Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Losing My Religion

I am not sure when my belief in organized Religion fell away but I suspect it was long before the endless revelations of sexual abuse by the hands of Priests, Ministers or other Religious figures; I never lost my faith in the concept of God but I began to question and in turn evaluate those tenants of faith that mark the religion of my choice - Christianity.

I chose my faith as my Parents had no interest in any of it, although my Mother found herself attending the nearby Presbyterian church at the corner of my home as I had discovered the old Church housed a theater group, the La Pense Players so it seemed if not convenient but was also  perfect reflection of how I see God; for it is  in the moments the house lights begin to go down in a Theater and the stage lights before the Actors set foot, for it is in that moment I see God.   Perhaps that is what drew me to the Catholic Church as theater is very much a part of its tradition and history.  But somewhere along the line I did not need a constructed dogma to channel my faith as it was mine and mine alone and I would reconcile that with God.   As for Jesus, he believed he was his son to the point he was willing to die for it, I on the other hand saw him as the world's first Hippie down to the commune. But anyone willing to die for what they believe be that country, freedom or religion, more power to you.

Since moving to Nashville I have found religion to be that which is thrown in my face on a daily basis and I find it repugnant as I see little true behaviors that I believed reflected Christianity, such as generosity, kindness, community and love.  What I have found it is the contrary - greed, cruelty, selfishness, segregation and hate.  It is shocking, no, not really. For all the stereotypes and archetypes we of the North have of the South and of Bible Belt this is one that does not fall far from the tree.

And I of course found that prototype and in turn never cared for an individual more.  I did not love him in a conventional manner nor in a mother/son type,  but in a true spiritual soul mate whom I suspected I knew (and later confirmed) in a past life, the irony being his not mine.  When I realized that is why we connected despite all the opposite flags flying I was willing to drop the guards and fence and open my heart and mind to this young man who for whatever it was worth did not fly said flags fully in my direction and that was also a problem that later crashed this plane firmly to the ground.

At age 60 I was not sure what to make of my loving a person in this spiritual perfectly clean way and I had never believed in my rational mind I would ever find common ground with someone who was on paper the perfect opposite if not antagonist to my protagonist as I would with this young man. Then the outside looked in and of course this being the South the reality was few understood or were willing to believe that innocence and purity were the foundation to this relationship as the South and their ignorance with regards to sex and sexuality falls into prurient and pervert in perfect synchronicity.  So with all eyes on us the reality of it led this beautiful friendship collapse in a way that left me crawling out from under a heap of waste.

I do believe that much of the issue is and was sex.  I have had an interesting sex life that discontinued when a boy of 24 tried to kill me for whatever reason or intent that to this day has never been clear but I have never waivered from the belief that he wanted to kill me as no one would put that mix of drugs, alcohol and allow them to get behind the wheel without wanting to do harm, so when this young man decided to rescind the friendship all the triggers were pulled and my PTSD emerged double time as I was already in move mode and had surgery planned which he all knew so that intent and design was not lost.

But what I have come to know since is the way Religion and a clinging to tradition here in the South play into all interactions - history, legacy, suspicion and of course gender all are all part of how those "from" here see those who are not.  As being the first Northerner whom this young man met he was fascinated, intrigued and of course curious and it led to his commitment to a friendship that again on paper would be a flag that such possibility would be odds that even Vegas may flail against but so it went and I believe both of us grew as a result.  And if one thanks God for that so be it.

Since our falling out for reasons I felt were about Religion but less spoken and more implied I tried to understand why we could not work around that without it affecting what was an important relationship to us both but alas I could not. From a hateful video of a Preacher long dead lecturing on When God Impeaches America I knew then that this friendship was coming to a close.  Then came the talk about how he. believed that sex was for marriage only and for the purpose of procreation that I had to check the calendar to see what year I was living in.  I had never touched the boy sexually and had never seen him in that light but only in a light that was positive and white I could not believe he felt compelled to send both that video to me and to tell me that bullshit I wondered what or why he was so determined to destroy what I believe God had brought to us.  Funny how two people can see God so differently, or not.

But one thing is certain this is about sex and sexuality and the modern day Puritans have cornered the market on fucking their followers over versus fucking them.  While all of the Revelations (not the Biblical kind) with regards to these towering figures are about sex it goes to show that yes absolute power corrupts absolutely and if I can't have mind neither can you.

When I read the below article suddenly it all made sense, the projection, the accusation and the sudden withdrawal.  To be that confused about sex, sexuality and gender relationships does not bode well for this young man's future and to that I say - FUCK IT. I have only so much to give and to take and frankly I can't take it anymore from these religious crackpots, time is only so long as is my patience. The similarities between this man's story and the young man I called a friend cannot be lost. He seems to be and I just wanted to put a trail of breadcrumbs down for him to know he always had a home, it just was not the one he once believed was. I pray for him or at least wish him well he needs wellness.

The Guardian
'I thought losing my virginity would be rape': inside Christian purity guides

The youth movement that swept US churches in the 1990s also spawned many anti-dating books. Now, some writers are losing faith in ‘the Mike Pence rule’

Sian Cain
Tue 30 Jul 2019

‘I have lived in repentance for the past several years’ … Joshua Harris.

Joshua Harris was just 22 in 1997 when he published I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a dating guidebook for young Christians that advised them to do anything but. Dating was a “training ground for divorce”, he argued in the book, which sold almost 1m copies worldwide. It also made Harris a superstar in the Christian purity movement, a pro-abstinence crusade that began in evangelical churches in the 1990s and became well-known in the purity ring-wearing hands of Jessica Simpson and the Jonas Brothers. Many authors came after Harris – John and Stasi Eldredge, Hayley DiMarco, Tim and Beverly LaHaye – all of them in the US, where religious publishing is worth $1.22bn (£1bn) a year.

Now 44, Harris made headlines this week when he revealed he no longer considers himself a Christian. He has been issuing apologies for his own books over the last decade, even making a documentary called I Survived Kissing Dating Goodbye. On his Instagram this week, he wrote: “I have lived in repentance for the past several years – repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few.”

Dianna E Anderson, who left the purity movement in her 20s and is the author of Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity, says its relationship guides have inflicted lasting damage on young people desperate to preserve their holiness while battling hormones.

“As a woman, I was taught that women don’t feel or experience desire, so I suppressed any and all thoughts along that way, to the point where I was practically asexual all the way up until I was 23, and I didn’t date until I was 25,” she says. “Turns out it’s really hard to date when you’re a super-repressed purity-obsessed evangelical.”

Most Christian purity guidebooks dish out similar advice. The golden rule: no sex before marriage, ever. The relationships are always heterosexual and monogamous, while the sex is always deeply conventional – a mindset that has left a generation of Christian teens muddled on the “purity” of acts like oral sex, and inspired the Garfunkel and Oates tune The Loophole.

Male desire is treated as animalistic and uncontrollable, with many writers – including Harris – advising that men should avoid the company of women who aren’t their wives. (This was once called “the Billy Graham rule”, after the evangelical preacher who advocated it, but is increasingly rechristened “the Mike Pence rule”.) In his 2005 book Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust is), Harris supported a strict interpretation of Matthew 5:28, where even glancing at someone attractive on the bus was a sin. Anderson calls it the “There’s No Such Thing As a Random Boner principle”, where “lust becomes a thoughtcrime … every single hormonal moment becomes a life-death struggle for your soul and something to repent of. That’s such a huge weight!”

Anderson still lives with the after-effects of being raised on such ideas. As a teenager, she believed that women didn’t feel arousal and men were uncontrollable, which “caused me to imagine that losing my virginity would essentially be rape. That if I wasn’t married, then the only other way I would lose my purity would be if I wasn’t strong enough and a date raped me. Of course, I didn’t see it as rape – I saw it as a man being animalistic and just giving in to his sin. I had no mechanism for understanding that I could possibly consent, and that it would be something I would want to do. In my teenage, evangelical imagination, I hoped and prayed to be put in a scary sexual assault situation so that I could prove how faithful I was to God.”

Harris is now leaving his wife after 21 years of marriage. Anderson says disillusionment is not uncommon in a movement built on the fallacy that if you marry young and abstain, you’ll be happy. But she does not think others will follow Harris’s lead, as criticism tends to make them double down on their beliefs. “You see this throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, and through the abuse scandals at Harris’s former denomination, Sovereign Grace Ministries. They refuse to acknowledge that a sexual ethic based simply on telling women they have to say no until they’re married, at which point they cannot say no any more, is flawed.”

For many like Anderson, Harris’s apology is too late, having spawned a whole subgenre of books by authors who won’t also recognise the damage they have done.

“I don’t think evangelicals should be contributing to the conversation about purity and sex anymore. It’s time for them to listen,” she says. “As a queer woman, I was so repressed that I didn’t discover my own queer identity until I was in my late 20s, and I feel like important parts of myself were stolen from me because of this theology. At this point, it’s their job to listen. Unfortunately, they don’t seem ready to.”

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