Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Oh Man...

Okay, at the risk of sounding like (as my co-worker Heather often says) Bitchy McBitcherson, I need to vent about something for a second. And this involves people you've never met and probably could care less about. But a friend of mine is getting the shaft BIGTIME and I need to rail on it.

I've got a friend. She's not an extremely close friend, and her name's not important. But she's one of the most interesting people that I've ever met... and, for the most part, the only non-crazy person that I've ever met strictly within the confines of this here internet thingajigger.

Anyways, this girl's from the Quad Cities, but is currently off at seminary school far, far away. As long as I've known her, her life has been dominated by religion. But not in the usual way.

When you think of people whose lives revolve around religion, a certain stereotype falls into mind, doesn't it? You think of people who spew Bible verses at random, who go to church every Sunday, who have Jesus fish bumper stickers on their car, etc., etc. Perhaps it's an unfair stereotype, but it's an honest one (at least for me.) Basically people who live their life according to their spirituality.

My friend, however, let's call her Mary (just 'cause she'll HATE that *grin*,) follows a different code. Rather than letting spirituality dictate her life, her life dictates her spirituality. Her entire existence is a quest for knowledge, answers, and spiritual satisfaction. The church needs more Marys.

This is a girl who has never been afraid to ask some tough questions about her faith... to examine the grey areas... to seek truth, even if she trods through some deeply controversial waters on her journey. She doesn't want an easy answer. She attempts to understand how religion affects such things as interpersonal relationships and femininity and sexuality. She's not afraid to question some of the hairier parts to the Bible, to speak her mind about the aspects of religion that can be unfair or offensive or goes against her personal viewpoints on life. In other words, she's going into seminary school, but not letting it dictate to her how she should blindly defer to the traditional church doctrine and never question her faith.

When she first told me that she had been accepted into seminary school, I was a bit aghast and may have mentioned something about her turning into a "Jesus zombie." I just didn't want her to EVER stop exploring... to ever say the phrase, "...because the church says so." Her quest for the inner truths in life are nothing short of inspiring, and I didn't want to see that quest get lost in a haze of morality and tradition.

I needn't have worried. Mary's been in seminary for a couple years now, and she's still just as vibrant, just as intelligent, just as curious. And I love her for it. She's met the guy of her dreams down there, and I couldn't be happier.

For years now, Mary has kept a blog on the internet. Not only does this blog detail her life at seminary, it also chronicles her quest for insight. She's not afraid to raise some pretty controversial discussions on her blog, and her visitors have long and often appreciated the spirited debates and discussions that her frequent posts raise.

This girl has an AMAZING future ahead of her. There are few people out there in life who I think TRULY have the power to change the world, and this girl's one of them. In person, she can occasionally come across as shy and reserved; but inside, she's sharp as a tack, quick-witted, and the bearer of an intelligence that I could only DREAM of having.

This past week, Mary's entire identity has officially come under attack. I don't know the EXACT details, because I don't go to seminary myself and I'm not nearly as well-versed when it comes to religion. But basically the story goes like this. At her particular school, each student has a judicatory group of faculty and staff who basically advise that student -- a peer group to let them know how they're coming in their progress, their strengths and weaknesses, offer advice, etc. It might be constructive or it might be domineering, I honestly don't know because I'm not there.

The problem is: this judicatory group finally discovered the existence of Mary's blog. And they're none too pleased. I won't deny that the blog's not shocking -- there's frank language, frank debate, and more controversy than you can shake a stick at. But it's not POINTLESSLY shocking; it serves a greater good. It's there to expose the problems that exist in religion, and to open discussions that might clarify and might even help overcome these problems.

If you were to talk to Mary, she'd tell you that her blog is just the chronicle of her journey through seminary school; I'm sure she thinks it's nothing special. But I tell you now, and this is coming from me who's not a deeply religious person, the information and posts and discussions that this blog brings up could make a best-selling book. Seriously. I'm completely addicted to her blog. Even though I barely pipe up in there to say more than the occasional "hi," I love to read her thoughts and the thoughts of those that regularly visit.

Except that now it's gone. Her judicatory group insists that the blog stop; they've given Mary several reasons for it, including that the blog's existence could harm her chances of getting a job once she's through school. I think that Mary could care less; if a prospective employer didn't appreciate her freedom of expression and her questioning nature, she wouldn't want to work for that employer in the first place.

So now my poor friend is in a quandry. She's honestly contemplating NOT becoming ordained as a result of the blog shutdown (opting instead on a focus towards Human Sexuality Education Within Christianity.) How on Earth a group of people devoted to religion couldn't see the AMAZING benefit of this challenging yet spiritually redeeming journal boggles my brain.

In the meantime, she's started a new journal -- but this one's only open to those she can trust and those who can appreciate her insight without the gasp of self-righteousness and closed-mindedness of many in the religious community. Perhaps if you comment to this post, and perhaps if she sees that comment, she'll contact you and include you in her odyssey. Then again, maybe it's best that Mary stays on the down-low, so that she can continue her spiritual exploration within the confines of the morally superior.

Regardless, I make this post to publicly say that I wish her well on her journey, and to let her know that her work is not in vain. Someday she'll change things; mark my word on it.


Ray Daniels said...

All of us, and perhaps the young most, need courageous people like Mary to help us discover and explore our spirituality. From the description of her in your post it is profoundly shameful that she has been silenced.

ky said...

I am new to the blog reading world and am very sad for Mary's loss. I have no doubt she is inspiring and will continue to serve a greater power. I wish Mary all the best in search for truth and her struggle with vocation whatever that may be. I think one of the most important things for all of us to do (especially young women) is to seek all options and learn all we can. Thanks for sharing Mary's plight. She will be in my prayers!

me said...

It is sad that those who advise and review Mary's work cannot see her blog for what it is, an honest search for truth and her identity. I think it is great that she has been journaling her journey to share with others and it must have been an awesome read. Even my pastor has spoken of his journey, his questions and doubts often during his messages. It doesn't make you any less Christian to have questions or doubts - in fact I think it makes you more Christian. Why would God give us free will if we were to blindly follow him? I would tell her peer committee to go back and re-read the Bible - some of the people God uses to bring others to him had TONS of questions and doubts. Some even got PO'd with God and told him off a time or two. To Mary, I would say, keep the search for truth going and keep sharing it. It has probably brought more people closer to God than could be imagined.

Thanks luv for sharing this.