A Note from the Editor: Faith Christiansen Smeets is lively, colorful, and a reader of books. I love that! It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to hear from her—I always enjoy her unique voice! I think her perspective in the second piece is especially interesting; I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever thought about it like that before.— Jennifer
Getting To Know: Faith Christiansen Smeets
Where did you grow up and how did you end up here? I grew up in central Phoenix – lots of places, but always somehow near the canal. I have seen much happen on the canal. The other day, I saw a duck eat a cigarette out of the canal. So that was something. I left when I was 18, did a missionary stint, went to college, got jobs, married someone from Southern California and never thought I would ever come back. My husband and I moved here in 2006/7 and then left again in early ‘08 for Washington DC. That is when we started attending Roosevelt and, when we returned in 2012, we jumped right back in… I ended up here by default. I love the desert, so I have learned to accept my lot here (for now).
What’s your job? I’m an artist 75% of the time and a hustler. Lots of hats, lots of range. Plus, mom to Ignatius and Marigold.
Why are you at Roosevelt? Because of the people that I love, and Pastor Vermon and Pastor Bob’s leadership. All people, all of Jesus.
How long have you been here? A long time, almost since the very beginning.
How long have you been a Christian? Since I was a little kid. I asked Jesus into my heart in our little house on 3rd Avenue. I was a total Bible-Thumping zealot. I grew up in the Evangelical 80’s, where you had to speak in tongues and never listen to secular music and wore culottes and I thought it was glorious, until I realized it wasn’t. That was 35 years ago, when little Faith dove into the big Faith. My faith has ebbed and flowed over the years through circumstances, trials, tribulations, and sin. Gun to the head: Jesus died on the cross for my sins.
What are your hobbies? I don’t necessarily have “hobbies.” I do what I want to do when I want to do it…that can range from making dollars, writing, wandering around in the desert, weight lifting, camping, staring into space, debating any topic on hand, live music, drawing weird stuff on my IPad, volunteering with the refugee community, or making jokes.
Name two things on your bucket list: Marrakech and parts of Northern Africa for a season and publish something that makes people laugh.
What is your favorite book? I love lots of books…I cannot answer this. But I love Pearl S. Buck, E. Hemingway, Graham Greene, David Sedaris, Langston Hughes, and LOTS of historical nonfiction. I am completely obsessed with the idea of Manifest Destiny and that particular time in American History, and have read loads on that topic. And I usually never pass up a good bit on Winston Churchill or the period of sub-Saharan African colonization. So, no favorite book – just favorite subjects and if someone hands me something – I read it.
What is your favorite movie? I am not exactly a film aficionado and I rarely, if ever, watch a movie twice. Once is enough, even if I loved the film. But I have seen the 6 hour BBC version of Pride and Prejudice about 7 zillion times and counting. I love to watch slow, dark anything produced by BBC/Masterpiece Theatre and anything about cults or North Korea. Nerd alert. Though sometimes I go to a dine-in theater by myself on, like, a Tuesday night at 9 or 10 PM. I eat something akin to overpriced junk food such as loaded potato skins or a BBQ chicken flatbread option with a giant Coca-Cola. Red Vines, if I am feeling extravagant. It helps me turn off my brain. It’s usually me dressed in warm socks and a winter coat sitting far away from an awkward 3rd date situation. That’s my relationship to movies. I go for how they “look” and if they are playing on Tuesday night after 9PM. I tend to like the slower, arty versions. To me, a Wes Anderson film or a gory documentary is much more intriguing than a snooze fest, predictable, comic-based, explosion film. I am trying my hardest to alienate myself from most of the Roosevelt population, clearly with this sentiment.
I was raised in the “Evangelical 80’s and 90’s” in a lower middle class neighborhood in suburban Phoenix. Like most eras and places, it had a culture all its own. We had our own celebrities,news of the world, sports heroes, beauty trends, and language my own father later dubbed“Christianeze.” The Cold War was winding down, and Jesus and families were hot hot hot, plus it was hot.
One summer at Vacation Bible School it hit 121 degrees. That next week, you could buy a commemorative t-shirt with a melting skeleton next to a smiling sun and saguaro. My people bought those shirts and controlled the ballot box and prayer in schools and then Desert Storm came and we tied yellow flags all over America. I was solidly on that team..the yellow ribbon, love Jesus, and wearing-culottes team. It was not all wins; we suffered many many losses. It wasn’t simpler times, nor was it the good old days, necessarily, but it was the era that shaped the core of my faith. And while in retrospect we can see clearly the delusional, destructive mindsets and atrocities of the time, there are a few “take aways” from that era’s Christian culture that I wish we would have not so quickly abandoned in the modern church.
One of those practices which seems to have been sidelined in the modern church is the consistent prayer and support for the martyred. I am not even sure what the state of the “modern church” is in, in terms of specific theology, nor do I feel committed to define the state of the American church nowadays. I am merely using the term “modern church” as a reference in time to my more recent experiences I have had with the present day body of Christ, who are part and partial to the non-denominational church circuit.
Nonetheless, it seems as though the torch for the martyred in today’s Christian headlines has been extinguished by the American Age of self-help and social justice at home. We can argue the merits of any injustice at home or abroad, but why the solid shift from being on our hands and knees pleading for the freedom of our brothers and sisters in Christ globally to a home-front battle?
Because, guess what friends, people are at present being tortured for Christ around the world while [insert important topic here] is occurring on the home front.
There is inherently nothing wrong with focusing on the home-front, but I just miss the sentiment of camaraderie of the church globally. It seems to have faded with the Cold War soldier’s memories. In my naivety, I thought a host of angels and God’s people would be praying if I ever got caught up in some anti-Jesus, lock-‘em-up situation. Now, I am not so confident. I have never been tortured before, to be sure, but I am going to take a wild guess that I wouldn’t hold up my proof of Christian self-help books I have read or start arguing about all the times I prayed for things to go our way. I had planned on boldly claiming Christ, knowing I would have an army of saints coming to my rescue in prayer.
Just your friendly reminder that you are not the center of the universe and probably should not aspire to be, because there is a family in Nigeria right now hoping to survive the night because of their faith in Christ Jesus. Keep them in your prayers, Americans, carry the torch. They are our brothers and sisters who we are called to love as ourselves, not expect to theologically or politically concur.
I want to use my exceptional American dollars to buy a t-shirt to commemorate the year that Christians were set free from communist prisons in the Eastern Bloc and a new one with a Christian Kurd on the front and a cross on the back. Truly, I will pay top American dollar and pray hard for that one.