Monday, September 7, 2015

MDRA vs Team Ortho

The running community sure does have it's sub-cultures.

There are a handful of organizations around the twin cities that put on races, and of course a bunch of groups that do their annual town race or similar one-off type races.

MDRA (Minnesota Distance Runners Association) is not only a race organization but a running community.  They have socials, a quarterly magazine, running training and so on.  I'm a member because it's a a good deal just with the magazine itself, plus if I participate in a couple discounted races it practically pays for itself.  MDRA has been around for over 50 years.

Team Ortho organizes some of the largest races in the state.  I believe Monster DASH has had had close to 20,000 participants in years past.  I believe they are national organization, but have been doing races in this state for about 5 plus years?  I run an organization that benefits from their volunteer program and have paced a few half-marathons with them.

MDRA races are affordable if not free or dirt cheap, sometimes include a free t-shirt, maybe are chip-timed, and usually take place in suburban neighborhoods.  Victory 10k is one of the biggest races they do and has about 500 participants (more if you count the same-day 5k).    

Team Ortho races are expensive, chip-timed, usually include a nice running jacket or a sweatshirt (sometimes additional SWAG).  The half-marathons and one marathon are always paced (sometimes by yours truly ;) ).  You can expect a beer tent, food trucks, pizza and out right party at the end.  All of the Team Ortho races are in downtown Saint Paul or Minneapolis.

When I show up to MDRA races, I can expect to park within a short walk of the start, pick up my bib and basically be ready to go.  The attire of the day is running club singlets, t-shirts quoting Prefontaine and men in their 80s but in nothing a pair of tiny running shorts.  Conversations heard are something between discussion of highschool track days, "who hopes to age-group?", and "how many years have you been doing this race?",  "Will you be participating in next weeks race?" and "do you hope run even more miles later today?"

Team Ortho races are actually two events.  It will be expected that you pre-party (go to the expo to pick up your packet) and then party again (the race)!  Attire is brightly colored designer athletic clothing worn for style and comfort.  Popular T-shirts include jokes about 'the beer at the end', 'how running is torture, but how bout dat ass' and 'your mom'.   Also, don't forget, beaded necklaces, head bands with antenna, face paint and a tutu.  Race chatter includes "Did you hear what kind of beer they are serving at the end?", "who hopes to finish?"  and "What do you plan to 'eat on the run'?"

There are things I hate and love about both these groups, but I think it just makes me laugh to think about how many different kinds of people are runners out there.

EDIT: corrected number of participants in Victory 10 k.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The thing with the Duggars.

People have been in an uproar about the recent scandal involving Josh Duggar.  To catch you up this would be the alleged molestations, Ashley Madison account and I heard something about a prostitute?

Actually, most people have forgot about that since we now have Kim Davis and the social media news engine is as flighty as shit.  

Anyway, let's talk about Josh Duggar.  Actually no, what I want to say is that the Josh Duggar situation is not really about him, but systemic issues within the fundamentalist worldview.  This is something I felt since the first time I saw the reports.  I wasn't shocked or surprised, it made sense to me that this is a likely result of someone living in this repressive culture.  When you are uneducated, given few life options (you must get married, you must have kids), and sexually repressed, it's no wonder.  I honestly think the worst thing someone can take away from this situation thinking is that 'it's just one guy'.  Sure, not all fundamentalist christians are capable of this madness, but the culture is doing nothing to prevent it.  Even, major Christian bloggers such as Matt Walsh are coming to his defense.  To me that's a sign that that very few are waking up to this problem.  Though maybe I should be more concerned that I'm using Matt Walsh as a barometer of Christian culture in the first place.    

However, I'm not the only one recognizing this, even if I'm afraid the message is not gaining popularity.  Here, Libby Anne of Love Joy Feminism curates some of the key writings on this issue, which is a totally worthwhile read.

I wish I could be so optimistic to think that this scandal might have the potential to shake up the leaders in these groups up in a real way, and get them to re-think their practices and policies.  I think for the leaders they will just dig in deeper, keep victim-blaming and neglect the self-reflection that would yield real change.   Though maybe for those who already had a twinge of doubt this will be the push they need to look further, and examine what it is they really believe in, or be bolder and walk away from an oppressive religion.  I guess I can hope in that.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

a math person

The title of this blog comes from my experience when asked a typical 'get to know you' question.  I'm a math educator, and here is a conversation I've had many times.

Them:  What do you do for a living?
Me:  I'm a Math Instructor
Them:  Oh, I'm not a math person.

Okay, so there are variants, at some point I usually have to explain that I teach at a college, but it's really not college level.  I usually end with the reassurance that "they are not alone", and "I hear that a lot", which in turn is not all that reassuring for me.  It's not like I'm shocked to know that people struggle with mathematics as a subject, but what I find uncanny is how people are so quick to assign in to their personhood.  I've had sore subjects to, I rarely find myself saying "I'm not blank person"  (My first blog post "I'm not a writer" is meant with a hint of irony).    The tone of this remark is often one of "Hey, hey now don't get too serious"... Like at the very mention of what I do for a living I might start quizzing them on their multiplication facts or say "... and what do you know? I've got an Algebra test right here!", which leaves me feeling like I need to say "hey, but don't worry, I'm not like that, it's all good".

Anyway, what better title than "a math person".

It's also ambiguous in my opinion and I have no idea what I'm doing with this blog right now.

Friday, September 4, 2015

There is probably no God

...and I think that’s okay with me! 

I grew up in a Christian household.  It had it’s imperfections and I could go on those, but it was hardly a rough upbringing.  I lived fairly white, fairly rich in a fairly nice suburban area.  I was a super awkward kid (and am still a somewhat awkward adult - but no one cares now.) and that was no fun at times, but I had people I could call friends and birthday parties and good memories and all that. So 1) I’m super Lucky and 2)I think a reasonable person would put me in the non-damaged camp.  

I grew up loving my Christianity! I did AWANAs (Timothy Award recipient I might add), I lead AWANAs, I did VBS, I lead VBS, I went to youth group, I went to retreats, I went to church camp, I lead the Bible Study at my public school.  I went to ‘See you at the pole’ every year!  I did these things because I enjoyed them; I’m sure my parents were inclined to encourage this behavior, but I do not remember feeling coerced.  These experiences, these people, they were my world, and they meant the world to me too.  (Bonus points to those who caught all my references) 

Most of the time Christianity was uber awesome and we were getting along! There were however challenges.  Evolution was a tricky work around, and some other things did not quite add up either.  So as the title of this blog would suggest, I’m no longer a Christian.  Four years ago, I wrote about this process in great detail on a blog I use to write on.  I debated about linking it here, as it’s long, contains some spelling and grammar mistakes and doesn’t ‘perfectly’ reflect my feelings now.  That said, it was cathartic for me to write and I often go back and re-read it to reflect on how I felt, and feel now.  I had only recently left at the time I wrote this down and I can tell I was still having a harder time with certain aspects.  Also fair warning, I’m not sure how much sense it would make to someone who didn’t experience similar things, but I tried... 
These four posts serve as the long answer the question “Why did you leave?”  A question that really has no short answer.  There are some points I would like to highlight though:  

1) I sought to maintain not lose my faith (and lost it anyway).  

When I began to have doubts about or be presented with conflicting information about my faith... it was painful.  I didn’t want to leave the world I knew and loved and I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.  I don’t know that I’m proud of this now, but in the beginning phases of doubt I only looked at Christian sources (Lee Strobel, Mere Christianity, etc...) and my goal wasn’t really research but solace and confirmation.  Nothing really added up for me but they made some heady arguments that seemed vaguely valid to me.   This is how I felt as someone who really wanted to believe.  It was dissatisfying, but for years I let it go.  Reasoning, or should I say “reasoning” that it was more about having faith anyway.  When I finally had the will to truly examine those sources critically, and see things as they were I still attempted to maintain some sort of Christian title for a while.  Maybe I was a ‘Christian Universalist’ or ‘Christian Agnostic’ or a ‘Deist’ and now I would read the Jefferson bible instead.  My point is that if I could have figured out a way to maintain my faith and my critical reasoning at the same time I would have, it was NOT my goal to leave and then later I make up the facts fit to my liking; It was so very the opposite  

2) Fundamentalism FUCKS with you.  
Yes, that, all caps.  Like I have made clear, I liked being a Christian, and the version of fundamentalism I was raised with was honestly probably one of the least extreme.  I consider it fundamentalist for this reasons: We believed there was a real hell and the people who didn’t believe our version of Christianity were probably going there.  We were also, pro-life (anti-abortion), anti-gay, anti-alcohol and anti-sex before marriage.  All of which I could go on about, but will save for now.   

In Christianity, we were taught “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  When I was a Christian, I thought my passions, my desires, my dreams were unwieldy, untrustworthy and undeserved.  Everything was secondary to God’s desires for me and my only goal should be to submit to him.  Then, if I did that, I could finally find peace and maybe God would deem it appropriate for me to have a few of my foolish wants.  When I spell this out as it was, it basically sounds a little ludicrous and incredibly clear why it’s a damaging personal world view, but I didn’t see it that way at the time.  I believed this.  I loved Christianity, but in retrospect it didn’t really love me back.  Also, I was getting these ideas from the Bible.  I’m not even cherry picking here, the message that we are broken beyond repair and have an eternal debt to pay to the Lord is sort of an essential Christian teaching (John 3:16).  The view that I wasn’t worthy of God’s love (his existence not withstanding), even if he still gave me it anyway basically just made me feel unworthy period.  I thought I deserved to feel this way because of my ‘sin nature’ so I didn’t question it.  I only see this as troubling now as I look back.  I also see this view of one’s self harming a lot of other Christians and I worry about the mental health of some of my friends who maintain their faith.  

3) I’m a better person since I left.  

I don’t know that I would go quite so far to say leaving Christianity = life improvement, but I am a more honest, happier, confident and thoughtful person than when I was a Christian.  Part of this might be the timing in my life (People tend to grow up a lot in their 20s regardless), but I don’t think that’s the whole story either.     This is what I can say though.  When I was a Christian, I was insecure, unhappy at work, struggled in most of my relationships, and rarely exercised.  Since I’ve been a non-Christian I’ve found fulfilling work, a life partner and a love of running! (or ‘most of the time’ on the last thing).  Yes, some of this is probably coincidental... but I think a lot of it has to do with letting go of what I talked about in the above paragraph.   

This post is already too long, so I’ll end with this.  I’ve said a lot about Christianity to the point where I’m almost sick of typing that word out.  It was the easiest way for me to describe my background, it’s what I use to call myself, and I didn’t feel like picking another word.  I understand that people might be ruffled by this and want to describe my experience ‘just this one kind’ of christianity and so if that’s you, you have my permission to do so.  There are over 1300 denominations in America and I explored many of them but you are allowed to have your own kind (because at 1300 ... who’s counting?).  Related to this, 90% of the people I’ve met who are Christians are kind people (the other 10% were kind of douchey, but I’ll talk about that later), and many were very intelligent too.  This goes for the fundamentalist kind as well.  I end with this because I often hear that I ran into the wrong kind of Christians and that’s why I left, when the reality is I ran into a lot of awesome Christians, but still had to leave.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I'm not a writer

I am however, a smartass, and when the time came to determine if we would take ‘HP’ (High Performance) classes in Junior High.... I was doing it!  Okay, so I only wanted to do Math and Science.  For Math, there was a multiple-choice math question test to get in, which I had no trouble with.  For Science, English and Social Studies, there was an essay test for all 3, which I failed.  This was not a fluke, because I re-took this test again in 9th grade... and also failed.  
Luckily for me, my teachers were not idiots and within the first week of 7th grade it was obvious that I did not belong in regular science.  I think I scored 105% on test where the average for the class was 60%... at any rate, I was granted access to HP Science, tests scores not withstanding.  (The re-take in 9th grade was to try to move out of regular Social Studies.)  You might like to say that I’m just a bad test taker and therefore that’s why I did poorly twice on said writing exams, but I can assure it’s the writing that’s the issue.  I know this because I was an excellent test taker on almost every other subject, often fairing better than expected or deserved.  
In college I majored in Engineering, and then later Math as well, which makes me sounds smart, but I’m pretty sure I was avoiding writing.   
So I thought I’d start a blog anyway.