uphill battles and feeling like Sisyphus


I went to my county library’s “MEGA Book Sale!!!” (at least, that’s what they called it in the e-mail I got), and I came home with a trunk load full of books. Not an exaggeration. We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to fit them all. They did, with some finagling. I joked that we should have brought my station wagon and gone back for more.

We spent most of our time browsing the non-fiction section, as I’m one of those types that eagerly anticipates the release of my sci-fi/fantasy novels and buys them as soon as they come out, so most of the time I’m good for fiction (although I did look for Tamora Pierce and the Abhorsen books . . . no luck, Hilary and Little Magpie– but I will keep looking!). My husband is obsessed— still not an exaggeration– with fighter pilot books. So non-fiction is where it’s at, for us.

I nabbed some real finds– Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegitable, Miracle, which I’ve been looking for, and Reading Lolita in Tehran, which sounds like it should be a fascinating read. I eventually wandered over to the Religion and Philosophy section, which was pretty much the entire back corner. I was hoping to find a few of the great philosophers’ works– I’m dying to get my hands on Kierkegaard, and I loved reading Kant in grad school but didn’t really have the time to really dedicate myself to understanding him.

Sadly, the “Religion and Philosophy” section was really just the Religion section, and even books representing religions besides Christianity were scarce. They had piles and piles of Billy Graham books. Max Lucado books were scattered everywhere. I found three separate stacks of Joel Osteen’s books. Joyce Meyer’s face grinned up at me every few feet. I picked up a book whose title intrigued me and set it down because Rob Bell was one of the authors.

I barely glanced at them.

And not because they weren’t what I was looking for. Not because “inspirational” books aren’t really my speed.

It was because I instinctively did not trust them.

And not because I’d read them before and decided I didn’t agree with their theology. Not because I was familiar with their writing style and didn’t care for it. Not because I knew anything about these men and women.

It was because I had been taught that these writers are wrong. These writers have purposely dedicated themselves to destroying the “true Christian faith.” They are liberal. They accepted and encouraged corruption in their theology. They’re extremists. They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Without even realizing it, I completely disregarded five leading authors simply because of what I’d been taught. Not because of facts, or research. Not through personal discovery. Not because I’d had an open mind at one point and decided I didn’t much care for them.

That process was completely preempted by my indoctrination. What I’d been instructed in the course of being taught “discernment” over-rode my ability to make a conscious decision. I didn’t even realize that this was happening until hours after I got home.

This frightens me, sometimes. I worry about where else this is happening in my life– sometimes, my indoctrination feels like it’s slapping me in the face because, in the middle of a simple, rational discussion I become intensely emotional when I realize the ground has fallen out from underneath me. I frequently find that whatever I’d been “arguing” for had no rational support whatsoever, but it was the only thing I’d ever been taught, and I had been taught to cling to it. I automatically clutch my indoctrination harder when it’s challenged and defend it vociferously . . . only to later realize that what I’d been defending was absolutely horrifying.

This is why my journey is so important to me– because I feel like the inside of my head is a minefield. But, I’m routinely going through as many things as I can– reading and researching and talking and writing– and sometimes, a mine explodes. I’ll cry, or I’ll get so angry I’ll storm out of the room . . . but it will pass, and then I’ll have a gaping, scorched hole in the ground to fill in with soil. And I’ll make sure to replace it with something worthwhile– sometimes, that’s a simple “I don’t know.”

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  • Oh my goodness! Forgedimagination, that’s exactly the feeling I have whenever I even hear mention of a Joel Osteen book, and I really have no grounds for feeling that way. I don’t know what’s in his books, but for some reason I have it in my head that I need to stay away from him. I used to think Billy Graham was the man, but now I don’t especially like him, and I have no idea why. Hmm. I think it’s time for me to get some research done.

  • Larkin

    Joyce Meyers, Joel Osteen, and a number of other books all give me a horrible, twisted-gut reaction now. My mother sent me a Meyers book a while ago and I ended up on her incessant mailing list. Several times a month now I receive mailings and flyers begging me for donations (though she refers to these as ‘offerings’). I can’t even read the mailings. When I visit home for the holidays, Mom likes to leave the TV on the religious channel, and I find myself wanting to leave the house entirely. It is both that, when I was growing up, Mom wouldn’t even let us watch religious television because she considered it too liberal, but also because I have taken a severe aversion to it now.

    Reading your blog has really forced me to take account of all the wounds on my soul and to seek treatment for them. Thank you for writing this down.