acted as though you'd storm into her house and demand she arrange it to suit you and only you?

acomplicatedsalvationreborn said...

Hi Slapdash,

Yes, it is all about your mom and she's helping to make sure it is all about her. She probably can't see it any other way. Just keep teaching her. We mom's don't know everything. :-)

(From my perspective today, born out of my own long journey),if my mom had said, how can I sleep?, I'd likely say, well mom, that's up to you. You can stay awake if you like, but, I'm tired now and need my 8 hours, so I'll see you in the morning, one way or the other.

Sure, you and your boyfriend can honour her request when you are in their home. It works the other way as well Slapdash. When she's in your home, she'll have to honour your requests.

I'd say it was disrespectful of her to say what she said, while a guest in your home. But, she's only seeing it from her point of view, because in her mind, it is all about her.

Thing is, if your mom was to be true to herself and her beliefs, she never would have put herself in the position of sleeping in your home in the first place. It was her responsibility to not have herself in that position if it violated her terms of what is and is not acceptable in her life. Now, instead of her taking her own responsibility for her own life, she has laid some of that burden on you.

Look how you willingly took up the mantle of being a "disappointment" to her. Look at how easily you self-deprecate. You are undermining your own abilities to be a strong, intelligent and yes, an emotional woman, who can and must live her own life honestly. At the end of the day Slapdash, we have to live with ourselves and our decisions.

I wouldn't be surprised your mother felt her own guilt in "being in that position" in the first place but in order to assuage her own burdens, she imparted a share of the guilt and shame on to you. (God, it was the woman you gave to me that made me eat the apple.) Quite likely as well, she probably found herself repenting for sinning by being in your home over-night. However, that is not your fault. As you said, she knew about your living arrangements.

It can be very difficult to maintain boundaries within family relationships, especially when it seems that one side of the family is always pointing out our flaws and our sins. And of course, what they consider our flaws and sins may not be flaws and sins at all. It's just their opinion or point of view based on their belief system. If your mom thinks you are a slut based on her opinion and beliefs, that doesn't make it true Slapdash. It's only true for her and she's the one that has to live with it and she's the one who must bear the responsibility for such a thought. Not you.

Slapdash, I think Christian women are vulnerable to taking on a yoke of always being an Eve, the child who let down their parent. I think it keeps many Christian women and for that matter, ex-Christian women in a bind (because of the patterns we've learned that are difficult to break.)

I suspect your mother has trouble living with herself because she herself feels like a failure. What did I do wrong that I had two promisuous girls? She's got to deal with her own Toxic Eve Syndrome. Let her sort out her own stuff without falsely taking that burden onto yourself.

Just my thoughts but I'd also suggest that you two talk on neutral grounds, maybe lunch and you suggest to your mom that she not put herself in a position of compromise again. If she can't stay over night, then by all means, don't. Tell her you understand but when in your home, you will live according to your own values and if she can't live with that, you respect her decision and trust that she won't be sleeping over again, unless and until she can do so without complaining about it.

I'd recommend looking at ways to not feel so threatened by what your mom says or the looks she gives you. Take for example, this here: "You need to know that when you come home or come on the family vacation, you two are not sleeping together."

Consider turning this on it's head, an instead of seeing it as your mom asserting her parental authority over you and lowering the boom, so to speak, defuse the situation by responding, calmly with,

'Oh. Okay mom. Actually, that's good to know, I was wondering how we'd handle that situation. That sounds good mom. We'll talk about it and if it's something we don't feel we can manage, we'll get a room at a motel or just come for day visits. I'm glad to know your position on the matter. Thanks. Hey, want to go to that neat little dress shop on the corner. I need a new dress.' (Just an example of how one can turn something potentially triggering, around and make it an mature adult conversation.)

We mom's don't know everything and we need our daughters to keep teaching us. Don't give up. :-)

Slapdash said...

thanks oss and complicated. Dealing with my mom is the hardest part of my deconversion. I finally realized, a year or two ago in therapy, that I was clinging to my church and beliefs at least in part because I was terrified of letting down my mom. I had become the "golden child", spiritually, among my mother's 3 daughters, because I was close to her spiritually, I had sought God so fervently for so long, I had really tried to follow and grow in the Lord for years and years and years. I think, in part, that I was like my mom's salvation or something, for her sin of having married a non-believer (my dad) herself. She did it something while in a backslidden state, and has said more than once that it was a mistake to marry my dad, but that she knows God forgave her because he gave her such wonderful daughters. So for me to fall off that pedastal of wonderfulness has got to be causing her to berate herself, wondering if she is being punished (again) for her sin of more than 40 years ago.

Slapdash said...

"And of course, what they consider our flaws and sins may not be flaws and sins at all."

I think I still feel torn about whether these are flaws and I'm sinning. Most of the time I think not, but spending any amount of time around Christians makes me start thinking that maybe I am just full of sin and it's made me hardened and prideful, and they're right after all.

OneSmallStep said...

Slapdash,

**So for me to fall off that pedastal of wonderfulness has got to be causing her to berate herself, wondering if she is being punished (again) for her sin of more than 40 years ago.**

If this is how your mother feels, then it's really tying into Complicated's statement that your mother's reaction is really about herself, and how this affects her. She's the one being punished, she's backslidden, and you're almost a bystander.

**but spending any amount of time around Christians makes me start thinking that maybe I am just full of sin and it's made me hardened and prideful, and they're right after all.**

What helps me here is that it always seems as though CHristians apologize simply for being human. There's this impossible standard they naturally fail to meet, and then feel guilty about it. Shouldn't the standard be reachable, first?

bush-pig-on-tour said...

Hi Slapdash,

I stumbled across your blog accidentally, and I just wanted to give you my thoughts on this, as I am someone who has been in your situation.

My mum is quite an extreme Christian, and brought my brother and I both up to be so. When I started attending secondary school, we were given insights into other faiths. As a result, I have become a Suzi-ist (my name is Suzi!!!).

After many years of soul searching, I realised that you need to believe in yourself first. It is always easy to use faith as a crutch, and it is a good one, because you can blame all that is wrong (as well as all that is right!) in your life on your faith.

But, and this is very important, it is up to you decide the code which you should live by. The whole thing with religion is that it is a set of ethics as dictated by people that have no concept of the world as it is today. Sure, you get some preachers (from all faiths) who want to be “down with the kids” and try to make the bible/the Koran etc more hip, but basically it was written in a time when things were different.

For example, in the bible, it is the lot of women to stay at home and keep the house/raise the family. Whilst in theory, this would be wonderful, in practice, it just isn’t feasible in this day and age.

“I think, in part, that I was like my mom's salvation or something, for her sin of having married a non-believer (my dad) herself. She did it something while in a backslidden state, and has said more than once that it was a mistake to marry my dad, but that she knows God forgave her because he gave her such wonderful daughters.”

I am sorry, I don’t know much of your situation, but if my partner happened to believe something like that of me, I would think that the foundation our relationship was built on would be extremely shaky. Does your mother honestly believe as a Christian that she made the choice whom she would marry? Surely, in her faith, she should believe that God sent your father to her, as it was all part of his ‘plan’?

Life is too short to be worried about what others think. If you live by your own code whereby you treat people the way you would want to be treated, try to be kind and compassionate, but do it for you, rather than for some God that may or may not exist (heathen, I know!!!) surely you will reap the rewards knowing that you have done it because you believe in you.

If there is an afterlife, what’s to say the Christian god is in charge? I think that if I were god, I would accept any one that had tried to do their best by others, rather than people who had piously done things in my name, rather than in their own.

Stand up and be accounted. Be you. You are a very special person. Believe in you.

If you do ever want to talk, I am here … I do understand what you are going through.

Fate has a way of making things work out. I shall buy her a frappaccino for you!

PS … Go to your friend’s wedding, and take your atheist boyfriend. It will give him a sense of where you come from, and will also show him that you are proud of him.

jennypo said...

While God certainly gives us a moral code, the Bible is clear that he gives it to us not so that we will be judged by it, but so that we will see that we can never, while we have sin, meet his standard, which is not goodness but holiness. What we will be judged by is our own conscience.

Conscience is an interesting thing. It is not a unified, uniform law, as the Commandments given to Moses were. It differs in strength, focus, and sensitivity from person to person. The Bible recognizes this in its warning to Christians to limit their liberty for the sake of others with weak consciences. Yet we each answer for what we do about the things WE think are wrong. Those are the things that God will bring before each person who refuses his forgiveness.

The trouble is, as your friends pointed out, the more we give ourselves to sin, the less we are aware of it. The conscience makes a fuss a few times, but shuts up if we tell it to. This doesn't mean it ceases to be - it just squishes into a quiet ball and finds an outlet somewhere else.

I know I am taking up an unpopular position. I don't do it to give you more guilt, Slapdash. Sometimes it IS hard to tell which of our guilt comes from conscience and which comes from someone else's influence - but it's important to be careful, or else we sin against our own selves.

OneSmallStep said...

Jenny,

**but so that we will see that we can never, while we have sin, meet his standard, which is not goodness but holiness. **

I realize this is detracting frmo the original post, but do you really think the standard is fair, then? We're born incapable of meeting it, and yet held accountable for meeting a humanly impossible standard? It would be one thing to blame people for something they can achieve, but it's another to blame them for things completely beyond their grasp. For me, it's blaming a five year old for being unable to do calculus equations.

The standard answer here seems to be that this is why Jesus was provided -- but I always find that answer to side-step the orignal question: is it fair to punish those who are incapable of living to an impossible standard? Is that even a just thing to do?

Even to say about people who refuse God's forgiveness -- they need forgiveness for something they're incapable of performing in the first place?

This isn't a matter of murderers, or people who spend a lifetime deliberatly indulging in those little cruelties. These are for people who do try to live a good life, recognize when they've done wrong and adjust accordingly.

jennypo said...

OneSmallStep,

Perhaps I didn't do a very good job of explaining, or perhaps it's just hard for us all to think outside of our expectations, but the point I was trying to make is that we aren't punished for not meeting God's standard of holiness.

As you point out, God took responsibility for our sinfulness in Jesus Christ. The law was given not to make us feel guilty, but to make us understand the requirements of holiness. Not one person will be punished for failing to be holy - but neither can we have free fellowship with God without holiness. God saw the problem, and God fixed the problem.

However, it is our own law -our own conscience- that we are tried against. We are judged by the standards we use to judge others.

"...wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things." (Romans 2:1,2)

"For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another..." (Romans 2:14,15)

We are so used to human laws, which are applied unfairly and often hurt the people they pretend to protect, that we assume God's laws are similar in nature. But God judges us, not based on our actions, but based on our motives. He knows how we have responded to Truth.

It's easy to offend our conscience so that it doesn't continue to make a fuss, but that doesn't change it - it only suppresses it.

I'll say again - it can be very hard to know if we feel bad because someone else has given us a false sense of guilt or because our conscience is crying out about something. However, we need to be very careful not to silence our conscience because as we sin against it, it stops crying. We become hardened, less and less aware of sin, and less and less free to make real choices. The suppression of conscience will not only affect our mental and physical health, it is also our deepest moral responsibility.

OneSmallStep said...

Jenny,

** Not one person will be punished for failing to be holy - but neither can we have free fellowship with God without holiness. God saw the problem, and God fixed the problem. **

Then do you not follow the idea that Jesus took the punishment all of humanity "justly" deserved? And this punishment was accepted because he meet the perfect standard, and so was the only acceptable solution?

You may also feel that the law is not given to make one feel guilty, but I cannot tell you how many times I come across the idea that Jesus on the cross takes away one's guilt and shame -- how else can one know that either has been removed unless one has felt the two in the first place? And how else can one feel that way unless the law is brought up, and the inability of people to meet such a law? Or the idea that people deserve nothing but hell, or don't deserve any iota of mercy or compassion from God -- I see that as stemming from a sense of guilt.

We may be reading Slapdash's comment here differently, in her encounters that she feels full of sin/pride after dealing with Christians. If these are people who are constantly saying we must be perfect, as God is perfect, or if we so much as lust after a non-spouse even for a fraction of a second, we deserve hell, then I see that as going too far, because both are standards we can't meet. It's not the intitial anger/lust that would be wrong -- it's indulging in it mentally, or acting upon it physically.

If they are acting as though Slapdash is not living up to some achievable code, then that is different. But I believe her background is fundamentalism, which leads me towards believing the latter.

And I still get stuck on the idea of God forgiving people -- is the forgiveness granted because the person realizes they've violated their conscience, or because they've violated God's standards? Or are you holding that the two are the same? If the two are the same, then we still have the idea of humans being driven to fufill something they simply cannot do -- perfection. Is that a just situation to place anyone in, regardless of the solution provided? Why is the standard set at something that humanity cannot reach?

And then if this is determined by the conscience, and it varies from person to person, then can we say there's one set standard for everyone? Not everyone's conscience is the same. Doesn't that make the judgement relative?

Slapdash said...

hi bush-pig-on-tour,

First, great name. :)

Second, thanks for your thoughts. I just had a conversation with one of my sisters tonight about our mom's "story" about marrying dad being a big mistake. My sister is of the view that my mom should not be telling us stuff like this - apparently my sis had been hearing it as young as 13 years old! (I only got it in my mid-twenties when it looked like I might marry a (*gasp*) Catholic)

I don't know if that means my parents' marriage is on a shaky foundation. It almost seems like the opposite: Mom & Dad have a happier marriage, and 43 years of it, than a lot of people we know, Christian or not. Yet Mom doesn't seem to want to recognize or celebrate the good of her marriage to Dad. And my sis has a good point, that telling us it was a mistake would have been fine to do if she were divorcing our dad... but not when she's planning to spend the rest of her life with him. What would our poor dad think if he knew she was telling his children such a thing?

It kinda makes me respect my mom a little less. :(

Slapdash said...

jennypo & OSS -
Interesting questions around conscience and what we are accountable for. It's not a terribly conventional Christian teaching to say that we're held accountable only for what our consciences tell us is wrong. jp, where does that particular thread of your theology come from? Scripture or elsewhere?

I suppose the hard thing to sort out is how much in my situation is conscience and how much is guilt from external sources/expectations of behavior. It could cut either way, depending on your perspective: to a lot of Christians, my "conscience" has ceased functioning properly because I have become prideful and desensitized to (obvious) sin. To a non-Christian, I have broken free of a dysfunctional set of rules and only feel bad/guilty about it when re-exposed to the very people who taught me it was wrong.

I don't yet know the answer and it's late where I am. I'm still thinking about things. Thanks for your comments - even if I don't respond to everything there, the gears are turning.

Anonymous said...

Awe..... It is hard. It's hard to be allowed to be an adult when you're around your parents b/c we don't always make the same choices they do. It goes both ways though. She is in your home, so respect does go both ways even if it's something she doesn't like or approve of. It's not easy. It is tough to realize you're not the same person your parents think you are or used to be.
Great honest post.
~rewindingfaith @ wordpress.com

Nate said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nate said...

Hey Slap,
I check in from time to time to see how you are doing. A number of the comments here are very relevent to my own thinking on these subjects, some not so much.

First, on following your conscience vs the agreed upon sins. My brother and I were watching a movie from the sixties that was rated R. I heard the fucks and shits and said to him. Who decided that these were the bad words? He said "EXACTLY." There are a lot of MADE UP sins, like cussing. Where in the bible does it say, "thou shalt not say fuck." Oh yeh, it doesn't. Where does it say that you should not smoke dope? there are a lot of things that are man made sins. So, don't let many of those things bother you. Because in the eyes of the church, no matter what you did in the situation with your mother, you would have been wrong. Lying about your sleeping arrangements, or boinking your boyfriend. Lose, lose. So goes the evangelical. My view is love and Jesus judgement. Jesus said, "I have not come to judge the world." Paul and James, writers of much of the new testament, say about thirty times together not to judge one another, that is Jesus job at the end.

That is part one, next is agape, or unconditional love. OH my GOD did my parents need it for me. Pastor's kid. The 2,000 beer cans stacked in a pyrameid in the living room when they came to help move me was a tough one for my Dad, but he made it through with only a, "wonder how much those cans are worth." But they chose just to love me, no matter what I did. It brought me back to God in the end.

Also, forget everyone else' opinions of you. You have to live with you. If you end up in front of Jesus on judgement day, your mom ain't going to be there to vouch for you anyway.

But of the two reactions to the situation you were in, I would have gone with yours.

Having been entrenched in the evangelical lifestyle at one time, no longer, I understand your position, and your mother's. I just don't agree with your mothers stance anymore. There are better ways of being a follower of God than that.

Slapdash said...

Hi Nate, it's good to hear from you.

On forgetting everybody else's opinions... such straightforward advice and yet so hard to put into practice!

It's weird in that I have probably given that same bit of advice to friends over the years... whilst carrying around a giant log of a blind spot that I am a 'people pleaser' too. It's really only been in my de-conversion months that I have had to truly disappoint people I care about... and so I am only now learning for myself what it means to be 'true to myself'. It's hard. So much harder than I imagined.

jennypo said...

OneSmallStep,

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. Romans 3:20

Clearly, the law is given to us for our understanding. Then, it is not the law that condemns us, but our understanding of it.

I do believe that Jesus died to take away the guilt of mankind, because which of us keeps our own standard? We do have real guilt, because we are first guilty before ourselves, which precludes the need for outside knowledge.

This does not mean I argue for moral relativism. Morals are indeed absolute, but God holds us responsible for the ones we freely recognize. What we truly don't know we aren't responsible for.

Our countries' laws have few concessions to make for ignorance - we are judged largely by our actions. But a parent's judgement is different. We don't punish two-year-olds for pulling the cat's tail - I hope. We take responsibility for them ourselves. But we'd be fools to do that with a ten-year-old. Why? They know better.

God took responsibility for our violation of the law when he sacrificed his son. He didn't ask us, and we didn't choose. But where we have violated our own knowledge of the law (in our conscience) we must choose that forgiveness. The law doesn't change. We are morally responsible for the responsibility we have siezed and use to judge others.

Slapdash,

You are right to ask if this is an idea I have chosen or if it comes from scripture. I don't doubt that it isn't a popular view historically, though I have studied very little of theology. I do know that I am not completely alone in my perspective, as Oswald Chambers takes a very similar view in his book, "Shadow of an Agony". I realize it isn't part of the evangelical "package" being flung about today, but here's why I believe this is what the Bible teaches, even if the church doesn't:

Adam and Eve's responsibility began with their knowledge of good and evil. (Isn't this what a conscience is?)

but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Genesis 2:17

God's law of righteousness could not have been altered by Adam's choice or Eve's. It was not diminished by the fact that they did not know it, but their responsibility was. They lived in innocence, aware of only one law until they broke it. The knowledge of good and evil was was then what made them responsible, and what makes us responsible.

for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Romans 5:13

We are not low beings, but high ones, made like God himself. Our choices have the power to affect all of creation, regardless of our ignorance. But while God may take responsibility for our ignorance, he cannot take responsibility for our moral choices. Those are based on internal acknowledgement of a law of right and wrong (regardless of where we see that law as originating, or what we see it to be).

The Bible repeatedly makes clear that although God's law is perfect, he takes responsibility for it. He only holds us responsible for the extent to which we know it - really know it, not just as a teaching that may or may not be true, but know it internally or use it to judge others.

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2

It is only where we can choose that we are required to choose.

That said, I will say again that it can be very hard to know sometimes what is the difference between our own guilt and the guilt that others lay on us. But it is important to be careful that we don't offend our own conscience, otherwise it will only get harder.

OneSmallStep said...

Jenny,

I suppose the problem I have with this viewpoint is that there are, and historically have been, absolute monsters out there who, if judged by their conscience alone, could escape "justice." Take the Nazis (everyone's favorite extreme example): if they truly did not feel that what they did was wrong, that the Jews weren't even people, then they did not violate their own standard. If they lived up to their conscience in every other way, based on this reasoning, they would not be held accountable.

**I do believe that Jesus died to take away the guilt of mankind, because which of us keeps our own standard?**

I still think we're going to run into a problem of perfection here. It would depend on the idea of the standard. If my conscience requires me to be perfect, when I clearly cannot be perfect, is it still just for me to receive punishment? For most of us, I don't think our conscience tells us it's okay if we didn't try our best, but that's us trying to make ourselves feel better (I'm thinking of the times when we're petty/mean/cruel. Not in something like a math problem). If we are incapable of maintaining even our own standard, does requiring punishment for that still meet a sense of justice?

**Morals are indeed absolute, but God holds us responsible for the ones we freely recognize. What we truly don't know we aren't responsible for.**

Based on my example above, saying that morals are absolute kind of becomes a meaingless statement, because those morals are applied to each person relative of their understanding. Your knowledge sets up the type of punishment you'd receive, rather than any sort of outside standard. One person is held accountable for murder because he freely knew it was wrong. The second person did not find it wrong, and so is not held accountable, due to ignorance.

If the judgement of people is not the same across the board, and rather based on the situation itself, that is moral relativism. The standard changes with each person.

jennypo said...

OneSmallStep,

One of the biggest reasons that we are forbidden, as individuals, to judge other individuals, is that we are not God, and therefore cannot ascertain motives. God can. That is what allows him to be fair where we cannot be.

Ultimately, however, I can't base my understanding of what God is like on what I think he ought to be. If I create a God based on what I think is good, then my God is not only non-existent, but if such a God could exist, he would be my creation. As I (admittedly imperfectly) understand the Bible, the God it presents is a God who judges (if we insist on judgement rather than forgiveness) on the basis of our response to our own conscience. I may like that or not, as I choose.

muddledclarity said...

I think the interaction between your mom and you is actually amazing and healthy. You became dissatisfied with the church and instead of holding up the facade for the rest of your life to please those around you, you went with your gut, which usually is the right thing at the time. Your mom wasn't happy about the sleeping arrangements, she addressed it to you instead of holding it in, stressing over it and using other ways to express her opinion. And she said I love you. Not "I can't talk to you right now because I'm so upset". And of course you feel sad. We grow up with our parents being the sun that we revolve around. Yes, we shun them when we turn 12 and cling to our friends for life support, but we know they are always there for backup. But you are doing what is right for life at this moment, she may not understand it, but that's not your battle to fight.

It's the adult decision we make to do things that our parents don't understand and then stand by them when challenged. I realize that most the decisions I've made for the past 10 years were for my parents' approval. I'm a product of performance-based love and struggle to decide for myself what is best for me. Ironically, when I became a Christian,my parents worried I'd turn into a finger-pointing bible thumper. . . .however I knew I was making the right decision and for the first time ever, nothing they could have said would have made me question my choice.

OneSmallStep said...

Jenny,

I'm uncertain as to what your response is targeting in my response. I wasn't saying that we could go around judging -- I was just pointing out the discrepency I saw in leaving up to an individual person's conscience, depending upon the crime.

**and therefore cannot ascertain motives. God can. That is what allows him to be fair where we cannot be.**

I may be misunderstanding here, but if someone's motives were "good" in committing some kind of Holocaust, then that would be a less harsh sentence?

**Ultimately, however, I can't base my understanding of what God is like on what I think he ought to be.**

Why doesn't your understanding play a factor? If you were given a book that told you that God delighted in the killing of all five year olds, your understanding would come into play and you'd realize that was not God. It would have nothing to do with you creating a God to follow, it would violate your very moral sense that this could ever be a God of any sort. Or a God worthy of following.

** the God it presents is a God who judges (if we insist on judgement rather than forgiveness) on the basis of our response to our own conscience.**

But if our conscience requires perfection, when we cannot live up to perfection, do you find that to be a fair judgement?