Are People Good or Bad? An Easter Crisis.

I’m having a bit of a parenting crisis. I had my kids come home from sunday school a few weeks ago and tell me they learned Jesus died on for their sins. Now this may not be as upsetting to some people as it has been to me this Easter week.

First, let me explain some of the theology that is leading to this…

At my core, I believe God is LOVE. With that and because of that, I believe the WE are good people but choose to do bad things… NOT that we are bad people who do good things. This goes against what a lot of churches teach. It goes against their total depravity doctrine where because of the Fall of Adam in the garden we are so enslaved by sin we can’t choose anything but evil. The Evangelical church, the church I grew up in and have the most experience with, teaches that Jesus came and paid the price for our depravity and countless sins making it possible for us to go to Heaven and be with Him.

In that teaching, who is Jesus paying that price too and why? Evangelicalism usually says that Jesus is standing in the middle between God’s punishment, or “justice” for our sin, and us. This model makes God out to be some horrific, blood-thirsty monster, in my opinion. All of humanity has angered Him so much by screwing up and not choosing Him in the garden, that He decided we all must die and forever be separated from our creator, our mother. He essentially has banished His children. I have a really hard time with this theology. I flat out believe it is damaging to all that I hold dear. God isn’t very loving in this model, which doesn’t add up to other teachings of the Church.

An argument I’ve heard to support this idea of “justice” from God, the justice that demands satisfaction for our sins, is that we don’t understand His justice or that I am misunderstanding things. I think that’s a bit of a cop out answer. In the Early Church justice was not about punishment as we, in our Western thinking, understand it now. Justice meant restoration. Judgement is a part of the depraved system we chose, not a characteristic of God. Remember, God is love.

I believe in an atonement theology called Christus Victor where Jesus is victorious over death. He enters in to the system of death, judgement and separation that we have chosen and conquers it for us, so that our relationship with God can be restored. It is an act of love. God is not subject to and did not create the system of death that demands judgement and satisfaction. We are the ones who chose it. God is still just, in a restorative understanding, but is not judgmental in a punishing sense. It is all about restoration. We chose the system of separation, judgement and sin, not God. The issue is not saving us from our sins, but saving us from death and separation from God. Sin is just a by product of that system. Jesus enters and beats death so that we can have our relationship restored with Him.

Jesus shows us that judgement perpetuates the depraved system. He puts an end to that judgement. St. Maximus says “the death of Christ on the cross is a judgement of judgment.” It is a pure act of love, in the absolute purest form, from Jesus and God. It is not a payment to an angry God.

I asked my husband for a modern, cultural example that might help this idea make more sense and he gave me Prison Break. I haven’t seen the show but my understanding of it is that one brother is sent to prison and put on death row while the other brother gets himself trapped in the same prison so that he can set them both free, from the inside out. In Evangelical theology, the second brother, or Jesus would have taken the consequences for us to satisfying the judge, or God, and sit in prison to be put to death. With Christus Victor theology the second brother enters in to the jail, or system that humanity has chosen, and sets us free, from within our own system.

Obviously, this is a simple explanation. This is a deep and complex idea. But I think it makes more sense. I think the penal substitution idea, that is currently preached from most Evangelical churches, is also deep and complex but people just tend to accept it with out worrying about the repercussions or how it fits in to the other parts of their own theology.

I’ve been going to an Evangelical church with my children for over a year now, after some years of not attending anywhere. I believe there is so much value in church, in a community of faith and in having a place to develop our spiritual selves. We live in a Christian culture and even without a faith I believe it is valuable to have a certain understanding and knowledge of the Bible stories and Christianity.

Here is where my struggle lies… Livi came home last week with a sunday school paper teaching about how Jesus paid the price for our sins. This Easter Sunday she was again told that we are sinners and Jesus died for our sins. This way of thinking leads us to believe we are bad people, incapable of good. Well, I don’t believe we are bad people. I can’t. I see so much good in people, in my children. If my kids are raised in a church where they are taught they are bad people from birth and at their core what is that going to do for their mental health?

I’ve asked a few people this week what they believed about themselves growing up in the church and each one answered that they believed they were terrible people. I grew up with a similar teaching and understanding, but it never really sat well with me. It wasn’t until my adult years that I was able to learn for myself, felt safe and confident enough to ask the hard questions and come to a better understanding.

Now, I’m left with wondering how do we deal with these issues for my children. I knew a crossroads like this would eventually come. I just didn’t think it would come this early. I thought I had another few years of happy Sunday school, Bible stories before theology started impacting their lives too much. I need to protect my girls from the damaging idea that God hates them for sinning and Jesus had to pay God off. We would never ask anyone to accept a relationship where one person wanted to punish them and a third party had to intervene and take that punishment for us, in order for us to be in relationship with the first person. That’s ludicrous!

Where does that leave us on the church front though? 

Do I continue taking them to church and hope to be able to counter all the damaging lessons that come out of it? Do I hope that more good comes from it that bad?

or

Do I stop taking them to church and hope Jon and I do a good enough job in helping them develop their own faith and biblical understandings with out that community?

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know if there is a church out there that has the community I’m looking for and teaches good, loving, accepting theology. I’m tired of searching. Why should we have to settle? Where do we go from here?

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A Very Special Day

Yesterday was a very special day. Two things happened. We got to enjoy some of our dear friends for lunch and see Sofie meet Aiden! Both have DS and both were adopted from Bulgaria! Then we had lots of family and friends come over for Evie’s Blessing! Such a special day!

I’ll start with the Keno’s visit since that happened first…

You may have heard me mention them before. They were quite instrumental in Jon’s journey to being so passionate for people with special needs. Jon fell in love with their first son who has DS many years ago when he was very young… he is now 18! Jon introduced me to Brent 10 years ago as his little buddy. When Jon was 19, Jon went with the Keno’s to help out at a special needs camp where he learned a lot about people with DS and many other different abilities! It was because of their little boy that Jon became open to this new community of differently abled people. If it weren’t for them all and the role they have played Jon and I probably would not have gotten married because one of the main things that attracted me to him was how comfortable he was and how normal he treated my sister Maggy. We probably wouldn’t have ended up adopting Sofie and he definitely wouldn’t have landed his job at CLBC!

Keno girls with Sofie and Brent.

The Keno’s have three bio daughters and have adopted five more kids, three of which have DS and one of those boys with DS came from Bulgaria! It was a forwarded email from Mama Keno that turned the ignition key for our own adoption. We had just finished closely following their journey in bringing Aiden home from Bulgaria that October when we started our own journey in January!

The Keno’s and Aiden has followed Sofie’s adoption and development closely and today the two oldest girls and Brent and Aiden came for lunch. Sofie and Aiden finally met! I’m surprised I didn’t cry 🙂 They were both adopted from Bulgaria. I loved listening to Aiden’s accent. He was 9 when he came home so it is quite heavy. I have always been aware and thoughtful of speech delays with people with DS but it never crossed my mind about how that would sound with an accent. Awesome by the way 🙂

Aiden and Sofie!

He played with Livi in the toy room and worked in the “food factory” cooking us pancakes I think. We got a few precious pictures of him with Sofie that I will cherish!

Then it was time for Evie’s Blessing. We had about 40 people (I think) come out to be a part of our Blessing ceremony. Instead of an infant Baptism or Dedication we have our five best friends preform a Blessing. One couple does the Blessing on us as parents, one for the newest member and children, and one kind of hosts pastoral-y and does a family blessing. We leave complete creative control to our friends and they have always done an amazing touching job. It is really special to us and we love that we have been able to do this more intimate ceremony with our friends.

The blessing we got as parents was this by Brene Brown…

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions–the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.
I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.
We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.
We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.
You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.
I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.
I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.
When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.
Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.
We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.
As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.
I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.

The girls were blessed with books and Evie received a book that we will use as a scrap book of pictures from her birth and today where guests had written their own blessings/words in it for her. The one that Brent and Mary (our blessing friends) gave was …

May the sun bring you new wnergy by day.
May the moon softly restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your worries.
And the breeze blow new strength in to you being.
And all of the days of your life may you walk 
gently through the world and know its beauty.

Geoff did a little talk on what this blessing meant to us and prayed for Evie and our family. It was all so beautiful 🙂

 Jon’s Grandparents.

 My Grandma

 Auntie Sessa

 Uncle Jeremy first meeting Evie
 Generations
 Auntie Liz

Thank you to everyone who came out and made it such an amazing day. We are truly blessed to have you all in our lives.

Love.

Sofie’s Blessing

Today we celebrated the end to our adoption journey and the beginning of our newest parenting journey. My sisters helped throw Sofie a Welcome Home party! Around 40-50 of our closest family and friends were able to join us. It meant so much to us that everyone made such an effort to come out and meet Sofie. Sofie did really well with all the people there. She started getting fussy about 2 hours in but calmed right down when I took her inside for a break.

During the party we took a little time to incorporate Sofie’s Blessing in. If you were reading my old blog when Livi was a baby you’ll already know what this is. If not, I’ll recap for you….

We have decided to do Blessings for our children instead of the typical Evangelical child dedications or the Orthodox baptisms. For Jon and I, being raised Evangelical, we both never really liked dedications. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how I could dedicate a child to God who was already so completely and obviously of God and from God already. It didn’t sit well with me. I also don’t love the idea of having a dedication in a large church setting with people there who are not in your close community. In Evangelical dedication services that I’ve been too, they always have a part where the church affirms they will support the parents and hold them accountable to rear their child in a Godly manner. I’m sorry, that is just opening up a whole can of worms that I have issues with. Most of the church goers, in my experience, are not going to actually support the parents, so why vow to? If anyone who is not in my close community comes and tells me I am not raising my kids right or in accordance with their ideas of Godly rearing, there is going to be some very pointed and harsh words spoken. It is not their place. As for a baptism, this was more my issue. I just can’t get totally on board with the theology behind an infant baptism, though I have no problem with other people choosing this.

A Blessing, for us, is a much better choice. We invite our friends and family, who we know are in our community who do and will support us. Because we have not really had any special bond with our church pastors, we have our closest friends do the blessings. This is also in part because when we did the Blessing for Livi as a baby, Jon’s dad had just died and he would have done it for us. So, we needed our close friends involved to help fill that void. We chose to have the blessings in three parts. Blessing the Child, Blessing the Parents, and the Pastoral Blessing for the whole family. It is such a special and unique experience for us that seems to be catching on with our friends too!

Geoff was Jon’s room mate all through college, best men at each others weddings, and have remained ‘hetero-life mates’. He is also our most “pastoral/religious” friend so he was the obvious choice for the Pastoral Blessing. He opened up the ceremony and closed it with some words of affirmation and a prayer.

Brent was also one of Jon’s room mates in college and we have remained good friends through out the years. Jon and Brent both met their wives in their college years and Mary and I have become good friends too! They are so good to us and help push us out of our comfort zones, which Jon and I need every once in a while. We asked them to do the Blessing for the Child. Mary made a beautiful quilt for Sofie as part of the blessing that will be treasured. Brent also read a poem to go with it.

Patchwork Quilt
This family is like a patchwork quilt
With kindness gently sewn
Each piece is an original
With beauty of its own
With threads of warmth and happiness
It’s tightly stitched together
To last in love throughout the years
This family is forever.
– Unknown Author

Ben was another roommate of Jon’s in college and the same as Brent, met his wife in his college years. All 6 of us have remained quite close through these last 10 years. Ben and Danielle became parents just a few months before we did, both times! So, they were the obvious choice to do the Blessing for the Parents 🙂 Ben gave some words of wisdom and Danielle read a poem as well as gave some rocks with significant words of blessing written on them. The words were Space, Rest, Breathe, Release, and Gentleness. I’ve needed each of these things in the past few weeks and I’m sure in the coming years!

The Way
It is in spaciousness
That we breathe
Find stillness to rest in
Allowing what is
To be
Letting go of expectations
And embracing gentleness
As the way to truly heal
Opening and softening
We become
This is how we unlearn our way back to God.
– Lisa A McCrohan

All in all it was a fun party! My sister made a super amazing ladybug cake. She’s been taking some cake decorating lessons and getting really good at it! The weather was amazing and we had the kid’s pool out. I don’t know what we would have done if it had rained. We felt so blessed by all the love and support we received from people. We truly are one lucky family. My only regret was that I didn’t get to talk with everyone. I said goodbye to some people before I said hello to them. It is very different visiting when I have to attend to two little ones who need my constant attention and get in to everything!

Life is definitely full right now. Exciting, challenging, adventurous, difficult, joyful, fun, and frustrating all wrapped up together. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love my life, my husband, my girls, my family, and my friends 🙂

Livi got a few gifts at the Blessing too. 
This apron was from her Uncle Tony and Aunt Lisa. 
They searched high and low for this gift and it was much appreciated by Livi!