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Monday, December 2, 2013

I Was That Parent

Libby Anne, of Love, Joy, Feminism, has been writing a review of Micheal Pearl's book, To Train Up A Child. Today she got to the chapter on "The Rod". And my heart broke all over again. Those words from that chapter...they are like a knife in my heart. I want to forget I ever read them. I want to forget I ever followed them. This is my story, one I haven't shared in all it's details to many people. One I am ashamed of, that makes me angry at myself, at the Pearls, at spiritual abuse and how it invades and takes over every aspect of your life til life itself is choked out.

I was one of those parents convinced by this book that if I didn't spank my child, I didn't love them. I was convinced that I was just emotional and needed to "toughen up" (something Micheal says to mothers throughout the book), that this was what my kids needed to turn into good people.  That if I didn't follow Pearl's advice, my kids would be delinquent perverts. That if I didn't "win" every battle, we'd all lose. But the fact was, we all lost anyway.

I had my first two babies in one year, 11 months apart. Both high-needs, one later diagnosed with ASD. Before I had them, I had read everything the Pearls ever wrote. It made perfect sense to my teenage mind and I was determined to raise my kids this way and reap the promised benefits. Then I actually had kids. And it all went downhill from there. I started to lose my resolve to spank/swat into submission for every infraction when my oldest was around  9-11 months.  She was so young and stubborn and, try as a may, I couldn't completely turn off my conscience. I started to become sporadic with my punishment since it seemed all we did was battle with our baby, and started picking my battles because it didn't seem like I ever won and we were exhausted and I just flat-out didn't think I'd have to spank so much before I had her. The Pearls and others say that if you train early and consistently, then your child will be sweet and submissive at an early age, but it didn't seem to be working. I thought maybe I wasn't doing enough "training sessions" like they say to. I felt so guilty for co-sleeping just so we could sleep and baby-wearing so I could get things done (as opposed to "blanket training" which just seemed pointless to me). I just knew that I was setting us all up for failure for letting my baby control me and not training her better when she was young. But I excused myself because I was pregnant and sick and tired. My resolve was renewed when my 2nd baby was 6-12 months old and I remember with heart broken how I spanked her for not eating her food, thinking I had to or she would be spoiled and I would prove that I'm a wimp and hate my children. (When she was later diagnosed with ASD and SPD, I realized that texture mattered to her and there was no way she would eat certain foods. She is 6 1/2 and still extremely picky, something I came to understand as normal for a child like her, for most kids actually.) I remember not feeding my baby, like they said to, because she wouldn't eat what was offered to her, supposedly teaching her I was in control of her food and pickiness wasn't allowed. Thankfully, mother's intuition kicked in after her 3rd missed meal and I caved and fed her, somehow knowing she would starve herself before she ate something she didn't like. Again, feeling guilty and like a failure. Conflicted because part of me even then was thinking "fuck this shit" as part of me still hung onto it as "God's best way".

Somewhere after that time, around the time my 2nd daughter was 2 1/2 and diagnosed with autism, I gave up. I stopped pouring over the Pearl's books, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I started researching childhood development and working with therapists and behavior specialists for my daughter. A whole new world opened up to me as a parent. I began to work *with* my children's development instead of against it. And I was appalled I had ever thought the Pearls knew what they were talking about. Everything they advise goes against all common sense and science and child psychology and understanding of childhood development. I was appalled I had been so ignorant, had ever done such things to my children in the name of love, in the name of following God, in the name of good intentions. All the good intentions in the world cannot erase my guilt for those few years. Guilt that has since turned into righteous anger. I went from feeling guilty that I didn't follow their advice to feeling heartbroken that I ever tried.

Much research and a lot of experience later, I am now a complete believer in positive, respectful parenting and a die-hard attachment parent. It's my natural parenting style that I had stifled because I read in those books that it was wrong and worldly and my kids would end up in hell if I followed anything else. Well, if this is hell, bring it. Our family is so much more peaceful and I actually like my kids, and I am free to be the parent I want to be and they are free to be children. Where there was once expectations of perfection and antagonism, there is now only love, grace, mercy, and unfinished parents and children who are walking this journey together, on the same team. And we are all so much happier for it. I'm so glad we gave up on "the only perfect way to raise kids" before they were old enough for much damage to be done. We haven't spanked our children in years, one has never been and never will be, though we were still hanging onto spanking in the back of our heads as something we might use in drastic situations while finding other means to communicate with our kids. About a year ago, we consciously swore off ever hitting our children again. I fully believe that parenting can be done with respect, that children are people too, and that spanking is very damaging, no matter how you do it or how much you love your kids. There are much better ways to raise good people.

And, can I be brutally honest here? Fuck Micheal Pearl and his stupid, destructive books. I despise them with all that is within me. I will not stop speaking out against their damaging advice, telling my story, hoping that other parents and children might be spared. Children have died because their parents followed these methods. And it's not hard at all for me to see why. It could've been my own story. Thank God I couldn't quite stifle my conscience and instinct and natural love enough to follow their advice perfectly for very long.

People who were not raised as I have asked with disdain how anyone could follow such abusive methods. They shake their heads at the horrible parents that would ever practice such things. And I try to explain the ideas of spiritual abuse, brainwashing, and toxic faith in a system that teaches "do what we say, or your kids will go to hell". The control by fear. I cannot justify blindly following someone out of fear, and even now I only blame myself for choosing to follow a method that hurts, but I do understand. I understand that parents who love their kids and have the best intentions can do the worst things and follow bad advice. I understand that many parents think they are loving their children while abusing them. I do not justify them or me, but I get it. I hurt for them. I am angry on their behalf, on my behalf, and for our children.

Libby Anne's conclusion of the matter hit me like a ton of bricks:

"This is toxic. This is how Michael convinces otherwise gentle and loving parents to beat their children with plumbing supply line. I really don’t know what else to say here except that this section is so toxic it takes my breath away. What Michael is doing is telling parents to turn off their consciences and their natural human love for their children, because beat their children they must. We like to think of child abuse as something that is only done by angry, hateful parents. Sadly, because of books like this, that is not true. "

She couldn't have been more agonizingly correct.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Of Homeschooling and Cohort Effect

Sometimes I feel like I'm from another country. Or maybe another era. I'm a child of the 80's, yet I know nothing about being a child of the 80's. I can't relate to pop-culture references and feel awkward when people my age laugh about something I'm supposed to know about but don't. I see funny posts entitled "You Know You Grew up in the 80's and 90's When...." and I get maybe 2 references in the entire article. Sometimes it's funny and I laugh at myself. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes I sit in a group of people and wish I knew what they were talking about, wish I had that camaraderie they all seem to have, wish I didn't feel like an oddball, like I will always be an oddball. Sometimes I like being an oddball, when it's of my own choosing. Sometimes I wish I had a choice in the matter.

I'm studying all kinds of fascinating things as I'm finishing the last half of my BA in liberal studies. The psychology and sociology-related classes are my favorite. I came across this word and concept a few weeks back: Cohort. And suddenly, things started falling into place in my head; ideas with a lot of gaps and holes and flashes of pictures started forming and making sense, like pieces of a puzzle that were missing but aren't anymore. Cohorts.....cohort effects......and it hit me:

Homeschoolers are basically their own cohort.

No matter what part of the country we are from or how old we are, we experience a cohort effect that other people in our age group do not. Even though all people from our generation are technically in the same age cohort, homeschoolers are actually in their own cohort with their own sociocultural-graded influences that the rest of our culture did not experience. We often joke among us that we were our own sub-culture. But I think it's deeper than that.

I was asked as an essay question for a class to write a couple paragraphs on how cohort effects have shaped my worldview on things like politics, gender, science, and religion. And I thought, where do I even start? I'm not just in the cohort that was born in middle class white America in the 80's. Matter of fact, I have very little relatability with anyone in my birth/generational cohort because I basically grew up in a completely different cohort.

Oxford Reference describes "Cohort" as:
"A group of people who share some experience or demographic trait in common, especially that of being the same age ..."

The Psychology Dictionary defines "Cohort Effects" as:
"The effects of being born and raised in a particular time or situation where all other members of your group has similar experiences that make your group unique from other groups"

This is usually used to describe a group of people born at the same time, who experienced similar history, and their similarities in development. Like Generation X. Or Millennials. Or Baby Boomers. People born in the same time and the same place. Though it can also be used to describe sub-cultures within cultures.

The cohort effect is something that must be taken into account when studying developmental psychology or lifespan development, because something could be erroneously attributed to an age group that actually describes a cohort, a group of people that shared specific happenings, demographics, or historical events. This article has a very good, simple example of this effect in studies, and why it matters.

Those of us who were part of the pioneer Christian homeschooling movement, no matter how extreme or not, no matter where on the spectrum of conservative to liberal we were, we relate to each other in ways we cannot relate to the rest of our age cohort. In reality, we experienced history differently. We had our own culture and our own leaders and our own historical events that the rest of America knew nothing about, but that were very important to us. They defined us and we were proud of that. It's not the fact that we were all home educated that creates this dynamic. It's the fact that we were all part of a home education movement that was not just counter-cultural, but *anti* cultural. We were raised in a movement with varying degrees of the same teachings and varying degrees of sheltering, for all the same reasons. We were, most of us, raised under the influence of the same leaders.

Find me a religious homeschooler from the 80's and 90's that doesn't know who Josh Harris is. Or has never heard of courtship. Or HSLDA. If you don't, you are the exception and your parents were probably hippies that didn't want government interference in their families so they homeschooled you in a bus on a mountain somewhere (like my husband. Heh.) Think about these concepts for minute and the pictures and memories they conjure up: Ken Ham, Abeka, Rod and Staff, homeschool conventions, the Pearls, modesty, denim jumpers, fear of going outside before 2PM, Bill Gothard, courtship, parental rights, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, evils of rock music, submission, Saxon math, biblical manhood and womanhood, women's roles, keeper at home, "what grade are you in?" "I have no idea", Creationism, ATI (either you were in, or you thought that at least you weren't as weird as the people that were), R.C. Sproul, Howard Phillips, quiverfull/huge families/ "are they all yours?!", Mike Farris, government brainwash centers (aka public schools), evils of dating, head coverings, fear of child-snatching CPS, evils of feminism, evils of sex ed, evils of Halloween, evils of pagan Christmas, evils of kissing before the alter, evils of peer pressure, homeschool co-ops, culottes, endless questions about how you get socialization and whether you do school in your PJs, skirts-only, Biblical Worldview, Republican conventions, government conspiracy theories, 15 passenger vans, no TV, Mary Pride, family bands with matching clothes, and King James vs. NIV. To name a few.

Not included in that list are the major historical events that we *didn't* know about or experience the way that most people in our age cohort did. The killing of John Lennon, the Challenger disaster (which I didn't know about until I was an adult), the fall of the Berlin wall, the massacre of Tiananmen Square, the Rodney King trial, Princess Diana. Not to mention the lack of knowledge of entire segments of history such as the Civil Rights Movement or the Suffragette Movement. We knew nothing of pop culture: music, movies, art, except that they were "worldly". These were deemed contemporary, products of a relativistic worldview, and thus worthless, while we studied the Reformation period or the Founding Fathers or the Civil War instead.

We are the products of a pioneer movement; the good, bad, and ugly. A movement many of us have grown up and left behind, some of us floundering in the world we are trying to be a part of now but were never prepared for because we were told we were not supposed to be "of this world". We have similar memories, both positive and negative. We look back on our own lives and we relate to one another, even if we've never met in person. Thanks to the internet age, we who thought we were alone and weird and oddballs have found each other, found people that are as oddball in all the same ways as we are. We have found that we are not alone in a culture we don't understand but pretend to anyway. We may be in similar or vastly different places in life right now. But no matter where we are in life, and what we believe now, we have a shared experience that no one else in our generation has. 

This can be a difficult concept to share with other people. Last night I was out with some new friends and they were exchanging stories of their first kiss and getting in trouble for sneaking out or smoking or drinking or playing hooky, and when it was my turn, I said "Well, I got in trouble for wearing pants". The silence and stares were deafening. Had I said that in a group of ex-homeschoolers, there would've been laughter and rolling eyes and sympathy. Because we *know*. We get it. We lived it. We can laugh about it together.

"The effects of being born and raised in a particular time or situation where all other members of your group has similar experiences that make your group unique from other groups"

Perhaps I'm using these terms all wrong and someone smarter than me can correct me. I just know that for better or for worse, the definition fits. And it really explains a lot.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dear Parents, The World Does Not Have To Be Cruel

People think kids must be treated a certain way because "the world is a cruel place" and kids should just learn that from the start of their lives. It's true that the world is a cruel place and my kids will discover this eventually. But I am not the world. I am their mother. I am the one that should show them a haven in a cruel world. I am the one they should be able to come to when they are tired of the cruel world. I should be their safe place, not just an extension of the cruelty they will find when they leave me. *Perhaps the world is a cruel place because we think we need to teach our children that the world is a cruel place.* Perhaps if we instead taught them that the world doesn't have to be cruel, if we send newly-made adults out into the world, having been taught kindness and respect and justice, they will in turn create a world of kindness, respect, and justice. 

I think what our world needs is adults who were once children who know first hand what respect means because the adults in their life modeled it every single day. Children learn what they live, and they become the next generation to raise more children who learn what they live and the curse of authoritarian bullies that rule the world, turning it into a cruel place continues. What are we teaching them by our interactions with them? That the biggest and strongest can impose their desires on the weak? That leadership is about oppressing people? That the smaller you are, the less your desires and ideas matter? This is what I see when I look around me, at parents and children. This is the brokenness that will carry on to the next generation if we don't stand against it and show a better way.

I see parents getting patted on the back for making their teen stand in shame on the side of a road, holding a sign that says "I disrespected my dad". It is obvious to me where they learned such disrespect. But, hey, do as I say, not as I do, right? I'm bigger and that's all that matters? That seems to be the most popular parenting method these days. It is no wonder our world is cruel when the ones who are responsible for teaching respect and kindness are teaching shame and hatred instead. 

I refuse to perpetuate the brokenness. To show with my life that the Golden Rule only matters if you are not a child. To prove by my actions that only the biggest are due respect. I prefer to teach my children that a person is a person, no matter how small, and that everyone matters. "Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly" begins with me, the mother, the molder-of-lives, the hand that rocks the cradle. It begins with us who, with words and actions, influence the next generation. It begins with how the powerful treat the smallest and weakest. And actions scream louder than our words ever can. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Leaving Christianity

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” 
― Galileo Galilei, 

“The Bible has noble poetry in it... and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies.” 
― Mark Twain

“If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be—a Christian.” 
― Mark Twain,

“Ninety-nine percent of everything that goes on in most Christian churches has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual religion. Intelligent people all notice this sooner or later, and they conclude that the entire one hundred percent is bullshit, which is why atheism is connected with being intelligent in people's minds.” 
― Neal Stephenson

“Love is larger than the walls which shut it in.” 
― Corrie ten Boom

“I want Jesus to come back and say 'THATS NOT WHAT I MEANT'" -” 
― Margaret Cho

“…Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I don't know what will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. We're more popular than Jesus now. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.” 
― John Lennon

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

“You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
― Anne Lamott

“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me--that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” 
― Anne Lamott

These quotes sum up where my heart is these days. Which would be right in the middle of a conflicting, insane, uncomfortable mess. This holiday season marks two years since we left The Church (tm). Two years of half-heartedly trying a church here and there, searching for something we never found. Two years of being in this limbo place between wanting desperately to belong and not caring if we ever stepped foot in a church again. Two years of a spiritual detox. Of judgment and rejection and hesitant friendships begun and trust trying to bloom again. Of stepping back and seeing this thing called "christianity" with new eyes....the eyes of an outsider.

I am nowhere closer to resolving this conflict over religion in my life. I'm not sure I ever will be. But today I realized something.

I am done. I am done with Christianity in America. I want no more part of it. I have no wise words or inspirational thoughts here. Just weariness and raw honesty.

I look around me and I see nothing about Jesus in Christianity. I see a lot of judgment and cliques and pettiness and fear. I see rules and regulations and church constitutions that have more pages than the book of Mark. I see bigotry and sexism and homophobia and hierarchy. I see "pastors" that look more like powerful CEOs of businesses than servants washing feet. Questions that aren't allowed to be asked. "I'll pray for you" being thrown at everyone that doesn't fit the mold. Conformity masquerading as unity. Insincerity and masks. Weak cliches thrown at broken hearts. Power and control and greed and and performance and who has the biggest church and the best worship team and the most accurate theology.

That doesn't mean I'm done with God. I'm not quite sure where I stand with the idea of God. Walking away from institutionalized religion has caused me to ask even more questions, seek for more answers, and mostly to let my heart rest and be. I'm not any less conflicted about Jesus or why I believe in the God of the New Testament. I'm just OK with the conflict now. If God is who he says he is, he can handle my doubt and questions. If he doesn't exist, then doubt won't hurt anything. If he's some vengeful, sadistic god that won't let you into heaven if you don't pray some prayer then why would I care what he thinks? Obviously I lean toward the first scenario. Mostly out of choice, and partly because there are things I cannot explain and deeply personal happenings and issues that cause me to believe in something higher than myself. And I kinda like that Jesus guy.

My spiritual journey is messy, for sure. And there isn't room for messy misfits in America's churches.
People are leaving The Church in droves, and there's been a myriad of boring articles trying to explain why. Postulating all kinds of nonsense on why those darn Millenials just won't go to church. But why do these hot-shot pastors spewing such things never just sit down and ask. ASK the people who left why they left. Is that really so hard? Or do they even really want to know? Micah from Redemption Pictures put together many heart-rending stories worth consideration. 

When asked about leaving the organized system of Christianity, here's what a couple of my friends had to say:

"My personal view is that what frustrates me so much is definitely the man made version of Christianity. My entire life, I have been told what the Bible says, what the Bible means and how it applies to my life. But I am not the only one: our entire western society is dominated by a certain ideology of This Higher Being we call God and what His Book should dictate in our lives. In my opinion, this ideology is completely twisted and lacks basic Truth. I'm not sure what the Truth is but I know what it is not. " ~Naomi

"I am right there with you. I'm sure I'll study Jesus more at some point, but I've just been tired for more than a year and can't even begin to think much about it. Stopped attending church all together about two years ago, now that I think about it. Wow. I barely ever missed a Sunday before that. I think you'll find that the sentiment you shared is not so uncommon anymore. We're hurt, frustrated, and burnt out. Doesn't mean that we don't still want Truth."  ~Amy

"The more I read and question, the more I'm convinced christianity began to lose its way back in the 3rd century when it began to be formalized and politicized and has been on a more or less downward spiral from there." ~Heath

"But this is what concerns some activist Christian leaders, that we are all not attending church anymore, so America is going down the tubes! They don't seem to understand that just because we can't take their institutions anymore doesn't mean we have abandoned God or the Bible. We just abandoned performance." ~Matt

"I got so waterlogged of Bible after 3 years of Bible school (forced by my family because I was "rebellious" and it was that or homelessness,) that I have rarely opened a bible since, six years later. Since I got married we have rarely gone to church and we recently realized we are done with Christianity altogether. We want truth but most Christians do not live out what they claim are their greatest truths (Love God, and love your neighbor, pray for your enemies.) I am not going to be disrespectful of another person's choices or religion. Granted, if something a religion believes is a human rights violation I would do everything in my power to see it stopped, but if I disagree with someone else's path I am not going to mock them for it. How is that loving your neighbor? And yet I see Christians do that all the time." ~Jennyfer

When Christianity is used to justify bigotry, hatred, hitting children, sexism toward women, rejection of LGBT friends and family, bombing other countries, rejecting people we don't like, controlling people, spending money on huge buildings instead of feeding the poor, judging other people, splitting families apart, bondage, wars, throwing away logic and reason.....is it any wonder that many of us are just done? We're tired of trying to reconcile that innate belief of justice and morality that Christians say points to God, with the God we are told is love. It cannot be reconciled and some of us cannot live in cognitive dissonance any longer. The answer is as simple and as complex as that. The institutions and businesses on every corner that people call "church" are nothing like the church I read about in the New Testament. Maybe someday I'll find a group of people that want that pure, simple fellowship in faith, and that aren't afraid to ask hard questions, and aren't afraid of doubt. Maybe I've already found it in many of you I've met online.  Maybe I've found it in the people I meet and walk with every day, some Christians, some not. Maybe it can't BE found inside the stifling walls of a church building. Maybe Love was never meant to be caged like that.

I have no idea what the future holds for my spiritual journey or if I will someday try Church again. I'm open to the idea. But for now, I'm just done. To save my heart and soul, I am done.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Post About Motherhood and Image-Worship

Alright. It's time for a Mommy-post. As a mother to 4 crazy kids 7 and under, mothers have a special place in my heart. We have a really difficult job. No, the "the most blessed job" or "the most difficult job" or whatever other claim all those mommy-blogs you read say. It's just difficult. And blessed. And, well, sometimes feels dang near impossible. So when I come across another article that heaps even more impossibility and judgment on the heads of mothers in the name of Christianity, I have to say something.

I came across this post today, on a well-known Fundy blog that promotes strict gender-roles and much striving for perfection in women of all ages, all in the name of God:

What Kind of Picture Are You Painting?

She starts off like this:

You’ve seen her, that Mom.
Maybe you, like me, have been her: that Mom.
You know, the one in sweat pants and hair that hasn’t been washed in three days who’s pushing a cart with more kids than groceries in the store that keeps all the breakable items at toddler eye-level.
The one with bags under her eyes from too many nights in a row with more work than rest.
The one with the little girl wearing flip-flops, a winter coat, a t-shirt two sizes too large and a skirt that’s…wait, she is wearing a skirt, isn’t she?! I’m sure she had one on when we left!…The one with the little boy who is begging for a snack and clearly in need of a nap.
The one with the gassy baby screaming for someone to take her out of the car seat so she can “let it all out.”
The one with a long trail of animal cracker crumbs left behind her by a toddler who opened a box that wasn’t on the original shopping list.
The one who’s perfected The Glare and is using it liberally.
The one who just let her kids know that they’re going to “get it” at home without saying a word.

Painting a picture of a tired, chaotic mom. Then she contrasts it with this picture:

Maybe you’ve seen the other Mom too. Maybe you’ve been her.
The one who looks like she just stepped out of a Pride and Prejudice movie set with a long, flowing skirt, hair gracefully twisted into an elegant bun, a few wisps purposefully left out and curled to frame her face, perfectly manicured hands pushing a buggy that works – full of children still, but ones that everyone stops to say are adorable.
The one whose well-rested, well-dressed, obedient, happy children remember to smile and say “thank-you” to the lady in the bakery department when she hands them a cookie.
The one with lips laced in kindness and patience as she carefully explains for the tenth time to her inquisitive three-year-old the health benefits of each organic vegetable they pick out together and place in the cart.
The one who people admire and inquire “How do you do it?!”

She then goes on to say that the "picture we paint" of motherhood with how we look when we're in the grocery store is important. I mean, what if a "raging feminist" (her words) looks at us and we look like the worst mother and that "raging feminist" decides right then and there to never have kids? We have just failed Jesus, y'all!!! Everyone that sees us will think terrible things about God and motherhood!! Oh noessssss!!

I can only imagine the picture I "paint" when I go out with all my kids:

Kid #1 always has crazy hair and mismatched clothes. I let her dress herself because it's fun for her and teaches her autonomy. As long as it's weather-appropriate and she's not naked, I consider it a success. And her hair is impossible to keep orderly. I try, honest. I've considered shaving her head but she's not keen on the idea.

Kid #2 is always dressed as Snow White or Raphunzel or a ballerina or a gothic fairy, complete with wings. Because it makes her really happy. She's autistic and I love her creativity. She puts together the wildest outfits but has to have her hair all perfect. And she loves boots. It's so cute. She is so uncaring about what anyone thinks and just dresses how she loves.

Kid #3 usually looks pretty normal, but often is mistaken for a girl because he's beautiful and has gorgeous long, blonde hair. Even though he's also usually wearing camo and super-hero clothing and his shoes are always on the wrong feet. He's convinced they're the right feet and after a few arguments I just drop it.

Kid #4 is just a baby. In this heat he's usually just wearing a onesie. I pack him around on my back in a Beco Gemini. He's usually babbling and playing with my hair and laughing at his siblings. Or crying and screaming because he wants down. Sometimes he smears snot on my back. His face never seems to be clean no matter how many times I wash it.

They're all very loud, all the time. It's like this happy roar wherever we go. Unless it's not happy. Then the fun really starts. Most of the time it's happy...singing, laughing, making weird noises, goofing off, "Mommy can we buy that huge TV for our living room?" and "Mommy that man has a funny face!" and "I hafta go potty!" and "can we look at the fishies?".

As for my appearance.....well.... I try to be clean, and match, but I don't "dress up" to go to Target. I mean, I really rock the shorts and tank and sandals look. Especially if I remembered to shave my legs within the last 5 days. I tried wearing a sundress out once, because I love them, but that didn't turn out so well and I don't like flashing an entire parking lot full of people because one kid just has to see my belly-button RIGHT THEN (we're working on boundaries. It's a difficult concept for a 3-yr-old). Occasionally I might swipe on some mascara, but often because it's taken half the day to just get everyone ready, I'll skip the make-up. My hair is usually in a pony-tail, but always clean. Except those days I just run out of time and I declare a hat day. Sometimes I can keep the smile on my face. Sometimes not. Usually I'm thinking about my list I forgot and mentally comparing prices and trying to plan the next 5 meals in my head while keeping my eye on everyone while trying not to run into other shoppers or accidentally grab someone else's little blonde kid, and while answering the barrage of questions that get flung at me by 3 eager little children who think Costco is the best store ever, full of wonder and delight and samples.

So I guess the picture I'm painting for the world to see is that of a busy mother who has full hands and heart, is a bit of a hippie, has creative, fun, friendly, loud, happy kids, who love our quirky life, who are far from perfect, and none of whom give a damn about what other people think of us. Because that's what this lady is actually saying. "You need to care about what everyone else thinks about you." She's just couching it in spiritual-sounding terms so she can hide her hang-up about what others think behind a spiritual concept and feel better about her need to appear perfect to everyone around her.  Because, as Jesus said, "They will know you are my disciples if you dress and look like you stepped out of a Jane Austen book". Ohhhhh wait........

I honestly feel sorry for her. And her kids. I can't imagine living under that pressure to perform for the world like she does. And how dare she praise that brokenness and heap it as a burden on other moms?! Don't we have enough on our plate without worrying that we're making God look bad because we aren't perfect-looking? What about those of us who have special-needs kids? Try going shopping with an autistic child who is scared to death of public restrooms or has melt-downs in the store because the sensory overload is too much.

This woman is so worried about what "message" she is sending to other people in the store....what about the message she is sending to her own children, and now proclaiming to other moms: That looking perfect is what matters. That "having it all together" is most important. That what other people think about you should rule your choices. This is image-worship, my friends. It is nothing short of idolatry. She is worshiping a certain image and telling other moms if they don't measure up to it, then they didn't plan well or they don't care what other people think about motherhood or Jesus. Golly, just reading what she wrote makes me exhausted. What a sad way to live.

Everywhere I go, people say nice things about my kids and I. Not because we look like we have it all together (we don't). But because we're happy (for the most part) and we're free from pressure to perform, and my kids are friendly (sometimes a little TOO friendly) and respectful (usually). People don't notice how we look (except sometimes my #2 daughter gets told how awesome her princess/fairy/ballerina clothes are). They notice things like happiness and freedom and grace and love. Even on the bad days when I think the latest grocery expedition is a complete fail, someone always smiles and says "you're children look like so much fun!" And it makes me smile, even when I feel like crying and never leaving the house again.

Mothers, just be you. Give your kids the freedom to be themselves. It's OK to not smile all the time. It's OK to not look like Lizzy Bennett with a bunch of smiling, quiet kids tripping in a perfect row behind you. I'm like 99% sure God doesn't care about what you look like. He cares about your heart (oh yeah, I read that in my Bible somewhere). He cares that we show love for each other. He doesn't care if your hair isn't washed or your kids' clothes don't match or you're wearing yoga pants. If you have to carry a screaming kid out of the store, He isn't judging you for making Him look bad. The people making Him "look bad" are the ones using his name to judge and to put other mothers in bondage to image-worship and perfection.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How "Modesty" Teachings Hurt Men Too

Someone posted this article today on Facebook, from a famous Christian author and blogger:

If Only She Knew ~ Thoughts On Modesty

I read this against my better judgment and honestly, I'm sitting here furious. I have said for years that boys in conservative Christian homes are conditioned to struggle with "modesty" and everyday normal things regarding female bodies. That they are programmed to see non-erotic body parts as erotic. This article is the perfect example of that. This poor boy, and every boy like him have been set up by their parents for a lifetime of failure and shame. Then they have the audacity to blame all the women in the world for their terrible parenting. I'm just so angry at this type of spiritual abuse and bondage!

Here's how the article starts out:

"Avert your eyes, Son. His dad started saying it to him from the youngest age - when he was only a little boy. Might have been an alluring commercial while watching the ballgame. Or a billboard while driving down the highway. A pop-up on the computer screen. As parents, we had purposed to teach him purity from the beginning.  
Temptation can be found anywhere. Even in Target. Target? Yeah, I know. That's what I thought too. Until one day we popped in to pick up some flip-flops for the summer and I remarked how he kept bumping into things. What is your problem, Son?? "I'm just looking down, Mom," And with a nod, he indicated the ads placed strategically above us. Billboards for the lingerie department. Yikes. I'd not seen them. "

I've written about how modesty teachings enslave women, well this is the perfect example of how they enslave men too. The first few sentences infuriated and shocked me. They CREATED their son's struggles! They conditioned and brain-washed him to think there was something wrong with seeing females in clothing they didn't approve of. That looking at a woman is somehow shameful. They DID THAT TO THEIR SON and they are patting themselves on the back for it. They didn't teach him "purity", they taught him shame and objectification of women.  They taught him that natural attraction is something to feel guilty about and be avoided at all costs. They should be ashamed of themselves. They have set their son up for failure, and now he is going to be under such a heavy burden his entire life for things that are not wrong. He's going to struggle with "sins" that aren't sins but that he's been brainwashed to think are "impurity". The sight of normal American women all around him is going to send him into such a frenzy of natural emotion and arousal that he's not going to know how to function in the real world. This poor boy!!! I cannot imagine doing anything that unhealthy to my sons.

Oh, but it gets worse:

"It was a hot July day and we all packed up and headed out for fun and fellowship with a bunch of other believers. Picnic blankets, cold watermelon, and squirt guns. It was promising to be a great day. 
So I was surprised to see our oldest son hanging back from the festivities. He's an outgoing guy and usually one of the first out there mixing it up. Except not this time. He stayed close to our small spot and played with his little brothers instead. What is your problem, Son?? 
He hesitated for a moment. Then answered, "Mom, I don't know what to do. Dad's taught me to 'avert my eyes', but there doesn't seem anywhere I can turn here."

Nowhere he can safely look. Because women in swimsuits and summer clothes are everywhere and he's had it drilled into him from a tender young age that women in swimsuits are off-limits, tantalizing, and "impure". This poor boy cannot even go swimming or play outside because of his parent's brain-washing. HOW is this "purity"?! It isn't. It's heaping guilt and legalism on a child's head and causing untold confusion. This isn't healthy. This is so very toxic. He's just a little boy. Yet his innocence is being trampled into the ground.

My cousin Matt said this when he read this article:

"He [the boy in the story] wouldn't have a problem with it if his parents didn't make it a big deal. If they approached sexual attraction as a normal thing, and taught him how to control his actions, he wouldn't have to live in fear of seeing bare skin. Now, it seems like he is afraid to even go out in public, because of all the eye snares around him. Its almost as if he - or his mother, at least - expect girls to cover up for her son's sake, as if the world revolved around him. 

If he was in the real world, you know, the one that inhabits the spaces around his stifling mother and father, then he would find that real men really don't worry about bare skin. Those of us who control our desires know it is not wrong to look or enjoy the sight of a beautiful woman. We also don't expect them to serve us because we know they aren't the temptresses this mother is insinuating that they are. 

What he needs is for the walls of his little world to come crashing down. People like his parents think they are helping him walk in victory, but it isn't victory when you are afraid of the world around you. It isn't victory when you demonize something God created: beauty in a woman. It trivializes His creation. It makes it seem as if women are there to set you up for failure. 

What's wrong is not the world around him, but the world in which he lives. Open your eyes, son, look up. Nothing says you have to look at the lingerie ad, but you won't go to hell for lingering a second longer on it. Look at it and move on. It is part of the world around you. Your urges are part of your world. Your desires are part of your world. They aren't your whole world, as your mother seems to emphasize." 

In essence, these parents are crippling their son. There's no way around that. And this mother is encouraging other mothers to cripple their son and to see all women as objects of temptation.  Not to mention using emotionalism and spiritual-sounding language to urge all women to cater to her dysfunction. This is a glaring example of spiritual and psychological abuse.

I'm not going to post the rest. It's an appeal to emotion that ends up blaming all the women in the world for this boy's and every good boy's "struggles"; blaming women for toxic, spiritually abusive parenting they have inflicted on their son. You can read it but be warned, it's painful.

This is a real, serious problem, but I've never seen it outlined so perfectly as this post does. Making normal, non-erotic body parts erotic does a grave disservice to boys and men. And this is a wide-spread problem among conservative Christians and homeschoolers.

Here's what my friend Katie had to say in a conversation we were having on this topic:

"I believe the ultra conservative teaching many of us grew up under modesty-wise, has hurt men as well as women. Men who grow up so sheltered that they find a cap sleeve enticing and whose moms cover their eyes if a woman with cleavage walks past, never learn how to deal with normal American dress. It is no wonder they experience such trouble at a beach or a pool. Regardless of how you personally believe God would have you to dress, you have no right to control the rest of culture. Your husbands, brothers, sons, etc. will be exposed to cleavage, shorts, bikini's, mini skirts, etc. We do boys no favors when we raise them so strictly that such normal clothing is hyper erotic to them. Instead of sheltering them we end up hyper sexualizing them. I feel sorry for guys raised that way that struggle thru normal daily life like going to the grocery store.

I hope our generation will do better than our parents at teaching our children (boys and girls alike) how to view the opposite sex. Lust is not a sin that only effects men. Women can struggle with it as well. Part of the problem is that we call sin things that are not sin thereby heaping guilt on men and women for simple biological hormonal reactions.

It is not sin to find a person attractive. It is not even sin to feel turned on by them as they walk past you. That is just a basic function of biology and hormones. It is a sin, to dwell there and savor the moment, to go back to it time and again, or continue to fantasize about that other person (ie undressing them in your mind or worse). We need to teach our children the difference between a hormonal reaction that is biological, and choosing to expand or camp in that reaction and indulge in lust. We need to practice personal responsibility in our handling of situations that are struggles for us personally, and we need to teach our children personal responsibility for their own reactions to others around them. Men and women alike need to dress in ways that do not violate their conscience, but they also need to realize that they can never control anyone but themselves and master their own thought lives."

Fear, shame, guilt, rules, "temptation is everywhere"....a little boy whose innocence was taken by the very people supposed to protect him. And all in the name of "purity". My heart is breaking. I may be a woman, and I experienced these lies from a woman's perspective, but I saw what they did to the men in my life. To the boys programmed with shame. I continue to see the effects of such teachings as the boys I grew up with are now men. Men who have sexual addictions; teenage boys from homeschooling families that ended up as pedophiles; men who have sexual hang-ups in their marriages; conservative Christian men who ended up rapists; good men who struggle with normal life because they still can't see a woman in a pair of jeans and not think about the voices that told them this was "immodest" and "a temptation". An entire generation of men who were raised with shame and fear, like this little boy, have grown up and their stories are enough to keep the tears flowing and the hearts breaking. I have two little boys of my own. And I cannot imagine raising them to fear the world, women, and themselves as the parents of  the boy in this story are doing. I hope they see what they are doing to their son before it is too late to undo it.

(Warning: I would suggest that if the above sickens or triggers you, don't read the comments on the post I linked. Some of them are worse by far than anything in the post and completely disgusting.)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

In Which I Weigh In on The "Modesty" Debate

Is it just me, or did the modesty debates start early this summer? So much angst and judgment and shame and backlash and finger-pointing and freaking out going on, splattered across blogs and Facebook, each one trying to out-do the other, each one with it's own rebuttal from either side of the debate. So now it's my turn. :D Except, I don't care too much to argue point-by-point about the issues. Maybe some other time. I'd rather just sit and have a chat with my fellow sisters.
Can we do that?
I have some things on my mind and I'd like to talk to you about them.

I read these articles on "modesty" and I hear many women's stories and something in my heart just breaks. For all of us. Because the one thing I'm seeing as a common thread, no matter if you're conservative or not, Christian or not, is the holding onto of burdens that are not ours to bear. And the pain and the shame and the projection of pain onto other women because of it.

Here are some of the things I've heard come from the mouths of my sisters:

"Cover those boobs!"
"I don't want you wearing that around my sons or husband."
"That much skin showing is disgusting and I don't want to see it."
"You obviously don't care much about the men in your life."
"I dress this way so that I can help men not to stumble."
"Wearing bikinis mean that you are selfish and don't care that men are looking at you."
"Well, she deserved it dressing like a hussy."
"I beg you as one sister to another, cover up your body! Do the men in your life a favor."
"But think about the MEN!"

I have a friend that wore a very long, appropriate, conservative dress to church, and one woman came over in a huff and told her to "cover up" because she had a tiny bit of cleavage showing. The woman made a huge deal about it and was really pushy about it. Another friend was told by her mom that she can't come visit anymore because her dad and brothers need to be "protected" from her immodesty. Another woman I was chatting with said that having lots of cleavage/boobage showing was "disgusting" and another said she didn't want her husband or sons around immodest women. One girl I know was told to put a different shirt on by her mother "for your dad's sake". (Her dad had never said anything about her clothing.) This woman told a heart-breaking story of being shamed by other women because of her body. Many girls I know tell how their mom was the one that made them wear ugly, shapeless clothes when they were teens, while their dad didn't care and often fought with the mom over her standards. I remember one time when I was about 14, walking across the parking lot at ShopCo, and my mom stopped me and started yelling about how my breasts were bouncing when I walked and what if some guy saw me and was "defrauded". (I was wearing a polo shirt that was 3 sizes too big, and a floor-length skirt. But C-cups on a 14-yr-old are hard to hide.)

Overwhelmingly, it is women making these sort of comments to other women. And while our first reaction is usually one of anger or bristling that someone is trying to control other people or that women are being blamed for men's thought problems, I have an entirely different reaction.

All I see in the above comments and stories and the dozens more I didn't write here is Insecurity. Pain. Betrayal. Wounds. Grasping at control. Broken hearts due to infidelity. Women picking up burdens that do not belong to them and trying to force every other woman to do the same.

When I hear something like the comments above, my first thought is this: "How did the men in your life hurt you so badly that you feel the only way to keep from being hurt again is to control their environment? How have you been betrayed by the men in your life who promised to love, honor, protect and cherish you? What caused you so much pain that you can only project that pain onto other women? Why are you carrying the guilt for your man's unfaithfulness and why are you trying to place that responsibility on your sisters? What were you taught about men and sexuality that you would react in such a way toward other women?"

Maybe it was a wife ignored for a porn addiction, or left for a younger, bustier woman. Maybe a daughter who was shown inappropriate attention from a father, and a mother who blamed her for it. Maybe a woman who has had many men reject her to run after other women and many promises broken. Maybe a girl who was used by men her whole life then blamed for their sin. Or maybe it's just a woman who was raised by one of these broken women and brainwashed to believe that all men are sex-crazed monsters that can't keep it in their pants and women must control their urges for them. Whichever it is, whichever one you, my sister, may be, I have just one thing to ask of you:

Let it go. 

Let the sins and the choices and the awful, terrible things that the men in your life have done drop off your shoulders. You were not responsible for their actions. This was not your fault. They hurt you, they betrayed you, they caused so much pain, and that pain is your own, but you cannot own their failures. Their sins are theirs to own and carry. By believing that you and your fellow women are to blame for the misdeeds of these men, you have become enslaved to sins that are not your own. And you are now trying to enslave other women, to make them carry the guilt for something you, and they, didn't do. You try to control the environment of every man in your life, even the good men, because you believe this is the only way you can keep from being hurt again. And the cycle of abuse and sin and pain just keeps turning, perpetuated by the victims while the perps get off scott-free. Because the reality is, by projecting the sins of a few evil men onto your fellow sisters, you are allowing those men to walk. 

I know the crushing weight of seeing every other woman out there as a threat. I KNOW. I bore that weight for a long time. It took a lot of healing and the love of a good man and the complete re-programming of everything I'd been taught to make me let go of that burden. It took a few good men to show me that most men are decent and good and that good men NEVER blame women for their own thoughts and actions. But it finally happened. I finally said "I will not carry the sins of ungodly men. I am only responsible for my own." And you know what happened? Suddenly I didn't hate other women. I didn't feel threatened by the woman talking to my husband whose boobs were bigger than mine. I didn't feel threatened by the women on the beach in bikinis. I didn't feel the need to control the women around me to protect myself from pain. I stopped resenting and controlling my fellow sisters, and was finally able to love and enjoy them instead. I was free. And I had freed my sisters.

Because they, and I, were not the guilty parties. Do you hear me? We are not the guilty ones. We are not threats to each other. A man's actions are his own and no matter how much we try to control his surroundings and therefore his mind, we just can't. A good man will still be good and an evil man will still be evil, no matter what women do or wear or try to make other women wear.

Women, sisters, I beg you to think about these things. I know what I wrote could dig up an awful lot of unbearable pain and for that I'm so sorry. But I believe it had to be said. Don't let the men that treated you badly be the cause of a life lived in fear and resentment toward other women. Free yourself, free them. And hold accountable the ones to whom the fault for your wounds really belong.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Abuse Survivor Needs Our Help

A friend shared this story of her friend's sister and asked it to get passed around. From the link:

And then she spilled a story about her family’s downward spiral into isolation, fear, and control (increasing after she left and got married as a reaction against how “bad” she turned out), about how her sister “Jennifer” was demeaned by daily screaming from her mom, Bible-based lectures from her dad on why her interest in being vegan and an animal rights activist were rebellious and wrong. Despite many requests to be allowed to make herself vegan food, she was never given permission to even make herself a salad. She wasn’t allowed to touch fruit or vegetables unless given permission, which sometimes meant that food would rot in the fridge even though she wanted to eat it. Jennifer’s parents also threatened her pets, telling her that if she did not eat meat for dinner, she would wake up the next morning to find one of them gone. 
The final crushing moment came last weekend, after her high school graduation, when she wasn’t singing in church (out of self-consciousness) and so, in a fit of anger, her parents removed all of her access to the outside world, taking away the power cord to her computer and her cell phone charger. She managed to get a few calls out, begging for help, with the battery power left on her phone. 
She called her sister, and asked her to come get her out.
Her sister called me. “What should I do?” 
But we knew there was really only one option, and so she and her husband put in 28 hours of driving in three days and went to rescue Jennifer. They got her out after a confrontation with her parents that required police backup, and cost Jennifer her three pets, her graduation gift iPad, her computer, her art supplies, her summer clothes, and her life savings of nearly $3,000.

Please go here to find out how to help this girl. She has had to leave behind everything to get free from abuse:  http://wineandmarble.com/quiverfullchristian-patriarchy-rescue-jennifers-story/

Thank you!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

About the Romeike Family and What No One Seems to Have Said Yet.

By now, I'm pretty sure the Romeike family is on the mind of every homeschooling family and most conservative Christians. Their trial to find out if they will be deported or granted citizenship is on Tuesday.

Libby Anne has posted a guest post that helped explain the legalities, and someone from HSLDA has offered a rebuttal. I'm not a lawyer and I don't pretend to understand everything that's happening. I know something smells fishy and I feel sorry for this family. But I'm not here to comment on the debate. Because something else is bothering me a whole lot more than this whole legal mess.

In Germany, it is illegal to homeschool. Refusal to put your child in a private or public school can cause parents to be fined, be thrown in prison, and/or have their children taken from them. The Romeike's pulled their kids out of school in 2006, 2 years before seeking refuge in America. They were threatened by fines and legal action and could have lost their children if they had not fled.

Did you catch that? They could've lost their children. They still could if sent back and they refuse to obey the law. It's happened before.

So these parents were willing to lose their children and their family for their religious beliefs. Not because their children were threatened by harm. But because of their religious convictions to homeschool and their belief it is their right.

And that is what makes me more angry than anything else in this entire situation.

They were willing to risk their children being taken from them, willing to have their entire family torn apart forever and passed around to who knows who, for their belief that homeschooling is their right. They were willing to stand on their perceived "rights" and risk terrible emotional damage to their children. They were willing to put their children on the alter of their religion and rights and sacrifice them. And then what would've happened? Their kids would've been put in school anyways! Only then, those kids would eventually have to face the fact that their parents' religion was more important to them then their own children.

They and the HSLDA and others I've seen writing their opinions on the matter say it is God's plan for parents to homeschool. Is it then God's plan that they lose their children? Is it's God's plan that someone else raise their kids while they sit in prison and congratulate themselves for standing for "what was right"?

Am I the only one that sees the messed up priorities here?!

Since when is sheltering your kids from evolution and sex education worth losing them entirely? 

I'm no lawyer, but I am a mother. And I'll be damned if any of my religious beliefs or political rights are worth the lives and well-being of my children, worth fighting for more than my children. I hope the Romeike's can realize that before it's too late for them.

And if they don't....well....maybe those kids are better off with parents who care more about them than about their religion.

And don't come on here and tell me how heartless I am for saying that. I hurt for this family, the parents AND the children. I am mad at the way they've become pawns to the HSLDA. I am concerned about what will happen if they get sent back. But I am not afraid to stand up and say "wake up, and get your priorities straight". I hope it all works out for the best for them. But most importantly, I hope they realize what they have, their family, is worth protecting, even more than their own rights and religion.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On Being Church Misfits


I say that word and so many emotions come flooding in that I don't know what to say next.
You see, I am a church misfit. I'm one of those people that is ever wandering, trying to find a home, a community of Christ-followers that actually follow Christ when it comes to treating fellow believers with grace and their own imperfect humanity with humility.


There's so much talk of grace these days. Grace for sinners, for unbelievers, for the hurting and the weak. But there's not much grace going around for fellow believers. No grace for those who have beliefs that are considered unorthodox. No grace for those desire to worship in their churches but dare to question their beliefs. No grace for misfits.

I'm told there are churches out there that are accepting of differences. I wonder if the people that say such things know what it's like to have differences that are outside the realm of acceptable diversity in Evangelical Land. Because it's been my experience that "acceptance" only goes so far.

Try walking into one of these "accepting" Evangelical churches and saying the word "Egalitarian". Or "Preterist". Or "Theistic evolution". Or *GASP* "Marriage equality". Just try it and see how far "acceptance" really goes.

I think you'll find that acceptance only covers sinners, not saints. Grace only tolerates the unbelievers until they become believers, then a whole new standard is placed on their shoulders. A standard called "Correct Doctrine", defined, of course, by those who think they've got it right.

Conformity or rejection. That was the choice we were offered at our last church. We chose rejection because no matter how painful that is, it's not nearly as soul-crushing as pretending to be something you're not, as stifling your beliefs, your very personhood, just to be accepted. Not as life-killing as acquienscence to a system that goes against everything you believe in.

So we joined the band of church misfits, pilgrims in the kingdom but on the outskirts. Told we are not christian enough for the Christians. We love but are not really loved in return. We are looked at with suspicion and a little fear by those in the pews. We are called names like "unsubmissive", "insubordinate", "liberal", and "backslidden". Our desire for fellowship with other believers is constantly turned away once they find out who we really are. The whispers are hard to ignore:
"They're the ones that don't believe in Young Earth Creationism!"
"They actually think gay people should have rights!"
"They don't agree with the institutionalized church!"
"I heard they refused to submit to the pastor of X Church."
"They think women can actually teach men!!!"
"They ask questions that should never be asked! I've even heard them say they've *gasp* questioned whether God even exists!"

And the pilgrims are turned away, told there is no room in the church for them.


How many times can a heart give everything only to be told it isn't good enough? People say we should just keep looking, that there are churches out there that will accept us. But how many times must we suffer rejection before we find that? I'm only human. I can only hurt so much. I can only take the broken pieces of my heart that have been flung out the church door, gather them up, and put them slowly back together so many times.

There is no grace for the misfits. For the dissenters. The non-conformists. The outsiders. The questioners. The seekers.

The Church is freaking out these days. Decrying the fact they are losing their youth, losing an entire generation. Their numbers are dwindling and they keep trying to come up with better ways to hang onto their members, to be "relevant", to be attractive. But they are overlooking the only way that that will ever happen: grace for the misfits. Tolerance for those who don't fit in their little boxes. Humility in admitting they don't have all the answers and are only human too. Courage to let go of their fear that if they quit trying to control God, He will become something uncontrollable and that that will be a bad thing. Daring to embrace the questions they cannot answer, the doubt they cannot push away with cliches, and the paradigm shift that will take everything they thought they knew and turn it upside down.

We are unacceptable because we threaten the little world they have created for themselves. We threaten the boxes they've made and labeled "God" and "Christianity" and "Doctrine". Our very existence is baffling and unnerving and the questions we ask threaten to upheave everything they believe in. We've jumped out of the boxes are refusing to get back in. So we are rejected and labeled "Not Really Christians", and turned out of the churches, and the places that are supposed to be havens of peace and rest and encouragement become nothing more than men's kingdoms of complacency and safety for those who can't bear the ugliness and harshness and uncontrollability of the real world.

We aren't going anywhere. We are doing our best to bring the Kingdom of God to earth in tangible ways. We are out here in the dark places, loving people, feeding the poor, shedding light and peace, hurting and healing, searching, hoping someday to find others like us so we can stop being so very alone. We will still be here to open our doors to the ones that bravely come to find us when their questions get them booted out of the churches. Even if they were the ones to boot us. Because that's what grace does. That's what misfits do. We are free to love  unconditionally in ways that the church folk aren't. And when the "church" in America finally realizes it's built on sand and comes crashing down, we will be the ones to pick up the pieces left strewn by an institution that tears down, and by grace and faith will put them back together. As we have been doing all along.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Little Help for a Friend

One of my favorite people is trying to get scholarships to finally fulfill her dream of going to college. Sharon is an ex-ATIer and you can read her words on the link.

It will only take you 2 seconds and you don't have to offer any personal info. Just click on the "vote" button. Let's help get this beautiful woman to college!


Thank you so much!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Quickie on "Defrauding"

It was a popular teaching by Bill Gothard that clothes on women could "defraud" their brothers. He used a verse in 1 Thess. 4 to prove this:

"3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified." (A better interpretation of verse 6 says: "and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.")

He took this verse to mean that all women should be careful how they dress so as not to "defraud" their brothers in Christ with their clothing, which he defined as causing them to stumble or lust. Besides the obvious stretching of the context and content of this verse, there are a few problems with this definition of "defraud."


verb (used with object)

to deprive of a right, money, or property by fraud

Some synonyms of "defraud" are: "bamboozle, beguile, burn, chouse, circumvent, clip, con,  deceive, delude, do number on, dupe, embezzle, fleece, foil, hoax, jive, outwit, pilfer, pull fast one, rip off, rob, shaft, sucker into, swindle, take to the cleaner's, take, trick, victimize"

In order to say that a woman's clothing can "defraud" a man, you would have to prove that
1. A woman's body is the right or property of another person
2. A woman is wrongfully offering her body to any man who gazes on her
3. A woman is lying by offering her body to another without intent to follow through with the deal
4. A woman is taking something from any man who looks at her, just by the piece of clothing she is wearing.
5. A woman is responsible for a man being deprived his rights any time he thinks something immoral about her

I really hope I wouldn't have to detail why all of the above is wrong, but in case I do, here goes:

I am not anyone's property or right. No one owns me except myself. I am not offering anything by the clothes I wear. If you think I am offering you something by my clothing, I am not responsible for your wrong thoughts. I cannot steal anything from you by the clothes I wear, especially not something that is owed to you, since I owe you nothing. I cannot control the thoughts of everyone who sees me, as I do not expect everyone else to control my own thoughts. I am not responsible for your thoughts or actions, as you are not responsible for mine. You are not a victim of my clothing if you desire me sexually. I have not bamboozled you out of your property by wearing a short skirt. I cannot dupe, hoax, trick, or rob you of anything by the jeans I wear. It doesn't even make logical sense.

Quite simply put, one cannot "defraud" anyone else by one's clothing. Or, as another wise person once said "I do not think that word means what you think it means".