I have tried to reconcile my feelings about living and swimming in the deep red sea and I verge on utterly loathing Nashville to feeling sorry for it or feeling sorry for myself living here. It is a constant push pull of emotions that wreck havoc on my emotions daily.
I frequently talk to my Baristas about my observations living here and the one thing that stands out is how I am approached or addressed here by my "professional' colleagues here in Nashville. They are the only true contacts I have on a regular basis and have little comparisons to what defines professional and educated here in the deep red sea and it is not good. And when I attempt to bond or talk about relocating here I elect to talk about transit and sidewalks and the lack of a downtown which given the growth of the city is an issue I find significant. Apparently them's fighting words here as the next question is a defense, "What did you come her for?" A query I find akin to an interrogation and hostile versus a more "What brought you here?" Which may still veer on the response "None of your fucking business!" But at least it has a sense of curiosity and willingness to learn more about you.
I realize now that any criticism any criticism what.so.ever in Nashville is perceived as a type of assault and that to the Southerner you are an interloper, an outsider who is going to try to change or mock them and their lifestyle. I think that defines the entire Southern personality - defense and offense. So I can't see me in the near or ever future compromising nor understanding what it means nor actually caring. Right now I am in survival mode.
But what I have truly come to find repugnant is the Cop Military obsession that dominates the culture here. Every day there is a news article, story about those in service as if they are agents of God doing God's work. And then I found this essay about the Soldiers of God as they are believed to be. Well think about the song, Onward Christian Soldiers and it brings on a whole new meaning when swimming in the deep red sea.
Now my first experience in Seattle with a police shooting was in 2010 of John Williams the woodcarver. This led to the Justice Department intervention and the shakeup in our Police with regards to what we have now seen nationally with regards to similar shootings which have in turn escalated across the country over similar shootings and deaths at the hands of Police. Here I am 7 years later and I never thought I would be afraid of Police as I am here. In Seattle I felt Police were assholes but they were not deadly. The 2010 incident was again about the fringe and I like many felt that it was horrific but isolated and selective. Since that time you might say I "woke" and in turn read Radley Balko's great book on the Militarization of Police, followed the emergence of Black Lives Matter and the resulting attention to ever increasing criminalization of America.
Then in turn my own experience in 2012 affected how I see the criminal justice system and that too affected how I see the industry behind it and how it is a system that is only about self preservation and has nothing to do with community, safety or justice. As the saying goes - until you walk a mile in another shoes you have a hard time understanding what it is like. I have walked one hard and many a mile. So to find my sanity to finish my dental work I needed to change - my name, my address and my perspective. So hello Nashville.
So why did I come here? It's complicated as they say on Facebook. I remember sharing my story about the night of Feb 8 in 2012 and the facial wash (as that is what it looks like as if you have just thrown water on someone's face) of those who heard just fragments of that story you can visually see and feel their need to extricate themselves immediately from my tainted company. As the years have gone on and the stories about Bill Cosby and College rapes came to light it did not change how I feel and what it means to be as angry and afraid as I was then; I was propelled through courtroom after courtroom - both civil and criminal - fighting those who failed me that night I died. To have no one believe you nor support you it takes everything to fight for survival and I have been fighting an awfully long time with no back up. And it exhausts you in ways you can never imagine.
So when I came to Nashville I was prepared to spend a couple of years finishing my dental work and in turn going back to school to either earn an MFA or at least take courses on writing in order to refine my skill set and write the books that are within me. I am trained as a Teacher and took the necessary steps to attain a license and in turn pursue teaching or at least subbing as a source of income during the process. I knew nothing about the schools nor actually cared as it was just a means to an end. Then I walked into the schools with more Doctors than a hospital and realized that being educated in a state with minimal education attainment and to teach in the public schools here was again a Christian soldier complex that is shared by those in civil service here. As one has to be a Martyr to spend well over six figures to attain a license to teach in the one of the states with the lowest salaries in the country on record. I thought of the story of the Vanderbilt grad who went to Harvard to get another degree only to be refused to become a Principal here. Why would anyone spend that money, attend the most expensive colleges in America to do that? A martyr or an idiot. Pick one or all of the above. Maybe God could step in and solve the endless problems in the schools here leading to this. But that is not just here so at least that is somewhat comforting. But then poverty is everywhere and public schools are ground zero in exposure to said poverty and I have said repeatedly I teach content and if you want a social worker get one as that is not me. But in today's schools we have to literally live up to the adage in loco parentis and one must be loco to do that.
At this point re-evaluating my purpose and trying to somehow Tim Gunn it, as in make it work, while being afraid and and angry as I was when I was living in Seattle makes this utterly frustrating and disappointing, fulfilling the expression "no matter where you go there you are" my new mantra. And true I may be many things but even I cannot believe that I am deserving of this much derision. But my fear was I too was coming down with a news disease - the Martyrdom Complex.
Now how did I come to that conclusion? Well I already had court transcripts describing me as a drunk lying whore so one cannot deny that is the posturing of a former Prosecutor intent on winning, but my own Lawyers who simply just sat there and did nothing to contradict that I also found distressing. I have nothing good to say about either although one now lives in Alaska and is defending women who have been victims of sexual and domestic violence so maybe somewhere deep in those cavities of a brain he knew how he failed me. I have laughed as almost all the Attorney's I encountered in that time have moved on or into new areas of work so perhaps there is some Justice.
But to move on to a new life you need a life and when I go to the Nashville Public Schools on a daily basis and to the Y and home and my encounters are limited to the damaged souls teaching and the high point is buying a coffee and planning my dental rejuvenation it is life not living. But with my baggage not yet fully unpacked I need to figure out what goes and stays and that is not as easy as one thinks.
So when the Vanderbilt patient coordinator encountered me that day when I was on another damaged denture, I was sick with a cold/allergy and more infections racing through my mouth and hating my every moment I said the same bullshit that all good martyrs do - blame, point fingers and guilt trip. I admit that I said, "I should just blow my teeth out then maybe someone will help me." And that comment opened the door for the responsive Jesus Martyr complex that dominates the culture here. Having the Police come to my door four days later and in turn have them diagnose me as depressed and anxious aka "mentally ill" was "ya think?" And then in turn give me a dental referral made me realize that I must not be that crazy. And they concluded their analysis with the comment, "but at least they cared about you." Really? You call cops on people you care about? How about a cup of coffee? A walk in the park? A movie? No, in Jesus country the reverence for Cops runs just second to Jesus.
And the recent "coincidence" of the odd encounter with not one but two Teachers at a middle school coming to my "aid" while sitting on a bleacher adjacent to the school facing a park one morning was another straw added an already over stuffed back. The Police Officer who was there that day was purely coincidental as he was checking in to the school where in every Middle and High School here there are posted Police, which to say overkill verges on both pun and irony if not tragedy. And when I spoke of this to one of other Teachers in the school about it, what was his response? "At least they cared about you." Yes clearly that explains Police Shootings - they cared.
Now one wonders why I am a target? Well as a true martyr I have come to realize that yes it is discrimination. I am a woman on my own. I am not young but not that elderly looking that would inspire the standard inquiry that I may need help so that seems to confuse people here more. That I have no husband or family and am functioning independently mystifies those who worship Jesus. If I was a true Martyr I would be like the Transgendered woman Teacher intent on telling me how successful she is with her six students or the Doctor who berated 6th graders over her six figure debt or the woman on crutches who found me in her room as her teen age daughter sat there curious as to why I was not more appreciative and responsive to doing menial task work or the class the following day being ignored and shoved into a room with cats. Yes this is my professional day which in a normal world wold be just that horrid. But I am a woman of a "certain age" with no man, rotting teeth, and I should be happier and that would come from Jesus clearly.
There is no Jesus unless he sells seriously cool drugs that I could possibly connect to. But there is one thing I have comes to term with that the Jesus/Christian Persecution complex explains what we are all feeling right now and the rise of the Trump. This alienation and defensiveness is what he plays upon and exploits. He uses that poor you syndrome to the perfect pitch that any singer on American Idol aspires to. There is nothing quite like the idiocy of the Christian Martyr. This family defines it in spades.
Understanding this doesn't make it easier or better it just explains it in ways that I get, I really do. And I can't wait to leave but in the interim those books I want to write just get better written in every way.
The Evangelical Persecution Complex
Alan Noble The Atlantic Aug 4, 2014 U.S.
Persecution has an allure for many evangelicals. In the Bible, Christians are promised by Saint Paul that they will suffer for Christ, if they love Him (Second Timothy 3:12). But especially in contemporary America, it is not clear what shape that suffering will take. Narratives of political, cultural, and theological oppression are popular in evangelical communities, but these are sometimes fiction or deeply exaggerated non-fiction—and only rarely accurate. This is problematic: If evangelicals want to have a persuasive voice in a pluralist society, a voice that can defend Christians from serious persecution, then we must be able to discern accurately when we are truly victims of oppression—and when this victimization is only imagined.
There are some understandable reasons for this exaggerated sense of persecution. Globally, Christians face incredible discrimination. In North Korea and many Muslim-governed countries, Christians risk imprisonment and death for their faith. The Christian community in Mosul, Iraq, was exiled, and many Christians are still persecuted by the ISIS, a jihadist group. Christians with a global perspective on their faith rightly identify themselves as part of a persecuted people in the 21st century.
In the United States, evangelical values have often been in tension with public policy and cultural mores, especially in the last several years; this includes recent debates over contraceptives coverage, abortion rights, and the rise of same-sex marriage. Some Christians anticipate major restrictions to religious liberty in the future as a result of these tensions, a concern that is not unfounded. But in anticipating such restrictions, it is easy to imagine, wrongly, that they are already here.
Evangelical sub-culture plays a huge role in this perception. The “Jesus Freak” movement of the mid-1990s, started by the popular musical group DC Talk, made martyrdom and exclusion hip—these were signs that someone was a “true” Christian. Teens were encouraged by youth-group leaders to read historical accounts of Christian martyrs and reflect on how they could be Jesus Freaks, too. Being a “loser” in the world’s eyes for the sake of Jesus was, paradoxically, cool. But the emphasis, perhaps unintentionally, was on being a “freak,” rather than following Christ and accepting the consequences.
The wildly successful Left Behind books tell a similar narrative of persecution. Published between 1995 and 2007, the epic novels tell the story of the biblical end times through the lens of certain Christian traditions: the rapture, the church’s persecution at the hands of the anti-Christ, and its ultimate triumph upon Christ’s return. Like the “Jesus Freak” movement, these books seemed to glorify persecution—the kind that Christians in other parts of the world have long experienced, but is unheard of in the U.S.
Even in the last year, two films have been released which depict brave Christians standing up against a hostile, violent, and corrupt world. God’s Not Dead tells the story of a Christian college student who is forced to sign a paper declaring that God is dead or debate his arrogant, atheist philosophy professor, played by Kevin Sorbo. The student accepts the challenge and debates the professor for three classes, eventually forcing him to admit that he really hates God because of his mother’s death. The rest of the students then stand up and declare that “God’s not dead,” driving the atheist professor from the room. This film made $62 million at the box office.
Even more explicit is the recently released Persecution, a thriller about a pastor who is framed by the government for murder because he tries to stop the passage of a federal bill to restrict religious freedom.
The Christian church itself has a long history of telling stories of martyrdom and persecution. The stories of saints’ lives often center on their sufferings for Christ. For example, Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a popular and classic text recounting notable martyrdoms throughout church history. The purpose of these stories is to inspire and strengthen Christians, particularly those who will later face persecution. But they were not designed to function as aspirational fantasy. And that is the real problem with many persecution narratives in Christian culture: They fetishize suffering.
These narratives appeal to broader audiences, too. Several major conservative political pundits and organizations have made a name for themselves by selectively highlighting cases of alleged persecution of Christians. The most well-known example is the so-called “war on Christmas,” which is predicated on the claim that the holiday has been secularized by retailers’ marketing choices. FOX News has a reputation for running these sensationalized stories of suspected or alleged discrimination.
For example, Todd Starnes, a popular commenter on the network, recently published God Less America, purporting to expose the “Attack on Traditional Values.” Starnes has built a career almost exclusively based on reporting alleged incidences of Christian and conservative persecution. But his work almost always offers a skewed vision of religious liberty in the U.S.—he often exaggerates or omits facts. Earlier in his career, he was fired from the Baptist Press for reporting “factual and contextual errors.” Yet, his continues to be enormously influential—as I wrote last year, “Starnes sells us what we want to hear. We want to believe that we are the underdog. And Starnes sells us that story, wrapped in language of patriotism and faith.”
Being a “loser” in the world’s eyes for the sake of Jesus was, paradoxically, cool.
A number of other news organizations and Christian groups are also guilty of this. Take a recent story covered by CitizenLink, the “public policy partner of Focus on the Family,” a highly influential, socially conservative advocacy group and ministry. The story is about a small Texas church that acquired an old community center in a residential area and turned it into a church and school, which violated local zoning laws. After unsuccessful attempts at changing the zoning laws, the church sued the town on claims of religious discrimination—a community center and Girl Scout camp were allowed in that area, but not a church, they said. When CitizenLink reported on the lawsuit, it framed this as a fight against “anti-religious discrimination.” But the minutes from a local town council show that residents opposed rezoning because they were concerned about the noise and traffic the church and school would bring to their quiet neighborhood.
Without digging deeply into CitizenLink’s story, readers will be left to believe that this small Texas town is intentionally targeting Christians for persecution. As the public-policy arm of one of the most powerful evangelical organizations in the U.S., CitizenLink’s influence is considerable. If an evangelical Christian reader chooses to get her news from CitizenLink and similar sources every day, it’s easy to see why she would believe that there really is a war on Christians in this country.
All of these cultural factors are framed in a deep theological conception of persecution. Traditionally, Christians have had a very broad view of what it means to suffer for Christ—broad enough to include everything from genuine martyrdom to mild ridicule by nonbelievers. Behind this is an essential part of the faith, which says that every Christian will be persecuted by the world: True believers will lose jobs, face exile, and suffer from violence.
The problem is that for most of U.S. history, Christians haven’t been persecuted—at least not in comparison to early believers or even what Christians in places like Iraq face today. So, the question for American Christians is what to make of the Bible’s warning that we will be persecuted. For many evangelicals, the lack of very public and dramatic persecution could be interpreted as a sign that they just aren’t faithful enough: If they were persecuted, they could be confident they are saved. This creates an incentive to interpret personal experiences and news events as signs of oppression, which are ostensibly validations of our commitment to Christ.
The danger of this view is that believers can come to see victimhood as an essential part of their identity.
Other Christians would argue that these biblical warnings are not intended to mean that victimhood is a sign of salvation. Instead, they are meant to assure believers that suffering in life is not a sign that God has abandoned the faithful, or that the Gospel is not the truth. This is a radical thing about Christ, and, coincidentally, the reason why Nietzsche called Christianity a “slave morality”: Christ’s suffering on the cross is an inversion of worldly conceptions of success and power. His model is of sacrifice and selflessness—persecution is a constituent part of his divinity, not a sign that he was defeated.
That’s not to say there aren’t very real incidents of discrimination and even hatred toward Christianity in the United States. But as members of the largest faith group in America, Christians are relatively well-protected and more often accommodated than actively harmed.
As evangelical morality increasingly comes into conflict with dominant cultural mores, evangelicals need to be even more careful about the debates we chose to engage in, the rights we chose to assert, and the hills we choose to die on. Too much is at stake for evangelicals to waste our resources and credibility on frivolous and occasionally self-provoked “injustices.” Imagined offenses drummed up by sensationalists and fear-mongers should be exposed and denied. At times, even legitimate offenses should be overlooked, when they are petty. By focusing attention on real and substantial incidences of persecution, evangelicals will be much more effective at educating their neighbors and fighting for truly important matters of religious liberty.
And this has implications for those outside of evangelicalism, as well. It’s a challenge of tolerance: Just because some claims of persecution are contrived doesn’t mean actual persecution doesn’t exist here and elsewhere. And even though the traditionally powerful influence of evangelicals in America is waning, that doesn’t mean it is just to infringe upon our rights.
Tensions between Christians and non-Christians are likely to grow in the coming years as cultural mores shift, and out of this tension will come negotiations, dialogue, lawsuits, ignorance, and conflict. For evangelicals, preparation for this must begin in our own house, as we learn to better discern good theologies of suffering, edifying stories of persecution, and distorted reports of discrimination.