Monday, March 23, 2015

When Did Rules Become Tourniquets?

    I forget where I first heard this, but it bears repeating:
    I can guarantee you that there is not one person who doesn't know that you, evangelical Christian, don't support gay marriage.
    I'd also add to that. I can guarantee you, evangelical, that there is not one person who isn't aware how grossed out you are by sex not within your normal vanilla stereotype.
    I can guarantee you that there is not. one. divorcee unaware that God hates divorce.
    I know there is not one woman whose goal in life was to have an abortion.
    But I can also guarantee you that there's one thing most of the people you're preaching your truth at don't know.
    I can guarantee you it's their first question, too.
    Can I be loved?
    Can God love me? Can Christians? Can anyone?
    Yet in Christian subculture, our first instinct seems to be REMIND THEM OF THE RULEZ.
     To which I'd like to ask: if you're being so loving, then why do they keep asking this question? Why do your transgender teenagers kill themselves? Why do your women stay with men who beat the shit out of them? Why do your unmarried girls feel like the only way to avoid public humiliation is to have an abortion?
    I'm not an expert, but I don't think the problem is that we're not being loud enough in our "secularized" culture. The problem isn't "them" or their "sin natures," because for heaven's sake, they're asking if you love them. That's a good question - it's not a bad thing to want love and to want to be whole. In fact, isn't that what so many of you Christians sell Christianity as - a path to wholeness and heaven?
    The problem is, we're doing something very wrong.
    When did rules become our tourniquets? When did we start assuming we need to list out the rules before compassion and love? I mean, how many stories are there about the power of rules to save life?
    Now replace "rule" with love, and there's probably too many to list. Harry Potter and fairy tales like Snow White or Cinderella are obvious answers, but really Crime and Punishment, The Master and Margarita, Les Miserables, and more meet this criteria.
    Yet we keep acting like "taking a stand" for the rules is love. And it's not. It never has been, and it never will be.

    Love is patient. Love doesn't comment on advice columns warning you that your divorce is the fault of your own selfishness.
    Love is kind. Full stop.
    Love does not envy. It doesn't scheme to put more Republicans in power so you can keep the political control you like.
    Love does not boast about how keeping your 'virginity' will give you the happy marriage you deserve.
    Love is not arrogant or rude. Love doesn't claim that you're better than your sincere-hearted friend because you differ on your understanding of abusive power structures.
    Love does not seek its own. Love cares about the people on the margins. Love does not seek conservative approval by refusing to sell cake to a couple whose marriage you disagree with.
    Love is not provoked into a Twitter fight that ends (or begins) with labeling someone a heretic.
    Love does not rejoice in iniquity - I knew they were sexist/racist/homophobic because of one ignorant comment! I'm so glad I can call them out on this in front of all my followers! - but rejoices in truth.
    Love bears all things - and I think our divorces, questions, doubts, abortions, gender transitions and coming outs fall under "all." So, sorry, but refusing to sell cake to a gay couple is not love. Kicking out your queer and/or pregnant child is not love.
    Love hopes all things - for you to find happiness again, that there is a heaven and a good God and someday everyone will be reconciled to Him.
    Love believes all things - like when you say being  LGBTQQIAP wasn't a decision, I might just trust you on that since I am not you. Like when you say you're a feminist and a pro-life complementarian, I might just trust that you have genuine reasoning behind it, even if we disagree.
    Love never fails.
    Love runs besides you or lets you go when you need it and waits with open arms. Love prays and holds you and dances with you and sings over you.
    Love loves you.


Monday, March 16, 2015

I'm Not Your Token Angry Survivor

Content warning for discussions of abuse.

    It's a bizarre cycle that never ends: abuse victims are only taken seriously if they have the right behavior.
    Now, lately the progressive Christian internet has been pushing back against this. Fantastic articles like this explain why survivors might be loud, angry, and hysterical, and that is okay.
    I can't describe how wonderful this is.
    But. While the loud survivor needs people to stick up for her, so does the quiet survivor, the one who's cautious because she doesn't want to ever abuse someone else.
    In other words: believe it or not, not every survivor is the same.
    That means you do not tell the survivor that their actions uphold abusive powers. You do not criticize their fear of holding people accountable. You do not demean their sensitivity as complicit in abuse. 
    Because if you only advocate for the angry, demonstrating victims, because if you refuse to listen to the ones cowering and weeping in the dark because they're too scared by your actions to join and you refuse to understand why, you aren't an advocate for abuse victims. You're an advocate against power.

    I don't know much about survivors of physical and sexual abuse. But I know about verbal abuse.
    I know what it is like to be specially sensitized to every last word, to see before anyone else if someone is intending to harm you with their words because they're uncontrollably angry. I know what it's like when you read too much into words because you have to, because that is your only survival mechanism.
    I know what it's like to be flabbergasted every time you see anger handled without rage and pain.
    So sometimes on the internet, when I see Christians ripping into each other on Twitter, I remember pain. All criticism makes me uncomfortable, but I do recognize it as necessary.
    But sometimes I see dehumanization. Mockery. Repeatedly ignoring someone's point. Assuming motives.
    And I am reminded of being verbally abused. And I am scared stiff that somewhere, someone, no matter how nasty they have been, will be verbally abused. 
    No one should ever, ever have to feel that.
    I get that I can't police the angry survivor. I don't want to. I'm not a therapist, but if you were abused, at some point in healing you probably should be livid.
    But if I panic and say "this behavior seems unhealthy to me," am I not allowed that action, too? Are we not allowed, imperfect humans as we are, to survive and grow messily, with grace and understanding and guidance?
    Some would say "no." And I think that's just as dismissive, hurtful, and silencing as those who demand "good" behavior from the survivor.
    There are times I can learn from the angry survivor. Staying silent isn't helpful, I know.
    There are times I can scream with them. I can take comfort in other people's awareness.
    But maybe there are times they can learn to show more kindness from hesitant people like me.

    Basically: there's a difference between being an advocate against power structures and being an advocate for the abused. 
    You can be both, I'm sure, but, once again: if your primary motive is to tear down the systems and you find yourself ignoring the survivors who are telling you they're scared or feel marginalized, you're not an advocate.
    And, sorry, but I care more about people than systems, whether you're building them up or tearing them down.

    Now, feel free to disagree in the comments.

*post inspired by a conversation on

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Ghosts Dwell in Church

   I absolutely love churches.
   There's beautiful sculptures on the walls and quiet solitude and loud chatter (depending on denomination), and sometimes it's bright and cheerful, somethings dark and holy, but it's all beautiful. It's like God dwells among us. My heart swells.
   And then my guard leaps into action.
   Because I am haunted in the house of God.

    And your voice still rings out in my mind
    And the thorn still twists down in my side

    My ghosts eke their way out among the self-effacing lyrics in worship, between the emphasis on how wicked we all are, aboard the brief jokes about liberals.
    I didn't understand why I felt their presence here, in church. Sure, the shifting of my beliefs from "fairly fundamentalist" to "fairly liberal" was hard, but why would it traumatize me?
    Really, I was never abused in church. I love my fundamentalist and evangelical friends, and I know they love me. Or do I?
    Here I am, unable to attend a church without panic, without rage, without deep depression. Unable to read the Bible without shriveling up inside, without feeling driven to repeat prayers compulsively until I know I'm a good person.

    Maybe I'm broken, maybe it's the fate
    Maybe it's the moment you said I had changed

    Somehow my survival instincts overtook my life to the point that while I don't need these survival games any longer, I can't turn them off.
    And so I am haunted in church.

    I know all the Bible verses and the (usually evangelical) arguments, oh yes I do.
   "Do not forsake gathering together."
   "If you love God, why wouldn't you want to read His Word?" (Except the Word is actually Jesus, not the Bible, but that's another post).
    I know your arguments, but I can't. do. it.
    I do, however want to do what Jesus said. I want to love others, and I want to love God through learning about his creation and the marvelous people he's made. I want to spend time with people who agree and who disagree with me.
    I think Jesus said loving God and others was the fulfillment of the law, anyways.

    Because I'm moving on, letting go
    Forget the past, I'm giving up the ghost
    All we are is fading stars
    Life's too short to stay where we are

    So instead of experiencing the haunting, lately I've been exposing myself to the radiant sunshine spilling over creation (okay, okay, only in the last week - before that Boston's been a clouded depressing mess of ice). Lately I've been meeting friends of similar and different faiths; lately I've been spending Sunday morning cuddling with the glorious creatures known as cats. Lately I'm trying to make peace with the fact that God is good and that S/He exists despite the change drowning me.
    Lately I've adopted this addicting chorus as my mantra:
    Forgive and let live and move on, tell me that you're gonna make me stronger
    Forgive and let live and move on
    Forgive and let live and move on, tell me that you're gonna make me stronger
    Forgive and let live and move on

    Song below.


Monday, March 2, 2015

This Is About Suicide. This is About People.

*trigger warning for a discussion of suicide*

    According to The Boston Globe, five people (four students and a professor) have committed suicide at my university this year.
    The latest, his name was Matthew. He was a freshman. He was a freshman and he did not deserve to die.
    I didn't know him. I wish I had. I wish I'd been able to give him a hug.
    I wish I could have told him I knew how he felt. And that I'm glad I stayed, even though I don't know why.
    Because, yeah, I've been there. I know.
    I honestly don't know why I haven't. I don't know why, after so many plans and fantasies, I am alive. The odds weren't exactly in my favor.
    I suppose I am always afraid of hurting people. I have no desire to cause pain by my death.
    But mostly, in high school I was afraid of hell, where an eating-disorder riddled perfectionist would surely go. And in college, after I embraced God again, I was afraid of making an irreversible decision. I didn't want to call attention to myself.
    That's it. Those two ignoble reasons are mostly why I'm here.

    Why would I consider killing myself?
    I don't know. I don't know.
    I can guess anxiety, depression, and PTSD have all played a role, but the truth is there isn't a straight answer for this.
    I don't know why I am not Matthew. In fact, in a way, I think I am.

    I know the stress and the pain and the worthlessness you feel. I know the rage and bitterness at the systems that prioritize perfection and intelligence like they're somehow moral (and, for the record: they're not). I know the desire to take vengeance against the pain by hurting yourself.
    I know the frantic desperation, the smothering blackness devoid of what the apparent mockers call hope. I know you probably don't want to die, but you want to stop the pain.
    I know people will consider you evil for thinking of going, will say you're selfish and going to hell.
    They're wrong. You're okay.
    It's not okay that you feel this way. Nope. But you yourself: you. are. okay.
    I love you. And Jesus loves you (and if you don't believe in God, he was still a pretty cool person who I'm sure would have loved you).
    And I still dream that there is hope, for us and for those five who've gone. For a resurrection in which we will all be made right, in which those who've damned us will rejoice to see how friggin' wrong they were.

    Can you stay another day? Can you see the sun or a smile and dare to imagine you deserve good, too?
    I want good for you. I imagine God does, too.
    You are loved.
    Take it day by day.
    Dare to tell someone. And if you're that someone, dare to hug, dare to listen, dare to understand.
    Dare to brave the phone and call a therapist. Then dare to tell them everything, even though it's scary, because it actually helps having everything in the open.
    Hug a cat. Or a dog (this is the part where I begrudgingly admit dog people are okay, too).
    Because we - we are not alone.

Love you, dear friend.
Sushi, Patron of Loves, will always heart you, too.