Something To Believe In
Hey there everybody. Again, so sorry for the lack of writing. Did you know working at a theme park and having a boyfriend who will soon be leaving you forever kind of exhausts you and gives you huge FOMO and really the only other extra curricular you have time for is getting vehemently upset about Donald Trump on Facebook (and for this I am ashamed)? Well, it does. So that’s been my life. Oh and I decided to take a huge cross country trip to Hawaii. So I guess I’ve been enjoying the sights or something. Anyway, sorrolz for the wait. I’m back!**
So where did we leave? Oh yes. That super hot actor who blew up my ideas of romance. Thanks dude. Well that was only step one. I’m not sure how many steps I faced to total romance/religion/life ideal detonation, but by about June of 2016 I was completely at a loss. Then I met a Romanian Orthodox and I still don’t know what I’m doing. ANYWHOOO…
I guess since I felt that God obviously had no interest in perfectly planning my wedding, I’d take things into my own hands.
And download Tinder.
That’s right. That app that sets you up with total strangers by telling said stranger where you live and giving them a few pictures to decide if you’re fuckable. Yeah, I did that. It was a far cry from the virginal courting system Missouri promoted but I was pretty much up for anything. Even stranger danger.
So I’m talking to this guy and decide he seems smart, funny, and not totally ugly enough to give a chance. I’m terrified as hell because let me tell you something you don’t know (lol): DATING IS THE WORST. Also all I knew about this guy is that he lived in Murray Hill. Which I had yet to discover meant he was very rich. But I suck it up because life is about having new experiences but mostly getting married and I needed some candidates. I suggested a place close to my apartment so if I got drunk, I could still stumble home. Or if this guy tries to take advantage of me, my super hot doorman could probably see it going down and rescue me. I’m so responsible. I met him outside of this awesome bar with which I hoped I’d impressed him. My first thought was that this guy is actually very cute. And built. And also sort of a ginger. Man, I really lucked out! My dating app judgment is awesome (this confidence would implode months and countless dates later)!
The first date went well by all accounts of my current “good date” standards. If you must know, we basically talked about our exes. Great, right? I have mad swag. But really. I had no idea what to talk about! That’s what you did on dates as far as I knew. Just talk about how your previous relationships didn’t work out…because maybe this one will be different? I’m not sure what my logic was. I just figured everyone has an ex and I love to talk about mine because it’s basically the reason I was in New York going on dates with total strangers with a drunk escape plan. Why wouldn’t they? Because you NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER NEVER talk about exes on the first date. That is unacceptable behavior as an adult. Don’t do it. But I guess didn’t bother him much. We went out again.
D.T.R. and Other Things 23 Year Old Normal Guys Don’t Do
We actually went out quite a bit after that. Let me rephrase that. We went out maybe a few more times. But what actually ensued was me staying the night pretty frequently at his amazing Murray Hill apartment. Not having sex because I am a lady (I didn’t realize that’s probably what he was after if he had stopped taking me out…). However, by about 3 weeks in, we had the talk about where the relationship was heading (Poor dude. If you don’t know, in adult world this is called being a TOTAL WEIRDO. Like basically a home-schooled kid who couldn’t watch cable. I’m not even sure I knew his middle name. But I wasn’t about to waste anymore precious shacking time if this guy wasn’t serious). He suggested I get on birth control. I asked about his religious views. This guy was all “yeah well I think it’s a good idea for you to be on birth control because if you’re going to be my gf I don’t want to use a condom.” And I was like “Wait but how do you feel about Jesus?”
I wasn’t about to waste anymore precious shacking time if this guy wasn’t serious
My response was I’ll look into birth control options (I hate birth control. In my experience it makes you fat, hungry, fatter, and therefore never horny because you are fat and hungry) his response was he’s Jewish.
Wut. Wut? Jew…ish? At the time, I didn’t even realize you could be Jewish if you had red hair. Weird.
I know I’m making this guy out to sound like a total douche creep, but I’m leaving out some details for the sake of brevity. And also the goings on of my 2.35 month relationship with this Tinder guy is not so much the point as my total mind blownness of him being Jewish. “How am I going to continue dating this guy if we don’t have the same religious views?” So I talked to the only Jew I knew at the time, my roommate Andrew.
We get to talking about the whole situation and he finally interrupts me (Andrew has little to no patience with extraneous information. The amount of times he interrupted me and said “MJ. What. Do. You. Need?” and then I reply “Oh. A paper towel, please.” were innumerable. He taught me that being loquacious is not tantamount to good conversation. And that I have a strange obsession with paper towel usage):
Andrew: So you’ve been dating this guy you met on Tinder for 3 weeks and your approaching him about his religious views?
Andrew: And you don’t think that’s weird?
Me: I just…how can I go on dating him if he doesn’t have the same religious views as me? Isn’t that a waste of time? I mean. I would never date a MORMON.
Andrew: Oh yes because Mormons have very strange beliefs.
Me: Do you know what they believe Andrew? Golden tablets that have never been found, the Garden of Eden is in Missouri, they each get their own planet when they die. I don’t know I just can’t see myself ever truly being compatible with someone whose religious beliefs are founded on essentially unsupported, made up information.
Andrew: Oh yes because your religious fantasy is superior to others’ religious fantasy.
Me: I mean…archeology, history? I wouldn’t call Christianity “fantasy”.
Andrew: Of course not. Virgins have children all the time. Guys die on crosses and then raise from the dead (I don’t think they ever found Jesus’s body btw). Dudes have walked on water A LOT. Ohhh and water into wine thing. Woo! Whatta blast that is.
Andrew: No no I get it! Christians get miracles. Everyone else gets “stuff they made up” (Long pause to let that truth nugget sink in). Look. If this guy hasn’t run screaming yet, he’s probably sticking around for awhile. Especially if you get on birth control. But I think there’s a bigger issue here. Here’s a book I suggest you start with. Enjoy the rabbit hole! Happy enlightenment, MJ.
Or something like that.
Jesus was happily Jewish. Love, The Jews
The title of the book was Zealot. It’s a very famous book by a guy who basically did what a lot of historians, theologians, and textual analysts have been doing for a long time: he researched who Jesus was. And then he made the information available to people everywhere, outside of scholastic communities.
The information I read in this book blew my mind. And it spurred so much questioning I thought I might have to put the whole Musical Theatre thing to rest while I taught myself Greek and applied to Princeton Divinity. I read more and more literature on the subject, making sure to know each author’s story. I needed to know their educational backgrounds, personal relationship with Jesus, and ultimate motivation for a life commitment to researching the guy. What I found was a lot of these people were die hard Christians at one point. So die hard that they LOVED reading the Bible and wanted to know as much information as possible about it. In search of the “truth” they found a truth they didn’t really want to find: The Bible is a human book. The Jesus we (as Catholic and Protestant Christians) know is the Jesus that won the popular vote. He is not necessarily a Jesus that rescues us from our sins and unites us with God and makes us superior to every other religion. The Jesus of the Gospel, the 3-in-1 (like an egg. I always loved this analogy) “I AM THE ONLY WAY!!!” Jesus was developed by many opinions and powerful dudes. And it was a Jesus that was ultimately anti-sematic. The Roman Empire needed a God that looked nothing like the Jewish God. Of course. Because the Jews haven’t been terribly oppressed for like all of ever. Let’s send this Jewish guy to just make things worse for his people. Makes total sense.
Identity Crisis Numero Dos
This blog entry is not intended to fill your brains with the ample information and education I received from my research. First of all, I don’t remember all of it and also that is what books are for. I am happy to refer some, if you’re interested. So for all of you who are reading this and are ready to do some historical and scholastic Jesus arguing, I’m not interested. Go back to whatever comment thread you were on defending your choice to vote for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or Mickey Mouse. My point is that my whole world was really starting to fall apart. One historical fact check at a time.
I remember sitting on my couch, crying. I felt, after all the information I had become privy to in these months, there was no looking back to the faith I had once known. A faith that, at one point, I really enjoyed. A faith that shaped my identity even more than the whole Vcard thing. A faith my family knows and abides by and if I decide not to believe anymore will they love me?! Will I fit in? Are they gunna let me sit by the fire and watch Rudolph Claymation at Christmas? I mean am I even allowed to celebrate Christmas anymore? Also, I’m pissed! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me all this? All that time in youth group and no one even MENTIONED the Gnostic Gospels? No one mentioned that actually this whole Jesus is God thing was just one of many ideas about who Jesus was? That Jesus lived during the Messianic Period: a time when multiple people were doing the same thing Jesus did. No one wanted to point out that Jesus never actually refers to himself as God? No one wanted to break down translation of phrases like “the Son of Man”. Or, I don’t know, teach us about Judaism (Did I mention Jesus was a Jew?) instead of teaching us that Judaism doesn’t really matter because Jesus was just coming to abolish Judaism because people didn’t really dig the whole animal sacrifice thing anymore? GAH! I was SO MAD. I had read and learned about the Bible for basically all of my life and NO ONE spoke up? I hate everyone.
To be fair, probably a lot of them didn’t know. Because according to my dad that’s not what church is for. It’s not a pastor’s job to teach a history lesson. You’re right. It’s their job to talk about the same parts of the Bible over and over and never address real issues like racism, sexism, blatant humanitarian crises. Yeah yeah let’s just uh listen to this here sermon and then take our weekly trip to Wal-Mart.* Oh and also don’t even tell them that a lot of world- renowned scholars have committed their lives to researching who Jesus was and they’ve found some pretty cool stuff. Got it. Let’s just keep quoting C.S. Lewis.
Sorry. Tangent. BUT I WAS SO PISSED. I felt so lied to. And I had been lied to. To an extent. Okay not exactly lied to. But, hey. Teenagers get in trouble when they don’t mention to their parents they madeout with their boyfriend while at a friend’s house. So why don’t leaders of churches get called out for not providing IMPORTANT information about this guy their whole religion is based upon? The Bible is a pretty fucking important book. Arguably the most influential book on the planet. And I had somehow been taught to only read it devotionally? Seeking guidance from stories and words I didn’t truly know much about? I mean I thought I knew a lot. But I had really only read books with a Christian agenda. What did I expect? Anyway. Still a little pissed.
The months (and now years) following that long journey Andrew set me upon have been rough, but also beautiful. Yes, I felt alone. I felt that if the avenue in which I had always sought to understand God was now blocked, I couldn’t understand him. If he didn’t send his son to die for me, then does he really love me? If I go to church for the sake of familiarity, is that wrong? What about dating? How am I supposed to date if I don’t know how I want to raise my kids? How can I even pray if I’m not sure the God of the Universe cares about me? All of this because Jesus was suddenly maybe not the man-god I thought he was…
So I was faced with some decisions (I love decisions). I could do like a lot of angry ex-Christians and give a big Fuck You to church and organized religion and live a bitter, godless life. Or I could continue to develop an unfamiliar new faith of my own (which was definitely the opposite of everything I had learned in church. “You don’t know anything ya dumb sinner!”). I didn’t want to be mad at god or religion. Being mad is never fun. Besides, people who think they know everything about the Universe are a total bummer. Second in line to people who have just experienced a serious breakup. Total bumsville. So I continued life trusting that even if I don’t have all the answers, there is a something that does. And based on what I see in humanity that something has laid out what we know as “good” and “bad”. Bad brings pain. Good makes us happy. Things that are good: service, selflessness, love, compassion, relationships, honesty, wine. Things that are bad: opposite of the good things I just listed plus Nickelback.
So in the midst of my total confusion about something’s role in my life, I held onto those ideas. That maybe if somethingexists it wants me to pursue good things and be open to learning along the way. That’s all I could do. I prayed less. I journaled more. I stopped going to church. I went on a lot of dates. I quit a few jobs and started new ones. I kept auditioning. I had a lot of sex. And I sought worship in the form of self-love, working out, and the Spotify Discover Weekly playlist (which is comprised mostly of indie pop music because life is too short for only Hillsong). Coming from a life where all the answers had been laid before me, admitting I didn’t really know shit now but moving through life anyway was (is) so difficult. I know people do this all the time. I’m no hero. But my core was so shaken.
Something to Believe In
I eventually stopped talking to that Murray Hill guy all together. Not because he was Jewish but because he bored me. Also, I clearly had some like absolutely major shit to knuckle out before I could even think about involving another person in my life. I obviously I wasn’t actually wise enough to realize this at the time. Which is why I continued to go on pointless dates with strangers for the better part of two years. But I have to thank that guy. He was the catalyst for even more Mattie Jo soul searching. You’ll be happy to know, however, I have decided that dating Jewish guys is totally okay. Which is such a relief because do you know how awesome Jewish dudes are? So funny. So smart. So frugal. Andrew says the Jewish wit has been cultivated over centuries of oppression. Which is hilarious. But maybe only funny when he says it…
My searching for answers and some sort of foundation of life found a bit of peace when I had a memorable conversation with my older brother. Derek said to me, “Here’s the thing Mattie. You have to distinguish between knowing and believing. Knowing something is fact. Believing something is a choice. There is a distinct difference. People who try to convince others of their religious (or any other super personal) beliefs have gotten this concept all wrong. You cannot treat beliefs like knowledge.” In case you don’t know, my brother is pretty fucking wise. He’s like the ultra liberal male version of Grandmother Willow. It’s also ironic because he’s a super smart know-it-all (love you, bro). Anyway, that statement gave me more hope than he’ll ever know.
Okay so… I can choose to believe something even if I don’t know it as fact? I can read all this information and still really never know if this whole Jesus thing is for real? What a relief! I don’t have to convince other people that my belief is right (I’m talking strictly about religion here. You still shouldn’t vote for Donald Trump)? And I don’t have to convince myself that my belief is right so everyone else needs to believe too? I can just believe it until that belief changes based on whatever experience I have here on earth? PEOPLE CHANGE?! Okay. I can get down with that.
So that’s where I was (and currently am, I suppose). I didn’t know if Jesus was God. But I didn’t have to know. And God wasn’t going to smite me for asking questions and figuring shit out because I am an adult and that’s what proper adults do. Isn’t that such a nice thing? We literally can’t know everything. We can diligently pursue good, love greatly, try to make a positive difference in our communities (and ultimately the world), and pray that Jesus calls in a favor to his people and sends us (me) a really funny Jewish Husband.
** I wrote this before the election. And let me just say, I hope this gave some of you laughs and further perspective in your lives. Also maybe try to find a foreign lover to move away with.