There are many embarrassing confessions I could make on this blog. This is one: I listen to Christian music radio stations. Not in the past, when I was a Christian, but now, even earlier today. Why do I do this? I never listened to Christian radio when I was a Christian, and even if I did, the music that was popular then has long ago stopped airing. Also, it’s really objectively bad music. But you know what? It scratches an itch. It does. It is nice to be around a culture that is hopeful and secure. I like the kind of people who make up the radio staff and the artists they play. They are so unrelentingly pleasant.
Christian music hasn’t gotten much better since my days in the church; it’s all breathy, saccharine, “Jesus is my Boyfriend” ballads or 4-chord, hop up and down, praise music. I can’t judge too harshly, when I was 16 that kind of thing really spoke to me too. The theology I was taught matched the music. The “Jesus is my Boyfriend” thing, kinda made sense. I was taught that Jesus loves me and that I should love Jesus. I was taught that Jesus was there to talk to, to depend on, to take care of the things I worried about (and goodness, no one worries more than a teenager). In fact Jesus was supposed to be even better than real-life boyfriends because he was more loving, reliable, and never pressured you to get physical (I know, I know, the crossroads of the purity culture and Jesus is my boyfriend music gets weird fast – but don’t blame me, I didn’t invent it, I’m only reporting on my experience). I really believed that it was possible to love a deity, a deity that I had no reliable way of knowing was real, more than anything or anyone else in the world. And this belief got the stamp of approval from my religious leaders.
Then I met August. He was a sweet boy. He was older than I was and his interest in me was flattering. We became close friends and then dance partners. When you swing dance the woman puts her hands into the man’s hands the same way you would if you were presenting your hand to be kissed and the man takes your hand the same way a prisoner holds on to the bars of their prison cell – thumbs up. I had noticed, and had inquired of my roommates what it might mean, that when August and I danced he didn’t just hold my hand with his thumb resting on my hand like the other leads I danced with, but rather ran his thumb over my fingers. I asked the question in innocence and answered simply, “Oh. Oh, I see.” to their answer. Three years later August and I got married.
It was somewhere between meeting August and marrying him that I lost my faith. There were many reason for that, some of which I have or will talk about here. One of those reasons was August. I’ve always hesitated from saying that because I’m afraid of the accusation of “changing my creed to match my deeds.” I’m afraid that a complicated topic will be reduced to some sort of reductio ad sexio. But that wasn’t it at all.
I found that having a real-life boyfriend, one that I loved like a crazy person, really changed how I perceived my relationship with God. The way I loved August was overpowering, even debilitating in the googly-eyes, rainbows and daisies kind of way. I would follow him across the world. I trust him with my life. I would fight, tooth and nail, anyone that would hurt him. I want his advice before any other. I want his praise before any other. I want to share my troubles with him before any other. I want him to love me more than any other. I love him more than any other.
Ah. Perhaps you can see where this is going. When I finally recognized what loving really meant, how it crushes everything in it’s path, demands first priority over all other cares, obliterates anything that dares cross it, I realized I never felt like that about God. Never. My relationship with God didn’t measure up to my relationship with August. You’d think a deity could do better.
At first it frightened me to realize that I might love somebody more than God. It felt like I was betraying God. But love is demanding. Love wouldn’t let me belittle it or try to squish it down into something smaller than it was. Love insisted that I acknowledge that I love August more than any other. God was going to have to take a backseat. From there God receded further and further away. God became more abstract and didn’t occupy my mind the way God used to. I suppose it was only a matter of time after that.
But it’s ok. I still have August.