Tuesday, May 31, 2011


About six months ago, my wife and I gave away our television.

We came to the decision one night, while we were rearranging our apartment. We looked at the wall that was dominated by our TV—not that it was large; I'm still in school, after all—and realized that we were trying to organize our living space around this one thing neither of us thought was that important. Then, we realized that we were spending hours at a time just watching the damn thing, letting our impulsiveness and laziness get the better of us. So, we did the only reasonable thing and promptly sold it. (I admit I was ambivalent, though, about the person who bought it from us: a fellow student who could use the TV to entertain his two-year-old. Start 'em young, right?)

Life changed the next day. Suddenly, we had time to do a number of things we'd simply never made time for when we had the TV. My wife took up knitting, I read about twice as much, we both worked more effectively, and (of all things!) we began to talk a lot more. (Full disclosure: we still use Hulu and Netflix on demand, but we severely limit our time with these to under 4 hours/week.) What's more, I believe this rather insignificant change (in the grand scheme) made possible two key changes for us.

My Parents

This past weekend, I finally "came out" and told my parents I was no longer a Christian. Things unfolded like I thought they would: my parents acted as if they saw it coming (I don't think they did), they then tried to dissuade me by using apologetic tactics (none of which I hadn't heard, if not believed, before), then they gave up, said they loved me no matter what, and promised to keep praying for me. It wasn't easy, but at the same time it wasn't nearly as hard as I imagined. While my parents were visibly emotional, I had a zen-like calm (something I didn't expect), which I thought actually undermined one of their arguments that I didn't have "hope". Truth is, I have a lot more hope now than I used to!

Overall, it was a good experience, though I don't want to repeat it.

Friday, May 27, 2011


It's amazing to me. When I wake up in the morning and loll around, doing whatever I feel like at the time, I never have motivation to work when it's time to get started. For someone like me, who writes for a living as an aspiring scholar, motivation is everything.

So, this morning, when I wrote about "Tomorrow," after having put it off for some time, I suddenly found myself with all kinds of ideas for blog posts, with motivation to do writing and research, and with energy and focus to do a number of chores I had around the house. And all this because I finally got up the initiative to write a damned blog entry!

This reminds me of a quote from Wendell Berry, though I won't get it just right (nor do I remember the source): Every farmer knows that the motivation to do hard work comes only after the task is begun. I only wish I remembered this more often.

See also this fascinating link from Less Wrong on motivation and procrastination.


I've been mulling over an old Scottish proverb lately: "Fools look to tomorrow; the wise use tonight." Ironically, it's been on my mind for some days, but I've put off actually writing about it for nearly a week. So what does that make me?

The notion of doing something "tomorrow," or postponing life for just a little while, isn't all bad. But what's struck me lately is the way that so many people—in religion, politics, advertising—utilize the idea of "tomorrow" to keep people from doing anything meaningful today. How many of the religious faithful have managed to avoid improving our world or tending to the poor, etc., because they were so confident that "tomorrow," that someday-paradise, a god would step in and make things right (or would remove the "righteous" from this wicked world). I think many religious leaders (though not all) intuit that if people realized they could do the work that they had assigned to God, then people would soon depend less on any god for their salvation, i.e., the health and welfare of our lives and planet.

Politicians use "tomorrow" very slyly, too, and usually to win political office. Look to Barack Obama. (Note: I'm in no way unappreciative of the things Obama has done in office; I'm more disenchanted with many of the promises on which he hasn't followed through. He's still the best option we've had in the U.S. for a while.) Obama's campaign, like so many other politicians at every level and from every party, was about getting voters to believe that with him in leadership, "tomorrow" would be a better place than today. Yet, for Americans at least, this has resulted in a dependency upon government to change the world that looks strikingly similar to that of religion. So now, many Americans sit and wait for government to improve their lives, to make a better "tomorrow," while the world around us begs for change today.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath"

"Whenever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there... I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an'—I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build—why, I'll be there."—Tom Joad

Today, I watched John Ford's adaptation of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Only a few minutes in, I could see why the film is frequently in the top fifteen of a wide number of "greatest films" lists. Yet the beauty of the film aside, what struck me was the degree to which I found myself resonating with many of the not-so-subtle political and social critiques leveled by both film and novel alike. It's probably my synthesizing mind—which finds things from disparate sources and weave them together into a more cogent whole—that makes me aware of some of the most important ones, critiques that are no less apropos today than they were in 1939/40.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Coming Out & 'Creation'

About a week ago, I sat down with one of the couples my wife and I know and told them, rather bluntly, that I'm no longer a Christian. While I had anticipated a number of questions from them—since he's a minister and she is a fellow graduate student at the seminary—I didn't anticipate the silence. The problem was, I think, that I never really let either of them in on my journey. For all they knew, I was just as deeply committed to the Christian faith as they were.

A few days later, my fellow student emailed me a list of questions, trying to be more constructive than simple expressing shock. It was nice of her to make the attempt, and I felt like I was able to say more clearly what changed and why. Even more, I think she realized that any sadness I expressed in my "coming out" was due, on the one hand, to my recognition of their sadness, and on the other, to a real sense that God has "died." I've lived for almost 30 years thinking that God was there, helping me along, hearing my prayers, etc., and now I'm forcing myself to think about the world apart from the help of God—at least the God talked about within Christianity—and that transition carries with it a sense of grief.

(More on this and 'Creation' after the jump...)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Death and Dying

One of the most difficult things about living life without a religious framework is getting my head around not living. I've always been aware that death comes to all things, but when a person is deeply entrenched in the Christian faith, death is always a semicolon; something always comes after it (i.e., heaven). But now that "after" has fallen away along with the rest of my religious worldview, I wonder how to think about death.

On the one hand, I see death as a sort of liberation, a freedom from the pains, anxieties, and hardships of life. I think of so many who suffer their entire lives from innumerable wrongs, injustices, and suffering, and I see a hope in death for them. No longer will they be confined to this life and its evils. Even for folks who live a relatively comfortable life, like me, the end of life is a positive event, a point at which all worries and pains wash away.

Yet that doesn't entirely mute the sadness of death.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I'll do my best to avoid the clichés about starting a new blog. This is my third run at it, so I've already trod that path. (Please don't ask to see the other two failures. They aren't worth seeing.)

The aim of this blog—whether or not anyone actually reads it—is to chronicle a major change taking place in my life. That is, I've been an Evangelical my entire life, and am even in training to become a minster; but I now find myself as something other than an Evangelical, and even something other than Christian.

To a lot of people, this isn't that big of a deal. A number of people I've talked to informally, who live outside the bubble of Christianity, have asked me frankly, "So, what's the problem? What's changed?" For them, the answer is, "Nothing": I'm still the same person, with the same convictions about love, justice, freedom, ethics, etc. I just don't go to church anymore. Yes, I won't be a minister, but there are other, more important jobs to be done.

Other people—including my family, as well as many of my friends, mentors, and teachers—these people would see my departure from the church as a tragedy of the highest order. For many of them, I've punched my ticket to hell. Some of them, I'm quite sure, will never talk to me again when they find out.

If you still don't get it, let me offer an analogy: for my family especially—people whose entire lives are bound up in Christianity and the church—my admission of leaving the church is like me coming out of the closet. When I tell them (and I hope to do so in the next few weeks), they'll be shocked, and they'll surely say things like, "We still love you," and "You're still our son." There will probably be a time where they rarely talk to me, and I'm prepared for that (I think). It won't be easy, but it has to be done.

So, that brings me to the title of the blog (and yes, this is a first-blog cliché). "Ellipsis" is primarily a writing term, an omission of words or time, something that implies more than is said. For example, "O say, can you see..."; the ellipsis at the end points forward to the rest of the "Star Spangled Banner," the US national anthem. But the notion of "ellipsis" helps me think about this place in my life. There is something more going on than I can really say, and it seems like an in-between time that can't quite be expressed. Then again, I am trying to blog about it, so the whole experiment is like trying to explain what ambivalence feels like.

As with every other blog I've started, I'm at least a little optimistic that I will do more than three blogs before I forget about it. Something tells me that the urge to express what I'm going through will help motivate me to write.