Is This Feminazi-ish?

I have a distinct memory that goes back to the 4th grade. It’s 1971…

“When writing or speaking,” the teacher said, “and you don’t know whether the subject is a boy or a girl, we use the pronoun, ‘he’.”

3076143_zI was instantly offended. “That’s not fair,” I thought as I sat silently in my little school desk holding a worn down #2 pencil.

As the years progressed, it eventually became clear that this lesson set the tone in our nation in many ways. And I learned through high school and on into college, that if I pointed out the many ways in which assuming the masculine was a dangerous and damaging thing psychologically and even socially, especially to women and young girls, that I would be labeled a “Feminazi”.

On the other hand, if I didn’t protest, I seethed inside. Or I wilted inside.  It was a pronoun battle I just couldn’t win.

While feelings of frustration were greatly compounded in my Christian world, I did manage to find workarounds. When a portion of scripture began with “Dear Brothers…” I would often quietly insert the feminine by whispering, “And Sisters.” At church I’d do the same. If our pastor used terms like, “mankind” or “man” to refer to all of us, I’d insert the feminine under my breath.

Needless to say, this is an exhausting way to live. But even to this day, when I hear, “All men are created equal…and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”, I cannot resist saying, “Oh…. and women”. (Only these days I’ll say it with some sass.)

Who I am today and where I stand on religion is directly tied to that lesson in school.  When “she” and “her” were left out… I felt left out. When the boy sitting next to me in the 4th grade was the subject when we all should have been, I felt less-than. When the preacher left out half the body of Christ in his sermon by neglecting to include one little pronoun, I felt the impact.  Many women take this in stride. To me… that’s not a good thing.

I just wonder… should I not have felt that way? Could I not have felt that way?

 

 

 

 

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What Are YOUR Stepping Stones?

stepping-stones-across-creekFor me, leaving Christianity was a bit like crossing a creek. I couldn’t do it in one big leap… I needed stepping stones and a little time to get across.

Ironically, one of my many stepping stones toward unbelief was a group called Christians For Biblical Equality.

I don’t know a whole lot about CBE in their present state. I’ve not been involved with them for about 2 decades now. But in a nutshell, back then it was a group of scholarly types who wrote endless papers explaining all the reasons women really ARE equal to men in the sight of God, in spite of what scripture actually says.

At the time, CBE and its many resources became a lifeline for me. My personal study of scripture and the sexism I observed in the bible, the church and in ministry proved a constant source of pain. It only grew worse as I connected the dots that god himself was behind it all: A logical conclusion, but one that cut like a knife.

I was idealistic, naive, and trusting. I bled a lot.

So it was that nagging ache over gender inequality in the body of Christ that lead me straight to CBE’s door looking for answers. However, in spite of their best efforts and their boundless resources, the ache persisted. After a few years standing on that particular stone, I took another little hop over to the next one: Accepting that some portions of scripture were simply wrong.

Yep. There goes the word, “inerrancy”. I had to turn that loose.

What many “Biblical Inerrancy” believing Christians don’t stop to think about is this: It only takes ONE error to take the word, “inerrancy” off the table. Just one. And yet, there are many starting in the very first chapter of the very first book of the bible as this young YouTuber, The Cosmic Skeptic (Alex O’Connor) so brilliantly explains:

Once I realized that the bible contained errors about the little things, I took another leap to the next stepping stone which turned out to be this simple realization:

If the bible could be wrong about little mathematical or geographical details, then it might contain errors about the BIG spiritual or eternal deal-makers, too.

And so it goes… from one stone to the next until I realized I could no longer call myself a believer.

This whole thing is a woeful oversimplification that any exChristian will tell you. The journey across the creek is a dreadful, treacherous one fraught with fear, doubt, and pain. And for most of us, the journey out can take years! But like any journey worth taking, there are joys to be experienced and freedoms to be explored.

Are you and exChristian? I’d love to know: What were your stepping stones?

 

The Further Away I Get: 10 Years Out of Christianity

It’s been ten years since I dared to say out loud to myself…

I don’t believe in Jesus anymore.

There’s a lot of loss when a person ditches religion. Lots of agonizing worry and haunting fear. While enormously freeing and ultimately wondrous, there are undeniable holes left behind and wounds that take time to heal. Relationships change, points of view take on new hues, and time is spent differently.

ClockI power walked my brains out last Sunday morning for the two hours that I once would have spent in a pew. I listened to an audio book about the backstory of the HeLa Cell and I fought church traffic on my way home from the trail head. Dreadful timing. On the drive I heard myself say for the umpteenth time, “I don’t miss that at all.”  Meaning church.

And I don’t. Not at all. I’ve had moments where I’m almost giddy driving past a church while I sing, “I don’t have to do that anymore!” to the tune of “I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ For Christmas.” It’s a weird thing to be ten years out and still so exuberant over not feeling obligated to go to church. Seems that should have passed by now.  And yet…

There is no playbook on how to grieve or celebrate the death of your religious beliefs.

The further away I get from Christianity, the more foolish my old belief seems to me. It’s interesting to note the changes in my thinking as each year passes.

For a few years after my de-conversion, I still held onto the belief in an afterlife. After all, if we humans can emerge on earth and live and grow without a god governing us, why can’t the same be true in a spiritual place beyond death? Then that started to not resonate so much.

angel-1287080_640I believed in spirits for awhile: Angels and demons with no god governance. I don’t really know why I held onto that as long as I did. Maybe because I’d attributed some strange occurrences to the paranormal and I just couldn’t find a place for those memories. Old ghosts, I guess.

A few years later my belief in spirits took a beating as I dug deeper into the theory of evolution. Earlier this year Bill Nye The Science Guy’s book Undeniable kinda shoved me over the hump. There was a time in my Christian life I wouldn’t have touched his book with a ten footer. But I read that one twice, back-to-back.

The scars of leaving the faith are many. The psychological damage is hard to calculate and I try not to actually do the math too much these days. Moving forward into new things is far more enjoyable than adding up all the losses and hurts. But I miss a few of my friends and I continue to feel frustrated by those who hold fast to beliefs that now appear silly to me. We shared those beliefs once. Now we’re worlds apart…

Every once in awhile I think it’d be nice to have a god who truly is in control… someone bigger and more powerful to trust and count on.

Might seem strange to hear an atheist say that. But the fact is, there was an enormous amount of comfort thinking that there was a god who had the whole world in his hands. At least, as long as I didn’t focus on his tyrannical side.

Some time back a Christian friend said to me, “You’ll be back.” I was still angry at that point and I said, “Don’t hold your breath.” We’d been close for a number of years. But we’ve not seen each other now for quite some time. What once connected us, now separates us.

Now the anger has passed. Still… I feel more certain of my departure than I was even when the anger was raw. But I miss that friendship none-the-less. And a couple of others that have moved on with their Christian friends.

There are definitely holes.

Disturbing Video-And It Makes Me MAD

I read an article this morning that included the following video of children being coaxed into falling out in the spirit.

Coming from a Charismatic/Full-Gospel background, “falling out in the spirit” was a coveted experience. Everyone wanted it to happen to them. I was no exception.

The first time I saw this happen, I was blown away. “God’s power will knock you down?” What was this? Why?

Many described it as a holy, gentle push from God, as if He was blowing you over with His love. I longed for the experience. I prayed for it, waited for it and submitted myself to the possibility of it.

Not once while being prayed for did I feel any sensation of being blown over. But I did fake it once.

I was at a prayer meeting with a bunch of my friends. We were in our late teens, full of the holy spirit and zealous about our faith. The leader of the group, a man in his mid-thirties was going around praying for each one of us. One by one, my friends fell backward when he touched them.

I could not wait until he got around to me. But much to my dismay, nothing happened. He prayed and prayed and I felt nothing. He put his hand on my forehead and pushed a little but it didn’t feel like anything other than a guy trying to push me back. He kept praying and everyone joined in so finally, after some minutes, I just fell backward into the arms of my friend.

My head was full of accusations before I even landed on the floor:

“Why didn’t God touch you like he did your friends?”

“What have you done wrong that God would skip over you?”

“Why aren’t you as sensitive to the Holy Spirit as they are?”

Guilt followed me home. I felt so alone and totally unworthy.

That’s why this video below makes me angry and sick. Watch for yourself and see the kids who haven’t yet figured out what they are ‘supposed’ to do. Clearly, if falling out in the spirit was a real thing, there wouldn’t be little kids looking confused and befuddled when the preacher prays for them. They’d simply be blown over by God’s spirit.

It’s a sham. And it’s a shame. And it’s psychological abuse.

A True Story About Kim

This is a true story, accurate to the best of my ability to recount.

The time: Winter of 1983

The setting: Rural south, USA

Kim [not her real name] started hanging out with me and my Charismatic friends from FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) during our second year of college. She was an odd girl, but nothing over the top. Just a tad quirky. And I liked quirky!

Right before she left for Christmas break she asked if she could stay at my parent’s house for 2 nights upon her return as her landlord would be painting her apartment. I was a college student living at home at that time, so I asked my parents and they agreed… it was all set.

Woman standing in a hall.jpgTwo days before her return I got this horrible sense of foreboding. Absolute dread. In fact, I had a sense of danger. I did not want Kim in my house. But it was totally out of left field with a basis in absolutely nothing. So I dismissed the gut feeling.

Upon her arrival, I knew something was off but couldn’t put a finger on it. Ever had that happen? Something just isn’t right, but by all outward appearances, there’s no reason to act on the feeling? I again shrugged it off.

I set her up in the guest room for the night and went to bed.

Hand on doorknobAs I headed to my room, I had this overwhelming urge to lock the door to that wing of the house where mine and my parents bedroom was. I wanted to lock my bedroom door, as well.

I stood staring at the knob. I’m just being silly, I thought. I closed both doors, but I didn’t lock them.

The next morning I awoke unusually early, turned over in bed only to find she’d let herself into my bedroom and was standing there in a flowing white nightgown, just glaring down at me. Straight out of a horror movie. I gasped and said, “Kim! What are you doing?” She mumbled a response like, I just wondered if you were up.

The next night I DID lock the doors. She left the following day without further incident and I shook it off in spite of her brazen violation of boundaries.

Kim fell off my radar for a month or so because I got married. But once my husband and I got settled into our new apartment and into our new routine, I began to take notice of her again.

What I saw was very strange and within weeks, the situation grew alarming.

Angel with white wings.jpgKim began making the claim that God told her she was the Angel of Laodicea. On top of that, she believed that she’d been called by God to Africa where I would be her disciple along with my new husband. She further claimed that God showed her that she was to marry one of our mutual friends, a guy I’ll call Steve.

Kim’s delusions escalated as her claims got louder with each passing week. There was a level of fixation on me that set my hair on end.

One evening at an FCA meeting, I spotted her from across a large, crowded room. She was talking to a group of girls in an animated fashion. Whatever she was saying had their undivided attention. Then she abruptly stopped, turned her head toward me and glared like she was shooting daggers from her eyes.

The look on her face scared me. Really scared me. It was all wrong.

Given my state of mind, my thought wasn’t fear for my physical safety. My immediate thought was that there might be a demon in her that could attack me spiritually. So, thinking that love conquers evil, I mouthed the words from across the room, I love you.

In an instant, her entire countenance changed. The wicked, weird look about her melted away, sliding off her chin leaving behind a sweet, cherub face. She smiled back and waved at me in a flirtatious manner. Coy and shy, like a middle schooler trying to get the attention of a crush.

It was beyond weird … Gave me chills. I stood frozen trying to make sense of it.

As the weeks progressed and her behavior grew stranger, many of us became convinced that Kim was possessed by a devil. While I can’t recall what it was that Kim did one night at our charismatic church, whatever it was prompted about a dozen members to encircle her and try to cast Satan out. She stood in the foyer as we gathered around praying in tongues and saying, You devil! Come out of her! Leave Kim alone!

Everything came to a head the following week when Kim showed up at Steve’s house with a knife in her hand. I have no idea what specific thought drove her to this point, but Steve’s parents were already on high alert. They knew about her claims to marry their son, they also knew about the claim that we were to be her disciples in Africa, and they’d been a part of the attempted exorcism at the church the week before. They stepped in and thwarted her violent plan against Steve.

No one got hurt in the knife incident, but Steve’s father called Kim’s parents that night. They immediately came to town to collect her. She was gone the rest of the year.

In the aftermath, Kim’s parents blamed the church for whatever it was that was happening to their daughter claiming our church was a cult that had brainwashed her.

In reconstructing this incident here, I’m overwhelmed and appalled at the many failures along the way by myself and by our church leadership. Were we culpable? Damn straight we were culpable. And it makes my stomach turn thinking on the role I played.

I can’t explain animal instincts. I can’t explain how I sensed danger a full two days before her arrival at my house. Maybe I had observed subtle behaviors I didn’t consciously recognize? In any case, what I once believed was the holy spirit, I now see as an innate warning signal of a primal sort. How it is that we humans can know and sense danger before it happens is a fascinating phenomena, but it’s not a spiritual one. It’s an animal thing. And I had ignored it.

I don’t fault myself for that. Acting appropriately on a gut feeling is a tricky maneuver and can go wrong. What I do fault myself for is ignoring the danger signs of a young woman in mental peril as her symptoms unfolded with greater clarity. Yes, I was young and inexperienced, but I could see like everyone else that this young woman was mentally unraveling. And yet, rather than call her parents immediately so she could get to a doctor, we invited Satan into this mix. And I was right there in the thick of it.

I am NOT a psychiatrist and have no training in diagnosing mental illness, but, in hindsight, she had all the classic symptoms of schizophrenia. Hearing voices, delusions of grandeur, disorganized thinking. Whether that was her ultimate diagnosis, I don’t know, but the signs were all there, playing out like a bad B movie… and what did we do?

We tried to cast out a devil.

Picture Kim, in mental confusion standing in the middle of a circle of nut jobs, yelling, “Come out of her you devil in the name of Jesus!” Can you put yourself in her shoes and imagine the confusion, the fear, the horror as she sunk further into her illness?

I write this because what happened to Kim is happening in churches today all over the world in the name of Jesus and in the name of other false gods. It’s real and it’s dangerous and the mentally ill and the physically sick get victimized by religious dogma that fails every time and makes situations dangerously worse.

Kim didn’t need a god. She needed a doctor. We intended for good… but that’s no excuse for the abuse we inflicted upon her.

I feel great shame and sorrow for Kim and the role I played in her torment as her mind failed her. 

No matter how painful, incidents like this one convince me to continue to tell my stories.

 

 

“Stop Trying To Figure Things Out and Just Believe” ~Joyce Meyer

I’ve only recently begun to read and listen to Atheists at the forefront of the Freethought Movement. One might think that, as a new atheist, I’d devour the writings of the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, or Richard Dawkins. With just a few exceptions, I haven’t been doing that until recently. For good reason…

Leaving Christianity meant I had to learn to think for myself and therefore, reclaim myself. The last thing I needed was to dive into Dawkins or Hitchens works using my old methods of learning and digesting information. Until I could break old patterns and replace them with healthier methods, I needed space. At least for a little while.

Reflections on my life of indoctrination led me to conclude that I needed time to wake up more fully before exploring the works of atheists. 

For children, indoctrination is a relatively passive exercise. But for the adult, it requires some work. I did the work.

To give perspective: My ‘relationship with Jesus’ really took off at the age of 17 when I was baptized in the holy spirit. Because I was a ravenous reader/studier, I practically set up house in our local Christian bookstore.

All my books had highlighter markings on Bible highlighted and marked up.jpgpage after page with notes in the margins. My bible was fat with dog-ears and underlined with color coded pens. I saw it all through my God glasses.

When a controversial topic popped up, I’d turn to trusted Christian leaders to find out what they were teaching about it. I’d read their books, listen to their tapes and, ultimately adopt their belief as my own.

As I grew and matured in the faith, I began teaching bible studies and prayer groups. Preparing my material typically consisted of a Strong’s Concordance, 2 or 3 bibles of different translations, and 3 or 4 books by authors our church trusted that covered the topic at hand. From there, I’d piece together my own rendition.

Many Christians know that this is the process by which many believers gather and disseminate doctrine and dogma. Most bible studies or sermons are nothing more than re-writes of someone else’s beliefs and teachings, made personal.

sheeple.jpgIt took massive amounts of mental gymnastics to make nonsense make sense throughout my Christian experience. But milling about in the sheep’s pen made it MUCH easier. I learned within those fences how to regurgitate the dogma and bleat with all the sheeple.

I’ve had to face the fact: I was a full participant in my own indoctrination as a member of the herd.

Now, at nearly ten years out of Christianity, I feel like I have enough distance from all of that to indulge in the writings of knowledgeable atheists without pulling the wool over my own eyes.

I’m not kidding myself… I’ll never achieve 100% objectivity, but I’m certainly more up to the task than I ever could have been as a Christian.

The beauty of where I am right now is that for the first time in my life, I’m wide open to possibilities. I’m reading new authors from all kinds of backgrounds with an aim to see something new. To put a fine point on it: I’m not reading Richard Dawkins, Valerie Tarico, or Dan Barker to learn how to think like an atheist… that would completely miss the point of free thought at its core and further rob me of thinking like MY SELF. And the fact that I see that is amazing.

I’ve already found myself at odds with a few atheist authors on some points along the way. It could be that I don’t yet know the scientific data but when I do, I’ll change my position. Maybe I’ll see the data differently and stick to my guns. The difference is that now I don’t have 10 foot high walls around me. I actually welcome being proven wrong so I can further grow and understand. This is TOTALLY counter to any Christian training I’ve ever had on how to think and consume information.  Whatta wild ride!

This may sound childish to a whole lot of people adept at critical thinking. You’ve been enjoying the wonders of your brain in ways I never did because I was discouraged from doing so. But there are ExChristians who will relate. We were trained to ‘die to self’ and just believe. Joyce Meyer said it perfectly in this terrifying tweet:

Joyce Meyer Tweet.jpg

As I round the corner toward my 10th year out of Christianity, I’m acutely aware of how my thinking continues to evolve. I think differently today than I did just one year ago. As my oldest son put it recently, “The farther away I get from Christianity, the more ridiculous it all looks.” And I feel the same.

But I’ll add; the farther away I get, the freer I feel to think outside the God box I was stuck in for so long. And now… NO box will do. Believe me, this is Way Past Due!

 

Transgender Bathroom Break

I’ve been writing a post for my blog for two days now but it’s just not coming together. The words keep fighting with themselves on the page.  So, I thought I’d take a break from all that and post this video on Transgender bathrooms.

If you’re a fan of common sense and logic, you’re gonna like The Liberal Redneck’s perspective on this debate. It made me laugh… enough to watch it twice!