Dark Blue Dark Blue
During my freshman year of college, I ignorantly paid a fuck-ton of money to live in dorms with twin size beds and a roommate who played Zelda til 3am. By the end of that year, I was pretty ready to get the hell outta thurrrr. So I was pretty stoked when my Bible Study leader (the crazy one that told me Catholic and my's relationship was sinful because he was Catholic and Catholics aren't Christian. If you're interested, she got her obviously elite education from the Kanakuk Institute. Doing great, Kuk) asked if I'd like to live in a house super close to campus for $200/month where all the rent went overseas to help underprivileged Asian/Africans build their own economy or something. I was like "heck yeah!" The model sounded really great. Just by living in a house, I would be giving to the Kingdom of God! This is a win win! Does this mean I still have to tithe...?
The catch was, of course, that this organization was fucking insane. I didn't know this at the time, obviously. But my time living in the "Blue House" as part of an organization the rhymes with Night Terrors (I actaully can't expose the real name in fear that somehow I will legit out these people on the interwebs and they will die. But just use your imagination. Or if you know what I'm talking about, this is a funny joke because Night Terrors is the opposite of the actual name. I'm hilarious!) was definitely God ironically preparing me for establishing life in the most diverse City in America. For it was here I learned that this small sect of Midwestern white Christians are truly…misguided. Their worldview and perspective on anyone unlike them is unfortunate at best and Donald-Trump-is-now-our president at worst. Annnnnd I had signed a contract to be part of that for a year. #facepalm
Curfews, Chastity, and the Great Commission (an almost alliteration)
Most of living in Blue House meant upholding Night Terror contrived (not actually at all Biblical) obligations each week. When I signed on, they didn't seem so bad until I realized these obligations meant spending way more time with my crazy Bible Study Leader (BSL) and growing more at odds with this "faith" I'd been presented with for 21 years. Also, I was IN COLLEGE now. I didn't even have these rules in high school! The only rules my parents enforced were 1. honoring commitments I made to sports groups and 2. not badgering mom for never throwing away the dust piles she swept into corners.
I had to attend a weekly Bible Study where I learned acronyms and how to hate myself. We started every Bible Study with dinner and "community time" where BSL would ask us annoying questions no one wanted to answer like "what's the highlight and lowlight of your week?" *eyeroll emoji* We LIVE together. Like. We hang out. We even watch R-Rated movies when you aren't here! Why do we have to do this? Because Jesus had community with His apostles? This is a Biblical act? Got it. Can't argue with that!
When I started missing Bible Study night for musical rehearsal, BSL was pretty pissed (Uh. This was for my major? Was I supposed to choose Bible Study over my $30,000 education? Yes. Of Course. As any committed Christian would. If you ask my grandparents’ pastor, church is way more important than education. Oh boy). She was even more pissed when I skipped Blue House events for sorority duties (I think she assumed we just got dressed up to get wasted for our charity events and chapter meetings. Wait. Maybe we did do that…). She also didn't like me very much because of that Catholic boyfriend thing. I'm sure she knew we often broke the "no closed doors!" rule only 15 year olds should have to follow (I even had to follow this rule when my gay boyfriends were over). But really I think she was just mad because Catholic and I enjoyed solid “sexual teen angst” style makeouts. She and her fiancé did not because they were saving their first kiss until marriage. Like the Muslims. How ironic...
We also spent the entire year raising money to go to "Southeast Asia" (couldn't expose the actual country name because IT’S ILLEGAL to try and convert people there. What the hell is wrong with people? Putting college kids in danger for Jesus spreading? Sacrifice that small town pastor who still uses terms like “good black people.” Not the Millennials!) to convert people from Islam to Christianity. We were to also host “outreach nights" each month. “Outreach nights" meant we pretended to like foreign students by playing board games and introducing them to American delicacies like Doritos. This would eventually lead to sharing the Gospel, saving a foreigner’s eternal soul, AND add to our treasure in Heaven.
My roommate in the Blue House, Cara, is an incredible visual artist and painted the house in the first photo!
It really was super blue! And, our wall of art in the Blue House. If you zoom into the the bottom left photo,
you'll see a very real depiction of sexual suppression. During our little craft session,
I accidentally painted a face with a dick nose. 200% unintentional.
While Night Terrors was on a SERIOUS mission to make us all miserable and boring,their greatest mission was work in a region of the world known as the 10/40 Window. As defined by Google:
The 10/40 Window is a term coined by Christian missionary strategist and Partners International CEO Luis Bush in 1990 to refer to those regions of the eastern hemisphere, plus the European and African part of the western hemisphere, located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator, a general area that was purported to have the highest level of socioeconomic challenges and least access to the Christian message and Christian resources on the planet.
Yes! What life must one be living without Christian resources?! But wait. It gets better...
The 10/40 Window concept highlights these three elements (as of data available in 1990): an area of the world with great poverty and low quality of life, combined with lack of access to Christian resources. The Window forms a band encompassing Saharan and Northern Africa, as well as almost all of Asia (West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and much of Southeast Asia). Roughly two-thirds of the world population lived in the 10/40 Window, and it is predominantly Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, animist, Jewish, oratheist. Many governments in the 10/40 Window are officially or unofficially opposed to Christian work of any kind within their borders.
Yeah. So our entire year was spent training for our trip to the 10/40 Window. Here we would share the Gospel for two weeks since 2/3 of the world is apparently not saved. Risking getting arrested by governments hostile to Christian people. Self sacrifice! Like JC!
But why did I need to spread the Gospel to these people? Isn't there like female circumcision happening in that part of the world? Can't we maybe help those women or something? No, Mattie Jo. Because The Great Commission:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
This should clear up a lot of confusion in my coastal, elite, liberal friends who don't understand Middle American Evangelicals. They RIDE OR DIE (literally) by this verse. It's where the term "evangelism" was coined. The idea that Jesus had this truth the whole world needs to know. And it is our job, as Christ followers, to make sure those poor African/Asians/Europeans (are Australians Christian? Or just white? Why do they get exempt?) know about Jesus. Mostly about His resurrection. They don't have food or water? Who cares. WE HAVE THE BREAD OF LIFE.
This should clear up a lot of confusion in my coastal, elite, liberal friends who don't
understand Middle American Evangelicals. They RIDE OR DIE (literally) by this verse.
It's where the term "evangelism" was coined.
Well I obviously had zero time for that. I was too busy with my theatre degree, sorority, and hot Catholic boyfriend (and everyone knows Catholics don't do Evangelism). So I decided to do my own version of all this "outreach" stuff. Because, to be honest, I did feel deeply guilty that I wasn't leading foreigners to Christ as the Great Commission commanded. "How many people have you led to Christ?" BSL asked. "Uh¯\_(ツ)_/¯" I think was my response. Oh no. This means I'm going to Hell doesn't it? I'm a terrible Christian. I haven't shared the bridge analogy (http://www.discipleshiplibrary.com/Bridgehome.htm) with a single exchange student! You know what I had done though? 2nd base with my boif.
What I DID do was spend time with people I actually liked and connected with. Which I guess meant I was pretty lazy because that benefitted me mostly. Okay fine what's my next option?
Mattie Jo Meets A Muslim
I did some research and turns out Missouri State had this "conversation partner" program. The program paired me with a foreign exchange student whom I met once a week to simply talk so they can improve their English skills and maybe make a friend. Community service/collecting Heaven treasure for talking?! MEANT TO BE, MATTIE JO! I signed up immediately. I was initially paired with a Saudi man which scared me because don't Muslim men hate women? No, Mattie Jo. That’s all men. Common mistake (Save your “not all men” comments. Obviously women receive loads of unsolicited hate from all different groups. Take a joke, you conservative snowflake)
But I still asked for a re-pair. And got a lovely Saudi woman we'll call Arie.
When Arie and I first started our meetings, I had a lot of questions but I didn't want to expose myself as a Christian missionary so I tried not to talk about my religion. We mostly discussed how difficult school was for her. I mean she was taking a full course load in her second language. She was here with her husband who had initiated the move to America as a sign of his love. To show her he was serious about getting a great education and giving her a great life (swoon). We also talked about how not many American students talked to the Saudis. But she was like "Yeah, whatever I need to study!" We also talked about her religion and culture quite a bit because this stuff really did interest me! So at the risk of not doing this adequate justice at all (Please feel free to comment if you have additional questions) here’s what Arie taught me about Islam:
1. The word Islam translates = submit (to God) for peace/safety.
As I understand it, most Muslims are just tryna live the way Allah suggests they live because He knows better than they do about this whole life thing. Seems pretty commendable. And not at all unlike what I was taught about following Jesus in my Christian upbringing. God gives us boundaries to protect us, etc…
2. There are 5 Pillars of Islam that every Muslim is to implement in their everyday lives.
Similar to the 10 Commandments (+ the Great Commission if you’re an Evangelical). These Pillars are Faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting, and Pilgrimage to Mecca. Okay so the Pilgrimage to Mecca obvs can’t happen everyday but it’s like a life-long goal. Similar to visiting the Vatican if you’re Catholic. Or a Hillsong United concert if you’re non-denom.
3. Muslim people enjoy gender roles.
Women who wear hijabs (these are not called Talibans. That’s the terrorist group. They are also not called Turbans. Sikh men and some groups of Muslim men wear turbans. Study up, white people!) want to save their beauty for their husbands only. Like Pentecostals with their modesty stuff. Muslim women are just Middle Eastern Pentecostals. They believe women have certain strengths and responsibilities, just like men have certain strengths and responsibilities. It doesn’t make women inferior, just different. Save my opinions, this is not unlike my Christian understanding of gender roles. Separate but “equal.” That is to say, if you believe Islam is more oppressive to women than Christian ideology, you are wrong. What you see in American women is the result of more Western freedom (ie how we dress, “modern church”) not necessarily what the Bible actually teaches (see 1 Corinthians 11:2-16).
4. Muslim people know who Jesus (Isa al-Masih, which is way more fun to say) is.
There are stories of him in the Quran very similar to those in the Bible. Isa was born of a virgin, from the earth, just like Adam. And he performed many miracles in the name of God. However, he was not crucified. SCRRRRREEECH. Yes. Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion or resurrection of Jesus. Which of course is why they’re going to Hell. They believe Jesus’s friends helped him escape the crucifixion and some other guy got killed who the Romans thought was Jesus. Yikes. Sucks to be that guy.
5. Islam teaches the existence of ONE, BIG G God.
There are no other Gods EVER. This is why they can’t get down with JC. Because they view the Trinity as polytheism. This is understandable considering the Trinity is a pretty strange concept. God is in the sky, flying down as a dove, to bless himself as a human? First of all, that’s pretty self-indulgent, God. Second of all, it sounds like an episode of So Weird.
BSL would check in with me:
BSL: How are things going with your friend?
Me: Which one?
BSL: The Muslim one
Me: Oh it's fine! She's super busy trying to understand English textbooks so we don’t see each other super often
BSL: *angry face*
I learned so much about Arie’s culture and actually liked that we were different. And after awhile, I kind of forgot that she was Muslim and I was supposed to evangelize. I just wanted to hang out, I guess. This lingering obligation to "save her" bothered me so much. When I spoke to BSL about it she told me it was my job, it is scriptural, and could I really call myself a Believer if I didn’t fulfill this Gospel –sharing duty (Imagine her reaction when I told her I didn't believe in Creationism. Lol)?
So I did. I told Arie about the crucifixion, resurrection, forgiveness of sins,etc... She was like "He come to life again? His blood does forgive?" With a very confused look. I was like "lol that is pretty weird isn't it?" And then I stopped believing Mormons were so insane.
Arie now lives back in Saudi Arabia with her husband and baby. She still practices Islam so fail on my part I guess. I also went to Southeast Asia that year with the intention of saving people from their Islam but I think I failed at that too. Maybe I wasn't trying very hard. I don't think Night Terrors meant to, but the biggest lesson I gleaned from that year was to stay out of other people’s beeswax.
Cruel (pretty good actually) Intentions
My mission trip in Southeast Asia was so memorable. I learned mostly that American coffee SUCKS but also why do American church people give money to missionaries so they can have landscapers on their property while the natives in their mission country struggle to receive a 6th grade education? Not to be a judgey asshat, but I was a judgey asshat. Actually, that's not true. At the time I said prayers for all the Muslim people to find Jesus as their Savior. But now I am definitely a judgey asshat. And still firmly believe in tithing to organizations where your money is very clearly funneled. Like Hillary Clinton’s campaign (teehee. Again. Half joke. Don't cry, dad).
Look. I totally get it. People who REALLY LOVE Jesus want to spread the love they have experienced in their spiritual journey with others. That is really actually a commendable effort, and something I think most of us have in common. “I tried paleo and lost 30 pounds! You wanna hear about ?!” I do this all the time! I am doing it right now. Also, very devout Evangelical Christians believe scripture is God-Breathed. The Bible is God telling us what to do and if we don’t do it, we are being disobedient to God. Which sounds really harsh BUT really it's just people honoring the God they love very much. It's like doing what your parents say because you respect and love them. So while I believe these acts of Evangelical mission work are positively motivated, I think the actual act is deeply harmful. And here's why:
1. People are not your personal social experiment.
People are people. I just could not, regardless of how hard I tried, get down with the idea that my role on earth was to "expose people to the Gospel." First of all, that's a lot of fucking pressure. I suddenly have the weight of the "unsaved" world on my shoulders? I literally heard "their blood is on your hands" so many times that year. Like. I am just trying to get through my sophomore year of college without failing Ballet and fornicating with my boyfriend. Can we all relax?
2. THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.
80% of which are living in extreme poverty. So me, Mattie Jo, born to a very white, middle class family in the United States of America with things like Furbies and water pressure is to commit her life intention to ensuring persons of vastly different ethnicities and cultures see God the way I see God. Got it…
3. How am I genuinely supposed to connect with anyone if I'm just constantly thinking about my chance to “really get in there and change them”?
People aren't stupid. Furthermore, maybe people don't want to be more like me. Maybe Catholic people in Vienna like being Catholic. Maybe Orthodox people in Romania like being Orthodox. Maybe Muslim people in Indonesia like being Muslim. Maybe they're proud of their culture and roots. Maybe they don't care about seeing God from a cushioned chair and a PowerPoint with mood lighting and worship songs. Maybe they won't be happier if they were more American. I mean, “Christian”
4. Jesus commanded His disciples to do a lot of shit any good Non-Denom Evangelical would never think of doing.
Like heal diseased people with their hands (that’s for the weirdo Assemblies of God peeps!) and authority to forgive sins (get outta here with that superiority, oh Catholic priests!). So don’t you try to guilt me with this verse. I know being a disciple was a full time job only 12 (technically 11. RIP Judas) dudes got to do. And how many nations you think they got to anyway without an airplane?
I want it to be very clear that while I believe a lot of American foreign mission work is incredibly ethnocentric and useless, I do believe there are PLENTY of people who claim the Christian faith and do great things abroad. I am only specifically speaking here about my experience with Night Terrors. And unfortunately, Night Terrors is not the only group in America recruiting and misguiding young people about their role as a Christian/human.
Celebrate, Don’t Assimilate
I walked away from my year at the Blue House kind of terrified that I couldn't be a Christian. But then I was like, “what if I just use my brain here?”
What if the world is full of people with totally different stories than mine (did you know there is actually a religious group of people in India who eat human insides to prove the Caste system is total bullshit? Meaning, what you consume does not have an impact on your eternal life. Try singing a Chris Tomlin song with those guys)? What if I just like, idk, love people and build relationships with them without an end goal of them believing exactly the way I do? What if I didn’t have to share the Gospel with a bridge analogy to be a Christian? Because I believe we should be giving people real food? Water? Clothing them? Giving them help when they've been raped or abused? Or publicly shamed? Speaking out against oppression and poverty and mistreatment of the marginalized with vigor? What if we accepted those who are victims of war (*cough* refugees *cough*). Idk that seems a lot harder than drawing a bridge picture and fundraising money to pay for your overseas plane ticket. Pay for it yourself if you care about these people’s souls so much. I know. I'm an asshole. But it's true.
Jesus spoke WAY MORE about issues of servitude and charity than he did telling people He rose from the dead. Although, the resurrection thing is pretty damn cool. Not near as cool Jesus avoiding that baby genocide with his infant, savior, baby powers but still. Pretty cool.
So, thanks Night Terrors. You taught me that God doesn't actually want me to manipulate every situation I'm in to eventually convert people. You also taught me that seeing the world gives invaluable perspective and empathy for those unlike myself, so GO TRAVEL. You also taught me Muslim people aren’t scary or in need of my saving. And finally, you taught me that Bible acronyms don’t work because I don’t remember a single one.
Cheers to celebrating, not assimilating *all the flags+globe emoji*
And the Blue House crew! Oh what an eclectic group we were! That's me in my sexy black cocktail waitress uniform. Because I worked at a bar serving old men alcohol, the same year I was perfecting my evangelism skills.