Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Broadcasting Faith

sunrise in Charlottesville, VA; November 2012

When I get together with other bloggers, we inevitably end up talking about blog trends that fly over our heads. We cover everything under the sun – the need for a “Love Story” tab, the emergence of those huge cash giveaways, and the logistics of outfit posts that include twelve different pictures of the same skirt. (I’d like to stress, before people get offended, that these are things I don’t understand; they’re not things I actively dislike or disrespect.) And one of the topics that we almost always discuss is religious blogging. I know that that’s an ambiguous phrase, but I picked it on purpose. Let me try to explain…

I was surprised, when I started dipping my toes into the ocean of lifestyle bloggers, that so many broadcasted their religion on their blogs. From bloggers who include an “I Believe” link to Mormon.org to bloggers who share evangelizing stories about being saved to bloggers who include “daughter of the King” or “Jesus-lover” in their biographies, fervent proclamations of faith are all over the blogosphere. (And yes, from what I’ve seen they’re almost always written by self-professed Christians.)

I’m going to be really honest with you, dear readers: when I first noticed this, it made me uncomfortable. Then it made me upset. Finally, it made me feel insecure. These bloggers seem to have a built-in community just waiting for them. They have something to reach for when they want an explanation for both the trivial and the metaphysical questions of life. And they have a confidence of conviction that can (and often does) infuse everything they do and say.

Now I’m going to be honest again: I want all of that too. And you know what? As soon as I enunciated this to myself, instead of just feeling uncomfortable or upset or insecure I realized that I do have all of it. I may not have a church of any one denomination whose beliefs I completely ascribe to, but I have faith. Just because there isn’t an easy label for my faith doesn’t mean that I can’t broadcast it to the world if I want to!

So on Thursday, March 28, I’m going to publish an “I Believe” post. It won’t be the kind that’s been going round the blogosphere for the past few months – you know, the kind that talks about appreciating sunrises and baking cookies for your neighbors, even though I do love all that stuff too and those posts are totally necessary sometimes. It’ll be the kind that talks about faith – real faith, the faith that doesn’t necessarily have a definition but that makes me who I am and directs my hopes and fears.

And it’s going to be a little scary to share that with you because, like I said, I feel sometimes like I’m alone in not having a distinct community of people who believe the same things I do. But I’m going to publish it anyway and I hope that it encourages you to talk about your faith too if you haven’t before, no matter if you belong to an organized religion or not. So come back on Thursday to hear what I believe – I know that each one of us gets to a place where we are comfortable sharing these things in our own time, but I’d love to read if you are!


47 comments:

  1. I was brought up as a Christian [methodist to be precise] but post-11, when you start questioning everything, it's not something that's continued. Sometimes I wish I could truly believe, and I see how much my mother and other get from the community and the comfort it brings, but I just...don't.

    I do, however, have complete faith that everything happens for a reason. It might not be conventional but in some ways it's not so dissimilar. There's just not deity for me.

    Looking forward to reading your post!

    nicolakirsty.blogspot.co.uk

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  2. Georgia ChristakisMarch 19, 2013 at 7:37 AM

    It's nice that we live in a world where we can broadcast our religious beliefs so publicly without running into trouble, but I never felt it was necessary to share my faith with the world wide web. I've noticed this on a lot of blogs too. Perhaps these individuals see sharing their faith as part of their Christian duty, an internet mission. I write religious posts very specifically to share with my boyfriend who is in the process of conversion- and because it helps me learn more about my own faith. I look forward to hearing views from someone who is spiritual, but not religious :)

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  3. That's awesome, Betsy - looking forward to it! Sharing personal things is always a lot scarier than doing the odd outfit post or recipes {my usual fare}, but I've found as I've been dipping my toes into sharing more personal stuff that it's a lot more rewarding, not just to share but for me to write. Putting those tough concepts into words is always a little victory of sorts :)

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  4. I cannot tell you how much this post resonates with me. I feel so overwhelmed whenever I hit a blog that has an "I Believe" tag that links away to a religious site. And you're totally right - it's not that I feel upset that they have a community, I'm jealous that their community is already built in. That major life questions are already answered. That their (same religion) significant others and spouses believe so firmly in the same thing that questions like marriage and commitment and children seem so much...easier. I know that's not true, but sometimes I just feel like "wow. that regimented faith could really take some major things pretty simple for me." But alas, faith is not that simple. I hope this comment doesn't offend, as it's a little rambling, but I totally appreciate you posting *your* I Believe next week!

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  5. I have the same feelings as you (on love stories and cash giveaways too....and what is with the center aligned poetry type blogging?). I'm excited to read your I Believe blog. In an attempt to fit in, or express my confusion, or (most likely) poke a teeny bit of harmless fun at the trends, I have an I Believe button on my blog. As a Jewpiscopalian, you might appreciate it... http://werejustdandy.blogspot.com/p/i-believe.html

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  6. Jon's grandmother, who was religious, called it the "gift of faith" because she felt you were either given it or you're not and if you are you never question it. Interesting way to look at it!

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  7. that's a good point - I think that a lot of the bloggers who do broadcast are members of Christian sects for whom proselytizing is a big part of their religion. So I guess the internet IS a way full a commandment and spread the word?

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  8. it IS scary! but also cathartic - and hitting publish does always feel like a victory :) thank you!

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  9. oh my goodness yes! having that "this is how it is" kind of belief system really speaks to the literal definition of "faith" as "having complete trust" - in some ways that does make it simpler, I think, though I wonder how hard it is to get to that point?

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  10. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA to the nth degree.
    (a) I'm so honored you remember I'm a Jewpiscopalian
    (b) Jon Stewart may be a religion in and of himself.
    (c) I believe that all the girls who went to the kind of summer camp where hippie songs were sung around a campfire with a guitar (and on the CRAZY nights at least one guitar string broke) and you cried on the last night - well, we're sisters.

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  11. I'm excited to read your upcoming post! I, too, have wondered how I can fit into a blogging community where the subjects of religion/spirituality/faith come up so often. I have never identified with a single religion, and my religious education as a child was very eclectic. I like it, and it works for my family, but it's also unconventional. These are personal things that aren't often talked about, and I've found in the past year in particular that it's okay to ask questions and talk more openly, even when it's scary. Major props to you for taking this step!

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  12. thinking out loud here... I think it's challenging for any community - whether based in faith, politics, geography, culture, whatever - to be both proud/secure and inclusive at the same time. well, actually, "challenging" might not be the right word. rather, something the community has to be consistently and constantly mindful of? hm...

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  13. I agree! It's such a balance for me because I know not everyone arrives easily at that point of true belief, and I know that even *in* their faith they can still have struggles, I am just in awe of such a decisive, committed, unwavering structure!

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  14. New reader here, via Casey. :) I love this post, and to an extent, I can empathize. Although I identify as Christian, my beliefs are rather convoluted, and I'm sure the fundamentalists wouldn't consider me a Christian at all. I'm not currently a member of any church, although I eventually hope to join a Unitarian congregation. (Maybe when I no longer need to work two jobs...) I have lots of questions, and doubts, and concerns with organized religion (but my belief in a Creator I call God and my belief in Jesus as the Son of God are unwavering). Sometimes it is lonely to feel this way--I often feel like I have more in common with atheists (like my boyfriend) and agnostics than with other Christians.



    However, I've found a bit of a community with the Christian feminists I've found on twitter. Our faith might not be the same, but our issues with patriarchy, church structures, and cover-ups of abuse are all the same.


    I look forward to your blog post. :)

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  15. hello and welcome! and thank you :) so did you know that, in medieval Christianity, you could only be a heretic if you also claimed to be a Christian but didn't believe exactly what the official Church said you should? if you believed something else but didn't claim to be a Christian, you weren't a heretic. (you were just a heathen, I guess - I don't remember that part of the lesson from my college class!)

    would love to follow Christian feminists on Twitter! (even though, going back to the point above, who decides what a Christian or a feminist is? ahhhhh definitions!) share some handles, please?

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  16. Looking forward to it! It's nice to see someone bringing up this issue. I grew up in a small town in the Bible Belt, and I still struggle with the idea that not everyone who is very vocal about their Christianity is hypocritical or judgmental. I moved last year, and I'm sure I'd have made more friends by now if I attended church regularly, but it's just never been something that I can connect with and feel genuine about. To me, there's just so many gray areas, and most of the religious people I come into contact with think everything is black and white, and the idea of there being gray areas is completely unacceptable. That's one of the great things about blogging, I think — no matter where you live, you can find people who relate to what you are saying.

    And no, I don't get those other things either.

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  17. haha glad I'm not alone :)

    and I agree that there are tons of gray areas! I don't think that everyone who is secure in his/her faith is judgmental, but I think that often the loudest people are both and so they set the tone for all believers, which isn't fair. do you remember Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity from 2010? same idea, sort of :) http://www.rallytorestoresanity.com/

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  18. Can't wait for your I Believe post - here's mine in a nutshell, but I still struggle with it so it's a work in progress. Bear with me.

    I believe that there is one God and I choose to worship that God through Christianity. However, I also believe that religion is a culturally constructed phenomenon and I thus believe that there may be more
    than one path to God. I do not ascribe to the idea that people can either be saved or condemned based on their geographic location. I believe that religion is the root of all evil, but that one’s relationship with God is the road to salvation. I believe that we have a kind and forgiving God, who allows me to empower myself and make my own decisions. I believe that science and
    religion can be complementary. I do not believe in missionary work, but rather in showing others God’s love through kindness and authenticity. I believe that miracles happen on a daily basis, but I also believe that one cannot rely on chance in the building of a successful and meaningful life. I believe that each individual’s reality is clouded by a number of environmental and cultural factors and I believe that the lenses through which we view life are both a blessing and a curse.



    What do you think? Have to post it here because I'm too much of a coward to post it on my own blog ;)


    xxx
    Jenna

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  19. to be honest, I think our "I believe" statements should be constantly evolving! thank you for sharing yours here - and I'm going to be totally obnoxious and ask if you'll mind posting this (again) on my post next Thursday?

    ALSO it's not a coward thing at ALL. I think that anyone who owns the fact that they struggle with their beliefs is brave. everyone gets to a place of sharing at different times - it depends what you're comfortable with and when, and the worst thing I could do would be to pressure anyone to vocalize anything before they're ready. but I'm glad you did :)

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  20. I admire your bravery! Can't wait to read.

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  21. I've not heard that approach to faith before but it does make a lot of sense.

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  22. You've had me thinking on this, for sure- but oddly (or not?) is that I have found great comfort in firming up that which I DON'T believe. That's sort of how I worked my way through re-evaluating my Southern Baptist upbringing. I explored other belief systems and occasionally tried to replace the crumbling blocks in my family's belief foundation with them, but it was like mixing Tinker Toys and K'nex- they look similar but it's just not gonna fit.

    I'm quite interested in the responses you get, though- and reading more about your beliefs!

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  23. Faith and blogging.... where do I even begin? I'm also kind of jealous of all those people who have unwavering faith. I would love to be able to join them with their beliefs, but no matter how much I try, it just doesn't click in my head. I wish someone could explain it to me, because deep down I want to believe, but I just can't. Maybe one day that'll happen. Or maybe it won't. Either way, after questioning my beliefs for years, I'm at a point in my life where I've come to accept what I believe and I've stopped trying to put a label on it.



    I can't wait to read your post! I love religious discussions... well when they're intelligent and non-judgmental, which coming from you, I know it will be :)

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  24. My three favorites are: @SarahNMoon, @boudledidge, and @diannaeanderson.



    The most basic answer to your question IMHO: A Christian believes Jesus is the Son of God, and a feminist believes that women are human beings. There ya go!

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  25. First of all - you aren't alone. I don't subscribe to any one religion or church thus lack the community. (I do not yearn for a religious community in any way - back in University I did a sort of exploration phase and decided I was uncomfortable with the entire notion and it wasn't for me.) I suppose then, we are a community amongst ourselves. Secondly, I am quite looking forward to March 28.

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  26. Hahaha - I'm too much of a coward to post it on my own blog too Jenna ;)


    That being said - I think Betsy has been touching on a few more sensitive subjects as of late and creating quite a good community of discussion that for what I've seen, remains respectful. I appreciate the space here and often feel comfortable adding my 2 cents. So - thank you Betsy.

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  27. I think that figuring out what you don't believe is key in narrowing down your options! there's so much out there in terms of faith - sometimes you have to use a process of elimination :)

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  28. I really wish I could go back to school and study religious sociology - where did our need to label everything come from? there are so many other communities we can be a part of - why did that become one of the primary by which we define ourselves? SO MANY QUESTIONS.


    and thank you! that means a lot :)

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  29. I never forget a good portmanteau :)

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  30. "I grew up in a small town in the Bible Belt, and I still struggle with
    the idea that not everyone who is very vocal about their Christianity is
    hypocritical or judgmental."

    This is how I feel exactly!

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  31. I don't even know where to start with this. So many thoughts flying around in my head, most of which will make zero sense as I write them down but I'll try. Okay, let me start by saying I can't wait to read on Thursday. Well done :) Second, I agree about the typical posts people write and the overwhelming amount of I Believe posts, be them about religion or sipping white wine while taking a bath to relax (which I totally do and love). But I do like reading them because I find it all very interesting. I love finding out what people connect with, or find meaningful in their lives.

    That being said, religion is frustrating at times for me personally. I grew up in a family of born-again Christians and considered myself a proud Christian until 4-5 years ago. If I had my blog at that time I would have described myself as a daughter of the king. I no longer identify with any religion, but like you, I have faith. I found that there is no 1 religion that perfectly aligns with ALL of my values and beliefs. And more importantly, I had a difficult time identifying with a religion when the majority of the leaders (not all believers, of course) condemned some of my central, non-negotiable values. And so I decided to no longer identify myself with a religion that left me feeling conflicted, but rather work hard on defining myself by the specific values in which I believe. I still believe in some of the foundational beliefs of a variety of major religions, but have simply removed the label. In doing so I reduced my inner conflict and confusion. And I have found that this decision has made me a happier, and confident person.

    BUT I do feel like there isn't always space for me to share those thoughts in the blogging community. So thanks for encouraging us to share our views and starting a respectful discussion.

    You're welcome for the novel (but really - sorry!)

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  32. I think that this is wonderful Jenna. Your honestly is refreshing. Thanks for sharing this with us!

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  33. it seems that those of us who are uncertain are a silent majority! I like the idea of being a community amongst ourselves - you couldn't find a more inclusive bunch that one whose members agree to fundamentally have no idea whether or not they agree :)

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  34. thank YOU! one cannot make a community alone :)

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  35. Hahaha - so true.

    I know that part of the reason we don't broach the subject is because we know it's quite a sensitive one but also, we don't have an easily defined set of beliefs which we feel comfortable backing up. I mean, if you say you are a follower of Jesus, that often says a lot about one's beliefs and values and requires less explaining because those fundamental beliefs are generally, well known. My beliefs are sort of a mish-mash of this and that and from here and there and not documented in any sort of religious text nor do I necessarily have a community of people who feel or follow the same thoughts. It sort of feels like entering a battle alone - even though I know there has to be other's out there.

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  36. Amen? I grew up Irish Catholic and I still root my life in that upbringing, but I'm not "saved" or a member of the LDS church or worship (we don't call it worship in Catholicism) or any of that stuff. And, to be honest, it's not me anyway. I also feel that there's near pressure on some blogs related to their purity, wholesome image. Again, deffffinnitely not me and never ever was. Irish Catholic. Did you get that?

    And my faith is all over the place. I don't fit in anywhere. Blogging can be uncomfortable when I am surrounded with people who (at least pretend) to have the whole spiritual, metaphysical, what's going on out there thing figured out. I won't even pretend like I am halfway there. And the older I get, the more I question and search for answers and broaden my beliefs (while at the same time narrowing them, too). And because of all of that, no lie, I worry people won't read my blog because I'm not wholesome enough, I don't accept faith with a blind eye and I definitely blend my religious upbringing with what I know physically to be true out there in the universe (thanks to having a father who is an astrophysicist probably).

    So... all of that being said.... AMEN! I mean that in the way where THANK YOU for beginning a dialogue about people who aren't perfect members of religious community X. We aren't horrible, sinning people. But, sometimes, especially in blogland, I worry that people look at us that way.



    Also... I married a very scientific man who studied anthropology and sociology through that lens. We both took world religion classes and he is very trite about his beliefs on organized religion. Which, imo, is very different that what one believes in spiritually. So it's all a bit confusing. Thank you so much for this post! Can't wait for Thursday!

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  37. This: I believe that religion is the root of all evil, but that one’s relationship with God is the road to salvation. Ditto. And this: I believe that science andreligion can be complementary. I do not believe in missionary work, but rather in showing others God’s love through kindness and authenticity. I believe that miracles happen on a daily basis, but I also believe that one cannot rely on chance in the building of a successful and meaningful life. Ditto again. Amazing, Jenna. Amazing!

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  38. I'm actually going to keep this response short rather than ramble - though I am delighted to have the novel here, so thank you! - but I think that it should be okay to be conflicted even when you do identify with a specific religion. let him who is without sin, etc - no one, no leader of any church of any denomination, should condemn you for figuring out what's best for you. I want to find a community where exploration is encouraged :)

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  39. ah, yes I agree - it should be okay to be conflicted when identifying with a religion. And I believe some religions (perhaps some more so than others) encourage individuals to challenge beliefs, which is so refreshing. That exploration is so critical! At least in my own experience, those challenges ended up leading me to a different path.

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  40. Georgia ChristakisMarch 19, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    it's the latest form of televangelism ;-)

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  42. Thank you for this post. I am not religious (and I don't even talk about that fact on my blog). So, when I started blogging and realized that there was a whole community of religious (like you said, usually Christians) bloggers, I was unsure if I could ever be a part of that community. Would they think I was some sort of radical heathen? With that said, my fears were unfounded and I have made connections with people through blogging from a variety of faiths. I am respectful of others beliefs and, so far, no one has cast me out...haha. I will definitely be reading next week!
    Tara

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  43. haha I actually like the idea of being called a radical heathen - at least it's a label! but I think the point you're making is a good one. labels shouldn't be exclusive. thank yoy :)

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  44. amen indeed! yeah, part of my "upset" phase was due to a lot of these bloggers presenting themselves as having all the answers, which kind of made me angry, as irrational as that is. I mean, if we all have all the answers at 20 (or 22 or 24 or 26 or at ANY time in our lives!) the world won't become a better place. our questions and answers have to evolve, and understanding that is a sign of strength, not weakness, I think, even when faith is concerned. thank YOU!

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  45. Love, love, love this! Looking forward to reading your post on what you believe. I can relate to feeling left out of that community that seems to be built-in for those with the same spiritual beliefs. On the other can, I can understand the need/want to share & blog about something as important to you as a deep religious conviction, that your life is possibly centered around, but as a not-so-religious person I can`t necessarily "relate" to it myself!




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  46. approve!

    http://betsytransatlantically.blogspot.com

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