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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Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week: My Guest Post at Rachel Held Evans

IMAGE BY DANI KELLEY

IMAGE BY DANI KELLEY

Today I’m guest posting at Rachel Held Evans’ blog, talking about abuse and images of God.

God is love. I believe that with my whole heart.

But what is God? And what is love?

We need to ask ourselves these questions and think deeply about them before we can even begin to start solving the problem of abuse in the Christian church.

Read the rest at RachelHeldEvans.com!


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Must reads!

Lots of posts that I want to share this week. I hope you’ll check them out, as they are all important! They discuss a wide variety of topics, from God, to rape culture, to The Wizard of Oz, to racism/homophobia, to the dangers of fraternizing with bears.

“For most of my Christian experience, I’ve only ever heard God described in verbs. Very busy verbs.”

“If you want to know why we need to educate men not to be sexually aggressive, look no further than what happened when Zerlina Maxwell went on television to say that we need to educate men how not to be sexually aggressive.”

“But one can’t help feeling that ‘Great and Powerful’ is two steps back from the feminist bent Baum proudly and freely lent his work, and in a day and age when there wasn’t even a label for it.”

To be a victim does not mean that you lack agency as part of your essence; it means that someone attempted to deny your agency in inflicting harm, in rendering you less powerful or even essentially powerless.”

“And right then I knew that I was tired of good people, that I had had all the good people I could take.”

“Though I grieve I cannot ever go back. The steak is a lie.”

“The combination of patriarchal gender roles, purity culture, and authoritarian clergy that characterizes Sovereign Grace’s teachings on parenting, marriage, and sexuality creates an environment where women and children—especially girls—are uniquely vulnerable to abuse.

A gay, black mayoral candidate killed last week in Mississippi was beaten, dragged and set on fire before his body was dumped near a river.”

“I was unmarried, pregnant and they took away my livelihood. San Diego Christian College did not show any mercy or grace towards me.

“A church in which a woman’s voice is not welcomed is a church with incredibly limited mobility in the kingdom of God. It can limp, at best, but it will never run.”

“This attempt to anthropomorphize and humanize bears strikes at the heart of everything the gospel teaches about bears.

Damsel’d women are being acted upon, most often being reduced to a prize to be won, a treasure to be found, or a goal to be achieved.

Here's a cat that rocks. (picture taken by my sister, Sam Moon)

Here’s a cat that rocks. (picture taken by my sister, Sam Moon)


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My body remembers

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[TRIGGER WARNINGS: Rape and Abuse]

As many of you know, in highschool I spent a year in an abusive relationship. Some of my memories of my abuse are vague and foggy. But then other memories I remember well. The ones I remember the most clearly are the ones I remember not only in my mind, but in the rest of my body as well.

As I think about my connection with my body, and I think about my commitment to reconnect with and love my body for Lent, I also have to think of the ways my body has been hurt.

And I have to take care of it.

Because my body remembers.

Somehow in my path to healing I got the idea (though I don’t remember where from) that the pain from the physical abuse I’d suffered had healed already. Therefore, it was the verbal abuse I had to worry about.

After all, one only hurt my body. The other hurt my soul, right?

So, until the past two years or so I’d avoided even thinking about it.

But no matter how well my physical abuse has healed, verbal abuse isn’t the only thing that sticks with me. Again, my body remembers.

There aren’t any scars except the ones I gave myself–and those are fading. But even those are part of the body that is me now.

The body that carries in it the experiences that are part of who I am.

My story.

My survival.

Most of what my body remembers can’t be seen. My face remembers the stinging pain of the one and only time he slapped me.

My arm remembers the time when I tried to walk away from him and he grabbed it so tightly that it left a hand-print-shaped bruise. The bruise is gone but sometimes I still feel that hand, gripping so tightly I wanted to cry.

Sometimes my brain tricks me into feeling his hands at my sides ready to tickle me until I couldn’t breathe and started to cry. And I think about it and start to laugh and my ribs start to scream out in pain.

My body remembers when he forced me to perform fellactio on him and how he held my head down. It remembers the taste and how it felt when I threw up afterward. And I still carry mints or cough drops everywhere because sometimes I’ll just be at school or at the store and I’ll remember and the taste will be so real and so awful that if I don’t have something to help me forget I’ll throw up again.

Sometimes I’ll just feel his body on my body, hurting me all over again. I’ll feel his hands and I’ll want to push them away so badly but they aren’t there, and so I end up looking like I just walked into a spider web.

Physical abuse, like verbal abuse, goes deeper than the scars and bruises. My body remembers tastes and smells and touches–some that my brain can no longer even attach to a specific event.

And in my attempt to separate Me from My Body, I’ve dismissed the pain I’ve felt as something in the past. I’ve let myself feel ashamed for still feeling pain that is not “real.”

But today, for Lent, I’m affirming that pain. It’s real and it’s legitimate, even if it’s just a phantom.

I can cry over it. I can hurt from it. I can carry my cough drops and use them when I need to. I can tell Abe to stop touching me if his hands are reminding my body of another set of hands.

I survived with my body and I remember with my body and somehow, I’m going to learn to heal with my body.

I can say to my body, “It’s okay to remember. It’s okay to hurt. You are a survivor too.” 


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click for source

click for source

As many of you know, I’ve been doing research on Christian dating books and their treatment of rape and sexual assault. One such book that I’ve been reading is the infamous I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Joshua Harris.

In one section that I found interesting, Harris is explaining that “purity does not happen by accident. After telling the story of David and Bathsheba, and reminding us that protecting our purity is a constant process, Josh Harris goes on to explain the “seductive spirit of idolatry” as symbolized in the “wayward adultress” of Proverbs 7.

Harris never directly ties this “seductive spirit of idolatry” to Bathsheba, but in the context of this chapter–David, the object, being led astray by some outside force–it seems that Harris is saying the spirit of idolatry comes from Bathsheba. That she is the wayward adultress.

I’ve heard this argument before.

Once I took part in a Mother’s Day banquet at my church that involved the youth group putting on a small skit in which we acted as the mothers of famous women from the Bible.

I got to be Bathsheba’s mother. Joy.

Of course, my lines were something along the lines of “Leave some for the imagination, Bathsheba! Cover up! Don’t advertise what’s not for sale.”

When my mother saw these lines? She was furious.

Why?

Because King David might have been a rapist.

No matter how you look at it, this story is not about consensual sex between equals.

My mother ended up going on a rant about how King David was a pervert. And I ended up ad-libbing all of my lines the day of the skit and basically repeating my mom’s rant. Much to the horror of the church ladies who put the whole thing together, I’m sure.

Reading Harris’ book, and remembering that skit made me think about this. Why is Bathsheba demonized throughout much of Christianity as the embodiment of the “seductive spirit of idolatry?” This woman, who was simply washing up after her period ended, like all Jewish women did? This woman who was simply following God’s purity laws, while, unbeknownst to her, a powerful King watched from above? This woman who had…what choice when the men of a King famous for killing tens of thousands came knocking at her door?

As this fantastic article by Crystal Lewis points out, even conservative commentaries on the Bible recognize Bathsheba’s lack of agency, of options (emphasis mine):

The conservative editors wander close to the real issue when they write that Bathsheba’s refusal “could mean punishment or death”… They touch lightly on power abuse, on coercion, and on the terrible status occupied by women in scripture… But then, the editors back away from the real issues and turn this very complicated matter into something black-and-white. In their effort to determine which “sins” were committed, they target the victim. The editors found a way to assign culpability to a woman who barely spoke at all in the story.

Christians don’t like to talk about the fact that King David might have been a rapist.

That would mean admitting that being “a man after God’s own heart” doesn’t make you a good person. That would mean admitting that maybe the men that God “calls” to leadership aren’t always good people either.

That would mean admitting that maybe the women in the Bible didn’t have it so good. That would mean that, maybe “Biblical womanhood” that focuses on submission for women and ultimate power for men isn’t actually what is best for the world. 

Maybe, admitting that King David might have been a rapist would mean admitting that if God’s desire for justice rolling down like waters is to be fulfilled, we need feminists and womanists fighting for this justice. 

Yet, much of the church isn’t ready to admit any of this. So they keep the same tired old story in place. And we keep the same old stories in place for the other women of the Bible. For Esther and Ruth and Mary and the woman at the well.

So, as Jason Dye points out, power structures stay in place.

Justice is stopped up by the dams that these structures built and goes stale.

Stories that could expose gross corruption become tame morality tales that we tell our children at bed time. The Bible becomes a book of fairy tales and Christianity becomes nothing but the purchase of a one-way ticket to heaven.

We don’t talk about power. We don’t talk about oppression. And we sure as hell don’t talk about liberation (except for our ambiguous discussions of freedom from sin).

And what’s the point of that? What does that do for women? For rape victims? For the hurting and for the oppressed?

Nothing, really. And that’s the point.


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Must Reads!

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the time to sit down and post links to my favorite blog posts. So I’m going to catch up today, and share some of my favorite posts from the past 2 or 3 weeks. Enjoy these smart people and their smart words!

“If there is one thing that Western Christians and atheists have in common it is a shared legacy of colonizing bodies of color.

“You can get a lot of people to do what you want them to do or believe what you want them to believe by saying God will be disappointed in them if they do otherwise.”

The word “forgiveness” gets thrown around a lot in Christian circlesParticularly at women. Particularly at women when they notice injustice and dare to speak up about it.”

“A history where people of color are the innocent victims of white violence is an offense to white supremacy.”

“I don’t describe God has being on the side of the oppressed, but rather on the side against oppression – wherever it is found – and advocating justice – wherever it can be found.”

 “One thing in your song should always be on fire, be it our heart, our souls, this generation . . . Something needs to be in flames.
“And even if every sex act you perform on this earth is Yes Means Yes consensual, if you think like a rapist there is a very good chance you will attract rapists who want you to confirm that the next person they rape has it coming/will enjoy it/does not matter.”
“Conservative Christianity can’t exist without their conservative Christian God. And their conservative Christian God is anti-consent.
Also, this, from my Twitter friend @somaticstrength:
Image


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Let me be angry.

Trigger Warning for abuse and rape: 

I’ve been tired of fighting. Been feeling like nothing is coming through. Been terrified of being dismissed as an angry feminist. But being too filled with words–bursting at the seams with them. All the words I’ve held back because of fear and good ol’ Christian niceties.

All those words can’t be contained anymore.

Because things are wrong.

Things are unfair.

People are hurting.

How can you just stand there?

And there I go again. I guess I am just an angry feminist. But how can you not be? How can you hear the abusive words that church leaders say, how can you hear about the rape and the abuse and the churches that cover it up and not be angry? 

It breaks my heart when people tell me that I don’t care about unity because I will not embrace abusive theology or those who preach it.

It breaks my heart when people say that I am mean or unChristlike because I cannot have a polite discussion about men like the man who raped me and hit me and called me a whore as he threw me against his car.

It breaks my heart that my voice and the voices of those I love are seen as a “digital grenades” when we speak out against the words of abusive pastors. The words of men that lead women to stay with abusive husbandswords that can literally kill–are not seen as the problem, and that breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart that Christians say we are all members of one body, and therefore must embrace the cancerous cells that threaten us with hell, tell us to take responsibility for being raped, compare sex to a man “conquering and colonizing…”

It breaks my heart that someone will be more upset that I compared these men to cancer cells–even though they are eating away at everything that is good and healthy in the body of Christ–than they are about the fact that people are hurting in the church.

People are hurting so badly.

I’m hurting.

Maybe you’re hurting too.

So let me flip over tables, because you shouldn’t have to hurt.

Let me use the words that are my modern-day equivalent of “brood of vipers,” because I shouldn’t have to hurt either.

Let me throw those digital grenades and let me make abusive pastors my business, and let me get riled up. Because no one should ever have to hurt.

Don’t tell me to be nice because being nice about abuse is like trying to treat a cavity with sugar.

Don’t tell me to leave it in God’s hands, because maybe God’s been doing a terrible job. Or because maybe God works through boring, ordinary, people like me. I don’t know which anymore.

Let me be angry. That’s all I ask.

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