Broken-down Poetry: A cynic's take on Summit Week


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Friday, January 22, 2010

A cynic's take on Summit Week

Life has been going well. My work load has lessened; my classes still interest me. Ironically enough, I feel it's as good of time as any to write about cynicism. Maybe I won't have to label this blog with "rant" or "disillusioned," but maybe that's wishful thinking.

This week was Spiritual Emphasis Week, or "Summit," where IWU invites outside pastors to speak and worship is (usually) obnoxiously loud and fun. Of the three Summits I've been to, not including this semester's, two have turned my beliefs upside down.

And I expected God to do it again. I figured, hey, since I'm trying to figure out what to do about this PLC internship, I bet I'll find out during Summit. God speaks so clearly then; of course I'll magically know what to do.

Maybe just because I thought that God would make this easy for me he decided not to. I didn't really learn anything during Summit this semester.

Okay, that was an exaggeration. I learned some stuff. I learned how our society is rotting and it's our divorced parents' fault. (Ha, that's another exaggeration.)

Let me back up.

I finished re-reading "The Unlikely Disciple" by Kevin Roose, a memoir about his semester at Liberty University. But here's the kicker: he's not a right-wing evangelical Christian. I know there are a few non-Christians at IWU and even more democrats, but that's not a line you tread at Liberty U. This is Jerry Falwell's school. The guy is the Pat Robertson of the 80s and 90s (really up until his death in 2007). I'm just trying to make connections here. Most of you know who Falwell is anyway. Hint: he blamed gay people and the ACLU for 9/11.

The first time I read this book, over July 4th, I became almost disgusted by how similar IWU is to LU. I mean, I don't think our biology professors teach strictly young-age creationism and I know bringing Sean Hannity onto IWU's campus would not bring as much mirth to the Wildcats. But IWU is pretty conservative. And a tad fundamental. And we can get so caught up in trivial things.

(In one chapter, Kevin has to go to an accountability group to help with his masturbation. The guys in the group talk about the week's "falls" and give each other advice about how to stop touching themselves. Kevin realizes how backwards this is: Liberty is so focused on combating a "victimless crime" like masturbation and homosexuality instead of caring for the poor and marginalized. Are we the same way?)

But even more than our concern on seemingly trivial issues - because there is a time and place for that - we're good at provoking graceless guilt.

Back to Summit Week. This semester's theme was "You Asked for It." Students got to post questions on a blog about sex and dating, and our chapel speakers answered them on stage.

In theory, this is a cool idea. How often do you hear a pastor say, "masturbation!" or "orgasm!" in chapel? But really, it got pretty ridiculous. Not that these pastors said much I disagreed with - though a few things were a bit too conservative to my liking - but sometimes it gets really old being told and retold not to have sex before marriage and to not look at porn.

But what was so frustrating is how guilty it made me feel. I am a pure as any star IWU student, but I still felt guilty. Maybe I should feel guilty about going to a boy's apartment alone. Maybe I should feel guilty about thinking Tom-Cruise-Hair (this kid on campus who has really, really, REALLY nice hair) is cute. Maybe I'm lusting.

Or the one that really started getting to me: maybe I should be mad at my parents for divorcing.

Uh, no. This is where I put my foot down.

I don't think this was the Summit speakers' intent, but on the Wednesday morning message about how divorce became socially acceptable in the 70s screwed us over, a part of me started getting upset. My parents have been divorced since I was six and I'm getting mad now?

I shouldn't be mad: I love my step-family. And my mom and stepdad model a healthy marriage for me. I don't think growing up with my mom and dad fighting all the time would teach me what a marriage is supposed to look like. Even if I saw their commitment as refreshing, the fighting would get old.

Not to mention there's also a pretty good chance I wouldn't be at IWU without going to Northeast Christian, which we started going to when my dad was dating Kelli.

So chapel speakers: I'm okay that my parents got a divorce. I'm sorry that you didn't get over your parents' divorce, but don't spark anger in me for no reason.

Can you see? It's guilt.

I skipped the last session of Summit on Wednesday night. This morning I asked Lindsey if they mentioned Grace at all. Nope. Six do-this, don't-do-this sermons and no mention of Grace.

So I guess it's up to me. ...

Guys, it's okay. Really, it's okay. We're humans. We make mistakes. God loves us now - even if we haven't overcome sexual sins (or otherwise). I know we hear how much this or that will screw our future marriages over, but know that nothing can screw up your relationship with God.

You're forgiven before you repent.

Can we please stop talking about how much wrong people are doing and (to use Miles's illustration from last spring semester) "turn on the lights of nobility"? You know: encourage. Show Grace.

Maybe there is a place to address sexual issues in a corporate setting, but why at Summit? Perhaps this goes back to my original frustration of God not catering to my big internship dilemma. Maybe Summit was really good for you. I guess I need to step out of the way and let you appreciate it - even if it drove me mad.

I just want us to focus on things that matter. I don't want to be known as the girl who cares more about keeping her purity than helping the poor.

With love and squalor,

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