A perfect Barcelona itinerary

 

If you’re planning to visit Barcelona, I’d like to offer a tested, enjoyed, and real-life itinerary for a perfect visit. ¬†How do I know? I just got home! ūüėČ

Tip #1:  Take your time

We spent 8 days in the city, arriving on a Monday (midday) and leaving the following Monday afternoon. ¬†Barcelona was our home base, and aside from a few day trips, we didn’t try to travel beyond the borders of Catalonia.

Why?  Barcelona is a city best absorbed slowly, one sip at a time, one sunset at a time.

We’ve traveled through Europe several times, usually cramming in everything we can, moving from city to city every few days. It’s exciting but also exhausting. This time, we set aside that little twang of FOMO pain (“But we’re so close to Madrid!”) and agreed that we would stay put. ¬†The result? A fantastic, interesting, restful vacation that brought us home with great memories instead of exhaustion.

Tip #2: Get to the locals

With AirBnB and other companies offering excursions and adventures, there’s no reason not to get out there beyond the museums and cafes to experience local culture. ¬†A few of our highlights:

  • Sailing the Mediterranean Sea at sunset — AirBnB Experience led by a fantastic sailor on his gorgeous sailboat (link). The evening concluded with tapas and wine at the marina where we chatted with our new-found friends.
  • ¬†Making paella with a local in Sitges – AirBnB Experience. ¬†Not only did we get to eat delicious paella, the ingredients were as fresh as that morning’s catch, we enjoyed visiting the local market (so much fish!), and we learned a lot about local culture from our host chef Rosa. ¬†She took us on a mini tour of Sitges as well, a lovely beach town a short train ride down the coast. Once we were done with lunch, we were free to roam the city and enjoy the beach.

Making gazpacho and paella with Rosa in Sitges! @airbnb

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Tip #3: Don’t overdo it

We developed a rule back when we took students on field trips to big cities or overseas: one museum a day, and two “big things” a day, max. ¬†It’s just as true for adults as teens: you need downtime to really soak in what you just saw.

It’s tempting to cram as much as you can into every day, because “you only live once!” and “sleep when you’re dead.” ¬†But you’ll get much more out of the experience if you select just a few museums, parks, cathedrals and the like to fill your days.

Tip #4: Embrace the snack culture of Barcelona

I loved Barcelona for many reasons, but topping my list is their ability to spread little snacks throughout the day. It makes touring much more fun:  finish up an activity, then beeline for the nearest cafe for an inexpensive yet tasty cafe con leche and pastry or a bit of jamon.  Retreat to a museum during the heat of the day, then find some churros and chocolate.  Kick off the late afternoon with some vermouth and patatas bravas.

Barcelonans seem to snack their way through the day yet without overloading their calorie budget at any one point. It was a great way to experience many tastes and views around the city.

Our Itinerary

Day 1: Depart on international flight

Day 2: Land in Barcelona.  Check into AirBnB and get settled and refreshed.  Tour Park Guell. Visit local grocery store for basic supplies: yogurt and cereal for breakfasts, fresh fruit for snacks, and wine, jamon, cheese, bread etc for suppers at the apartment.

Pro tip: stay up on your feet until local bedtime to get over jet lag faster. It’s brutal but worth it in the end.¬†

Day 3: Day trip to Sitges. AirBnB Experience: Paella in Sitges (8am-2pm). Went with our host Rosa to the market to buy fresh fish and seafood for the paella and vegetables for gazpacho. Cooked and ate like royalty!   Beach day in Sitges; light snack before taking the train home. Supper at the apartment.

Pro tip: The train system in Europe will take you nearly anywhere you want to go, but it can get expensive. Our tickets to Sitges were only 3 or 4 Euros after the station attendant explained we could buy a pack of 10 rides for a reduced rate. ¬†We were traveling with someone fluent in Spanish, but if that hadn’t been the case, I would have done more research before arriving at the station. Don’t expect to find English speakers working the windows.¬†

Photo

Day 4:  After a brief ramble down Las Ramblas looking for coffee, we did Montjuic Fort (in the morning) and Gardens (afternoon). Leisurely breaks throughout the day including coffee and lunch at the Juan Miro Foundation. Lovely cable car ride up the mountain and back.  Sailing the Mediterranean and Sunset Tapas: AirBnB Experience. Supper at a restaurant on the shore.

Pro tip: ¬†Learn to use public transportation! We did a few taxi rides the first day or so until we got our bearings, but the metro stop was a short walk from the apartment and we used the bus system several times. With Google Maps on your phone and international data (or a local SIM Card), you can get anywhere you need to go without having to plan everything down to the detail. It’s great! Such a change from our trips to Europe just a decade ago! ¬†

We also traveled with a laptop and the house had free WiFi, so we spent a few minutes each evening researching the next day’s adventures.¬†

Day 5: Day trip to Girona. Rented a car and drove to Girona. Stopped off in Blanes (one of the Costa Brava towns) along the way to visit a friend and have lunch there – crepes at a seaside shop. (Needed a break from ham sandwiches.) Toured Girona (site of Game of Thrones filming – Circi’s “walk of shame”) with views of the cathedral, the old city, and the city walls. ¬† Toured the Museum of Cinema there, which was an absolute delight. ¬†Drive home. Supper in the apartment.

The medieval church of Girona, famous for its backdrop in several Game of Thrones scenes

One of our group decided to spend the day on her own, and visited a Gaudi museum and did some city walking and exploring. We enjoyed swapping stories about our divergent experiences that evening.

Photo

Day 6: ¬†¬†Sleep in! ¬†It was Friday, and we were all pretty tired, so we enjoyed a very leisurely morning at the apartment. Lunch at Tasso, a great little lunch and tapas place near La Sagrada Familia. Back to Montjuic.¬†After an unsuccessful attempt to see the cathedral without having purchased tickets in advance, we changed our plans…. ¬†In the afternoon we all went to the National Museum of Art, and walked down the Montjuic paths to a local Churro shop for our first real taste of churros and chocolate – magical! ¬†That churro shop was well off the beaten track, and the owner poured us some of the biggest drinks (whiskey, scotch, gin & tonic) I’ve ever seen for an incredibly affordable price.¬†

Day 7:  Half of us toured the Gardens and Olympic Stadium and Plaza in the morning while the other half caught up on sleep.  The Olympic area is well worth your time!

Pro tip: We use AirBnB for travel lodging ¬†because you can’t beat having a whole apartment or house as a retreat when you’re genuinely tired. There’s little that a hotel could offer that we didn’t have at our AirBnB (aside from a pool, but we were in a coastal city), and much that an apartment can provide which far outshines any hotel I could ever afford.

Awake, we went out to a little cafe for lunch then gaped at the awe-inspiring beauty of La Sagrada Familia. Get tickets online in advance! Plan to spend a while at the cathedral just soaking up the beauty.

La Sagrada Familia cathedral

Off to the Gothic Quarter for shots of vermouth and a late afternoon snack. The vermouth was a house blend and it was just fantastic. Wish we had done that earlier in the week. ¬†We shopped a bit too and enjoyed wandering the Gothic Quarter for its architectural interest and quirky little side streets – definitely recommend! ¬†Later in our trip, we found the best souvenir shopping here. ¬†Wrapped up the day by seeing the Maritime Museum –¬†I’d give it 3/5 stars.

Day 8: Leisurely brunch at a lovely little shop lear Plaza Catalunya off Las Ramblas.  Strolling!  Finally back out for a delicious final evening meal in Barcelona at a Basque place  recommended by a friend of a friend, and more wandering in the Gothic Quarter and down by the Port.

Rejected: Mount Tibidabo. We could see it from our apartment, but after researching the fees to ride up the mountain for the views, and the insane price to get in to ride the ferris wheel, we decided to use our day in other ways.

Day 9: Shopping and departure! ¬†We don’t recommend leaving shopping for the final day of a trip, but that’s how it ended up for us. Thankfully, we found some neat souvenirs in the Gothic Quarter, and hauled everything back to the apartment for final packing and taxi ride to the airport.

Pro Tip: We should have checked into whether shops would be closed on Sunday.  They were.  Everything was closed except restaurants.  Really put a wrinkle in our shopping plans.

Final Thoughts

Barcelona was a delightful city for a one-week stay.  It felt more like becoming friends rather than rampaging through the city.

This was the itinerary that worked for us. ¬†It didn’t include as much wine as we’d expected; we found that tapas and jamon got tiring after a few days too. ¬†But coffee breaks were a consistent source of happiness, and we had no trouble finding beautiful places to explore.

In retrospect, I’m very thankful we booked the AirBnb Experiences for paella and sailing, because those gave us such a rich exposure to people and places we would have missed otherwise.

I’m also thrilled that we took the time and trouble to rent a car and drive to Girona. It’s a beautiful medieval city, and the Cinema Museum was one of the neatest collections I’ve ever seen – for just 5 Euros!

My only disappointment was that we had trouble finding good souvenirs. Many of the “tourist junk shops” were owned by people with zero connection to the city, and the merchandise there was worse than usual. Hucksters were swarming us at most¬†popular sites, but their wares were subpar and derivative. Ugh. ¬†¬†Museum shops didn’t really offer a great selection of merchandise worth taking home for the price they were charging.

We’re used to European cities having a signature product that makes a perfect gift. Barcelona offered many wonderful experiences, but little to take home. ¬†Las Ramblas and the shopping districts are fun, but I don’t think of Gucci or Prada or Zara as places to buy souvenirs, just as I don’t shop Fifth Avenue when I visit New York. ¬†We did buy some vermouth (Yzagerre, if I remember the brand correctly) at a grocery store and some chocolate and saffron. I found a neat t-shirt at a local shop in the Gothic quarter along with a few other real gems in that area. ¬†If you’re headed to Barcelona, start looking for your take-home gifts early and often.

But if that’s the worst I can say, it was a great trip! ūüėČ

We’re lucky to have a couple friends whose travel style matches ours. Go find yourself a few people who will be your adventurers, and good luck on the Path!¬†

I’ll upload the best of our photos as soon as I get them sorted and edited.

That Vegas Glitz

I spent half the week in Vegas, not because I necessarily wanted to go to Vegas, but my employer located our most recent conference there.

These Meccas of American capitalism always prompt me to reflect on the consumerism that drives so much of our culture. One of my colleagues was visibly miffed to be in Vegas at all Рshe finds their water consumption an appalling moral outrage. (She lives in the West, so water issues are more at the forefront of her opinions.)  I have to admit, she has a point.

Am I a snob? As I walked through Caesar’s Palace, the Bellagio, the Luxor, the Paris Hotel, I was mostly struck by the cheapness of it all. Bright casino machines flash and whiz everywhere as patrons lay down hordes of cash in hopes of beating the House at its own game. (Never bet on it.) The architecture is beautiful because the originals they’re aping are gorgeous. Sure, it’s lovely to see the “forum” with the statue of Caesar, or walk on the Bellagio’s lovely inlaid mosaic floors.

But I’ve walked the inlaid marble floors of the master cathedrals in Venice and Florence and Rome. Vegas cannot hold a candle to them. I’ve seen the notch in the Pantheon in Rome where Brunelleschi cut into the ceiling to figure out how the Romans built a dome so large – then took the technology home to Florence to help them finish the Duomo there. ¬†I’ve been to Paris, so the mock “cobblestone” streets of the Paris Hotel simply make me wistful for the real joie de vivre of that mother city. ¬†I haven’t been to Egypt, but I’ve soaked up every Egypt exhibit I could find from the East Coast through the British Museum through Berlin, and the Luxor can only attempt – but not succeed – to draw the same awe.

To me, Vegas’s shine as the city of lights dims when I consider that the bulk of the casino and service workers are paid minimum wage…. ¬†that the rapid influx of Californians fleeing their housing crises has gentrified neighborhoods in Vegas …. that so many of the people walking the streets are there for sex, gambling, or drinks. ¬†It makes Vegas a sad place, honestly.

Don’t get me wrong – I had a lot of fun with my colleagues. I finally found my tribe and enjoyed wandering around the city with them. I put $20 in a penny slots machine (made $12 then lost it all eventually, so no Vegas magic for me). ¬†One of my coworkers won nearly $500 — good for her! ¬†I got to watch part of a match at the e-sports arena at the Luxor (would have happily spent all night there if I could have found a coworker with a similar passion). ¬† The fountains of the Bellagio are beautiful, and the indoor garden even more so.

We were terrified by a creeping Mickey Mouse, drank quite a few overpriced cocktails that were definitely better than average, found some delicious food, and met an Uber driver who’s a competition-level break dancer. ¬†Great memories!

But if we never go back to Vegas, I’m not going to feel that sad. ¬†The Vegas Strip and Disney World are alike to me: ¬†their allure is dull and uninspiring at the core. ¬†“Spend money! Drink more! Buy more!” ¬†It’s not an invitation to grow into a better version of oneself so much as a Vanity Fair of temptations to let your lesser self have the upper hand for a few days. (And empty your wallet.)

I already have nearly everything I genuinely need. ¬†I still have my shopping list of wants,¬†but I’ve found that it includes far fewer things and far more experiences to crave. ¬†Experiences can be shared, while things are static. ¬†I’m happy to cross Vegas off the list (and on someone else’s dime) and move on to new adventures in new places.

Las Vegas 2018
Flickr Album: Las Vegas 2018

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Direct link: https://flic.kr/s/aHskCeRCKG

Why Don’t Women Write to the Editor? Because They’re Doing Absolutely Everything Else – The Atlantic

This short collection of women’s responses is a wonderful read.

It also helps explain why I blog so little these days. Why? Who’s reading? And I’ve got other stuff to do!

Letters: Why Don’t Women Write to the Editor? Because They’re Doing Absolutely Everything Else – The Atlantic
‚ÄĒ Read on www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/559946/

The myth of conscience voting

To what extent should we prioritize our individual discomfort, our “duty” to follow our own moral code, above concern for the consequences that our choices may have on others?

Many, both religious and those whoa re simply passionate about their political views, have argued in conversations about the 2016 election and its aftermath about “voting your conscience” against “voting pragmatically.”

The argument seems to boil down to this: some folks, faced with a Trump vs Hillary choice, elected to vote in support of a 3rd party candidate in order to avoid giving direct support to a candidate whose positions imply (or directly require) contradicting one’s moral code. ¬†Others, faced with the prospect of two candidates they abhorred, may have filtered their “lesser of two evil” choice through a singular moral lens: for the typical Evangelical, this seemed to revolve around abortion or holding onto a SCOTUS seat for the sake of overturning Roe v Wade. For Bernie supporters, their vote for Hillary perhaps stemmed only from a desire to preserve some particular progressive value like access to abortion or Obamacare.

Either way, on both sides of the spectrum, people were defending a vote for a flawed candidate on moral grounds. In my newsfeed, at least, the more religious the voter, the more the defenses dragged in the name of Jesus in ways I find — at best — uncomfortable. ¬†I think I reached peak “Oh for pete’s sake!” when Evangelical leaders tried to argue that Trump had found Jesus and was a baby Christian. *rolls eyes*

Those who advocate a more practical approach to voting in American elections point out two things: voting 3rd party in a national election will always be a throwaway vote, until those outside parties can break into the system. Second, if one of the two mainline candidates is truly atrocious, failing to vote against that person or splitting the vote of the opposing candidate (as happens when libertarians abandon the GOP or the greens/socialists walk away from the Dems) ends up being a de facto vote for the candidate you hate.

Further, running your candidate through a singular moral lens forces you to ignore a critical element: the aftermath of the policies a candidate espouses. ¬†Put simply, I find it appalling (galling?) that Christians voted for Trump in order to ¬†“prevent” abortion while ignoring (and continuing to ignore) horrific abuses against many currently living humans who are being negatively affected by the decisions he and the Republicans have made over the past 18 months.

I long who gave up the one-issue voting stance as unhelpful and short-sighted. No decisions that involve humans can be truly 100% good or totally horrible. I’ve never met anybody (intelligent or educated or even just basically informed) who could wholly endorse one party’s entire platform.

It’s time to drop the euphemism “voting your conscience” and call it what it is: voting your priorities.

Because that’s what voting is here in America.

Most of us have too little money (and therefore no power) to influence any given election. It’s true that state and local races can come down to a handful of votes. So this discussion targets larger races where my one vote in a SC district genuinely matters only a feather in the whole situation. If at all.

The polls and data continue to confirm strong Evangelical support for Trump as a candidate in 2016 and as a President now.

I heard a lot of FB timeline voices offering their reasons either for a 3rd party vote (understandable) or voting for Trump. ¬†But labeling one’s reasons for voting a certain way as “conscience” or “pragmatic” gives us too easy of an excuse for the fallout of any given election. Acknowledging that a vote is, instead, a statement of ranked priorities forces us to be honest about what matters to us.

When we allow ourselves to detach from the visible and real human consequences of the entire gamut of a party’s political platform, we can pretend it’s ok because WE did the only right thing we could. WE “voted our conscience.”

No. You voted your highest priority, the single thing (or three) you can’t live with (or without). That’s it. Plain and simple.

When we make a particular vote about individual holiness, it takes our attention away from the collective and institutional outcomes of various policy positions.

Here’s the issue: your individual “conscience” isn’t more important than the trade-offs your vote will empower.

I’m not suggesting a paralyzing level of fear that my vote somehow has outsized effect on any given political system. It doesn’t. But if I run the decision regarding what candidates I will support through only an individualistic filter, I may miss critical elements of the moral and social calculus that drives our voting decisions.

It seems to be a weakness of the American mindset to prioritize the individual too much over the collective / society / community.  By recognizing that my vote indicates my priorities and preferences, rather than some moral statement about the universe, I might be able to see the consequences of public policy more fairly.

I think that would be a win for all of us.

An Iskander Experiment

A couple weeks ago, we met a friend for Turkish food and I experienced the most amazing and delicious “Iskander”: flavorful, tender lamb and steak overtop crunchy croutons, topped with a savory red sauce, spiked with garlic, and served alongside aromatic rice and a cooling yogurt sauce.

A week later, I found myself in possession of some leftover steak and sausages from a weekend cookout. And so the experiment began. All I have are my Snapchat photos to immortalize this delicious meal! Will 100% make again. In fact, we had it again 2 days later!

Fun fact: Iskander is Turkish for Alexander, as in “the Great.”

My Turkish Iskander Experiment

Ingredients Used

  • Leftover grilled steak and Italian sausage sliced into thin pieces
  • Olive oil and a bit of butter
  • Italian bread- a few slices cut into cubes about the size of large croutons
  • Sundries tomatoes in their oil, from a jar- 2-3 T chopped fine plus a T of their oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into very thin slices, plus another clove minced
  • Dash of sriracha
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt, pepper, etc
  • Optional: cooked rice
  • Optional: yogurt or sour cream

MAKE TOASTY GARLIC GARNISH

Heat a bit of butter and some olive oil together in a sturdy skillet. (Cast iron for the win!) Add the slices of garlic and toast in the oil until they are at least golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool. When you have some downtime, toss the chopped toasted garlic with the sun dried tomatoes and some of the tomatoes’ oil. Season with salt if needed -taste it first. Set aside as garnish.

MAKE GARLICKY CROUTONS

Add the cubed bread to the flavored oil/butter and saut√© until they’re crunchy and golden brown all over. You might need to add more butter and oil to the pan, and season with a little sea salt if you’d like. Remove to plates – we’ll be topping them with the meat in a second.

FLASH SAUT√Č THE MEAT

Throw the minced garlic into the pan with a little olive oil, and sauté it for a minute to release some flavor. Add the thinly sliced meat to the pan to crisp it up and heat it. I added a dollop of sriracha and some Italian seasoning at this point because why not? Once the meat is crisped, divide it among the plates, setting it atop the piles of croutons.

MOAR TOMATO!!

Dice a couple tomatoes and add to the hot pan. Cook for just a minute to release the juices and pick up some of the garlic from the pan. When you’re happy with it, split it among your plates. (You could also use some red spaghetti sauce, but it was nice fresh.)

Finally, top each serving with the sundried tomato and toasted garlic mixture.

At the restaurant, this was served alongside rice and a typical Middle Eastern yogurt/cucumber sauce. I didn’t do that, but it’s a great complement.

DONE!

I hope you run your own Iskander Experiment next time you’ve got leftover grilled meat. IT’S SO GOOD!

Finding Freedom sans Facebook

I’m not gonna hop on the no-Facebook bandwagon. I mean, wasn’t it obvious from the very start that Facebook was trading our privacy for ad revenue? ¬† We all hopped on board the Facebook bandwagon when we realized there’s no better way to keep tabs on Aunt Linda AND that friend from high school who own a ridiculous cat AND be notified that your favorite local band is playing a show next Tuesday at a dive bar downtown.

For all of its broken values and systems, Facebook does its thing better than anything else can: it connects us.

Problem is, I think a lot of us are realizing we might not want to be quite so connected. ūüėČ

And yet…..

I think I’ve reached a favorable detente with Zuckerburg’s tool of social dysfunction. I check it about once a day, maybe twice. I flip through notifications, like or laugh or heart at a bunch of posts, catch all the dank memes, note the photos of babies and pets, and chuckle at jokes. ¬†Often I’ll see an article that’s worth my time, but the latest shift in the algorithms probably means that won’t be as common anymore.

Besides that, I’m done.

And it feels so good.

2018 is my year to “Kondo everything” – I’m applying the minimalism filter to whole swaths of my house and life, paring down to what matters to me and selling/donating/giving away the rest. ¬†I love it. ¬†It’ll probably take me more than 2018 to get it all done, and that’s just fine. It too me 40+ years to accumulate all this stuff.

I’m like this simpler approach to life. There are days when I wonder whether my inner pack rat is going to recoil in horror when it can’t find some bauble in three months that might have been useful. *shrugs* Whatever. ¬†I don’t care. ¬†I wish I’d done this 10 years ago.

I thought I’d be sadder about spending less time on Facebook / Instagram / Snapchat (that big update a few months ago was total trash)…. but I’m not. ¬†I still fall into Twitter about every other day, because the conversations I can snoop on there are moving at the speed of current events, and I tend to read about ideas there long before they hit the mainstream. ¬†So I guess that’s a vice I can tolerate.

But the rest of “social media”? ¬†Eh. ¬†It’s hard for me to believe that anyone out there gives two shakes about what I think. That’s one reason I’ve had almost nothing to say here for the past two years. Who’s my audience? Does anybody even care? If a blogger writes a post and no one reads it, what’s it good for?

I don’t have any easy solutions for the world outside in 2018: the school shootings, the terrorist attacks, the impending wars, the shitshow of American politics. ¬†But I don’t have to subject anyone else to my political opinions, and I kind of don’t really care what 99% of people have to say. ¬†It’s not the course I would have set for myself 5 years ago, but it’s the one that keeps me sane in the Age of Trump.

Try it. You might find your own Freedom from Facebook sweet spot.  Besides, less time on FB means an extra hour to Kondo that shit in the hall closet. Win-win!

Unintentional #Exvangelical

I often read about social movements on Twitter long before they hit any sort of mainstream discussion. If you can put in the time to curate your Twitter following, you can find quite a world of stimulating (and sometimes asinine) discussion.

One subset of people I follow happen to be Christians or ex-Christians who are trying to shine the light of #metoo on sexual abuse in the church. Some of these folks have coined the hashtag #Exvangelical to describe their abandonment of Evangelicalism, especially in the wake of the 2016 election and its aftermath. ¬†This started with #emptythepews and #churchtoo, a couple hashtag discussions about unchallenged rape and sexual abuse in Christian circles that hasn’t yet forced much of a behavior change or policy changes. But the community grew to include thousands of Tweeps who flocked (haha) to share their stories of abandoning a faith they were raised in.

I didn’t mean to become an #Exvangelical…. until one day, I realized I was already there. ¬†

This is going to get messy if I try to write a post about it. Let me do a Frequently Asked Questions instead – I can probably hit all the salient points, reassure some fears, generate others, and keep it shorter.

Q. So, if you’re an #Exvangelical, does that mean you’re no longer a Christian?

A. ¬†Not at all. I’m 100% committed to the Gospel and to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. I affirm the historic creeds of Christendom. ¬†I’m not here to tell anyone else how they should feel about their church affiliation.

What I’ve abandoned is Evangelicalism: that particularly American, individualistic strain of Christianity which prioritizes a personal conversion experience above all else, tends toward extreme biblical literalism, and is currently lusting after political power and a “win” in the “culture wars.”

Q. Wait, you can’t have it both ways. If you aren’t an Evangelical anymore, then you are left with only apostate, liberal, compromised churches for fellowship, right? And not all Evangelical churches are power-hungry or harboring Tea Party conventions.¬†

A. Way to be judgmental? Also, I’m not sure you asked a question.

Ok, this is a critical point, and I understand why people who’ve been thoroughly taught that there are only two options — in the tribe of the True Believers or standing outside in the wrong –struggle to see alternate pathways for genuine Christian belief. ¬†It would take me weeks of blog posts to untangle this point. If you care that much, either Google till you find others who’re writing about their faith journeys, or have a cuppa with me and we’ll talk it out.

The short response to your query is this: the world isn’t a simple “you’re in or you’re out” with regards to Evangelicalism being the only right way to be a Christin. If you genuinely believe that, then we probably aren’t going to do anything except disagree over fundamental assumptions.

The Church is larger than I was led to believe. This has happened to me twice in my life: first, when I was in Fundamentalism and left it for the PCA. ¬†I remember how betrayed yet happy I felt to discover that Evangelicals didn’t worship Satan’s devil music, and they were pretty great people. ¬†And now, I’ve learned that Evangelicalism never had a lock on being “right.” ¬†There are good, faithful believers in many faith traditions. ¬†Romans 14 speaks to this pretty strongly, IMO, and I recommend reading it and taking a deep breath if this post is making you angry or anxious.

Q. So what’s changed for you? How are you different than you were, say, 5 years ago?

A. This will be easier as succinct bullet points. Again, I’m not inviting you to come argue with me over the bullet points. They’re here for reference, not as an invitation for argument.

  • I believe the study of theology should begin with an understanding of God and His Ways, and then move to a discussion of the inspiration of Scripture. ¬†Karl Barth explains this way better than I can, and before you burn his Church Dogmatics, you might consider reading it. ¬†His view of inspiration is far more vigorous than anything I found in Fundamentalism or Evangelicalism, and it avoids the bible-olatry that continues to plague the American conservative church. Christ is The Word. The Bible witnesses to Him. He is the center, the beginning and ending.
  • I reject the individualism that plagues American Evangelical Christianity, including the excesses of revivalism and dispensationalism. ¬†I think we were created for community, and prioritizing the experience of the individual above the powerful voice of the Church through all her ages and expressions is dangerous.
  • I reject the dominating narrative of the American culture wars. ¬†I reject the assertion that American Christians are a persecuted minority. ¬†I reject the combative personality by which Evangelicalism is known, especially after the 2016 election. The battle line between good and evil runs through, and not around, every single human movement or institution or idea or group. “Us” vs “them” tribalism is toxic. ¬†White Evangelicals have bought hook, line, sinker into a racist, xenophobic vision of America, and I’m just not ok with it anymore. ¬†And the culture war’s main fronts – the creation/evolution battle and the anti-abortion movement – are generally doing more harm than good. Why are people walking away from the Church in droves? Because they have the frikkin Internet and can read science articles for themselves.
  • I condemn Donald Trump as a pathetic human whose morality is in the sewer. Watching “Christians” like Dobson fall all over themselves to paint Trump as a believer, rather than defending the victims of his abuse and rebuking his lechery and misogyny and greed and corruption, is what broke Evangelicalism for good, for me.
  • I cannot in good conscience be part of denominations where the only functionally acceptable political position is to be a Republican or a libertarian. You’re welcome to be part of those camps, but to assert that no good Christian could be a Democrat is ignorant and unwise — and just plain wrong. ¬†Good Christians have historically fallen across the entire political spectrum. ¬†Again, I’m somewhat stunned this is even a point of contention among people who claim that we should be reading our Bibles every day in order to be good people… ¬† ¬†(Sorry. This is an area that makes me rather angry these days.)
  • My LGBTQ+ friends have never been welcome in Evangelicalism. ¬†I don’t know how to reconcile the fact that a loving sovereign God has created humans who are wired from birth to love the same gender, or humans who experience such gender dysphoria that they cannot identify as the person their body parts would suggest that they be. ¬†I don’t disagree that a literal reading of the Bible would suggest that LGBTQ+ are, in a word, “born wrong.” ¬†But I can no longer deny a place within the church to my gay Christian brothers and lesbian sisters and transgender friends who’ve been beaten down by the church again and again. ¬†God’s going to have to sort this mess out Himself. Till I get a chance to ask Him in person, I’d prefer that we accept LGBTQ+ Christians as full citizens of the kingdom. ¬†Even if they’re wrong. Especially if we’re wrong about them being wrong.
  • If I had a daughter, I’d be angry that she would never see a woman in a legitimate position of authority within 99% of Evangelical churches. (Small exception for a few ARP churches that ordain women and the AMIA Anglican congregations who hold to conservative theology but make room on their platforms for women to teach and preach.) ¬†You’re welcome to bar women from being a preacher if you want, but to bar them from every single position of church leadership except running the nursery or children’s Sunday school seems ….well, blatantly misogynistic. ¬†I don’t think the New Testament was trying to define church leadership primary by who does/doesn’t have a penis, and I certainly don’t think male-only leadership makes for healthy organizations. ¬†A whole lot of sexual abuse by powerful men might have been avoided if women had been given a voice – any kind of voice – and genuine power within the church. ¬†Conservative Christianity has been sleeping with abusive patriarchy for a long time. This one is an easy fix, folks: women as deacons, women as ruling elders, women as equal teaching partners per those obscure little sentences in I Corinthians 13 that nobody wants to talk about (“a woman, when she prays or prophesies, must cover her head”). Just….start somewhere…..

Q. I think you’re dead wrong.¬†

A.  You know what?  I sometimes wonder that myself.  Like, how do we know anything about anything?

One of the worst things about any Fundamentalist system – and Evangelicalism has a whole lot of Fundamentalism in its DNA, despite its rock worship bands and willingness to let megachurch pastors say “shit” in a sermon or talk about masturbation — One of the worst things about this system is the way it stifles doubt.

The opposite of doubt isn’t faith. It’s certainty. And certainty can be dead wrong. Faith is hopeful; it can co-exist with doubt because faith IN God means I’m ok with letting Him catch these details I can’t make sense of myself.

I’d be a fool if I were so arrogant as to think my little mind can contain the universe, the whole of God’s will toward mankind, the order of events of salvation – ha! what hubris!

When you let the world get perfectly quiet all around you, what do you hear? ¬†Do you hear little tiny questions creeping into your mind? “What if I”m wrong? What if, once I die, I’m just….dead? ¬†What if there isn’t a God? What if the Hindus or the Jews or the Muslims are actually right?”

I’m not saying you have to doubt to be a good Christian; that seems a bit backward. But good Christians can –must!–be honest about their epistemic uncertainty.

I left Evangelicalism because I’m tired of people telling me they have The Answer. You don’t. ¬†You and I are in the same place: we seek wisdom in the Word to see God for who He is. ¬†And we shake our heads at the ugliness in this world. ¬† And those two ideas conflict in uncomfortable ways. ¬†Can’t we be honest about that for just a minute?

And once we’ve got this honesty train going, how about we be honest about a few more things we shouldn’t claim certainty about…. like whether life actually begins at conception, or how exactly this world came to be and the processes of creation, or pretending like every issue has a clear-cut moral answer just waiting out there along the side of the road carrying a big ol’ “I AM THE RIGHT ANSWER” sign.¬†

Q. So where are you going to church these days?

A. You aren’t going to like this….but truth is, I haven’t been to church in a while. I didn’t mean to leave…. it just….happened. ¬†I stepped away from music ministry in 2016 because of a job change, and when I tried to come back, all I got from the guys in charge was crickets. :/ ¬† So …I left.

I want to find a new church home, I really do. I miss the sacraments and how they shape our understanding of what really matters in this world.

But I also needed to detox from the grind of the “Christian lifestyle,” where everything is matchy-matchy and sorted out. ¬†I’d been uncomfortable about that for years, but I genuinely enjoyed the worship ministry team and the fellowship I found among my fellow musicians. It’s a special thing to lead a congregation in praise, and I was honored to do it for as long as I did.

Aside from the bond I had with my fellow musicians, I have very little in common with women my age in an Evangelical church. ¬†I never had kids (wasn’t on purpose; just never happened) so my #1 function as a woman in the PCA went completely bust. I don’t enjoy babies or little kids. I don’t have endless stories about diaper poops and elementary escapades to link me to these women whose lives are so different from mine. ¬†I hold two masters’ degrees and am married to a man who’s practically earned two PhD’s. ¬†I love video games, science fiction, and progressive metal. ¬†I can read the Bible in the original Greek and Hebrew, and — if I’m being truly honest here — am more qualified (if we’re talking about education) to teach the Bible than nearly all of the male elders at the churches where I’ve been a member. (Except I don’t have a penis, so…. ) ¬† Making “small talk” with adults at any church function will always be a struggle, unless there’s a gamer/metalhead church out there somewhere I haven’t found.

It wears me out to think of jumping into the church dating scene again – I mean “finding a church.” Because that’s what it is, right? ¬†A bad dating game. ¬†A church is a collection of people, and honestly, it’s the camaraderie and community that differentiate two congregations. ¬†The trappings and faith statements and liturgy have their own effects, but the day-in, day-out experience of being a member of a particular church rests entirely on the group of people who meet there. ¬†The only way to find a new one, unless you’re going to go all Fundamentalist and filter out all but a couple based on their statements of faith, is to visit around and smile politely and be the weird stranger and listen to people constantly tell you how much they SO HOPE YOU’LL KEEP COMING.

Gah, the sheet awkwardness of it gives me hives.

And, to be frank, I don’t know where I belong. Where we belong. ¬†I want a church where Grace is central (and not just talked about, but lived out as Grace); where sermons are short yet meaningful; ¬†where people are open about their struggles; where Christian lingo isn’t so pervasive that people from outside are turned off; where the prevailing theme isn’t “how to do the right things this week so God will love me more.”

With kickass music.

Q. Last question: Aren’t you afraid people are going to be disappointed in you? What about all your former students? You could tear them down too!

A. ¬†If my students are willing to throw out their entire belief system because of what they see me do (or don’t do), then I failed as a teacher. I never wanted robots, or students who would accept what I said as THE right answer. ¬†I pushed my students to wrestle, reason, challenge, think for themselves. So I’m 99% sure they’re going to be ok, and I’m also sure the Holy Spirit is in charge of bringing people to faith and holding onto them. ¬†If you think my actions are going to overwhelm His work, well, that’s the disagreement right there.

Are people disappointed in us for leaving the PCA? ¬†Hell if I know. I’m not sure anyone really cares. ¬†If you’re a committed Evangelical, then good for you. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, question the connection between your faith and your politics, your power systems, your views on social injustice and the culture. ¬†But have at it. ¬†(See: what I just said about the Holy Spirit, above.)

I wrote this post because I know thousands of people– mostly Millennials–have left the Church in the wake of the 2016 election. ¬†You’re not alone, friends, and please don’t throw out your own relationship with God just because you’re not happy with how things are going in the American Church.

I don’t think Evangelicals really grasp how UGLY this power-grab has been. ¬†You have sold the Gospel for a pot of beans. Actually, Esau got a WAY better deal than you did on Trump and the Tea Party, because at least his mess of beans filled his belly for one night.¬†This whole moral-majority nonsense has cost you pretty much everyone under the age of 40…..and people like me who didn’t sign up to ride this crazy train all the way to the final destination. ¬†American Evangelicalism is nearly all white. And as the cultural influence of white people (especially white men) wanes in the face of America’s changing demographics, it’d be nice if you didn’t drag Jesus down with you as you howl in despair at your loss of power and influence.

Jesus TOLD Y’ALL THIS. ¬†He TOLD YOU that following Him means picking up a cross and dying. ¬†Y’all. ¬†What part of “a corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die” made you think you’d get to run America? ¬†What makes you think worshiping guns and libertarianism and America and military might and “family values” is the equivalent of “taking up your cross” and following Jesus?

*raises hands* ¬†Peace. ¬†I’m done. ¬†I’m not trying to start a fight. ¬†We could go have a beer instead.

I’m an #Exvangelical because I love God and the Gospel. You may disagree with me, but at least you know where I stand.

 

RameyLady speaks her mind

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