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


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Packin’ up and movin’ to Patheos!

Hey readers! 

It’s official. I’ve made the move to Patheos Spirituality. 

The new URL is http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sarahoverthemoon/

Check out my first post here!

When I was a kid growing up in an independent, fundamental Baptist church, spirituality was a dirty word. When many independent fundamental Baptists thinks of “spirituality,” they think of pantheism, paganism, postmodernism, and Harry Potter (Harry Potter is, of course, the worst of these). To the fundamental Baptists I knew, “spiritual” people were often depicted as lazy hippie-liberals who refused to commit to a specific religious belief so that they could justify having all the sex they want.

So when Patheos asked me to blog for their Spirituality Channel, I had to laugh a bit.

Read the rest at Patheos, my new blog “home!” 


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We are thin spaces.

I’ve been reading N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope for several months now (with my internship, my research project, plus school and work, it’s been a slow process). In one section he discusses an idea of the “theology of space.” His discussion mostly revolves around whether or not churches should continue to have buildings.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about church buildings, personally. I was sexually abused in a church nursery as a child, so for most of my life just walking into a church building has had me fighting off literal panic attacks. Zoloft helped that, but church buildings still aren’t my favorite place in the world.

On the other hand, when Abe and I decided we were going to get married, we knew immediately where we wanted that to happen. A little church building in Toledo with a chicken coop out front that has become the closest thing to a church “home” that I’ve had since high school.

N.T. Wright seems to affirm a diversity of beliefs here, while encouraging people not to completely discount church buildings. But he also call us to think about what space means to us, in light of the idea of resurrection.

He talks about the Celtic idea of thin spaces: “places where the curtain between heaven and earth seems almost transparent.” 

I like this idea of thin spaces.

I actually want to take this idea of thin spaces in a different direction than N.T. Wright. Even though Lent is over (if you’re a new reader, I committed to learning to love my body for Lent), I’ve still been thinking about my theology in terms of my biology. I’d be interested to learn what my readers’ own “theologies of space” are, but in light of my recent Lenten adventures, here’s mine…

Also, kittens. Kittens are thin places.

Also, kittens. Kittens are thin places.

We are thin places. 

We often think about the spaces that we are at. I think sometimes we need to stop and think about the spaces that we are.

Our bodies. The part of us that takes up space.

I’ve shared this quote from Sarah Sentilles’ wonderful book A Church of Her Own before on this blog, and I’d like to share it again (emphasis mine):

We don’t know what to do with bodies in most forms of Christianity. The body–and in particular the female body–has been denigrated, feared, understood as sinful, shameful, something to be covered up, tamed, and mastered. There is something ferocious about our fear of bodies in churches. And yet, at the heart of Christianity are stories about incarnation, about a God that dwells in a human body, a God that makes bodies and breathes life into them.

A God that dwells in a human body. A God that joined in solidarity with humanity, even to the point of death. 

God with us.

Not only that, but a church that is called over and over again in Christian theology the body of Christ. Bodies that make up a body.

Maybe churches are thin spaces because bodies meet in them, because churches bear the marks of bodies, the histories of bodies, the proof that bodies were here.

And maybe those who have profound spiritual experiences outside of the church are not “doing it wrong” either. Maybe the divine really doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands. Maybe we don’t have to go look for thin spaces.

What if our bodies, and by extension our brains that produce the very consciousness by which we can even imagine the existence of sacredness or divinity, are thin spaces by themselves?

If heaven really is joined with earth, and if we really can glimpse it in certain spaces, why not start with our own bodies? After all, according to Christian theology at least, God became a body.

Our bodies are temples. They are thin spaces. They are sacred and beautiful and they are holy ground.

Lent is over, but I’m going to keep celebrating bodies, because God is with us.

What do you think about this idea of a “theology of space” that starts with bodies? And what are some of your “thin spaces?”

 


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On being a female body at a Christian college

[I wrote recently about learning to love my body for Lent. Part of that loving so far has involved some deep contemplation about where the fear and hatred come from. And I’ve realized something.

Part of my body hatred, and by extension part of my self hatred, comes from the fact that oppressive people have used my female body  to justifying oppressing me.

I hate my body and myself because, deep down, I blame my body (and thus myself) for the ways in which I’ve been hurt by others.

7128_173502622984_2193630_nTwo examples stick out clearly in my mind. Both from experiences at my former Christian school, Grace College.

It was the first week of my freshman year. We had a meeting for everyone in our all-women dorm to go over the basic rules. Don’t burn popcorn and set off the smoke alarm. Be in before curfew. No sex, drugs, or rock and roll (okay, maybe rock and roll was okay. Just not during quiet hours!).

During this meeting, the husband of our Residence Director came in to talk to us ladies about, you guessed it!

Modesty.

He started out by telling us to never let any Christian man blame us for their sins. Then he proceed to…well, blame us for his sins.

He told us of his own porn addiction and of the porn addictions that other men on campus have talked to them about. He was blunt, and even made subconscious hand motions while talking about masturbation.

And what was his point?

“When you wear those tight jeans, your brothers in Christ go home and masturbate to you. Your selfish clothing choices make it hard for your brothers in Christ to break their addictions. Thanks to God’s grace, it’s been weeks since I’ve looked at porn, but it hasn’t been months. And the way women on this campus dress doesn’t help.”

I talked to many women who were present in that meeting who expressed that they left feeling ashamed and dirty. I know that every time I passed that man on campus from that day on, I wanted to turn invisible. I’d tug my skirt down and pull my jacket over my chest, and I’d resist the urge to get sick to my stomach thinking about him masturbating to me, and it being my fault.

My body was shameful. It was dirty. It could ruin lives and marriages just by existing.

This is the first thing I learned about my body at Grace College.

It was the second semester of my freshman year. We were required to attend chapel three times a week, so there I was. This week we were learning about relationships between men and women, how they were often broken in this world, and how we could fix them.

We did this by learning our roles.

And we could learn our roles, not just from Scripture, but from our bodies.

The speaker told the Biblical story of King Joash (and I’m still to this day not sure why). “Joash drilled a hole into the box,” he said. “Joash femaled the box.”

According to this man and his strange desire to associate being female with having a hole drilled into you, the reason men and women can’t get along is because men and women (mostly women) are rebelling against the nature revealed to us by our bodies.

“Men are supposed to give the life-bearing seed of the gospel to all the world,” he said, while making disturbing hand motions from his crotch to the audience. “Women are supposed to receive that seed.”

The moral was that female people were trying too hard to give when they were made to receive and weren’t letting male people to what they were meant to do (which is apparently to spiritually ejaculate on everyone).

Female bodies were not built to give life (apparently child birth doesn’t count and we’re just the incubators) but to be fulfilled in receiving life.

It wasn’t patriarchy holding me back, according to this man. It was my body. This is why I could not be a pastor, or a spiritual leader in my family. This is why I could not speak my mind too loudly or be too bold. Because I had a vagina, and vaginas are not for giving.

But I fell for it for years and years. I saw myself as stuck in this body with its sinful breasts and its useless vagina.

I saw my body as a prison.

And in seeing my body as a prison, I blamed myself.

Oppression is tied to bodies. It often happens in bodies and to bodies. It often comes from other bodies. And oppressive people use the bodies of the oppressed to excuse it.

Loving my body for Lent means recognizing that it is not my body’s fault when I am treated as “less than.” Loving my body means recognizing that others have used it to tell me I am “less than.” Loving my body means recognizing that those people were lying to me about my body.

Loving my body means affirming that they don’t decide what my body means. They don’t decide what I mean.

[Note: Though I learned some harmful things at Grace College, it was also at Grace College where I began the process of loving my body. That may be a post for another day]

 


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Why I’m a Unitarian Universalist

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Not sure of the original source for this. Found it on a website about how the UU Church is “Satan’s Church.” Hah! I found it beautiful.

I want to talk about faith for a second.

I’m a Unitarian Universalist. People often ask me what that means. Basically, it’s an interfaith religion that celebrates diversity, yet finds unity. Unity is found, not an agreement on doctrine, theologies, images of God, etc. but on these seven principles (quoted from UUA.org):

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Being a UU is more than just having a universalist mindset about the afterlife. In fact, I’m not sure if I believe in an afterlife in the first place. I definitely don’t believe in hell. I’m skeptical about heaven.

But I believe that love, justice, truth, and beauty all point to God. Or maybe God is just a metaphor for those things. But I don’t believe that only one faith holds a monopoly on them.

As a UU,unlike in fundamentalism, I never have to fear information and learning. I don’t have to hide from science and history, or music or literature or other religions anything else that might challenge my faith.

New ideas nourish my faith now. They keep it alive. They help it grow and mature.

Being a UU doesn’t mean I don’t have any individual religious beliefs.

In fact still call myself a Christian, because those are my roots. Christianity is my home. It’s the primary lens through which I view the world. It helps me process new ideas and gives me a framework to define myself within.

The love of Jesus and the passion for justice spoken of by the Old Testament prophets fuels and inspires me. The community I see in the stories of the early churches gives me hope.

Being a UU just means that I don’t think every different religion is a different path leading to a different destination. If I am following a path formed by the seven principles I shared earlier–love, respect, truth, justice, care for one another and for the earth–then I share that path with many others.

I share it with Atheists.

I share it with Muslims.

I share it with Buddhists.

I share it with United Methodists.

I share it with Catholics.

I share it with feminists.

Being a UU means that I believe there are principles that transcend the seemingly infinite religious doctrines out there that all claim to be right. Being a UU means that (unless a doctrine is abusive or harmful) we don’t have to go to war over these doctrines.

We can walk together.


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Trigger Warning for intimate partner violence/verbal abuse and spiritual abuse

I’m on a guest-posting streak apparently, because today I’m over at Dianna Anderson’s blog talking  about images of God for her Account and Countenance series.

I look around me, years later, and I see a Church that is terrified to look its theology in the face. I see a Church that is somehow okay with having two drastically different definitions of love—one for humans and one for God. I see a Church that holds God to a different standard than they hold human beings.

I see a Church that thinks it can do this and still speak out against abuse and to me, it will never make sense. I can no longer listen to a pastor call abusers evil and then turn around and sing a hymn to the wrathful, jealous God who can save even a helpless, hopeless, worthless wretch like me.

These dueling definitions of love have to end. God doesn’t get God’s own definition. God doesn’t get to do whatever God wants and call it love.

Read the rest here! 


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Why Chris Rosebrough is Wrong: A Case for Ordaining Women (Guest Post By Travis Mamone)

Here are some thoughts from my friend Travis Mamone (who blogs about cool stuff like Doctor Who and theology here!) on why popular arguments against the ordination of women fall flat and why sometimes it’s best to just step away from “theological bullies.” He included a picture of a fluffy animal to represent Rosebrough but I couldn’t get it to load, so for now, here is my cat in a tiny top hat. Enjoy!

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Photo credit: My sister, Sam Moon, and her iphone

Like many of my fellow emergent Christians, I once tried to pal it up with fundamentalist discernment blogger Chris Rosebrough, aka Pirate Christian. Yes, he is anti-gay. Yes, he is against ordaining women. And yes, he has publicly trashed many in the emergent Christian movement. But because he actually talked to his opponents (unlike some other discernment bloggers), we thought that we could somehow forge a friendship with him that would transcend beyond oppositional theologies and therefore fulfill Jesus’ command to love our enemies.

Boy, were we wrong!

We eventually realized that Rosebrough’s words were harmful to female and LGBT members of the emerging church movement. Slowly we began to step away from him. To quote Gotye, now he’s just somebody that we used to know.

Having said that, it has recently come to my attention that Rosebrough recently included the “Call Me Maybe” parody video “Ordain a Lady” on his Museum of Idolatry blog (which is just one of his many blogs, mind you). He then proceeded to quote 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, which are two common clobber passages used to “prove” that ministry is a boy’s only club. After sharing Romans 16:7 with Rosebrough on Twitter, he responded with, “Clear passages govern unclear passages. Plus, Junias was a man.” He then sent me a link to a Christian apologetics website that supposedly “proves” the Junia of Romans 16:7 was a man. However, upon further investigation, this website also claims that humans and dinosaurs lived together. I pointed that out to Rosebrough, but our conversation went nowhere.

Chris Rosebrough is flat out wrong about women in ministry. And here is why.

First, despite what Rosebrough says, Junia was indeed a female apostle. In his e-book Junia is Not Alone, biblical scholar Scot McKnight writes that Junia was thought to be a woman until some mistranslations made her masculine. McKnight writes:

It happened, or can be illustrated in Greek by changing the accent in an originally unaccented text from Jun-I-an to JuniAn. This change is accent led to the male name JuniaS, the Anglicized form. (Loc. 138-40)

According to McKnight, there is “no evidence in ancient manuscripts that anyone understood Junia as a male, no evidence in translations she was a male, and there was no ancient evidence that Junias was a man’s name” (Loc. 276-79). And Junia is not the only female in the Bible to have any sort of spiritual authority. McKnight writes about Phoebe the deacon found in Romans 16:1:

She was not a “deaconess,” which in my youth referred to women who gathered the communion wafers and small plastic cups of cheap grace juice and washed them out so that men would have them for the next time our church had communion. No, Phoebe was a deacon, which meant she was a church leader. Paul calls her a “benefactor,” and this probably—it is disputed—means she financially provided funds and wisdom for Paul’s missionary trips. (Loc. 119-22)

If Rosebrough is reading this, no doubt he is saying right now, “But what about 1 Timothy 2?” For starters, it is debatable whether or not Paul actually wrote 1 Timothy. Second, according to scholar NT Wright, the entire passage must be read in context:

The key to the present passage, then, is to recognize that it is commanding that women, too, should be allowed to study and learn, and should not be restrained from doing so (verse 11). They are to be ‘in full submission’; this is often taken to mean ‘to the men’, or ‘to their husbands’, but it is equally likely that it refers to their attitude, as learners, of submission to God or to the gospel – which of course would be true for men as well. Then the crucial verse 12 need not be read as ‘I do not allow a woman to teach or hold authority over a man’ – the translation which has caused so much difficulty in recent years. It can equally mean (and in context this makes much more sense): ‘I don’t mean to imply that I’m now setting up women as the new authority over men in the same way that previously men held authority over women.’

As you can see, there is room at the pulpit for women. We must not let theological bullies like Chris Rosebrough rob women the freedom and choice to answer God’s call and serve God’s church through ministry.


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No one’s Messiah

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Image via PassionOfAGoddess.com

To Christian men and the churches they attend:

I am not your Christ.

Churches may try to put women on a cross, sacrificing them so that men may be pure and holy.

But I am not your savior.

Churches may expect women to keep silent, to hide their talents, their bodies, to sacrifice who they are to protect men from sin and shame.

But I am coming down off of that cross.

Churches may ask women to endure abuse for a season–like Christ endured crucifixion–so that abusive men might be saved.

But I am no one’s fucking Messiah.

I won’t take the beatings. I won’t bear the shame. If that makes me a bad Christian, fine. If that means I’m going to hell, show me the door.

I’ll let myself in.

Because I know what real hell is like. I’ve been there. Real hell is pretending to happily, silently endure physical, spiritual, verbal, and sexual abuse in hopes of drawing my “brethren” back to the light. Hell is having to bear the sins of Christian men in my body. Hell is hanging on a cross built by a church, dying to save abusive men.

I won’t go through that again.

I am not your Christ.

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