Working my way from fundamentalism to freedom (without losing my mind)


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New blog series on Patheos!

In case you missed yesterday’s announcement, this blog has moved to the Patheos blogging network! I’ll be posting updates here for awhile to redirect people over there, but you may want to head over to http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sarahoverthemoon/ and sign up for email updates if you want to keep in touch in the long run! 

I hope to see you over there, because I’m starting a new series called “You Are Not Your Own” in which I’ll be sharing the results of some research that I’ve done on rape and sexual assault in Christian dating books. I’ll be talking about Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage (and yes, there will be bunnies), Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and others. 

Read more about it here! 


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Guest Post for Alise Write

Hi friends!

My research project is done, my exams are finished, and (though I still have a few summer classes to take) I’ll be walking in the Oakland University graduation ceremony at 4 pm today. I think it’s time I start blogging again.

So, let’s mark my triumphant return with a guest post for the wonderful Alise Write! I’ve written for Alise about how I’ve navigated my relationship with my fiance, Abe, as we both travel along in our individual faith journeys.

When I first met my fiancé, Abraham, I was a fundamentalist who had recently realized (with trepidation) that I believed in evolution, had just become a feminist, and was considering leaving the Baptist church that I grew up in.

When my fiancé, Abraham, first met me, he was a Southern Baptist Missions drop-out who had recently left the church and was considering atheism.

I remember our second date clearly—Abe had taken me to a seafood restaurant that he really couldn’t afford because he wanted to impress me. In between mouthfuls of flounder and scallops, we discussed religion.

I listened, nervously, as he explained why he had stopped pursuing a career as a Southern Baptist missionary.: “They wanted me to teach ‘once-saved-always-saved,’ and I just don’t see salvation as a one-time event.”

And he listened (with I’m sure just as much nervousness), as I explained that I thought maybe a Creator God could use evolution to form the heavens and the earth.

We disagreed on these points that seem almost laughably insignificant, looking back. But to a couple of people not-quite-yet grown out of the bible-clearly-says mindsets we’d both been raised in, those insignificant points seemed like a big deal.

Read the rest at Alise Write!

Cover of the book "Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti"


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Love and the mystery of men and women

I’ve been reading bell hook’s book All About Love: New Visions. In it, she stresses the importance of defining love so that we can’t be controlled by abusive people who claim to love us. She borrows her definition of love from M. Scott Peck: “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth…Love is as love does. Love is an act of will–namely, both an intention and an action.” 

hooks later discusses our culture’s reluctance to define love:

It is particularly distressing that so many recent books on love continue to insist that definitions of love are unnecessary and meaningless. Or worse, the authors suggest love should mean something different to men than it does to women–that the sexes should respect and adapt to our inability to communicate since we do not share the same language. This type of literature is popular because it does not demand a change in fixed ways of thinking about gender roles, culture, or love. Rather than sharing strategies that would help us become more loving it actually encourages everyone to adapt to circumstances where love is lacking.

It’s funny how much this idea–that love should mean something different to men than it does to women–has caught on in Christian culture. Funny. And a bit sad.

Cover of the book “Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti”

I think of the books that were popular when I was a teenager and when I was attending a Christian college. The ones that flew off the bookshelf at Lifeway. The ones that the “cool” churches had Young Adult Bible studies on.

There was the For Men Only  and For Women Only series. I remember buying For Men Only with my college suitemate Carina because it made us feel rebellious. We read it in her dorm room and snickered at how dumb it was.But the premise was exactly what bell hooks described above–that men and women  are totally different and must be loved in different ways. The description on Amazon for For Men Only says it all (emphasis mine):

 Now at your fingertips is the tool that will unlock the secret to her mysterious ways. Through hundreds of interviews and the results of a scientific national survey of women, this book demonstrates that women are actually not random and that they really can be systematized and “mapped.” In fact, much to men’s delight, this book shows that women are actually quite easy to understand and please—as long as you know what it is they need. This simple map will guide you to loving your wife or girlfriend in the way she needs to be loved.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only Christian relationship book that emphasizes extreme sex differences when it comes to love.

There’s Eggerich’s Love and Respect, a book that I stopped reading out of frustration when I was dating my last boyfriend: “Psychological studies affirm it, and the Bible has been saying it for ages. Cracking the communication code between husband and wife involves understanding one thing: that unconditional respect is as powerful for him as unconditional love is for her. It’s the secret to marriage that every couple seeks, and yet few couples ever find.”

Again, this idea that men and women need different things in a relationship.

How about the Eldredges’ books Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul and Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul? Secret? Mystery? Or how about Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti? 

Or Hayley and Michael DiMarco’s Marriable: Taking the Desperate Out of Dating, a book I read in college, which had separate chapters for men and women. Most notably, there was a chapter on “Male Porn” and “Female Porn.” The male porn section was on, well, porn. The female porn section was on chick flicks. Even when it comes to sex, says Christian culture, men and women want different things. 

What happens when we insist on this dichotomy between men and women when it comes to love? What happens when we pretend that men and women are too different to understand each other? Or that all men want one thing when it comes to love and all women want another?

That men want respect and women want romance?

That men want physically pleasing sex and women just want to feel close to someone emotionally?

That men are a secret? Women are a mystery?

What happens is we cannot love each other fully. We cannot “nurture another’s spiritual growth,” according to Peck’s definition of love, because we’re only giving another  person half of what they need. Because we’re assuming we know what their needs are based on the genitalia they happen to have (or because we’re assuming we can never really know what they need). Men and women both become dehumanized. They become simply mysterious terrain to be “systematized and mapped.”

I told you I stopped reading Love and Respect. Why? Because I don’t just need love and my boyfriend at the time didn’t just need respect.  We both needed both. Equally. Unconditionally. One cannot exist without the other. I couldn’t stand the idea of being treated as simply this object called Woman–just follow the instructions to please! I couldn’t stand the idea of treating the man I was with in the same way.

The more the church settles for these split-up, scattered, partial definitions of love, the more the church pretends that all men are the same and all women are the same and all men are different from all women, the more that the church withholds holistic, fulfilling definitions of love from both men and women…

…the less the church knows love. The less the church knows God.

 


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Weekend links!

Here are a few of my favorite moments from the internet this week! Enjoy!

Five women who changed God’s rules” by Fred Clark at Slacktivist: Sometimes I don’t think God’s laws are fair. Sometimes they’re sexist. Sometimes I let God know how I feel about those rules. Turns out, this makes me a “biblical woman,” and turns out that, God listens to women. This article tells us of five women in the Bible who challenged one of God’s unjust laws and paved the way for more equality for women of the ancient world! It tells me that God isn’t as “anti-progess” as some people think he is. Definitely post of the week!

Helping is for everybody!” by Abe Kobylanski: So, who should feed the poor and right the world’s wrongs? The church? Or the government? Why not both?

Why I am not Joe Paterno” by Dianna Anderson at Relevant Magazine: When Relevant Magazine published a highly offensive article entitled, “We are all Joe Paterno,” Dianna Anderson boldly stepped up to the plate to defend the voices of rape survivors. I was proud.

Christian Dating Bingo” by Dianna Anderson: And, on a lighter note, this post made my week.

“Two Reasons Mark Driscoll’s Popularity Doesn’t Bother Me” by Rachel Held Evans: I needed to hear this one after all the “Real Marriage” and “Mars Hill church discipline” news lately. Very encouraging.

“She Won’t Let Me Wear The Pants Or Stick My Thingy In Her, And Other Pressing Problems Facing The Church Today” by Jo Hilder: An awesome response to all the “recent rash of Driscollisms.” I mean, the title alone, right? So great!

“Biblical manhood, or fruits of the spirit?” by Bram Cools: Bram wonders, why do we place so much focus on “Biblical manhood or womanhood?” Why not focus on the fruits of the spirit?

“Famous Paintings Improved by Cats” at Sad and Useless: Amazing. Just amazing.

“What NOT to say to someone struggling with their faith” by Elizabeth Esther: SO much truth!

And, of course, two of the greatest episodes of the Colbert Report aired this week (which is saying something, since Colbert is always amazing. Check out Stephen Colbert’s interview with Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are and other children’s books.

Grim Colberty Tales, part 1

Grim Colberty Tales, part 2


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Continued thoughts on Nice Guy Syndrome

I recently wrote a post about Harold Lauder, a character from Stephen King’s The Stand. I mentioned that Harold has a thing called “Nice Guy Syndrome.”

One criticism of that post came from a man who complained, “Can’t be nice, can’t be a jerk! It’s tough being a male!”

I’m truly sorry if anyone else got the vibe from my last post that I don’t like nice guys. That wasn’t my intent. In fact, I love nice guys. I’m dating one. I appreciate any man who goes out of his way to be kind to others. I am not talking about those men when I talk about men with Nice Guy Syndrome.

Because men with Nice Guy Syndrome are NOT nice guys.

Here’s why:

Being “nice” just to get something isn’t really nice: A man with Nice Guy Syndrome will go out of his way for his “lady fair. He will rush to her side when she’s sad, listen to her problems, and let her cry on his shoulder.

But when she starts dating someone else, what happens? The man with Nice Guy Syndrome complains about being stuck in the “friend zone.” He may even become hostile, referring to her as a bitch, or a whore, or more likely he will insult her intelligence, calling her an idiot for not picking him.

We see that his niceness was not  his nature, but was simply a means to an end.

Men who are only nice until a woman turns them down aren’t nice guys. They’re just manipulative Harold Lauders, hiding their true colors in order to receive their reward (note: you can often diagnose Nice Guy Syndrome early on by paying attention to the way a man treats others besides his object of affection–does he respect other women? How about men? Or is he only “nice” to one woman?)

Objectifying women isn’t really nice: Men with Nice Guy Syndrome act as if the world is a vending machine that trades niceness for women. If they are nice and don’t end up with a woman, they feel that they have been cheated.

A man with Nice Guy Syndrome feels that his niceness should entitle him to a relationship in the same way that a man who goes to a prostitute feels that his money should entitle him to sex. A man with Nice Guy Syndrome doesn’t view women as complex human beings. He views them as objects with a price tag, so naturally he is frustrated when he learns that his niceness cannot be used as currency to buy a relationship.

Invalidating a woman’s choice isn’t really nice: A man with Nice Guy Syndrome is quick to judge any other man that his love interest starts dating. He will become skeptical and over-protective. He will speedily label the other man a jerk, and will tell his friends that the girl is stupid for dating him.

Rather than allowing the woman to make her own decisions, he treats her as a foolish child.

Blaming women for being stuck in abusive relationships isn’t really nice: Now, sometimes women really do end up in relationships with jerks. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. But does the reality of domestic abuse excuse the actions of the “nice guy?”

No.

A man with Nice Guy Syndrome ridicules, with an “I told you so” manner, the women who end up in these abusive relationships. All other factors are ignored in favor of a “You could have had me, but you picked him. You deserve what you got and I’m going to sit back an laugh” mindset.

Never mind the complex, crippling problems that keep women in abusive relationships. Never mind the fact that the jerk the woman is dating likely started out as a “nice guy” too…

Contributing to rape culture isn’t really nice: At the center of rape culture is the idea that a woman’s (or a man’s) “No” should not be taken seriously. If she consents to some things, or if she sends certain “signals,” a man can assume that he is free to sleep with her, regardless of her opinion on the matter.

A man with Nice Guy Syndrome, even if he does not rape a woman, is participating in rape culture when he repeatedly pursues a woman who has turned him down. He does not take “No” for answer, and will not back off once he is rejected because he feels that her friendship with him should eventually entitle him to a relationship. He accuses the woman of leading him on, even if she has made her feelings toward him clear. He may even stalk her or publicly humiliate her.

Men with Nice Guy Syndrome are products of and participants in rape culture. Like Harold Lauder of The Stand, they can even be dangerous–becoming hostile and abusive toward women who do not return their affections or toward men who “steal” their women. They are manipulative men who objectify and feel entitled to women–who think that women can be bought with a price.

Men with Nice Guy Syndrome are NOT nice guys.


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My deepest, darkest secret

As long-time readers of my blog (you folks are awesome!) already know, I’ve dedicated this blog to saying the things that the Church is afraid to say–to being brutally honest about my own struggles and mistakes and life choices. I haven’t held much back.

But I’ve got to be real with you all today.

I’ve been hiding something.

Something that I’ve been too proud to talk about.

But it’s time for pride to go before a fall…

It’s time for the truth to come out.

Alright…deep breath…here goes!

I met my boyfriend on a Christian dating website.

Sigh of relief. Okay, it’s out. You now know my deepest darkest secret. I was not only crazy enough to try out a dating website, but I was crazy enough to date someone else who was ALSO crazy enough to try out a dating website.

It was called “Christian Café,” too. Ugh. So cheesy. And the payment plans were named after coffee-shop beverages, like the “mocha grande plan.” Ughhhhhh (I didn’t actually pay for the service, but Abe did and I like to tease him about that). 

Anyways, now you know the truth.

Really, though, it’s the 21st century. I shouldn’t be any more ashamed about meeting my partner on (shudders) Christian Café then I would be about meeting my partner in a local Starbucks. But I am.

Why is it so embarrassing for people to admit that they met their partner on the internet? Why did Abe’s and my third date involve a “What are we going to tell people when they ask how we met?” conversation? What’s wrong with online dating?

Let’s talk about some of the negative things people say about online dating, shall we?

“Anyone who uses an internet dating service is desperate.”

Okay, I’ll admit it. I was desperate.

This might come as a shock to those of you who know about my feminist tendencies and my slight distain for all things romantic, but stick with me here.

When I signed up for Christian Café, I was going to school as a full time student in a demanding major and I was working forty hours a week at Taco Bell.  I would get off of work at 6 am, enjoy an hour or two of “free time” (more like, “pick pieces of soggy taco out of my hair” time), go to class all day, come back to my dorm and get four hours of sleep, then wake up, go to work and do it again.

I was at a school where I barely knew anyone. I didn’t have time to make friends. My roommates were fast asleep when I got home from work. The only conversations I’d have for weeks at a time were arguments with drunk customers about why their cell phones are not accepted as currency in exchange for tacos.

Yeah, I was desperate. Not for love or for romance. Just for some dang human interaction.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s okay to need human interaction. It’s a need that almost everyone shares. Some people can fulfill that need by calling up a few friends or going to a party. But there’s nothing wrong with fulfilling that need in other ways, even if the words “Christian Café” are involved.

And you know what? Even if you have plenty of friends and a social life, it’s okay to want to go on a date. That doesn’t make you weak or desperate, even if you meet your date on the internet.

“Anyone who uses an internet dating service is just too socially awkward to meet people in person.”

First of all, I’m sure this doesn’t describe everyone who uses dating services. Some people work weird hours and can’t have normal social lives as a result. Some people just don’t know anyone who is a potential partner.

And then, yes, some of us are socially awkward. Again, I am guilty as charged.

Who cares, though? You extroverts have ruled the dating scene for far too long. We introverts shouldn’t have to change our personality styles in ways that make us uncomfortable in order to get a date. Online dating lets us socially awkward people get to know each other without having to go through the painful process of small talk.

There’s nothing wrong with meeting people the old fashioned way, but there’s nothing wrong with us introverts using new technology to our advantage either.

Creepy people? On the internet? No way!

“The internet is filled with creepy people.”

To that I say, so is the world. That doesn’t mean we don’t leave our houses.

Don’t turn off your common sense when you turn on your computer. Be careful and follow safety tips like these and you should be fine.

“If you’re a Christian, you should wait on God to bring you a date.”

This stems from the idea that God hand-picks The One for you, and that you should wait passively and patiently until He sends The One down on a unicorn from heaven.

I call bull crap on that.

You would never say, “God promised to provide me with food. I know there’s some in the fridge, but I think I’m going to wait for him to bring me the right sandwich.”

Why do we do that with relationships? God made a world full of awesome people and it’s our job to get to know those people and find a person that we like and form a relationship with that person. And no method of meeting people is more or less “divine” than another.

Online dating worked for me and Abe. We both have the same favorite jelly bean flavor and I think that makes us soul mates. We also both have the same tennis shoes and I think that makes us sole mates. But we would have never gotten to know those things about each other without the help of the internet.

Online dating helped two socially awkward people fall in love.

Have any of you ever tried online dating? Did it work for you? Why or why not? Don’t be ashamed! Your story can’t be more embarrassing than my “Christian Cafe” story! Hah! 

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