Tuesday, April 16, 2013


My last blog post was a tad self-serving and whiny.

"C'mon guys, it's just SO TOUGH to learn these new languages and to be on the outside of, like, y'know, evvverrryyyythinnnnnggggg!"

And yeah. It is.  And yeah. Sometimes I suck at it. And yeah. I still don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

Maybe I should be waiting to blog until I am on more certain ground, until many of the questions I have run their course and until I have a clearer picture of what life will look like going forward. But to be honest, I think that the value (if there is any) in what I write is public self-examination, public transformation, public change. I don't want to make mistakes, or to get on my soapbox only to have it collapse under the weight of my ego.

So I'm going to just leave that post up and start talking about the important component that I ignored before.


(Ya'll, this was inspired by a beautiful woman, whom I love very much.)

Feminism and inclusive language of all kinds are not my first language. I also had been taught a very specific way to misinterpret the words that I heard. When a feminist says "patriarchy" they mean "men are all evil and suck!" When a feminist says "down with the patriarchy!" they mean they want a matriarchy. When feminists say "women need men like fish need a bicycle!" they really mean we should ditch heterosexuality and all 'become' lesbians!

I was taught a specific way to interpret language about race ("they are just whining about old wounds!") and poverty ("they need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps!") and other denominations ("catholics worship mary! heathens!") and religions ("all Muslims are militant!") and just about any other group that was not a part of my family or social circle - or even those who were.

A few years ago when I was finally open to learning from others, that learning took the form of listening. Not listening with the goal of debunking their opinions. Not listening while inside forming my rebuttal. Not listening just so I could say that I had. Listening while trusting their opinions had merit. Listening and believing them when they said "I don't hate men" and "I can't pull myself out of this." Listening to the words they were using and asking them what those words meant, instead of deciding for myself that I had the right alternate interpretation.

I was not speaking my original language. I was learning not only new concepts but new ways of speaking about those concepts.

In my last post I forgot one very important thing. I don't speak their language because I am not done listening and learning. In all honesty I hope (and know) I will never be done learning and listening. It's not the fault of anyone but myself that I have taken so long to realize that I even NEED to learn other languages, that there even are other valid languages. And it will also be my fault if I ever think I can be done listening.

Part of the thing I miss about my uber-christian life is how I could speak with authority. I knew my subject, I knew my language, I knew my audience, I knew how to tailor my words and actions to be acceptable and laudable. I could bring others around to my point of view and just be seen as "godly."

The humility of needing to listen - of learning how little I truly know, how few languages I can truly speak - is a very good thing. I may feel slightly cut off from community right now, but part of that is because of my tendency to be the one speaking with authority. The one with answers. The one who has ingested all the researched and pooped out a perfectly formed truth. That kind of certainty accomplishes alienation, no matter what community you're in.

That's not me. Not anymore. Inside, anyway. Old habits, though, die hard.

I just hope I can continue to listen, continue to learn and continue asking the questions.

And I hope those in all communities and who are fluent in other languages will forgive me as I stumble along.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


As a nanny I cared for the most beautiful, sweet, perfect child. He had neuromuscular problems, he couldn't move his legs and at a year he had the mental capacity of a three month old. I cared for him for a year, my first year away from Bible college, my first year as a married woman, my first year on my own. In that year I fell in love with him, his older sister and his younger brother.

I gave him baths pretty much every day, and for some reason I found myself singing to him.

he leadeth me, o blessed thought
o words with heavn'ly comfort fraught
what e'er i do, where e'er i be
still tis god's hand that leadeth me

sometimes mid scenes of darkest gloom
sometimes where eden's bowers bloom
by waters still, o'er troubled sea
still tis his hand that leadeth me

We were that christian family - the one who had the hymnal memorized, who sang together while washing dishes, whose love of music was based on The Concordia Hymnal.

When this little boy I loved with my whole heart left this world, I held to that hymn I had sung him hundred of times.

and when my task on earth is done
when by thy grace the victory's won
e'en death's cold wave i will not flee
since god through jordan leadeth me

I still cry, reading those words.

Today I was driving my own three precious children and listening to the ever-popular Mumford and Sons. The song was Below My Feet.

keep the earth below my feet
for all my sweat, my blood runs weak
let me learn from where i've been
keep my eyes to learn my hands to serve
keep my eyes to learn my hands to serve

I was singing along, quietly, and suddenly I heard the tone, the heart - it was a hymn. I was overwhelmed by how easily these words became a prayer of sorts, a hymn for me. I had no thought in my head that I was praying for some other One to keep the earth below my feet, or to keep my hands and eyes - just that these were things I desired. To learn from where I've been, to learn, to serve.

[Mumford and Sons, for the record, have stated that their music is not Christian and Marcus Mumford eschews the label, but if you look up the meaning for these lyrics person after person interjects Jesus and God and salvation and death and more.]

Guys. It felt so natural. Hymns.

Also this weekend I found myself attempting to talk about things I am learning about and things I absolutely care about. Inclusiveness, feminism, psychology and more. And I floundered. I totally floundered. Inclusive language, sensitivity to others, not acting like an asshole - I kind of flailed about.

In this blog post (which just exploded my mind with ZOMG that's ME!) the phrase "identity suicide" comes up and can I tell you that ZOMG that's ME.

I kind of can't find my footing right now. I imagine that feeling will persist for years. My identity was wrapped up in the Church, was defined by the Church and my future was written and determined by the Church. (Or God, or Jesus, if you prefer.)

I speak about fifteen varieties of Christian-ese. The uber-conservative one, the homeschooling one, the evangelical one, the slightly liberal one, the liberal one and more denominational and theological tongues than I care to think about. I speak these, for the most part, fluently and with a fairly comprehensive knowledge. I can converse with jesus-hippie-libs and dogmatic doctrine-over-person christians. I have the words!

That's important to me. To have the words.

But those languages, those words, are useless to me. Identity suicide somehow involves learning how to speak all over again.

So I find myself pouring over feminist literature, trying out new words. I am learning what kind of inclusive language my GLBTQIA (or QUILTBAG) friends would prefer. I even have to relearn what kind of language that I used to employ is implicitly (or explicitly) racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, etc.

Guys. I'm flailing here.

Twenty-five years of indoctrination and feeling that any other way of viewing things would cause God to be displeased with me? That conditioning is not easily overcome. But I'm working on it, I'm learning, I'm getting better.  Not fast enough, though, because one more hurtful word, one more racist or sexist statement is one too many.

And here I am, working at this like mad, and then hymns.

Maybe I need to do that most difficult thing and give myself time, forgive myself and give me a little space and grace. I do not know how to balance, to remember and enjoy the good parts of my history, my "culture of origin" and the faith that has defined my life for so long, with the new and good things I am learning now. How much can I or should I hold onto and how much should I leave behind?

Even in this, I find myself remembering one of the hundreds of verses I memorized -

"It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes." (ecclesiastes 7:18)

I'm not, according to my faith-culture, one who fears God. And, as I said, I have no idea if there are good things I should be holding onto as I reach for something better.

But perhaps, someday, I will find a new place that honors both the truth-seeker and the mystic in myself.

"After I deconverted and felt like I was losing all of my identity (since I had always shaped and understood every part of it around Christianity), in picking up the pieces I began to think that what must really have been core about me all along were my commitments to truth and to loving other people. Those were the real constants, the things that proved more important than the faith—enough that I had the strength to actually leave it even. And they have proved the most enduring parts of me too, as they remain core parts of who I am over thirteen years later."
( go here. read. )

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

she was a woman. that was bad.

The lovely Sarah Bessy asked, via twitter, for others to tell her the feminist stereotypes they heard coming from the church. I'm sure she will post about this, and I'm sure it will be beyond fantastic, as is all of her writing. And I won't spoil the fun of discovering the many disturbing tweets when she writes about them, or when you find them yourself on her twitter. I will say that I had heard all of those stereotypes before, and all from church leadership. Reinforced by family and homeschool leadership and basically anyone and everyone I knew. Including everyone I knew and discussed this with in college. And everyone I knew and discussed this with through my husband's seminary years.

Feminists: Destroying the Family Since The Feminine Mystique.

In 1992 I was six-and-a-half and precocious. I climbed trees and kicked boys in the shin when they looked up my skirt - although sometimes one of my withering looks was enough to scare them away forever. I read at least one chapter book a day and I had the vocabulary of a high schooler. And I absorbed everything. I remembered more than my parents comfort level could take.

There was, that year, a bit of political uproar in my house. My parents, my grandparents - I remember them despairing over the state of the world.

"His wife kept her maiden name. Hillary RODHAM Clinton. I guess we all know who wears the pants in that house!"

"I want to elect a man to the White House, not vote for his name and get the wife instead!"

We walked to the Post Office so my stay-at-home-homeschooling mother could mail her work-from-home crafts. She was etsy before there was etsy, selling her creativity all over the US.

Someone had hung a flier for Clinton.

My mother chatted with the Postal worker and mailed her packages and I read the flier. Six year old me, curious beyond belief about these people I had heard of and never seen. These people who were the ones bringing down the world.

I stared. I stared. I stared. There was a normal man and a normal woman. They had their pictures in our Post Office. He was trying to be President - but she was going to RULE.

"Hillary RODHAM Clinton. Hillary RODHAM Clinton."

I whispered those words to myself, rolled them around in my mouth. I knew there was something really awful about them - some horrific meaning to the word Rodham that I just could not comprehend.

She wore "the pants." That was bad.

She would give him advice, or tell him what to do. That was bad.

She was a woman who would give advice to the President. That was bad.

She was a woman. That was bad.

There are people in my life who believe I don't remember things the way they actually happened. Unfortunately these memories are as clear as day. I can tell you the bike I tried to ride to the Post Office. I remember the packages piled on my sister's lap in some kind of wagon. I can see the flier, and I can still taste the rancid word Rodham on my tongue.

That was the first anti-feminist (truly, anti-woman) beliefs and language that I can recall.

And I absolutely internalized this language in the way I detailed above. There was something wrong with women having power. There was something wrong with being a woman.

After all, if there was nothing wrong with being a woman, there would be nothing wrong with a strong, influential woman, who chose to name herself whatever she pleased.

Monday, April 8, 2013

missing community

Good Friday marked the passing of the Dean of Sam's Seminary. And for all the hurt I have from that place, for all the bad memories and the anger and pain, I still mourned.

I cried for his family, I cried for my old community and I cried for us. My heart broke a little for everyone he had cared for and especially for his six children and twenty-seven grandchildren.

He had been a kind man, a man who loved people, the best he knew how.

When I spoke with him and a few others (during Sam's exit from Seminary) and told my story so far, he accepted what I said with grace, and told me "what is important now is for you to heal" and at that time I desperately needed to hear those words. That is how I will remember him.

In many ways now it would be easy for me to say "I have had my time, I'm healed! I'm coming back to the fold!" and I can not deny that the passing of the Dean created this kind of guilt, the kind of guilt I haven't felt in a while. The kind of responsibility to my tradition, my community, my faith.

The funeral was beautiful and moving, and his son said that his father would be pleased if even one person came to know Jesus as a result of the funeral. I knew that, in his care and love for his students, he would be even more pleased if that one person was me.

I don't think I can convey how much I want it to be me.

I miss my community. I miss my status. I miss feeling like I am doing something worthwhile in the world. I miss fitting in, I miss having answers. I miss being good, really good, at something.

Now I don't seem to fit anywhere. I love progressive Christians, and I speak their language. But their enthusiasm for the church and energy to reform and love it has come and gone for me. I love feminists, but I am still such a new feminist, with so much misogynistic baggage, and I can't seem to truly speak with them or state my new-found feminist intersectionality without making some egregious blunder. I love the LGBT community, but I present as an obviously straight, cis-gendered woman and I can not relate to their pain in a way that makes me part of that community.  I'm an ally, not truly a member.  I love social work and progressive politics, but working through my tea party roots is just exhausting.  I love those who are working together to better the earth through all kinds of Green initiatives and yet I do not have the energy to work with them, to make their community my community. I don't speak any language except fundamentalist evangelicalism, and it shows. I haven't yet developed a varied community or another language.

I'm community-less.

And yes, still strangely happier and more content than I was while living under scrutiny and hoping the umbrella of lies and half-truths I had created would hold up to the prying eyes.

I would love to be back. I would love to be the lost sheep, returning. But I can't do it.

That wouldn't be honest.

I can not be the fundamentalist I once was, who is constantly reevaluating Scripture through Scripture and attempting to make it all fit together in a cohesive, literal bundle.

And yet I can not be the one cherry-picking the good and leaving out the bad, just so I can have my faith, just so I can feel like my soul is secure from eternal damnation.

I do not know where that leaves me, except alone with my questions.

"Non-fundamentalist religion, by definition, depends upon cherry-picking the given religion’s doctrines, discarding the uncongenial teachings and reinterpreting the others to make them more comfortable to live with. Think, for example, of the fact that the majority of Roman Catholics use contraception. The word that accurately and simply describes cherry-picking – choosing manageable commitments and ignoring inconvenient ones – is not a comfortable word; it is ‘hypocrisy’. But it is done with a blitheness, and often with a lack of self-awareness, that religion in some of its forms deliberately seems to promote, preferring half a loaf of adherence to no bread."

Grayling, A.C. (2013-03-26). The God Argument (pp. 6-7). Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Kindle Edition.