tbonejenkins: (Default)

There's a thread happening on Twitter right now #YouDontKnowEvangelicals. Been particularly resonating on this thread

But before I start talking about that, I should also link to this article, which talks about Prosperity Gospel. someone posted this article on Facebook, and I posted a comment on it:

 I grew up in a health & wealth church, with the idea that if bad things happened to you, it was either 1) your fault somehow in that you may have inadvertently said or did something to bring it on yourself or 2) the devil is actively working against you. When I went to college and got involved with InterVarsity, they emphasized doing volunteer work in shelters and food pantries. Getting to know people who went there made me question how God viewed poverty and how we as Christians were supposed to respond to it. Ultimately, I left my mom's church.

This article also puts into perspective something I've been baffling over ever since Trump got elected. They say that 80% of evangelicals voted for him, but many of the evangelicals I know did not and in fact are actively speaking out against Trump. In the Christian world, the prosperity gospel movement is considered more charismatic than evangelical, and many protestant denominations try to distance themselves from them. 

I've been thinking more about my comment, but it wasn't until I saw the Twitter thread above that I was able to figure out why I was so baffled on why people lump Charismatics with Evangelicals. To those outside the Christian church, they would think the two the same, but they're not. Here's the key difference:

  • Evangelicals see the world as fallen, broken, and being subject to God's wrath. 
  • Charismatics see the world as a blessing, a gift and (providing you follow his commandments) subject to God's love and providence.

As I mentioned above, most of my childhood and teenage years were spent in the charismatic church. Even when I went to college and got married, the churches we attended were on the charismatic side. I enjoyed being in God's presence, and I was taught that God delighted in me, cheered me on, was a loving parent who doted me. And if anything bad happened to me, or if I got sick, I was to pray for God's healing, or pray that God bring me out of whatever the bad thing  is. And if it didn't happen, I just didn't pray hard enough, because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!!!

The church we attend now considers itself very evangelical. No charismatic tendencies anywhere. The most emotional people get is they stand when they are moved by a particular song (which is only two or three per worship set. Got to keep it in the time limit), and then they just...stand. You might get a couple of people raising their hands, but that's it. But then I notice the songs would be about how we didn't deserve God's grace, or that we were considered "lowly wretches". The pastor would emphasize how sinful and imperfect we were, that we were broken creatures, and that Jesus, out of his love and mercy (emphasis on mercy), died for us so we could now be cleansed, and holy and made perfect in him. But until Jesus comes back again, well, we still sin, and are still imperfect, and are still broken, and still terrible, and we are totally depraved and thus subject to punishment (been that way since the Fall don't you know)...

And all of that butted against my Charismatic foundation of God loves me he cares for me he died on a cross for me...

Yeahhhhhh....it really is a form of negging.

So. What I'm coming to realize: 

  1. Christianity itself isn't perfect...and it was never meant to be. I think this is what is considered by evangelicals as "broken". It's not perfect.
  2. In the same way, we're not perfect people. You can be a very good person and yet do stupid stuff. 
  3. But at the same time, we're not absolutely depraved creatures either. Come on. We may not be perfect, but people are doing their best. 
  4. The Bible shows both evangelical and charismatic ideas.

I think that's where God is at the positives of both denominations. God encapsulates the love and joy from charismatics and that he sees us as good (it is what he says at the beginning of the creation), and is continually working to restore that loving relationship. But that doesn't make him a magic genie that if you pray hard enough, you get whatever you wish pray for. And it doesn't mean that if you fall into bad times, it's not because God hates you or you did something wrong. God acknowledges those hard times and walks with us through those times.  

He also recognizes that people fuck up, and thus give us the means, through grace, to care for those who do, and yes, that does mean encouraging them to do the right thing. Which may not look like the socially acceptable thing.

Whenever I think of this, I always think of my mother, who divorced my dad in the mid-90s. My dad is an alcoholic. Whenever I think of this, I always think of my mother, who divorced my dad in the mid-90s. My dad is an alcoholic and it had reached the point where it was giving my mom great mental harm. Church culture would have her stay in the marriage since "God hates divorce".  But trust me. She needed to go.

Now here's where things get interested. My mom never stopped caring for my dad. Once she was able to recover her mental health, she was to provide some support for my dad when he fell on hard times. About ten years after the divorce, my dad was kicked out of his apartment. She let him stay at her house for a few months (granted it was in the sun porch), until he was able to get into senior living home. She's also been helping him with medical appointments and making sure he takes care of himself. They even hang out together and my dad still does family stuff with her. But before you ask, no, she's not going to remarry him. And he knows that full well (which doesn't mean that he doesn't try. It's simultaneously cute and awkward when he flirts with her and she shuts him down like 'yeah, that's not going to happen'.) But her care for him, even though they're not married anymore, is a huge example of God's grace working through her. 

And to those who would say, well, why don't they remarry? See, my dad is the sweetest guy in the world. To my knowledge, he never abused my mom. But when he drank, he was horrible with money. My mom had to protect herself from that. He would outright admit that he can't be trusted when he drinks. He's can't help himself...and yeah, that's how alcoholism work. It's an insidious disease. I've been praying for years that he'd be free of it. And that's something that charismatics can't wrap their heads around. God doesn't always answer prayer right away. Sometimes it takes years...decades...or even generations. Or it just might not happen at all.

But that doesn't mean God isn't at work.

I believe God is working on my dad through my mom. Through her, He is showing my father love and grace. She could have easily cut him off and refused to ever see him again, but I think that God has worked enough in her life that she can now extend the same grace to him without being pulled back into that downward spiral of anger and bitterness. Even now, God continues to work through my mom with her own healing and discovery of gifts. Recently, she's taken up photography and she's amazing. I think she's flourishing for the first time in her life...and I think that's how God really works. To show the beauty of life, the beauty of perseverance, the beauty of grace, and how he can make things work out, even if things don't work out the way we want...or how others want.

So what does this make me? A charismatic evangelical? An evangelical charismatic?

Or maybe I should dump both and become a Liberation Theologian. Yeah, there we go.

tbonejenkins: (Default)

So remember in my last post where I said I should go to a Christian con in 2013? Funny how I mentioned that….

A week after I wrote that post, I learned about a consultation that the organization I work for, InterVarsity, was doing to help support their arts ministry. Any staff who either worked with art students, or who were artists themselves, were invited to attend. I'll report on the consultation in a bit, but wanted to write about the couple of weeks before the consultation.

You see, before I went, I experienced the worst imposter syndrome ever. So much so that I nearly did not go.

Not that this was visible to anyone. I told people I was going and they were excited. My coworkers thought it was a perfect fit. My husband thought it would be a good way to nurture the writer side of me in a Christian setting. Everyone felt I should go to this. And the fact that hotel and meal expenses were paid, I would have been stupid not to go. But I struggled with it. I really did. I really, really did.

There were many reasons, but the main one I want to write about here as that up to that point, I saw genre writing as separate from, "Christian art”. Seriously, when have someone gotten up in church to read a page from Harry Potter during the sermon? Well, uh okay, nevermind, apparently I’m at the wrong church...but that's besides the point. The point is, the Christian arts seem to only promote those that are done corporately.

I remember last year, I learned there was an Arts seminar thing being held at one of the churches around here. I thought it was cool...until I took a look at the actual workshops. They had panels for worship leaders. Ones for musicians. They had an art gallery for those who painted. For writing, they had a "drama category for writing skits to incorporate into worship"….

…and that was pretty much it.

And then there was last year, where my small group did a study of spiritual gifts. My gift came up as (duh) writing:

"How do you plan to use your gift?" asked the leader.

I said, "Well, I use it a lot when I'm writing stories. I tend to put in a lot of faith elements--"

"No, I mean, how do you plan to use it for the church?"

"..............."

When writing is incorporated into worship, it's more along the lines of spoken word/poetry that had to refer to God. I remember back at Urbana 09, I read an excerpt from "She's All Light" during the black lounge open mic. All the other acts were pretty much gospel songs/spoken word/rap that was pretty much psalms. A lot of people liked my reading, true, but still, it made me feel sort of weird, like my science fiction story was the oddball out.

From my experience, singing, playing instruments or performing in drama skits, all worship skills, are valued higher in the church than, well, writing stories. Wait, let me change that--writing speculative stories. Granted, I could write and/or edit church bulletins. Heck, I can even write drama skits if I wanted to. At best, I can write worship poetry, and that's a whole different set of neuroses. I remember a long time back, before I'd started writing, when a worship leader at our church asked me and my friend to write spoken word pieces to read during worship (because this was an awesome church that had the creativity to do that). This was before I started professional writing, and I had very little experience with poetry, so I pulled some stuff together from a journal and threw in a bunch of "God make stars, made mountains, is awesome, blahblahblah" sentences. And then I read it straight, because, well, it was poetry. It was okay. On the next song, though, my friend came up and read hers. She did spoken word. With attitude. And it was awesome.

And at that point, I realized--I don't have a gift for writing spoken word poetry. I deeply appreciate it, moreso now than I did back then, but it's a different set of writing skills altogether.

Here's the thing. I love stories. I love wrestling with deep truth in them. I love tales of growth, tales of woe, tales that would have you on the edge of your seat. Even my poetry are stories--just in a different format. Stories are my way of having deep conversations with people disguised as narrative. Plus, my characters get to do awesome stuff. I just had one of my main characters in Willow do a flip off the side of a building and nail a bad guy between the eyes with a knife.

That...probably won't hold up too well if that's read before a sermon.

I've come to terms that my writing life, at least the story part, and my church life, would be pretty much kept separate. Notice I didn't say Christian life--I've have many good conversations in fandom with atheists, feminists, what the church would consider "secular". I also am quite blessed to work at an religious organization that has as many geeks as it does, so I'm not hurting for that. It's just that with the actual church, I pretty much have to check my writer side at the door. And that was one of the reasons why I really struggled with going to the IV Arts conference. If it was just going to be a bunch of worship leaders there talking about church stuff, then I didn't belong.

But luckily, it wasn't that.To go to the conference, you either had to be a staff worker who ministered to arts students, or you were a staff worker who was an artist.And that included writers. Even genre fiction writers.So I went.

The consultation was two days, and was a more like a Christian retreat, than a con. The third day was called SALT, and was more of a day seminar, where Christian student artists met on Wheaton campus to discuss being an artist and Christian at the same time. I got to meet many other artists--graphic artists, filmmakers, opera singers, tap dancers, harpists, small theater actors, costume designers—all who worked in Christian and secular settings. And I even got to connect with a student who drove up from Urbana because she had written several fantasy novels, but haven't sent any out yet because she's constantly revising them. And she had never been to a con before. At that point, I think I went supernova, I was so happy. I dare say this was the first time that my InterVarsity staffworker side and my writing side intersected.

Of course I told her about Wiscon and Viable Paradise. Who do you think I am?!

So in the end, I'm really, really glad I went. It was exactly what I needed. And I came away with my creative meter/spiritual meter refilled. And it got me rethinking the question how do I plan to use my writing for the church? Part of it may involve blogging more about my spiritual journey. As for the church, perhaps I shouldn't be thinking in corporate worship terms but in relational terms. I happen to know there are a couple of fans who like to play RPGs. I could start up a gamer group at our church.

After all, if there was one takeaway I got from the conference, it was this: artists are bridges between the church world and the secular world. Evangelism works both ways.

tbonejenkins: (Default)

2012-12-26_14-10-29_260

Readers to this blog will know that I have two day jobs of sorts--besides being a speculative writer, I work in the HR department for a Christian non-profit called InterVarsity, a ministry on college campuses throughout the United States. Every three years, InterVarsity does a huge missions conference called Urbana (though it's nowadays held in St. Louis, MO) where thousands of students go to hear speakers, attend seminars and get information of going into missions, whether overseas or in their own backyards. Because it is such a huge event, many campus staff come to serve at the conference, and that includes us in the national office.

I've never attended Urbana as a student, so I don't know the full experience, but having been to science fiction cons for about four years now, I couldn't help but compare Urbana to a gigantic con of sorts. I mean, I didn't see a single person doing cosplay.  The entire conference was geared towards missions, which would probably set many of my non-Christian friends to twitching. And...no alcohol, so no Barcon, which would send many of my writer friends (myself included) screaming. Oh, and the job they had for me was working for Urbana.org, so I had the strange, disorientating experience of spending most of my time at the conference not networking, but writing.

But I learned a lot at the conference that I realized that I wanted to...no...needed to do a con report.

Urbana 12 had a huuuuuuge concom.
You think the concom at Wiscon or any other large con is big? We hire people to work on the conference a couple of years before the conference. And that doesn't include the production staff, the set up crew, registrar, communications. This Urbana, they had a social media team whose sole purpose was to tweet, Facebook, tumblr, Hootsuite, the conference around the clock. Because I was with Urbana.org, I got to be backstage, so I was able to catch a small glimpse of the work done to put together the main sessions in the morning and evening. And that in itself was a small glimpse of the whole.

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Views from backstage

 

Urbana 12 had safe spaces for POC.
When I served at my first Urbana in 2008, they had me working the BCM lounge (Black Campus Ministry). For four days, 6 hours per day, I would feed students, talk to students, play games and basically hang out. It was a lot of fun, though by the end of the conference, I couldn't talk to people, I was so peopled out (I was not the extrovert I thought I was.)

In 2009, I went to my first full Wiscon and attended the POC dinner. When they were talking about the safe space that POC could go to decompress and have a safe place to talk about the Wiscon experience, I was like, dude, it's just like the black lounge at Urbana!

Urbana had several lounges in fact--they also had an artist lounge, an international student lounge, and an InterVarsity Staff lounge. But still, the ethnic lounges (they had one for black students, Latino, Asian, and Native American) stood out to me as awesome spaces for people of color to sit, process, and hang out with other people of color. I liked how they were all next to each other, so you could visit them (and I saw a few non-ethnics wandering about as well). This year, the black lounge also had panels and roundtable talks of their own. I sat in on a roundtable about being black in an predominately white setting. Very interesting discussion--I wished I stayed longer. I also missed the open mic, the dancing, the games...

My only complaint is that I wish there was an easier way to get to the lounges. They were located in the Ramada on the west side of the America Center, and there was no quick way to get to it except go all the way around the block...which in winter, made for quite the trek. (Interestingly, the POC safe space for Wiscon was also in a hard to find, out of the way spot, but at least it was still inside the Concourse Hotel.)

Urbana 12 had a con suite.
That first night after doing registration, I was pretty exhausted, but my body had gone into con mode--which meant that had this been an actual con, I would go and hang out with other writers. And where else did all the writers go but to the bar--or if the hotel had no bar, some place where the writers could sit, drink, and bemoan the whole writing business.

But Urbana was a Christian conference, so there wasn't a bar to hang out (not one I would tell you about anyway). However, there was the aforementioned staff lounge, so I went there instead, and found it to be comparable to a con suite. There was snacks. There were games. And there were plenty of writersInterVarsity Staff, bemoandiscussing campus ministry.

So the time I wasn't working or wandering about, I hung out in the staff lounge. Got to meet new people, and I even learned how to play Dominion--which satisfied my geek fix.

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Urbana 12 helped hone my writing.
So I was given a job at Urbana--helping out with line direction during registration, and helping out with the Urbana.org site. Since all that was involved with line direction was repeatedly yelling "WELCOME TO URBANA! IF YOU ARE A STUDENT AND PAID IN FULL, GO STRAIGHT! IF YOU HAVE NOT PAID IN FULL, GO TO THE RIGHT! IF YOU ARE AN EXHIBITOR, GO TO THE LEFT!" I'll just spare my vocal cords and talk about the Urbana.org job.

I had the pleasure to work with Kurt Bullis and Mark Breneman on the Urbana.org website. This basically meant I got to put my writing skills to work mainly through editing and formatting articles and writing blurbs. I also got to perform and transcribe an interview, which I hadn't done in years. And I pulled quotes from blogs to give to the social media team to tweet.

While working on Willow, I've been learning how to utelize placeholders in my writing. I used that to help me in writing the blurbs--when I couldn't think of anything to write, I put down something I'd would like for it to say, like <some sort of description about Bibles here> and moved on to the next blurb--then I would rework it the next time I came back to it. I also had to write fast, which meant I couldn't spend a few days working on something. I had to write fast, take a break, proofread, then give what I had to Kurt, who could use it as is or completely rework it.

It was an interesting process. I didn't have time to make things completely perfect, so I had to make placeholders work for me fast. And that's something I want to bring to my novel revision. So, in a way, Urbana helped with my writing skills. Also, as you can see, I know how to write headlines within an article now. WRITING SKILL POINTS GAINED!!

Urbana 12's spiritual side
Urbana still is, though, a Christian conference, and one thing I don't get from cons is nourishing the spiritual side of me. Though I didn't go to any of the seminars, I did get to see the speakers in the plenary sessions and participate in the worship. And let me tell you, the worship was awesome. Not the average 'let's-get-a-guitar-and-sing-kumbayah'. It was worship in many different languages, with many different instruments. Very diverse, plus, doing it with 16,000 other people made it fun. They had drama pieces which ran from ballet to stomp dancing to rap. They also showed videos, which I may have taken part in.

I truly enjoyed listening to the speakers. And it also confirmed that I'm right where God wants me to be, though I am also being challenged on a number of things (most of what I'm still processing). And having communion on New Year's Eve with 16,000 people was a phenomenal.

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Plus there were other perks, but I'm not going to go into that.

So, all in all, Urbana 12 may have not been a con, but I got a lot out of it. And I'm not as exhausted or stressed out at the end the last Urbana (oh, a whole number of factors went into that). That said, it did make me eager to start working on my con schedule for 2013.

Maybe I'll include a Christian con this year...

tbonejenkins: (Get down to business Izumi)

Well, here I am after doing a 16-mile bike ride to the Capital and back. I'm sore, I'm achy and my butt hurts. Perfect time to finally get to my con reports, right?

Back to back cons. Wow. I truly must be insane. Actually, it wasn't bad. I had planned it that way. And both can be summed up with one word:

Incredible.

Mo*Con first.

I met Maurice Broaddus at Wiscon last year and had been completely unaware of his work. Luckily, I scored a copy of Dark Faith.  I've never been to a horror convention before. But when I saw the topic for this year's Mo*Con, "Homosexuality, the church and the arts" I had to go. I thought Madcon had been an extremely small con. Well, Mo*Con's smaller. It took place at the bottom of a church basement. There was only three panels. And we all left the church around 8:30ish.

But ahh...the conversation. And the food! Mo*Con was sort like a pre-con party held in an really, really, really far hotel room. I didn't do much that Friday because most of that time was spent in Chicago construction, and I was also visiting my former boss. I spent Saturday morning with a friend of mine, then headed to the church to hear the main panel mentioned above. Mainly it was several panelists talking about their experiences in the church. All their stories were interesting, though the stories I found most interesting was comic book illustrator who grew up in a fundamentalist church and became gay, and the pastor who grew up gay and became hetero. Maurice also spoke, and he had a line that deeply impacted me: "If I'm a Christian, the first thing you should receive is my love. Period."

After the panel, I asked Maurice if he had considered bringing in a Christian panelist who was against homosexuality, and he said he had. "But then, we wouldn't have had an open discussion. It would have been more of a debate. This wasn't the type of panel I wanted. This way, people would be more vulnerable, more open, to sharing their experiences."

Is it possible for Christians and LGBT to have open, honest, vulnerable discussions with each other, even those who have differing opinions without privilege lording over the conversation?  Thinking about it. But that's a blog post for another day.

Anywho, what made Mo*Con well worth it was what happened afterwards, when we hung out at Maurice's house. I got to hang with horror writers Chesya Burke and Lucy Snyder, and and meet editors from Apex Publications and Coach's Midnight Diner and Relief: A Christian Literary Expression. We talked about the upcoming Festival of Faith and Writing. I also got to learn about Worldcon, which is coming to Chicago next year. Looks like my 2011 is shaping up to be a busy time.

I really liked how Mo*Con melds horror writing with spiritual matters. Definitely adding it to cons that I plan to go to when I have time. Plus, they feed you. A definitely plus in my book.

Next report: Wiscon. Right now...bed.

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