SOURCE: TRICK MIRROR
I've been savoring Jia Tolentino's book 'Trick Mirror' for the past few months. It's one of those books where I want to highlight every single word (the other one in recent memory is Richard Rohr's 'Universal Christ') and as such I keep putting it down after a chapteror two, feeling sated and unprepared to journey any further.
I am a savorer. This is an annoying trait of mine from Kristine's perspective, because we watch television together and I often refuse to binge watch shows for this very reason. To take it even further, I often refuse to finish shows, not wanting to live in a world where there is no more of the characters that I've fallen in love with.
Trick Mirror is special, though, because there is so much of myself I read within the pages of this memoir. I see myself in the visions of the 90s, retold so well. How it felt to be a teenager growing up with this new appendage called the internet. The way it emboldened us all to interact with one another, not yet the norm, a little strange, a little wild.
While the words about the internet connect with me on a deep level, the chapter on growing up in the church is even more profound. I was about to write that I did not grow up in a particularly religious home, but that isn't true. I grew up in a fundamentally religious home, just not a spiritual one. My childhood is full of memories of childrens church, Sunday school, and church services, but they were little more than social obligation. My family would leave during the final prayer as every head was bowed and every eye was closed just so we could get a good table at the tex-mex restaurant across the street, Senor Ric's.
Here’s a good quote from Trick Mirror that I’ve been thinking about over and over:
Back then, believing in God felt mostly unremarkable, sometimes interesting, and occasionally like a private, perfect thrill. Good and evil is organized so neatly for you in both childhood and Christianity. In a Christian childhood, with all those parables and psalms and war stories, it’s exponentially more so. In the Bible, angels came to your doorstep. Fathers offered their children up to be sacrificed. Fishes multiplied; cities burned. The horror-movie progression of the plagues in Exodus riveted me: the blood, the frogs, the boils, the locusts, the darkness. The violence of Christianity came with great safety: under a pleasing shroud of aesthetic mystery, there were clear prescriptions about who you should be.
'Who you should be.'
Is this the true reason why the idea of God looking down on you feels so good? Is this why we are so desirious to believe the lie (and it is a lie, a hurtful lie) that 'God is in control'?
Is that why our worldview, our spiritual logic, is so shattered when things in life go terribly? When a house burns down, when a child dies, when a loved one passes suddenly? It doesn't hurt necessarily that 'a bad thing happened', it hurts that you thought it was clear who you were supposed to be and what you were supposed to do, and it just didn't work.
This way of thinking is so damaging.
As WM Paul Young wrote, "Yes, God has the creative audacity to build purpose out of the evil we generate, but that will never justify what is wrong. Nothing, not even the salvation of the entire cosmos, could ever justify a horrific torture device called a "cross." That God would submit to our darkness and then transform this dark machine into an icon and monument of grace speaks volumes about the nature of God, but it does not justify evil."
He also says this:
"I don't believe that the word 'control' is part of God's vocabulary. We invented the idea as part of our need to dominate and maintain the myth of certainty. There is no sense of control in the relationship among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When God chose to create humans — a high order being who could say 'no' — we were created inside that same love and relationship."
While the church of my (and Jia's) childhood was one of comfort in the rigidity of good and evil, that comfort isn't a lasting one. The safety fades once we realize that it was never truly protecting us, like a security alarm loudly crying its siren song with no one to hear it, all while a robber makes themselves at home.
What feels less safe is a relationship where ther eis jno control. Where bad things just happen, and there is no rhyme or reason, no way to explain it away.
It's more honest, though. It is able to withstand. To outlast.
That's the kind of thinking that I'm looking for.