A couple weeks ago I was out for a run and listening to an episode of Make Me Smart. Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood were talking about how Uber won the fight to not have to treat their drivers as employees (provide benefits, etc). It reminded me of this poster from Despair.com:
Which got me thinking about how the Israelites were slaves in Egypt.
Which got me thinking about the exodus.
Which for some reason got me thinking about their complaints when they were wandering in the wilderness. They say in Numbers 11:5-6,
We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.
Which made me think about my own spiritual journey and the things that I miss about when I was an evangelical.
My leeks and melons and cucumbers
There was an evening this past summer when I was driving to the beach with Ryan and tuned in to a Christian radio station only to hear a Republican Christian railing against Democrats in a way that indicated he had learned about Democrats only from Fox News, or something even more partisan, and had never met a Christian who voted Democrat. While I was watching Ryan play on the playground, I wrote in my journal, “It’s like a whole other religion.”
I didn’t know it would be this hard not having a progressive Christian radio station, where the songs weren’t randomly spiced with all manner of terrible theology and the talk show hosts didn’t believe people with my political affiliation were not only unChristian but acting in bad faith.
Another time, a Saturday morning, I was making pancakes and it took me back to my childhood when my mom used to make pancakes on Saturday mornings and we would listen to the latest episode of Adventures in Odyssey by Focus on the Family. Adventures in Odyssey (AiO) was one of the highlights of many of my childhood days – especially Saturdays, when the new episodes came out.
I listened to a few episodes as a deconstructed-fundamentalist adult and YEESH. Many were… pretty bad. Stereotyping atheists as immoral because they didn’t believe in God, for example. All the villains were so because they weren’t Christians. One of my former favorite episodes, “A Name Not A Number,” featured an arch-villain named Mustafah, with a terrible fake middle-eastern accent. Another villain, if I recall correctly, explicitly said that he could do whatever he wanted because God doesn’t exist and therefore morals are irrelevant. MWAHAHAHA.
All kinds of stuff that just… doesn’t feel safe or right anymore, even though I uncritically accepted it as a child.
I feel it. I keep feeling that sense of exile, of being away from something that was good, and not being able to go back.
Except that it wasn’t good. It was filled with all manner of stuff that was harmful and abusive and traumatic. It was legalism and always being afraid – afraid that my dad would come home, or Jesus would come back before I had really really meant the sinner’s prayer; it was belief in hellfire and damnation, it was smallness, it was always being in service to either fundamentalist or republican ideas.
In other words, it was Egypt.
But I do miss those cucumbers and melons and leeks – the days when I could hear the word “Christian” and safely assume it meant something good; when mainstream Christianity was something that didn’t think I was in the service of the devil.
If evangelicalism was Egypt, then this space, this great unknowing I’ve spent much of the last decade in, is not exile. It’s the wilderness.
As I mentioned in my last post, I feel like I’ve been wandering in the wilderness for a very long time. I thought of that as I was running, but just in the moment I did, I felt hope.
That sense of despair I’ve had for so many years about being in exile suddenly shifted to a sense of being in the wilderness, freed from Egypt, and on my way to the promised land.
The promised land.
I felt hope that one day I will see the promised land. And it will be better than Egypt. Leeks and melons? How about milk and honey.
As sometimes happens, the sermon I was working on worked its way into my own spirituality.
I was planning my Advent sermon series, “Jesus in the Old Testament.”
The sermon for the coming week was Jesus in the books of history, and suddenly, right there on the road, listening to “Make Me Smart,” I realized that Jesus was leading me into the promised land.
A half-second later, I realized that
not only is Jesus leading me into the promised land,
Jesus IS the promised land.
THAT was a good and beautiful moment.