1 Comment

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!


7 Comments

For Grandma (Rest in Peace)

I wrote this piece for my grandmother about a year ago. She was not expected to live through the night that I wrote this. She ended up living another year because, what can I say? My grandma was a tough cookie. She passed away this morning, but this time I did get a chance to make a phone call and talk to her one last time. She’s at peace. I’m at peace. I’m reposting this for her. 

I guess this is the goodbye that I won’t get to tell you.

I’m here stuck at school studying for my exams that don’t seem to matter anymore. From the sound of things you wouldn’t even know I was there if I could say goodbye, but still. It seems like the world should stop turning to see you off. But that’s the thing about life–you don’t get to pause it.

My sister and I always joked that you’d  outlive all of us. You always seemed so strong for 89…90…91… You seemed timeless in a sense. But I guess no one is. Not really.

I don’t know if there’s a heaven, but of course, I wouldn’t tell you that if I thought you would really be reading this. I guess whether or not I know won’t change anything, but I wish…

I wish right now, more than ever, that I knew. I wish it were as easy to believe as it used to be when I was a child and heaven was a shiny, golden castle in the clouds that was as real and as wonderful to me as sunshine or your warm, sweet potato pie.

I wish I could know.

I wish I could know that you were in good hands.

I wish my faith were stronger for you. Oh, how I wish that.

But since I can’t know, I’ll hope.

I’ll hope that heaven is a place where Matlock is always on and where the book shelves are always filled with Readers Digest condensed books.

Where Debbie and Neil and Lee and Grandpa are waiting.

I hope it’s not hard.

I hope it’s like falling asleep.

I hope it’s like rest.

I hope it’s like warmth with God’s love all around.

I hope that with all the pieces of my broken faith, glued together with my love for you.

But since I can’t know, life seems more precious. So short, even at 92. So fragile. A vapor slipping through my hands.

I’ll always remember what that life meant to me.

I love you, Grandma.

Image


19 Comments >

Feminisms Fest Badge

When I heard that Preston Yancey, Danielle Vermeer, and  J.R. Goudeau were hosting a three-day blog link-up discussing feminism, my first thought was “Damn this timing.” See, I was planning on dedicating these very three days to finishing the literature review for my senior research project.

So, yesterday I was too busy to contribute because I was staring at a blank Microsoft Word document thinking “Fuck it, I’m going to go watch Fullmetal Alchemist.”

Tomorrow, I’ll probably be too busy to contribute because I have stayed up all night writing my literature review to make up for the time I spent writing today (and watching anime yesterday).

But today? Today, I’ll be doing my part. Wasn’t planning on it, but I couldn’t stay away.

You see, my project is on how rape and sexual assault are handled in four different Christian dating books (spoiler alert: not very well), and so I’ve been researching cultural attitudes toward rape and rape victims.

As I studied and the facts popped out at me…

“25% and 35% of respondents (both male and female) agree with the majority of these rape myths”*

“…Although individuals are not likely to directly blame a female rape victim, 53% of college students agreed that her actions led to her assault.”*

“In a study conducted at a Christian liberal arts college, men higher in religiosity…compared to less religious men were more likely to believe that women who are promiscuous or who dress in a provocative manner deserve to be raped.”*

“Qualitative analyses demonstrated that clergy take into account the woman’s resistance, provocative behavior, decision making, marital role, and unusual behavior when assigning responsibility for rape. The results indicated that most clergy blame the victim and adhere to rape myths.”**

…I realized that all of these quotes are why we need feminism. Why I need feminism.

A common stereotype about feminists is that we hate men. Feminism causes that hatred, according to these stereotypes. And I’d like to admit something.

I used to hate men.

…before I became a feminist.

And why not?, I think to myself as I research for my project and read about the rape that occurs and the public attitude toward it. Why not hate men?

The world is not just. And, according to bell hooks, “without justice there can be no love.” 

Before I became a feminist, before I began to demand justice, in my politics, in my churches, and in my relationships, I could not love men. And the men in my life who were upholding patriarchal traditions–often without even knowing it–could not really love me.

Now, I must add that I don’t think one has to identify as a feminist in order to love or be loved. I’m simply telling my own story.

But I agree with hooks that there can be no love without justice. Where unfairness, inequality, abuse, disrespect, victim-blaming, and rape exist, there is no love.

And feminism is one movement that fights for justice for women. 

So why feminism? 

Love. That’s why. 

I wrote in my last post that a man at a Christian college that I went to believed that relationships between men and women–romantic relationships, friendships, parent-child relationships, etc.–were broken. He believed that they were broken because of women not adhering to gender roles.

I agree with this man on one thing. Relationships between men and women are broken.

But they’ve been broken for a long time. Longer than second-wave feminism. Longer than suffrage. They’ve been broken for centuries and it’s not because of gender roles.

It’s because of injustice.

I want to love men because I want to live in a loving world. I want to love my fiance, yes. But also my brother, my father, my uncles, my cousins, and my coworkers and friends.

But I cannot do this when I fear them. I cannot do this when they exercise power over me or when they disrespect me. I cannot do this when they ignore their privilege and continually hurt me–whether intentionally or on accident–because of it. I cannot do this when they believe and perpetuate rape myths. I cannot do this when they are rapists or abusers themselves.

So I need feminism. Because I need justice, and without justice there can be no love. 

Sources: 
* Edwards, Katie, Jessica Turchik, Christina M. Dardis, Nicole Reynolds, and Christine A. Gidycz. “Rape Myths: History, Individual and Institutional-Level Presence, and Implications for Change.” Sex Roles 65.11 (2011)
**Sheldon, James P., and Sandra Parent. “Clergy’s Attitudes and Attributions of Blame Toward Female Rape Victims.” Violence Against Women 8.233 (2002)


14 Comments

Why I’m a Unitarian Universalist

Image

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.


1 Comment >

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! 


15 Comments

When I don’t want to be a Christian anymore, I just believe in love

I believe in love.

I feel that I must take a moment to define my term as best as I can here. I’m not talking about romance or affection or coziness or anything else that we all sometimes call love.

I mean the force that moves us to see others as fully human. The force that moves us to care, and to hope for (and more importantly work for) a world where everyone is seen as (and treated as) fully human.

Love, the absence of abuse, oppression, discrimination, exploitation.

Love, the absence of violence and war.

Love, the action, and love the feeling that calls us to action.

Love, the spark of anger that burns through our apathy when we see others in pain that could be prevented if only society were different.

Love, the conviction that leads us to examine our own lives and look at how we sometimes help cause that pain.

Love that holds abusers accountable.

Love that is powerful.

Love that is quiet and comforting or fiercely passionate (or both at the same time).

Love that isn’t always nice, but is always on the side of justice for the oppressed and marginalized.

Love, love, love.

Love I can worship. Love I can sing about. Love I can believe in.

I’m a theist (albeit a slightly agnostic one), so I believe that God is love. I am a Christian so I believe that Jesus was ultimate love in human form.

But sometimes those labels don’t feel honest–I don’t always believe in God. I don’t always believe that God loves me, or anyone. Sometimes they feel too heavy, laden with imperialist, patriarchal, capitalist bullshit. Sometimes those labels are just restricting because they turn us into religions and denominations and dichotomies and keep us from uniting as believers in love. During these times I put aside my Bibles and theology books and center myself on what I find most important.

Love.

People occasionally tell me I’m not allowed to claim the labels of theist or Christian because I can’t claim them with assurance or orthodoxy. Sometimes my response to those people is to assert my right to self-identify. Other times, I just want to say, “That’s okay. I just believe in love.”

Love often leads me back to those labels, as imperfect and burdened as they are. I think love also leads different people to different labels–Buddhist, Muslim, Humanist, Atheist, Universalist, Feminist. I haven’t given up on labels. I think we all have different worldviews and vehicles that helps us understand and enact love in ways that work best for us and for our communities.

But I think there are times when commitment to building a more loving world can unite us if we’re willing to let it. If we’re willing to listen to it call us and convict us. If we’re willing to work, and give up privileges, and treat others as human.

Today, I’m exhausted with a Christianity that overall doesn’t seem willing to do that.

But that’s okay. I believe in love.


15 Comments

A church “building project” that made a difference

Many churches get super excited about building projects. These projects are supposed to represent big changes to the church, new ideas, progress, and relevance.

Even the fundamentalist churches I’ve attended got excited about building projects, though these usually involved new gymnasiums where we could play the A.W.A.N.A “run around the circle and then go in for the beanbag” games rather than stadium seats or new stages for the worship band.

Still, the idea is the same. If we build THIS, they will come. THIS will further the gospel. THIS will change the world.

Now, sometimes building projects are just needed. Pews fill up. Roofs leak. And, you know, sometimes that 70s shag carpeting in the teen room just needs to go. But the idea that a building proejct is going to shake the foundations of the earth is usually a lie that pastors hype up in order to get in your wallet. That new building isn’t going to single-handedly bring about the kingdom of God.  Let’s be real.

Though, sometimes a change made to a church building/property does make a difference. I’m going to tell you a story about one of those times.

I’m going to tell you about a church that made a drastic change to their church property–they added a tiny sticker to their church sign.

 And that tiny sticker made a difference.

On one hand it infuriated some. After that little sticker went up, some protesters flocked to the scene, with pamphlets calling that little church with their little sticker on their sign “The Church of the Anti-Christ.”

On the other, the entire time I lived in the town where that church was located, I heard about that church, because of that tiny sticker.

When I talked to others about how one of the reasons I stopped going to church was the horrible way some of the LGBT people in my life had been treated by churches, I often got the response, “Have you tried the church on Church St.? They’ve got a rainbow flag sticker on their sign.”

When I talked about how exclusive and hateful churches often were, people–people who didn’t even go to church themselves, people who were atheists or pagan or just didn’t care–would say “Have you tried the church on Church St.? They’ve got a rainbow flag sticker on their sign.”

Even in counseling, when I was talking with my counselor about trying to reconcile my religious beliefs with my political beliefs, she told me, “Have you tried the church on Church St.? They’ve got a rainbow flag sticker on their sign.”

That year of my life was one in which I was really not ready to try any churches. Not even the church on Church St. with the rainbow flag sticker on their sign (though, when I move back to Bowling Green next summer, I think I’ll be ready to visit that church more often. I plan to). I only attended twice, but both times were pleasant. They were concerned about inclusion, love, and justice.

And everyone in Bowling Green knew it.

Their little “building project” made a difference. 

I think Christians fall all over themselves trying to change the image of the church. People don’t think that church is relevant, so Christians panic, throw out the organs, add some stadium seating, and hope that will make everyone see church as hip and cool.

Christians don’t stop to think that maybe the fact that people are starting to see church has irrelevant has NOTHING to do with how our buildings look.

They don’t stop to think that maybe the church’s million-dollar renovations only sting like salt in the wounds of the poverty that surrounds us–the poverty that the church often perpetuates when it fights against laws that would make life better for LGBT people.

They don’t stop to think that, maybe, just maybe, if they became more like the First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, Ohio,  and educated their congregations about LGBT issues, supported pro-LGBT legislation, performed commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples, openly welcomed and affirmed people of all sexual orientations and gender identifications, and donated food and money to their neighbors in poverty…

Then maybe, just maybe, the only “building project” they would need in order to make a difference would be to add a little sticker to their church sign.

Image via Mary Jane Saunders

Image via Mary Jane Saunders