Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week - The Last and Final Blog
Uhm, don’t take that as meaning this is the last and final blog I will ever write about spiritual abuse forever and ever. Amen. I think that might be impossible. I blogged my way through high school (proud former Xanga community member!) and blogged on the now defunct threeinonemakesfive blog as I was reliving my childhood and discovering you can be a Christian and
pretty much hate dislike John Piper. I have hidden blogs and topical blogs and a website for my photos (at www.rachelserine.com) and no matter how many times I regret blogging and opening my big mouth and putting something down on paper (figuratively) I always come back.
So. I took the first two of these SAAW blogs pretty seriously. Sometimes I take myself a little too seriously. So I want to lighten the mood just a tad here and let some other people do a bit of the talking.
First of all: moving forward.
Things I want to say about that begin with this: If you are not me, please reserve your opinion on whether I am moving forward, have moved forward, am moving forward fast enough. Also, a great list of what not to say to someone who has left the church. If you stop reading what I have to say and just read this, I won't be offended. I will be happy. It's important.
Second, when someone has been through religious groups that undermine your very self and existence, working through that can sure make a dent in your faith. Especially when you come from an “all or nothing” religious tradition. In the traditions that give ultimatums like “if creation was ever proven false, then we can not trust anything in the Bible” or “Every word is inspired and infallible” or “atheists are unhappy and depressed” the result of actually meeting atheists or talking to evolutionists is this thing called cognitive dissonance.
And if you’ve been taught it’s all or nothing and you run up against a huge, gigantic, crappy load of cognitive dissonance? Welllllllll... you have to pick. All? Or nothing?
I have dealt with that, for the most part. I get it now. I get that there doesn’t have to be all or nothing in faith and I’ve realized that there are all kinds of beliefs in the wider Christian faith community. But it was hellish trying to figure that out, and it was horrible being slammed and having my faith questioned because I was finally giving place to others and acknowledging they had faith too.
But I'm very grateful the variety exists.
So while my religious experiences sure did open the door for me to realize the general harm that Christianity does every single day and give me cause to take seriously the words of atheists and agnostics, that is not the only reason I claim hopeful agnostic as my own. There are really, really good reasons to leave Christianity. Logical reasons. Sensible reasons. Irritatingly good reasons. I WANT to stay in the faith community. Because, well, community. But... good reasons itch at my mind.
(And, seriously guys, it's really insulting and NOT helpful to say things like "Christians will disappoint you but God never will" and to comment and insinuate that your only problems with the Church are jerks-for-Jesus. Um. NO. Or, if you must, feel free to say it. Just know it's demeaning, and I will probably not give you the time of day.)
So I'm a heathen. And yet my husband will tell me that I am Christ-like. Or loving. Or inclusive. Or caring. And have a Christ-like heart.
Of course, he is a little biased.
But what I want to emphasize here is that if we’re going by “fruit of the spirit” measuring sticks, I am MUCH more a Christian than I was when I had the “right” doctrine. If we are taking right doctrine as the measure (and after years of study, hello - what IS that anyway??!!) then I am hopelessly lost.
But ya’ll. Understand this. Do not take that to mean you should try to bring me back. There is no words about Christianity you can say, no arguments you can make, no Bible verses you can throw at me right now that will cause me to become more interested in Christianity right now. Not. One. Thing.
And I know some people who read this blog probably want to do that very thing.
(There's a good chance I have already heard what you have to say, already used it on someone else. Queen of apologetics, here. And what I have not heard, I am reading up on. I'm still learning - I just don't want to be other people's project. Enough with making people "projects" already.)
Even as a Christian, one of my pet peeves about us was we just couldn't leave people ALONE. Or let our faith actions do the talking. We thought we could good-reasons-hell-scare-theology-talk people into faith. Or that we had some right to ignore personal and societal boundaries because SALVATION, obvs! And if we were called on it? Then persecution! Obvs. :)
I have to say that if my Seminary-trained-husband can refrain, so can you.
Which brings me to my next little piece of moving forward.
Working out what it means to be a hopeful agnostic married to a still-fairly-conservative-lutheran. Who still wants to attend a church that gives exegetical sermons and doesn’t want to give UU congregations a chance. Who held me and challenged me through two rounds of spiritual abuse.
When I told him I was going to be writing about this, he had a good laugh. “What are you going to say? That our marriage is awesome? That it works? What is there to say? We love each other?”
I have to admit that when I look back and think about the hours of warnings I heard about how difficult it is to be unequally yoked in a marriage, I have all the lols.
Not that I want to diminish the friction that can happen in a marriage where one person has faith/another does not, or one person loses their faith and the other keeps it. There is plenty of friction possible there! Especially when you are in the fundie mindset and freaking-the-heck out about how your spouse is letting sin into the house and what do you do if they don’t want to go to CHURCH and how can I convince them that Jesus is REAL and Christians are Right About Everything??!! Because without Jesus there is only sin and pain and injustice and darkness and HELL! (actual quote)
But it is not that way for us. Not. One. Bit. Somehow we missed the marriage-killing-condescension.
No coercion. No distress. Except when I have a moment of guilt over what he has given up for me.
Our relationship is better. It is better now. We have had a better year this past year than we have since our first year of marriage. Actually, better than our first year. Way better. The fights are better. And fewer. And the fights we have are not related to faith. Life is more fun. We are more honest. The sex is way better - and it was great before. Our marriage has, somehow, thrived.
I could probably write pages and pages on why I think that is. But I’ll try to take a short stab at the foundation.
Respect. Contrary to Eggerichs’ stereotypes, I need respect as much or more than I need love. And he needs respect too. He thinks I’m smarter. I know he is wiser. We get that both of us have very good reasons for our separate beliefs. We don’t worry about whether we are going to convert the other to our point of view. We know we will take the kids to church, of some kind, because Husband wants them to share his joy and I want them to have a religious education. We won’t lie about our separate beliefs, or worry about where our children will fall on the spectrum of faith/non-faith.
Husband has never been that Christian who is scared of sin (in himself or others) or ever been swayed from the basics of “Jesus loves me this I know” and that is all. That is all he knows for certain, and he is humble enough to give others their space.
I’m learning a lot from him. (understatement of the decade!)
And he is the reason I do not hate Christians. I find fundamentalist evangelical christian faith to be prone to abuse, coverups, thought reform, tribalism, infighting and worse.
But I live with (even if it’s only 2 days a week right now) a wonderful person who happens to be a Christian. And he is the reason I still have “hopeful” attached to the agnostic.
I’m hopeful for Christians, and the Christian faith. I’m hopeful that more relationships between Christians and agnostics (and protestants and catholics and conservatives and liberals) can be as non-adversarial as ours. I’m hopeful that, as understanding of faith traditions grow, there may be answers to some of the unanswerable things that keep me from fully committing to the faith my husband holds.
Most of all I am hopeful for my little family. I’m hopeful that my children will see I love them unconditionally, and that their worth is not tied to their (emotional or actual) virginity. I am hopeful that husband and I can create a safe space together, and build a new and beautiful life. I am hopeful that we will discover new and really cool things about each other, now that we live without the pressure of conforming to preconceived and unilaterally enforced notions of good and evil. And I am hopeful that we will meet and learn from all kinds of people who we would never have known in our previous life.
I’m also hopeful that someday, when the wounds have healed, husband will be back in faith ministry of some sort. Because the more people like him there are in the faith community, the better it will be.