I've been researching and mulling on more than I've been posting, lately—something that was probably obvious in my last few posts that had logic jumps without transition and such.
The fact is, even though I write these posts to get my thoughts out there and in a public forum (okay, and because I love a good discussion that's actually a discussion like how I understand Proverbs 27:17), I still have a responsibility when writing them. That responsibility is to be as clear as I can be.
If I know some thoughts are half-formed and might not be clear in the telling, I should darn well say so. Clearly.
I've been failing at that. I apologize.
Awareness that I've been failing has led to me not posting as much, out of "Ah! What if I'm unclear again!"—an (irrational) anxiety exacerbated by allergies and stress, both of which make it physically difficult to shrug off such concerns. (Perhaps you've seen my tweet about the newly-discovered half-sister who's a decade younger than me. That's one of the less odd and dramatic stresses that has happened in the past few months, but prayer for her would be appreciated.)
I should probably start a journal, so I can have organization and dates for all this weird stuff that happens to me. >_> So much baggage on that, though. For so long, I thought journaling just made me stew, rather than realizing it helped me organize facts and keep them clear. Hmm. Maybe I should research journaling methods and see if I can't find a way to keep a journal without categorizing it with "journaling" in my head.
Anyway, I've also been mulling on my audience for this blog. I write for me, yes…but what side of me?
I'm currently torn between two traditions, in a manner of speaking. On one side, there's the "chalky" (as Pneumarian put it), dense, academic style of theological discussion that I'm used to due to the specific circles of reformed Presbyterianism I come from (and that is actually needed if you want to speak to that particular audience, because they effectively equate such formal/"advanced" language with being an "advanced" Christian—and do note that I'm referring to the application of reformed Presbyterianism that I experienced, not saying it's necessarily inherent in reformed Presbyterian itself—though I suspect some aspects of it are). On the other side, there are the rules of "good communication" that I know and use in other contexts but have spent over a decade being told and taught don't belong in theology.
So, is my ultimate goal to speak the language of where I've been, or to speak to folks in general?
The problem I'm stumbling over is I want to do both. Even though the kind of theological circles I'm from will ignore me, on account of my age, gender, marital status, and lack of training from the "right" seminaries/teachers (and ordination, though my gender precludes that one). Because someone needs to talk to those folks.
However, I've also been reminded lately that even if I were an ordained and married male of advanced age, some reason would be found or invented to invalidate what I said unless the other person wanted to hear it. Aaaaand then that ideology or theory or piece of information they wanted to hear would be clung to with both claws dug in, while others shredded it for being…something. Heretical, maybe. "New", maybe (despite Ecclesiastes 1:9 and some of their own espoused beliefs not being nearly as historical as they claim they are, like common belief that Genesis 3:16 "clearly" says that women will sinfully desire power over their husbands).
Seriously, this stuff is normal in those circles.
We're talking the sort of people who seriously protest "word misuse!" over a definition that's several centuries old (and sometimes even predates the definition that they're insisting is "correct"—and that's when the definition they're insisting is correct ever was correct, because they not infrequently add nuances to words that never only exist because they've put them there). The ones who seriously argue that women "clearly" shouldn't be ordained into any position of the church because none of the named officers of the early church were female (outright ignoring that Phoebe was called a deacon (ref. Romans 16:1) and Junia(s) spoken of as "among the apostles" (ref. Romans 16:7—a linguistic construction that indicates Junias and Andronicus were considered apostles by the early church even though not among the Twelve, which indicates that it's incorrect to say that "apostle" = one of the Twelve, so that word is misused by many in the church). The ones who protest the transgender stuff on account of it being new and unique to our culture for folks to cross from one to the other (which is outright false—there is much history behind the concept of a third gender [including the hijra caste in and near India], perhaps particularly when were clear divides in acceptable gender roles [see Balkan sworn virgins, which is dying out as the culture becomes less restrictive]; even the prospect of surgical modification to change genders historic in some pagan cultures, in ways that could have implications for what was actually meant in Leviticus 19:28, which is often applied to tattoos but may not actually mean that, since that's the only place the word appears in Scripture, so translating it as "tattoo" requires some assumptions—and those who make those assumptions usually refuse to admit they're making them, which warrants double leeriness, in my opinion, because it indicates more interest in "rightness" than in accuracy and implies that the position actually lacks evidence to support it).
So, uh, Matthew 7:6 might apply. I mean, I already know that they're gonna either ignore me or respond very badly when/if they notice me speaking out. I already know from much experience that they're gonna ignore me or tear into me for speaking to them—and some of them will then turn around, a few months or years later, and say exactly what I told them and take credit for the thought (and be accepted for it, due to folks respecting the persons saying it, which brings to mind Romans 2:11 and Acts 10:34).
I spent over twenty-five years being actively told to shut up. I've even been told that I have no right to my own opinion—explicitly by my mom and stepdad, more covertly by the church around me. (Most of whom would deny saying that if confronted on it, whether they'd said it directly or indirectly. Hard to say how much of that is due to intentional gaslighting and how much of it is due to being trained in "good, clear communication" that is actually very poor and unclear (and not nearly as unique or Christian as they're told it is, actually relying on much jargon).
Also, I am much disturbed about how much their regular, standard communication patterns and methods embody cult psychology—which is not to say that it is a cult, just that they engage in practices that are consistent with cults. And it's certainly concerning that these circles have a particular definition for what a cult is that precludes them and actually differs from the standard definition, and they frequently outright misrepresent the arguments and perspectives of those who disagree with them. (Case in point: What they told me "gun control" adherents believed and what "gun control" adherents are actually arguing, per the average folks I've asked, are completely different things.)
And here I have a blog daring to speak out and have my own opinion, which says how much those lessons stuck, but…
They kinda did stick.
As in, even though I know, intellectually, I can—and should—test the spirits (I John 4:1) and see if what folks teach actually coincides with the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) and discuss theology to sharpen my understanding of it (Proverbs 27:17), I still have the emotional "How dare you?!" emotional recoil.
Every. Single. Post.
Upside to my background: I tend to hear that mental "How dare you?!" in others' voices than my own, which helps me recognize it as the memory and conditioning it is. Easier to recognize makes it easier to counter quickly, but it doesn't really affect how easy or difficult it is to counter at all.
I want to post regularly here. It's encouraging and good for me to remind myself that those Scriptural instructions to test spirits and all are not gender-specific.
Hmm. Maybe I've been starting my blogging in the wrong place and need to look there, first—at how all Christians should be discussing theology, that such discussion isn't just the realm of adult men. (Seriously, in the circles I was in, any women who tried to discuss or study theology was essentially indulged and said to be husband-hunting—and was expected to go back to the kitchen and other women and the children once she was married.)
In the very least, I need to dig into what that "keep silence" can (and can't) mean in I Corinthians 14:34, because the modern implications and common translation of that phrase is incompatible with the word's use elsewhere in Scripture (ref. Luke 9:36, Luke 18:39, Luke 20:26, Acts 12:17, Acts 15:12, Acts 15:13, Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 14:28, 1 Corinthians 14:30).
Now that's making me also wonder how much of modern (mis?)understanding of I Timothy 2:12 comes from verb phrases not meaning quite the same as they used to, or having different nuances between the original and the translation—but several words in that verse only appear there in the Bible, so I'm gonna have to dig into how the words were used in other sources, which is why and where a lot of examinations of that verse falls apart, I think. Just a brief check of into some of the words (ex. αὐθεντέω/Strong's and διδάσκω/Strong's) suggests something's been badly warped in translation, although I'm gonna need to dig into the sentence structure and grammatical implications of the Greek, because I'm getting the impression that there's an issue comparable to the distinctions of meaning of "look" in "look him up", "look to him", and "look at him".
Interestingly, just the concept of looking up what a word meant in sources contemporary of when the book of the Bible was written is treated as suspect in those circles, as a strictly literal application of "Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture." It's my experience with multiple pastors that, when a particular word is only used the once or only a few times in Scripture, they ignore or handwave past that and just define the word (and maybe in the English instead of the Greek), insisting that's the historical meaning…and I've found that the more insistent they are about it, the less likely it is that they're actually representing the source(s) accurately. :-/
(I know some of this has been discussed before in the comments, but it could use a more thorough and coherent examination, methinks. I know I'm not saying/suggesting anything inherently "new", but even being able to discuss theology without being ignored, dismissed, or ridiculed is still fairly new to me. Which is ridiculous and makes me want to go to that audience of who's ignoring me and point out that they're being Pharisees—but the fact is, they'd just use my saying it as "proof" of their own illogical assumptions and assignations, and they'd both trample it and tear me to pieces, which would make me targeting that audience what Jesus told us not to do (Matthew 7:6).
There's a difference between speaking out and accepting any or all fallout and prosecution that comes as consequence for those words and intentionally targeting an audience that you know will use whatever you say to bolster themselves while also tearing down your perspective. Why give them ammunition to help them attack others? (Never mind how that conflicts with Ephesians 5:11…)
And sadly, the tearing down comes from both men and women who are entrenched in that mindset, because they either believe or insist [depending on how witting they are of the holes in their arguments] that they are necessarily in the right on particular items and that anyone disagreeing is being influenced by the world—missing entirely that their own perspective has many similarities to many pagan cultures, historical and present. [I always found that puzzling, how I could name multiple pagan and outright anti-Christian cultures that believed and practiced those very things they insisted were unique and godly.] But I digress.)
I'm not saying everyone I knew in those churches were like that. I'm saying it's my anecdotal experience that these attitudes are entrenched in these circles and that folks who explicitly state such things tend to be respected and valued in the churches—and pointing out faults of logic or incomplete (or wrong) facts is a fast way to get torn apart.
My experience. Perhaps yours is different, but I also know I'm not alone in having experienced this kind of dismissal and attack, both overt (in explicit words) and covert (in actions or implications of words).
So…what on earth am I doing here? Why am I even writing this? I have too many self-conflicting plans and ideas and goals in my head, and I have to sift and discern which ones to follow and focus on. And part of the problem there is I really don't want to give up on potentially reaching folks in that environment I'm from, but the fact is…I can't target them. The folks I want to reach are too entrenched to even want to listen to what I'm actually saying, rather than what they assume I'm meaning.
And the folks willing to hear what I'm actually saying will be willing to hear me even if I follow actual good communication practices rather than the jargon-filled form of (poor!) academic writing that's lauded among that group. (One of the most-lauded pastors I knew misused at least one word every sermon—often more, with logical fallacies—and any polite disagreement or pointing out of errors was labeled as "disrespectful" or "dishonoring" by both him and the church at large. Yet the same folks who did that would claim that they encourage and welcome critical analysis and discussion.)
So what are my goals when writing these posts? It can't be to "make" anyone hear me—and even writing with a goal of giving a particular group opportunity to hear what I'm meaning strikes me as effectually the same thing, and it's all too readily rooted in pride. "They aren't hearing—well, that's on them." (True, but so easily leads to smugness, no?) "Why aren't they hearing? How do I phrase this to make them hear me?" (Assumes that I have the power to change their hearts—which I don't actually believe, so why live as if I do?)
I'm the kind of person who needs multiple goals, but I've been too…nebulous. Unfocused. Undefined. I only last week figured out and defined my premise as a web designer ("websites you'd want to wear"). That led to a new design that I'll be transferring my entire site into, and one goal is to eventually transfer this blog into something comparably aesthetic, though probably a unique design. I have a few ideas.
So…where am I going from here? Something is making me cringe when I face the prospect of picking up those theological series I've been planning, so my next step needs to be identifying and then tackling those.
At least, I think that's my next step. Maybe I'm skipping something.