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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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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!


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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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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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John Shore on IFB survivors and my journey toward healing

Image via David Hayward

This piece at John Shore’s blog just awakened all kinds of emotions for me:

In surviving the worst survivors of IFB have become the best. The writings that I’ve read from former IFBs are some of the strongest testimonies to the strength and decency of the human spirit that I’ve ever come across. I appreciate being asked to offer you guys a word of support, but you should be offering support to me and anyone else lucky enough to hear what you have to say. You’re the power. You’re the strength. It’s you who are singing the songs that need to be heard.

He talks specifically here about survivors of Independent Fundamental Baptist churches (though I think this paragraph can apply to all survivors of abuse). When I read that paragraph all I could say was “thank you.”

I don’t always get praise like that when I talk about my past as a fundamental Christian. Christians in my life, even those who were not raised fundamental, accuse me of being bitter.

They tell me I have to forgive and love my old churches no matter how badly they’ve hurt me.

They tell me, “You’ve strayed so far from our precious Saviour (words I literally got recently).”

They tell me that I’m sinning when I can’t go to church on Sunday morning because the thought of sitting in a pew makes me physically sick much of the time.

They tell me that I’m selfish, focused only on my own healing, and that I can’t serve God outside of a church family (the kind that meets under a steeple on Sundays, of course. Friends from ex-fundy support groups on Facebook don’t count apparently).

Quite frankly though, to the Christians who say such things, you remind me of the people who told me to stay with my abusive ex. Or the boy who, after I broke up with that abusive ex, tried to take advantage of my “vulnerability.” I know that you’re trying to control me.

You might not even know that you’re trying to control me, and that’s because someone else is successfully controlling you (newsflash: that someone controlling you? It’s not God). So I’ll forgive you. You know not what you do. But I won’t give in to your expectations for me. I’m healing how I need to, thanks.

Others take a different angle and try to convert me to Atheism. It’s fair. I mean, I’ve tried to convert Atheists before so I probably deserve it. But I just want my Atheist friends to understand that, for me personally, spirituality is something I value deeply. Giving it up would be letting my abusers take away a part of my identity, a part of who I am. I can’t let them have that. 

I’m so glad for all the people who have healed from spiritual abuse by finding solace in Atheism or Agnosticism, but that’s not my path. I’d be lying to myself if I took it. I’m finding strength in the new, unorthodox religious communities that I’ve found and in feminist liberation theology and I’m honestly very happy with where I’m headed spiritually. If I’m hurting, it’s not because of my faith but because of the people all around me who are telling me that my faith isn’t right because it doesn’t line up with their abusive, violent, fear-driven theologies. 

So friends, let’s affirm one another with John Shore’s words. If you’ve survived abuse from the IFB, whether you’re still in an IFB church not ready or able to leave, whether you’ve become an Atheist or an Agnostic or a Buddhist or a Pagan, or whether you’re like me and you’re trying to pick up the pieces of your crumbled prison and make a home out of it…

You’re strong, you’re brave, and we need to hear your stories.


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Stop breaking off pieces of yourself in the name of Biblical manhood or womanhood!

“Play your position!”

I’ve read this illustration many times: ” If a goalie on the soccer team spends all his energy trying to score a goal, he hurts his team because he’s not playing his position.”

True, true. Great advice.

But then they continue. They always continue. “You’re a woman. You don’t need to be doing man’s work. You’ll hurt your family if you’re out pursuing a PhD instead of caring for your children. You’ll hurt your family if you are being ambitious toward your own goals rather than supporting a man’s ambition.”

Some of you don’t believe me. Some of you think I make this stuff up. I would like to direct you to CBMW.org. Spend a few minutes there and you’ll see that I am not exaggerating. The rest of you already know what I’m talking about.

It’s good to play one’s position. But what should determine one’s position?

If I were a soccer coach, I would observe my players and learn their talents–find out which position they would best fit into. I would probably also take their desires into account–find out which position they would be most passionate about playing.

I would not, however, say, “All the people with brown eyes can play defense. All the people with blue eyes can play offensive. You, with the green eyes! You play goalie.”

To do so would be disrespectful to the abilities of my players. I would not be utilizing their talents for the benefit of the team. I would instead be deciding for them, based on physical factors unrelated to soccer, that they must some how form their talents to fit certain positions. That would be silly.

Yet the church  often tries to do that with gender roles.

If a man and a woman get married, they might hear their fellow church members trying to coach them: “Hey, you with the penis! You’re the breadwinner and the leader. You with the vagina! You take care of the children and support your husband. Now, play your position.”

Regardless of the woman’s actual abilities, we stick her at home, in a submissive, supporting role. We put her in the goalie position, even if she can kick that ball into the net like none other. Even if the man has no desire or talent to be a leader, we make him team captain and expect him to score some goals.

And this, this is what hurts a team.

You know how they say, “Marriage is not 50/50. It’s 100/100.”?

When we enforce gender roles, neither member of the relationship can truly give 100/100.

The man must break off any pieces of his life that don’t fit into the tiny box that is “manhood.” He must set aside any talents, desires, personality types, or spiritual gifts that don’t fit the mold. His wife must do the same to squeeze into the tiny position that she has been afforded by the church.

And what happens is, both end up only giving half of themselves.

Instead of two full people merging their lives together to become one flesh, we see two broken halves of a person, trying to glue those broken halves together and make them one cohesive relationship.

It’s time to step outside our gender roles and be ourselves.

It’s time really play our positions–the ones that God, not the church or society, assigned us when He gave us our individual talents and personalities and desires.

It’s time to give 100%, rather than holding back on the impact we could have in the world.

Let’s stop breaking off pieces of ourselves in the name of “Biblical” manhood or womanhood.