Its not real torture, its an illustration

JW man: Hello, have you heard the good news…
Me: Probably.  Just so you don’t waste your time, let me tell you that I used to be a devout believer and also tried to convert people.  I am more than happy to have a conversation about why I am no longer, but don’t expect you to.
JW man: Oh, that’s terrible!  [Pause] Why?
Me: I finally read the bible with critical thinking skills and could no longer ignore my issues with condoning genocide, slavery and eternal torture for thought crimes.  

JW man: [in a tone of condescension] The Old testament had to be like that to keep the Hebrew people separate.
Me: By giving rules about how badly you were allowed to beat your slave?
JW man: They were much better than the people around them.
Me: Have you read Hammurabi’s laws?  

JW man: [changing tactics to evade the question] Of course I understand why you left.

Me: Really?  I would be very surprised if you did understand.  I have had many believers tell me that they understand and not one of them has.  They most often have made up excuses that have nothing to do with my reasons and everything to do with making them feel safe and separate so that they don’t have to worry it could happen to them.  I also find it terribly insulting to have someone tell me I was never a true believer as if they knew more about me than I did.  They are basically calling me a liar.  You can see why I don’t appreciate that.

JW man: [pause] Well, would you let me read you a scripture?
Me: Of course!  I used to think the bible had magical powers too.  Just reading the word could change people.  I lost count of how many times I read the bible and I memorized several books:  Matthew, Luke, Acts, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Proverbs… I am terrible with verse references but start reading and lets see if I can finish it.
JW man: [puts his bible away]
JW woman: [face of horror] But dear, surely you have not abandoned the bible!  There are so many beautiful things that help you be a better mother.
Me: Of course I still appreciate the beautiful things.  I was surprised to learn that some of Jesus’ most beautiful teachings were part of Buddhist teachings many years before Jesus came along though.
JW woman: But Jesus was such a superior moral teacher!
Me: Except for that part about eternal punishment for thought crimes.  That hardly seems compassionate or just.

JW man: Eternal punishment is never part of hell!

Me: I suppose it depends on which hell you are referring to.  There are at least 4 distinct types of hells referenced in the bible.
JW man: I mean the New Testament!

Me: That does narrow it down a bit, but those ones are the most disturbing. “into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched where their worm dieth not” (Mark 9: 44)
JW man: That isn’t describing actual torture.  Jesus was just giving an illustration.
Me: [blinks in disbelief] So that is how you get around that.  Huh.

JW man: I won’t waste anymore of your time.

I wonder if he realized he admitted that in his rationalization, Jesus was deliberately misrepresenting hell in order to scare people into submission.  So, he evaded eternal torture by calling Jesus a manipulative liar.  I tend to agree.

Retelling FoF stories: Homo-Jelly

Our family listened to Focus on the Family nearly every night when I was a child. I remember some of the stories very well, although I can’t recall if it is from the radio program or a story from one of their magazines.

Homo-Jelly (not the original title)

In this story, a hetero WASP SAH mother talks about her neighbours. They are *gasp* lesbians and they have a *gasp* daughter who is the same age as our Dear Christian Narrator’s (DCN) daughter. The two children are friends, and while DCN will not allow her child to play at the lesbians’ house, she is very happy to have their daughter over. Of course, she is a shining example of Christian love and heteronormativity.

I don’t remember the age of the children, but I’m guessing around 10 as they are both in school and need little supervision. DCN seems to spend her time cleaning the house and baking, as any proper Christian wife should. Both of the lesbian Mamas work, which inspires DCN to express sympathy (or was it scorn?) for them and their poor daughter. DCN spent some time talking about her long hair and long flowered skirt and contrasting them to the lesbian Mamas short hair and pants. These details were important.

Not so important was DCN’s husband. We knew he existed because her hetero status was a major theme of her story, as well as her ability to work at home for free. I assume he also had short hair and pants but cannot confirm my suspicion.

The story ended with our DCN noticing one of the lesbian Mamas on her evening stroll around the neighbourhood. She paused in front of DCN’s house for a few minutes and then walked on. At this point, DCN congratulates herself for being such a good example of heteroChristianSAMship and speculates that the look lesbian Mama had on her face was that of longing. Obviously to DCN, the longing the woman had was for a life just like hers of church rules, long flowered skirts and an absentish male breadwinner. The End.

Now to change the narrators.

There is a Christian woman on our block. I’m pretty sure she is some type of fundy since she wears long flowery skirts most of the time and the telltale Jesus fish bumper sticker. She has a little girl the same age as ours and she refuses to let her come over to play. Is she overprotective or homophobic?
The children seem to get along very well so we let our baby go over there to play. I really hope the mother doesn’t proselytize or shame her. Our sweetheart has enough bigotry to deal with at school because she has two moms. I wish I could protect her from that – it breaks my heart.
The hetero mama is almost always home. I wonder if it is because she enjoys it or if she feels too guilty to work outside the home. Does she even have the choice?
When I go on my evening walk, I often see her sitting in front of the window looking out. Tonight I pause and look up at her. I know she sees me but she looks right through me as if she doesn’t. She looks trapped. I wonder if she doesn’t long for a more free life, like mine.

Food and Punishment

Our relationship to food could be simple. As my grandfather liked to tell me, “You want to work, you need to eat.” I spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farms, where food was work, livelihood, and community.  We gathered eggs, planted, weeded, harvested, butchered, milked, hulled, peeled, and stored food together. I was witness to (and begrudging active in) the wonderful process of bread from start to finish. While applesauce, herbs, onions, turnips and potatoes would last the whole winter, the strawberries and raspberries disappeared early – especially when when us kids were old enough to pick them by ourselves. Eating the food was something you did so you could continue growing it.
My dad studied nutrition at University (as well as other things – he is a Renaissance style genius) and we spent much time playing at his health food store, so we learned about nutrients early. Food was science. It was the childhood glee of killing potato bugs. My grandmother reciting poetry while we worked in the garden or kitchen. It was as ubiquitous as air.
Then, puberty happened and my skinny body stopped being so skinny.  I didn’t like the new shape.  I became hyper-aware of the fat-shaming culture I had always lived in but felt immune too.  Food was still a necessity but now it was dangerous.  I heard the girls around me share tips on how to eat less and exercise more.  My cousin would point at overweight women and say “that’s you in a few years!” and I knew this was a terrible fate.  At 5 foot 6 and 125 lbs (168 cm, 55 kg) I felt like a globular walrus.
Food was fuel, unless I was mad at myself.  Then it was punishment.  I would force myself to eat a bowl of cookie dough, or half a chocolate zucchini cake and with each bite I would say “I’m ugly, I deserve to be fat”.   Not eating sweets was a sign of strength and hope, so overeating them was the appropriate punishment.
A different cousin came to live with me.  Instead of fretting about her body, she loved it.  She loved food too, and we would walk across town even through -40 C on candy runs.  She wore clothes that appreciated her impressive cleavage and encouraged me to borrow her clothes.   (This sometimes had unfortunate results.)  br />After years of seeing food as a way to police my worth as a person and a necessary evil, I still struggle with seeing food as anything but a tool for survival. It is easier to see it as a formula – so many fats, carbs, proteins, vitamins and minerals to plug in every day. I’m free(er) of the impulse to punish myself by indulging or withholding food, and now I can work on learning to enjoy it.

Answering Van Impe on his “Good News” about the “Impending Islamic Takeover”

We received some Jack Van Impe Ministries propaganda in the mail.  Jack Van Impe is the perfect name for a devil, eh?  

Van Impe asks some questions which I will answer.

1) What is the true goal of Islam? The answer to this question literally places YOUR FUTURE on the line!

Umm, probably the same as any religion?  That is, there are many goals and many variations.  A few would be: sense of purpose, community, policing societal mores, etc.  Since I don’t make money by scare-mongering, this doesn’t affect my future.

2. What have Islamic leaders warned they would do in promoting Islam’s rule over all the world?  How should Christians respond?

I’m guessing no worse than Christians of ages past (and present) have done.  I would hope Christians could respond like compassionate reasonable mature people, and realize that Muslims are also compassionate reasonable mature people.  No one wants a new version of the crusades.  At least, most people don’t.

3. How can we know whether we will experience terrifying wars ahead of us? Fear not!  The Rapture will come first.
Sigh.  Going by human history, I’d say the odds are high for war and zero for Rapture.  

4. How does Scripture connect Russia, China, Syria, and Iran? We’re seeing it today!
Apparently his xenophobia isn’t restricted to non-white people – I was beginning to think his racism was just basic bigotry.  As to his question- it doesn’t.  

5. What is a biblical answer for the distress and killings going on in Syria right now?

One answer would be to add to them: 1 Kg.20:28-30; 2 Chron. 8:5-6, 14; 2 Kings 13…  God liked talking about smiting Syria.  

Or t just annihilate all the non-Jews: 2 Chronicles 15:13 Whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

Another answer would be to provide aid and support: Deuteronomy 10:19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

Rom 13:10 says love does no harm to a neighbour. 
And there is the eternally beautiful story of the Good Samaritan.  Which Van Impe should read, inserting “Muslim” for “Samaritan”.  
However, I’m afraid Van Impe would see these girls as victims in need of his condescending rescue and would miss how much he needs to be educated by them. Or he would just be terrified of them.
peacegirls
Photo Credit: Trey Ratcliffe 

 

 

Staring Problem

A physician once told me that people with Aspergers’ do not make eye contact.  This is overly simplistic and erases not only the capacity people have to learn and grow, but also treats a symptom as a cause and contributes to misunderstandings.  While probably common, this is not the defining characteristic of people on the spectrum. I know several people with Aspergers’ and all of them make eye contact. I have not been diagnosed with Aspergers’ (and yes, I know it is no longer part of the DSM) so I am not speaking on behalf of anyone but myself.  

I present some doodles from my journal with apologies for the fuzzy photos. 
Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

God needs lipgloss

I loved last Easter weekend!  In part because after a white-out snowstorm, we had some nice weather and the kidlets could have an Easter egg hunt outside!  In part because we had some nice visits with people in the secular community, shared good food, conversation, and fun games!  Also in part because we were not at my old church’s family camp.  

A friend who heard the sermons at church informed me of the usual gender-policing, homophobia and general sex-negativity that was preached.  This was a little different because of the way the girls reacted.

I grew up hearing the modesty talks, which were interspersed with gender policing.  The message was generally: don’t be too attractive, but put in an effort to be attractive in a very specific way.  God apparently wants women to have long hair, skirts, and wear pink.  This year the supposed omniscient creator of the universe added to his list make-up and lip gloss.  For girls to be godly women and pleasing to the old men, er, god, they NEED lip gloss.

 applying lipgloss 

I mean, how omniscient can the guy be if he needs make-up and lip gloss so he can tell the differences between the sexes?  I wonder if this god is aware that most make-up and lip stuff has toxic heavy metals, or if he just doesn’t care. 

Back at the girls’ dorm, there were tears and panicking.  Many of the girls, especially the 11 and 12 year olds, don’t wear make-up.  They thought god was angry at them for not being ‘feminine’ enough and calling them out on their “bad behaviour”.  

Fortunately, some of the girls actually questioned the sermon.  Here are some excerpts of a letter they sent to the elders.
[The first part was a list of things they agreed with like needing a spiritual authority, this is part of what they disagreed with]

“1. Lipgloss and excitement over clothes does not make a woman a woman. Neither does vanity. And we don’t think that God will bless us for either. (Girls were crying because they were worried they hadn’t worried about appearances as much as they should have.)

2. The way he brought up sex outside of marriage. That is between a person and God. The message felt condemning. And there are those who have come out of the world into our church and talking about it all over again may make them feel like it’s something they can’t let go of. Even though God has put that sin behind them.

3. The way he brought up homosexuality and used Leviticus. We don’t follow many of the laws in Leviticus. And Jesus said in John that it’s not our place to judge. Jesus taught love and the old ways were done away with. And we feel that if there were any homosexual people in the church that heard that they would no longer continue coming to church and they wouldn’t want to confide in their elders. …”

You go girls!  (Except for the part about sex that isn’t between a cismale and cisfemale with a legal document being sin.)

 

On Swearing

I didn’t grow up hearing a lot of swear words.
The strongest expletives in our house were bloody, darn, and crap.

These were discouraged and only used in dire circumstances.
The preferred expletives were jeepers creepers, cheez whiz, gosh golly gee, heck, and any vegetable (Brussels sprouts and green beans for example)

I am realizing that my relationship to swear words might be unusual.

Shit. If crap was bad, this was worse. Except that we were in a Mennonite-rich rural area. The ‘clean’ word for poop in low German sounded exactly like shit. When you hear your friends’ devoutly religious grandmothers using this word while talking about the chicken coop, it loses some of its edge.

Oh my god! Obviously we were never never to say this – the 10 Commandments don’t mention child abuse, but they do mention ‘taking the lord’s name in vain’. ‘Oh my gosh’ was pushing it.

Fuck. Didn’t know this was a verb. It was so taboo I actually don’t remember much about it until I read a writer friend’s erotic story where it was used in a very pleasure-positive affirming way.

Cunt. Didn’t hear this one at all. I first came across a book at the University library called “Cunt, A Declaration of Independence” by Inga Muscio. I like the word. It sounds strong, guttural and powerful.

For actual information on the history of swearwords see: http://www.medievalists.net/2013/11/08/by-gods-bones-medieval-swear-words/

Questionable Motives for Virginity

The evangelical literature I read before I married made it very clear that there were dishonorable reasons for virginity.  I was very critical of my motives.  After I deconverted, I was also critical and worried I had unacceptable reasons.

Fear was dishonorable.  God knew it was because you were scared of hell so no bonus points.

Wanting peer acceptance was an inferior reason, and close to sin.

Actually being asexual was perfectly fine if you were a girl because female sexuality is supposed to be less.  Cue the misogyny against asexual boys.

Believing the lies that abstaining from sex was the best way to have a satisfying sex life later was fine, but ultimately selfish.

Love was reason you were supposed to give.  Love for your partner for not ‘degrading’ them with your sexual attraction.  And love for God, which was best exemplified by blind obedience to the rules attributed to him.

Looking back, I was influenced by all of these reasons and have felt bad about it. 
I was mad that I believed the lies, but I know being naive and trusting is not the same as being stupid. Its just a lack of critical thinking skills.

I really did curb my sexual appetites because I loved my fiance.  I thought he would feel truly loved by having his affection rejected, like I was looking out for him.  (ahaha)  We did get over the idea that physical attraction is degrading.  

I’m ok with, although sad about, the fear that kept me back.  STIs exist.  Unplanned pregnancies happen.  It is tricky to navigate consent and coercion.  I didn’t have the proper tools to deal with that which I am sad about.  But, I don’t regret not learning by making mistakes.

The reason I struggled with the most was social acceptance.  I really didn’t understand the value of doing something to be socially accepted.  (I will not wear clothes that aren’t comfortable, trends be damned.)  If anything, I valued doing things to rebel against social pressures.  I don’t know how much of my decisions were based on wanting to be an accepted member of my church, but that was the result, and I felt bad about that.

Looking back, social acceptance is important.  It is a valid reason.  Not everyone has the resources to live without it.  Social acceptance affects health, both physical and mental, and has long-term impacts.  I will always be inspired by the people who can live beyond this pressure to do what seems right, whether it be working against oppressive regimes or loving your imperfect body when society demands you feel shame.  Its ok.

In conclusion, there are many good reasons to not be sexually active. Its easy to say personal desire is the most acceptable reason, but I’m learning that it is ok to do things to fit in. Circumstance, fear, lack of accurate information, personal desire, and social acceptance are all valid.  It is the misinformation and prejudice that deserve scorn, not the people who are victims of it.  

 

And what image better to show acceptance of virginity than an able-bodied white girl in a white dress :)  Yes, I’m making fun of the conflation of ‘pure’ and ‘white’. 

dance

Appropriately, I found this photo on a blog that seems to promote virginity. beyond-rubies.com

How I lost my illiteracy

I lost my illiteracy as a young age.

I cannot remember a single experience. It happened gradually, bit by bit.

I do know my first attempts were awkward. Not painful, but not graceful.

After the initial awkwardness, I progressed rapidly, and soon couldn’t get enough. I read everything! I couldn’t help myself. Everywhere their were letters, my brain interpreted them, almost against my will.

I remember the sad day I realized what I had lost when I picked up a book intending to make up a fantastical tale of derringdo and found myself reading genealogies in Genesis. No longer could I hold any book with the English alphabet and keep my innocence. The endless possibilities were forever gone for me. Losing my illiteracy had cost me.

Nor did I remain faithful to the first types of books I ever read. In a few years I moved on from grade 1 readers to mystery novels like Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys. My naïve parents kept their antique bookshelf in my room, assuming their cherubic grade 4 child would fail to notice Shakespeare, Roots, and Gone with the Wind. I devoured them at night, making sure no one would know. Once my illiteracy was gone, there was no boundary protecting me from classical literature.

I still consume books in secret. I confess, I am not faithful to any one genre. I do have my preferences and will always have a soft spot for Young Adult novels, but they are not enough to satisfy me. I read about the natural world, about histories lost and deliberately obfuscated, fairy tales, research of neuroscience and psychology, how-to books, graphic novels, political comics, political commentary, politically incorrect sexualities, textbooks and more. I am insatiable.

I can never get my illiteracy back unless I suffer a stroke or move to a place that doesn’t use the English alphabet. Even then, I would still have to live with losing my illiteracy. Lost. Forever.

Reading Outside of School: How Much is Enough?

photo credit: http://www.redapplereading.com/blog/2012/10/reading-outside-of-school-how-much-is-enough/

Slavery

I’ve always found it easy to identify with my Irish roots. That branch of the family values keeping in touch and has the perks of quirky characters and good story-telling.

 That some of my ancestors were Americans and once had connections and land never really interested me. Apart from an NHL player or two, there weren’t many black sheep or other interesting characters spoken about in the family. Hearing about people known for following the rules and not getting into trouble over it is as fascinating as you would expect.

 Which is maybe why I didn’t find out that these same ancestors were slave owners until now.

 I was always perplexed by people on that side of the family who would defend slavery.

 “Slavery wasn’t always so bad” I would hear. “It all depended on who owned them.”

 “If the slave owners were true Christians, they would treat the slaves so well that the slaves would prefer to stay with them than have their freedom.”

 Now I finally understand where this naive slavery apology stems from. It was my ancestors whose slaves, after being freed by law, asked if they could stay and continue working for them.

I hardly think it was the Christian conduct of the slave owners that accounted for this but the systemic racism that limited their opportunities and ballooned into a storm of violence against the recently freed peoples in the broader community. Lynchings after slavery was abolished became endemic and served not only to punish African-Americans for being free, but to keep the entire communities in check lest they demand fair wages or even the assurance they would be paid for their work. The white poor, such as Irish immigrants, had at one time seen themselves as allied with the African-Americans and the Aboriginals. However, they came to identify more and more with the white elite who also mistreated and extorted them but slightly less than their darker-skinned compatriots. The white poor began to see the black people as dangerous (and less human) competition in the game of survival and reacted accordingly.

A decent farm with a safe community would seem appealing in those circumstances.

 

Could the desire to justify one’s ancestors account for the notion that a Christian theocracy could be the best form of government? Or the authoritarian ideal of benevolent dictatorship cause people to justify slavery?

 Can I have compassion or at least understanding towards those who owned or participated willingly in the slave trade without apologizing for such a horrendous disaster?

 I think it is necessary to humanize the oppressors. Not to say that what they did was not so bad, but to remind us that most humans have the capacity to harm. That we can’t take refuge in our ideals or motives. To allow space for condemning an action without alienating the one who has the ability to change their own behaviour.

 

Much easier to continue to identify as Irish Canadian and punch people metaphorically when they justify slavery.

 

 

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers