A few years ago, when I first moved back to the LA area, I got another job in another office, but this time my boss was Jewish and he was not a big fan of Christians and their “killing a living thing to celebrate the birth of Jesus”, aka Christmas. It was great. I had just started my blog and he loved talking with me about fundamentalists. When I had my first radio interview, he was so accommodating, let me take time off to do the interview and even set me up in an office.
Around that time, I was a new blogger and very similar to a new mother, I wanted to coddle my blog and be with it every minute of the day. I had to feed it daily so it got big and strong and I had to clean out the spam-germs so it stayed disease-free. ha! Sorry, I’m getting a little carried away with my metaphor here. My point is I woke up early to blog nearly every morning and then I blogged daily at lunch. When I wasn’t blogging, I was working on my manuscript, but the blog was a writing exercise for the manuscript so they complimented each other.
I got a little burned out after year one of that schedule and then my second year I decided to slow down, maybe write daily for 3 months and then take a month off and repeat the pattern. I was flexible with myself and forced myself to rest. I also had anxiety so nearly every day I would log on to my email and see a new “You need to get saved” or “Are you saved?” or “I’m praying for you to get saved” email and I’ll be honest–I spent most of that year in tears. Over the course of time, and with the support of a lot of great non-religious friends and some very nice religious family members, I realized that the issue I needed to just brush it off. All of it and all of them. Sometimes that meant losing old friends, like the other day. I won’t go into it too much but someone who used to say she loved me and I was her hero went bat-shit hostile on me the other day. I personally think it was my lack of religion (and lack of respect for pseudo-intellectual fundamentalists) that did her in, but it might have to do with the fact that her dad believes pharma companies planted AIDS in the world and I just think that’s a bit insane.
Even when I act tough or hide it with humor, losing friends hurts. Even when I know they are stupid or weren’t that supportive of me in the first place (or when I know it was bound to happen).
Have you lost friends or family members? How did you cope? Or are you coping now? If you need to talk, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
Should we agree to disagree with those who use the Bible to support bigotry and anti-gay speech?
A Twitter friend wrote a really great post about wanting to stop “agreeing to disagree” with bigoted Christians. Personally, I have rarely “agreed to disagree”, but Crystal writes:
The truth is that I’ve grown very weary of the “agree to disagree” policy that is so often applied to issues surrounding same-sex relationships. The phrase “agree-to-disagree” implies that both positions (for and against) have merit– but in the case of civil rights, I don’t believe that’s possible. I simply do not believe that a person’s right to oppress is as valid as the rights of those experiencing the oppression. And I think we become complicit in oppression when we buy into the myth of the oppressor’s rights.
Christianity is a privileged class in this country, and at many times throughout history (including today) its religious leaders have been guilty of oppressing people whose humanity (as found in their religion or lack thereof, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, etc.) they haven’t understood. This has happened in nearly every generation in which Christianity has existed– and in every case, there has always been some faction of people who said, “Those who wish to use scripture to marginalize others are entitled to their opinion.”
I can’t say that anymore. Even if it’s popular. Even if it’s politically correct. Even if it’s touted as the “peaceful” thing to do.
Those who use scripture to belittle, marginalize or discriminate against other people are NOT entitled to do so. There is no merit in a position that minimizes a person’s worth based on his or her sexual orientation– even if he or she believes God has given him or her the divine right to carry out such discrimination. “Agreeing to disagree” is not the helpful or peaceful thing to do in a situation where oppression is the problem. The helpful and peaceful thing to do is to call oppression what it is: Bigotry. Socially violent. Absolutely and totally wrong.
I rarely comment on blogs (although I’m finding myself enjoying it lately!), but apparently I really liked Crystal’s post because I wrote a novel. Yes, a massive response. Here it is, but for those of you who hate reading novels, here’s the run down–
1. People actually are allowed to use the Bible to endorse bigotry because the Bible encourages bigotry, racism, and violence.
2. I outline what I think is the history of modern fundamentalist Christianity, including the idea that many preachers act more like Puritans than Jesus.
3. I have decided to agree to disagree, actually, and find that being diplomatic suites me just fine, particularly with friends and family who I love and want to remain close to. This comes after being SO outspoken that I have lost many, many friends and some family members to arguments. I’ve decided to learn how to communicate my points more peacefully.
Now for my actual novel:
Really great points you’ve made, Crystal.
These two in particular:
“Those who use scripture to belittle, marginalize or discriminate against other people are NOT entitled to do so.”
“The helpful and peaceful thing to do is to call oppression what it is: Bigotry. Socially violent. Absolutely and totally wrong.”
When you point out to those people that they are bigots, then the tables get turned and they claim they are being oppressed or attacked. Why? Because what they regurgitated from some backwards preacher (not original thought) has just got them handed the bigot card and they know it’s an ugly label and they know they are one for holding those opinions. Yet, it’s popular with the televangelists or the Mark Driscoll’s of the world so it MUST be okay. Everyone’s doing it, right? The irony in their claim that they’re being oppressed is just so funny. The other day someone claimed that I was oppressing them by taking away their FREEDOM to have a different opinion. I said no, “You’re still free to have that opinion, but I’m free to say that opinion is stupid or bigoted.”
The other thing is, “those who use scripture to belittle….are NOT entitled to do so…”. This gets me twisted up some. See, at one point I thought fundamentalists were reading the Bible wrong. That’s why they were so hateful, right? (And by them, I mean formerly me, since I was one.) It starts getting really complicated here. Yes, there are wonderfully progressive Christians and ministers who are intelligent, thoughtful, kind people I respect and love having in my life. It’s interesting though, that they are NOT considered Christians among fundamentalists. Perhaps this is why modern fundamentalists teach their members to “go deeper” and be “pure” and “sacrifice” because they can then claim superiority and isn’t that what we see so much of in modern fundamentalism? Superiority. The “we are elite Christians and no one has us beat on our devotion to God.” I know. I was in an elite training program for young, Christian adults for most of my twenties (as you know). But because of my background as a LITERAL Bible reader, not a progressive one, I have a hard time saying the Bible isn’t oppressive and these people don’t have the right to use scripture to belittle, because if you do read the Bible literally and at face value, you have the right to use scripture to be VIOLENT, insane, murderous even. And that is where things get complicated-because although the Bible is in many ways violent and perhaps one of the more violent texts, people SHOULD know better. They should know right from wrong simply because society (not necessarily religion) has permanently branded that concept in us, but they do what I did–they lay down their right to think for themselves. They ignore their conscious. They begin to accept the ‘group think’ and popular arguments without analyzing them or debating them, and that’s partly because the modern evangelical church is set up to be hierarchical (and you could argue this for every major religion), and even further, we have a deeply rooted authoritarian culture in modern Christianity. God is an angry Father and so is your pastor, type of thing. In my experience, and from observation for the past three years, many of the fundamentalist churches nationwide have more similarity than difference. Their core values are all rooted on similar ideologies that are not necessarily UNIVERSAL to Christianity, but they are common in US evangelical ‘theology’. Terms like shepherding, discipleship, accountability, purity, manliness, gentle spirit, servant, etc. all stem from this ‘theology’ and it all comes from somewhere. Historically speaking, I think it comes from the Puritans but has gone through micro-evolution over the years with prominent Christians like Smith Wigglesworth, Oswald Chambers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pat Robertson, Bill Gothard, the whole TBN crowd, dozens of “prophets”, Billy Graham, David Wilkerson, James Dobson, etc. (obviously, there are plenty of influences in the early 1900′s and even 1800′s that I can’t name off the top of my head at the moment). Evangelical preachers have plagiarized these men’s sermons for decades and decades, sometimes adding to it, other times taking away, but essentially leaving the core values and ideology in tact. It’s no surprise that there’s a lack of diverse thought within US Christian culture (at least the most outspoken culture, ahem, fundamentalist), then. But further to that, there’s a hostility toward original thought and a fear of taking away their faith, because the minute you use logic and reason or call them a bigot, it calls into question their faith and beliefs and makes them question whether their is a God. (got to stop the rant for now…)
On a personal note, I’ve tried to become more diplomatic and less argumentative because I wasn’t getting anywhere with some people. So, I think it’s important to point out that as much as I hate to admit it, you win more bees with honey. (I truly hate to say that, but I’ve learned the hard way.) I also feel like people know who I am and what I believe, and it’s a lot like being a Christian. I wasn’t the type to shove Jesus down someone’s throat, but if they wanted to know, they would ask. I’m still outspoken, but I don’t expect anyone to change. I just want to point out facts.
When it comes to, say, my family, we have to agree to disagree but not because I think their point is valid. It’s because I respect them as my family members and love them. I know that they are smart people and are very informed, though they disagree me on with major social justice issues.
Yesterday, I received an email from a guy who’d been recently following my author Facebook page. I was online so I checked it out. I’ve been receiving quite a few nice emails, thanking me for my blog, so I thought that’s what it would be. After all, I’ve been explicitly clear on here that I don’t want to be witnessed to and even went so far as to say I’d bill people via PayPal if they kept at it (that’s a joke, but I should do it).
Anyway, he starts off nicely saying this:
I stumbled across your site because I was doing some research on MC, not to mention several people had contacted me about their past experiences within this program, that’s when I found you. So I’ve read your bio, the mess you came out of and now I see the end result. Please don’t misunderstand or mistake my contacting you as a gesture to judge you or “pray” for you (which I still will of course), but I just wanted to say that I “get it”. I get the whole anger you’ve got when it comes to religion. I “get it” when it comes to “church hurt” because I’ve been where you were at. I grew up in church, but my hurt led me to Hollywood, Larry Flynt and Rob Zombie and a budding career as an indie filmmaker and a working screen writer.
My point is, I get you. However, let me equally say that I found my way BACK to Christ and the second half has been better than the first. My work now is in China as a preacher and missionary (returning this spring to live IN Chengdu). All I will say is, one day I believe that same path will once again present itself to you and one day I’m hoping that you’ll once again find Christ, and realize that Christ is not what religion presents him to be, but what he really is – reality. (emphasis my own)
What struck me is what strikes me everytime I see these emails (and trust me, I rarely go a week without seeing a more judgmental version of this). The people who send me these emails are so judgemental and they’re so set in their ways–wanting to convince me that I’m wrong or bad because I’m unsaved. They don’t even realize they’re straight out of a Colbert Report skit (which MAKES FUN OF THEM).
Many of you have shared with me over the years that you get these responses, too, only they come from your Christian friends and family after you bring to light abuse or rape or pedophilia that’s going on in a church you attended.
Wait, did I hear you correctly? YOU did the right thing and reported a CRIME (or bad leadership) and THEY judge you/tell you that you’re wrong? Now they won’t be your friend?
Wow, talk about Christlike (insert sarcasm indicator here)!
Basically what you’ve shared with me is that some of the same Christian friends who used to call you family are total pricks. Man, when we start seeing the light, we see it brightly, don’t we?
I had the same experience.
Unfortunately, keeping this blog up means I’m having the same experience day after day. Mostly because these assholes don’t read and can’t follow instructions. I tell them to email hellolisakerr AT gmail DOT com for letters like this and I clearly indicate that my other email address thelisakerr AT gmail DOT com is for professional use only. That’s so I can herd all these emails into one spot and never read them. I hate sorting through these to find legitimate emails from fans or business offers. Reading these emails cause me unnecessary stress and I’m over it; unfortunately, I haven’t found a working solution for keeping these emails at bay while being able to read the good emails. I often ignore all email because I don’t want to stress out over reading someone’s judgement call. It’s sad, but true.
The more I blog, the more people want to challenge my lack of faith. Lately I’ve had a lot of angry men challenge me–some even say they love debating ‘smart atheists.’ As if there are any dumb atheists. Geez!
I kid. But seriously.
The point is, I don’t want to be witnessed to. No one wants to be witnessed to. I’d go so far as to say it’s an invasion of my personal privacy and it feels utterly intrusive. Witnessing should be banished from the church simply because it makes you a shitty, pushy salesman. And no one likes high-pressure sales tactics. Except the salesman.
So, Christopher, if you’re still reading, take a break from preaching to me. In fact, take a break preaching to those in China, too. Let them be. The world will not end if you stop preaching to them. They won’t go to Hell. They might actually live just as happy, and maybe even happier without all that fundamentalist guilt, without it.
To read my responses to Christopher, scroll down.
Your email was almost really nice but you pretty much failed there at the end. Here’s my take away: You want me to get saved and think my life would be better as such. Why do you want to impose your beliefs on me so much? When I was a minister I was never that pushy (well, until I was in MC and we tried saving people as a sport.) A missionary is by definition a pushy son of a bitch, intent on wrecking cultures and community for their own self serving needs; assuming that other cultures are heathen because they don’t believe the same as the missionary.
I imagine you have all Christian friends who don’t need saving so you need to find something to do and someone to save. I’m not it. I don’t even befriend people who approach me in that manner because it shows me they lack a deep understanding of humanity and society. Not to mention a lack of understanding of who I am. Reading a few blog posts about me shows you a side of me–a shade of my anger a few years ago. That’s not me. Fast forward past 2010.
I don’t think you “get me” actually because you think I should be like you and my outcome will be the same as yours. What if it’s not? What if I believe that there’s no possible way there’s a God for the very simple fact that I would never believe in a male God? But it doesn’t really matter what I believe–beliefs are private and you should respect that. Butting into what I believe or don’t believe is insulting on so many levels. It’s literally none of your goddamn business.
Worse of all, by trying to push your beliefs on me, maybe you’re missing out on a cool friendship because I’ll tell you right now, I’m actually pretty cool. I change the world, too, but by telling the world how fake certain ministries are. And guess what? I’m influencing others to bring critical thinking into the pew and question unintelligent people or beliefs that might not make sense. Occasionally, people read what I write and it helps them in some way. They see that I can get through this without God and they consider that as an option.
One day you’ll find yourself alone and feeling like God doesn’t exist. Maybe a shit storm will hit you and I hope that you will find reality. That even when life is darkest you’ll realize that you don’t need a belief in a higher power–you can be stronger without one. I hope when life is hard you find the strength that you need to get through those times with what you need–reality.
He couldn’t leave well enough alone, so he wrote this back:
And yet God will always be there – to remind you of that one constant truth, that Christ never changes and that we will all stand before him, saved and unsaved and then reality will sink in. Again, I’m not trying to convert you back, like I said, I stumbled across your site and it required some response, (call it the preacher in me) either way, the cross has never been removed and God is gracious to offer a second chance. And you’re right, you might never repent, you might never come back to the cross, I’ll grant you that, but then whose to say this late night email was not “inspired” as a reminder God’s ever present resolve to come back to the cross? As I said, not looking to antagonize you at all, wasn’t even a consideration, it’s just that when I see you, I see what I was in some respects and while it’s true each person has a different path in life, the one who created that path still reminds us all that there is an eternity to face and what will you do then if you’re wrong? Thanks for the reply.
Almost always, the trolls we (feminists, former Christians, agnostic/atheist/spiritualists) get online are all the same with the same argument:
a) You are militant, angry, and bitter. I dismiss your argument.
b) If your husband/boyfriend/brother were a better man you would not be feminist.
c) You hate men.
d) Stop complaining because you are hurting The Church or you were hurt by The Church.
e) You all think alike. You aren’t open to new opinions.
f) I’m not comfortable here.
LITERALLY, we hear this every day. We’re over it. Like FMH says, if you don’t like this blog (or feminists, former Christians, atheists) get your own blog and talk about whatever the fuck you want, including but not limited to: why you hate this blog. No one cares. I’ve heard it all before.
Everything that’s wrong the way fundamentalists think can be understood by a quick glance at Bristol Palin’s blog. She insults our President and essentially all of the world by saying: “Is anyone really surprised by the fact that President Obama came out of the closet for gay marriage? What was most surprising is when he explained how his position (supposedly) “evolved,” by talking to his wife and daughters.” I’m sorry Jesus, er, I mean Bristol, Christian women aren’t to speak, they’re to be spoken to, right? So, if Sasha and Malia’s dad spoke to them they aren’t allowed to talk back? Or even intelligently dialogue with their father? (For the record, the Obama’s are Christians. Just not the Palin-version.) While it’s true that the Bible does teach men that women shouldn’t speak or instruct men, some Christians move past the oppressive texts and don’t treat women as property. It’s probably time everyone sees women, even young women, as intelligent human beings.