Peak Caring

Somewhere, someone is getting an abortion.

However, this particular abortion will have an endearing quirk about it that will guarantee coverage across the world. Perhaps it’s the daughter of a minor league ball player. Perhaps it’s a woman with one arm. Maybe it’s the owner of a famous internet animal. 

Here’s what will happen next.

Immediately Christians will flood social media feeds condemning said abortion. Then the Christian Christians will condemn the condemners. Some one will write an impassioned article at First Things at how this shows the decline of natural law. Their commenters will suggest it would all go away if more churches had mass in Latin. Rod Dreher would go apeshit. Rachel Held Evans would immediately go and accept polyamory as God-ordained. And so on. 

And in one month they all forget it ever happened.

Why? Because it’s easy to get people to do nothing at all the constantly forcing problems on them they can’t change. 

The solution? Peak caring.

I don’t CARE celebrity x has an abortion. Episcopal church has gays in it? Don’t care. Somewhere, someone is mad at Jesus? Tough luck, take it up with him. I have reached peak caring. 

It’s not a bad place to be. 

The only downside is that if you actually care about the issue as opposed to be a squirrel about it, you’ll realize its impossible to create lasting change. Abortion will never end in the USA, any more than premarital sex will. There’s some serious  existential despair over that. But beyond a certain point, the energy you get back from ignoring things is a positive thing. Something is to be said for tending your own gardens.

Nanowrimo 2015

So, the latest project.

Middle-grade/YA novel. Superhero genre. Title: My Sister is a Supervillain.

Premise: Merri is a young girl studying in Neo-Osaka. She’s part of the prestigious private school Gentle Academy, mostly due to her mother’s status. It’s not a bad life, except for a few problems.

An alien artifact named the Ruin has been uncovered. It activated, and suddenly half of the world’s population has superpowers. Including Merri’s twin sister. 

Neo-Osaka happens to be home to two dueling super teams, the Legion and the Core. The Legion are the good supers, who run and protect the city. The Core fight them.

Guess which side Merri’s sister is on?

There’s more, of course. Merri might be hiding a secret of her own. And there’s that powerful Trio of classmates, one of whom might be a little interested in the suspiciously average Merri. 

Three chapters in, but I’m far behind on word count. Nanowrimo relies more on social interaction to motivate you. Without a big friends list and plenty of group writing it’s just a glorified word count site. 

Bye-Bye Outrage

One of the things I find changing due to no more Christian friends in my Facebook feed is the lack of outrage. There’s always some outrage that’s both conveniently far away, and yet vitally important. One  example was the “prosperity gospel”. Suddenly, Joel Osteen became this monumental threat to Christianity, and a mighty prosperity dragon rose out of the sea to challenge Avalon.

Or abortion. I don’t think it’s wrong to oppose it, but Christians worry more about it than evangelizing. Or the latest assault on Christmas. Or more pernicious, being shocked that people would care about Christmas enough to protest. My feed was filled with endless things to worry about and comment on, and sometimes in commenting on they didn’t realize they often attacked their own. Who often attacked back, because no wound is so dear as one given by a friend.

I don’t miss that.

I don’t miss the outrage. Mostly because it’s just a tool to keep people divided. You worry about gays when your entire circle is so married you don’t even have single friends. You worry about being forced to do wedding cakes for them, but you don’t run a bakery. You don’t even get how scary it is to believe God will punish you for something you are forced to do, a lose lose either way. So many big issues, so remote from our lives.

You find things are a lot more peaceful when you stop.

No more pundits saying OMG you guys Pope Francis may do this! No arguments over how correct you are at expressing the one correct position on an issue. Just, well, quiet. 

It’s selfish. But I was turning into someone I disliked, and was becoming unlikable in turn.You had to agree with something fully to like the person, or you argued because you had to show you were a person too. The idea, the outrage, was over all.

So it’s quiet now. I browse the net less, and when I do it’s pure entertainment. I watch old British wrestling (I love Jim Breaks and Les Kellett). I play visual novels on my PS Vita. I read Sherlock Holmes, and watch old black and white movies about him. I’m finally back to writing, and watching anime. No big worries about Christian fiction or the price of tea in China. No more crisis of the moment.

I think maybe, in the most roundabout way, I was led to this. That the outrage culture is something so perfidious that we aren’t aware how much we are affected by it. Even with believers.

Bear Your Troubles

I’ve been watching The 35th Anti-Magic Platoon recently.

It’s pretty typical of the “magic soldier school” subgenre. It’s better than you think, although not totally creative. What’s unique is that unlike other shows, there’s a big focus on teamwork and being a part of each other’s lives. The main character is a rather gung-ho young man who is in charge of a bunch of misfits, all of which he has to help bear their inner turmoil. They in turn help him as they all struggle against malevolent witches and the demands of campus life.

This may sound like whining, but it’s the polar opposite of what Christians are.

This post was sparked by a rather nasty realization that I had. I suddenly realized that for all my time in church, I don’t think I could count a single person as a close friend. To be honest, I’m prickly and acerbic now, but then I didn’t have those qualities. I still had issues..probably a lot of them on retrospect. I grew up in the middle of a divorced family with little idea of what even to do through puberty and life. I was babyish, and probably the kind of guy most would avoid.

But…I still can’t remember a friend.

I remember a youth group, but that was me listening and me doing things with others. Once I left for college, it all withered up. Most of the other kids weren’t geeks, and I don’t think we had much in common. I remember names: Andre, Alfredo, Tara. But I don’t remember real friendship, even despite going on retreats.

In Christian college, the same. After college, the same. I helped out, but no friendship.

It grates on me now, because it makes me feel no one really cared about me. I’m not entitled to receive that, but you’d think Christians would be different, right? All that talk about love.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal 6:2

I don’t think anyone did. I’m not sure if I did so myself. I mean I volunteered, but that’s not bearing burdens. It was me being bored in a balcony soundbooth above the service, picking my nose and waiting for it to be over.  It was putting chairs away or weeding the pastor’s driveway. I think for most of my time there, it was just me, trying to bear everything myself. Is it any wonder I fell away several times?

I think the idea of the nakama-the friend-family- is so appealing because we really need others to help bear our burdens. The latest episode of Anti-Magic has them all rally to help Usagi overcome her own difficulty. You could actually make some Christian analogies in that series, like how the church ought to be a place where you train to do battle with witches, yet witches and magic themselves can be redeemed. But it’s just cold to realize what I did recently, that I bore my own burdens alone, despite years in a church.

I’ve fallen out with people because there’s too much expecting us to fill roles in Christian churches. The idea really isn’t a place of healing any more, it’s a place where you come in, fill the role of worshipper, tither-provider, listener, and then maybe worker. It’s all how you provide for the Church. You show up, follow the ritual, and leave when its over. You make good familes and more Christians, or if not you work instead. People pray over each other, but it’s kind of showy. A few people do help, but they tend to be women who seek connections with other women.

It’s just a hard thing. And it seems like right now I’m facing hard thing after hard thing about who I am. Maybe in a way that’s good, because it kicks out from under you any idea about you being good, or the illusions we have about yourselves. But you get angry at God a bit too.

This is because there’s too much focus on ourselves. An MMO I play has forums which tend to go over the top with blaming players who have little skill in the game, but rarely task the developers for making the game a pain where low-skilled payers tend to happen. Christianity can be the same way. At some point, God has to act. We aren’t strong enough any more. We are like Gideon, so afraid of the enemy that we can’t even keep our grain out in the open. I blame God sometimes over this, but I guess I don’t lose faith. A Christian is like someone with a distant or absent parent; you may really miss or need them, but you don’t give up believing you have a Father because of that distance. It’s hard though, wicked hard.

You really want that little platoon of your own. You want to help bear and have people bear burdens. In my MMO I do, in a little way. But the Church? Eh.

Nano, Goodbye

It’s a new year of NanoWrimo, and this year I’m participating. I’m using it to break a serious case of writer’s block. I’m not tearing up the charts, with my 1,473 word count over three days, but it’s a start.

With it though, I think I’m going to say good bye to Christian spec-fic/geek culture.

I find myself becoming more and more at odds with the way it is now.

It hasn’t really changed much from when I first found it, maybe four years ago. It’s still a writer culture on the one hand, and a teacher culture on the other. The fan culture-the fact that people actually read those books with no ulterior motive-seems impossibly small. There is no fan art, no real top ten lists of favorite Christian authors, no awareness of Christian comic books, and more. Either you write it, or you use it as an object lesson. There’s nothing else.

I think that’s what killed my desire. It’s not that it’s hard to write, but to be blunt, Christians really don’t care about Christian fiction. Maybe they care about it as an idea, but not enough to read it. They don’t care about Christian movies, comics, or any specifically Christian artistic field. The lot of them are happy if a secular actor converts, however briefly, or are happy if they can get a nod or a Christian-friendly spin on some secular work. They just don’t care, and won’t admit it.

Heck, Christianity in general. It’s now a religious gloss defending two sides of the current culture. Progressives use God-talk to baptize what the secular left thinks is good. This is how you get Christians in favor of gay marriage when its impossible to be such, or the fringe believing more in polyamory than sin. Conservatives do so for the right. I don’t recall Jesus spending time on abortion, or chiding everyone for not being married. It’s the political belief.

I’m also tired of being used. Christians don’t  care about people as people, but as what they can do for them, and how well they shut up and fill their roles. I can’t play the wise teacher or dutiful agreeing fan. 

There’s also culture in general. I think I’ve just fallen out with conservative Christian culture. Like the number one thing of it is you HAVE to be married, white, and mid or upper middle class. If you’re cultural, it’s in the blandest, most safe way. Wow, you like the avengers. Wow, you parrot what the average college age person does. It never occurs to you that not everyone is like you, or not everyone loves the status quo like you. Someone like me, who exists outside of the usual culture, and who tends to be highly critical of it for those reasons, is a bad fit. There’s nothing I can write to them. And to be honest, I have enough issues of my on where I can’t be a missionary of weirdness or what have you.

I don’t think it was always like this. There was a time when culture did exist, before people piled on it. Christian contemporary music in the 80’s and 90’s really wasn’t that bad. Christian fiction wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t bland. It had its own weird energy to it. People didn’t bash Christians for being Christian then, it was new. But now even Christians internalize the idea that art about Jesus is second best. Stuff that people loved, like Left Behind, was turned on in five-ten years. I’m not really a fan of it, but I’m not a fan of Christians savaging their own either.

So I’m tired I guess. Tired of it being in a holding pattern. Tired of it being writers and teachers, not fans. Tired of the homogeneity of Christians left or right. Tired of the self-denigration or refusal of a Christian culture. Tired of using and being used.

I guess I’m done.

I’ll go back to my original plan, just writing light childrens’ stories. Not sure what this means for the site. I know I’ll probably pull Swordcrossrocket down at the end of next year, but all that site got was writers anyways. I might keep this site as a blog, or I may change it to a static page. I don’t know.

I’ll quit posting on Christian spec sites, and purge my Facebook feed. No loss. I really don’t care about Christians obsessing over the latest Harry Potter book or Flash episode. I don’t need to read sites that spend a month asking different people whether or not it’s good for Christians to evangelize in fiction. I really don’t have the energy to spend caring about something that it’s obvious people don’t care about. I don’t want to be the token outsider/nagging voice any more.

So, there’s that. The consequences of that, well. I don’t blame anyone who reads this if you want to head off for greener pastures. We kind of were a gathering place for people that tiny culture didn’t know what to do with, and it was fun. Not really much got done, but at least we were different. Well, the few of us who weren’t bots that is. The future doesn’t really belong to us, though. But we fought as much as could be expected, I guess.

That’s all you can really do.

The Fight is Dearer than We Think

I’m falling out with Christian friends.

The reason is hard to say. I guess the best way to describe it is that I’m tired of trivia. Not that what I’m describing is trivia, but the mindset I mean. I see it most on Facebook. We have The Big Christian Issue of the Day. Abortion is a big one, especially when we focus on some clinic five states away and try and expand what happens there to Planned Parenthood as a whole. Or homosexuality. Or how the prosperity gospel is bad, Or something else. To be defined as trivia, there are two things it must have:

1. It must take up an enormous amount of mental energy.

2. It must be something we cannot do a single thing about.

Why yes, Church A is going to court over their gay organist being fired. That’s nice, except they are in Oregon, the case will probably take three years or more if it isn’t quietly settled, and every single one of us can do nothing about it. There’s a term called “virtue signaling,” in which we do things not so much because they are vital to our lives, but because they show to others we possess virtue. This is why we all care about what the latest celebrity pastor who falls from grace does, because by lining up on sides, we establish our own bonafides to our cohort of friends.

I’ve done the same, but recently I’ve grown weary of it.

I’ve had to do a lot of self-examination recently. I don’t talk much about myself here, as not to bore you, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found I have mild panic attacks while driving. A bump makes me fear I’ve hit someone or run over something. Anything out of the ordinary, like a team cleaning the road, makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong just by passing them slowly like every other motorist. The attacks generally have subsided once I realized that they were not rational, but I was suddenly introduced to the fact that I might suffer from mental illness. And looking back on the past makes me wonder just how much of who I am, and all the mistakes I’ve made, might be due to that. It’s a rather horrifying idea, because you are now are that you are part of a web of actions, and freedom might more of an illusion than I thought. If your own body can work against you, it tends to destroy explanations and ideas.

I think this in part is what makes me weary of virtue signaling. In our lives, the fight is dearer than we think. We don’t have the luxury to care about someone aborting someone somewhere. Those things, the need to signal we are right, are things that take time and strength from us when we fight the battles that do matter. Our energy is a scarce resource, and we cannot spend it wastefully. Our power to change is also scarce, and we must be frugal.

Like homosexuality. I will get eviscerated for this, but I will say this here and now:

If you confess Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, and believe God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

I don’t care any more if you are chaste, practicing, or gay married. If you trust in Him, you are saved: all else after is between you and God, and I cannot butt into your life. I can and will say that practice and gay marriage cannot be affirmed by the church, and that I don’t believe God intends it: it’s a sad part of our fallen world. But I don’t have the energy to try and pray the gay away any more: increasingly my prayers need to be on my own life, and those of my family. That doesn’t mean if a gay couple tries to push into my church or the internet watering holes I frequent I won’t respond, but the days of endless argument are over. If you believe the above, i will try to keep the peace. If you don’t and are mistaken, I will tell you about the above. But no more arguing.

We’ve been conditioned by the media to look at things like Kim Davis as vital issues of the day, but they aren’t! The vital issue of the day is your life in Christ, and the small circle of people you are in contact with. Satan distracts us with that, because its easy to do nothing if you are focused on things you can only do nothing about. As we grow older, I think the difficulties in the fight grow harder. The illusions of who we are and our virtue fade away. We know ourselves too well. And I think our cry becomes more “Father, rescue us!” than a witty defense of doctrine. The change in life hits us all hard.

In the end, that’s all we can say. What’s funny about the Gospels is that if you look at all the apostles, they don’t argue about abortion, or the religious freedom under Herod, or any current issue like philosophers. They most stumble around, follow Jesus, act annoying, mess up, miss what is being said in front of their faces, and, well, are jerks. But what they do is follow Jesus around, do what they can do, act perplexed, but still do it all the same. This is us, now. We follow a Christ we can’t always understand or fathom, and in a life full of absurdity. It’s hard enough to do this: trying to be stand up philosophers arguing over the leading issues of the day may now be beyond us.

The fight really is dearer than we think. It might be a time just to be silent, and focus on ourselves.

Christian Baseball

I’ve been noticing an attitude among some Christian creatives and fans as of late. If I could use an analogy to summarize it, it would be that Christian creatives should be like Christian baseball players, and less like artists. I’m not a fan of this idea, for several reasons.

Let me expand on the analogy first. There is no Christian aspect to baseball. Baseball is a game which has a set rulebook that everyone follows to achieve an end result.Those rules are amoral, although you could easily make comparisons between them and aspects of Christian faith in a general way. You could talk about the discipline of athletes as a model to follow for a disciplined spiritual life, for example. The rules themselves aren’t Christian though, and there is no redemptive or doctrinal aspect to the sport.

The way one shows Christianity in it has little to do with the sport itself though. Sure, they may cross themselves on occasion, or make small visible signs of the faith. Maybe they wear a cross lapel pin. Or to expand it to football, they might kneel in the endzone. But what they do isn’t Christian, in the sport, because the sport has no Christian content. Their witness, if any, is by being a moral Christian pursuing a secular aim.

I think this idea is increasingly being applied to Christian creatives, but it doesn’t fit us at all. Three reasons follow.

1. Sports encourages moral discipline: Art does not.

This is in general. The communal, disciplined, accountable focus of sports to me tends to attract the kind of Christian who can be a moral exemplar. Art however tend to attract outsiders, dreamers, and people who if anything do not or can not fulfill the role of squeaky clean public believer. Dostoyesky was addicted to gambling. Francis Thompson was addicted to opium. Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor were outsiders in the south. I’m not saying that every Christian artist has to be a moral failure, or morally questionable, but to be the kind of person who looks at society critically or views the world in a different way doesn’t make always for nice, moral people. There’s a saying: “Well adjusted people make bad art.” It’s true to a sense among believers, too.

2. It makes art pointless except as a way to show competency and witness.

The point is just that we get one of our own famous, and bask in the glow of their moral witness. What they actually do only matters insofar as they get awards, and get a public spotlight. C.S. Lewis and Tolkien are good examples of this.

Tolkien is more famous for being claimed as a Christian than any real Christian aspect to his work. There’s actually a lot to dislike about LOTR in a Christian sense: the utter absence of God or priests from any real action to fight Sauron, the burdening of those least likely to resist it, the horrible predestined fate of Gollum, and the focus on great men and the country verses the proletariat and the urban. But because he was Christian, we wind up not discussing these things over admiring how well one of us wrote and how famous he is. Lewis is a minor example of this too. If he were anyone else, The Great Divorce would never have been published. People would be shocked that even in an allegory, he talks about salvation after death and universalism. Or the neo-pagan aspect in That Hideous Strength, the summoning of the pagan past (sufficiently Christianized, but in a horrible phrase to describe Merlin, “good enough to be used but not too good”). But again, fame blinds us to that.

This isn’t a case of bad art being loved by the Christian market, like Thomas Kinkade. This is a case where all that matters is that we get our man in to receive critical acclaim. What they actually write, well…

3. Creatives can’t do this.

I am a sinner.

You all know me by now. I’m combative, a bit manic-depressive, prone to angry ideologies or retorts about the world, etc. All I like to do is art: I’m not a pastor or priest, and I don’t possess even a shred of holiness. As I grow older, if anything my Christian hope relies on God rescuing me, because really, I can’t do things on my own. You see yourself failing, with no illusions.

The idea that not only do I have to excel at my craft, but be a moral exemplar too, turns me off from writing Christian content. Partly because of the media climate. People, and yes other Christians too, get joy out of finding flaws and  hammering believers with them. I know people here didn’t like Mark Driscoll, but his example really opened my eyes to what public Christianity does to its thought leaders.

We’ve gone from a faith that presupposes us to be broken sinners in needing of rescue to one that demands our every work in public be perfect and beyond reproach. It’s more than the burden of excelling at our art; it becomes about us, our lives, and our ability as a role model. It becomes self-centered, where we must focus on ourselves. And to be honest, it’s not like even Christian baseball players do all that well at it. For football, remember Tim Tebow. As soon as he didn’t deliver, he was discarded, because you can’t be a moral exemplar when no one watches you.

That burden I don’t think creatives can bear. You wind up with art written by the morally perfect people, which is often as bad as you’d expect it to be. You wind up avoiding the Eye of Sauron whenever possible, by not identifying as a Christian creative.

It’s a double whammy. The Christians don’t seem to be okay with creatives making art solely to the Christian market, yet the heap some hard demands on anyone who tries to be more. The Christian artist tries to play Christian baseball, but more often than not fails. Amy Grant gets divorced, DC Talk gets brief radio airplay before returning home to Christians, people try and fail and if the failure is bad, disappear.

I don’t write this to offer solutions. I write this mostly to identify a nagging issue in my mind. I think Christians are starting to be okay with playing a secular game, so long as we have one or two superstars we can point to and cheer for. But for creatives, it’s not good.


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