Why Did I Write a Memoir?

Credit: Neal Sanche (Creative Commons)

Credit: Neal Sanche (Creative Commons)

Before I get into this, I want to congratulate Tanya Marlow. Her new book, Those Who Wait: Finding God in Disappointment, Doubt and Delay, launched today. So I bet you can guess what I’ll be reading tonight.


I’ll have some exciting book announcement stuff of my own coming soon (I want to make a video for that, but I honestly just don’t feel like putting on something other than a wrinkled T-shirt that says “Me? Sarcastic? NEVER!”). For now, I want to talk about why I wrote a memoir.

I guess anyone who reads my stuff would assume they know why I wrote it. When I was eighteen, I had a stalker. So I wrote a misery memoir about being a stalking victim.

Yeahhhhhhh . . . that’s totally not what it is.

What’s the book about?

Sure, the stalking stuff is in there, and sure it’s intense at times, but the point isn’t I was stalked.

The point is the same thing that made my stalker feel entitled to me makes a lot of men feel entitled to women. Stalking isn’t the disease. It’s a symptom.

It’s a book about male entitlement, how that impacts women–not just during the assault, but long after–and the cumulative effect it has.

I pulled stories from my own experiences to try to tell a much bigger story. It’s not my story. It’s our story.

It’s about how women are objectified inside the church and outside the church. It’s about how our allies, the “good guys,” so often turn out to be the guys who hurt us. It’s about how our communities are complicit and turn away from us rather than addressing these issues and solving the problem. Because women are disposable. Because we’re less than. Because supporting us isn’t worth experiencing a little conflict.

Why did I write it?

My short answer is, “God told me to.”

And that’s true. I mean, he didn’t speak to me from the clouds or anything, but I have always known I’d write this book. Over the past few years, I’ve felt a strong pull to write it, even when I really, really didn’t want to. I’ve done a lot of praying. Like, a shitload of praying, y’all.

Personal narrative humanizes. It can help people empathize. We should understand what drives sexualized violence by now, but we obviously don’t.

We still blame women. We still excuse the actions and attitudes of men.

My hope is this book can help educate people who are open to understanding, but need to live through some of this alongside someone to really get it.

I spoke with another author early on in this process. She asked me if I’d considered fictionalizing my story. It’d have made things a hell of a lot easier on me, emotionally. But I decided not to because it’s so important for people to understand that these things really do happen. And they really do happen often.

The thing about my story is that it sounds unique and strange, but it’s not. At all.

It’s a common story that just doesn’t get told very often.

I want to be clear here. No victim is obligated to share their story. Not everyone is in a place where it’d be healthy to do that, and there is a real cost associated with coming forward. Sometimes it’s not worth paying that price, and I fully support anyone in that position. If you’ve been through anything like this, please don’t feel bad if you aren’t comfortable speaking out.

I’m telling these stories, not for myself, but for everyone who has stories like this. We shouldn’t all have to bare our wounds to the world to change things. Maybe if I show my wounds, other women won’t have to show theirs.

Am I afraid?

I’ve had several people express some concern for my safety. I really do appreciate that. It means you think I’m valuable enough to keep walking the earth. So, thank you for that. I plan to keep walking around, tossing puns out there, and sharing dank memes.

I am going to have to burst your bubble, though.

The reality is, I’m never safe. You’re never safe. None of us are ever safe.

Yes, I’m putting my name on the cover of this book. Yes, my stalker is still out there somewhere. No, that won’t put me in any more danger than I’ve ever been in.

If he wanted to find me, he’d already have found me.

Next year, I might get a new neighbor and maybe he’s a stalker. Maybe someone online will latch onto me.

I’ll probably get more of this shit. I fully expect it.

The thing is, women are stalked and harassed and assault no matter what they do. That’s also why I wrote this book. To show that.

I could write a book or not write a book. It wouldn’t make any difference. At some point in my life, something will happen to me again. So I may as well do something productive with it all and try to open some eyes.

I’ve counted the cost. So, no, I’m not afraid. And, yes, I know exactly what I’m doing.


If you’ve stuck around this long, here’s an excerpt [trigger warning: non-graphic mention of rape]:

When I was ten years old, I repeated something I’d heard on some late ’80s sitcom. We were driving home from the skating rink and I piped up from the backseat to ask, “When do you think I’ll go through puberty?”

After a tense pause, Mom cocked her head back and told me not to use “language like that.”

Eight years later, I felt more than a little awkward as I sat in a cramped sheriff’s office and described my sexiest pair of underwear to Dad and the balding police officer sitting behind the desk.

Maybe I’d have been better off tossing the underwear and picture into the trash, but I was worried about Ben. Erasing a person by taking away his face was about the creepiest thing I could imagine, so I showed the picture and my underwear to my parents.

Dad drove me down to the sheriff’s office to file a report about it, even though I didn’t want to. I asked Dad why he couldn’t go down and file it for me, but he said I had to because I was the one who found everything, and I was the “object of obsession,” according to those websites Mom kept looking up to read about stalkers. That phrase was the worst. I wasn’t an object.

But Ray had made me into a thing because things can be controlled.

And hadn’t my own church done that to me when they quoted Romans 14:13 and told us girls to be careful about the way we dressed so we wouldn’t be a “stumbling block” to our Christian brothers? A stumbling block isn’t a person, made in the image of God. It’s just a thing. Something you can blame for tripping you.

I didn’t want to be a thing, so I sat across a desk from one of our local officers and tried to tell him what happened without sounding either too hysterical or too relaxed about it all. If I got too worked up, he’d think I was overreacting and shrug the whole thing off. If I didn’t seem upset at all, well, he’d shrug that off too.

The officer listened to me, and then Dad, and nodded as we spoke. Dad wanted a restraining order, or for the police to at least warn Ray to stay away, but the police officer couldn’t fulfill either of those requests. Because what real proof did we have?

Ray had driven up and down our road several times over the past few days, but that wasn’t illegal. And, sure, Ray knew Dad was going to be away from home the night of the break-in, but everyone from our church knew that. Just like anyone from church would know exactly where I sat every Sunday.

Except not everyone from my church had been hanging around me all summer. And not everyone in our church had a history of delusions and violent outbursts. But that still wasn’t enough proof. Besides, Ray couldn’t be arrested for trying to have a conversation with me. He hadn’t been jumping through any plate-glass windows lately, and unless he publicly did something that outrageous again, people would just go right on thinking his delusions were under control.

The police officer leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk. “If he touches you, then we can do something.” He lowered his chin and raised his eyebrows on the word “touches.” It was the kind of eyebrow twitch people shoot at one another when the thing they’re thinking of is too vulgar to say out loud.

I shrank down into the metal folding chair, and my jaw clenched down painfully. So, all I had to do was sit tight until Ray raped me, and then the police would be all over it. Did he really think I was in that kind of danger? Ray was being creepy, but could someone who’d known me since I was fourteen really do that to me?

The police officer cleared his throat and addressed Dad. “Y’all got a gun in the house?”

I guess the officer thought Ray really could do that to me. I hadn’t even been touched, but I felt violated. Stripped naked in that bright office. Knowing Ray had held a pair of my underwear was bad enough, but now other possibilities ran through my head. We didn’t freely say the word “sex” in our house, but now I was talking to Dad and some stranger about my impending sexual assault. Because Ray forced me to talk about it.

We didn’t have any guns, of course, since Dad was a Mennonite pastor. A pacifist. The Bible says, “Do not resist an evil person,” and Dad lived it. At least he lived it in theory since he’d never had his theology tested before. There wasn’t much religious persecution of Anabaptists in the late 1990s.

All through junior high, I’d heard about men like Dirk Willems, who’d been arrested for his Anabaptist faith. Dirk managed to escape his prison and flee across an ice-covered lake. When his jailer tried to follow, and fell through the ice, Dirk turned back to save him. He was repaid by being imprisoned again and executed. But that was all OK because Dirk’s real reward was in heaven and in knowing he’d stayed true to Jesus’s instructions to love your enemies. Following Christ meant laying down your life, literally, if it came down to that. You couldn’t be a Christian and commit a violent act. You just couldn’t.

The officer was a little flustered by Dad’s admission, and turned back to me. He gave me a hard, steady look and said, “Sweetheart, you need to go get yourself a bat. And you sleep with it under your bed every night.”

I glanced at Dad, and forced out, “But I’m a pacifist too.”

The officer closed his eyes for a second and leaned back in his chair. I expected him to spout, “God helps those who help themselves,” but he didn’t.

After we left the station, Dad stopped by Radio Shack to pick up a webcam. He was going to point it out the window, into the parking lot. We’d at least catch Ray on video if he skulked around the front of the house.

But last time he came around back, through my window, and we couldn’t point cameras out every entrance. So, I drove myself back into town and bought a crook-handled umbrella with a big, pointy tip because the discount store didn’t carry bats.

This Post is Definitely, Absolutely, Positively Not About Mike Pence

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I don’t normally jump on the latest topic that’s flying around on social media. And I’m not going to jump on Mike Pence. (I mean. I’m a pacifist. Jumping on people is frowned upon.) What I do want to talk about is something I’ve mostly seen people talk around instead of about.

Some people believe that men and women should never be alone together. That might mean they never ride in a car without a third person, or that might mean they can’t even eat dinner together in a public place.

People who have this rule have it for different reasons. I’m not going to talk about all of those reasons. (If someone wants to defend their reasoning, I’d love it if they wrote their own post. Link it in the comments, if you want).

I’m going to talk about the reason I have personal experience with.


Here’s a journal entry I made when I was 16 years old*:

After we were done at the job site [my dad and a few other adults took the youth group on an MDS trip], we went to a Waffle House by our motel. I took a drink of my water and then dumped two Equal packets into it and Nick asked, “Why’d you do that?”

I told him the water was bland, but he said water couldn’t be bland. It can too be bland.

Then we heard a crash and turned around. Joe had spilled his Mr. Pibb all over Angela and Daniel. It was hilarious.

After we got done eating, me, Andrea, and Nick wanted to go watch TV but all the adults were taking forever. So we decided to walk back to the motel. When we were leaving, Candace yelled, loudly, “Y’all need to leave the door open!”

I just stood there, like, “Huh?” I thought maybe I had the only room key or something and she didn’t want to get locked out.

Then she said, “You know, boys and girls. Together.”

WHAT?!?!?!?!

I tried to make a joke of it, so when we were walking back, I told Andrea, “Hey, are you excited for our big orgy? Do you want to share Nick?”

That’s when I realized Nick was literally right behind me, so I real quick said, “Just kidding,” just so we were clear. I need to stop saying everything that pops into my head.

Anyway, it didn’t even matter because Candace sent other kids out after us and they were mad because they didn’t want to sit in the motel room and watch TV, but they had to because of us.


And then I talk about watching Volcano, but that’s another story.

I want to break this down a little.

At first, we were just a group of kids, being kids. There were absolutely zero sexual thoughts going on. My focus was on bland water and Mr. Pibb accidents. When we went to leave, it never even occurred to me that something sexual might possibly happen while I was watching TV. At that point in my life, I’d never even had a first kiss yet. Never held hands. Nothing.

The woman who didn’t want us to be alone is the one who sexualized that situation, which I tried to defuse with a dumb joke (because, let’s be real… that’s always been my way.) It was embarrassing for her to say that, especially in front of everyone else in our group. And, since my father was there with us, it wasn’t that she was “in charge” of me for the trip or anything like that.

I’d only known that boy for a couple of months. One of my friends was walking over with us. Maybe she thought we were playing a trick with that… I’m not sure. We just wanted to watch TV. It’s an innocent activity.

The suspicion that we might get up to something gave us the impression that we were dangerous to one another. The lack of trust was insulting. The idea that my awkward self might tempt him down some dark, sexually deviant road was mortifying.

I wasn’t Kristy in that moment. I wasn’t a sister in Christ, which is how Christian men should see me. I was a female body that could be the object of sinful lust. I was something to be protected from.

About a year later, this woman was teaching our youth group. She was an advocate for courtship, which required a chaperone to accompany any boy/girl pair. She extended that to adults as well, and gave us an example.

The example she presented was a time, a few weeks prior, when she’d been in the church doing something and my dad had walked in. She told us all she felt extremely uncomfortable being alone with him like that, for the whole, maybe 5 minutes he was in there. My dad was the pastor. Of course he’d be walking into the church sometimes.

How do you think you’d feel if a woman told a group of your friends that she was uncomfortable being alone with your father? What does that make your father sound like?

I pressed her a little on it, asking if he’d actually done anything inappropriate. She said he hadn’t. It was just his presence that made her uncomfortable. Why, though? Because her belief was that you couldn’t trust a man and a woman, alone together. Something might happen, even if the risk was extremely low. And, even if nothing sexual happened, it wasn’t appropriate, even for a congregant and a pastor to share the same space for a few minutes.

What sharing her “caution” did was make my father sound like the kind of creep who would make a woman uncomfortable. (If you knew my dad, you’d know that’s a weird thing to say about him.) What sharing her “caution” did was make me sound like the kind of girl who’d jump a boy the second the motel door closes.

It’s hurtful and shaming.

I can’t speak for every single person out there who’s been touched by the “no boy/girls alone” rule. I can speak for me, though. The idea that this rule isn’t ever used to prevent temptation is just wrong. I’ve got a copy of my very first orgy joke that proves that’s exactly how this rule can be used. This was my introduction to the rule, and when I talk about it, this is where I’m coming from. If that’s not how it’s played out in your life, well, great. But you can’t tell me it hasn’t played out this way in other people’s lives.

*Names have been changed.

An Online Conversation With My 17-Year-Old Self

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In 1998—the era of screeching modems and dial-up speeds we thought were lightning fast—I was one of a few people I knew who had a home internet connection and their own website. When Geocities closed down, I thought my teenage website was gone forever, but thanks to Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine, it’s still out there, kicking it late-90s style.

I was an opinionated little thing back in the day. (I’m an opinionated big thing these days.) Since I’ve been working on a memoir for the past couple of years, I’ve been super focused on my teenage years. There have been many times I’ve wanted to get my past-self’s attention and set her straight on a few things.

So, let’s do that.

Kristy, we need to talk.

1


OK. First of all, nice Jack Handey reference.

But, honey, you need to go learn about the First Amendment because that’s not what “freedom of speech” means. It doesn’t mean you can say anything you want and nobody can argue with you about it.


2


Just so you know, nineteen years from now, you’re going to feel pretty damn smug about the Y2K scare.

And you remember that research paper you wrote on the Y2K bug for your senior English class? You know all those survivalist websites you read while doing research, and how you thought, “Hey, maybe this information will come in handy someday”? I’m sorry to tell you I’ve never had to help deliver a breach baby, so all those diagrams we saw are just taking up head space. Sorry.


3


You feel like people are kicking you around? Oh, my sweet summer child. You have no idea what’s coming for you next year.

I do like that barking comment. I’d make the same sort of nonsensical comparison between myself and a barking dog, though I have spellcheck so I can spell chihuahua. It only took me three tries to get close enough for the spellchecker to figure out what I was trying to say. Advancements in technology will definitely make your life easier.


4


You know what? I think people are basically good too. (But don’t tell anyone. It’ll hurt my street cred.)


5


Aw, did you really have to take a swipe at organized religion? You do realize you’re a member of a church right now, don’t you? You can be religious and have a personal connection to God, Kristy. I promise.

And I know you’ve heard a lot of noise about those Mary-worshiping Catholics, but they aren’t so bad. Most of them will be pretty nice to you, even when you’re being kind of an asshat.


6


You probably spent it all at the concession stand at the drive-in. Those burgers are the bomb! Well, they were the bomb. Sadly, nothing is the bomb in 2017. It’s a bleak world you live in now.

Also, “Where’d all the money go?” is a question you’ll be asking for the next two decades. Get used to it.


7


Right now, I kind of want to pinch you. I get it. You were told, “Get a degree, and you’ll get a great job!” We were all told that. It’s not your fault you believed it.

You know, ten years from now, you’re going to have a good paying job without a college degree. You’ll still go back to school, which is great, but it wasn’t the degree that got you anywhere. It’ll be your work ethic, willingness to help others, and miming skills that’ll get you ahead. (OK. Maybe not the miming skills. Those haven’t really come in handy yet, but I hold out hope for the future.)


My best advice to you for the future is to settle down a little. Let people disagree with you, and when they do, listen. You don’t have to change your mind, but at least listen.

Learn to be patient. Learn to be humble.

Stick with that frantic writing style you’re starting to develop. It’s the bomb.

You’re a little annoying, but I think you’re going to be OK.

The God Who Suffers

Credit: Holly Hayes

Credit: Holly Hayes

In other posts, I’ve talked about the years I spent outside of religion. My 18th year wasn’t exactly a good year for me, and it shook me so hard it took over ten years for my soul to stop sloshing around long enough to pick up any little fragments of faith left behind.

I wouldn’t say I was ever an atheist. Not really. I always believed—or at least, hoped—there was something greater than humanity out there. The question for me was, is that something the God of the Bible? And, if it is, does that God deserve my faith in him?

Maybe that’s a funny way of thinking about a deity that could squash me like a roach, but I was pretty ticked off about how my life had veered off course.

When I was 15, my youth group went to a Youth With a Mission retreat. At the end of the event, we all gathered together in an auditorium to sing. They projected different video clips up on a large screen up front as we sang, mostly of teenage missionaries, laughing and playing with local children.

I looked away from the screen for a minute and when I looked back up, Jesus was being beaten. I think it was a clip from a play. The focus was on Jesus’ face as he was whipped.

In the middle of all the singing teenagers, hands raised up, singing as loudly as they could, I sat down with my head in my hands. I couldn’t look at the video. Obviously, I knew the difference between reality and acting. But, still, I couldn’t stand to watch it.

Drilled into my head was one sentence I’d heard over and over: “Jesus died for you.”

Jesus had been whipped, just like the man in the video. He’d been tortured and killed. I’d read the gospels. I knew the stories. But, it’d seemed distant. Like when your parents tell you about something you did as a child. You don’t remember actually doing it, but you remember the story they told you about it.

Seeing the video made it feel real to me. I suppose that was the whole point.

So, I sat there, getting bumped now and then by the kids on either side of me (who were now swaying) and felt this weight of guilt settle on me. “It’s my fault he was beaten and killed.”

That’s how I understood Jesus’ death for the next few years. That I, and all of humanity, was the cause of this senseless suffering. And we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Then, I turned 18 and everything in my life fell apart. People I loved turned their backs on me. God didn’t answer my prayers. I was sacrificed on the altar of false piety.

At first, I tried to reach out to other people and share what had happened. But you try finding another teenager who was run out of their church because someone wanted to kill them. It’s pretty hard to find someone who can relate to that. My story made people uncomfortable. When you make people uncomfortable, they don’t want to be around you.

I stopped telling my story.

I stopped going to church.

I stopped believing that God (if God was God) cared about me. He obviously wasn’t bothered by what had happened. And how could an omnipotent being have any compassion for one human, anyway? The God I knew commanded armies to conquer the Promised Land. He wiped out firstborns. He created the universe. He’d even sacrificed his own son. What was I to any God that might be out there? I was nothing.

A few years ago, I bought a Bible. I didn’t buy it because I’d had some religious epiphany and was ready to re-commit myself to Christianity. I bought it because I was irritated at some fundamentalist Christians I’d run across online. I needed a reference so I could more easily lob Bible verses at them to show them how wrong, wrong, wrong they were (even according to the very book they idolized.)

I’d read the gospels before, as a teenager. But, I decided a refresher was a good idea, so I’d have an easier time flipping to the parable I needed to counter the ridiculous stuff these people were saying. I was most familiar with Matthew (as I’d read it several times when I was younger), so I decided to start with John first.

Honestly, in the past, I’d only skimmed through the book of John. I’d read the other three gospels, and really, they all had the same information, right? (Something, something, youths…) This time, when I read John 1, I actually paid attention.

Now, I’d always heard about this thing called the Trinity. There was God, then Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I never was clear on what exactly the Holy Spirit was (except that it supposedly made my friends at the Assembly of God church speak in tongues), so I pretty much just ignored that since I wasn’t charismatic. And Jesus was the Son of God, so you know, I totally thought I understood that part. I thought it was a sort of hierarchy thing, with God at the top and Jesus and the Holy Spirit right under him.

But John 1 says it’s not a hierarchy at all. Jesus is God. No, I still didn’t have some sort of earth-shaking religious conversion at that point. I sort of went, “Ohhhh, so that’s what everyone’s talking about,” and then went off and checked Facebook.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5;14

After that, I decided to temporarily abandon John and read Mark and Matthew again.

Reading the gospels with the knowledge that this Jesus fellow was God himself was an entirely different experience from reading them when I was a child and thought I was just reading about the Amazing Adventures of God’s Son.

And when I got to the crucifixion, I didn’t have that overwhelming sense of guilt I’d felt at 15. I guess I was a little in awe, actually. Because how had I missed all of this before?

I thought of God as some distant thing that couldn’t possibly understand humans.

But this was a story about God becoming a human.

I thought that God couldn’t understand human pain, so how could he have compassion for us?

But this was a story about God suffering human pain.

The crucifixion story isn’t a story about how we’re all terrible people and should feel guilty about what Jesus endured. The crucifixion story is about God loving us all so much that he became one of us and experienced suffering and torture as one of us.

I’d thought God was the last person who’d understand my pain.

But God might be the only person who can really understand my pain.

When I was a kid, I’d thought Jesus’ suffering was senseless. God could have saved us any way he wanted to, so why allow his son to be tortured and killed?

But it wasn’t senseless at all.

God knows what it’s like to be abandoned by the people you love. God knows what it’s like to be falsely accused. God knows what it’s like to be humiliated and shamed. God knows what it’s like to suffer.

I know some people think I wandered back to Christianity because it brings me comfort.

It doesn’t.

I’m not here because I believe that if I have enough faith God will wave his giant hand and make life easy for me. That’s never going to happen. I know it’s never going to be easy for me.

I’m not here because I believe that if I just hold on for a while I’ll be rewarded in the afterlife and, I don’t know, chill on a cloud or something. (That’s not what the afterlife is, by the way. I mean, come on. How boring would that be?)

When people ask me why I’m a Christian, I don’t have a quick answer for them. There’s no one single reason. There are too many reasons to touch on all of them in this post, and I think apologetic arguments are usually a waste of time. (Though,  anyone who thinks I blindly believe in all of this just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t know me very well.)

What I will say is where my belief started.

I don’t start with a belief in God and wind my way down to following Jesus.

I start at Jesus and everything I believe flows out of that.

I start with Jesus, the God who suffered. The God who understands us. Who understands me. Who understands you.

I grew up hearing comments about Catholic crucifixes. Things like, “Jesus is alive. He’s not on the cross anymore.” The people around me saw crucifixes as gory and unnecessary.

But I need the crucifix. Yes, Jesus is alive, but it’s Jesus on the cross who understands me most. It’s Jesus on the cross who suffers alongside us, as one of us.

My Will be Done

People are always asking me, “Kristy, how did you ever wind up with a fortress made of cotton candy and an unstoppable mammoth army?”

It’s pretty simple, really. I prayed for those things.

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” – Matthew 21:22 (ESV)
“He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20 (ESV)

Jesus said if I have faith even as small as a mustard seed, I could drown mountains. Cotton candy and mammoths are nothing compared to that. Besides, my faith is way bigger than a mustard seed. It’s at least as big as a sunflower seed. So, I could probably flatten entire mountain ranges (which I might actually do because I hate it when I’m driving through mountains and my ears pop.)

Oh, wait. Would my prayer to eliminate all mountains cause problems for pretty much every form of life that calls those mountains home?

What if someone else with epic sunflower seed faith was praying for more mountains at the same time I was on a murderous mountain killing rampage? Would our prayer energy cancel each other out in some sort of Harry Potter / Voldemort prayer duel?

Or, maybe prayer just doesn’t work like that. Maybe we don’t get anything we ask for just because we really, really believe we’ll get it.

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” – John 15:7 (ESV)

If we abide in Jesus and his words abide in us, wouldn’t our wishes be in synch with Jesus? Would Jesus pray for an unstoppable mammoth army? (I guess he might if he knew how cool it’d look, but probably not.) What else would Jesus not pray for?

OK, so maybe Jesus wouldn’t care about popping ears or cotton candy. But, surely when we pray for healing we’re praying in harmony with Jesus.

“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:15-16 (ESV)

So, we’re cool as long as we’re righteous and have faith coming out our ears, right?

Have you ever prayed for someone to be healed? I don’t mean “healed” of a cold that would have cleared up in a few days anyway. I’m talking about serious, maybe even life-threatening illnesses.

We all know these prayers often go unanswered. So, what’s the deal? Were you not righteous enough to pull it off? Were you lacking faith? Was the person who was sick hiding some sin in their life that negated your prayers?

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (ESV)

Would you say Paul was an unrighteous man? Would you say that Paul, who had so much faith he was killed for it, could have used just a touch more? He asked three times for this thorn to be removed from him, but he was denied each time. If God was going to take away anyone’s affliction, I’d think it would have been Paul’s.

Well, of course I’d think that. I’m a short-sighted, self-centered human. That’s how we think.

Maybe Paul’s prayer went unanswered so he’d write those words to the church in Corinth. Those words would later be added to the Biblical canon. Generations of people have read or heard those words, and hopefully they’ve learned we shouldn’t blame unanswered prayers on a lack of faith or hidden sin.

Maybe God doesn’t answer some prayers because there’s some higher purpose. Maybe not. We just don’t know.

And it’s OK not to know. We miss that so much, so I’m going to repeat myself here.

It’s OK not to know why God doesn’t answer prayers.

Am I more all-knowing than the all-knowing? I can’t even figure out how half the functions on my microwave work, but I think I know which prayers should be answered and which should be left unfulfilled?

Isn’t that what we tend to do? Don’t we really pray “my will be done”?

I don’t mean to be insensitive. I know what it’s like to see people you love suffering, and I’ve had a few tastes of suffering myself. Of course I prayed about both… and my prayers went unanswered.

Do you think God was ignoring me? Or that he just doesn’t like me very much? Maybe you skipped over a good chunk of this post and you’re thinking I was just an unrepentant Sinny McSinface.

I think we often look at prayer all wrong. It’s not always about petitioning God for what we want. It’s about communicating with God. It’s a channel to the divine.

It’s not that God doesn’t care about or understand our suffering. Come on. Who could understand suffering better than Jesus? Have you hung on a cross lately?

Sometimes prayer is about sharing ourselves with God. What we’re afraid of. What we hope for. What hurts us.

I think it’s OK to ask God for specific requests as long as we remember God doesn’t owe us any of the things we ask for. It’s OK to pray for someone to be healed as long as we remember even righteous people don’t always get what they ask for.

But, it’s probably not OK to pray for a mammoth army. I’m pretty sure God would draw the line there.

No Small Thing

“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.” ― Dorothy Day

I’ll just come right out and say it. Ananias is the bomb. Yeah, I’m using 90s slang today. #SorryNotSorry. (Also, I’m using obnoxious hashtags. #DealWithIt)

He only did one thing noteworthy enough to be included in Acts, but that one thing had such a huge impact on the development of Christianity that, arguably, without Ananias we may not even have the Christian religion we have today. Ananias guided Paul into the Way and Paul guided the world.

When Ananias was told, “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings…” (Acts 9:15, NIV) do you think he understood that his actions on that one day would directly lead to the development of a worldwide religion of over 2 billion people? I doubt it.

Ananias was asked to do a simple task. It was risky, but simple. Paul was just one man, and how big of a deal is it really to help just one man?

But, that’s just it. We don’t know how big of a deal it is. We don’t know what the long-term reach of our actions will be. We don’t know if those small ripples will turn into a wave.

If someone had pulled me aside five years ago and told me I’d be in a Christian Facebook group, posting a note saying “thanks for all the support” I’d have [insert witty comment about their drug use here]. But, that’s exactly what I was doing a few days ago.

Why?

Because a couple of years ago, I briefly shared some of what happened to me and they said one thing. “That was wrong.”

No excuses, no preaching, no condemnation for selfishly “forsaking the assembly”. It was just the acknowledgement that what happened to me shouldn’t have happened. What a small thing to offer someone.

I was all geared up to defend myself (as usual) or to endure being dismissed and ignored (yet again). An empathetic response caught me off guard. (They’re standing out there offering me flowers instead of trying to break down the gates with a battering ram. Well, now what do I do?)

So, I opened the gates.

I’m not saying that whole process was easy or that it happened quickly. Those gates were pretty well rusted shut there. (Who doesn’t love a gate metaphor?) But, those small words got me started. I don’t think most of those people even remember what they said, but I remember.

I’m no Paul or anything (though, we do seem to share a love of sarcasm and verbosity), but I keep blogging for a reason. It’s not easy for me to expose myself the way I do here. I’m more comfortable keeping to myself unless I’m deflecting pain with cynicism and humor. I do it because every time I’ve cracked myself open here other people have said “me too”.

I get notes now and then from people who’ve been hurt, or abandoned, or cast out, or don’t think they’re good enough, or don’t think they’re wanted. Some of them say it’s helpful to know they aren’t alone. Or that knowing where I was and where I am now helps them get through whatever they’re going through.

But, I wouldn’t be doing any of that if nobody had ever said “That was wrong” to me.

The point isn’t so much “what does my small act produce?” One small act touches a person who touches others who touches others. There is no such thing as a small act.

So many Christians want to be like Paul—apostle/teacher/preacher/missionary. We don’t all have to be like Paul. Maye you don’t have to reach everyone. Maybe you just need to reach someone, and, like Ananias, help build the Kingdom one simple brick at a time.

Murderous Theology

When I was eighteen years old, I broke the law and was condemned to a violent death. I would burn for my sin.

I didn’t live in some far off country where honor killings are common, and I’m not a time-traveling witch or heretic. I was just a church girl from rural Arkansas who graduated high school in 1999.

How could this happen, and in a Mennonite Brethren church of all places?

I’ve been trying to figure that out for a long time, and I’ve found the answer is as simple as it is complicated.

I had sex with my boyfriend.

Christian Reconstructionism

Some of the members of my church were Christian Reconstructionists. In order to understand what happened, you first have to understand Christian Reconstructionism.

Christian Reconstructionism was originally rooted in postmillennialism. It’s an attractive view. They believe we’re already living during the reign of Jesus. The world will become more and more Christianized until Jesus finally returns for the Second Coming.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Under this belief, almost everyone will eventually be a Christian. However, their end-times theology leads directly to their next belief. Christian Reconstructionists believe that one day we will all live under a theocracy. When that day comes, civil government will reinstate all the Old Testament laws.


“Christians have been taught for over three centuries that the Old Testament is ‘off limits’ judicially to Christians in the New Testament era. Only the Christian Reconstructionists today affirm the continuing validity of Old Testament law.” – Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [1]


“Whole nations must be discipled by Christ. How? Through the imposition of sanctions by Christians in terms of God’s Bible-revealed law—not just in politics, but in every area of life.” – Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [2]


Old Testament Laws Affirmed by Christian Reconstructionists

Rousas Rushdoony is considered the father of Christian Reconstructionism. His three volume work, The Institutes of Biblical Law forms the backbone of the movement.

In Volume One, he lists the death penalties cited for women in the Old Testament [3]:

  1. Unchastity before marriage – Deut. 22:21
  2. Adultery after marriage – Lev. 20:10, Deut. 22:22-23
  3. Prostitution by a priest’s daughter – Lev. 21:9
  4. Bestiality – Exodus 22:19, Lev. 20:16, Lev. 18:23, Deut. 27:21
  5. Being a wizard or witch (sorceress) – Exodus 22:18, Lev. 20:27
  6. Transgressing the covenant – Deut. 17:2-5
  7. Incest – Lev. 20:11-12, 14, 17

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Something else was going on, though. 1999 was winding down and the Y2K panic was in full swing.

I want to take a little time and explain this for anyone who’s too young to understand what happened.

The Y2K panic happened during a time when our society was just starting to use the internet. This was well before the reign of the smartphone. Most families didn’t even have a computer in their home and were fairly ignorant about how computers and the internet worked.

Computers were using two digits for the year instead of four. (99 instead of 1999). When 2000 rolled in, the computer would think the year was 1900. Doomsayers started popping up in the mid to late 1990s.

Michael Hyatt’s book, The Millenium Bug came out in the fall of 1998. On his website, he expressed what he believed would happen when the calendar rolled over [4]:

  • No electrical power
  • No clean water
  • No telecommunications
  • Shortages of food, gasoline, clothing, and all retail goods
  • Wide-spread bank failures and inaccessibility of funds
  • A stock market crash
  • A dramatic drop in real estate values
  • An economic depression
  • Wide-spread unemployment
  • Civil unrest, including protests, riots, and general lawlessness
  • Inability of government agencies to deliver welfare, Medicare, Social Security, and Veterans benefits
  • No meaningful leadership from the Clinton Administration

Some people began to stockpile. Some even sold their homes and moved into rural areas where they believed they would be better able to provide for and defend their families.

I personally knew people who were stockpiling. They weren’t just stockpiling food and gas. They were stockpiling weapons and ammunition. They were getting ready for war.

Christian Reconstructionists and Y2K

In my church, this was directly influenced by a prominent Christian Reconstructionist, Gary North. He came through our area in the 1990s. Some of our church members bought his books. I can’t say for sure if any of them subscribed to his newsletters, but I found them archived online and they are full of alarmist predictions about Y2K.

North even hunkered down in northern Arkansas in the late 1990s to await the coming crisis. He advised his readers to follow his lead and seek refuge in rural areas, just like my home town. When I was in high school, we had some people move into the area for this specific reason. They were afraid.


“What we are going to see between now and the year 2000 will the most abnormal period in the history of the West since the bubonic plague of 1348–50.” – Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1997 [5] 
 

“Our day is coming, sooner than you think, and sooner than today’s power elites think. Be patient. Be prepared. Be out of the city.” – Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1998  [6]


Y2K was a Christian Reconstructionist’s dream. If the civil government fell, it provided the church an opportunity to rise up and fill the vacuum. Naturally, these brave new Christian leaders would institute Mosaic Law.


“Think of the year 2000 if the computers go down. A lot of them will go down, taking with them the organizations that are dependent on them. A great overturning is about to occur… conditions after 1999 will not allow the church to sit on the sidelines of culture, as it sits today. The collapse of the humanist welfare-warfare State will put the church in the center of society in most small towns. In central cities, the churches will compete with the gangs. A new generation of Christian leaders will spring up overnight at the local level. National leadership will disappear… The world will move to localism.” – Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1998 [7]


 “Leadership will return to churches that rediscover the importance of God’s law.” Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1997 [8]


It’s a seductive idea, especially for Christians who’ve been living with an “us vs. them” mentality against the secular world. North is telling them that they could be leaders in the new world after the collapse of civilization. They could do God’s will. They could be in power.

Who doesn’t want to be important and powerful?

What Does That Have to Do With Murder?

There were people in my church who sincerely believed the collapse of secular civilization was imminent. This meant that the civil government would no longer be in power, but the church instead would become the de facto government.

But, why wait for it to go down before you start obeying Biblical law?

I found that some Christian Reconstructionist literature is ambiguous at best and incendiary at worst regarding this.

Rushdoony says, “Men cannot be allowed to take the law into their own hands,” [9] in one breath and then (regarding stoning an unchaste woman), “Its place in the Bible is due to the ability of the witnesses and the community to take part in the execution. Since the police power of the people required that they recognize their duty to witness and to execute in all cases of established crime. The principle of general police power is still valid and basic,” in the next. [10]

North and DeMar are even closer to crossing the line between civil government control and vigilantism.


“Christians must begin immediately to reconstruct their own lives, families, and churches before God’s judgment on society begins. We must prove ourselves ready to lead. We must do this by following God now, before His judgment beginsDisobedience to God’s principles produces His judgment: man’s disinheritance from God’s riches, both in history and eternity.” Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [11]


In both the Bible and Christian Reconstructionist literature, we find statements saying that God will punish the community that doesn’t root out wickedness. If a person honestly believes that God demands Christians follow Mosaic law and he honestly believes that God will punish those who disobey, it’s not much of a stretch to see how he could decide to take matters into his own hands.

In my case, one law from Leviticus seems to have been the focal point.


“And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” – Leviticus 21:9 (KJV)


My father was a pastor. I assume this man equated that with being a priest. It came close enough, I suppose.

This was one of the Bible verses he underlined and left for me. He also set my bed on fire one night (when I wasn’t home), so this wasn’t an empty threat.

Granted, he was mentally ill. Originally, he’d been romantically interested in me. But, somehow he found out I wasn’t a virgin—I assume it was through one of the friends my boyfriend or I had told—and his stalking behaviors switched from threatening anyone who was protecting me to threatening me. He latched onto Christian Reconstructionism’s Old Testament laws and used that to justify his behavior.

It’s easy to blame that solely on his mental illness. That certainly played a large role, however I can’t ignore the opportunity that Christian Reconstructionism gave him.


“Polluting a priest’s household brought pollution into God’s presence. This was a sacred boundary violation: profaning the temple. This violation of household authority was a capital crime…Her harlotry put the nation at risk of God’s negative sanctions.” – Gary North,  Sanctions and Dominion [12]


A newsletter Gary North currently (as of 2015) has available on his website says the following regarding unchastity: “This whole passage serves to declare God’s special concern that chastity be maintained among His people. And from this we may gather that if whoredom has full liberty among us, it is such an abomination in the sight of God that it provokes His wrath and vengeance. Such a people will have to be cursed, among whom there is open liberty for whoremongering and where this vile filthiness is not cleansed.Calvin Speaks [13]

That sure sounds like a call to action.

(Slightly) In Defense of Christian Reconstructionists

I didn’t find anything in the literature that explicitly indicates any of these men would have condoned one man from my church threatening to kill me. They advocate following the Old Testament laws, which isn’t at all the same as mob justice or vigilantism.

Additionally, the man from my church focused on a single Old Testament law and ignored all the ones he himself had broken. This isn’t what Christian Reconstructionists teach.

However, they do explicitly state the dangers of “whoredom” and leave plenty of wiggle room for vigilantism between some inconsistent statements about the civil government, especially if a governmental collapse is heading our way.

What Makes Christian Reconstructionism Dangerous?

For one thing, it’s just wrong. The laws they propose only applied to Israel. I’m not an ancient Israelite, therefore those laws do not apply to me.

But, being wrong doesn’t necessarily make you dangerous. I do believe that killing teenage girls who have sex with their long-time boyfriends is dangerous, though. Anything that even comes close to condoning the death of another person is dangerous, especially when that’s mixed with a general sense of panic and desire for power and control.

We aren’t facing a Y2K panic these days. These days, we’re facing a panic about baking wedding cakes. The “us vs. them” mentality of the Christian Reconstructionists is alive and well in our country.

I’ve run across people who quote Old Testament law and believe people should be executed for “homosexual acts”. Of course, they always say the government should do this (which somehow makes it OK). That is Christian Reconstructionism. It’s still out there and it’s still dangerous.


“God is plowing up the modern world. This is softening the Establishment’s resistance to many new ideas and movements, among with Christian Reconstruction is barely visible at present. This is good for us now; we need the noise of contemporary events to hide us from humanist enemies who, if they fully understood the long-term threat to their civilization that our ideas pose, would be wise to take steps to crush us.” – Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [14]



I was troubled to find that Gary North is educating children right now. He laid low for a while after the world didn’t blow up, and now he’s the main contributor to Ron Paul’s homeschool curriculum. Another generation is at risk.

Why Write This

I started out researching Christian Reconstructionism because I wanted to understand why this happened to me. It was only one man who wanted to take God’s law into his own hands, but there were others who shared his foundational beliefs. It was these people, who hung on Gary North’s word, who turned their backs on me when it happened.

These were good people. These were people I’d grown up with. I’d played board games on their living room floors and eaten dinner at their tables. But, their beliefs cut them off from me. I don’t know if they believed a pastor’s daughter should die for having sex. All I know is I was the “them” in the “us vs. them”.

It wasn’t only Christian Reconstructionism and Gary North that led to this. Mental illness, faith healing, and hyper-complementarianism played a detrimental role as well, but advocating Old Testament law appears to have presented the real opportunity for life-threatening danger.

As I dug into this, I realized this wasn’t a one-time event. There will always be something to panic about, something that men like Gary North can latch onto to promote Christian Reconstructionism.

There is room for disagreement when it comes to theology. There is room for misunderstanding or not completely understanding some theological point. But, there is no room for prostelyzing and spreading bad theology to others. There is no room for not fully grasping the implications of your new theological discovery.

Bad theology is dangerous.

Christians have an obligation to carefully consider where their theology will lead. If someone’s telling you exactly what you want to hear, take a step back and evaluate what they’re saying.

The danger with Christian Reconstructionists is that not everything they say is wrong. They get just enough correct to make their beliefs attractive.


“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” – Matthew 7:15-20 (NIV)



What fruit has Gary North produced? What fruit has Christian Reconstructionism produced?

Discernment is a gift of the Spirit. Use it.

 


Notes

[1] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t by Gary North and Gary DeMar (p. 43)

[2] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. (p. 51)

[3] The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume 1 by Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony (p.448-449)

[4] Michael Hyatt’s Y2K Personal Survival Guide – Introduction (archived on Oct. 13, 1999 by The Way Back Machine)

[5] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXI, No. 3 May/June 1997

[6] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXII, No. 3 May/June 1998

[7] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXII, No. 2 March/April 1998

[8] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXI, No. 6 November/December 1997

[9] The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume 1 by Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony (p. 681)

[10] The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume 1 (p. 659)

[11] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. (p. 57-58)

[12] Sanctions and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Numbers by Gary North

[13] Calvin Speaks, Vol. 2, No. 4, April 1981

[14] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. (p. xxi)

True Love Waits (a little while)

Love By Freely Photos

I was 16 and wearing an ankle length skirt along with the cross necklace I’d worn every day since my summer missions trip.

Most of the other youth group members were standing beside me in front of the altar.

We made our promises. We’d stay abstinent until we were married.

 

One of my friends wasn’t there. I’d asked him about it, but it didn’t sound like he wanted to participate. So, I mentioned it to his mother. I was closer to her than any other adult in our congregation. I trusted her judgment.

But, she surprised me. She didn’t think the abstinence pledge was a good idea. “Teenagers make mistakes sometimes and I don’t want them to feel like it’s the end of the world if they do,” she said.

Those were the wisest words ever spoken to me in that church, but I didn’t understand that back then. What parent wouldn’t want their kid to wait? I had completely missed the point.

How could I not have missed the point? I didn’t know anything. It was all pretty easy in my opinion. Just keep your darn clothes on. Simple.

It is an easy thing to do when you don’t have any romantic prospects at the time.

It’s a nice, low-risk way of appearing righteous. (If Jesus said to pray in private, I wonder what he’d have to say about public virginity pledges…)

So, I said the words and I the ate cake and washed it down with Surge.

And it was easy, just like I thought it’d be. Until it wasn’t.

Not long after I started going out with someone, the cheap purity ring slipped off my finger. It fell to the floor and cracked in half. I joked that it must be a sign. Nobody thought it was a very funny joke.

Then we started to break those promises and I didn’t think it was a funny joke anymore either. Apparently, True Love didn’t wait very long at all.

I understood what she meant then. I saw how much the guilt ate at some of my friends—people I loved.

 

I have a confession. Not about having sex. I never felt guilty about that. I have a confession about the abstinence pledge. Fair warning. It may shock you.

It was kind of my idea. At least, I’m the one who pushed for it. I don’t remember if someone told me about it or I’d read about it somewhere. But, I’m the one who asked for the ceremony. When I pushed, what were my parents and the other adults in the church supposed to say?

“No, Kristy. We don’t support abstinence.”

Of course the answer was yes.

I was still riding the post-outreach evangelical high and I pressured some people into participating. And what were they going to say?

“No way, Kristy. Sex is awesome. Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it.”

Of course they participated.

I have a picture of us. We’re standing under a framed Bible verse.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

As far as some of us were concerned, it may as well have read, “Stay pure and thou shalt be saved.”

Because how can you stand in the presence of God knowing that you’ve broken a promise to him? We’d garbled the gospel until it sounded like purity pledges and elevator pitch testimonies. Grace wasn’t in our vocabulary.

It didn’t take me long to realize having sex outside of marriage wasn’t actually the very worst thing a person could do. It wasn’t any worse than envy or gossip or greed or any of the other things we didn’t stage ceremonies for.

Having sex didn’t negatively impact my faith. But, leading a double life did. Knowing that I was pretending to be something I wasn’t did. I know others felt the same way. Maybe if we hadn’t signed those cards and stood at the front of the sanctuary it wouldn’t have hurt anyone.

Sure, I had good intentions back then. I was young. I was naive. I was caught up in the hype.

I was wrong.

I’m sorry.

 

Am I Even a Christian?

I’m a pacifist feminist who doesn’t believe the Bible is inerrant. Does that disqualify me from being a Christian?

For a long time I assumed it did. I spent most of my early religious life running around with fundamentalists. God created the world in 6 days… Noah sailed an ark… yadda yadda yadda. It was the only way of “doing Christianity” I was aware of. Oh, I’d heard about these other so-called “Christians” out there who twisted scripture to suit their needs. But, I didn’t belong with those guys. I had something called Intellectual Honesty (cue trumpet fanfare).

I didn’t believe that every Bible story was historically and/or scientifically accurate. I obviously wasn’t a real Christian. So, where did that leave me? My main Christian litmus test rested in Genesis, not the gospel accounts… which is pretty strange since I was questioning the whole CHRISTian thing, not the whole “am I an ancient Israelite” thing. Anyway, I didn’t want to force myself to believe in things like Young Earth Creationism. So, I went around being all nominally agnostic-ish. I did that for over a decade.

The whole thing always got under my skin, though. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God so much as I didn’t believe in the Bible. At least, I didn’t believe in a specific way of interpreting the Bible. But, when you’ve been taught that this is the only possible way of interpreting the Bible without running into all sorts of theological pitfalls, you tend to take an “all or nothing” approach to the Bible. It’s faith built on a house of cards (or, uh, sand).

biblical-illiteracyCredit: David Hayward

After more than ten years worth of reading pro and anti Christian arguments, re-reading large chunks of the Bible, and several exposures to non-fundamentalist Christians who gasp weren’t outraged at my evolution accepting ways (some of them were even “traditionalist” non-fundamentalist Christians — I swear such a thing exists), I took another look at this whole Christianity thing.

I’m not going to get into why I believe what I believe here (other posts for other days). I want to focus on whether or not my beliefs are actually Christian beliefs or not.

First, I have to define “Christian”. That’s a little easier said than done. Some Christian crowds have a very narrow definition (i.e. Just us, not you). So, I’m going to ignore those guys for now because they’re in the minority (and since when does the minority view get to define terms for everyone else?)

How do I define Christianity?

The broadest definition would be someone who adheres to the historical Christian creeds. I’m most familiar with the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, but the Nicene creed is a little longer, so I’ll stick with that.

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God,the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.

He suffered and was buried.

And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy universal and apostolic Church I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

…and?

Uh, yeah. I totally agree with all of that. How do I get around the whole “maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible” thing? It’s really not hard. Nothing in the creed says he made the Earth in 6 days. Nothing in the creed says “evolution totally didn’t happen”.

Score: 0 points – While I’m not above giving myself points for meeting my own definition, I’ll let this one pass.

* I used the “universal” version instead of “catholic” to avoid confusion with the Roman Catholic church.

Does an atheist philosopher think I’m a Christian?

In The Case Against Christianity, Michael Martin looks to the ecumenical creeds. These include the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds. He considers these to be the fundamental statements of Christian belief. Anyone who believes in a theistic God, Jesus lived during the time of Pilate, Jesus is God, a person is saved through faith in Jesus, and sees Jesus as the model of ethical behavior they are at least (what he refers to as) a “Basic” Christian.

Building upon that definition, he defines an “Orthodox” Christian as someone who holds to “Basic” Christian beliefs as well as a belief in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the second coming.

Score: 1 point – Well, hot damn. The atheist says I’m not just a Christian; I’m an orthodox Christian. (I think I should get an extra point for chilling with the orthodox Christians, but whatever, we’ll stick with 1).

Does Merriam-Webster think I’m a Christian?

Score: 1 point – Well, that was an easy one. (Probably just all those liberals who run the dictionary website watering down the gospel, as those pesky liberals are known to do…)

Do the Roman Catholics think I’m a Christian?

According to Catholic Answers, “validly baptized Protestants are regarded as true Christian brothers and sisters who are in imperfect relationship with the Church.” Basically, a valid baptism is Trinitarian and the person who is getting baptized as well as the person who is doing the baptizing need to have the “proper intention” (no accidental baptisms, please).

pool party baptism

Don’t trust Catholic Answers? This is the part where I raise my first and shout, “To the Vatican!” like I’m going to hop in a jet or something equally cool, but I really just quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.”322 Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.” (838)

Score: 1 point – I was baptized at 16 by a pastor in the Trinitarian formula. It wasn’t an accident (though he did hold me under water for a suspiciously long time). I’ve got the Catholics on my side. (Anyone intimidated by that? No? Dang.)

Do other Christians think I’m a Christian?

While many denominations would disagree with me on various doctrinal points, most would affirm me as a Christian (since I believe in Jesus and try to follow him and all). The only people who have questioned my Christianity have been fundamentalists…(and several atheists). The main reason fundamentalists have said I’m not a Christian is because I don’t believe in what they call inerrancy. I don’t believe that everything in the Bible is necessarily historically and/or scientifically accurate. (No, that doesn’t trip up my belief in Jesus.)

Anecdotally, I know Christians from many different denominations who accept me as a Christian. But, I could just be making stuff up (since that’s what all so-called “Christians” do to justify their lifestyle choices, amiright?) Instead, I went to the Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey to get some estimates and took a look at the “literal interpretation of scripture” question. That’s the one that always gets me called “not a Christian, ummmm, I’m gonna tell God on you!”

59% of Evangelicals believe scripture is the “Word of God, literally true word for word”.

It’s possible that 59% of Evangelicals (around 22% of the total Christians surveyed) would say I’m not a Christian. Mainline Protestants and Catholics made up 62% of the survey population and most of them would likely say that I’m a Christian (a Christian they disagree with about a lot of things, but still a Christian). Why would I define my Christianity by whether or not a minority would accept me as a fellow Christian?

Score: 0.62 points – A point for each percentage of American Christians who probably don’t want to run me out of town (at least not for Bible-related reasons).

Does the Bible think I’m a Christian?

Ohhhh, risky going to the book I claim isn’t inerrant, eh?

What exactly were the requirements for a Christian convert in the New Testament?

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’

Acts 2:37-38

I notice that Jesus never said, “Take up your cross and the doctrine of inerrancy and follow me”.

Repent. Get baptized. BOOM! Christian.

Score: 1,000 – Because Bible. (Stick that in your Sola Scriptura and smoke it.)

What about that whole feminist pacifist thing?

There are whole denominations full of pacifist Christians. Mennonites exist. I’m pretty sure nobody will kick me out of the Christian club for being a pacifist. (Though, if they do start kicking me, I can’t kick back.)

As far as the feminist question goes, I can’t imagine coming out of reading the gospels with the idea that women shouldn’t have equal rights and opportunities. If I just blew your mind (I’m sad if that’s true), go read Jesus Feminist.

Score: 2 points – One for the pacifists and one for the feminists.

So, am I a Christian?

Total Score: 1,005.62

I say I’m a Christian.

The historical creeds say I’m a Christian.

An atheist says I’m an orthodox Christian.

The Roman Catholics say I’m a Christian.

The majority of other Christians say I’m a Christian.

The Bible says I’m a Christian.

I take the Bible so seriously (though not always literally) and follow the teachings of Jesus so strictly that I’m a pacifist feminist. (Who’s “picking and choosing” again?)

Yeah. I’m a real Christian.

When I Was a Thing

Kristy - 1999

MINE

One word, scribbled across the picture of a bride he’d ripped out of a magazine. It was one of many “presents” he’d been leaving me. A pair of stolen underwear, generously returned to me when he left them in my church pew. An obituary notice with my name glued over top the deceased. Pages ripped out of my first Bible with underlined verses:

‘Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.’

Judah said, ‘Bring her out and have her burned to death!’ (For the record, I was neither a prostitute nor pregnant.)

Do not allow a sorceress to live.  (Even though Hagrid never showed up at my house…as far as I’m aware.)

I was eighteen. I had just gone through all that courtship, purity, a-woman-is-only-worth-as-much-her-hymen crap.  This was just an extension of that.  Any which way I turned inside that church, my worth was in providing a man with what he wanted.

“You belong to your future husband” isn’t a far cry from, “You belong to a crazy stalker, just because he wants you.”

Nobody told me, “You belong to yourself.” Well, screw that. 

Jesus told them to watch out for wolves and they embraced one with open arms.  Jesus told them, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” but there I was stumbling all over the damn place.

Only a few months before this, I’d had to defend a joke website I’d made.  But, here a man was threatening my life and that was totally acceptable.  What message could I take away from that except, “You don’t matter.”

After he broke into my house the first time, a woman I respected cornered me in the Fellowship Hall. She told me there was no way this man had broken into my house. After all, she had prayed for him. Her prayers had released him from his demons and healed his schizophrenia. At any rate, if he was doing these things I was “asking for it” because of how I dressed.

None of the Elders told this man to stop attending church.  So, when I came home on the weekends, I could either not go at all or sit in a small sanctuary with a man who wanted to rape/marry and/or kill me. I was cut off from the support system a church “family” is supposed to provide. I didn’t get a single phone call, letter, or visit from any church member checking up on me or offering any type of support.

I never felt safe. Never.

My take-away from all this? If he gets me, he’s going to torture and murder me… and none of these people care.

The Sunday we announced that we were leaving the church, an Elder put his arm around my shoulders and told me I was “precious”.

Precious?  Don’t we value and protect the people who are precious to us?

I wasn’t precious. I was just a prop they pulled out now and then so the church could feel superior about raising up good, God-fearing teenagers. The only time I needed anything, they shoved me into the closet and snapped, “Shh! Don’t make so much noise in there. You’re distracting us with all your, ‘I don’t want to get raped and murdered’ nonsense. We’re trying to preach the gospel out here, ya know!”

After I moved, I tried to keep going to church for a while, even though I wasn’t “feeling it”.  I really did try.  But, every time I walked into a church I felt like nothing.  When people talk about their awesome, supportive church family, I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.  All I got were lies, judgment, and indifference.

I was never treated like a person. I couldn’t be afraid, or have doubts, or need protection, or ask any of them to step outside their comfort zone the least bit to help me. If I didn’t play my role, I was useless. I was not loved. I was not wanted. I was not worth protecting. I was not a multi-faceted human created in the image of God. I was just an inconvenient, broken thing. We throw away broken things. I loved them and they threw me away to the wolf.