I Thought I Was Okay

woman-is-whore-500x500I thought I had moved on, that the things that go on inside the Christian church had just become laughable to me, but I was wrong.  It wasn’t until I started researching Mark Driscoll, that I realized just how dangerous the Church is and how it is the perfect “sanctuary,” for destructive and evil men.  At first I though Mark Driscoll was just a ridiculous boob and really didn’t carry much weight in the Christian community.  Again, I was wrong.

As I researched this man and his deeds, it became too much for me.  I had had a pastor like him and all the hurt and character assassination that pastor Arturo Azurdia was and is responsible for came back to me in a torrent.  The similarities between the two men are stunning.  As I read stories written by some of the people left in Driscoll’s wake, I could not believe how they paralleled the stories of those left in the wake of Art Azurdia and Christ Community Church.  I was one of them.  No matter what these men and others like them do, they continue to stand.  Why?  Because they use fear of sin and fear of causing “division” and of “gossiping,” to control their flock.  They make you feel special to be brought into their inner circle and if you are there you had better shut the f**k up and go with the flow, or as Driscoll is quoted as saying, “You either get on the bus, or you’ll get run over by the bus.”  If you cannot be a yes man, you will be cast out in a way you never thought was possible and your so-called friends, in an effort to remain in that inner circle, will be the first ones to toss you overboard.

So, I’m scraping Pastor Driscoll off and moving on to better things.  Of course, if you want to know more, check out his newest book on marriage.  Go to amazon and read the reviews and the comments on the reviews–extremely enlightening. I just can’t write about him anymore, although there is plenty to say. Reading about him and his church and the poor, pathetic people who still blindly follow him, makes me feel sad, and angry, and helpless to stop people like him.  But, set you down this, as Shakespeare would say, someday that man is going to fall.  Something big is going to happen to Driscoll and unfortunately, it will probably be his loyal followers that will be the casualties, not him.  That’s the way it goes for “spirit filled” men of god. That’s the way it goes in the church of god.



Blow Job Evangelism

misogyny_hard_to_spellSo, as I mentioned yesterday, there is a lot of interesting stuff about this Mark Driscoll character.  Some of it I can’t even delve into yet, because it has brought up a lot of unattended wounds that I suffered at one particular church, involving one particular narcissistic pastor.  I haven’t written much about it here before, but I think it’s just about time and will in the near future.   The parallels are amazing.

Let’s leave that for now and talk about an aspect of Driscoll that I find quite disturbing:  His demeaning view of women–his misogyny, if you will.   There are so many quotes I could use from his sermons and books, but I really think this one is a doozie and a perfect illustration of what I am talking about.  This particular quote comes from a sermon Driscoll gave in Scotland.  He is telling a story of how a woman in his congregation brought her husband to Christ, after receiving  “counsel” from Driscoll.  So, without any further ado, here is his quote:

She [the wife] says, “I’ve never performed oral sex on my husband. I’ve refused to.” I said, “You need to go home and tell your husband that you’ve met Jesus and you’ve been studying the Bible, and that you’re convicted of a terrible sin in your life. And then you need to drop his trousers, and you need to serve your husband. And when he asks why, say, ‘Because I’m a repentant woman. God has changed my heart and I’m supposed to be a biblical wife.’” She says, “Really?” I said, “Yeah. First Peter 3 says if your husband is an unbeliever to serve him with deeds of kindness.” [Laughter from audience] How many men would agree, that is a deed of kindness. He doesn’t want tracts. Those won’t do anything. What we’re talking about here could really help.

Alrighty then.  Now, I’m not even going to go into why this woman was even discussing oral sex with Driscoll… I’m assuming he had questioned her about it, and that in and of its self is creepy all on its own, but I just want to focus on his misogyny, which becomes apparent when he tells her that by denying her husband blowjobs, she is committing a “terrible sin your life.”  Wow, just wow.  Not that I have a problem with blowjobs, I think they’re great, but  not wanting to perform one is a “terrible sin?” Really?  Next, he says, “You need to drop his trousers and serve him.”  Oh, serve him?  What does that make her, a sex slave, perhaps? That’s just demeaning.  Finally he says she needs to tell her husband,” God has changed my heart and I’m supposed to be a biblical wife.”  Well, ladies, we all know what that means, yes, full submission—our bodies are not our own.  They belong to our men; of course they do.

Putting aside the asinine idea of blow jobs bringing a man to Christ, Driscoll’s less than stellar view of women is simply appalling. It’s just incredible to me that this man has a female following at all.  Mars Hill is huge and has a huge budget.  It’s weird enough that people, especially women, attend his church and sign a “membership covenant,” (more on that later…shudder) but they give tons and tons of money to this man and his church.  Crazy.  I can fully understand why men would want to attend, especially with the whole “blowjob evangelism” thing that is promoted, but women?  Women sit and listen to this misogynistic ass?  Geez…us preserve us.

I Can’t Remember…

smelling a flower“I miss the smell of Christmas,” He said nonchalantly.

My breath caught and my chest tightened.  “What do you mean?”  I asked, already knowing and trying desperately to sound normal.

“I don’t know…I remember that Christmas had a special smell, you know, and when the air smelled that way at other times, I would remember Christmas. It felt good.  I don’t have that anymore.”

I could feel that familiar lump in my throat, the one I always get when I think about that day, and although I was fighting it, tears began to well up in my eyes.  Thankfully, he was unaware of the impact his words were having on me and I was determined not to let him know.  He talks about it so little, I don’t ever want to react in a way that would make him feel hesitant to do so.

“I really think memories are linked to smell,” he continued, “like Thanksgiving and other times.  It’s as if not being able to smell anymore, is causing those memories to fade and I miss them. I miss the smell.”

All I could say was that I was sorry and then I reminded him of all the other things related to memory and the good times we have had and again, I reminded him that perhaps one day that part of his brain will heal and those smells will return and he will appreciate them in a way he never could have otherwise.  I reminded him of how lucky he is that in spite of his brain injury, he can laugh and walk and talk and play basketball, and be treated normally.  He nodded.

After that, all I could do was hold my breath and hope for control, at least until I dropped him off at school.  Then I could give in.  It’s like a panic attack I think—the tightening and the sinking feeling.  It’s almost like reliving that day.  Just like when I drive by that hospital—the one where I first took him, certain there was something horribly wrong.

Kids are resilient though—we all are.  He’s come a long way.  He has gone from saying, “If I have to stay this way, I will kill myself,” (He didn’t know that it was probably permanent at the time) to smiling at me and telling me dinner is good and taking the Spirit Championship for his senior class by drinking a horrible concoction in the fastest amount of time.   All in all, it’s okay now.

Some people say if they could go back and change a horrible incident in their lives, they wouldn’t, because of what they have learned.  I guess they are better people than me, because if I could go back to that day, I would have insisted on giving him a ride to soccer practice instead of letting one of his teammates do it.  Life doesn’t work that way though and I can’t go back.  We just find the good where we can.  We’re closer, I’m more understanding of those who have to see their children suffer, and Noah has a greater appreciation for things he didn’t before.

One of the most difficult things is helping people understand the gravity of his loss.  He lost one of his senses, one that adds vibrancy to life, but also one that protects him from harm (Toxins, smoke, etc.)  It’s a huge loss, yet people tend to make light of it.  That is until I tell them the,“I Miss the Smell Of Christmas” story and suddenly, in their eyes, I see it—the light of understanding.  That means everything.

Some Nights

drivingintosunsetI really had no idea what to write about tonight, but as I was driving home from Napa, I got to thinking about a time, not too long ago, that I was driving on a similar road.  It was dark and winding—a little rainy.  So much had been going on then.  At that time, I had come to know two things:  Christianity was a lie and I couldn’t deny it anymore, and my marriage was over.  Everything about the life I had known for so very long had fallen out from under me and I don’t think I could have felt more scared or alone and pain engulfed me like fog on the Bay.

That night as I drove, I remember a thought came to me.  “I can just close my eyes, doze off, and just let it all end.”  I was tired already, and couldn’t have been more war-torn, and although I really didn’t want to kill myself, I just didn’t want to live anymore.  At one point, I actually closed my eyes and released my grip on the wheel—like I was practicing.  It would be so easy and everyone would be so much better off.  Thankfully rationality won the day, and I saw the flaw in my plan. There would be other people driving the car that would hit me. They probably had everything live for—a spouse, who loved them and maybe kids, or someone’s son or daughter.   I decided that I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone else.   So, I came to my senses and gathered my resolve and carried on.  I’m so glad I did.

I mention that night, because for the life of me, I can’t conjure up those feelings now.  I know I was in immense pain, but I can’t feel it now.  Even though I can’t, I know I must have been desperate and in a lot of pain to consider checking out on life and hurting those who loved me—mostly my kids.  That night would not be the last time I entertained checking out, and it truly was my kids that kept me from doing something extremely stupid.

That horrible night is just another reminder of how we can’t judge life by a snapshot moment, or even a chapter that is several pages long, because the story of our lives continues, with many twists and turns and we just never know how it will all turn out.

Even though that time in my life was full of heartache, fear and uncertainty, I don’t think I would go back and change it if I could.  I learned that no matter how desperate and hopeless things may seem at the end of Act 1, Act 2 is coming and it is so much better.  The other thing I learned was an understanding of what it feels like to not want to live—that pain.  If I had not dipped into that darkness, I would never been able to love and understand people who struggle against that dark, dark place.

Tonight, as I drove home and thought about how differently things could have turned out that fateful night, I took a deep breath cranked up “Some Nights,” by Fun, and drank in life–wonderful, ever-changing life.

Funday Morning Dilemma

girl,embrace,mountains,adventure,freedom,outdoor-076bf6b4de5f63c3077f655bbadddbda_hAs I quickly texted one of my girlfriends this morning, confirming a time to meet for one of my favorite local hikes, I thought to myself, what a perfect day it was to be outdoors; what a perfect “Funday.”  Funday is the name I gave Sundays a couple of years ago and it has stuck.

I do remember struggling on Sundays–whether to go to church or create a reason not to.  It brought to mind a post I had written years ago entitled Sunday Morning Dilemma.  In it I am trying to cope with feeling pressure to go to church. I went back and read it.  It’s so surreal now to think that I actually felt like I had to go to church every Sunday, like I couldn’t do what my heart really wanted to do, because I was afraid.  That is so not me.  It’s just a reminder of how I couldn’t really be my authentic self when I was a Fundamentalist Christian. Actually, I didn’t even know what that was.  The idea that because I wanted to be myself and “myself” didn’t want to go to church = Sin.

Anyway, it was the last line of that post that made my shoulders drop, my breathing ease, and my lips turn into a smile.  I wrote:  “I do look forward to waking up on Sunday mornings and simply deciding which fun thing I will do, and it will not include, by the way, going to church.”  Yes.  That day has definitely come.  This morning, I pick Sandra and I pick the Tower Hike at Pena Adobe.  Soon I will be up at the top of a hill, looking down on Pena Adobe reservoir, and my friend Sandra will say, like she always does, “Man, this is the perfect day for this.”

I will respond as I typically do, “Yeah it is; I love Fundays!”

His Banner Over Me Is Shame

NoShameLogoI’ve been reading a great book by Brene Brown.  It’s entitled, “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will People Think?’ to ‘I Am Enough.’” I saw a talk she did at a TED conference on shame and it was life-changing for me.  Shame is universal, but I believe that those who have been raised in Fundamentalist Christianity suffer from shame ten-fold.

Think about it.  Christianity teaches us that we are born in sin, actually sinful from the moment of conception (Book of Psalms); we have to reject things that are natural to us as humans, because they are deemed sin: Adam and Eve saw their nakedness and were “ashamed.”  The sad part is that even if Christians get their external behavior in check, there’s the whole omniscient thing—their very thoughts condemn them. If you’re a woman, well…forget it, I mean, our mother, Eve, brought sin into the world that condemned everyone, forever.  The Apostle Paul clearly stated that women were and are, “easily deceived.” That’s a heavy burden to bear, one that is riddled with shame. The Song of Solomon says, “His (God’s) banner over me love.”  It should say His banner over me is shame.  The Christian mantra:  Shame, shame, shame on all of us.

As with fear, Christianity uses shame to control its followers, but for all of Christianity’s efforts to control human behavior, in my experience, it has failed.  We see it in the news every day, with pastors, Sunday School teachers, and assorted good Christian people,  “falling from grace.”  Shame doesn’t work for the long haul.  Not only that, it is destructive.  Shame creates inauthenticity, and that inauthenticity is prevalent in the Christian Church.  I call it the Character of Christian deceit–something I will write more about at a later date.

Brene Brown could not have put it any better than when she wrote, “You cannot shame or belittle people into changing… Putting people on the “loser board” doesn’t work. Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.“  The Christian Church just buries people in shame, telling them that only Christ can change them.  They eat away at our resolve to change, so that the Holy Spirit can do it for us and, well, there is not Holy Spirit to take over and Christians are left weakened and shamed.

Up until recently, I never realized that at the root of many of my struggles, even to this day, is shame, shame that was instilled in me by my Christian parents, by pastors, Sunday School teachers, and Church doctrine, from the time I was very small.  It’s powerful and damaging, shame is.  Although I don’t think I will ever be completely free from it, I’m learning to recognize it for what it is and handle myself more compassionately.  As a Christian, I never had permission to do that. Also as a Christian, I could never been allowed to believe this:  It is simply up to us. It is us. We have to see the changes that need to take place within ourselves, changes that are unique to each one of us, and believe that we have the strength within us to accomplish those changes.  No religion, no god, no Holy Bible, and no shame thrust upon us.  Once humanity is able to grasp this, we will all live in a healthier and happier world.

My new mantra is this:  No shame, no fear, only empathy, love and kindness. Try it.