Yesterday was tough. No one knew it, but I was silently frustrated. I got to missing certainty and the days of having an answer for everything. My youngest daughter, three year old Riot, is just desperate to know where the first mommy and daddy came from, and if this had been five years ago, the answer would’ve been so simple: God. I would’ve immediately said, ”God created them.” And that would’ve been easy and done with.
As I fumbled to put together some semblance of an origins of life spill, based on ancestors and evolution, I couldn’t easily remedy her question. I wasn’t used to that. And she wasn’t grasping it. We sat down and put on a YouTube video about it for kids. Finally, I proclaimed that perhaps she can be a scientist and learn all about this. She quickly quipped, “Yes, and then I will be in the TV and I will teach you!”
I like that idea. But still yet, the mental longing to have certainty gloomed over my day. I went to my own mother and asked if she had ever questioned her beliefs. She happily exclaimed that not once had she questioned any of it and that because she was so busy being a mom and a school teacher, church had never been about beliefs, but about that community, the familial aspect.
I pondered aloud, “So you raised your girls inside a religious tradition that you simply never sought to study?”
“That’s right, I always just loved the socialization.”
“So you’re telling me, you took us three times a week to a church you’d attended from birth, but you personally have NEVER studied through its doctrines?!”
“Huh.” My face contorted a bit and I needed to just sit with that.
Now, don’t get me wrong—My momma is an amazing human, and the favorite teacher of many a hundred students from past to present, she literally studied her entire adult life to be able to teach her subject matter deeply—-she is welcoming, kind, and thoughtful, but WHAAAAAAT? Shits playing with your kid’s mental state over here… Hello!
I’ve spent the better part of seven years purposefully and intentionally studying the who, why, where, and hows of every topic pertaining to my faith. From hermeneutics, and soteriology, to eschatology. Painfully, I did the work so I could be sure I was giving my best understanding to my children. Why? Because I believed with every ounce of my being….
For my daughters, I left no stone unturned. It baffled me that I was so deeply indoctrinated my entire life, built my EVERYDAY upon it, and my very own Momma, had simply been in it for the friendly chatter. Wow.
And, here I stand today……Without answers for my daughters. With nothing concrete to say except an honest, “I do NOT know.” This pains me. I want easy, I want short and sweet, I wanted it to be true SOOOOOOOO bad.
My eyes glance over at my mother-in-law’s urn on the mantle. Cancer, dead at 53, prayed for healing fervently. It would never come.
This is why I cannot do easy, this why I teach my kids the harsh reality that a God who could heal but chooses not to, either isn’t all-powerful or he isn’t all-good.
This is why we will sit with uncertainty. I’d rather rest there, than in a fabrication of reality. Perhaps, my kids, being raised in such a way, will be free to hop right into learning instead of unlearning, like their momma has had to do.
And, even though the day was tough and I missed the ease of quick answers, and I toiled away mentally in the “used to,” a wrong answer is still a wrong answer, and no amount of friendly chatter is worth denying that to me.
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!
This is a big deal. My hubs wanted me to have drinks with him. Being a former fundamentalist Christian, I still carry guilt over any alcohol consumption….and leaving my children for any length of time, but tonight I said, “Yes! Let’s do it!”
So we went to a lil joint that had live music and food and drinks. I had 3 Blue Hawaiians and while I enjoy a Crown and Coke on football night, this was different. I felt dizzy, light-headed even, giggly too. Thought I might just tumble down the stairs til my husband told me there weren’t any stairs, lol. Needless to say, I had him rolling more than once.
Most of all, I take away from the experience, how very excited I am about aging. I’m in my thirties and still not quite brave enough to dance to the live band. But!!!! There was a group of 50-70 year old ladies getting down. They asked me to join and I could not gather the gumption. It was beautiful to see them letting loose and showing us younger folk what a good time really looks like. From Sweet Home Alabama, to Jessie’s Girl, to Billie Jean, they didn’t care—- they let their hair down and their hips sway. I want to be like them someday soon. I really really wanna be like them.
I’m still learning how to let go of the guilt associated with having a good time that Christianity inherently places inside you. I’m still learning that it’s okay to “shake dat ass-“ even at 70, and that actually the best ass shakers were the 70 year olds. And I’m grateful for a husband and a sister who encourage me to live a little…
When the indoctrination came on in the form of a guilt-inducing whisper, I chose to silence it and just enjoy the moment with my husband, the music, and the drink. And that alone is a huge step in my letting go. Once upon a time I would have called that the Holy Spirit and I would’ve judged others who weren’t hearing that same call. Now I know better. Indoctrination is a tricky tricky liar, and I won’t let it fool me any longer.
Do you have any particular moments you recall, when you realized you were letting go of your indoctrinated belief systems? Share away!
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.