I have been immersed in the realm of free verse of late. Five of us gather for an hour every Tuesday, eat scones, cease to analyze, plan, or evaluate, and, for the span of 3 minute intervals, we create. My small journal is slowly becoming fat with poetry, but I think it is my first, unpolished, unapologetic piece that I regard with the most fondness. Here it is.
I am love
I am cherry pie
Warm from the oven
I am butter and sugar and smooth
I am a calming
Drowning out a storm
I am warm
A hammock that cannot fall
I am blue grey water
Lapping on a river bed
I am sand through the fingers
Fine and soft
A wave to buoy you up
“You like words like damn and hell now, don’t you?”
I said I reckoned so.
“Well I don’t,” said Uncle Jack, “not unless there’s extreme provocation connected with ‘em. I’ll be here a week, and I don’t want to hear any words like that while I’m here. Scout, you’ll get in trouble if you go around saying things like that. You want to grow up to be a lady, don’t you?”
I said not particularly.
–To Kill A Mockingbird
Someone once asked me, many years ago, what I thought about the use of profanity. I paraphrased Uncle Jack. “I only use it under extreme provocation. If you say cuss words too much, you’ll wear them out, and no one will take you seriously.”
I have long been a difficult person to provoke, and so, for the vast majority of my first 24 years, I didn’t use them.
Not being provoked can be exhausting. The more my mental and emotional state deteriorated, the more exhausting it became. Then, all fucking hell broke loose. I was fed up with this goddamn bullshit that had become my life, and I was sick as hell of the fucking shit the church and my borderline narcissistic mother had put me through. Words like “fuck” and “damn” and “bullshit” drove into my heart like nails–my turgid, aching, unhappy heart–letting the words that tormented it trickle out like truth. To be angry–to be truly angry–is as enjoyable an activity as vomiting. Yet the feeling of having gotten it out, of being done, of being able to rest now–it is so Goddamn beautiful.
Because feelings are ok. They are more than ok. They are the living, breathing, fragile, exhilarating things that cry–no scream out, “You’re human! You are alive! You are worth something!” Toddlers understand this. When they are sad, they wail and moan until they have poured out every last drop of that feeling from their soul. When they are angry, they scream and fight the air, and bellow with the urgency of being heard. When they are happy, there is nothing on this earth that can compare to the genuine, unadulterated joy that ensues, when a child throws back her head and laughs. They believe–foolish things, that they are important. They believe that they are worth being heard. They believe that the human experience is worth living fully.
I don’t even remember being that toddler. Feelings have never been okay. Partially by personality, partially by instruction, and primarily out of a sense of self preservation, I systematically squashed them away into appropriate boxes.
My parents often like to tell the story of the one time I tried to throw a tantrum. I was five. I screamed and screamed for what seemed like eons, knowing that my fate was already sealed, and so I might as well make the most of it. I was punished soundly, and never dared to tantrum again.
This past year and a half have been my grownup tantrum. I feel negative, shameful associations with that word already. This past year and a half have not been an opportunity for me to maliciously inflict my anger and frustration on other people. It has been a time of learning to feel. Learning to recognize my humanity and sit with it for awhile.
Profanity is like crying. I had a therapist, during my first 6 months in this city, who knew almost nothing about me. She started each session with a centering exercise, in which I checked in with my body. I never checked in past my torso. When I checked in to my heart, I would feel a welling coming up within me, and try to stuff it back down. My therapist would note it, without me saying anything, and call it out, by drawing my attention to it. “I can see some emotion on your face,” she would say. “What are you feeling?” There is where our session notes ended. The welling would burst past my ironclad dam, and I would cry. I would cry for 45 minutes, she would hand me a box of tissues, and I would leave. I spent $35, every Wednesday, to cry. It was the most healing release I had ever experienced. After 6 months, I finally ran out of tears. There is a lightness in me now that has never left.
I am not angry anymore.
You can’t just decide not to be angry. I have learned this slowly, and painfully. You can stuff it down, channel it into something socially acceptable, or ration its release. Whatever you choose, it will still be there, until every last drop has been poured out. So it is that I have reached this point unexpectedly. I find that I have run out. I have a place for peace to rest.
I do not mean to say that I will never be angry again. On the contrary, I am often angry, and a myriad of other emotions, these days. But they do not take up residence, where I do not want them to. They rest, are acknowledged, and released. The greatest benefit to this state of being is the discarding of some of the necessary walls of protection, which once held the floodgates back, releasing them in manageable eddies. I find myself becoming bold. I can talk to people who used to make me feel threatened, without hiding who I am, because I like myself. I find myself becoming unflappable. I bounce back much more easily from the hurtful things expressed by my old friends and neighbors, because I am secure in the knowledge that I am loved. I find myself becoming indomitable. I feel love and compassion much more genuinely than I used to.
I am not angry anymore. I am brave.
Editor’s note: There has been a fairly significant hiatus from posting this series of interviews, primarily because I have had all kinds of formatting woes with the blog, well beyond my technical skill. The woes have not ceased, and my front page is in need of some serious help, if anyone is inclined to tinker, but I have finally figured out how to copy and paste interview text into posts again, without random paragraph breaks in annoying places. This interview, like the next several to follow it, was done last year, and only just now published.
Hey, I’m Anna! I love to write spoken word poetry, swing dance, and go on adventures with friends (this could be anything from hiking a trail to making a spontaneous Walmart run. I just love spending time with people). I’m a firm believer in Jesus Christ, and I try desperately to follow in His footsteps of loving others as I love myself without falling into the trap of theology, tradition, and generally thinking that I have everything figured out and everyone else doesn’t have a clue. I’m currently in a relationship with one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met and one of the best friends I’ve ever had, Enon, and we have a wide variety of responses and opinions about our relationship, since I am a white Christian and he is a black Jew. I am bisexual, and though I don’t care for labels and stereotypes, I’m coming to accept that my culture and generation doesn’t seem to know how to function without them. So I’m trying to learn how to share God’s love with that as part of my identity and all the (mostly unwanted) comments and concerns people have about it.
Tell me about an average day in your life.
At this point in my life, school and work consume most of my time, since I am a full-time student of Foreign Languages and Pre-Nursing and I work part-time in a deli. I’m also a leader at a Christian community on campus, so I spend more time than I like playing with my IPhone trying to find speakers for a Monday night free meal and worship session for college students on my campus at APSU. I’m also a youth leader at my church and spend some of my more fun and eventful hours during the week with a bunch of awesome, kooky middle and high school students.
What is something you are especially passionate about?
I am especially passionate about helping people, mostly either in figuring out what they believe about something, what kind of talents and abilities they have, and what they want to be doing with their lives and how to accomplish those goals and dreams. For myself, I really do like to write and perform spoken word poetry, and it’s one of few passions I actually have time to pursue during this stage of my life.
How did you first know that your orientation and/or gender identity was “different?” What was/is the process of embracing that like?
When I was 10 years old, as anyone during puberty would, I started finding people attractive. My heart would race, my palms would get sweaty, and I would have that normal, awkward, embarrassed feeling when I saw someone who I really thought was hot. But I was confused, because I knew there were straight people and I knew there were gay and lesbian people, but I felt attracted to men *and* women. I thought something was wrong with me. I didn’t even know how to distinguish the meaning of “gay’ and “lesbian,” and I certainly hadn’t ever heard of bi-sexuals. So I thought something was wrong with me for the next two or three years until I heard the term “bi.” Since I grew up in a conservative Christian household, I’d learned over and over how even liking someone of the same sex was wrong. I thought I was a really awful, disgustingly sinful person just for thinking a girl was pretty. I denied bisexuality as part of my identity for many years, just embracing my recurring defensive statement “I’m NOT a lesbian” if I felt anyone was questioning my sexual identity at all. It wasn’t until the past year or so when I good friend of mine came out to me about being a lesbian, and a Christian, and how she wasn’t so sure it was sinful any longer than I began to research what the Bible said about homosexuality, and I began to really question for the first time if my bisexuality was something to be embraced. [Scout’s editorial note: Ha! That was me.] And now I do embrace it.
Are you “out?” If so, what was the coming out process like? What advice do you have for folks still in the closet?
I suppose the door to my “closet” is half-closed, half-opened. I’ve come out to many of my family members, friends, and co-workers, but it hasn’t been a public statement before now, as I’m honestly still scared of the responses I will get from many of those conservative Christian people who have been such an integral part of my life, though after the terrible responses I received upon dating a black Jew I’m not sure I care as much about their opinions anymore.
What attitudes and ideas were you raised with in regard to gender and sexuality, and how have those ideas changed? How might you teach your own children differently or the same?
I was raised to believe that marriage is to be between “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” and it’s only been in the past year that I started thinking otherwise, mostly thanks to the listening ears and wise advice I’ve received from some friends and mentors, the Gay Christian Network debates, and an incredibly helpful film titled “Fish Out of Water” (It’s on Netflix. It’s wonderful. If you’re struggling with what you believe about what the Bible says in regards to homosexuality, go watch it. Now. Trust me.) I would teach my kids that, as with everything in life, people have different perspectives and interpretations about the Bible and God and moral principles in general. I would tell them what I believe and why, I would tell them what I was raised to believe and why, and then I would encourage them to ALWAYS research for themselves answers for any questions they may have, about homosexuality or otherwise.
What is the best relationship advice you’ve ever given or heard?
“You know, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate actions made out of love and respect. You don’t find that very often.” This is something a wonderful friend and mentor told me when we were having one of many discussions about relationships, homosexuality, and sex outside of marriage. It was after she shared this thought with me that I completely adopted the belief that motives are more important than actions themselves. Because of this, I try to make sure all of my actions in all my relationships, romantic or otherwise, are made out of love and respect.
Anna and her adorable neice
How do you identify religiously/spiritually? Were you raised with any particular set of religious beliefs? How, if at all, have those beliefs changed? How, if at all, has your orientation and gender identity affected your religious beliefs?
Like I said, I was raised in a conservative Christian household, Southern Baptist to be specific, and now I simply identify myself as a child of God, or Jesus-follower. I’m currently attending a progressive Methodist church, but I’ve attended all different denominations of churches. Well, my identity as a bi-sexual dating a black Jewish guy has certainly drawn some attention my way. I try to make sure all my responses to any comments, questions, and concerns are out of love, but I’m not usually sure if I’m successful in that or if I come off as too guarded or offensive. It’s a process that I’m trying to improve, by the grace of God.
What is one thing you wish someone had told you when you were younger?
“It’s not sinful to be attracted to someone of the same sex.” Even if they wanted to teach me I should be abstinent all my life or seek counseling or whatever, I feel that would have been fine. But there’s nothing okay with the fact that I spent so much of my life asking forgiveness and feeling guilty because I had a natural feeling that I was attracted to or liked someone who happened to be a girl.
What is one question you would add to this questionnaire, and how would you answer it?
“How does it feel to be in the LGBTQ crowd as a follower of Christ?” Kind of queer. (Pun intended). Seriously. To have people of so many differing beliefs in the same body of Christ look at you and know you aren’t “normal”/straight is such a strange feeling. Sometimes people shove their opinions in your face and try to make you feel lesser for not agreeing with them, some people you’re close to won’t give you their opinion if you beg them, and some people try to ignore it and avoid the topic altogether. If you have a friend/family member/church member that you know is in the LGBTQ crowd and you want to know how to respond to it, honestly, just love them, be their friend, and act normal. Don’t avoid the topic of homosexuality and don’t bring it up every chance you get either. Most LGBTs don’t mind that you don’t agree with them; they mind that YOU mind that they don’t agree with you, or that you try to pretend part of them doesn’t exist. Let’s just let go of the whole “unnatural” argument and let the gayness become a natural part of life like everything else.
What is your favorite LGBTQ online resource?
http://www.gaychristian.net and the film “Fish Out of Water.”
Just kidding. This post won’t tell you how to be straight. That’s all in your biology, babe. What this will help explain to you are some of the helpful things you can do, when you find out that a friend is not straight (or not cis gendered).
The Big First Response
So a friend just dropped their big news in your lap, and you have ten seconds to come up with something coherent to say. Honestly, if you’re reading this now, chances are that your moment to respond is long past, but because it may happen again, here is some advice for that moment.
In this moment, there are three things that don’t matter.
Your religious beliefs about sexual orientation don’t matter. Believe me, that is the last thing your friend needs or wants to hear right now.
This moment is not about you.
Your opinion about sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Whether you think that gay sex is gross, or gay men make the best shopping partners, and you have a story about that…or you think that bisexuals are usually promiscuous drunk girls, keep it to yourself. You have a lot to learn–a lot of listening to do first, and most importantly…
This moment is not about you.
Finally, your emotions do not matter. That probably seems like an odd statement, and can be a hard thing to hear, but hear me out. You are talking to someone who is sharing what, to them, may be the deepest, most terrifying secret of their life. You may have very strong feelings about this revelation. They may be your child, and you feel like maybe you did something wrong in raising them, or they may be your sibling, and you’re afraid of what your friends will say. They may be your best friend, and you’re afraid that everyone else will question your orientation now too. You may feel so overwhelmed and uncomfortable with your emotions, you just want to change the subject and pretend nothing was said. Whatever you are feeling, those feelings have a time and place to be expressed, but your friend is in no position to be your therapist, because right now…
This moment is not about you.
Now that you are here, there are a lot of possible ways you could respond, and a lot of questions you could be asking, like…
What do I say if I think my friend is wrong, and on a path to hell? or What if I’m not sure what I believe about orientation and gender, and I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong?
The first thing to do is remember three things that don’t matter in this moment. The second is to realize what your friend is actually saying. They are not saying “I have morphed into a new kind of hyper-sinful being, and I want to know your opinion on the subject.” They are not saying “Please give me a divine stamp of approval on what I am doing with my life.” Remember that they may not even being saying that they are doing anything particular with their life. Orientation is a state of being, and not an action. What their revelation is saying is “I’m the same person I was before, but I care enough about our relationship to reveal a little more about myself than you knew before. Are we still friends? Do you still love me? Do you still like me?” If they reveal that they have a partner, they are also asking “Will you care about the person I care about?”
So answer those questions. Tell them how much their friendship and vulnerability mean to you. Tell them that you love them. Tell them what you like about them. Acknowledge the one thing you can agree on–that honesty is good. Give brave honesty the admiration it deserves.
But mostly listen. Ask them about their partner, and let them tell you about him or her. Ask them how they’re feeling, and what they most need right now. You don’t need a lot of responses just yet. Mostly listen.
This moment is not about you.
So it happened. I visited my family for Christmas. It was the first visit in over a year, since before coming out. I was invited with the promise of “grace and respect” extended, and it was. It was good, it was needed, but it wasn’t home. All the lovely Christmas traditions were familiar and comforting. I ate enough good food to protect me from the effects of at least ten pilates classes at my gym. My sister and I had a real heart to heart, and it was healing. My dad and I talked about things we’re proud of eachother about, and that was healing. My mother cried over my childhood home videos we watched, still feeling that my good, Christian upbringing was wasted, but she tried, and she tried hard to be kind, and that was appreciated.
On the last day I visited some old college friends, and that was sweet, although a bit surreal. It’s strange to think that barely more than a year can change a person so fast, but I barely connect with the person I was there at all anymore. Some friends have traveled along with my journey, and seem present in this reality as much as the one I lived in a year ago, but others I feel affection for through a mist. Ghosts of a life now long gone. One of the biggest missing pieces that could have connected this world with the one I live in now is Renee. She didn’t come with me–I opted out of dragging her into a culture that would be tensely tolerant of her at best, and cruelly hostile at worst. It wasn’t just that she didn’t come with me. She ceased to exist, outside of my private life. My family continued to pretend that she doesn’t exist–their silence at her mention begging me not to mention her again. The politely smiling faces of dressed up church goers, at the local WalMart I visited in my southern military base college town, on Sunday afternoon, would have been neither polite nor smiling, should I have been as I longed to be after a week apart–walking hand in hand with my partner. At lunch, my more progressive friends asked questions about her, while my conservative ones tried to change the subject. It was a trip needed, wanted, appreciated, and at the end of it, I just wanted to go home.
That must’ve been the longest 3 hour plane ride of my existence. When I looked at the clock on my phone for the millionth time, and realized we were only halfway there, I felt tears start to come, and looked studiously out the window, to avoid my seat mates attention. After all, how would I explain it? What kind of co-dependant relationship is it when you can’t be away from your partner for 6 days without emotionally losing your shit? It wasn’t just about missing her though. It was about spending 6 days crammed into a paradigm where she is more absent than if she died–where she not only isn’t, but never was–and in a way, a part of me wasn’t and never was either. I was ready to wake up from that dream.
I’m not sure what to take away from this experience yet. I’m not sure how to handle things differently next time. I’m not even sure I want to analyze that now. I went. I saw my family. I am glad to be back.
Happy New Year
“Your assignment is to write back to him. You don’t have to send it, but write your answer, and we’ll talk about it next Tuesday.”
I nodded agreeably, but internally squirmed in my seat. This is what I’ve been avoiding. Writing back to my dad. A few months ago, after an unhappy exchange between my mother and I, she threw up her hands and made my dad take up the cause. He wrote to me, searching for peace between us. I wrote back, and towards the end of my letter, found a bit of bravery I wouldn’t have found in communication with my mother. I wrote:
There has been a lot of expression of honest frustration and hurt lately between us collectively, so forgive me for indulging in a moment of selfishness in this paragraph. I do not intend to convey the assumption that this is all about me. I realize that there is hurt and confusion and frustration on both sides. But this has ultimately come to a head over communication about a matter concerning me, so I feel like the time has come to lay out in the open what I wanted to say in January, but felt didn’t give time for you to process everything happening. We have a communication rift. You feel that I am not sharing “reality” with you, and I have not felt safe or able to share much of myself with you for awhile. While none of us, myself included, really know how to handle everything perfectly, sharing that bit of myself that, while it may seem compartmentalized into a recent, and perhaps less significant disagreement, to you, is a really, really big deal, that has affected my life for a very long time, to me, was inviting some real communication. These are the kinds of things I longed to hear, even if it had been just one.
1) Some kind of desire to talk about the processes that brought me to that place, or desire to understand where I am actually at, theologically and spiritually. An actual dialogue on the subject.
2) Some kind of interest in really knowing about the people that are important in my life, before passing judgement on them, or even after passing judgement on them.
3) A curiosity or willingness to start a dialogue about exactly what factors led to my not being able to trust or feel safe with sharing myself with my family, who I love, and love me.
Then I waited. This is response that followed:
I admit that I did not want to hear about your new place in life and how you got there. It was something I could not handle months ago. Even now, I don’t know how deeply I want to go in discussion. But let’s take it a step at a time, as each of us are able. Please start with number 1 on your list below, and tell me about it. Know that I love you, and I promise to listen and respond respectfully. Whenever you have the time and the words. Get counsel about what to write if you like. But tell me in your words. I suspect you’ve pondered long what to say. So now is the time.
Two months go by. I don’t write back. I don’t know what to say. All the anticipation I had of this conversation before I came out, all the disappointment when the conversation was shut down before it started, all the ways I’d imagined it going…and I am at a loss for words. Nevertheless, here I am, immersed in the Saga in which Scout goes to lots of therapy sessions (and tries to feel stuff without losing her shit), and I’m being asked to write. I need to write. I am the recent recipient of an entirely unexpected invitation to visit for Christmas (which I accepted) and I don’t want to close communication down now. So I write, and when I’m done, I read what I’ve written, aloud, to my therapist. This is when I realize something. As rambling as it is, unedited, full of enough passive voice to make my writer-father get out his red pen, it’s more than just a letter. It’s the manifesto of my faith.
I’m sorry it has taken me so long to write this answer to your invitation of several months ago. After wanting to tell you these things for so long, I found myself strangely at a loss for where to start. I think my coming out letter to you had plenty of explanation for coming to the point of realizing I was not, in fact, straight. So I’m not going to focus much on that, but instead on coming to the place of being at peace with that. On a parallel, but somewhat separate journey, I started a struggle that had little to do with my own orientation, that I can probably trace back to about age 16. It started with something related to gay issues, but didn’t stop there. I remember being an intern at the legislature, as [conservative organization] pushed a constitutional amendment for [state] to ban gay marriage. While I verbally spouted what I thought people wanted to hear about the issue, internally I didn’t really get it. I trusted the people telling me that gay marriage was bad, though, and internalized their assertions that gay people are sad, sexually perverted, don’t really love eachother, can’t be trusted with children, really want to be the opposite gender of what they are, etc. I remember sitting in the House balcony, listening to the vote, being surrounded mostly by supporters of the measure. One lone couple had attended in protest, and it was a couple of women. I watched them fascinated, and puzzled, because they weren’t like I had imagined. Neither looked like they were trying to be men, and they didn’t seem particularly sad. One had a broken leg, and was on crutches. Her partner helped her as she hopped awkwardly up the stairs, and they laughed together. The session was long, and at one point, one of them went to get sandwiches for the two of them. They seemed to really love eachother, and they seemed very at ease with one-another, and they seemed, for lack of a better word, like a really normal couple. It was hard to justify this awful threat I had been told about with the people sitting in front of me. I later on asked some adult (don’t remember whether it was one of you, or someone else) why God said that being gay was wrong. Everything else made sense to me. Don’t steal someone else’s spouse, don’t steal, don’t murder, etc…but that made no sense to me. I was told something about gay people getting AIDS and being unhappy, and not questioning God’s laws. That settled it for now, but it planted the tiniest seed in my mind that maybe some of the things I had been told my whole life about morality didn’t really make sense.
Going to college turned that doubt into a rapidly growing snowball. I knew I believed in God, and even loved him and wanted to please him…I didn’t really have tons of doubts about God. It was simply the dogma of the church (or what I thought was the entire church) that I started to doubt, and some things about scripture. But scripture was almost inseparable from God for me, so I didn’t want to entertain those kinds of frightening thoughts too much. Meanwhile, I realized that a lot of stuff I had been taught to bolster my faith was just plain nonsensical. It wasn’t that college tried to tear down my faith. Quite the opposite, in fact, and in spite of being a state school, [university] is a fairly conservative environment. Instead, it was just about little things. Like realizing that the things I learned in my biology classes made the creation scientists I listened to look like ignorant buffoons, who had created fake boogie men, so that they could tear them down. This was not because evolution was forced down my throat. It’s simply because I realized most of the arguments they had made against evolution painted a picture of what people who believe in evolution believe that is simply not real. I realized that a lot of stuff I had been told about sexuality didn’t work out so well in the real world, where I was dealing with teenagers who had been taught abstinence-only-sex-is-icky stuff from day one, and were getting pregnant not even knowing how that works in real life, or how to use a condom. It’s not that I was sleeping around. I had the opportunity, but it’s pretty easy for a girl dating men for which she has no physical attraction to say no. I just realized that 96+% of people between the ages of 17 and 40 have had extramarital sex, and yet we were pretending to teenagers that no one does it but really bad people, and they didn’t need to know how to protect themselves, because they would obviously be part of the 4-%. It’s not that I started thinking the morals I grew up with were wrong. It’s just that I started thinking the practical application of them, and the things I had been told about those who don’t have them, no longer made so much sense. That’s only a minimal overview, but by my last year of college, I could’ve written an entire book of things that didn’t make sense. Some of them little, some of them bigger…but all adding up to a whole that made me feel like some of the voices I heard from Christianity came from people who didn’t really have their boots firmly planted in the real world…people who meant well, but didn’t really have much of a clue what they were talking about.
Experience is a funny thing. Everything makes so much more sense when you’re on a short term mission trip, than when you’re friends with a guy who converted from Christianity to Judaism. When you’re at a pro-life rally, than when you’re seeing what life is actually like for the baby the teenage mother decided to keep. When you’re listening to a straight person talk about the gay agenda, than when you’re an otherwise normal person who isn’t attracted to boys and is attracted to girls.
Reality is complicated
I tried a lot of different things in college. I tried apathy, early on. Then I tried the distraction of the social gospel. That made the most sense, but I knew I was still pretending a lot to make it work. I tried the emotional focus of charismatic movements, and that was nice for awhile, but I was turned off by the chauvinism of the church it was connected to. I blame that one on you. I don’t respect men who posture themselves around, measure their spiritual might by how testosterone infused their message is, how many theological “battles” they win, and how good they are at putting women in their place, and how much Mark Driscoll they read. kind of been there, done that with past church experiences, anyway. I respect men who are gentle and kind and trustworthy, because that is what you have been. I’m like Mom that way, I guess. So I didn’t last long in that camp before I had managed to feel like a misfit, and move on. That church started something really dangerous in me, though. It started me reading my Bible. Like actually, without a study guide or person telling me what to think about it. I was horrified. I read about direct commands from God for slaves who have been beaten to the point of incapacitation to work again as soon as possible, so their masters don’t fall behind. I read about women being told to marry their rapists, and being given monetary value, as property. I read about the “joy” of dashing infants of your enemies on the rocks, and how it’s ok to rape your female prisoners of war. I read about how women should keep silent in church and cover their heads, and started to question my methods for deciding what Paul said that mattered, and what was cultural. I read contradictions, obvious human errors, and heinous things attributed to God. In this reading, I realized something, and that was that I didn’t really believe more than maybe 30% of the Bible. As history, maybe, but not as God inspired words. I realized also that I never had. I realized too that, my whole life, the evangelicals around me hadn’t really believed it all either. Everyone picked and chose what they gave credence to, and what they didn’t. There was just little to no accountability about what was picked and what was ignored, because no one admitted they were doing it, because the Bible is the “inerrent word of God.” I was tired of pretending, but I was also terrified. Then I found people who admitted it–that they pick and choose, and they had accountability for how they did it. I talked to first a Methodist pastor, and then a Lutheran, who readily admitted that their church filters scripture through a canon. They pointed out that evangelicals tend to filter things through Paul. I was sick of Paul, so I moved away from evangelicalism. The Lutherans…at least the synod I was learning from, filter through the canon of the gospels, particularly the words of Jesus. I noticed that this type of accountability kept people from conveniently picking the bits of scripture that condemn the people they feel uncomfortable around, and support their favorite ideas. I also realized that Jesus made sense. He seemed to work with the culture he was placed in, but not subject everyone else to its rules and prejudices. One day I realized that the Bible wasn’t my god anymore. It definitely makes faith less cut and dried. It makes me feel that I know less, for sure. It also means that I am honest, and it means that I’m not embracing something that only works when I squint a lot. It means that I can admit that Paul was kind of a bigoted prick sometimes, but doesn’t everyone have their faults? It means I can flat out say that the precious few places in scripture that condemn homosexuality are probably either misinterpretations or just a cultural prejudice, because it doesn’t sound like something Jesus was concerned about.
So that’s where I am and how I got there. I find that I’m happy, I’m peaceful, my relationships are generally better, my faith is satisfying and nurturing, and although I know we generally don’t talk about her, the women I’ve spent the last year with is someone I truly love.
Thanks for listening. I can’t wait to see you at Christmas.