Goldilocks Syndrome, Church, and Lazy Thinking

So, my mother got mad at me the other day. She accused me of purposely adding Kung Fu for the kids on Sundays so that I could have an excuse for her not to take them to church with her. She’s wrong. I don’t want her to take the kids to church because I think her church is crazy.

To clarify: I don’t think ALL churches are crazy and I don’t think all churches are bad. I don’t even think that her church is bad. In fact, I consider myself Christian – just not currently attending church. And if I thought her church were less weird, then I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with my mother taking the kids.

Here’s the thing. I know I am having a hard time finding churches because none of them meet my ridiculously long list of things that I want these churches to have. I know I’m looking for a Unicorn church and quite frankly, I used to feel really guilty about not taking my kids to church. But since I’ve started to cut out guilt, I’ve decided that right now, church is NOT a priority to me.

I don’t usually feel bad about my new state of actively not taking my kids to church (versus passively just not getting around to it). However, the other day while we were driving, Cookie Monster asked, “Why does Ah-Ma really like imaginary things?”

I paused. “Do you mean things like Jesus?”

“Yeah!”

I nearly died laughing (or I would have if I allowed myself to laugh out loud).

Alternatively, Gamera likes to insist that Jesus is a watermelon. It’s even funnier when she insists in Chinese.

Another contributing factor to me not attending church is that when I do attend church, it usually pisses me off. It’s either the message that pisses me off or the fellow attendees. Obviously, this says a lot about my own character. However, it is also indicative of my fellow attendees.

Now that I think about it, it’s not usually the church services that annoy me so much as the small groups, Bible Studies, or book studies.

I find that I usually cannot have any sort of religious conversation with people I do not have a personal relationship with. The only reason I can have conversations with people who I am actually friends with is because I can remember they are human – and if they say something I disagree with, I can usually recall how to be a kind person. But if it is a stranger or an acquaintance, I have far less compunction and I’m afraid my inner asshole shows a little too often. And who wants to be that person?

But the reason why I have a hard time having these conversations (and I have had this problem since childhood) is because most of the conversations are superficial and cliché; rife with lazy thinking and shitty theology. Nothing pains me more.

A few years ago, I ranted about Sunday School and how woefully inadequate it is in preparing our children for the hard questions we ask of God and the Bible and of Jesus. I would posit that this is also my gripe with grown ups.

Am I snob? Am I asking too much of people?

Look, I know that just because someone believes something doesn’t mean that’s how they apply their theology. And I get that I can be a dick and treat people with contempt because I find their thinking derivative.

But truthfully, I’m so tired. I’m so tired of the church being silent and irrelevant on things that matter to me. Yeah, yeah. My eternal soul matters. But my life here and now matters, too.

You know what I want?

I want to see churches have hard conversations about race and sex and money and suffering. I want to see churches have honest repentance for their complicity in racism and misogyny and abuse. I want to see churches be real and take responsibility for the ways they have contributed to the status quo.

I know that there are some voices in the desert, calling out to the rest of the US church for repentance. But mostly, they are slapped down and silenced.

So my solution is to not have much to do with the church in my day to day life. As a result, my children think Jesus is imaginary. Clearly, my method is working out just great.

We Are Not Things

A few weekends ago, my friend and I went to go see Mad Max: Fury Road and my brain exploded from the sheer spectacle, non-stop thrill, and unspoken weight of the movie. I admit, I only went because I was so intrigued from all the hype about it being a “feminist” movie. I hadn’t seen the original trilogy and I don’t plan to because I’m lazy and because seriously, how can any of them compete?

I have not been able to get the movie out of my head. (Mild Spoilers ahead.)

Fury Road is set in a post-apocalyptic world where water and gasoline are scarce commodities. Immortan Joe is a cult-leader/warlord who rules over his “people” with an iron fist by severely rationing out water. He has an army of Warboys, young men who believe dying in battle is the key to entering Valhalla. He also has a harem of sex slaves he uses for breeding and future milk producers.

The movie is centered around the flight of these women, aided in their escape by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). In one of the rare semi-still moments of the movie, Immortan Joe runs to the women’s quarters/prison, only to find graffiti reading, “We are not things” and “Who killed the world?”

I can’t get that phrase out of my head.

We are not things.

I can’t even remember if anyone ever says that outright, but throughout the movie, you get the point. Not only in reference to the self-liberated, pregnant women who are valuable commodities, vital for their wombs and milk, but the Warboys as well who are disposable cannon fodder. Even Max is a thing – a living blood bag.

We are not things.

I heard it as a battle cry. A desperate plea. A demand. A fact. A declaration.

We are not things.

Yesterday, I ran across a vile article, 8 Steps to Confront Your Wife’s Sexual Refusal (h/t Pastor Ken Fong) from an anonymous white man who calls himself a Christian.

Here’s the tl;dr version: The guy equates a wife’s refusal to have sex with sexual immorality. Furthermore, continued refusal on the wife’s part is tantamount to religious apostasy. The way to “confront” her is to stop being “nice” to her and no longer take her out on dates and treat her with basic human decency because she’s probably really mad at him now. And finally, he recommends changing bank account passwords and ATM codes and cutting off all money if she continues to refuse.

This is classic abusive behavior and incredibly dangerous.

Women, if a man does this to you – if anyone does this to you – RUN. This person does not care about you as a person, with your own wants and desires and thoughts and personhood. This person only treats you as a possession; an entitlement.

I just. How is this real? How can someone believe this load of shit and call it Christian?

And yet, we get milder versions of this nonsense everyday from churches that tell us women aren’t fit to be leaders (except over other women and children). Most definitely, this is part and parcel to all body policing of our daughters, telling them what to wear and how to wear it. (I wrote a post about this last week.)

Or if you want to be more extreme, the folks of the Modesty Culture and Quiverfull Movement. Really, if you follow the “benign” misogynistic teaching to its logical conclusion, you end up with the entitlement of Rape Culture and the idiot who wrote the above article.

In fact, I see pornography and Modesty Culture as two sides of the same coin. After all, in both viewpoints, we women are just things.

We are just holes (although, perhaps the Christians only allow women to be the one hole).

We are just vessels.

We are just a means to slake a man’s lust and desires. (Oh, those poor, poor, uncontrollable men with their lusts and desires!)

Where are the Christians decrying this type of dangerous teaching? I find it highly hypocritical when Christians call upon Muslims to denounce a few extremists who want to destroy America/Christianity/Women when they brush off the extremism in our own midst. Or even worse, when Christians boost that insidious evil and vomit it out of their own pulpits.

No wonder Christians are hemorrhaging members. Short of a few vocal pastors (again, I credit Pastor Ken Fong and author, Rachel Held Evans), I mostly only see silence or a few minor protestations followed by lots of nonsense about God’s mercy and forgiveness and other blather reinforcing and justifying bad behavior.

No wonder we are seen as hypocrites; immoral.

Why does it even need to be said?

Women are not things.

We are not things.

We Are Not Things.

WE ARE NOT THINGS.

courtesy of unwinnable.com

courtesy of unwinnable.com

If you or someone you know are being raped, abused (sexual or otherwise), please please please call or contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Policing Our Daughters’ Bodies

img_8142Author’s Note: This topic is highly sensitive and there may be some Trigger Warnings of rape, sexual assault, and incest. There are no graphic descriptions, merely the mentioning of such occurrences. My commenting policy will be highly enforced both on this site and on Facebook. Also, if you are a long time reader, I’m sure this is not necessary in the slightest, but there is liberal application of the swears in this post. For reasons which will prove obvious.

I remember we were in our church’s bathroom, talking about our week. My friend casually mentioned how she had snuck out of her house to meet a boy at the park where he proceeded to rape her. We couldn’t have been more than fifteen at the time.

I remember another friend, telling me how over the weekend, she was with a fellow student and they were making out and next thing you know, he was having sex with her and she was frozen and couldn’t move. She just couldn’t move to stop him and though her mind was screaming, her body just passively went along with it. I think we were maybe nineteen or twenty.

I remember at a sleepover in junior high, asking a friend who I vaguely understood was having problems with her dad if she had ever had sex, knowing full well that the odds of her having sex were slim to none. Only to find out later (again, in a vague sort of way) that she had been sexually abused by her father for years.

I remember how hard it was for another friend to tell me that a family member had repeatedly sexually abused her when she was a child. How she felt so dirty and used and that she must have asked for it.

I remember how one day, I did a quick mental count of all the women and men I knew who had been raped and sexually abused and I realized that in less than five seconds, I could rattle off at least ten people.

And yet, consider this: When I found out my friends had been raped, in some cases repeatedly abused, my immediate concern was that they were no longer “virgins” and not the fact that they had been raped. In fact, I was so disappointed at their loss of “virgin” status that immediately after their telling me, it never occurred to me to inquire of my friends’ health, emotional state, or encourage them to go to the police.

That, my friends, is SERIOUSLY fucked up.

Even now, when I hear of people moving in together or of celebrities having babies out of wedlock, my immediate reaction is disappointment in their sexual choices. As if that is all of who these people are.

Of course, I now dismiss my gut reactions as ridiculous at best and dangerous at worst, but years of indoctrination from the Cult of Sexual Purity and Virginity is hard to silence entirely.

I consign myself to living with this unfortunate side effect of a mostly Christian upbringing. You know, where sex before marriage is the worst thing that could possibly happen to a person.

I remember my first year in college, after having several of my first sexual experiences with guys who happened to be best friends (not at the same time), I felt like I could no longer even answer to my name – which means “virgin” or “maiden.” I felt as if I were no longer “pure.”

I remember when the second guy found out I had fooled around with his best friend, his first reaction was, “Damn! He got there first!” I was never a person to them. Just a walking vagina in which they could potentially stick their penises.

I remember feeling “convicted” that I had to ask my father (you know, the man who committed adultery multiple times and is a serial liar and cheat) for forgiveness because of my “scandalous” ways. I felt convinced that if he knew the truth about my sexual history, he wouldn’t love me anymore. When he found out, he said he was relieved and had been worried I was frigid. To this day, part of me still believes that he used my confession as justification for his later infidelities.

I remember in high school, my mother holding me and rocking me in the dark, weeping, praying, begging me to stay pure for myself and my future husband. Even though in retrospect, I know she wanted to protect me and was reacting to my father’s behavior, this feeling that I was failing my mother followed my sexual experiences.

I remember lying to my parents for years when I was living with Hapa Papa in “sin.” It didn’t matter that I was a grown woman. I did not want my mother to think less of me.

I remember when Cookie Monster was born, and ever after, that people would constantly comment on how attractive he was. That he would “clean up” in high school. As if it was a good thing that my son would just casually fuck his way through all his female classmates.

I remember the distinctly different tenor a few years later when people would comment on Gamera’s beauty, telling us, “You better tell Hapa Papa to get a shotgun.” “You’ll need to lock her up.”

I remember a talk the leader of our chapter of InterVarsity (an on-campus Christian ministry) gave to only the women about wearing bikinis and clothing that caused our “brothers” to “stumble.” I am pretty sure the leader only had the best of intentions, but in retrospect, that was an incredibly sexist and offensive talk. I seriously doubt there was a similar conversation going on for the men, telling them not to take off their shirts or not to wear tailored three piece suits or other nonsense in case they should happen to cause their “sisters” to “stumble.”

I remember one time, I had an orgasm with my Christian boyfriend and he was immediately angry and accused me of trying to use and corrupt him. And when I asked him why he never got angry when he had an orgasm, he then turned it around on me and asked me why I wasn’t angry when he did. That if I loved and cared about him, I would be more upset when he came.

In the years that we were together, I’ve lost count how many times he came in our relationship. (We never had full on “sex,” but had sexual experiences.) I only had that one. And yet, I was the one made to feel filthy.

I have been sitting on this piece for a long time, never quite knowing exactly what I wanted to say nor how to say it. And then, the shitstorm of the Duggars and Josh Duggar came out last Friday and I just can’t stop thinking about it.

I titled this piece, Policing Our Daughters’ Bodies, because so much of our culture, and I would daresay Christian culture in particular, is about women’s bodies. What are they wearing? Is it too revealing? Or not sexy enough? What’s with her hair? Is it feminine? Too masculine? What type of shoes? Are they CFM shoes? Ruining her feet? She’s running for president, but let’s talk about her pantsuits. She was sexually assaulted, well what was she wearing? Was she drunk? Did she scream? Did she say, “No”?

Originally, I wanted this post to be a logical take down of The Cult of Purity and Modesty Culture, but quite frankly, that is not what my post turned out to be. Instead, for an amazing and step by step take down of the insidiousness of Modesty Culture, I refer you instead to the blogger Diary of an Autodidact’s excellent post on The Duggars as well as his series on Modesty Culture. (H/T Pastor Ken Fong and SF.) Much of what he writes is horrifying – especially how the proponents of Modesty Culture blame survivors of sexual abuse (even if they are only babies).

And now, I’m not exactly sure what I want this post to be.

Only that I will do everything in my power so that Cookie MonsterGameraGlow Worm, and any future children, will never have to have memories similar to mine.

I want my children to know that they are not commodities; they are human. With the full spectrum of human desires, feelings, and emotions.

I want my daughter and my sons to know that sex is neither the pinnacle of the human experience where they have to grab or steal or trick their partners into having it nor the worst “sin” they could possibly commit (unless they are married, of course).

I want to be the type of mother who, if some shit of a person snapped my daughter’s bra, I would respond in similar fashion. Always supporting Gamera, and never ever asking her what she was wearing to possibly deserve that type of behavior. Shoot, I want to be that type of my mom for my sons, too.

I want to be the type of mother who teaches her sons to see women (and men) as people and not just possible penis receptacles. And that just because their hormones may be raging or a woman might be wearing something attractive, or revealing, or nothing at all, that they are people who can exercise self-control and self-respect and are more than their base desires. I suppose this applies to my daughter as well.

I want all my children to know that it is normal and fine to have desires. Yes, even sexual ones.

I want my children to have fantastic as well as boring, comforting, and all-sorts-of-adjectives sex. I don’t care as long as they and their partner(s) can and do consent.

I want my children to have healthy, full, and fulfilling sexual lives. Shoot, lives in general.

I want my kids to be confident in the knowledge that should they ever be sexually assaulted or violated that it is not their fault; they are precious, perfect, and not despoiled or dirty chewing gum.

Actually, I want them to know that regardless.

I want my children to understand reality, and then know that they can and deserve better.

I confess. I am terribly dissatisfied with this post. It is nowhere near what I want to say, yet I cannot find the right words. Only, I am afraid if I keep postponing, I will never get it out.

And truly, as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a mother of daughters, a mother of sons, and most importantly, a human – a person, I want to convey that policing our daughter’s bodies, as protecting as it seems, just reinforces the lie that the problem is with our daughter’s bodies and not the men and women who choose to violate them.

And that yes, I would prefer my children always and only make wise choices. However, even if they make foolish choices (be it drinking alcohol, wearing the “wrong” type of clothing, whatever), that they still aren’t asking for it.

And with that, I leave you with this iconic image:

Still-Not-Asking-for-it

*All stories used with permission. Names and details have been withheld or changed due to privacy.

If you or someone you know are being raped, abused (sexual or otherwise), please please please call or contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at 1-800-656-HOPE.

We Are All Made of Stars

Author Note: Sorry the post today is so esoteric and navel-gazy. My thoughts are all in a jumble lately. A hazard of too much introspection, I suspect.

Going to a new therapist is like dating. You look for chemistry, a general sense of whether the therapist “gets” you, and whether their observations resonate with you and can engender change. Of course, all the therapist can see into your life is what you choose to tell them – and how you choose to tell them. And so lately, I’ve been in the odd situation of telling my doctor (heretofore known as Dr. T) about myself or what I think and feel, and then feeling as if she’s not quite getting me.

Of course, as I am not a trained psychologist, I’m sure she also takes into account a bunch of other things, so she isn’t totally going on what I say alone. And since we are still feeling each other out, there are bound to be misunderstandings. I get that. (And I’ve been quick to clarify or speak up when I feel it’s not quite right. At $140/hour, I’m not wasting sessions!)

But it got me thinking: What makes us who we are? Can we ever see ourselves clearly? Or are we destined, as Paul writes, to see ourselves “through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor 13:12 KJV) until we reach Heaven? Will we ever see each other “face to face”?

I find that not only can I not see myself clearly, I cannot even adequately explain myself without resorting to metaphor.

I am an infinite onion. Just when I think I’ve unlayered myself enough to get to the core, I find that the core I was looking for was really more layers. And that each section I peel back reveals not really my heart, but more protective layers. 

I am an archaeological dig and what we are searching for is my true self. My true motivations buried under centuries of dirt, to be found only after much digging, sifting, and patience. Even then, a dig is only a glimpse of the past, not truly the past.

When Dr. T asks me questions and I answer, and then she draws a conclusion and asks me if the comment rings true, I find myself scrabbling to explain myself.

I am a mixture of oil, vinegar, water, and other debris all shaken up, waiting for the different layers to settle and split. I am all mixed up, all these different aspects of me both true and untrue. I am unsure which is the deepest part, the most true. 

Even this post seems unnecessary opaque; impenetrable.

But seriously, how do we explain who we are? How do we begin to sum up decades of life and experience and feelings? Am I only my thoughts? My deepest, cruelest thoughts? My greatest hopes and dreams? Or am I merely my actions? My worst sins? My best moments? What is the Real Me? And does it matter?

I think of how millions of faithful Christians were devastated to learn that Mother Theresa harbored deep-seated doubts of God’s reality and did not feel His presence for the back half of her life. Does that mean she was not truly Christian? Faithful? Her whole life a lie? Or does that make her even more faithful because she persisted in doing her work and laboring as if God did exist?

And if even Mother Theresa didn’t have herself all figured out, how can I have a chance?

I tell myself that the map is not the terrain. That we are all paradoxes.

I hope that is true. That I am not only just one-dimensional. That we are all infinite. That we are all just a coin toss away from being gods and goddesses.

 

Why I Stayed

(Trigger Warning: Physical and emotional violence.)

I stayed because I was too young to leave. Because I didn’t want to cause my mother any more pain than she was already suffering. Because someone had to protect my younger brother. I stayed because I loved him. I still do. I stayed because he was my father.

It’s hard for me to classify my father’s behavior as abuse because hey, who doesn’t have a story about their parents beating them when they were younger? And shoot, we turned out fine, right? Wasn’t it just a different time? An Asian thing? A Christian thing?

But then, I look back on some of the things that happened and there really is no justification for what my father did to me.

I remember refusing to eat celery at dinner and my father just erupting into a rage, pushing my plate into my lap. I distinctly remember empty shrimp shells falling to the floor. I remember screaming at him and fleeing to my room, my father chasing after me. I locked the door to my room but he just kept slamming his body against the door that I was afraid he’d break down the door. I recall being more worried that the door would be broken. I was resigned to getting beaten and opened the door and scrambled into a corner of my room. My father grabbed the broken post of my four-poster bed and would have bludgeoned me repeatedly had my grandmother (his mother) not inserted herself between us. I remember being forced to apologize for making my father so angry.

Even thinking about this event over twenty years later, my stomach clenches, my heart races, my fingers tremble, and I want to huddle in a corner and weep.

This is why I recognize the defeated look on Cookie Monster’s face when I yell. It is like going back in time.

It’s hard to admit and really remember versus just reciting past infractions in a detached sort of nonchalance. It’s hard because who wants to be a victim? And maybe I was blowing it out of proportion? Maybe I was just super melodramatic and wanted attention? And if it was so bad, how come my mother didn’t know my father hit me when she wasn’t around (she maintains to this day that she didn’t – and I believe her, as incredulous as I still find it). How come my brother seemed to escape the worst of it?

I used to starve myself. Punch myself repeatedly in the stomach. Cut myself. Tear up my pictures. Destroy gifts my father gave me. I tried to slash my wrists but did it the wrong direction and too hesitantly. I tried to swallow a bunch of pills but was too afraid to die and of hell or purgatory or wherever it is that suicides allegedly go so I only took a few over the recommended daily dosage of Advil and then fearfully, prayerfully went to sleep.

I couldn’t even kill myself properly.

I still don’t understand why I would hurt myself as a way to say, “Fuck you” to my father. I’m not clear on how injuring myself would have done a damn thing to him, but that was my thinking at the time. I was only in junior high and high school.

But coping mechanisms are hard to shake. I starved myself when I was upset or did various forms of self-harm well into young adulthood.

And yet, despite living through what my father did to me, I still don’t understand why my mother stayed. My father smothered my mother with a pillow in some anonymous Chinese hotel until she almost blacked out. My father held a butcher knife to my mother’s throat while I called the police on a very memorable Father’s Day. Even when my mother finally was divorcing him last year, I feared for her safety.

But when I force myself to consider her situation, it makes a little more sense and I have more compassion. Likely, she stayed because she had two children. She had a mortgage. She grew up in a society that valued men over women, where violence against women was acceptable. She didn’t want her parents to be right (they didn’t approve the match). She was in a foreign country, away from all her family and support. She belonged to a church and a culture that considered divorce anathema and against God’s will. She was the age that I am now, afraid, alone, and so desperately sad.

I used to judge her so harshly. I still do, in my moments of frustration and anger.

The irony is that the main lesson I learned from my father was thus: Never be the victim. I refused to become like my mother, tread upon and used up by a horrible man. And so, I am become my father. (I hear this in my mother’s voice when we argue. I see it in her disappointment and despair. I hear this as a punishment in my depressed moments, when my brain only spews lies.)

But I fight the lies because I love my children. I fight my darkness so that my children will have less of this shit in their beautiful souls. I fight and fail but get back up because the same ferocity with which I used to protect myself and trammel over others in my selfishness has been transmuted to defend my children from my own worst moments.

I left my father three years ago around this time. My brother left a few months later. My mother finally left after that and the divorce finalized last March.

I don’t know how to end this post. It seems a bit artificial and contrived to take advantage of headlines and trending hashtags. I assure you, it is not. But since my last post, I have been thinking a lot and although I feel ill and trembly at the thought of pressing “Publish,” I also feel ill and trembly at the thought of not.

So, we’ll just leave it at that.

The Gatekeepers of Heaven

As I’ve gotten older and more life experience (as well as met more people with different life experiences), I’ve become more and more liberal in my theology and thinking. (Oh gracious, I’ve become more and more hippie-like and this disturbs me.)

I feel as if there are fewer and fewer lines of distinction on what it means to live a “Godly” life. Evangelical Christians would have you believe that you have to do XYZ and look a certain way before you are “Saved” but really, I think that’s just bullshit. That’s just the new Pharasaical order.

If you think about it and consider the patriarchs of the Christian/Jewish faith and their lives, they really don’t fit into the nebulous “Christian standards” very neatly. Or at all.

For instance, what about Abraham? He married his SISTER. Ok, HALF-sister, but still. EW. He whored her out repeatedly to other kings (I don’t believe for a second that she always remained untouched). On top of that, he had a concubine because his wife was barren.

What about Lot and his daughters getting him drunk and impregnating them? That’s right. daughtERS. Plural. How drunk do you have to be to not realize you’re having sex with your DAUGHTERS?

What about Israel (aka: Jacob)? He had two official wives and at least two concubines and at least thirteen children (of course, we only know the names of his twelve sons and the one daughter who was raped).

Or Judah, Jacob’s son? He visits a prostitute – who turns out to be his widowed daughter-in-law, by the way – and impregnates her. When he tries to turn her out for being a whore (hypocritical, much?), she sends him proof that it was he who did the whoring.

What about Joseph? He married an Egyptian and had two sons and I’m pretty sure they weren’t brought up in his religion, etc.

Or King David? With his hundreds of wives and concubines, he commits adultery and murder. He may have been a great artist and a man after God’s own heart, but he sure messed up his kids and condoned the rape of his daughter. (Well, perhaps condone is too harsh of a word. But definitely doesn’t do a damn thing about it.)

Or Paul? He told people that it was better to be a eunuch for the Kingdom of God than to be married because then you could devote passionately to the gospel. Somehow, I have a feeling that Christianity would’ve died out if that were the case.

Please note, I am only bringing up the “faithful” in a long line of “faithful” servants. They were deeply flawed human beings – and yet, God still spoke to them and favored them. They were polygamous, murderers, incestuous, adulterers, and really, just a product of their times.

And yet, Christians constantly like to draw boundaries and lines of who belongs and who doesn’t. Okay. Let’s be fair. This is not a problem or distinction known only to Christians. This is a human problem.

If I am honest with myself, I, too, have my own ideas of who gets to be a “Christian” or not. For instance, I have a hard time believing that racists, sexists, misogynists, and hateful people can be “True” Christians. Or really, I have a hard time believing many of the vaunted Biblical heroes would be considered “Christian” by today’s standards. They were some deeply troubled and fucked up people.

John the Prophet? CERTIFIABLY INSANE. I mean, Revelations is one crazy work of fiction, right?

My point isn’t to nitpick people and be the Heaven Police. It is merely to say that God seems to cast a wider net than we do. Case in point: the parable of the vineyard workers.

Here’s the tl;dr version. An owner of a vineyard goes out at 6am in the morning to find workers at the local Home Depot. He picks up a bunch of folks and sets them to working, telling them he’ll pay the full day’s wage at the end of the day. He goes back to Home Depot at 9am, noon, 3pm and again at 5pm. At 6pm, the end of the day, he lines up everyone and starts paying the folks he hired at 5pm. He gives them the full day’s wages. So, the people hired at 6am fully expect to get paid their wages and then some. But when it comes to their turn, they get paid the same full day’s wages. The 6am (and perhaps the 9am workers, too) start grumbling about how it was completely unfair. They should have gotten more wages. What the heck? Was this guy a commie?

The owner gets wind of the complaints and asks the 6am workers, “Hey, did I neglect our agreement? Did you not agree to work the full day for this set amount of wages? Did you not think that was fair at 6am? Then what’s it to you if I am generous and choose to pay the later workers the same amount?”

I love that parable. If not because really, who are we to complain if God is generous?

It’s because we feel entitled to certain blessings and good things and “wages” that we start drawing lines around who deserves what and why. But in reality, who the fuck are we to decide who gets in and out of Heaven? When did God say we were the gatekeepers? And who is to say that God isn’t being generous with the wages in the first place? When did we become so fucking awesome? The appropriate response would be gratitude.

I also love it because clearly, I’m also on the benefiting side of the “last minute” workers – and let’s face it, all they really do is show up for an hour – if even that! It’s awesome. To receive unexpected and undeserved blessings. (That’s what I consider privilege: like, what sex/class/race/orientation/ability/etc. that I’m born into.) The appropriate response, again, would be gratitude.

Anyhow, my point really is that God lets in who He wants to let in and that culture is constantly changing. The only true criteria seems to be you have to be human (this is not to be species-ist) and a sinner. There is no way we would let in Abraham into the holy Church circles as he was. I mean, come on! What we consider appropriate changes with time. Are we wrong? Do we have to go back to Old Testament times? When if a woman was raped, she was given to the rapist as a wife and all the guy had to do was pay a donkey?

I am SO thankful that I do not live in Biblical times. Or any other time other than now. I am also deeply grateful that the pillars of faith were sometimes execrable human beings. That means I may have a chance at Heaven, too.

Our Family Stories

I recently read a book called, When My Name Was Keoko (affiliate link). It’s a YA book from the perspectives of two Korean siblings, a boy and a girl, and their experiences of growing up in Japanese occupied Korea during WWII. I loved it. Of course, I am biased because I do enjoy YA books and historical fiction in particular because then I can learn history without having to “learn” history. (Side note: Who knew that Japan occupied Korea from 1910-1945? Not me!)

The book touched on hard and terrible subjects without becoming maudlin or manipulative or overly depressing. (A somewhat difficult task considering the subject matter.) The author, Linda Sue Park, did a wonderful job. However, for the first time, I found myself conflicted when reading about this horrible time during Japanese history.

You see, my kids are part Japanese and it is very difficult for me to reconcile wartime atrocities with their cultural heritage. After all, the US was founded on genocide and slavery and I am just fine with living in the US. Plus, I am also okay with Germans (my kids are also part German) as well as less okay with the Chinese part. (I have my own reasons for my distinct distaste for Mainland China.) I am very fine with the Taiwanese part – but that’s because I’m extremely biased in my opinion of my own people. (Who isn’t?)

Anyhow, I found myself once again ashamed at my complete lack of historical awareness and a renewed desire to actively learn for myself (as well as teach my children) our Chinese/Taiwanese/Japanese history. Up until this point, I must say I didn’t care as much about Japanese history because let’s face it, my kids are being raised Taiwanese American because that is what I am. But I have always felt cut off from my cultural heritage and family because my parents didn’t emphasize our family histories and I envy all the people who have stories passed down through generations. I would prefer my children have the stories as part of who they are.

I only have two living grandparents left and there is a major language hurdle for my maternal grandfather as well as an emotional hurdle for my paternal grandmother. (I despise her.) This makes me sad. But I think I will encourage my own mother to tell me and the kids more stories of her family and childhood. And perhaps, I will cajole my uncle to tell me stories of my father’s family and childhood. In addition, it would be nice to have Hapa Papa’s mother tell more of her and her family’s stories as well. I will have to do better with keeping in contact with Hapa Papa’s father’s side of the family, too.

As I mentioned before, I often felt abbreviated and adrift due to my not having a firm grasp of who my families were and how we came to be here in the US. I don’t know if it is a cultural thing or an immigrant thing or just my parents, but I rarely heard anything about their pasts or childhoods when growing up. I felt as if we just sprouted out of thin air.

Now, to be fair, that did have some advantage in that I haven’t felt the burden of generations past. But as a result, I also feel disconnected from my families – and that makes me very sad.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more drawn to histories and biographies/autobiographies. I am much better at grasping and learning through stories versus dried up facts so I am looking forward to expanding my library and my mind. I think I will start with myths and legends of China and Japan. After all, how is it that I know more of Jewish, Greek and Norse Mythology than my own peoples? And who are a people without the stories they tell themselves about their gods and themselves? Plus, this will make it easier to teach the kids about their heritage as well.

Then, I will expand into stories set in historical situations or perhaps I will have to suck it up and read long non-fiction tomes. *sigh* The things I do for my children.

How have your families passed along generational history, stories, legends, etc.? I am very curious and hoping to steal some good ideas. Let me know in the comments.