Self-Hatred

I suppose I’d be fully justified to be angry about the quote I’m sharing below (many are, and for a number of reasons), but I’m mostly just sad as I almost empathize with the sentiment. I do tend to hate my body, or physicality in general.

We were so very isolated as children. Sometimes I forget that. In this context, the only people I knew or saw with any kind of regularity were family. We had few movies and fewer connections to pop culture – for a long time not even internet. As a boy going through teen years, there was no one to even have a crush on, much less talk to. Sexuality was little more than a few kissing scenes in movies (I’ve probably never actually seen the kisses in some of these movies). This was just one facet of my life which was stunted – all feelings repressed, internalized, no idea what to do with them or even what they are, so you bury them.

I found a woman in my life when I was around 19. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it and I just figured things out with her as we went along. But in some ways it was like floodgates were opened. I was in love and committed to her (we’ve been married over 5 years now <3), but the feeling of attraction–my sexuality in general–was awakened.

I’ve learned over time that you can’t really selectively shut down emotions or feelings. You repress one you don’t want, and the world seems a little more dim. You find an attraction you can’t indulge, and you can crush it and feel nothing, or redirect it towards something (someone) acceptable. Or that’s how I coped, anyway, through late teens-mid twenties. If it wasn’t self-deprecation, I probably hid it.

With teaching like this, you do indeed learn to hate yourself. You slowly cut yourself off from the simple pleasures, and as the physical sensations of the world grow dim, the less interest you have in opening yourself to the possibility of feeling.

This always seemed like “life on the highest plain”, where your joy comes from the Lord, and you find purpose in living in light of eternity. I experienced what I thought was true joy and contentment vicariously through others – Sunday worship, or Communion, posting something profound on Facebook and feeling spiritual about it when someone would respond with commendation.

Depression finished the job. Getting my happiness from the high of social acceptance or community experiences? Depression sapped the energy I have for social life down to nothing. Sex? There’s not enough in the tank to do what needs to be done for it to be the emotionally connecting and healing experience it can be when meaningful. Food, drink? Eh, I need it to live, but it’s not like I’m particularly invested in living.

Life on the highest plain was little more than just a high. Depression and the relentlessness of the ordinary wears us down, the thrill of newness replaced with daily upkeep, and I’m empty and spent. I’m numb to the reward of anything I do. It’s a sort of twist on the story of the prodigal: thinking I could live above the physical, I left it behind, only to lose it all, and I must swallow my pride and beg for a taste of the humblest of ordinary pleasure. George Bailey crying out “I want to live again!”

Hatred of myself, the physical–because I see it as a failure and sinful as I choose greed or laziness–is in the end just what it is: the opposite of love, a violation against nature and, yes, God’s grace if you believe in that sort of thing. We curse God when we hate the physical because it is doing what it is designed to do: give us pleasure, pain – feeling and meaning to our existence. And for the love of God, it is not sin when our bodies fail in what they were designed to do – disease, allergies, depression and other disorders of the brain. It is not sin when we feel, and enjoy food, and sex, and beauty. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood…”, and it isn’t what a man takes in that defiles him. It is what we put out – what we choose to do with the input that brings heaven or hell to earth.

The next life will come when it comes, and how it comes. For now, I’m here, present, physical. Hatred is easy, and futile. Love is the only way forward.

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A Way-Too-Long and Not-Long-Enough Talk About Masculinity

I’ve wanted to write on this subject for awhile. There’s been a lot of words spent on the concept over the past few years (at least) – what it is and what it is not, or, more specifically, what is a healthy vision of masculinity. What does it mean to be a man – a “good man”? As someone who claims allegiance to the Christian faith, I believe I must qualify this question further, to reflect our desire to follow Jesus. Maybe I’ll just be adding more noise to the already considerable wall of sound, but some of y’all have been kind enough to leave my mic on, and I’d like to share on a subject deeply personal to me.

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Of Fried Chicken and Outrage

It’s early 20th century Mississippi, and you’re in a small town barely on an actual map much less the map of public consciousness. The world outside is large, but yours is quite small – it’s just the way things are.

Some dadgum factory upriver has been in the local crosshairs on the suspicion they’ve been polluting the river. There’s been a few sick kids, and an ol’ ne’er-do-well who died after allegedly taking a dip in the river and then coming down with fever and such. It became a hot topic in the public houses around town, and a few folks tried to get the attention of factory ownership and find some answers. But they ain’t been forthcoming, and their apparent apathy has only fired public furor. A growing number of folks insisted they wouldn’t buy their products no more, and one of the general goods stores was considering pulling inventory from the shelves until “something was done”.

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A Short Black Panther Review

My wife and I saw Black Panther last night. Here’s a few initial thoughts.

I loved the world-building and presentation. It looked unapologetically African, and they didn’t take the action “home” to one of the usual major cities in order to bring familiarity or a reason to care. It asks you to care for the people and cultures and their stakes, on their own merit and worth. That jumped out at me from the start, and there were no cheap gimmicks, or any sense that they were simply playing an angle in the 1st 30 minutes to get you hooked into just another superhero movie.

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Gun Laws, or Heart Change?

Every time (how awful is it that I have to phrase it in this way?) we have a mass shooting in this country, there’s an idea that surfaces. I believe it can come from a place in the heart which is truly wearied and sick of the tragedies. With some, I get the sense it’s almost a shrug though – something akin to the “it’s all gonna burn anyhow” attitude. I’m referring to the idea that these mass shootings over the past few years are a heart problem, often couched in a zinger, “America doesn’t have a gun [or race, or drugs, or…] problem, it has a heart problem.”

I’m not here to discuss our laws – where they fail and where they work – or how far they should go. I strongly lean towards more regulation or even bans, for what its worth, but others have gone there in a much more informed way than I can, so if you want a rational plan you’ll have to look elsewhere.

So let’s talk about the heart, because frankly, I agree that the heart is a huge issue here. But how deep do you want to go here?

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“History is Written by the Victors”

History is written by the victors, they say.

It seems easy for us Americans to think of our nation as victorious in our history – in our fight for independence, the civil war and the fight for our soul, WW1, Nazi Germany, and others. Other nations might just have a different view.

But how has our individual history been written by the victorious? Am I aware that I’ve been a victor, or rather, to put it another way, a beneficiary, result, or instrument of another narrative’s defeat?

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A Sunday Drive

It’s been months since we’ve attended church regularly. Having no steady social activity to fill the void, rarely do we venture out in public on Sunday. The freedom and peace is welcome, if sometimes lonely.

Family invites us over for the day – we love them, I’m feeling up to it, we go.

It’s mid-morning. The Bible Belt is tight around us – it hasn’t taken the day off even if we have, and church after church shows a loaded parking lot as we pass by. It’s Florida in January, and though the temperature reads cool, the sun is out. It’s stuffy and dry – one can almost taste the sand, and you wait for the sweat to start trickling.

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A Moment of Honesty

I’m porting a twitter rant over to the blog today. This isn’t the brave kind of honesty, more like the “I’ve never felt more disconnected from everything so I don’t really care anymore who thinks what about my faith” level of honesty.

If I’m honest with myself, salvation is a meaningless term for me anymore. Maybe it always was. I’ve always felt like I’m on the outside looking in, trying to manufacture experiences I don’t understand, trying to live vicariously through encouraging others.

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The Fast Lane, and Depression

I’m thankful I’m living in a time when the internet and social media are so widely used. I’m thankful for the connectedness with people and access to information they bring. In many ways it’s been an amazing thing for me, and a medium where I feel much more comfortable sharing my thoughts without the anxiety of thinking on the spot while a person or 3 stare into my soul. For most of us, access to information isn’t a luxury of sorts essentially reserved for those who have time and money to buy books or browse libraries – the internet is an equalizer when used responsibly. We’ve also probably all heard the saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know”, and for me the internet and the connections made on it have provided an ongoing solution of sorts to that problem: though there’s still plenty of things I’m completely clueless about, at least I know of more things I don’t know, so I’m more aware of my ignorance, making it easier to take a back seat and listen instead of “boldly going” and looking the fool. So when I say what I’m going to say I don’t mean it to be a shaking of the fist at the changing times. I just found something which has been painfully true for me, an introvert who grew up in a cult and has a fair share of social anxiety and confidence issues.

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Off-Brand Christian

Ah, labels. They range from necessary and helpful generalization to insult, from battle lines to dismissal. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em, or something like that. Here, I don’t intend to talk down to anyone about which labels they are comfortable with, but I want to share my personal principle regarding what I choose to focus on. In certain things, I do try to live without pushing labels about myself, namely: my faith, “Christian”, and another hot topic, “feminist” (or ally). It might be ignorant, disingenuous, cowardly, seen as misleading, or perhaps even a luxury of privilege. I certainly welcome pushback on this. But here’s my reasoning, starting with the term feminist.

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