"There are two things you don't talk about: Religion and Politics."
Growing up as the fast-talking, youngest-child of a pastor in the American Midwest, I often struggled with this adage.
"Why not? They are so interesting," I'd ask. Unaware that as both a Lutheran and a Nebraskan, passive-aggressiveness was firmly in the cultural canon.
So while my current focus as a travel blogger is writing about the U.S. national parks' 100th anniversary, I also really want to talk about religion and how it's such a large part of my upcoming world record road trip to all 400+ U.S. national parks.
Because it's so interesting...
I recently read this New York Times piece "Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me." It was making its way around my gay/Christian friends' Facebook walls, so I figured it must be a good read.
I couldn't even make it past the first sentence before it got real real, real quick:
The author has Stage 4 cancer.
And then just two sentences later she tells us she's 35.
As if I wasn't already fretting about turning 30 and hyper-aware of how my dad's cancer and life cut short inspired so many of the distress prayers I'm now reciting while preparing to live out of a van for three years.
The author, Kate Bowler, goes on to talk about her Mennonite background in relation to her circumstances, and the prayers of Prosperity Gospel adherents for a #blessed life free of pain and strife...and I can't help but dwell on my current prayers:
"God, is this what I'm supposed to be doing with my life? WHAT am I supposed to be doing with my life? Can you help make it clear if this is really what I'm supposed to do?"
Prayers I have no doubt every believer utters copious times in their life, and that I've been uplifting as I'm less than 35 days from embarking on this trip I hope will survive on crowd-funding.
"Maybe I can tell my employer I'll come back after three months if it doesn't work out?" I often think to comfort myself. "If nobody reads my blog and a lack of social media followers confirms my fear that no one cares about a 30-year-old trying to see all the national parks, then I can return to my safe job and community, unharmed by my crazy idea."
Then boom again.
The author smacks me in the face:
"The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder. At some point, we must say to ourselves, I’m going to need to let go."
And I suddenly realize I am the person the author is discussing. I am afraid of losing self-rule. I am afraid of relinquishing control. I am afraid of letting go.
Even after already doing a 9-month road trip around North America five years ago, and experiencing the most intense happiness I'd ever known, I'm still scared of this next adventure.
And then I get smacked in the face again.
Smacked by a faith I heard my dad preach about for 19 years until he surrendered all.
Jesus says, "Surrender all." Not "Keep a big safety net in case."
Jesus is the safety net.
Jesus already "paid it all" as the popular gospel song asserts, so that regardless of what sin or mistake I might ever make, Jesus already has me covered.
It's the reason I can do something crazy like quit my job and try to see all the national parks. It's the reason I can abandon my security for the hope that I'm doing what God wants me to do. It's the reason I'm a Christian, one who still believes in Jesus even when so many said I couldn't because I'm gay.
Jesus says "Surrender all."
I just have to have enough faith to do it.
Mikah will launch his trip April 29, 2016, the 11th anniversary of his father's passing from cancer
(Camp Wapo, one of my favorite places on earth)
Click here to read about each of the 400+ national parks.