Friday, February 22, 2013


When you come out of a spiritually abusive environment - and talk about it - those still in it may sometimes label you as "angry". To me it seems to be a way of dismissing what you have to say - Fundamentalists are good at ignoring criticism if the criticizer is "angry" or "bitter" or "has a bad attitude".  No matter how appropriate the criticism.

I remember several times in Fundyland being taught that anger is always a sin.  Even at Halfway Fundy Church, we had a Sunday School group where the leader talked about how anger was never right.  I didn't have my head screwed on very straight at the time, but even then I disagreed with him and gave opposing examples like being angry about someone else being mistreated and Christ's anger at the moneychangers in the Temple.  Of course, the answer was that Christ could be angry without sin - but because we aren't perfect like him, it's unwise for us to be angry.

The next time someone has the audacity to say that bit of drivel to me, I think I'm going to answer that I can't love perfectly either - does that mean that it's unwise for me to love?

While perusing the blog "Commandments of Men" (written by a man who is standing up and talking about the abhorrences that are the Patriarchy, QuiverFull, and Courtship movements), I ran across this comment about anger:

"I believe that I read once or twice about this guy named Saul Paulus. There were these people in a town called Galatia, and they mixed the Bible and the main and plain teachings of the Christian faith with legalistic requirements and practices. Hmm. Sounds awfully similar to what the QF/P movement and many fundamentalists have done....

And all of that made that Saul Paulus -- that guy now called the Apostle Paul -- pretty angry. In fact, he got so angry at the people who taught the legalism at the Church at Galatia that they would be better served to castrate themselves. I think that qualifies Paul as pretty angry, not only over the fact that they mixed extra rubbish in with good doctrine but also because they used these ideas to manipulate people with them, whether it was intentional or not.

And I distinctly recall that Paul guy saying that we could be angry, so long as we did not sin.

Paul named names and was tough with religious abusers and legalists. He was often angry about it. He also talked about bearing the burdens of others to fulfill the Law of Christ and he talked about comforting others with the comfort received. Part of the healing process is a safe place to express anger and injustice and to seek justice.

The anger can be a very healthy component of healing. You cannot heal from wounds that you are too afraid to cleanse."

I was amazed when I read it - especially that last sentence.  For much of my time in Fundyland, I would come across people who were clearly angry (or  be angry myself), and we could never deal with it adequately.  Why?  Because it was unacceptable to be angry.  All you could do was bury it deep inside and deny that it existed.

This commenter, Cynthia Mullen Kunsman, has her own blog about spiritual abuse, and she has centralized a list of posts about anger.  I haven't read them all yet, but what I have so far has been excellent.

Yep.  I'm angry sometimes.  Angry at myself for falling for this nonsense, submitting to evil.  Angry at those in a position of power who used it to control other people, whether consciously or not.  Angry that spiritual abuse is so prevalent and in turn enables physical, emotional, and sexual abusers.  That makes me angry. 

Anger makes me do something about it. 

I see that as a good thing, frankly.

Monday, February 18, 2013


So I'm praying through Luther's Small Catechism on Lutheran prayer beads for Lent, as mentioned previously. 

One of the parts that was particularly eye-opening was the reiteration of the 10 Commandments*.  Now, I know the 10 Commandments, but I had always heard them in the King's English.  King James, of course.  If you're uber-crazy Fundamentalist, you believe a mind-bending bunch of illogic that ultimately results in worshiping a translation of the Bible rather than God.  If you're a not-so-crazy-Fundy you merely sniff that the King James Version is the best or the most accurate translation. ("Fundamentalists" who lean towards NASB, ESV, or especially the NIV don't usually stay long in Fundyland.)

I think that some of it is attributable to the knee-jerk Fundamentalist suspicion of anything "new".  Some of it is because certain Fundy hangups depend upon or at least are reinforced by the KJV's phrasing - the connotation leads us to think something the denotation doesn't.  And honestly, I think some of it is just trying to keep what the Bible really says a little obscure - because if you could read it clearly, you would see the guy behind the curtain.  And we can't have that.

But back to the 10 Commandments.  I stopped short when I first read,  "You must not abuse or misuse God's name." 


My entire life, I had heard this as "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."  The usual exegesis was "this is why Good Christians® don't say "Oh my God"** or use the name of Jesus as a curse.  But not abuse or misuse God's name...  that's very different. My instant connotation of this phrase was, "Don't tell people God says something he doesn't.  Don't abuse people and beat them down with God's Word."

Now right there is Fundamentalism and conservative-to-mainstream Evangelicalism in a short phrase, isn't it.

I recently had the audacity to bring up a topic with someone on which I stand fairly widdershins to "Christianity" and have been getting bludgeoned with Bible verses since.  (Which always cracks me up -  Fundy University degree here.  Pretty familiar with that Bible there.  Thanks though.) 

But on a national rather than personal level: if you asked the majority of conservative American Christians I'd wager you'd get an earful about a number of things they God apparently has a pretty strong opinion about.  You could make a BINGO card and win every time if your squares included things like "Obama = Antichrist", "Abortion", "2nd Amendment", "Teh Gayz", "Prayer in Schools", and "Muslims".

If your card instead said, "Justice for the Powerless", "Child Abuse", "Domestic Violence", "Rape", "Discrimination", "Feeding the Hungry", "Kindness", and "Love"?***  Well good luck with that one, friend.

I've blathered on long enough, especially when Lewis Wells over at his blog "Commandments of Men" discussed this political prostitution already.  Better (and in stronger terms) than I could've.  Go read it.


*Let's also ignore for now that Luther counted the 10 commandments differently from the rest of Protestant-ville.  It's not germane, even if it is interesting.

**Even though "god" isn't God's name.  It's like saying my name is "Person".  Or "Woman".  Oh, literalists.  You're so funny.

***Not that these things can't be use to beat people over the head with either. Recently been beat over the head myself by someone at work who treated me in the most disrespectful manner I've experienced in a long time and ended by telling me I just needed to have love.  It's like getting spanked by a hippie.  Seriously.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent 2013

Well, it's that time of year again - my second time celebrating Lent.  I continue to find deeper layers of meaning in the rhythms of the Church year - rhythms that the vast majority of Christians for the vast majority of Church history have followed.  And it still boggles my mind that events like Lent used to be what not-truly-Christian "Christians" did.

I'm still using my prayer beads - in fact, have lately branched out into other types of prayer beads.  (As usual, various Christian sects are good at coming up with their own version of something.)  Since last year, I've learned that there are Anglican prayer beads, Lutheran prayer beads, Orthodox prayer beads, and of course Catholic prayer beads (the rosary).  I have even started a ridiculous project organizing a Book of Common Prayer-inspired collection to use with Anglican prayer beads.  When I have enough time to string together a coherent sentence at a higher level than blog-level, that is.  (So when my kids move out?)


Lutheran prayer beads were apparently developed for use primarily during Lent, so I'm finding them a good addition for this year.  There aren't extensive resources out there about them, but I did find a good illustration of praying through Luther's Small Catechism with it that I've started using.

I remember talking with a friend when I was in Fundyland about someone in our circles who was related to Garrison Keillor.  Of course, we also discussed how she was a real Christian and so sad that he was not, being a Lutheran and all... Clearly I had no exposure to the Small Catechism then, because it's good stuff.  Better, clearer, orthodox-er theology than just about anything I was exposed to in Fundamentalism - despite hours upon hours of "preaching", camps, and completing a degree at Fundamentalist University.  Clear salvation by grace through faith.  Absolutely nothing in it that a Fundy would object to - as long as he/she didn't know it was from a Lutheran source, of course. 

Both in the Small Catechism and the Ash Wednesday service today I was impressed at how penitence is balanced with God's love and desire to forgive.  Penitence is a good thing, a healthy thing - but its only remedy is God's love.  In Fundamentalism, sinfulness was emphasized excessively, and the solution to the sinfulness was to make yourself better, try harder, just stop being such a wicked sinner.

It's so different now on the outside. Outside of Fundamentalism, penitence has its place - and its place is wrapped in the love of God.  "Trusting in the mercy of God, assured of the promises already made on your behalf, know that God forgives you."

A truly happy Lent to you, full of the loving-kindness of God.

Monday, February 11, 2013

No Soliciting

I was visited by some door-knocking evangelists recently, and was again reminded of what an offensive way to annoy people "spread the Gospel" it is. Had toys scattered all over the floor, both children demanding attention - even my mom was there - and these two elderly gentlemen with slightly crazy twitches in their eyes knock on my door.

They were probably Seventh-Day Adventists, or possibly even Mormons.  As they could see that they were quickly losing me with their initial pleasantries, one tried to launch into the spiel and asked me if I agreed that "we live in times that are getting worse and worse", or some such phrase.  I frowned, countered with "God is in control", and slowly shut the door after saying "No thank you."

However, this isn't a rant about the Fundy propensity for ineffective outdated methods of evangelism.

I've actually been stuck in a moment of l'esprit de l'escalier since then, wishing I could have those moments back - because I remember being a Fundy with the peculiar vision of modern times as the epitome of evil.  Never mind that we live better, more secure lives now than in the entire history of the world.  Modern medicine, sanitation, and education have made life exceptionally good compared to much of the past.

I'm ecstatic I live in today's world, especially as a woman.  Both I and my first child probably would have died in childbirth.  Actually, I would have died even before that from hemorrhage due to a miscarriage - not to mention whether I would have even made it past childhood.  In the majority of earth's history as a woman I would have been treated as property at best and lived a difficult and short life.

So what I wish I had replied was, "No, I think we are living in amazing times.  What, you think it was better when women were denied education and basic human rights?"  The apoplexy would have been interesting.

Fundamentalists, as part of their raison d'être, have to believe that the world around them is exceptionally evil and they alone are the guardians of a pure faith.  If much of anything out there is good, there's nothing left to separate from and be afraid of.

Don't get me wrong.  There is a great deal of evil in this world.  It's not, however, rock music, movies, or clothing styles.