My transparency 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼 +When I was a Christian, I looked at others with a sadness. I believed that if they just had the knowledge that *I* had, they’d be okay. +When I was a Christian, I thought of myself as a savior. If they could just hear me, speaking for God, they could have a relationship that changed them. +When I was a Christian, I truly pitied anyone who didn’t think like me. I was in full belief that my ideals (or my tribes’ ideals) were the only righteous ones. +When I was a Christian, I operated from a place of unintentional arrogance. It was normal for me to run into someone and immediately ponder in my mind, “Bless them, they’ve had it rough, is there a sin they are committing, leading them into these troubles?” +When I was a Christian, I met people with a silent judgement, but fake understanding. While I outwardly displayed the fruits of the Spirit, inwardly, I was pridefully attempting to encourage others to be like *me, therefore more like god. +When I was a Christian, I loved making sure others knew where I stood. I approached conversations with locked beliefs, unwilling to meet someone else where they were, but with the full hope of swaying them to agree with *me* +When I was a Christian, all I needed was my echo chamber. So long as I had my believing friends and pulpit pals echoing back to me what I understood about god, then I’d never actually need to hear anyone else out. +When I was a Christian I prided myself in speaking “truth” to everyone, even if I could sense they were uncomfortable. My brain was actually driven by this tension, to hurl my knowledge louder because these were the folks most in need of my knowledge, I could lead to the saving they didn’t know they needed. +When I was a Christian, I made a spectacle out of my childrens’ obedience/disobedience to me and God. I praised their attempts at witnessing EVEN THOUGH I was encouraging their false ego, even though I was inherently teaching an us/them worldview. +When I was a Christian, I doted on my kids as they *led others to Christ, and I began to cultivate in them, the same echo chamber friend system I had partaken in. +When I was a Christian, my goal was that my children would stand apart for the Lord. No, not they they would see the face of God in others, but mainly that they would see God in their own reflection and their peers in Sunday School. +When I was a Christian, I felt an arrogant sorrow for those kids who weren’t in Sunday school, oh how different their futures could be, if they had a mother like me… +When I was a Christian, I could not love people exactly as they were. I always had small internal hopes for the ways *I could rub off on them. +When I was a Christian, I operated with an ego so large, that I mourned the souls of those not like me, therefore not like God. I literally was a Pharisee by default. +When I was a Christian, I got high on church, I got high on Jesus, dopamine levels through the roof with 4 part harmonies or repeated chords.
But now, now that I am not a Christian, I’ve loved from the pits of my own despair. Now that I am not a Christian, I’ve loved with the kind of love that changes ME, literally reshaping my marrow. Now that I am not a Christian, those whom I love might change—— but not because of my swaying, not because of *my example, but because they are safe and FREEEEEEEE to be unconditionally themselves in my presence. Now that I am not a Christian, I look in the eyes of the humans around me and believe in my whole heart that they, *we* are perfectly perfect and not in need of saving, unless it’s the saving that time spent inside the metaphorical grave gives us. Now that I am not a Christian, I understand that there’s a glorious darkness inside that grave. And that this is not something you can prompt, that it’s not something an echo chamber can provide. That it is not something you can indoctrinate into your children. It isn’t in a church and it’s only alluded to through metaphor in scripture. Now that I am not a Christian, I recognize the quiet of the wilderness, the silence of the mountainside, the belly of the whale—— that is where the holy sacred work gets done, not the pulpit. Now that I am not a Christian, I run into hurting people and I sit with them in my own hurt, I am no longer mentally slightly above them. Now that I am not a Christian, I recognize that in order to eliminate our ego, in order to operate in humility, we must let go of everything we were taught and re-learn what and who we actually are. Now that I am not a Christian, people pity *my children, they’ve been proselytized and told that hell awaits them by their churchgoing witnessing peers— They reply, “oh you mean, Gehenna- no way, they turned that into a garden a LOOONG time ago, wanna see pictures, it’s worth a google” and they walk on. Now that I am not a Christian, I find myself explaining to my children in full compassion the way indoctrination works and how their peers are truly fearful for their souls, that it’s not a burn (play on words😜) Now that I am not a Christian, I have daughters who come to me tearfully, longing to be friends with ANYONE without an agenda, anyone who can fully love them as they are, without the line drawn. Now that I am not a Christian, the tables have turned, and I am not in the Cliques, I am not wise-council, I am not even invited to the table without an agenda. I know the hurt of being “just another neighbor, unworthy of hearing.” But now that I am not a Christian, there is no limit to my neighbor. There is no limit to what *I* can learn from those that I once set out to save. Now that I am not a Christian, *they* are saving me. Now that I am not a Christian, I sit on the outside of the gates of those who profess to follow Christ and yet, I am free to love like him more than I ever did———when I was a Christian…
I was placed into your grasp as a little girl. I ate the crumbs from your gnarled and mangled hands. I watched you work the system and create a breed of subservient little female beings. You chewed us up and spit us out and told us our purpose was to simply be present to help You. You needed our fertility, open our legs for your pleasure and your cum. Carry your babies so you don’t fade away into oblivion. We sit here now foaming at the mouth ready to rip your fucking throats out, and you tell us to smile, keep quiet, be a lady. Meanwhile, you’re lusting for the blossoms in the church pew, with your pious and godly wife sitting right there beside you. But she doesn’t know how to be the Slut you need. The Sacred Whore within, she’s never unleashed. You did that to her. You, Patriarchy! You told her to be good, but with everything you are, you like em bad. So so bad. You told us to be honest, but you’ve got your secrets. You snicker, and you smile, and you keep things under the table. Your army, your squad, your “good ol boys”—- they uphold you as the Man among men, and while your wife may be fooled cause she’s a product of her raising, just know-your daughter won’t bow down to ANY SYSTEM that’s degrading, she’s not just the winds of change-she’s a fucking tornado. She is tearing this shit down and you don’t know what to do. You hang on to your faith cause it ALWAYS WORKS FOR YOU. Cling to your traditions, the empire built by men for men, but your daughter yells, “No!” She’s watched and she’s listened to every command made on her mother and her sisters, she’s thirsty for the blood of every person whose ever said, “A woman’s place is in the kitchen.” She is harsh and bold and she is ready to hurt your feelings. She yells, “Fuck you and fuck your religion! You pieces of shit-stealing the minds of the innocent, and they can’t even think critically enough to harbor resentment.” Your daughters are coming for you, Patriarchy, are you shaking in your work boots? We are coming for you, right after we untie your shoes.
I cut my beautiful hair, I traded in lion king panties for lacy underwear
I went from having never been kissed to loving someone deeply, and being completely dismissed
At 14, my first heartbreak left me different but not totally broken
with threads of insecurity, my heart was stitched up but gaps were still open
At 14, I watched on confused as the light of innocence left me
Hell was coming, no matter how hard I prayed, no matter how much they preached grace, I still knew my place
After every sin, I knew I’d need to repent again,
and so this game of guilt and shame was one I could not win
At 14, I understood fear to be the driving force, behind every single of one my life’s choices
It wasn’t about following my heart, it wasn’t about using my smarts, I’d only be okay if I learned early to play it safe, stay inside the boundaries so I’d be covered by grace
At 14, deep longings for more, resounded in my spirit, but because of indoctrination the flow of life couldn’t heal it. My divinity whispered for me to draw near, but I simply could not hear it.
See, I didn’t know I was still perfectly precious, I didn’t know I was still totally infectious, Being a sinner is what I let define me, not the amazing woman who was hiding inside me
So, Baby girl I just have to share, you carry a warrior’s glare and you have a mighty stare,
Your wear your armor daily with your strands of gold and copper hair
YOU know your truth and with YOUR hands you build your empire, and don’t forget like a dragoness, my girl you can breathe fire,
Your veins hold the pulsing of women
who fought so hard to be here, hold up your hands and cup their courage should you ever find yourself in need, dear
You have fierce wisdom of Athena
And great beauty of Aphrodite
Put them together and channel that strength, it’s beyond almighty
In your mind you carry the intuition of Dione and you hold wilderness of Artemis, listen to the call from within, she won’t leave you mistaken
Baby girl, at 14, you can begin to manifest your dreams, you can leave people behind if they don’t align, don’t feel guilty and deep down just know, that’s how you grow
And don’t you for one second think a mess-up is reflective of who you are, when wounded be proud of your scars, and deep down in the marrow of your bones, know your beauty, your truth, and your worth.
And baby girl at 14, when insecurity creeps in, acknowledge her presence but don’t let her win, make her an acquaintance but not a close friend,
Remember you earned your place on this earth, you get to be here for this moment in time, and though you’re only 14, you’re able to see, that this in itself is truly divine
When mommy set out to write this for you, I let my mind go back in time, I don’t know why but I started to cry and so I stayed there for awhile.
That girl was beautiful with a heart of gold and smile she could not hide, but oh the sadness, such sadness were hiding in those green eyes.
I saw the Universe in those eyes, and I heard a whisper in the wind, you, JUST you, you are enough, so I let that voice rage from within,
I placed my arm around that girl sitting to my side, I said- chin up sister, it’s a matter of time, you’re gonna be just fine,
I gave her a hug and left her there
because 14 year old me, could not see it, much less try to live out and be it…
My baby girl now, I’m calling you out, I see your glory, your beauty, your grandeur….and at 14, if there’s only one thing you let engulf you and fill you up, please let it be that warrior raging within, “I KNOW I AM more than enough.”
Written by-Stacy Johnson, April 13, 2018
I wrote this last year on the eve of my daughter’s 14th birthday. I needed to channel the energy I was feeling into something positive, as 14 was a tricky year for me…
MY GLORIOUS GIRL:
******Today, I watched that 14 year old, stand before 150 high school band students and play a solo. A 3 minute piece that captured the magical essence that is my daughter. You see, my girl had only picked up a saxophone 9 months ago. Her teacher didn’t believe her when she told him she’d be first chair by Christmas, but SHE believed in herself, and that’s all she’ll ever need. She is not only first chair, but was was chosen to do that solo, I couldn’t have been prouder to watch her play up there. I witnessed the anxiety ridden tears throughout the week, but SHE GOT UP THERE AND NAILED IT. She cupped that courage and it paid off. I cried. And I’m giddy. She’s brave.
Thank you to:
My sister over at The Irresponsible Blogger, she reminded me that today was International Women’s Day and this poem goes right along with celebrating women, healing women, and empowerment of women. Thank you for reading, Friends!
Scurrying into the always familiar home of Mamaw and Papaw, I am met with the same pale yellows and olive greens hip from the 60s. My Papaw rests in his recliner, Mitzy, his ever faithful pup companion perches at his side, knowing she is his equal.
As my grandparents age, I realize, “How’s it going?” is a loaded question. One I better be ready to settle in for- for the long-haul, I welcome it.
He begins unveiling the list of ailments appropriate for that of a 78 year old. I pay attention. I encourage him, letting him know I’m sympathetic to his pains and fears about his pains. Today, he lifts up his shirt for me to examine his back.
“Do ya see anything back there, Stac?”
“Well, Papaw, I’m not sure what I’m looking for? I see a couple bumps.”
Papaw’s eyes grow large with concern, “Is there anything else around the bumps, Stac?”
“Um, I believe there’s a sunspot right between the bumps, Papaw.”
“I’ll tell ya what, they itch, they really itch—-you sure those ain’t moles?”
I pull his shirt down and give his back a firm scratch, “Honestly, Papaw, they just look like a couple small pimples.”
He carries on sharing that he hopes it isn’t shingles or melanoma. Smiling at him, I express that if he feels the least bit worried, he may want a doctor to have a quick browse. He changes the topic to his gall bladder and I listen intently.
My Papaw is a constant source of comfort to me and he always has been. The man is an amazing carpenter who worked and still works very hard. He told me once, that if he ever sits down long enough to get real still, he’d die, so his work must continue. I believe that if he needs to unveil his trials, I am fortunate to be the chosen listener.
Mamaw walks in nonchalantly, “Did you know it’s been ten years since my last colonoscopy?”
I act as if this is common knowledge and she fills us in on her trip to the doctor this afternoon. Mamaw is 76 today. I gift her our shared favorite candle, “Berrylicious,” and she literally jumps in giddiness!
“Oh, I just LOVE this scent, it is my absolute favorite.”
“Me tooooo, it’s THE BEST!” We hug and giggle- this particular scent, we thought had been discontinued. To our delight, they brought it back for a season!
Birthdays are special in our family and I can’t explain how grateful I am to hug her neck here in her home.
She pulls out a photo album faded by time, worn from eager hands anxious to be taken back. We scan each of the pages together. She’s proud. I take in the humanity of my grandmother. I watch with each passing page, how her glorious green eyes remain the same. As we progress, the eyes looking at me in person are the same as the girl, the young woman, the young wife, the sister, and mother. The sparkle is still there, the vibrancy still there. All that’s changed is the home around them.
As Mamaw recalls each photo’s happenings, I as usual, am tangled in a mess of nostalgia. Her clothes, her hair, her red-lips, their cars. A part of me longs to be in the picture, seeing it as it was in the moment. Feeling the time, the culture.
Although I know the story, I ask again, “So, how’d you guys meet?”
They each take turns reminiscing on the mutual friend’s party where their paths first crossed. They went for a walk and Mamaw was not intrigued. A year later, another party, another walk around the block, and this time-it was love. I teased Mamaw that she must’ve been dreaming of Papaw’s handsome self that whole year! And boy, he loved that!
They’ve lived in this home nearly fifty nine years, built it together the year they were married. This is a sacred space, and I feel praise arise in me, not to a higher power, but to the Story that lives in these walls.
I hug them tight as I leave, I take in the faces of my lineage. I think about the joy Mamaw spoke with as she said the names of her people, her people that she longs for. I wince at the reality that one day, they’ll be my people, they’ll be the ones I’ll speak of longingly. The time to cherish is now, not in retrospect…
I walk out the door, Papaw mutters one final comment about his sunspot and I remind him he’s gonna live to be 100. We laugh, but we both believe it…
“Girllllllls!! Wake-up, Mom’s water broke, we’ve got to get to the hospital,” dad’s voice echoed into our room. My eyes opened, I looked at the clock: 12:26 am!
“Oh my Gosh, how cool is this, I’ve always wondered when it was going to happen!! This is it! It’s go-time!! Yesssss, no school for us tomorrow, yahooooo! Thank you, unborn Sister-making life better and you aren’t even here yet!” My skin was tense and chilled with goosebumps, not only from the cool night, but from the unknown entangled with an excitement only an eleven year old big sister can fathom.
My younger sister, Steph, and I had never moved so quickly. We were in the van before Mom could even waddle her dripping legs down the hall. It was a stormy April night, 1996. I can recall the details in color.
Thunder boomed and neon yellow lightening dashed about the eerie Arkansas night sky, a foretelling of how the night would unfold.
The van ride was filled with so many thoughts, “I hope Mom is safe, I hope there isn’t a tornado, if there is a tornado where will Steph and I go since we aren’t allowed in the delivery room, I cannot wait to meet the baby I’ve waited my whole life for, I can’t wait to watch her grow up, I can’t wait to hold her and play with her, it’s going to be so neat to see my parents with a baby, those clouds look pretty scary, Steph—- are you ready to be a big sister?” EEEEEEEEeeekkk, the suspense was growing with every mile behind us.
Once we arrived at the hospital the brightness of the fluorescent lighting and the stark white halls felt blinding, Mom and Dad said their, “See ya soons,” and were ushered to the delivery room with great joy.
They’d always teetered on the brink of “Yes, let’s have another, and No, our girls are too big- it’d be starting over.” But on this night, they were like two giddy first-time parents about to meet their Love in the form of baby, all over again. It had been eight years since there’d been a baby in the home. And, even as a child, I was keen on their love for each other and this new life they’d created together.
Mamaw and Papaw showed up within the hour. Thank Goodness. The nurses were kind and had turned on some Disney movies, brought us Shasta Cola in cute teeny cans, and Mamaw brought crayons and coloring books. You can always count on Mamaw to have some form of entertainment in tow.
Labor and delivery was a “quick and “easy” 3 and a half hours,” I’ve heard Mom recall. But for the sisters who had begged for this baby for YEARS, it felt like a small eternity. Before we knew it, Dad was hustling out to greet us with that proud new-dad smile, “She’s here! It’ll be a few moments before you can come in, but Mom’s doing great!”
Time. Passed. Slowly.
When Steph and I were able to go back, the emotions were intense, such a big love already manifested in us… I easily recall being mesmerized by her tiny perfectly manicured hands and nails. She was swaddled in the cutest baby burrito fold, but her hands had broken free, and although they were pale and cool, those tiny little hands were just like mine. I’d always been told I had beautiful hands and nails, and here I was, standing in awe of this miniature human, who had MY hands. My hands. It was Love right there in front of me, in the purest form.
Those moments of light and airy exhilaration were precious, but short lived. Within the hour, our Sydney was being ushered to the nursery with a team of folks surrounding her. “What was happening, what are they not telling us?” Dad, Steph, and I stood in the nursery window as unsettled onlookers. We could see Sydney wiggle uncomfortably with each poke and prod.
Going back to Momma’s room, we were met by a freshly wounded woman, not only bodily wounds, but a soul that was desperate for answers. Steph and I decided to spend some time resting on the extra bed as Mom, Dad, and the doctors conversed.
Later we would learn that Syd’s pale white hands I had so admired, partnered with her score on the Apgar scale, and her shallow breathing were all tell-tale signs that our precious baby had Down Syndrome. But, because nothing had shown on any ultra-sound the entire pregnancy, the medical team explained Sydney would need further testing. They decided she would be better served at the neonatal unit at Children’s Hospital.
I watched as the Doctor pleaded with my mom to rest, she’d literally JUST given birth. But-she wasn’t having it. She got up, packed her bags right back up, and paced the floors, aching for nothing more than to be wrapping that new baby in her arms, she was so excited to nurse a baby again. But instead, she looked on at the baby in the incubator and waited anxiously for the Angel Flight helicopter to arrive.
I’ll never forget our nurse named, Hope, coming in to chat with Steph and me. She saw how fearful we were, and tried to ease our minds with talk of how amazing Children’s was, but when I blatantly asked if Syd was going to die, she didn’t say no.
I stood by Dad in the second story window. We stared ahead, dazed. The soft tiny little baby girl of my dreams nestled in the hard plastic incubator alone, being rolled out to the giant helicopter. “Would this be the last time we saw her alive?” I looked up at Dad for some sort of reassurance, but instead I saw silent tears dripping from his face. He was afraid. I’ll never forget that moment, he was feeling all the fears I was feeling but at a greater magnitude. I turned my head away from him, to give his heart the privacy it deserved.
And then I watched as that long-prayed for Sister of mine, took flight.
I can’t tell you what the build-up of excitement for nine-long awaited months, culminating with uncertainty, and ending with outright despair and fear does to an eleven year old’s mind and heart, but I can tell you, it isn’t a lesser than experience than that of an adult. It’s obviously different from a parent, but it is not less than…
My Mother, my Queen.
As the helicopter holding our angel-baby disappeared out of sight, momma got up, left the hospital without the doctor’s approval, and made it to Little Rock by the time our Sydney arrived. Momma would be in the know every step of the way concerning her baby.
Steph and I however, left the hospital that day, not only without our baby, but without our parents.
And we didn’t know that just those few short hours earlier, on that stormy ride to the hospital, that those words, that that conversation, would be the last we’d ever experience with this version of our parents. The only version we’d ever known, fading into the distance of our memories, like the storm fading into the distance of night….
Our parents would never be the same….
Our lives would never be the same, either…
It is said that people have these moments in their lives, really really big moments. Moments that break all typical neurological pathways and forever change the make-up of who we are.
Syd is one of my defining moments.
With Sydney, I learned nothing is as it seems. You can do all the right things and still end up in a place you didn’t plan for. And, it doesn’t mean the place is bad, it is simply different.
Sydney showed me that genetically typical doesn’t mean better.
I got to witness in Sydney, the fiery spirit within those precious humans that have Downs. She fought hard to be able to do things other babies and children did naturally, even when it hurt, and there were tears, our long awaited for baby pushed through.
I will say, that same fiery spirit mentioned above has humbled us all. As a child, my mom had to rescue Syd from softball fields, from entering into the middle of volley ball games, and even off the basketball court. Honestly, I didn’t know mom could slide across the court so effortlessly in one solid swoop to collect said child. And, Syd, man—- she will not give up easily. If you think you can win a battle with her-just try to give her one piece of cake and see what happens…
And my parents. Oh, my precious precious parents. Love Unconditional, Selfless beyond recognition at times. If you EVER EVER desire to bless WORTHY humans, I urge you to run in the direction of parents who are raising children with special needs. If you have not lived it, than you just don’t know. Drop them a gift card for dinner and a movie, drop them a bottle of wine—-ehh, make it hard liquor, drop them treats of ANY KIND. What they don’t need is the silly accolades or sayings like, “I can’t think of a better person to raise a special needs child.” Um no, just don’t. All I’m saying is, if you can-bless these people in real time, they wear their hurt so well…And, just because a special needs child has an adult body, please understand for many, it is still a full time care-giving job required of these parents. It can easily go unnoticed, PLEASE TAKE NOTICE.
The day after Sydney was born, I drew a picture of our home with an angel standing over it, wings and arms stretched wide, halo glowing all around. Mom and dad were holding hands, Syd was bundled in Mom’s arms, and Steph and I were holding hands beside them. I titled it, “Angel in Disguise.”
Now, if I could re-do the picture, I’d remove the figure above and place the halo over Sydney. She has been the angel all along. Teaching us new ways of being and forever forcing us into merciful compassion for others.
I recall it like it was yesterday… not six years ago. It was a beautiful time. I was a bible believing, god seeking, holy-spirit led, Child of God. I had quit my job as a public school teacher so I could pursue a career as a full time homeschool momma. My faith was the driving force in EVERYTHING I SET MY HANDS TO. Making breakfast-sing some praise, folding laundry- gratitude prayer, exercise- self-sacrifice is honorable, someone is sick- the devil is attacking, teaching my daughters- God is SO Good. Every situation had a scripture to call on and I did!
The Bible was the LITERAL Word of God, every word written was inspired by God…
I’d been raised Church of Christ, the fundamentalist Bible Belt version, not the progressive version. I was a literalist, inerrantist, the “Bible says it so I believe it” kind of girl.
The C of C believed that the gifts of the spirit had ceased, that women should never teach men, that one must be baptized by submission into water, that the Lord’s Supper was a weekly part of service, absolutely NO instruments, salvation can be lost with any sin not repented from, and that everyone who was not a part of their belief system was headed for hell. Talk about a scary childhood….I might go to hell for a sin I hadn’t been forgiven of, all of my peers who attended other churches were going to Hell…. even my grandparents. And what about all of humanity before the C of C was started? I mean, the “denomination” was only a couple hundred years old???
For a long time, I wrestled with C of C beliefs and could not reconcile many of them with Scripture. If other believers were receiving healing by the laying on of hands—- why not me? If others could speak in a tongue between them and God, why not me? If others’ children only needed to confess that Jesus is Lord and would then be forever saved, why not mine?
In my adulthood, I became a Christian Church Gypsy. I needed all the experiences that came with the varieties of denominations, so I set out. Over the course of 10 years, I met with the Methodists, I praised with the Pentecostals, I danced with the non-denominationals, I sat in the Silence with the Quakers, I tithed with the Word of Faithers, I observed the Eucharist with the Catholics, I visited vespers with the Eastern Orthodox, I blessed my pew neighbor with the Christian Alliance, I mingled with the Mormons, I broke bread with the Baptists…. you catch my drift.
I made SO MANY friends.
Meanwhile at home, I was carrying on in my God ordained calling as a homeschool momma and we were reaching the point in our studies where my girls were moving from bible stories, to the history of the Church, including its councils, how the Bible came to be, and Jewish history.
My precious little girls were resting in a peaceful life, I was rising with the sun, Bible in one hand, filled coffee cup in the other, and a front porch rocker overlooking a Pennsylvania country-side. I recall praying daily for God to bless our studies and tear down the walls of indoctrination I’d received in my upbringing. I wanted nothing more than to serve God with my life.
God. Making mercies new every morning…
God. Granting me sweet sleep every night….
They say, “the road to atheism is littered with Bibles that’ve been read cover-to-cover.”
I am a testament to that. For me, it was my INTENSE pursuit and study into Biblical origins and the Christian Church that forced me to HAVE TO LEAVE that faith.
One of my friends tried to banter me back to belief by stating that all deconstruction journeys start with doubt. Effff that noise! I’m calling bullshit.
I’d never been at a more faithful place in my walk with Christ when, “the walls came tumbling down.”
For me, it was sincere curiosity for understanding how modern Christianity relates to Jesus and his roots and praying it through.
It was me trying to understand the parables from the perspective of a Jewish believer and praying it through.
It was me, digging deep into how those ancient beings would’ve interpreted the Torah, then the epistles and gospels and prophets and praying it through.
It was me reading the Church Councils and their decisions and praying them through.
It was me realizing the very questions I’d been told not to ask, had entire councils dedicated to trying to solve them and that sometimes, they didn’t have answers, but politics would win—-even back then. And praying that through.
It was me, coming to grasp the magnitude of the Protestant Reformation and praying it through.
It was the harsh reality that the Church Fathers and earliest believers were pacifists—-even when they were in the military…. and allowing myself to sit with that in the midst of the American Military War Machine era, headed by none other than modern day Bible-Believing Christians…and praying that through.
It was me, pursuing the roots of our modern ideas of Hell versus that of believers long before us and praying it through.
It was realizing that Jesus never believed he was dying for the sins of others and that his goal wasn’t to get others to heaven, but to bring heaven to earth and praying that through.
It was taking scripture and putting it back in the context of the people who wrote it and praying that through.
It was me realizing the ways the church has made room for change- from slavery, to integrating, to interracial relationships, to women leaders, to birth control, to music in worship, to partaking in the Lord’s Supper occasionally—-but its refusal to lean towards change for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and praying that through.
It was me being made fully aware that the Bible was written by men- with a patriarchal lens, and that every story has that spin, even though it was done inherently, from women needing to be virgins-to victims of rape needing to marry their rapists so they could be honorable, to concubines, to Abraham being a complete ass to Hagar and his child-almost killing his kid, deciding that cutting tips of penises off was a good thing, and then being the “father” of this religion I’ve believed in wholeheartedly for my entire existence and praying it through.
It was learning that Jewish rabbis today believe much of Scripture to be metaphorical and not the end all, but instead the starting point for discussion and praying that through.
It was the deep study of which verses were added later and that Mark was the first gospel and the others are based on it. AND, that the resurrection and virgin birth stories were not originally in Mark. That’s kinda a big deal.
All of these studies, flowing forth from the beginning, out of a sincere desire to best know my Savior.
And eventually crying and peeking over my shoulder as I googled, “Today, I lost my faith.” Because I had deconstructed my whole belief system in quiet so as to not lose my community.
I started researching what religion does to a brain, and how humans are conditioned to expect rewards.
I then began to allow my eyes to see the similarities between Christianity and older religions, particularly Zoastrianism.
I was waking up to the fact that people I’d trusted to teach Truth, had only ever studied Christian apologists, and called that a well-rounded education.
And what happened when I began to share what I’d discovered? The same ol fear campaign. The same ol doubt story-where are these questions coming from spill. The same ol, “just gotta have faith.”
And then, when I spoke—“NOOOOO! I will not pretend to believe this ANY LONGER, friends, it does not hold up under the light of sincere open-heart studying. This is not something I wanted-this is not what I set out to discover. This was not a choice, it was simply the facts. The Facts. I’d spent 6 quiet years reading and reading and researching and listening to, and praying over. It wasn’t an overnight choice taken lightly. It was years in the Dark Night of the Soul, with painful discoveries and literal life-altering outcomes.” I begged them to please understand. I guess they could not. It’s scary, I know. Trust me. I know.
It all became so obvious. I let myself recall the fear tactics used by the Church, not only throughout history, but right there in my own history. How can a child ever use logic or think critically when they are told their questions are doubt and doubt isn’t from God. And what about the manipulation of emotions by guilt/shame, and the repeated three chords on the keyboard, causing our brains to rapid fire release dopamine, then calling that a God experience.
From the beginning of its time, this story I built my life upon had been some human somewhere’s best attempt at persuading others to go along with them and calling it God. The same way we do today. This wasn’t the story of God using humans but very much the opposite. Humans using God.
So….. where do I go from here…. how and what do I instill in my children?
Below, my manifesto:
In our home we believe:
*it is OKAY to say, “If God is real________, “ or, “If there is a God, ___________.”
*we do NOT know for sure that there is an after-life, no one on Earth knows for sure.
*it is OKAY, perhaps even WONDERFUL to say, “I don’t know.”
*If God is real, and he/she/it created us, then God is like the ultimate parent—- there is nothing we can do to ever stop It from loving us. The Love is Unconditional and just like a good parent does, that love will never cease— we did not ask to be here.
*the Bible was written by humans to humans of a SPECIFIC TIME. To not use the context of the culture it was written is a blatant misrepresentation of the text. This takes lotsa planning to implement a single Bible-lesson, but better than a skewed surface reading.
*Humans HAVE ALWAYS used their version of God to justify going after what they wanted by saying in no uncertain terms, “We are God’s chosen and he told us to do this.” That doesn’t mean the humans are/were right.
*our descriptions are only as good as our vocabulary, therefore EDUCATION MATTERS. The Bible CANNOT teach on topics the people who wrote it were unfamiliar with.
*people are people, not sinners. There is nothing to save them from. If there is a heaven, it is universal. This includes the LGBTQ Community, heaven is for EVERYONE
*Hell, as most view it today, does not exist. Jews of ancient days weren’t of the belief and Jesus teaches about a literal place called Gehenna, not an eternal torment. The OT doesn’t even mention it.
*Jesus did NOT KNOW he was dying for others’ sins. Once you look at the original language used and cultural implications, there is no proof that Jesus believed he was sacrificing himself for others. Ultimately, penal substitutionary atonement is unnecessary. No One comes to the Father except through me, does not mean what modern ppl think it means.
*Paul’s teachings are not authoritative automatically. Paul was a Pharisee coming out of a fundamentalist approach to Judaism, he teaches from that lens therefore the language and admonitions from his letters must only be used in context of his culture.
*scholars agree Mark is the original gospel and that Matthew and John were copies that had been embellished. There is no virgin birth or resurrection story in the earlier copies of Mark.
*humans chose which books of the Bible should be in the Canon, verses were added at way later dates to the Bible, to this day Catholic and Orthodox churches include far more books than those of Protestant traditions
*all scripture is God-breathed…… the word is actually a Latin-derivative meaning inspired—- just because something is inspired doesn’t mean it’s the only tool by which we can navigate life.
*There are believers who’ve allowed the Bible to become an idol and this can hinder any actual leadings from God to undo indoctrination.
*to create a situation where you play on the emotions of youth and adults alike, is to “fake” a saving experience and is a manipulation of their reality.
*it is emotionally abusive and manipulative to raise children with a constant fear that hell awaits them, should they turn out to be anything but what you deem acceptable.
*indoctrinating children from birth to believe that Your ideas about God are *the only correct ideas is not only arrogant, but also irresponsible. This gives kids a false superiority complex. Ultimately you’re teaching your kids to give ultimatums— befriend and conform -succumb to our attempt to save, or disassociate and be shunned.
*teaching children to “save” other children is a blatant misrepresentation of Christianity. “They will know you are Christian by your LOVE.”
*Believers ultimately see what they want to see. All questions are very googleable, to continue to teach ideas that were passed to you via someone else’s indoctrination is a shame. It is scary to do this work, but important.
*to say, “I love you,” means you fully accept and affirm that person. You cannot love someone but not “accept” their “way of life.” That is conditional and we don’t do that here.
*when kids at school call themselves Christians, but they are exclusive instead of inclusive, when they are homophobic- or racist-or misogynistic: call that chit out!
*making a hateful statement or judgmental statement that assumes everyone has the same indoctrination you do-or should adhere to the same view as you is still HATE speech. Wrapping it in “Christian Love” is condescending and simply a justification of that hate-speech. Call it out.
*the Bible is not a weapon. Battling someone with quotes of Scripture is demeaning- they’ve read it before and don’t need it thrown in their face, nor was it intended to be used in such a way.
*Christianity is appealing to many men because it has mistakenly placed them in authority throughout time, Jesus does not model this and is completely egalitarian.
*Research shows meditation and practicing concentrated gratitude is equally as good for you as time spent praying. Studies show we use the same parts of the brain during these things and that prayer actually helps the person praying more than those whom they are praying for.
*cool fact: Research reveals speaking in tongues and mediums channeling the dead-use the same parts of the brain to do those things. Cool. Cool.
*cognitive dissonance is real, it is the first line of defense any person hoping to stay in the comfort of their social constructs uses.
*you are free to pursue ANY belief system you so desire, so long as it is not a cult
*you are free to NOT practice ANY form of religion
*you are free to disagree with me
*ask questions, forsaking NONE, silencing NONE
*continue studying logic, arguments, philosophy, and anthropology
But anyhow, to sum it all up—————
Ultimately, in our home we believe:
*if there is a God, it/He/She/Source is LOVE. It starts with Love, it ends with Love, and to add ANYTHING at all as a stipulation of receiving that Love would make it conditional and that is not Love.
*in the end NO OTHER DOCTRINE matters, but to LOVE LOVE LOVE UNTIL you are dead and literally cannot LOVE anymore.
*its okay to say, we hope there is an afterlife, but we do not know for sure, so we will not pretend we do.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I had a super proud secular homeschool mom moment—— far far removed from the mom who once touted how many scripture her children had memorized… I was studying different BAD arguments with my 11 year old. We moved to “argument based on irrelevant authority” and I had her create her own image to help her remember what this means. When I browsed her page my heart skipped a beat—- it’s that easy to help your child become a critical thinker!
It’s been 20 years to the day, since my first encounter with sex. And first of all, let’s get this out there—-
Virginity is not a real thing——— The most accurate words I’ve heard expressed about it (though I can’t recall who to credit?) is, “Virginity is a social construct created by arrogant men who thought their penises were SO powerful that they could actually change a woman.”
Bitch, please! My bicycle seat did more damage to my hymen then sex ever did.
Did I walk a little broader for a couple hours afterwards, maybe? Was there an ever so slight red splotch in my panties that evening? Sure… but I’m not certain it had anything to do with virginity? It may have simply been that I was an unprepared and completely inexperienced fourteen year old, dry as a bone, with an inexperienced, gentle yet ambitious 14 year old partner, wearing a rubber who was simply ready to do the damn thing. I can’t say the experience was good or bad. No absolutes. It is what it is. Two horny teenagers who’d been fooling around for a good 6 months prior. It was simply the next step in our “relationship.”
I giggle as I type the word “relationship.” Ain’t no relationship happening, we were two kids, who’d always hung out with the older crowd, so naturally we chose one another for things like such: make-out sessions, escorting one another to class, I sat in the stands as the little blonde cheering him on, we dropped each other letters through the day that had zero substance. This guy had always found me attractive and I appreciated that to a fault. I’d known him forever, and had known forever that one day, he’d get me in trouble.
I recall sitting proper as a 5 year old little lady in the church pew. He was, a few people down, on the floor playing with small cars. I’d lean forward and peek down the aisle, his excited little eyes would brighten and smile back, happy I had noticed him, this tiny tot flirting would continue, and even at 5, I knew I’m in trouble with this one.
Fast forward 9 short years, with countless welcomed smooch-fests and fondlings, and there we were, me flat on my back in his bed, panties down, legs tense-so tense, him putting on the rubber and us, trying to figure the shit out. There was the putting it in, is this going to fit? There was the trying to maintain a rhythm, while hoping to be romantic with continued kissing…..We tried, God knows, we tried! We tried to get all the parts running together.
>>>>All of these things, we’d later laugh about in our adulthood when he chose to give a quick apology for having literally destroyed my soul after breaking up with me like less than a month after this first sexual encounter.
Yes, bull shit- I know. But he was “just a boy”—and deep down I knew this was simply about getting the deed done. It was kinda like, “Sweet, high five, buddy, we did it, team work.” I was glad to no longer be carrying that neon light “V-Card,” and rising from his bed there wasn’t an immediate guilt or shame, but the reality that I was expected to feel guilt and shame, and he wasn’t. This realization caused heart-ache to come on strong….For him, it was hell yeah——Nods of approval from bro to bro down the hall, and then emotional unattachment. But for me, it was a different story….
Unfortunately for romanticized me, he strung me along for a couple weeks afterward and blew me off. How could this be? I’d allowed myself to love fully. Was I not good enough?
……Not good enough… I still battle that thought today…..
I can say this boy did me one favor. I asked one morning after our sexual experience and multiple realizations waving over me, “Hey. When is the first time you think about me during the day?” He was honest and replied, “Right now, when I see you in this hallway at school.”
His honesty cut deep, “I should’ve asked that question before I laid in that bed,” my intuition whispered. In an instant, I knew I’d given a part of me away that was unhealable. I moseyed down the hall holding back tears. He had been my waking thought for nearly a year…
So how did all this come to be my fate on that Super Bowl Sunday, 1999? Let me set this up for you:
My parents were the cutest and *still are lovey dovey high school sweethearts that set the bar. My sister and I both, were led to believe by our own inexperience with other places and stories, that our future husbands were right there walking the halls of our very high school. In our minds it would be a tragedy to not have the love story our parents had.
Partner this fantastical view of high school love with a deeply indoctrinated belief that women should please their men, be submissive, and have a man lead them…..
Then sprinkle that misinformed point of view with a little, “Don’t do it”
“SEX IS BAD—- DIRTY EVEN! But it can be so good with the right person….”
>>>>Every High School Girl believes her current boyfriend IS THE RIGHT PERSON.
Mix this all up with parents who trusted me and a dousing of teenage hormones and you’ve got a recipe for a good old-fashioned sexcapade.
Hear me: REPRESSION LEADS TO OBSESSION
Need it again: REPRESSION LEADS TO OBSESSION
Purity Culture is TOXIC right along with fundamentalist Christianity. Telling a teenager not to explore, not to touch themselves, and to abstain AT ALL COSTS is like writing an omen over your child that they WILL partake in teen sex on the regular. And probably not under the best circumstances. This is just the simple truth. It is what it is. Sexuality is as much a part of adolescence as the use of our arms or legs, denying that is detrimental.
If I could go back and summon the Divine Feminine to speak over that 14 year old baby with big green eyes, I’d hope she’d have shown up in the form of a Sister rather than a Mother. In this instance of hormonal neediness, a mother figure would want to protect as she knows the outcome, but my mind was made up, I was going to have sex….An older sister however, would speak sassy truth and that’s the voice I needed.
I can hear this Divine Sister now, “Listen, this won’t be like you’ve seen in the movies, this will not be some spiritual practice in emotional soul bonding. If you want to do this, do it, but know, this is going to be purely physical. This won’t make you closer to your partner. It’s kinda like your first time with anything, this is merely trial and error, practice… You’re going walk outta that room as the same girl you were before. Nothing has changed. You’ll have simply experienced a rite of passage that nearly all the humans telling you not to do this, did themselves. Everything good and beautiful and holy will still reside within you. Do it, then let it go, don’t attach yourself to the idea of having lost something or attach yourself to this boy, you’ll have lost nothing but a label. Do not trade the label “virgin” for the label “guilt” or the label “shame.” You are you— you are you—-you are YOURS. This is your label to give away if you really want to, do this if you must, but walk out of that room-pop your collar, blow on some imaginary dice. Confidence, baby girl—Stand tall, this is like any other first, excitement/ no regrets. Be certain.”
My Divine Feminine voice is always saucy!
…………………………….If every girl was raised in a sex positive, equal opportunity environment, girls could live empowered rather than defeated. If this had been my inner voice, instead of “you lost something you can’t get back,” I could’ve avoided the depths of heart-ache of not being good enough. We set girls up to fail and to remain in bad situations because they’re so tied to labels.
If we could be honest about the toxicity of religion and purity culture than this double standard about sex could be minimized—— you know what I’m talking about, the dirty looks and awful words used for the girls who have sex, and the hope they’ll feel guilt and shame, versus the pats on the back and locker room praise for the boys.
I find it not coincidental, that two weeks after I began having sex, the only 40 year old virgin woman in our church begins, “righteously” training us to maintain our purity, as our virginity is our gift to our future husbands… Our sexuality was always about the man, the goal was guilting and shaming us into compliance in order to support patriarchal constructs. A woman in touch with herself, is a powerful woman, and that is scary in fundamentalist religion.
If girls knew they could explore themselves and embrace their cycles and urges without the help of a man at all, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to “need” a partner.
I have a 14 year old daughter. She knows my story wholly. She doesn’t want the same experience. Honesty is almost as good a teacher as experience. Tell your kids your stories, the good, the bad, the beauty, and the heartache. We can change the internal voices of our daughters and inherently teach our sons how to be good partners… Join me and let’s change the conversation from maintaining “virginity,” to remaining true to Self and holding ourselves in the love of compassion.
January 31st, 1999, the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl….. and I lost a label…. I lost nothing more than a label.
See her shirt, “aww man, if I could just unzip it, I’d suck on them titties.”
.Suck on them titties.
But I was 11
But confused the most
Close my locker door
Hustle down the hall
Arms crossed over my chest
But there’s nothing to lick
I have buds, not breasts
I know that’s what this stage is called
My momma read a book to me
About what’s happening to my body
Did I just cause someone to lust
All by simply wearing a shirt
Did I sin, did I sin
Still a child
Crack in my soul
Some dark gets in
Never wore my favorite shirt
>>>>>>>>>>written by: Stacy Johnson, January 23rd, 2019, 10:53 am
This is simply a spoken word poem I wrote on my first experience of being sexualized that I can recall. Allowing myself to go back to these places, is a part of me identifying moments that brought shame and guilt that I’ve carried. While not the intention of the religion I was raised in, it was my internalization of it, none-the-less. I am reclaiming the parts of myself that I lost or let go of long ago. And this moment is one in which I’m calling out to my younger self, “This wasn’t your burden to carry baby girl.”
I have an 11 year old daughter, she is wild and strong. She would yell, “Fuck You,” to a boy speaking such over her. And I would applaud her.