Tag Archives: Christianity

Mike Pence Is Quiet, But He’s Dangerous

During a meeting with a legal scholar, President Trump, VP Pence, and the scholar started talking about gay rights. Trump pointed to Pence and said, “Don’t ask that guy – he wants to hang them all!”

There’s a lot that’s disturbing about this statement. Joking about the deaths of LGBT people – a group that’s been experiencing record numbers of violence – is yet another example of Trump’s total disregard for the issue. The other thing that’s disturbing is that it proves Pence has not budged on his defining quality – hostility towards the LGBT community.

In 2006, Pence supported a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and woman. He didn’t stop there however, but said that being gay was a choice and accepting it into society would lead to its collapse.

Just a year later, he opposed a law that would make discriminating against LGBT people in the workplace illegal. Apparently, not being allowed to fire people because you don’t agree with their sexual identity “wages war on freedom and religion.”

In 2010, Pence wanted to keep Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which forced military personnel from identifying opening as gay. His reasoning? He didn’t want the military to be a “backdrop for social experimentation.” That’s a really confusing reason because it isn’t like there haven’t been gay people in the military. How is letting soldiers be open and honest about their lives back home an “experiment?”

In 2015, Pence made his name known nationwide when he signed a bill that would let Indiana businesses use their religion to refuse service to LGBT customers. I’ve heard conservatives talk a lot about “slippery slopes” when it comes to issues like gun control, but letting business owners refuse service because of a customer’s sexual identity is EXTREMELY slippery. It’s also just plain ol’ discrimination. To Pence, it might make sense because he thinks being gay is a choice, but he’s wrong, and you don’t get to make laws based on lies. That’s a slippery slope.

The most troubling thing about Pence, in my opinion, is his support for conversion therapy. He hasn’t been outspoken about it, because he knows it’s controversial, but when he was running for Congress, he suggested that federal money that was being used to research HIV/AIDS would be better diverted to “provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Um, what? That would be “conversion therapy,” which is derided by the American Psychological Association and has a long history of misconduct, including lobotomies, electroshock, testicle transplants, castration, female circumcision, drugs, and verbal abuse. While methods have changed, the goal is the same: convince someone their sexual orientation is wrong and needs to be “straightened out.”

Conversion therapy is banned in a handful of states, but it’s not banned on a federal level. I heard someone say that being gay was “protected and celebrated” in America, like it was a bad thing, and I had to laugh. What groups are ones that need to be protected? Ones that are in danger. And what are some reasons to celebrate being gay? When it’s been stomped down for decades and told it’s destroying society, perhaps? A celebration is simply telling a person, “You’re not bad. There’s nothing wrong with you. We love you.”

Pence wants a world where every LGBT person believes there’s something inherently wrong with them; that because of the evil in their souls, they’ve “chosen” a dark path and need to be “converted.” He ignores every personal story and every sound piece of medical research on the subject, and instead chooses to uphold outdated and hateful misconceptions on what sexual orientation is, and what life is actually like for LGBT people.

Pence may be quiet, but he’s dangerous. And unlike Trump, Pence has a lot of people on his side.

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Dreams Of The Witch-House

*trigger warning* Contains descriptions of dreams involving needles

I’ve always had a weird thing about witches. By “weird thing,” I mean legitimate fear that one would cast a spell on me and manipulate my actions. When I was involved in really extreme, charismatic spirituality, a few authority figures told me I was vulnerable to the spirit of witchcraft. I didn’t really know what that meant. They said it was about the need to control everything, because a witch’s power is all about controlling the elements. Looking back, I feel like “spirit of witchcraft” is just a really bizarre and terrifying way of saying “control freak.”

In college, I wasn’t really as scared of witches as when I was younger, but there was a new fear creeping in. A fear of my sexuality. I became more scared of men and drawn to women, and even though I didn’t believe being gay or bisexual was a sin, or even that the lifestyle was, I was afraid I was wrong. I would dream about a dark-haired woman a lot, and became convinced an evil spirit was visiting me. I abandoned the hyper-spiritual, casting-out-of-demons-constantly lifestyle soon after, simply because I was so exhausted, but I never really “deprogrammed” myself from it.

I read a lot from different spiritual authors like Rachel Held Evans, and went to regular counseling where some of my sexuality issues were resolved. I was able to acknowledge that I was bisexual, but because I was engaged to Chris, I never had to unpack it more than that.

My spiritual life is nothing like it used to be, where every panic attack was treated like an expression of demonic forces or reading the Bible was a desperate attempt to defend myself. But I still dream. I think dreams are the soul’s way of remembering things we wish we could forget.

This week, I dreamed that a witch attempted to take over my body by sewing a long line of thread through my ankle and earlobe. Every time I pulled out the thread to free myself, she would patiently start again. I kept repeating buzz words and phrases I had learned from charismatic teachers back in the day, but nothing worked. Finally, the spiritual counselor who had the biggest influence on me (and who was the one told me I had been molested and then offered no guidance as to how to deal with that revelation), showed up, and the witch went away. She would be back, though, and I was suddenly in one of my old houses lying in bed, in the dark, with tiny needles embedded in my skin. I couldn’t move, but I could hear people outside. They were preparing for the witch’s arrival, and said that I had to let her partially into my body before they could get rid of her. There was a lot more to the dream, but the most notable part was when I was able to see into the witch’s past and see her. I remember really worrying that she would look like one of the actresses I’ve had a crush on for a while.

There’s that whole bisexual fear again. In my head, I’m totally comfortable with it, but underneath is a different story. As soon as I really confront it, it freaks me out. If I wasn’t married to Chris, and the possibility of being in a relationship with a woman was more of a reality, I would need some serious counseling. Now, I don’t know how much it matters. The dreams never bother me, and I know they’re not real. I think it might just take time. I just assumed I was over all that stuff with casting out demons and being stalked by a witch spirit who was making me like girls, but maybe not. I figure the farther away from it I get, time-wise, the less it will affect me.

WTF, Nashville Statement

Read a summary of the Nashville Statement here


On Tuesday,  a group of conservative evangelicals known as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood came together in Tennessee and wrote “The Nashville Statement.”

In the document, they came out against same-sex marriage, gender-fluid identity, and transgenderism. Not only that, but they asserted that anyone who disagrees with them is not a Christian.  A section called Article 10 is the most provocative:

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.

WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

If there was any room for misunderstanding, one of the authors reiterated what the group meant by saying, ” Readers who perceive Article 10 as a line in the sand have rightly perceived what this declaration is about. Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether, even if they claim otherwise.”

He also said, “The Nashville Statement leaves no room for such revisions nor does it leave ambiguity on the question.”

What the hell. I can’t even…like…put my outrage into words. Who do these people think they are? Who has the authority to decide that a certain stance on an issue determines whether or not someone is a Christian? Are there any other indicators? What other disagreement could get someone kicked out of the flock unless they conform?

Interestingly enough, a lot of people who signed this statement have been very vocal about supporting Donald Trump. So…he’s okay because he doesn’t want transgender people to serve in the military? Is someone’s stance on sexuality and sexual identity the only thing that matters when it comes to being a Christian? The conservative evangelical obsession with it certainly seems to imply that.

Who signed this thing? James Dobson and Tony Perkins did. No surprise there. John Piper did, too.

 

What Does It Mean To Feel Alive?

For our first small group session, we did an active listening exercise where we described a moment where we felt most alive. Mine was about a morning in Jamaica, the summer of 2011, where I and a few friends got up early to swim. The sun wasn’t scorching yet, and the water was just cool enough to be refreshing. I floated on my back, eyes closed. The last few years had been extremely rough. My soul felt like a raw piece of meat that had been beat with a mallet. It felt like my body and mind were set against me, determined to kill me.

Some people feel most alive when their adrenaline levels are high, but I’m the opposite. For me, high adrenaline levels mean I’m afraid, that I’m in danger. There’s a theory about anxiety that it was biologically important back in the days when life was really dangerous, when we lived without much shelter and death by wild animal was common. That anxiety kept us alive and told us to run when we encountered danger. Now, however, most of us don’t need that much anxiety. I certainly don’t – I’m not in a bad area, I’m pretty much white-passing, and I’m not being hunted by animals. That adrenaline/anxiety sparked up at every little thing, and told my body that sitting in class was a life-or-death situation. I didn’t feel “alive” in those moments, because I wanted the feeling to stop.  I wanted to shut it off. I wanted to be dead, because at least then I could have peace and quiet.

Floating in the ocean, my ears beneath the waves so the only sound was my own breathing, felt like being alive. I felt whole, my mind and body not fighting. It was sort of weird, too, because I also felt disembodied at the same time. That felt like freedom, like I had found a way to escape the chaos of the physical, and just be. Recapturing that is not easy. The closest I get is when I can’t sleep at night, and I lie down in Baxter’s room. It’s the coolest room. The sleeping bag is slippery, and feels a little like water. The only sound is faint rustling. After a half hour or so, I feel calm again, pieced back together, and I can go back to bed and fall asleep.

What this taught me is that my soul is connected to the ocean. Whenever we go to the coast, I know that I could live by it forever. When I’ve visited deserts, like New Mexico, I feel off-kilter, like something is missing. The ocean has its rhythms, like a pair of lungs, and follows the moon. It’s steady, but also not predictable. It’s totally, completely alive. 

what to do when old memories resurface

At night, thoughts just trickle down like raindrops into my brain. I really can’t control the onslaught, and I never know what form they’ll take from night to night. Last night, my thoughts turned to my year at Northwestern. It seems like an eternity ago, and I realized that I couldn’t remember a lot of peoples’ names. It was a relief, though, because most of them were people I didn’t actually know. They just knew the few people I did know, extending far out into the college life I never shared. I forget sometimes what a hard year it was. I’m honestly shocked that I made it through alive. At my worst, I had imagined crawling into the oven in the little kitchenette in the dorm room I shared with two other girls, and at my best, I successfully went to class, to the on-campus therapy, and check-ins with my hall director who needed to make sure I wasn’t going to kill myself. Even at my best, I was just surviving.

The thoughts of that year just kept streaming in last night, filling me up, like I was an inflating balloon. Chris snored peacefully beside me, and Yoshi had gone downstairs, so I couldn’t occupy myself with petting him. Instead, I went into Baxter’s room and lay on the sleeping bag I always kept in there for just such occasions. He wasn’t interested in playing with me, so I put him back in his house and lay on my back, listening to him rustle in his bedding and toilet paper tubes. With each breath, I tried to imagine thoughts leaving my body like air, as if I was decompressing from a deep dive. I wanted to become completely flat, even with the floor, and not swollen up with strange emotions.

Memories kept flying in, like the first week of living on campus where the college hosted an ’80’s costume party, and I sat watching three girls from my hall put their long hair in side ponytails, with off-shoulder sweaters and neon eyeliner, and the only ’80’s look I could possibly pull off was Joan Jett, because I owned a lot of black clothes and my hair was short like hers.

It’s so weird what comes up in the dark, with no distractions except the sound of a hedgehog drinking water. I kept picturing the little lounge area of my floor, Red Hall, even though I rarely spent time there. Then there was the “prank” some of the older girls played on the freshman when we first moved in, that there would be a table set up where any boys who came to visit would have to sign in. When they revealed that they were joking, it wasn’t really that funny, because we did still have to always keep the doors open if we had a gentleman caller, and they could only visit one day during the week. I truly can’t remember if it was part of the prank that we had to also hang little paper dolls on the door if there was a guy there, or if that was real. I knew that none of that would apply to me, prank or no, so it was a weird way to start the year.

Screenshot 2017-06-14 at 1.36.12 PM
My corner of the NWC dorm. That big squared blanket is now primarily Chris’.

That was also the year that I got really into charismatic Christianity. After one especially intense devotional session with one of the girls sharing her story of being abused, I started getting worked up during the prayer session, and when someone tried to put their hands on me to pray, I flipped out. I ended up being held down on the floor, growling. When I finally calmed down, I was exhausted, but didn’t want to go back to my dorm to my roommate who never came to the hall Bible studies, and who did not understand either my depression or hyper-spirituality. She might have been in a cult. The other roommate, who was more receptive and open, was out with her friends. I don’t remember if I talked with my RA about what had triggered the spiritual attack (panic attack, as I now know it was), but I don’t remember feeling safe or reassured afterwards. When I think about that time and my relationship with the girls in the Hall, I’m left with a big question mark. It feels like I bled all over the floor all year and everyone kind of avoided it. Occasionally, someone would ask how I was, listen intently, and I would feel better.

During the year, I felt like I had some allies in my battle, so when I decided to transfer, I wanted to end the year well. I hung out one-on-one with the girl whose testimony had triggered my attack, and tried to connect with her using the only spiritual language I really knew: charismatic crazy talk. I thought she would understand, but by the end of our conversation, I could tell she thought I was insane. I never saw or talked to her again. The older girl who I had met with during the year was nowhere to be found when I moved out, and when I texted her during the summer about getting coffee, she was always busy. My RA unfriended me on Facebook until I refriended her, and she accepted. We never spoke of why she deleted me. Unless I’ve forgotten about that, too.

I’ve blogged about these experiences before, and I’m not bitter or mad about them. It was so long ago, and so much has changed since then, I kind of feel like telling myself, “What the hell, get over it.” And most of the time, I am over it. Last night was the first time I’ve really thought about any specific memories in a long time, and I’m not sure why they just appeared again. Maybe because I’m starting this small group and on the threshold of new relationships with Christians again, and some old fears are trying to get back in, like bloated ticks eager to feed on my blood again. Vivid image, I know, but that’s what it feels like. So I lay on the floor in the hedgehog’s room, breathing in and out, until I no longer felt like my chest was going to stretch apart and my brain was too tired to absorb the raindrops of thoughts. I checked on Baxter one more time, who jumped angrily when I touched him, and went back to the bedroom. Chris was no longer snoring.

small group

So we started our own small group. I talked about it in a past post, and now we actually did it. It wasn’t that hard to outline what we wanted. I have more “must’s,” than Chris, of course, but we both wanted the group to be a community that wasn’t about a church. It wouldn’t be based around all going to the same church, or going to church at all. We both wanted there to be openness and honesty. We didn’t want to be the “leaders,” and always responsible for content. I made a Meetup. com profile, and created an event. It didn’t take long for lots of people to “join.”

I knew right away that most of the people joining wouldn’t actually be in the group. I sent out an email that explained again that the group wasn’t just for socializing, and that we really wanted people who were committed to each other. I only got a few emails back. We ended up meeting with three people, and they were all a great fit. I also posted on Craigslist, and within 20 minutes, got an email from a couple who wanted to join.

We have our first official meeting on Friday, though we’ll just be having dinner, doing some ice-breakers, and talking about what we’re going to be studying. “The Bible” and how we read it comes first, and then prayer, and then some other essential faith tenet. I think sticking to the basics gives us a lot of breathing room and doesn’t lock us into something too narrow.

Chris and I feel really good about all this. The time was right, and God really showed up.

rainy day prayer

I write my prayers; I have trouble articulating them otherwise. I don’t share them. This one, though, I wanted to share. It summarizes what I’ve been feeling spiritually for quite a few years now.

———

I’m at the point where I don’t know if I would recognize Your voice if I heard it. No, that’s not true. Your voice is this quiet, in this room, as cars go by in the rain like steady white noise, like waves. What does the voice say?

Peace, peace.

I can feel myself become calm. My heartbeat slows.

I guess I’m just not sure if that’s “good enough.” Most of my conversations about You now are like seeping wounds, barely just scabbing over. I feel like all I have to tell people is how the church let me down, how Christians let me down, how the different denominations (Lutheran, Episcopal, Evangelical, charismatic) let me down. I don’t really have a silver lining. Is that because something is wrong with me?

I guess the one good thing from all that I can tell someone everything You are not. You’re not loneliness in a crowd of girls at a Christian retreat, or an angry argument over Facebook, or the agonizing fear of demons in every corner. You’re not silence from friends after a church collapsed. You’re not shame. Rage. Hate.

But…what are You, then? Am I starting from scratch? I feel like my insides are scraped clean, ready to be filled with…what?

Easter season is about rebirth, right? I guess that’s what I ready for.

Our Most Recent Church Small Group Endeavor

untitledIt had started snowing by the time we got to the house. It had rained all day, and there were weather warnings for the night and next day. Since Chris and I are both Midwestern, and most importantly, the car was Midwestern, we weren’t super worried. At least, not about that.

We were trying a new small group for the first time. It was connected to Chris’ church, and there were going to be food and games. I was relieved, because it meant I didn’t have to share anything too personal and deep, which it something I have a tendency to do when someone asks me. The last small group we had gone to, I had essentially relayed my whole story with depression, which fascinated the small group leader, like he had never met someone with depression before. He was perfectly nice and appropriate and everything, but I felt really on the spot.

So, I could easily avoid the life history if I wanted to. I started to get really nervous when we went to the door. I could hear children’s voices. When we rang the doorbell, a gaggle of kids opened it. Neither Chris or I really knew what to say. “Hi, we’re here for the small group” didn’t seem quite right, given our audience. The kids screamed, “People are here!” and then proceeded to close the door.

“Just go in,” I told Chris.

“They’re holding the door shut,” he replied.

Oh no.

After an agonizing minute or so, an adult human woman opened it. She had a baby tied to her chest and was extremely pregnant. She had an odd look (at least, I thought it was odd), like she was expecting us to try and sell her something.

“Is this the church small group?” Chris asked.

“Yeah! Come on in!”

We all introduced ourselves and went to the kitchen, where more introductions occurred. I quickly deduced that they were all dads, and it was their brood who had tried to shut us outside. For her sake, I was glad they weren’t all the kids of the woman who opened the door, but that meant that Chris and I were currently the only adults in the room who were not parents. Well, us, and the young guy whose zipper fly was down. I spent the next ten minutes or so trying to make my body as small as possible so kids would stop crashing into me, and sending a telepathic message to Chris to signal to Zipper Fly to zip up. I was not successful in either.

A few more people came, and with them, children. I became more and more uncomfortable. When it was time to eat, everyone stood staring at the food for what felt like an eternity, not wanting to go first.

“This is very Midwestern,” I murmured to Chris.

When we finally ate, Chris and I went first, because we were “the guests.” It was subtle, but then I realized that we were the only ones considered guests. That felt weird. I asked if we were all going to eat at the table in the room next door.

“Sit wherever! Make yourself at home!” the man of the house said.

Okey dokey.

Chris and I went to sit at the table and waited for the others to join us. No one came. I could see them, standing in the kitchen and eating. If I was someone else, I would have gotten up and went back into the kitchen, but I was not confident in my ability to hold a plate and eat. The kitchen was small, and with all the adults and assorted children running around, it was pretty much assured that I would drop my food everywhere.

Eventually, someone did come out. We had a painfully awkward conversation about where we were from, stuff to do in Oregon, and believe it or not, pressure cookers. I became absurdly enthusiastic sharing my knowledge, as if I was a salesperson for the Instant Pot. Another person came out and stood by the table. More painful conversation. All the while, two kids played with their fishing game at the table with us, lightly arguing about who had caught what fish. Eventually, both adults left because their kids needed food/help with the bathroom. I did not expect them to return.

At this point, I had checked out. We had not even reached the “game” portion of the evening, and I was dreading it. But I wasn’t going to say anything. Chris already knew how picky I was about people, so I wasn’t going to be the jerk and make him leave. To my surprise, he said he was going to make an excuse about work, so we could leave. We took our plates to the kitchen and Chris made his announcement. It triggered a few questions about what his career, and I realized that in our two conversations, they had always asked Chris what he did, but never me, even when the opportunity was right in front of them. We had only started talking about pressure cookers because Chris had brought up my freelance writing on my own and my newest project. I chose to not see it as sexism in action, but rather an indication of just how bad people are at talking to each other. The man of the house said we should come back another time.

“Definitely!” Chris said.

We got in the car and I declared that I needed hot chocolate. As I sang along to the radio, I noticed Chris had not spoken. He didn’t speak the entire drive, and even forgot where we were going, so we went to a different Dutch Bros than usual. When we got home and changed into our comfy clothes, I asked him if everything was okay.

“I’m just disappointed,” he said.

He didn’t talk much the rest of the night. I realized that the reason I didn’t feel anything about the bust of an evening was that I didn’t really expect anything. I knew what it was like to feel incredibly uncomfortable (and unwelcome) somewhere. I’ve been to my share of youth groups and churches, and had anxiety long enough to know what it feels like when an entire house seems to want to expel you from its walls. Chris isn’t that way. He’s endlessly gracious about people and optimistic about every situation he goes into. I sometimes think I would like for Chris to have a rough time somewhere so he can relate to me more, but seeing him so disappointed and quiet…it kind of broke my heart. I wanted him to be chatty and goofy with the dog. I wanted him to be himself again.

I think we should start our own small group. No kids. Read interesting books. Go do volunteer work. Be intentional about building a spiritual community that questions and builds up. I would sign up.

5 Things Church-Goers Should Know About Former Church-Goers

1. We don’t want to be invited to church

The reason we aren’t going to church is not because someone just hasn’t asked us yet. We’ve already been there, we know what it’s like. I have this thing where I go to small groups (I’ve been to, like, two) and see if the people are actually invested in people, or just getting people to the church. The first group was structured around the sermons, so right off the bat, it’s clearly intended for people who already go. For one of their outreach things, they went to a grocery store and handed out gift cards, but also included a church business card. It was a PR move, not a service project. It wasn’t about building relationships or meeting a real need (I’m sure people appreciated it, who knows what their stories are, but if the church really wanted to make the most impact, they would not have chosen a grocery store in one of the wealthier areas of town), it was about drumming up attendance. So, long story short, don’t invite us to church. Invite us into your lives. There’s a difference.

2. We didn’t necessarily stop becoming believers when we stopped going to church

When someone stops going to church, there’s an assumption that they’ve lost their faith. However, that is not necessarily the case. A person’s faith can actually become stronger when they leave church, because they’ve realized their convictions are not hinged upon going to a building every week, and that staying in a place where they don’t belong is harming their faith. I’ve never stopped loving Jesus.

3. Church PTSD is a real thing

Yes, someone’s experiences at church can be so bad, they start to manifest PTSD symptoms. People have been physically assaulted at church by church leaders, they have listened to damning sermons, they have been betrayed and abandoned by trusted mentors, and so on. That is trauma, and trauma has consequences. Going to church feels dangerous. It’s not like I can should just shop around or that I haven’t found the “right one,” it’s that the whole concept of church, the rituals, the decor, the music, the language, reminds of me all the bad things that have happened. Anxiety kicks in. Panic. My body is literally telling me to run.

4. We still want a community

It’s really hard to find a shared-faith community that is not a church. Right now, I’d say it is impossible. While the concept of “church” literally makes me want to throw up, I still want to find the people who love Jesus, but are having a real hard time justifying it. I still want that spiritual “mentor” of sorts, who I feel knows more than me, but still asks the big questions and doesn’t act like they have all their shit together.

5. We want to talk about why we left church

I guess I should really just say “I” want to talk about it. I’m sure there are lots of people who don’t want to talk about it. I just know that it’s kind of a weird moment when people have asked what church I go to, and I say that I don’t go, but Chris does, and they don’t ask why. Sometimes I offer a slew of reasons unprovoked, but they don’t dig deeper. They probably don’t want to be nosy, but at the same time, if you’re a church-goer, you should really be interested in why people are leaving the church in droves. The worst that could happen is the former church-goer saying, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

Image source: http://www.sbts.edu/blogs/2016/05/06/should-i-leave-my-church-8-critical-questions/

to the Christians

We can’t only be there when the worst happens. When there’s blood and tears and fear. If we’ve shamed, shunned, or just ignored every other day, our attention isn’t wanted on the dark days. We will be met with distrust, anger. Why would anyone take refuge with us if we’ve stayed silent when other crisis build, or raged when something we don’t agree with has come to pass?

I’m not saying we all have to change our opinions.

But we do have to love. Every day.

What does love look like? Is it constantly telling people what we think of their lifestyle and nothing else?

If you want to share an opinion about someone’s life, you had better be in their life. You had better be side by side with them through the bad times and good. Otherwise, why should they care what you think? Why should they believe you even care about them? What have you done to prove yourself as a good friend?

Don’t be surprised if your attention is rejected, especially if you haven’t shown much grace in the past. Reassess what’s more important  – preaching loudly or loving boldly?