Adventures in Proselityzing: It’s Not a Religion. It’s a Relationship…With Someone Who Tears Me Down

It’s been a really long time since I’ve found myself cornered by an Evangelical Christian hell-bent on telling me all the ways that they aren’t “religious” but “in a relationship with Jesus” who, of course, is the best friend, counselor, teacher, etc. that I could have if I would only convert.

This week brought that streak to a sudden halt.

It came out of nowhere…it had to in order to catch me off-guard and prevent my escaping before it happened.

I was surprised by what it brought up for me. Or rather, what it didn’t bring up.

Generally when I have previously been witnessed to, I’ve been able to hold my ground, but inside I’m trembling, triggered, angry, and secretly terrified that the spiritual onslaught will never end. I’ve never been the type to lash out at those who try to slip their proselytizing into a “casual” conversation, but I’ve never felt particularly strong or compassionate either.

Usually it mirrors the way that I feel about getting harassed by a stranger at a bar. I might smile and decline politely, but it’s coming from a place of fear that suspects that things will only be worse for me if I express outrage. It’s a placating kindness.

However, when I suddenly realized I was in a room with someone who was going to “witness” as if my life depended on it (which to her it probably did), I was shocked to realize that it didn’t feel threatening.

I still didn’t want to listen. I’ve heard it all before. Hell, I’ve said it all before!

But the dominant emotion wasn’t fear or rage. It was somewhere on the spectrum of pity and amusement.

Amusement because despite her attempts to sound genuine as hell and to convince me she wasn’t talking about a religion, it was as canned a response as if she had broken out into a Hail Mary. They were memorized phrases that she had been instructed in how to use in her witnessing to convince others that her religious expression was more genuine than any other type of Christian’s.

The pity came in at the way that she couldn’t help but devalue herself in the process. In order to talk about how wonderful Jesus was to her, she had to talk about how unworthy she was of God’s love and how imperfect and depraved a person she was because, for her, the wonder of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice was in that it wasn’t “deserved” but given in spite of it all.

She couldn’t build up the object she wanted to share with me without creating a foundation that tore herself down.

I realized at one point that we actually shared something in common. As a Pagan, I also don’t believe I am particularly perfect. I have a shadow side. I have less than admirable motivations and compulsions to work through. I make mistakes.

However, the difference is that I don’t see myself as needing to be “saved.” I don’t see my flaws and imperfections as indications of how worthless I am. I especially don’t think that the answer is to eradicate myself and replace myself with an inner Jesus.

Within her framework, there is no room for anything but shame towards the self.

In contrast, my spiritual inclinations help me celebrate that I am not perfect. Perfection would be boring. Or just nauseating. It’s in the imperfections that growth happens…and growth is part of life.

I have no desire to destroy those parts of myself that are flawed. Rather, I want to engage with them, learn from them, integrate with them, and transform them.

Having come from the same shame that I saw her expressing, I can remember how devastatingly awful it was. Brene Brown says, “Shame drives disconnection.” That is true especially with the existential shame that certain sects of Christianity try to foist on members. This kind of shame drives a repulsion of the self, which in turn drives shallow interactions with others built on judgment and fusion.

I could recognize this time around that this woman posed no threat to me. She wasn’t even fully present in the interaction as she spouted off her memorized phrases. She was speaking from a fragmented and alienated self, and I felt sad that she was caught up in that and desperately thankful that I had escaped.

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Listening for the Holy Spirit…er, My Spirit

This spring and summer have been a delightful whirlwind of activity. For a number of weeks leading up to the summer solstice, I couldn’t imagine being alone, filling each day and night with fun and friends. There were moments when I wondered if I could even consider myself an introvert anymore.

Then as the summer peaked and entered into the waning half of the year, I felt a shift.

“It’s time,” a small voice seemed to whisper.

I didn’t need to question what it was time for either. I knew instinctively that I was turning inward, beginning a more private part of my journey. Solitude suddenly seemed not only appealing but necessary. Whereas a week before I would have considered it a waste of a weekend to be stuck at home alone, my ideal Friday night was now an evening spent with my journal.

I know, this isn’t a particularly dramatic or interesting story. I went through a cycle. I managed to know when it was time to refocus and change direction. Whoop-di-do.

What stood out to me, though, was that the voice I felt and heard, the compass I looked towards for my “next step,” was the same voice I had listened for my entire life, even when I was in the IFB. It was the voice that I hoped to feel when I prayed and waited for the Holy Spirit’s leading. It was the voice that never led me wrong.

I used to think it was the voice of God.

I think I needed to believe it was the voice of God because realizing that it was coming from myself would have made it too untrustworthy.

Having been raised to distrust my “deceitfully wicked” heart, I couldn’t just trust my own understanding, for that would have surely led me into the devil’s snares. Every thought, every feeling, every desire was suspect, tainted with sinfulness.

But if I prayed earnestly to God in faith and submission, I could at least feel reasonably certain that he wouldn’t lead me wrong. Prayer was my only way of seeking direction outside of my authority figures and spiritual leaders, and ultimately the only way to trump their demands on my life.

So I listened for the still small voice of God that eventually led me out of the IFB and into freedom.

As I lost my religion, I went through a period where I doubted the “answered prayers” that had been such transformative moments in my life. If I didn’t believe in the Christian god, how could my prayers and my experiences have been real?

I still desperately needed to feel that sense of direction, but I couldn’t yet identify it as coming from within me. Tarot replaced prayer as my guidance seeker. It was external and mysterious enough that I could listen for that knowledge of the right direction without consciously looking to my inner wisdom as my guide.

I still love Tarot as my most surefire way of cutting through the bullshit of “should’s” and “must’s” to get to the heart of what I feel, but over time I’ve realized that I can access that inner knowing from within myself as much as from without. And as I’ve practiced listening to my intuition and inner guide, I’ve gotten better at hearing it without any props or tools.

I was afraid when I left Christianity that I would never again experience the magic of feeling “filled with the Holy Ghost” or the assurance of knowing that I would receive the answer I needed in prayer, but my soul has given me a beautiful surprise.

I don’t need anything else to fill me or guide me on what is truly best for my life. I am enough. I’ve been enough all along. Being connected to myself is being connected to God and filled with the Holy Spirit. It was me all along, finding ways of reaching out to myself.

And now that I’m no longer afraid of that connection or of that incredible, beyond-comprehension intuition, I know what it is for God to say, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

 

A Time to Hate

If I said that I intensely dislike my family, would it make you uncomfortable? If I said I had an aversion to fundamentalism, would it make you cringe? If I said Bob Jones University disgusts me, would you think I was out of line in that emotion?

What if I said I hate my family/fundamentalism/Bob Jones University?

In a conversation with a friend the other day about negative emotions, I was surprised to find myself defending hatred as a valid emotion. Six months ago I would have said that hatred was toxic and dangerous, the antithesis of love and the root of destruction and violence. Even when I was able to reconcile the empowering, positive aspects of anger and reject the unhealthy prescriptions of forgiveness that victims encounter at every turn in our society, I still felt afraid of hatred.

I thought of hatred when I saw Westboro standing on a street corner holding up picket signs or when someone murdered an ex-lover out of spite. I thought of hatred when I saw fighting in the Middle East. I thought of hatred when I saw the callous disregard for human rights.

I thought of hatred when I thought of dysfunction, prejudice, and abuse.

But is that really what hatred is?

I only recently realized that the connotation I had surrounding hatred was so strong that I didn’t even know what hatred was. It was just “bad.” When I looked up the definition, I discovered that it was essentially an emotional gag reflex.

Disgust, aversion, dislike…none of those held negative connotations for me. In fact, it seemed rather healthy to be able to experience them.

So why was hatred so scary in my mind? Why was I afraid to acknowledge that I hated my family, despite having more than plenty of reason to feel an aversion to them? If I operate with just the definition of hatred, rather than the word itself, I think having an aversion to my family is as healthy as heaving when I eat rotten meat. I know they’re going to harm me if I carelessly ingest them. So, why the guilt over such a healthy response?

When I moved away from my religious background, I needed to believe that God was love, and that love was safe, not harmful. Love became my spiritual guiding light (still is to some extent), so I clung to verses like 1 John 4:20 and 3:15:

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen….Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

If love was the “greatest commandment” and the whole of spirituality, I assumed hatred was the root of my abuse, overlooking the fact that the majority of my abuse was justified as love. Love couldn’t be the motivation. Love wasn’t supposed to hurt. Love didn’t seek to do harm. Love never failed. Love was the fulfillment of the law; as long as there was love, it was perfect…right?

Yes, but that’s an idealized version of love. It’s a model of love that promotes a healthy expression of love, but it’s not the only way that love can be expressed. Love can be dysfunctional, just like hatred. Love can be destructive. It can motivate callousness to the rights of others or extreme selfishness.

I can recognize that certain expressions of love are unhealthy and reject those particular scripts without rejecting the idea of love entirely because I also have healthy scripts of love on which to draw. Over the last two years I’ve developed the ability to do that with anger too. Now it’s hatred’s turn. How could hatred not get a bad reputation when they only face of it we see are from those embroiled in dysfunction?

This week has been spent with me exploring what a healthy representation of hatred might look like. The first step came with admitting that I do hate, and recognizing that my hatred hasn’t turned me into a sadistic sociopath. I hate, but I do not want to kill those I hate. I hate, but I don’t view those I hate as less human as a result. I hate, but it doesn’t consume my life or interfere with my other relationships. I hate, but it doesn’t prevent me from loving.

Rather, hatred sets me free, just as anger did, to acknowledge where great harm was done. It releases me from familial obligations that tell me I should let an unhealthy person close to me. It strengthens me to set boundaries and stand up for myself. It clarifies where my values lie. On a broader front, because I hate bigotry, homophobia, sexism, racism, transphobia, etc., hate reinforces my love and respect of humanity. On a personal front, because I hate abuse and manipulation, it reinforces my love for myself.

If anything, my fear of embracing the natural emotions to my abuse has kept me disconnected from my own humanity, preventing me from fully embracing love, life, and relationships. My emotions are not my enemy. They are the tools that allow me to heal. Wholeness and balance come with the recognition that every emotion has its purpose and time.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Even the Darkest Night Still Has Light

In the summer, I take the sun for granted. I trust that its light and warmth will be there to drive away the shadows. I bask in the energy and vibrancy of the natural life I see around me.

But in winter, the darkness dominates.

I don’t usually mind the dark. My Goddesses are associated with the moon, and I have often found a deep sense of connection to myself and to their energy at night. Meditation and yoga under the stars is nothing short of transcendental for me.

However, there’s a different side to darkness. It’s the darkness of descending into the underworld. The darkness of shadows slinking forward, of monsters coming to visit, and of the judgment of a psychopathic god. It’s the darkness of my childhood, when the boogeyman existed and went by the name of my god.

It’s been five years since I left the cult, and approximately three since I left Christianity altogether. Yet I’ve developed a new (or probably more accurately, an old) fear of the dark. It crept into my heart as the days grew shorter this year. The connection and peace that I had come to associate with the night disappeared as my fears returned—the fears that “like a thief in the night” and “in the blink of an eye” life and love would be taken.

In the past, my underworld journeys have been somewhat deliberate . . . or at least identified, but this time, I only became aware that I was in the bowels of my psyche when I was standing, stripped and naked, before my Ereshkigal.

She was me. I was a child again, anxiously watching the clock grow later, praying that I would be reunited with my loved ones—that they hadn’t disappeared. I was a four year old afraid to close my eyes because I might die in my sleep and wake up in hell. I was a preteen, seeking out the company of others, not because I longed for company, but because I needed to know that humanity still existed. I was a teen listening for the sound of breathing still coming from my parents’ room so that I knew I hadn’t been left behind in the Rapture.

How appropriate that just before the longest night of the year, I find myself face to face with a fear so deep that it goes beyond my earliest memories and survives even my unbelief. I might as well be looking under my bed for Krampus for all the sense it makes to believe that the world is going to end with a trumpet blast and dead people will float up to heaven.

Yet here I am, afraid of being left behind.

But this is what I love about goddess spirituality—the underworld is not where I go after I’ve been damned by a vindictive deity; it’s where I go to find myself again. . . and this time, to rescue myself from that vindictive deity. Jehovah may throw me into the fiery pit where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, but that’s okay. Inanna is there to remind me, as Rilke said, “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

And when I look at my Underworld with that perspective, I find that there are no demons down there, just a frightened little girl who is tired of being forgotten in the darkness–scary only because I’ve been taught to fear her pain.

How equally appropriate then that as the physical light gets ready to grow again, I awake to find that it’s time to begin my upward journey back into myself, this time not leaving the shadow goddess behind but carrying her with me up into the world above, a world of sunlight . . . a world of a different kind of night—one where the light doesn’t completely leave but lingers in the stars and moon.

Guest Post: What Would Jesus Do with a No True Scotsman Fallacy?

Since I’m out of town this weekend enjoying an herbal conference, being all hippie and magical, my partner has written a guest post. I’ve wanted him to post about some logical fallacies since I allude to them frequently but don’t always do a great job of explaining what they are. Last week I mentioned the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. This week, he has chosen to expound on that topic a bit more. Enjoy! I’ll be back with lots to talk about next week!

As humans, we find it easy to align ourselves with those we admire and distance ourselves from those we find repulsive. At stake are our reputations; we know that we will, inevitably, be linked in the public’s mind to those who are similar to us or hold the same label. Observably, the public scene, whether political, social or religious, feeds on poisoning as many wells as it can. If a lawyer mentions his occupation at the dinner table, his audience will likely lump him in with shyster lawyers, about whom derogatory jokes abound. If a politician uses the term “libertarian” to describe herself, she will swiftly be attacked by the news based on Ron Paul’s or Rand Paul’s list of beliefs regardless of her own personal stances. If someone takes the label “Christian,” his link to Hitler by Hitler’s avowed association with Christianity will haunt the poor bastard’s religious discourse for years to come, nullifying his claims that Christianity is a peaceful religion. And inevitably, when confronted with Hitler’s Christianity, many Christians immediately respond that Hitler was obviously not a true Christian. Upon hearing this, an astute opposition replies that the Christian has committed the No True Scotsman fallacy, which quite often sends the Christian into hysterical histrionics.

The No True Scotsman fallacy (NTS) originates with an old story about two Scottish men drinking tea. Macgregor notices that McDougal takes his tea with cream. “No true Scotsman drinks his tea with cream!” says Macgregor. “I drink my tea with cream!” McDougal answers. “As I said,” exclaims Macgregor, “no true Scotsman drinks his tea with cream!” At its logical core, No True Scotsman (NTS) takes this form:

  1. No true Scotsman (group A) takes cream in his tea (group B).
  2. MacDougal (group C) takes cream in his tea (group B).
  3. Therefore, MacDougal (group C) is not a true Scotsman (group A).

Scottish Flag

NTS contains a couple different fallacies. Macgregor equivocates as he subtly changes the definition of “Scotsman” halfway through the conversation. Whereas “Scotsman” refers to an ethnic group of people born in a certain region or possessing citizenship to that region, Macgregor implies that drinking plain tea is an essential part of being a Scotsman. Also, Macgregor proves his premise (that no true Scotsman drinks tea with cream) by concluding that no true Scotsman drinks tea with cream—a prime example of begging the question, which is a subspecies of circular reasoning.

NTS fallacy enjoys flagrant use among modern Christians. The end of the 20th century saw a tremendous Christianization of America with the Moral Majority movement. Slogans like “What Would Jesus Do?” and “Who Would Jesus abort?” become increasingly popular. In the past few years, liberal Christians have tried to answer this movement with slogans like “Who Would Jesus bomb?” and “Who Would Jesus execute?”. Each of these slogans captures NTS fallacy neatly; each implies that Jesus equals Christianity and that no true Christian would commit or even support whatever action is mentioned, whether bombing, aborting, or executing.

Christians blatantly employ NTS fallacy as a buffer against association with other Christians with whom they disagree in doctrine, dogma or actions. Many Christians argue that “the effort to justify a mother taking the life of her unborn child is the absolute contradiction of Christianity.” The Facebook group called The Christian Left routinely characterizes conservative Christians as not Christian at all and having “nothing whatsoever to do with Christ.” Rick Santorum, a 2012 presidential candidate for the Republican party, argued that anyone disagreeing with him regarding Islam is part of “the American left who hates Christendom…they hate Western civilization at the core. That’s the problem.”

Intriguingly enough, both conservative and liberal Christians employ similar defenses when caught employing NTS fallacy. Both claim Jesus’ words in Matthew 7, where he says that people will be known “by their fruits.” They imply that the opposition’s lifestyle, beliefs and actions are such that no true Christian would embrace. Most of these Christians aren’t consciously trying to equivocate or beg the question (well, some are definitely trying and succeeding). The main intellectual problem is the premise.

Do true Scotsmen take cream in their tea? Indeed, some do. Do some Christians support abortion? Yes. Other Christians oppose it but support the death penalty, while still others oppose the death penalty but support socialism. The definition of “Christian” is the real question, which is where things get really slippery and Christians start equivocating.

When asked, some Christians argue that a “Christian” is a person who has faith in God, is saved, or is headed for heaven. But most Christians claim these, as do persons of multitudinous other faiths that Christians would likely exclude from Christianity. Narrowing Christianity to those who follow Jesus is no help either, for it seems many people of other religions respect and follow Jesus and his teachings better than many Christians, all of whom claim Jesus for themselves. Jesus, as a figurehead for Christianity, has also been appropriated to represent America, with both liberal and conservative Christians vying for this dubious honor. Funny thing: it turns out “Jesus” has as many definitions as “Christian” does.

Jesus

At this point, many Christians retreat to the idea that being a Christian means you believe the Bible is the word of God. However, Hitler also claimed this, as do Christians who support abortion, socialism, and other things conservative Christians find unchristian. Many Christians change their definition of “Christian” so many times during one conversation that one must wonder whether they even know what they believe or are simply regurgitating the countless contradictory definitions they’ve heard from years of numerous preachers’ ramblings.

Defending himself and Christianity against accusations of NTS fallacy, Thomas Shirk argues that “‘Christian’ is a label referring to religious and philosophical beliefs being held by the believer.  Since Hitler’s actions, words, and expressed philosophies and professed beliefs are outside of, and in many cases contrary to, the belief set of Christianity, it is…valid to say that Hitler was not a Christian.”

But Shirk has simply staved off the inevitable. He argues that no true Christian deviates from the Christian belief set; Hitler deviated; therefore Hitler is no true Christian. That’s all well and good, except that Shirk neglects to tell us what exactly the “Christian belief set” entails. We are left to assume that anyone who disagrees with Shirk is unchristian and that therefore “Christianity” equals whatever Thomas Shirk says it does. Conveniently, Shirk defines a Christian is one who believes what Christians believe, effectively equating the two ideas. Sure, Shirk avoids NTS fallacy. But in doing so, he employs ambiguous circular reasoning and fallacious ad hoc to avoid the question.

Probably the most controversial, current example claims a category unto itself: the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS. They embody all of the above definitions of “Christian,” yet both liberal and conservative Christians unite to levy NTS fallacy against them with reckless abandon. Westboro are Baptists and Calvinistic. They believe in God, Jesus’ deity and humanity, biblical salvation, biblical authority, and almost every belief which conservative Christians hold most dear.

And guess what? Westboro Baptist Church are Christians. Get over it. As long as no one is arguing that a position or belief is invalid because Westboro or Hitler believed it, Guilt by Association fallacy is not present. A religion’s history is a valid discussion topic in determining its constituents’ beliefs (past and present), its likelihood for violence, or its prominence in public society and government.

Many Christians search for a painless escape as they employ No True Scotsman fallacy to avoid uncomfortable associations with Christians they find abhorrent. However, the importance of delving deep into the definition of Christianity should not be sidestepped in favor of lazy intellectual security. As Bertrand Russell opined, “in all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” Instead of employing fallacies to avoid discussion, talk about the differences in your Christianity from that of Hitler or Westboro. Honest dialogue will open you and your opponents to friendship, common ground, genuine disagreement without malice, and a healthy atmosphere that will affect everyone for the better.

Reaching Out to Christian Allies: An Apology and a Challenge

I talk a lot about my dislike for Christianity.

As a survivor of an abusive Christian cult, I think I’ve earned that right.

But I also recognize and appreciate that not all Christians are abusive sociopaths. I have some friends who identify as Christian who are wonderful people. I’m so proud of them for finding a way to turn Christianity into a positive faith experience (not that it’s my place to feel proud of them, but I have to give them credit and respect for doing what I could not).

I thought that my disdain and criticism of Christianity were clearly not something they would perceive as directed at them.

I was wrong.

Within most systems of oppression, there is a way to differentiate between individuals within the privileged group and the system that grants them privilege and oppresses others. Patriarchy and male privilege delineate a system that oppresses women and gives men power without implying that men are all horrible, misogynistic asses. The same goes for White privilege and racism and for homophobia, heterosexism, and straight privilege (or biphobia and monosexism for that matter).

I’ve never heard a differentiation made between religious oppression and religious people.

It might be clear in my mind when I rail against Christianity that I’m not railing against all individuals who identify as Christians, but someone else may only hear a word that identifies them personally.

I don’t want to make Christians feel targeted as individuals by my hatred.

Some have tried to argue that what I dislike about Christianity “isn’t really Christian.” But you can’t say that someone who identifies as Christian isn’t Christian because you dislike the way they act. It’s a logical fallacy, commonly known as “No true Scotsman.” It should be an obvious logical fallacy. No one ever tries to argue, “That’s not really a White person. They’re racist, and I’m not. Since I’m White, they can’t be.” It doesn’t make sense, and it’s not a valid differentiation method.

But I understand what these people are getting at . . . I also want to be able to differentiate between Christianity as a faith identity and Christianity as an oppression/prejudice.

What we need is a word, like sexism, to identify Christianity as a system of power. Whether Christianity was meant to be a system of power is beside the point. We have to deal with what Christianity is, not lament what it should have been. Being a Christian is not bad, but just because an individual Christian doesn’t want to participate in oppression doesn’t mean that the religion suddenly loses its oppressive elements.

I came across something on Urban Dictionary the other day that feels like a solution. “Religism” hasn’t come into wide usage yet (I’m hoping to change that), but it exists to identify prejudice against those of a different religion.

Voila! Just like that, I have a word to describe the prejudice and oppression that comes from the Christian religion as a whole that doesn’t target individuals!

I feel it’s important to say that I’m truly sorry for the allies that I’ve inadvertently hurt. I should have done my Google search far before now. I want to work with Christian allies.

But in return, Christian allies need to also do work to recognize where they have privileges because of their faith identity. Just as I have hurt Christian friends without meaning to, many Christians unintentionally contribute to the oppression of others, even with the best of intentions. This article has a great beginning list of privileges Christians often enjoy without realizing it. I’ve added some of my own additions below.

  • If a person who shares your religion commits a violent crime, your neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances aren’t likely to view you as an imminent threat.
  • If a person who shares your religion commits a violent crime, the media and law enforcement aren’t likely to see your religion as the root of that violence.
  • If being questioned by the police, you have reasonable expectation that stating your religious faith will be an asset rather than a liability.
  • If arrested, you have reasonable expectation of a speedy trial without excessive detainment.
  • If you talk about your faith on the phone, you can feel relatively secure that the NSA won’t monitor you for simply mentioning your religion.
  • Lawmakers and judges who oppose laws on religious reasons refer to your religion.
  • In cases of civil rights violations, your religion is likely to be favored.
  • The morals of your religion are so commonly accepted that they are represented even in media and entertainment that claims to be from a different religious perspective (e.g. Charmed, a supposedly Pagan show, featuring Christian-esque demons despite the fact that most Pagans do not believe in the Christian version of the Devil or good and evil.)
  • Accepted alternatives to scientific theory reference your religion’s mythology.
  • Despite a violent past, your religion is not considered violent.
  • TV shows that portray your religion favorably aren’t likely to be boycotted or recalled because of public outrage.
  • History often favors your religion’s perspective and portrays the work of those from your religion as beneficial.
  • Even non-religious people are likely to use your religious buildings for special occasions unless they have cultural ties to other religions.
  • If neighbors or acquaintances find out about your faith, they are likely to assume you are a safe person for their children to be around.

I could go on, but I hope that my point has been made. It’s hard to see all the ways that Christianity is favored above other religions in the U.S. until you step out of Christianity. It doesn’t mean that these privileges are always present for all Christians, nor does it only refer to rights acknowledged by the government. Privilege is about societal structure that favors one group above another.

And I’m not saying that having privilege automatically makes someone a bad person. Privilege, by its very definition, is something that is given to a group of people whether they want it or not. It’s not necessarily something they have a choice about, and those who are aware of their privilege are limited in their ability to decline to participate.

However, being aware of privilege and taking steps to counter it can pave the way for healing and change.

I’m taking the first step to acknowledging how I’ve hurt the conversation by failing to differentiate between people who have a Christian faith identity and the Christian religism that pervades society. I’m changing my language in order to open the door for that conversation to begin again. We can work together to address the oppression within Christianity but only when Christian allies are willing to acknowledge that it exists.

Now, the ball is in the court of the allies. Are you willing to do your part to address and raise awareness of the system? Can you meet me in this place of differentiation? It won’t be easy. It may challenge you to examine your own life and faith a bit closer. It may challenge you to change perspectives, which is going to be extremely difficult when society is designed to validate your perspective. It may require you to bite your tongue when a wounded person is writhing under the agony of what Christian religism has done to them and to practice patience, love, and space-holding for those too hurt to recognize yet that you are not the same as the system. It may require stepping back from the conversation and listening instead of talking, following instead of leading, acknowledging instead of defending.

The good news is that if you’re a Christian ally, you’ve probably already had to do these things in other areas. You’ve probably already done some work to address white privilege if you’re white, male privilege if you’re a man, and straight privilege if you’re straight. This is nothing new to those who love equality. The trick is to take what you’ve already learned to do and apply it to a new aspect of your life.

Guest Post: Sometimes Fuckin’ Magical: An Enlightened-ish Post about “The Freedom to Cuss”

Today’s Guest Post is from Gail Dickert, author of Coming Out of the Closet Without Coming Apart at the Seams and Enlightened-ish.

It’s time we put the ‘F’ word back in fundamentalism. For those of us who have survived “Christian” Fundamentalism specifically, the inability to embrace our inner sailor has been detrimental to our spiritual and psychological well-being. However, as I discuss in Enlightened-ish, fundamentalism is an equal opportunity oppressor. There are New Age fundamentalists, Buddhist fundamentalists and probably Muslim fundamentalists. These fundies of our faith experience have a way of taking something quite natural and turning it into a process of self-suppression that divorces us from valuable parts of our human condition. Consider this excerpt from a chapter called “The Freedom to Cuss,” which is the very first freedom in Enlightened-ish.

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“… organized religion is far from being the only possible obstacle to enlightenment. Industrialized societies have been isolating themselves from the spirit-body connection for decades. Our behavior reveals that the body can be separated from the soul. We can take our bodies to the spa and treat it with essential oils and gentle touches and yet continue to harbor old feelings from being ill-treated by a co-worker or spoken harshly to by a parent. Conversely, we can take our souls to the church pews and saturate them with creative, understanding and compassionate communities only to return to our homes where we barely know how to function and our souls become neglected in mindless attempts at intimacy.

We try to do everything and accomplish next to nothing every single hour of those precious 24 that we are given each day.

We cannot blame our governments. We cannot blame religion. We cannot blame family.

                        Damnit, who can we blame?

                        Politics may tell you to blame a party or leader. Religious leaders may tell you to blame a devil or karma. Society may tell you to blame a parent or the economy.

Politicians may say you can find salvation in their new campaign perspective. Religious leaders may say you can find respite in eternal life. Society may say you can beat the odds by applying yourself and working harder to get what you want, can what you get and then sit on your can but no!

The sacred journey to enlightenment is about personal responsibility.

                        Go ahead.

                        Cuss about it.

            If you are looking outside of yourself for any answers, you are going to get increasingly frustrated by the lack of answers that I will offer you.

                        I am not you.

            I will only suggest that you go inward and you find out what the Sacred has to say to you individually, to your body, in your mind, for your heart, about your soul.” (Freedom to Cuss, Enlightened-ish: A Grief Memoir about Spiritual Awakening)

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Well, fuck, Gail,” you exclaim. “Part of doing a guest post is delivering some easy-to-follow Five Step program so I can heal myself, awaken, forgive my oppressors or let go of my past. You suck.”

Hey, be nice to the guest blogger. There’s a good chance that we can be sometimes fuckin’ magical here.

How about I create for us The 3 Tenants of the Freedom to Cuss, so we can really stay in touch with our fundamentalist roots here? I mean, what’s freedom without a few rules, right? (See how I did that? I made a point and then I prepare to contradict my own point and proceed anyway… that’s the Freedom to Guest Blog However You Want, bitches).

Tenant One: Thou shalt cuss because it frees your mind.

With a little En Vogue attitude, let your hair down and let the words flow from the foul-mouthed freedom-fighter within your brain. Our minds, while sometimes our greatest ally, often censor us and play tapes in our heads about what is “right” or “proper.” Free your mind and I have no doubt that the rest will follow! This has certainly been the case for our “Bi-feminist Apostate” who hosts this blog. Just look at her writings and how she continues to bloom in the pile of spiritual manure that her family of origin chose for her. I mean, it’s about as badass as you get – when you let your mind wander into leslooms and yoni rituals. The shit is made good, when we choose to outshine the stink, ya know?

Tenant Two: Thou shalt cuss because it saves your heart.

I’m not a medical doctor, but as an intuitive healer, I’ve seen more than once, how people who block their “uncomfortable” emotions end up choosing unhealthy behaviors that prevent the flow of love to and from their hearts. Not cussing is like a big, cholesterol-packed McDonald’s cheeseburger for your energetic health. Ironically, with every cuss word that you utter, you pump authenticity and pure, raw blood through your arteries… and when it comes back to your heart through your veins, the vulgarity is full of life-giving oxygen.

Tenant Three: Thou shalt cuss because it’s fucking hysterical.

Let’s be honest. In the proper setting (and with the right amount of dessert wine), dropping a few inappropriate F bombs is incredibly entertaining. The first time I heard someone say “un-be-fucking-lievable,” I think my inner grade school kid punched a bully in the face. I thought, “Yes! I wanna cuss like that!” One of my favorite memes on Facebook is the one where the Buddhist children are meditating and one shouts, “First to Enlightenment… eat my dust, bitches!”

enlightenment bitches

Now, as the Executive Director of an Early Learning Center, I’m not suggesting that this is quite so entertaining in all settings, but honestly, people of faith take themselves way too seriously sometimes. Nothing breaks the ice better than knowing that I can laugh with someone about how the sacred and the silly converge… and a hearty, “Hells Yeah” in response to finding a good parking space is really appreciated sometimes. Why not act like you won the World Series when you manage to get through the day without (ironically) screaming profanities at your boss? “Way to fuckin’ go, yo! You did it!”

Honestly, in the end, The Freedom to Cuss has less do with actual cussing, or even fundamentalism and more to do with the grief that I felt when my father died. On that day and every day since, I don’t kindly dress up my grief with happy words about pious platitudes related to life after death or everything happening for a reason.

Nope, every time I consider that he will not be at my wedding…

When I consider that he will never hold a grandchild…

When I consider that he doesn’t call on Saturdays anymore to annoy me with his crossword puzzle answers…

When I consider that the leaders at the church I was attending right before he died responded poorly to my need to grieve freely…

When I consider that my ex made my grief all about her and I was too heartbroken to get out of that relationship…

When I consider that I was only 33 years old when the man who brought me into the world died…

I get fucking sad.

I even get fucking mad.

And in that way… I learn to be free.

Damnit! So this is awakening?

fuck you

Well then…

Namaste, my friends.

Let your badassery begin today!

P.S. Fundamentalism: The Equal Opportunity Oppressor – stay tuned this week for my full discussion of the topic at For Gail So Loved the World.