Bob Jones University Slammed in Report on Sexual Abuse

In February, I reported that Bob Jones University had canceled the independent investigation into how they responded to sexual abuse. The outcry following their decision was staggering, far greater than anything I’d seen before. I believe it forced their hand to reinstate G.R.A.C.E. to finish the investigation. However, I was hesitant to hope that the final report would actually see the light of day, so I watched and waited.

On Thursday, G.R.A.C.E. released onto their website a 300-page document chronicling their investigation, findings, and recommended actions.

It’s long. If you’re not directly tied to BJU, you probably don’t want to read a book-long report. And if you are tied to BJU, you might find it pretty damn triggering, like me.

Even though I think it’s always wise to read the original documents of something of this magnitude (and I will finish it eventually), the New York Times also did an excellent article that summarized the findings and recommendations.

There’s a part of me that still can’t believe this is happening. To have another Christian organization condemn the way that rape and sexual assault counseling was handled and to suggest that the school’s most beloved “counselors” and “godly men” be banned from speaking on the topic or from having their books promoted is more than I ever hoped for. To have the media actually pick up on the story and start to show the world the fucked up environment that was my reality is even more astounding.

Bob Jones University, under the direction of a new president–the first of whom isn’t actually a Jones, released their typical, carefully worded non-apology in the same vein as their non-apology for racism. I’m not sure at this point whether to hope that things will change or not. In my experience, they’ll do something that publicly looks good, but they themselves won’t actually change. They’ll just go underground with their victim blaming.

The greatest hope I have thus far lies in the fact that this investigation has prompted a more official investigation into whether BJU can legally be held responsible for counseling students not to report crimes to the police.

In other words, for obstructing justice.

I’m excited to see this develop further. I make no attempt to pretend to value anything about BJU. And this report makes for three organizations within the circles of the IFB that have been exposed (The rape scandals surrounding Jack Schaap and Bill Gothard being the others).

Grab a seat and a bag of popcorn as the empire comes crashing down. I expect that this could be as big as the Catholic Church scandal.

Maybe my prayers to Kali are paying off after all…

Singleness is Good for your Relationship

Considering that I got married at 21, before I’d even rented my first apartment, I might seem to be the wrong person to talk about the importance of singleness; however, most people don’t know that I actually planned on being single for life.

When my partner came into my world, love was the last thing on my mind. I’ll never forget the horror and dismay I felt when I realized I’d fallen for him and that marriage suddenly didn’t seem like an atrocious idea. I mourned losing my unfettered future.

The way people talk about being single makes it sound like a horrible curse, and since I did experience a measure of loneliness in high school, I get part of that.

Yet when I hear someone bemoaning the lack of a girlfriend or boyfriend in their lives as if having a relationship is the only thing that will make their lives feel fulfilled, I can’t help by inwardly groan at how much they are missing…and how unready for a relationship they reveal themselves to be.

So very few of us ever learn how to be alone with ourselves. We surround ourselves with people, if not physically then virtually or fictionally, to the point that we don’t even know what silence sounds like.

And our media tells us that being alone is bad, that it means there’s something wrong with us. The good guys in the fairy tales get married and live happily ever after. Only the evil queens and witches live out in the woods by themselves. We have musicals where the main plot line is the need to find a mate because god forbid the protagonist turns thirty without having had five children!

But if I could give one piece of relationship advice—just one that could create the potential for successful relationships by itself—it’s learning to be content single.

The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it’s not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of another person–without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other. –Osho

If a person is looking for a partner to make them feel loved, to take care of them, to make their life meaningful, or to end their loneliness, they’re setting themselves up for failure and disappointment. Beyond the very fact that the desperation of “must have mate” is a little bit like having a neon sign on your chest that says “Run away if I ask you out,” the fact is that no one will ever be able to fill in those needs!

Because they’re things we have to do for ourselves.

Self-love can’t be replaced by love from another. Self-fulfillment can’t be fulfilled by another. Our life’s purpose can’t reside in another.

It’s our own individual work.

Putting it on another person automatically creates an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship because it says, “In order for me to be a healthy, whole, stable person of value, you have to love me.” If someone walked up to you and said that at the first date, would you really want to be with them?

Unstated yet still implied isn’t really better.

I hesitate to even call something love if someone needs another person to complete them. It’s just using that other person as a distraction from the fact that they haven’t found completion in themselves. Taken to its extreme, it becomes an excuse for someone to use their dependency as a weapon, threatening all manner of tragic things if the relationship ends.

I’m not saying that every couple who coupled up without doing some work in singleness first is automatically unhealthy and unstable.

It’s possible to learn how to be complete and alone while in a relationship. I’ve had to learn how to differentiate myself, love myself, fulfill myself, guide myself, and be with myself while still being married.

But it’s hard. There aren’t many pop references of what it’s like to be in love without losing yourself in the process. Undying, unconditional, obsessive love is still the ideal, despite the fact that it usually means an unboundaried love.

I see singleness as an opportunity to get your shit under control before entering into a relationship. There used to be this joke that I think had more truth in it than people realized. “You never find love when you’re looking for it. It’s when you’ve finally given up that love finds you.”

I prefer a spin on Osho’s thoughts. You’re not ready for love until you are content just being single. But who’s going to write that into a musical?

 

A Playlist to Be Your Badass Self

Earlier in November, I took a trip to visit my family. It was the first time I’d been to their home in…two years, maybe three, and I was pretty nervous, especially since the last two visits back had been filled with PTSD shit. On the way there, I developed a kind of “Be Your Badass Self” playlist to help remind me of my courage and keep me grounded in who I am now rather than being dragged into who I was back then. Below, I share some of my favorites. What are the songs that would be on your “Be Your Badass Self” playlist?

  • Brave—Sara Bareilles
    Truly one of my favorites. I think I listened to this song about fifty times before my job interview and grad school interview.

  • Shake It Off—Taylor Swift
    A new one, and a bit of a silly one. But damn if it doesn’t have a good message…not to mention that it’s a great song to really shake to. At some point, I swear I’m going to figure out how to use this song for belly dancing.

  • Don’t Rain on my Parade—Glee
    Glee’s version of this song is one where I will say it was better than the original. This rendition gives me goosebumps every single time.

  • Unwritten—Natasha Beddingfield
    An older song that beautifully reminds me that it’s okay to make mistakes and be unsure of where I’m going sometimes. Being happy to be me and to be in the moment is enough.

  • Into the Blue—Kylie Minogue
    The chorus says it all: “When I got my back up against the wall/ Don’t need no one to rescue me.”

  • Let It Go—Frozen
    How could I have a playlist about being yourself without some Disney? Especially without the song from Frozen!

  • Raise Your Glass—Pink
    The “be yourself” song when you’ve just had it and need to revel in the fact that people are freaked the hell out by who you are.

5 Key Ways that Husbands Can Support Their Wives in Graduate School (A Parody)

The following satire was “inspired” (and matched word-for-word in some places for effect) by 5 Keys to Supporting Your Law Enforcement Husband, an advice piece recently published by a fairly popular website for police. 

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It’s been one of those weeks. Your wife has been working on three group projects, waking up early in the morning to cram in a chapter of text reading before work, and coming home hours after dark only to sit in a room with headphones on to write yet another paper.

Meanwhile, you’re stuck with all the day-to-day tasks all on your plate.

You might be tempted to complain about the fact that you’ve had to wash dishes, cook dinner, and scrub the toilet for two months now without an ounce of assistance from your significant other. But men, if you really want to be able to support your wife during this significant yet stressful time in her career, complaining isn’t going to help.

So here are 5 key ways that you can support your special lady:

  1. Always have a meal ready.

When your wife comes home from work or class, she’s hungry and tired. She’s been dealing with the world all day, and the last thing she needs is to have to wonder where her dinner is. It’s a simple gesture to have dinner waiting for her when she gets in at night, but it makes a HUGE difference in her day. It lets her know that you’ve been thinking about her.

In the morning, set your alarm clock for just a half hour earlier so that you can brew a fresh pot of coffee and give her a good start to her day before she heads out. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and when your wife is in graduate school, she’s going to need a lot of brain food to keep her at her optimal.

  1. Connect Every Day

Your wife is busy. She’s going to be missing out on a lot of life trying to keep up with her studies. But you can help her feel connected by little gestures that keep her in the loop. Meet her on her class breaks with a little snack and an “I love you.” Send her text messages throughout her day letting her know that you’re thinking about her. Get involved and stay up to date on the things that her school is doing. Maybe even bake some cookies for her class. Try not to get upset that she isn’t there and help her feel a part of your life.

  1. Stay Available

Graduate school is notoriously hectic. There will be entire weeks and weekends where it seems like your wife doesn’t emerge from her books except for food and water. But when she does have some free time, you want to make sure that you are there to spend it with her. Find out what her class schedule is, when her projects are due, and when her days off will be. Write your own schedule around hers. Plan in when she will need to eat meals by herself, whether at home or on the run, and make arrangements for her to have healthy options. Make a note of when you can have meals together and guard those days or evenings from other encroaching activities. Don’t make plans with your buddies during the times that your wife will be home. Turn off that football game when she has the odd free hour. Protect your time together, whether it happens once a week or once a month.

  1. Resist the Urge to Complain

I get it. Sometimes you’re tempted to resent the fact that she’s sitting in classes and reading books while you wrestle with an uncooperative washer or haul six bags of groceries in from the car, but resist the urge to complain. When she comes home from class, steer clear of any topics of conversation beyond asking about her day for at least an hour. You want home to be a haven for her, not a place where she has to face yet more stress. Walking into a house where her husband is complaining about how she gets to sit around with her group members and put together a powerpoint will only make her want to take up an extra class on scrapbooking and call it a required credit for her degree!

  1. Love her!

Well, you think, I married her. Why wouldn’t I love her?

But I’m not talking about that feel-good kind of love. I’m talking about faithfulness. Going that extra mile. Love her when she’s up until four a.m. working on her thesis. Speak proudly about her to your friends, telling them about her commendations from teachers and the articles she has published. One day, she might hear about how proud you are of her, and it will boost her confidence all the more to know that you get so much from her accomplishments.

In doing all of these things, husbands can support their wives in graduate school. As the semesters drag on and the projects pile up, grad school students can know that they are loved and appreciated at home.

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Think this is ridiculous?

Great, so do I!

No one in their right mind would think this is good advice to give to a man, but it’s just a sample of the kind of “advice” women are given on how to relate to their husbands. Isn’t it about time that “support your husband by having no life” articles are recognized for the pathetic bullshit that they are? Let’s leave the 1950’s housewife in the 1950’s, please and thank you. And I’m expected to believe that sexism is dead…

It feels good to be back! :)

 

Stereotypes, Identity, Spirituality, and Halloween–e.g. word vomit

At the beginning of October, I did a post on creating meaningful costumes. One of my suggestions was to dress up as a stereotype or caricature of yourself.

Apparently I’m not the only person who thinks this is a good idea. It seems to be a theme among other witches as well. Huffington Post has a wonderful article going into depth about how this particular costume idea can be used in a powerfully beautiful way, creating opportunities for self-exploration as well as conversations with others about what the stereotype means and how it fails to capture the complexity of true identity.

Identity is a funny thing. That’s one of the first thoughts that came to mind when I started trying to write out a biography for myself when I began this blog. There are certain labels that are very important to me, and I wear them loudly and proudly.

Yet there are times when I really struggle with identity.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a gemini or because of the trauma of coming from a cult, but I never feel like I entirely fit anywhere…nor do I want to.

Labels come in handy in trying to express something. They give a quick snapshot of a personality characteristic (like manic pixie dream girl), a belief (like witch), or group belonging (bisexual, feminist, woman).

But as soon as a label starts to feel stifling–when trying to adopt that label erases me more than it helps me be seen, then I start to chafe.

In the beginning of my spiritual journey away from the IFB, Christian wasn’t a bad word to me. I wanted to be a “Christian.” I wanted to reclaim that label for myself the way I had claimed bisexual and feminist. I spent a good three years trying to find a way to fit into Christianity on some level or another. I knew conservative Christianity would never accept me, but I had hope for a more liberal strain of Christianity.

But Christians had other ideas. Everywhere I turned, I found myself confronted with demands of what I needed to believe and do in order to be a Christian. There was nowhere that I could go within the church to work through my own beliefs and figure out my own brand of Christianity. There was nowhere I was given the space to be me.

I still mourn the loss of my religion. It was a big part of my identity, both given and chosen (or at least I tried to choose it). I walked away ultimately not because I didn’t want to believe anymore but because I couldn’t find a way to keep the label and be free at the same time.

In hindsight, I think it was good. I’ve discovered a spirituality that feels like what I was born to be, with a label that lets me define what it means for myself, not for everyone else. In fact, it’s such a perfect fit that I haven’t really even thought about my former religion with much emotion for at least six months, maybe even a year.

But as I use Halloween as a spiritual exploration of my darkness, my demons, my hell, and my identity, I’ve discovered that there is still a very deep, bitter grief surrounding Christianity for me.

My theme this year is blasphemy. Although it was meant to be and will still be incredibly fun, I am discovering that it’s more of a final destruction and burial of my former religion. This is the saddest Halloween I’ve celebrated thus far as I prepare to put on a stereotype of the only identity I ever found consistently applied to me within Christianity–sacrilegious abomination.

 

Pissofftimist: Someone Who Hates Both Optimism and Pessimism

I’m not an optimist, and I’m not a pessimist.

I’m a creature that requires both light and dark to survive. I have a dual nature, one side that believes that Santa Clause reads my letters every year and the other that recoils from the sight of angels and little babies like a vampire recoils from a stake.

Is the glass half empty or half full? Doesn’t matter. If I’m thirsty, I’ll drink what’s there. If I’m very thirsty, I’ll complain that there isn’t more.

Sometimes I like to indulge in a little fluffy happiness, reading fairy tales or watching a Disney movie, but I can recognize that life is hardly all sunshine and roses. Sometimes I also like to indulge in dark things, like Emilie Autumn music, horror movies, and Edward Gorey storybooks.

The light and dark naturally balance themselves out, like night and day. They each have their place in the cycles of the year.

Which is why when I find myself confronted with that damned positivity movement, I want to vomit. Too much positivity is maddening, like being locked in a white room with bright lights. It’s more a form of torture than it is a form of therapy.

I don’t think positive psychology is bad. I certainly approve of a deeper approach to mental health besides responding to “illness.”

However, more and more I’m sensing that those who favor positive psychology want to ignore the “negative” altogether. Those who favor “strength-based approaches” want to pretend that weaknesses don’t exist.

It’s an artificial positivity that is annoying as fuck. The only way to sustain that kind of positivity is to either be so naïve that you’ve never experienced tragedy or to be in so much denial that you’re constipated on your own head.

Life doesn’t have to be about the opposition of two mindsets that on their own are unsustainable. I can appreciate the beauty of a tiger, but I also remember that it has teeth with which to chew me. Neither takes away from the reality of the other.

This all-or-nothing trend isn’t new, though. A hundred or so years ago, we were convinced everything was about sex. Jung criticized the idolization of Freud’s theory in his autobiography, musing that “the numinosum [e.g. worship of a theory] is dangerous because it lures men to extremes, so that modest truth is regarded as the truth and a minor mistake is equated with a fatal error” (Jung, 1963, p. 154).

Although we’ve since rejected the assumption that everything is motivated by suppressed sexual impulses, admitting that other motivations may come into play as well, it seems we have yet to learn from our actual mistake. We continue to unquestioningly embrace the next in-vogue school of thought as if it were a god.

I can only hope at some point we will swing back more towards the middle on positivity as well, preferably before we’ve turned it into a full-blown religion. In the meantime, I’m going to ward off the “100 days of happiness” dementors with a little intentional darkness.

Reference:

Jung, C. G. (1963). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York, NY: Vintage Books.