Monday, September 2, 2019

It's Been A Long Time...

Well, it's been a long time since I've posted any new content. Not sure anyone is even still reading, checking. But just in case there are still some people out there, I thought I'd share that I published my first book last year. The title is "God, Who Are You?"

If anyone is interested, it is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

(Click on the cover below and it will take you there.)

From the back cover...

"Have you ever felt like the God the talked about in church is distant and unapproachable? Have you felt like God could not possibly care about you, let alone love you? Have you ever looked at all the different teachings and wondered which one was right? Have you wondered what God wants and where you fit into His plan?

If so, this book is written for you. Go on a journey that explores the foundation of God's character. Answer the question that asks who we are supposed to follow. Find out what the relationship is between Law and God's Grace. Delve into the question of what it is that God really wants from us. Find out how God sees us and who we are to Him.

My desire for you, as you read this book, is that it would bring you to a deeper and more personal knowledge of and life with Immanuel - God With Us."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On Fear and Superstition....

So. To follow up on yesterday’s post….

Fear. I have thought about this a good deal as it has – to sometimes greater, sometimes lesser degrees – annoyed and/or plagued my life. I think the most significant consequence of the choice of Adam and Eve to disobey – to sin – was the entrance into the world – or rather, the entrance of it into their world – of Fear. Fear of what? Primarily, I think, of being judged. And considering the situation, it was not an invalid fear.

However, here is what I see. During the narrative in Genesis 3, the judgment in the form of a curse, was first and foremost, passed on the snake. Then the ground was cursed on account of Adam’s disobedience. But nowhere in that narrative does God come down on them in wrath. He tells them what the results of their actions will be. But this is not ‘punishment,’ it is ‘cause and effect’…there is something about a Law of Sin and Death?

But I don’t see God’s wrath in evidence in Genesis 3 except perhaps toward the snake…..

And yet, as a result of disobedience, this fear is a daily companion with us. For me, I have often articulated it as ‘the fear of being bad.’ And that is that little girl inside talking. Her vocabulary. And as a child, it was one of the major fears I had – which made the events of my childhood all the more cause for dissonance and despair. But really, I think, at least for me, it boils down to a fear of sinning.

Or, to put it another way, our fears became superstitious. What is superstition, after all, but the fear that if we do not do things right – adhere to certain rites and rituals – bad things will happen. And you know, in my experience, Christians look down on non-Christians for being ‘superstitious’ and Protestants look down on Catholic ‘superstitions.’ But really, we Protestants have our own superstitions.

How so? Well, I am just going to dive in to the deep end and use an example that is sure to raise some hackles. But…at least within the church circles I have been involved with as a child and adult, the whole ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ has become, in my view, used and viewed in a largely superstitious way. Before you start yelling at me, please hear me out. Consider: how many churches, either overtly or subtly, suggest that if a person has not said the Sinner’s Prayer out loud in front of witnesses with a certain list of items that must be included, well---they probably aren’t really saved. I know of people (I used to be one of them) who had a deep fear that if friends and family members did not/had not said this prayer specifically, they might not make it. And conversely, there is the belief that if you have said it in front of witnesses, then you are gold – all is good. Nothing else really matters…..well, except that you follow our rules (obey our rites)…..fear that not performing a specific ritual will lead to bad things and performing it will lead to good things….Superstition.

Now that said, I am not saying that everyone that has ever said the Sinner’s Prayer now has their salvation suspect. I am just saying that if this external following of a rite – performing a ritual – is how we measure whether someone is ‘one of us,’ we have devolved the whole mess into superstitious fear.

See, when we turn the Gospels of Christ and/or the words written in letters by the various apostles into rituals that must be followed, the entire point gets lost. It becomes an exercise in external behavior control – ticking off items on the list to see who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out.’ And in the process, Jesus gets shoved to the side in favor of the ritual.

And I get it. It is far easier – far less scary – to obey the items on a checklist and feel justified by that (and use that to decide who is one of us) than it is to walk in a continually developing relationship with the One whose eyes see to the very core of us. Becoming a true friend – that is, acquainted with – God…to really walk as his child… is daunting. It is far easier to spend our energies figuring out the things about him and around him and making lists of these things and rules – rites – for keeping them sacred, than it is to continually develop a friendship, relationship knowing him. But that is the whole point. Without that growing relationship (and all relationships grow or die, there is no lasting stasis), what was the point, again….?

So, back to the whole sin thing….

Hmm…Jesus said that the main sin was not believing in him and that judgment was for the devil. (See John 16:5-11)

Hmm…what Jesus did for us in dying and being raised, dealt once and for all with the sin issue. (See Romans 8:3-4, Hebrews 10:11-18, 1 John2:1-2)

Maybe sin is not the issue. Not that we don’t still sin – of course we do. But maybe that is not the point. It is a given that we sin – all of us – but the point is that the eternal problem of sin and how it positions us in eternity has been dealt with once, for all. We are no longer a slave to this sin or the fear of it – sin which was highlighted in stark relief by the Law. We have been set free from that slavery – that fear of sin and sinning. And not being afraid of sin does not (as some Christian leaders seem to fear) mean lawlessness. We are now free from that Law of Sin and Death and bound internally by the heart and the Spirit of Christ. But we no longer need to FEAR sin, sinning or being judged.

So…I choose to let go (Papa, help me?) of the superstitious fears of ‘doing it wrong’ and being thrown out as unfit – I choose to pursue, wobbly, uncertain, deepening, beautiful relationship with the One who made me and knows me and loves me beyond my ability to even take in.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Love and Fear

Love. A powerful word. A loaded word. A foundational word. A revolutionary word….

John the Beloved said that, “God is Love.”
Paul said, “…these three will endure: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Jesus said, “The world will know that you are my followers by the way you have love for one another.”
He also said, “The greatest commandment is to love God with everything you are; and the second greatest is to love your neighbor the way you love yourself.”
John the Beloved also said, “Perfect love cast out fear.”
In fact, in both his account of the Gospel and in his letters, John talked a lot about love.
So did Jesus….

I grew up in church. Sang, “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the bible tells me so.”

And, after half a century of thinking I knew what love was, I find it is not that simple.

Okay – this may be hard to get out and it may come out awkward, but here goes….

You see, love scares the crap out of me. When you grow up being sexually, emotionally and physically abused, love is a strange concept. For me, love is not necessarily comforting because those who love me may be cruel to prove a point – to teach a lesson. They may withhold affection to toughen and make me ‘strong.’ They may scold and they may punish. They may ignore until I make them mad. Those who love me may use a belt to correct even before wrongs are understood. In other words, when you tell me God loves me, I’m liable to cringe a little and hope his mercy outweighs his love……
And the flip side of that is, if I love, I will get out of bed in the middle of deep sleep to drive across town and get someone a coke with that ice they like. If I love someone, I will jump when they say jump…I will make all the bad stuff in their life go away. If I don’t take responsibility for someone else’s happiness, I don’t really love them.

And that is how I grew up. And let me tell you, being expected to take responsibility for the happiness of a malignant narcissist in the name of love is a recipe for mental breakdown. It is the ultimate double bind. And I find that now, I distrust this word ‘love.’

On an intellectual level, I understand that the love I experienced growing up and the love Jesus and John and Paul talk about are not the same….and yet…..I don’t know for sure.

I am realizing that I fear God’s love because I expect it to look like my parents’ love: always watching for errors to correct. The ever present ‘gotcha!’ I cringe before the Father, because I expect him to have the belt ready to punish….hmmm….you know, the church culture I grew up in contributed to this, as well. The whole concept of “getting your act together with God or he will take you out to the woodshed.” Yeah. That’s what the word love is connected to in my mind.

And yet…..

Deeper, there is a voice that tells me there is something different than what I’ve known. And the odd thing is, I have no trouble seeing the deep, compassionate, embracing, generous, wrap-you-up-in-warm-comfort love he has for other people. I can look in their eyes and feel the love of God for them…..but I cannot seem to translate that back to myself.

The Message puts John’s words like this: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” (1 John 4:18). So…a fearful life is one that is not fully formed in love. So….love does not cause fear….it banishes it. Tilt. This is slowly seeping in through the cracks of my childhood-old walls of defense.

For me, this is a radical idea, that God loves me as I am – for real and not just hypothetically. Hmm…I realized, a couple of days ago, that one of the issues I have had with accepting God’s love lies in the fact that somewhere along the line growing up, I learned that if you did not earn something, you had no right to take it and if someone gave you something you did not earn, you needed to do something to prove you deserved it. This had a subtle effect on how I viewed God’s gifts of grace and love. I had the vague subconscious feeling that in order to truly enjoy it and let it settle into me, I needed to prove I deserved it. This is part of what led me into the bowels of a cult (and thankfully back out). And while in that cult, it led to the idea that it was not okay to do anything that was not spiritually focused. And now, I realize there is a subtle (and until now) subconscious belief that “sin is fun and God is hard.” And the thing is, I bet there are a few of you that read that and nod in agreement: yes, quite right.

But the thing is, it is not quite right. In fact, I’m beginning to see that it is quite backward. Sin is hard and God is fun. See, if we are in him and he is in us, then sin is certainly not fun. It hurts – it sucks. And if we are in him and really start to get that he loves us, he is fun – his burden is light, not heavy and tiresome. He is not against recreation. Playing games – having fun with friends. I had reached the point where I thought he was against these things – that my love for him had to be demonstrated in the complete sacrifice of self – likes, interests, fun…..anything outside of studying him…..and anything the ‘church’ said was ‘wrong’….

And I find myself back in the heart of this battle….what does he demand of me? Some old interests – things that I used to really enjoy pre-cult days – have been re-introduced into my life. And my initial reaction was one of excitement and wow, really? Can I? And now, I am fighting whether it is okay to have fun again. Is God displeased? Am I asking for the belt? Within the church world, I never saw anything to contradict the concept of getting the belt for getting ‘out of line.’

Sigh. Perfect love casts out fear. All fear. Including the fear of being in trouble.

And yet today, I find fear a companion like it hasn’t been for years. Fear of punishment. Fear of being wrong. Fear of being unworthy. Fear of ‘sinning.’ And I know that the primary thing that Jesus came to set us free from was that very fear. I’ve written about it in a previous post. I have lived led by fear and it sucks. It is superstition. It is the fear that God will communicate his will by means of tests that stretch your stress levels to the breaking point. Fear that if I get out of line, he will remove his favor, his protection, his love….turn his back and let me take my lumps…..teach me by sending trials…….

And I know this is not really what love should look like. Deep underneath, my heart knows what love should look like. But that scared, abused, broken little girl is still scared to death that she will be found out and the shit will hit the fan. Found out in what? That she is a fraud, of course. She doesn’t really deserve to be in this ‘club’ because she is ruined. She is tainted. She didn’t do anything right. And she will be the one that gets thrown out of the wedding feast for not wearing the right clothes. (see Matthew 22:11-13) And it doesn’t matter that she wants desperately to be with Jesus, to be close to God. Because she is a fraud – doesn’t measure up to the standard set – she will be found out and thrown out. She grew up in church living a lie that she was ‘pure’ when she was not. And the truth is, I really don’t want to try to measure up anymore. I want to give up. But I am afraid that if I turn my back on that (it seems so foundational in my life), I will also turn my back on God….There. That is the fear. But I know that is not Truth…..and yet the fear remains. And I am not sure how to unroot it.

And so, my prayer is that I would know what love really is. That the fear of losing it will be swallowed by the reality of it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What if.....

This post is part of the April Synchroblog.

The question presented for the synchroblog is: What if the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax?

Well, the first thing that came to mind is that if he was not raised, he was not the Messiah - not the Christ. This would mean that everything from Matthew to Revelation (in the Bible) would be bullshit. There would be no room for the idea of viewing him as a good teacher, just not divine. Why? Because he made it very plain in the words attributed to him in the Gospels that he was the Christ and he would be raised. So, either he did not say those things and his followers made that part up, which would bring into question all quotes attributed to him, or he actually did say these things, in which case he was either a manipulative opportunist undeserving of being followed or he was a lunatic with delusions of grandeur whose teaching would be dangerous to follow. He said he was God, after all....there is not really much wiggle room here if truth is at all important. As C. S. Lewis pointed out in Mere Christianity, Jesus did not mean to leave any room for viewing him as just a good teacher.

But I want to take this in to a little more personal direction. If the resurrection did not happen, then I would not be here. For me, it is about more than  teachings and doctrines and theologies and debating - not that I can't get into that at times - I can go all theonerd with the best of them. No, for me, it is about him being there in the middle of the night when the demons want to torment a 9 year old girl. It is about knowing him more and more - and being known by him more and more. It is about him being a real, living, speaking person here, now in this present time. Forget following his teachings as a good moral code for living. For me, he was/is a here and now - front and center - holding my hand in the dark so I could/can sleep, singing softly in my ear to comfort - constant presence in my life.

Simply put, if there was no resurrection, then he would not have been there holding my hand and comforting me while I walked through the hell that was my childhood/early adulthood. And if he had not been there, I would not have survived. So - Jesus not raised? I would not be here. If he was not raised, I would not have seen him and I would have succeeded in taking my own life. And I think that is the most fundamental point.... Emmanuel - God with us - still. 


Other synchroblog participants:

Marta Layton: On faith seeking understanding, truth and theology
Carol Kuniholm: Risen Indeed? The Hermaneutic Community
Tim Nichols: How Would Life Be Different If Jesus Did Not Rise?
Glenn Hager: Kingdom Come or Kingdom Now?
Sonja Andrews: The Resurrection and The Life
Josh Morgan: The Role Of The Resurrection
Abbie Watters: What If The Resurrection Were A Lie?
Minnow: Resurrection Impact
Leah: Resurrection - Or Not!
Hey Sonnie: The Resurrection Hoax
Liz Dyer: The Resurrection I Firmly Believe In
Helen Haroutunian: Is There A Christianity Without The Resurrection?
Christine Sine: If the Resurrection Did Not Happen, How Would the World be Different? 
KW Leslie: Supposing Jesus Is Dead 
Travis Mamone: If The Resurrection Was A Hoax... 
Kathy Escobar: Jenga Faith
Jeremy Myers: What If Jesus Did Not Rise?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Minefield of Mental Illness and the Church

The topic of how the church deals with mental health issues has been large in my mind the last couple of weeks. It started with a teaching I heard, continued with the comment thread on an article over at Her.meneutics, and ended with another teaching I heard. The things I have experienced in this arena all came flooding back and anger, fear, frustration, sadness...they all rode on the coattails of the teaching and comments.

So, some history. I grew up in a household - and in a broader sense, a denomination - that at best, distrusted the field of psychology and at wort mocked and ridiculed it. Now in the family dynamics, I understand that narcissists will nearly always have a great aversion to counselors/psychologists/therapists, etc., because they do not wish to be exposed. So my mother's aversion and ridicule of the profession is not surprising. But the church is another matter.

I understand that in the early days, a lot of people in the profession were openly against religion and that understandably created a reaction. However, that has changed even to the point that the American Psychiatric Association has acknowledged in their journals that incorporating a client's spiritual beliefs (and respecting same) is important to the treatment process. And some denominations have begun incorporating counseling into their staff. Cool. Great.

But, in my own experience, the "Christian" counselors put doctrine above psychological training - and in so doing, put doctrine ahead of the client's mental health. I have seen this. But what I saw in the comments and heard in the sermons is something that I find dangerous. Why dangerous? Because it sets people up to be abused - and it sets people up to be abusive - well meaning people end up using these doctrines and doing harm. So, what is it that I'm so worked up about?

Here are some statements:

- Depression is always demonic
- Depression is a sin
- There's no such thing as mental illness, it is all just demons

Okay, the sermon I heard laid out step by step instructions for how to recognize someone who was being overcome by demons and how to deliver them. I want to state, for the record, that I do believe that demons exist and that they harass and possess people. I've seen too much not to. But what was stated in this teaching was, to me, over the top. The description that was given of how to recognize someone who had fallen away from faith and was in the hands of demonic forces and needed intervention was identical to the list of symptoms of someone who is coming out of a cultish religiously abusive situation - reverting to old behaviors, cussing, not reading the Bible anymore... As I listened to this list, I realized that by the definition presented, they would have been trying to cast the demons out of me the whole time I was recovering/healing from the abuses of my past.

I was reminded that I have realized, several times over the last 5 years, that the religious people around me, if they witnessed one of my PTSD moments, would have been trying to cast the demons out of me. I actually was experiencing some PTSD symptoms while listening to this message and in the midst of this knew that if those around me knew what was going on, they would have applied what they were hearing and tried to exorcise me. Talk about some cognitive pain.

See, here's the thing: this teaching leaves no room for the normal mental/emotional effects of abuse or even just a traumatic event like an accident. An example that comes to mind is one of a 12 year old girl who was stood on a chair by the elders in her own home while they tried to cast the spirit of rebellion out of her. Within 18 or so months, she had run away from home, gotten pregnant - why? Because her father was emotionally abusive and her older sister was even more so and her home life was intolerable. But these church elders did not make inquiries - they just labeled her and tried to 'deliver' her and in doing so, made the trauma worse - and drove her away from God almost permanently.

This is the crux of what has me so angry and sad and agitated inside - this teaching can be emotionally deadly to those suffering from mental distress. For me, personally, it made it very difficult to even recognize that I needed professional help, let alone actually seek it. I actually reached the point where I tried to kill myself before I sought help - and then only because the only friend I trusted at the time insisted I get help or leave. And here's the thing - I was in so much emotional pain that in a combination of anger and just plain overwhelmed-ness, I took a bottle of Darvon and went to bed. As I began to fade into the blackness, I was afraid. I told God I was sorry - for everything, including not being strong enough.... And his presence flooded that room with such profound peace. I was settled - I was relaxed - I knew he was right there and as I faded out, I did not expect to wake up. 24 hours later, however, I did wake up and had to begin dealing with the reality that I was still here and my life was still a mess. If, in that state, I had been confronted by people who thought my problem was just that I needed to have the devil cast out of me, I think I might have gone insane. This was 24 years ago. I recently, because of the healing that has been taking place, realized that this incident happened within a couple of weeks of seeing the primary molester - the first time I had seen him in more than 10 years. And I had to interact with him in a family holiday setting for 48 hours - and no one else knew.... and it triggered an emotional meltdown. Well, duh!

That brings me to another point. First, I will say that there are some cases of mental illness that are demonic in nature. But to say all are is, to me, profoundly troubling. If you have read my blog, you already know this, but I will do a quick recap for those who haven't been around much before. As a child I was molested - repeatedly - by several people; first when I was 2 1/2 and then again through the period from 7 to 12 years old - all outside my home. In addition to this, I lived in an emotionally and verbally abusive home that was also physically abusive (whippings with a belt were part of potty training). All this in the midst of being in a deeply religious family with parents as church leaders. Straight up - this messed me up. Bad. Even now, after 4 years of therapy, I have trouble really admitting that things were really that bad.... And in order to just survive, I stuffed it all away in a box locked under the stairs in the cellar of my mind. But the contents of that box would not stay hidden (they never do). And finally, God led to a place - and put a friend in my life that would hold my hand through it - where I actually began looking at it and dealing with it. And that has required the help of someone professionally trained for that purpose, not unlike seeking an orthopedic surgeon for a crushed leg.

And I have encountered, over the last five years, religious advice on this. The first was that I had better go to Christian counselors. I asked God about that and got one of the biggest 'NOs' I have even heard/felt. Okay. Then I have been told by someone who was a family friend at the time all this was going on (in childhood) that I needed to let one of the elders at her church pray for me because he was gifted in praying for deliverance. No thanks. I know what that looks like because I grew up in it. If I had allowed an attempted exorcism or whatever, I think it would have sent me around the bend.

Here's another thing - In the process of surviving all these years, there have been moments that..... Well, one was about 20 years ago, I was in a position where I was living with my grandparents and sharing a bedroom/bed with my mother - a narcissist.... and I was sitting outside in my car one night and I began to recognized different facets of my personality - 4 or 5 of them - and realized I was just on the edge of having them shatter. And God reached out and told me I did not have to step off that cliff if I didn't want to. A similar thing happened 5 years ago, when everything was blowing apart with the church/cult I used to be a leader in. What was happening there was stirring up all the childhood shit again - the stuff that had only just barely been acknowledged and never dealt with. And there was a death in the family and my mom was in ICU in a coma.... and I sat in a dark side room in that church sobbing... and I asked God if I could please just let go for a while and go crazy - retreat inside my head. His response was so loving. He said that I absolutely could if I wanted to and there would be no condemnation attached - I had every right to. But he also wanted me to think about whether, if I did, I would be able to come back. He would not guarantee that I would. But just the acknowledgment that I had reason to be distressed did wonders in giving me strength to hang on.

Hmm.... I wish there wasn't this fear within the church that causes mental illness to be labeled demonic. It really has put me in a position that for my own mental safety, I need to pull back from a group of believers - again. And I fear that if any of them read this, they would be concerned that I was 'back-slidden' and in need of having the Word pounded into that. That is the other thing about this teaching that was so disturbing to me. The solution was to read the Word to the person in order to "pound on the rock until it breaks" (referenced Jeremiah 23:29 to back this). To me, that is giving people with more zeal than wisdom (and good intention) the idea that the solution to mental illness is to pound Bible verses into someone. Yikes! In the hands of someone with an abusive/controlling streak, this is a license to abuse with the Word. Is the answer to mental illness really to thump someone over the head with Bible verses? This truly makes my heart hurt.

And I have to say that after I walked out of the church/cult 5 years ago, part of the healing process (that is still in progress) required laying the Bible down and not reading it ... at all... for nearly 2 years. By the definition I heard today, that would be evidence of demonic influence. But I can say with absolute clarity that the reason I had to lay that book down was because it had been used to beat me down and control and abuse and scare me for so long that I could only hear the voice of the abusers through it. And it took almost 2 years of healing before I could read it without hearing those voices and the teachings that had so twisted me up.

And I don't know what to do about this. I know I need to remove myself from the teaching because it is causing too much pain. But the people. Damn it. I like these people and I am so tired of losing friendships over religion. But I don't know how to talk to them about it. To be honest, I am afraid to. I'm afraid they wouldn't understand. I am afraid they would apply the teachings I heard today. It's one thing to be called a heretic and told you're going to hell by some anonymous blog commenter that you don't know and probably never will. But it's a whole other thing when the attack is coming from a friend who thinks they are helping.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Being Female....

This is part of the March Synchroblog

Hmm… I have found this post harder to write than I expected. When I first saw the subject for this month’s synchroblog – All About Eve: Women’s History Month, I was excited. After all, it was a topic I had requested. I thought about it and had my subject all picked out – I was going to de-construct the foundational issue in the patriarchal theology concerning hierarchy. At some point in the future, I may still write about that. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my heart is in a different direction right now. I love to dig into theology and all, but there have already been some wonderful things written that deconstruct the ideas surrounding so called ‘biblical patriarchy’. At the bottom of this post, I will put some links for those of you who are interested.

So… what is on my heart? I have struggled with this post more than anything I have ever written. I’m not really sure why. I guess what's bubbling to the surface makes me feel vulnerable. Deep breath…. I am going to try to describe what it is like, for me, to be a woman.

The first thing that comes to mind is that I have never much identified with being a woman. I know that sounds strange. I have always (nearly 50 years) been female. Even typing that feels strange. It has only been recently that I have consciously recognized that I have never gender identified. That is gradually – oh so slowly – beginning to change. So why, during the bulk of my life, when I thought of myself, it was nearly always in terms of gender-neutral? Well… I think there are a lot of reasons.

The most obvious is probably the childhood sexual abuse. When I was a kid – 7, 8, 9 years old, I did not want to be a girl. For awhile, I even wished I was a boy. Boys had all the power. Boys hurt people – girls got hurt. As I built barriers inside to protect myself, especially after the sexual abuse stopped. I had no ability to relate to normal kid things – socially, I didn’t fit and didn’t know how to. And the pressure as you go into Junior High to start dating and liking boys, was confusing and sometimes excruciating. And I knew I wasn’t normal. I knew I would never be normal. And I knew that if anyone knew what had been done to me, I would never be accepted – I would have a ‘reputation’ – I would be pitied at best and rejected as ruined at worst. So, rather than trying to fit into those roles, I simply withdrew into my own world where gender was of no importance.

All of this happened in the late 60s and early 70s. So there was the added pressure of the very public feminist movement – Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. And we went to a fairly conservative small town church. My aunt was a staunch feminist. My mom was critical – no, condescending – toward her. I remember when I was 11 and began to enter puberty, my aunt took me aside and told me I needed to decide, right now, whether I was going to start wearing a bra or not. My mom gave me no such option. My aunt would interrupt in mid sentence to correct from ‘lady’ to ‘woman’. She would go into lecture mode if any man in the public arena called her ‘sweetie’ or ‘sugar’ or some other such word. Hmm…. She would wear bib-overalls with no shirt or bra underneath. She really didn’t inspire me to her cause with these things.

Meanwhile, my mom was above all that ‘feminist nonsense’, as she seemed to view it. I think she felt like it made women look ridiculous, or something. She was definitely not a fan of Friedan or Steinem – and was not shy about expressing her opinion about them. I remember when Billie Jean King challenged Bobby Riggs to a “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match. King beat Riggs handily and I remember my mom saying some derogatory things about the match. But I was secretly rooting for King and felt a small sliver of validation when she won…. I was 10 at the time. Hmm… actually, what I felt was more like relief that she had won. Interesting.

This was all in the backdrop of being heavily involved in various Assemblies of God churches (my dad’s job required us to move a lot). I know A of G is supposed to be egalitarian and allowing women to be ordained and all – and the position paper they put out in August of 2010 is very cool – but the reality in my life in the 60s and 70s was that women needed to stay in their place. Maybe this was as much societal as church. I don’t know, but the reality was that no matter which way I looked, TV, family, church… It was just better – more profitable – to be a boy. And I did not want to be pressed into the female mold that I saw, so I retreated from gender as much as was possible. Hmm… when I was in 8th grade, I was at a marching band competition. I loved band and marching band. I played the trombone and I was first chair. It was lunch time and the guy who sat second chair to me, Pete, and I were sitting under a tree eating our lunch. His mom came up to me and said, “You should play a more feminine instrument and let a boy have first chair in a boy’s instrument.” What? How did gender get in the middle of my favorite class? Pete was so embarrassed by his mom.

The message I heard growing up was clear. It basically sucked to be female. The message came mostly in subtle, not blatant and easily definable ways. It came from church. It came from the media/TV. It came from family. It came from society at large. It came from those that used me even when I was only 2 years old. And this what it said:

·         Girls are to be conquered, boys are conquerors
·         Girls are to be controlled, boys get to do what they want
·         Girls are to be used, boy can say no
·         Girls have no power, boys have all the power
·         Girls are weak, boys are strong
·         Girls, once used, are dirty
·         Girls should follow, boys get to lead
·         Girls are to blame, boys get sympathy
·         Boys are the boss, girls better get in line
·         Boys are designed to lead, girls are designed to follow
·         Boys get more privileges, girls are restricted
·         If a boy hurts you, people take his side
·         IF you hurt a boy, people take his side
·         Boys get away with things, girls get in trouble
·         Boys are celebrated, girls are tolerated

So how does that all shake out now that I am quickly approaching 50? Well, I have rejected church, in general. I have walked away from my parents – haven’t talked to my mom in close to 4 years. I don’t really watch much TV – avoid advertising to the degree that I reasonably can. I read a lot of different blogs and have gained a new respect for my aunt – and for Friedan and Steinem. And I have been in therapy for over 4 years. And I pursue God. And I am gradually beginning to believe that it is okay to be a daughter of God. I have begun to think of myself as a girl, a woman – tentatively, cautiously – like trying on a new coat, unsure if there is something in the pocket that might bite. I have reached the place where I kind of think it might be okay to be female….

Other synchoblog participants:

Ellen Haroutunian - March Synchroblog: All About Eve 


And here are some links to examples of some of the more tame, main-stream doctrines in the ‘biblical patriarchy’ camp so you know this stuff isn't made up: Vision Forum: The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy, Council On Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth by Wayne Grudem.