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Posts posted by Annelise

  1. Five years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it shook me to the core. Was I going to die? I was 51. My husband and I told our kids, my siblings, very close friends, church friends. I really did not want anyone else to know about it until I was settled with it. By that I mean knowing where I stood emotionally and with my faith.

    Pre-Facebook, I did have a public vehicle for broadcasting news. My weekly column, which at that point had run in the paper for 14 years. Lots of people in this community know me. They come from all different experiences. I wanted prayer, yes, but not "Oh my God she's going to die" prayer. I didn't want to run into people and have them be like, "Oh my God! I feel so bad for you!" You see, I had to get oriented with God. Would I get through this?

    After more tests and consults with doctors and much prayer, I decided to have a mastectomy, followed by reconstructive surgery. Then I had to sit with that decision for a few weeks, get used to the idea - if such a thing is possible! Two months to the day after the diagnosis, on the day of my surgery, my column appeared, telling the world what I was undergoing that day. By the time the column appeared, I knew everything was going to be all right, that I would go through the surgery and chemotherapy and would be fine. This was reflected in my column. It must have been reflected in my face, too, because people would say to me, "You're going to be all right." It emanated from me and came back to me, energizing my faith even more.

    The only exception was a call from my brother-in-law. An alcoholic, he cried about how chemo killed his mother and how it would kill me too. I handed the phone to my husband and the next day got caller ID for my phone.

    How did people respond to my public announcement? They sent cards - beautiful, thoughtful cards, full of love, faith and goodwill. I have them still. So this is my recommendation to you. Go pick out a card and write them a heartfelt note, something they can hold and look at again.

  2. Here's a link to Rachel's video of "Baby Doll," using a really imaginative format! Baby Doll

    Rachel is recording in November with Brian Beattie in Austin, Texas, whose worked with the Danielson, Sufijan Stevens, Okkervil River, Woven Hand ... once you see the video, you may agree that Beattie's style is a good fit for Rachel.

    Here's the IndieGoGo link that describes her project with Beattie.

    My link


  3. SDG wrote:

    : How does this objection relate to my earlier comments about believing because God has given one the gift of faith, and being aware of the testimony of the Holy Spirit in one's heart?

    Believing because one believes (because one haves "the gift of faith") is a tautology. I'm not sure it's evidence of any kind.

    You can assert that your belief came from someone else, if you want to, but if your assertion is going to be anything more than a mere assertion, then you're going to have to produce some sort of evidence beyond your say-so.

    : But the availability or non-availability of such evidence wouldn't in the least affect the validity of my knowledge that it happened.

    It might affect how "impressive" your knowledge was to anyone else, though.

    : There are still things we believe without any possibility of proof.

    Quite so. But if, as Philip K. Dick said, reality is whatever refuses to go away when you stop believing in it, then I think it's safe to say that people like Ojo may find themselves in a place where science hasn't gone away but Jesus has. Which saddens me, even just to write those words, but there it is.

    That IS sad, Peter. Because when I go through periods of skepticism and doubt, somewhere inside me I am depending on Jesus to show up and show me he's here, some way that's tangible only to me.

    And even in saying that, the fact that we are saddened by the loss of faith in Jesus is a sort of withholding legitimacy.

    I do wish, when people are struggling with such questions, that they would talk about it. In my experience, they don't start talking about it until it's too late, if you know what I mean. I recently had a young man who's been friends with my kids for a long time write to me about losing his faith in Christ. I mistakenly assumed that he was in the throes of questioning, but apparently his doubts began years ago, and he was ready to throw in the towel.

    My question to him was this: Is it God you no longer believe in or the things you've been taught about God? Which are of course two different questions.

  4. I don't know that Ojo would be to troubled by the brain in a jar conundrum, and to be honest, I think that makes the skeptic's point better than the Christians. Ojo is not an atheist. He has stated as such to me in recent interactions in e-mail and Facebook exchanges (Ojo is an artist I have had interaction with for over a decade, when I sent a letter, troubled by accusations of the band getting drunk made by a young upstart band. He called me on the phone and briefly conversed about it). My greatest regret when I was in L.A. for a few months in 2004 was that I never got a chance to take up Ojo on his offer to hang out. It had been a few years, and I was surprised to see when I met up via Facebook last year that Ojo had been asking himself the same questions as I was asking myself.

    One of the things I have noticed is how people *do* pile on. I am sure he would appreciate that being a concern of yours, SDG. The problem is, Ojo didn't arrive at this out of hate or bitterness against God or religion. He considers his churched years positive ones and still loves spending time with his Christian friends. And yet, people want to lob pretty harsh accusations. And of course, some critics latch on to the fact that he started questioning "because of a girl." Of course, I fail to see the problem with that. Specifically because if you reverse the situation...if you had Ojo talking about how he did not believe in God...and then he met this cool lady, but she would not go out with him...then he finally just asked why. He explains how she told him she was a Christian and she could not date a guy who did not know Christ... and he was stunned. He hadn't expected that... he started to question and investigate...and one night he gave his life over to the Lord! Christians wouldn't deride him for that. It would be one of the funny ways God used to meet a person where they were at.

    The funny thing I find from reading Ojo's interactions with people is that he is far more graceful to his critics than they are to him. I saw a guy state that he was not willing to listen to Undercover's music. He was afraid they would lead him down the same path as Ojo. In spite of the fact that all of their music was written when every member was a professing Christian.

    I confess I found this bit from Trott troubling:

    When I appeal to my experience at conversion and in the thirty-eight years since — which you seem less than impressed with — I appeal to data more readily to hand than most of the data such “religious” conversations churn up. I know I met Christ. You do not know that.

    He's right. I don't know that. The problem is...Jon has no evidence. He backs it up with what amounts to "I am sure of it!" Yeah, Ojo (or myself) cannot say he has definitely not met Christ. And that was the very point I started to question. When I realized I was going off of "a feeling I had that it was true."

    I also find it immensely frustrating that so many Christians think, "walking away" is so darned easy. That it is "comfortable". In spite of the fact that each time I tell a friend, it becomes harder and harder. And the exploration has been painful. And the things that people presume are always flat out wrong. It has nothing to do with how "hard" the Christian life is. Or fear of having to give things up. For me, the greatest fear was losing the comfort that faith so easily gives. No, sticking with faith and ignoring the doubts? That is where the comfort is. Looking into the questions? It's hard. It hurts. And the reaction from Christians to presume it was anything but a tough process? That is like a dagger in the heart. And it makes wanting to return less and less attractive.

    Amen on all points! ;)

    Ojo is so full of grace. He is not an angry-at-God atheist. His questions reverberate with my own. I have been asking many of the questions, too. This has happened to me before many times, going through a period of doubt, and then getting some revelation of God's love for me and all is well. For awhile. But this most recent period has been deepening for years.

    Can you tell me a bit more about your own journey? I can say more later about mine. Gotta get ready for work!

  5. SDG wrote:

    : What about other minds?

    FWIW, a few weeks ago there was a really long thread on Ojo's Facebook wall, following a link he posted to what you might call his "deconversion" story, and I chimed in a couple times. In one of my posts, I wrote:

    Second, with regard to the hope (lost or otherwise) that we might see our loved ones in the afterlife, I had some curious reactions of my own to the deterioration and death of my grandmother two years ago, and what it all came down to, for me, was that if my grandmother doesn't exist *now*, then she never really existed in the first place; everything I took to be "her" -- her personality, her spirit, her whatever -- was really just the end result of whatever electrons got passed around inside her body according to the purely impersonal laws of physics, etc. And if *she* never really existed, then neither do the rest of us -- yet here I am, and I find it hard to believe that "I" do not exist, so I somehow persist in believing that she does too. I'm just wondering if you've ever considered or pursued that line of thought, or anything like it.

    (I once asked an atheist friend of mine if she basically believed that the brain/mind was like Parliament or Congress, full of various elements that bounced off of each other and produced an outcome of some sort, but you couldn't really say that there was such a thing as "the will of Parliament" or "the will of Congress" because there was no single entity that truly embodied that will -- and she said yeah, that wasn't a bad analogy. In other words, when she really thinks about it rationally, she doesn't believe that "she" really exists; she's just a product of genes and memes, all interacting selfishly and without any particular view of the big picture, just like all those members of Parliament and Congress. I can see where she's coming from, but I still find it difficult to really swallow this idea -- and I find it difficult to believe in any sort of unified personhood without, in turn, appealing to the source of personhood in God, or indeed in the Trinity. So my motto -- my theological starting point -- for the last several years has been "Either God exists, or I do not." For whatever that's worth.)

    In response, Ojo wrote:

    We wrote before about the afterlife and the death of our relatives before, you and I, having come to different conclusions. Who “we“ are is a darn good question! Sam Harris has a number of great articles recently on this, on what he (and many neuroscientists) consider the myth of free will, on how the mind registers stimuli and lights up certain areas of the brain before we are aware of, and make decisions based on those stimuli. This all happens in the brain and there is nothing to suggest that there is any other mechanism that comprises “we,” so yes, who are we? What are we? Seems to me those are questions slightly beyond (but not nearly as far as they have been in our own lifetimes) the reach of what we now know. I honor your thinking and conclusions on all that and really have only one question about it. How do you get from there to a specific belief system or religion, to a doctrine on sin and hell, atonement, salvation, you know, all those lovely things? I don’t really know what you believe about those, but I do remember you telling me you have become more orthodox in recent years. I mean this question respectfully and sincerely, and would really like to know.

    So never mind "other minds", even just the question of our own minds is a puzzler!

    And yeah, I did answer his last question there, but I don't want to stray too far from the "minds" business right now. :)

    Good for you, Peter, for engaging him. And good questions, on both your parts. I must admit, I am more intuitive than I am intellectual, so that is how I engage with people, including my discussions with Ojo. I appreciate that he is willing NOT to answer the questions, but continue asking them. I did not read the de-conversion story, but I've heard it from him, and there may be two different versions. Like difference between C.S. Lewis's two testimonies: "Mere Christianity," the intellectual version, and "Surprised by Joy," the experiential version. I've heard Ojo's experiential de-conversion. The two divorces, raising 5 kids as a single father, the cut-throat Christian music business, so many unanswered prayers, etc.

    Ojo does need Christians to engage on an intellectual level. He's had way too many Christians (who can't handle the possibility that it's possible to know Christ and turn away) questioning the legitimacy of his prior relationship with Christ. Way too much fundamentalism -- which as you know, is not the same as orthodoxy! Most of his best friends are Christians, and I daresay that in the end, love could win him back.

  6. Or what about the premises upon which all knowledge depends, but which can't be proved? Like the premise that we're not brains in vats, or otherwise in some epistomologically perverse situation? That sense experience actually corresponds in some way to objective reality? That the universe didn't just spring into existence yesterday, with physical processes and our memories and all in medias res? What about other minds? What about knowing other people? Is that a form of knowledge, or does it fail because we don't subject our friends and loved ones to double-blind tests or attempt to measure and quantify their friendship or love under controlled conditions? What about historical events, which can be studied but can't be replicated or experimented upon?

    Finally, is moral knowledge a form of knowledge? What does it mean to say that the Holocaust was wrong, or that rape or genocide is wrong? Ojo says he no longer worries about the line between temptation and sin. Is there such a thing as sin, or is all human behavior simply that -- behavior? Strategies that can be more or less successfully leveraged? Compassion and altruism can be successful strategies; so can rape, genocide and general assholery. Some people prefer the former; others choose the latter. Is that all we can meaningfully say on the subject?

  7. Yeah well Ojo seems pretty sold on the whole academic emphasis on research, peer-reviewed, as he says. When I see him next week I'm certainly going to talk with him about numerous points in this essay. I guess my question is, What about other ways of knowing? Like, revelation knowledge, intuition, etc.?

  8. What do you suppose he means by legitimacy?

    In his essay/blog, Ojo says this (italics mine):

    "There is no framework in Christian orthodoxy for treating people who have lost or suspended their faith with dignity and equality, those genuinely asking legitimate questions, trying their best to navigate the maze of suffering and elusive meaning in every human life. They are considered backslidden, rebellious, hard-hearted, in error, blind, apostate, sinful, in all kinds of language, less-than. Their faith must not have been genuine, it must have been shallow, of dubious and weak commitment, insincere, fraudulent, perhaps for illicit gain. 'They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.' I get comments like these all the time."

    I can't say it any better than that!

  9. In spite of the immoral acts that take place in the book -- which horrified me, as well -- I was strangely attracted to this book. Of course the language is beautiful. I like the structure. The last chapter left me with the feeling that when we are caught up in passion, the future does not matter. The choice that we make right now to follow this passion -- whether it's moral or not, and no matter the consequences -- is a desperate act. We romanticize this at times, but no matter how we do so in our minds, consequences will come. Ah, but in that singular moment of rapture ...

    I was also struck by how the little boy (it's been several years since I read the book and I don't remember the characters' names) experienced a seemingly momentary brush with molestation. It meant nothing to the adult. But oh how it changed the boy! It reminded me of an experience I had as a child -- not molestation -- an experience which meant nothing at all to the adult involved, but how 50 years later I still struggle with the trauma of the experience!

    As for the immoral act which supposedly brought solace to the two involved, I must say I don't know. Perhaps it shows how skewed they became in their emotions, that they were incapable of processing their experiences in normal, genuinely healing ways. It could be that later on there were consequences for them, too. No matter how beautiful the passion of the moment.

  10. The newest issue of Down the Line magazine (a PDF download) is out, and with it, an interview with Ojo Taylor, in which he talks about his current beliefs and Undercover's place in music history. (I wouldn't have minded a follow-up question or two about the possible effect of Ojo's current beliefs on the music that Undercover is currently recording.)

    FWIW, I pitched an article like this to CT over a year ago, but for whatever reason, they passed on it. (This was around the time David Bazan went public with his loss of faith, and I guess they could only handle one article in that vein at a time.)

    Since the concert, I've actually become friends with Ojo and have had many talks with him about his beliefs. He's been gone to California for the summer, busy teaching and recording, but is due back in about a week. I am really excited about hearing how the recording went and get a preview of of the songs on the album. You see, the rest of the guys -- Gym and Sim especially -- are still very much Christians. So I also wonder what they've come up with ...

  11. DA is, yes, among the very best. I had been a typical evangelical Christian until I heard DA. I could never go back to CCM -- or any other platitudes, for that matter -- after Fearful Symmetry. DA led me to the other good musicians such as Undercover. DA led me to William Blake, then to other poetry, then to English lit, now one of the passions of my life. I saw DA at a little riverfront bar here in Richmond, Va., a long time ago. The Choir opened for them. Then I saw DA at Cornerstone too. The concerts have been too few.

  12. Not that I'm jealous, but, yeah, I'm jealous. Hosted a website for them for years, run the YahooGroups mailing list for them and I've never seen them or met them.

    So do you run the undercover.medelle website that's still up? It looks dated. Is the YahooGroups mailing list still active? I suspect it would not be, because they play so rarely.

    Last time was 4 years ago in Memphis, before that was the reunion at Cornerstone in 2000.

  13. So on Thursday I got a reminder on Facebook of a local annual music festival taking place this weekend. It's called Spaghettifest, an indie rock festival held at Natural Chimneys, in western Augusta County, Virginia. So I click on the link to check out the line-up and there's a band Undercover. "It can't be THE Undercover," I think. "But I'll check it out."

    Lo and behold the link takes me to Ojo Taylor's MySpace page. I find out on there that he's been teaching in the music department at JMU, where I began working a few weeks ago. He's been here in the Valley of Virginia for two years without my knowing it!

    My favorite band of all time is playing in my rural county, 18 miles from my house.

    In all of the 20-plus years I"ve been an Undercover fan, I've never seen them in concert. They were a West Coast band. I couldn't make it to Cornerstone the years they played there. So it goes.

    So I buy two tickets for the festival. You can't buy partial tickets. Fair enough. They are so worth it.

    It's been pouring down rain all day today. Undercover came on at 1:30 pm. And it was them: Ojo Taylor, Gym Nicholson, Sim Wilson and Gary Dean Olsen. They were so good, so amazing, so tight, so energetic. I was so blessed dancing in the rain. How God loves me to send Undercover to my back yard to play for me!

    They were so surprised to see a woman in the crowd wearing an Undercover t-shirt! They had to meet me! We hung out! What great guys!

    I am still flying high on this, as you can see!

  14. Have any of you ever read John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman? I think he was playing a bit with the GE ending(s), in that he wrote a number of different endings for his own novel. Readers get to choose the one they think is most apt. ;)

    Sounds like those "Choose your own Adventure" books that were popular when my kids were growing up!

  15. So I just today finished reading "Great Expectations." At the conclusion, my book had another ending, the one that Dickens originally had, until he was convinced to make it more happy. Has anyone else seen this? If so, what do you think? Do we always need tidy endings? Can we live with an ending that's less satisfying?

  16. I write a column for the local daily here, so I have lots of strangers wanting to be my friend. I don't want to offend them. FB allows you to put people in catagories, so I put them into a non-friend group that I created. Then, when their statuses and news feeds appear on my page, move the cursor to the right of their text and you'll see an option appear to hide people's stuff from appearing on your page. So I friend these people but then I never see them again, unless they contact me or commenti on my wall.

  17. I never really fell for that "show about nothing" spin. If Seinfeld was about nothing, then all sitcoms are about nothing. Really. It had a great cast and was funny, but there was nothing philosophically groundbreaking about it. It was a classic situation comedy, where the characters dealt with various situations in comedic fashion from week to week.

  18. I was amazed at the First Things info on Dickens, how persistently he followed his ideals, and how seemingly well-thought-out his ministry was. As for his marriage failing, most of us have areas in our lives that do not measure up to our ideals ("or what's a heaven for?"). I guess what fascinates me most is how he lived such an active life and still had time for all that writing! What energy. Many of (us) writers believe it's our job to point the way and let others do the work. So he challenges me!

    Gina, is the salvation experience thread something you plan to pursue in research?

  19. Anneliese -- is this yours?


    If it is -- as I'm guessing it is -- awesome job! :)

    First Things just had a very good article about Dickens's faith. And there's a book about his faith, based on an examination of his book The Life of Our Lord, coming out soon, of which I'm trying to get a review copy. But I don't have the link handy at the moment.

    Yes it is mine. Thanks so much!

    I'll keep my eyes open for Life of our Lord for more understanding of his faith.

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