I’m going to share something very personal and private because it exposes how harmful religion is to people and their marriages.
When I met my husband, I was still a virgin at the age of 21. The farthest I had gone with anyone before him was my first boyfriend touching my chest outside of my clothing (and at the time was deemed a fuck up and it never happened again). So, I really hadn’t been on any bases outside of making out kissing prior to my husband. HE on the other hand, was 29 when we met, had been engaged twice before, and has had, as is normal, several different sex partners. He was way more experienced than I was. This has been both a blessing and a curse in our marriage. There are ways in which the inexperience has made me inadequate. That does not mean my husband makes me feel inadequate. He has told me I satisfy and love him in ways nobody else had ever showed him before. He also cares about ME feeling good too and I feel satisfied and happy. We wouldn’t both be married happily after 15 years if that weren’t the case. Some older people I’ve spoken too were surprised to hear we still cuddle on the couch and still have sex. I won’t get into the details of our private conversation that made the inadequacy hit me like a brick, but it left me feeling very upset and pissed off…but not at my husband. I know this isn’t a reflection on me as a person by any means. And when he and I started having sex before we were married, I had Christians concern troll me and my life…AT THE AGE OF 21. I mean, I wasn’t looking to be a nun, for fucks sake.
But I still can’t help but cry and grieve at how naïve I am in some ways and I blame my parents and Christianity. My parents failed to have any sex talks with me beyond the birds and the bees basics. I was never told that it was ok for me to masturbate as a girl or encouraged to discover myself sexually. Not once. When I was in the Independent Fundamental Baptist church as a teenager, physical contact beyond hand shaking during church with members of the opposite sex was a huge no-no and was strictly enforced. And my first boyfriend’s conservative Christian family had pretty strict limits too though not quite as harsh as the IBF church. Kissing and making out was ok along with hugging and holding hands. But that was pretty much everything that was allowed. Even talking about sex was dangerous, because then you might start having sex and that was definitely wrong before marriage.
I did a little bit of trying to discover myself sexually in secret as a teenager, but I felt horrible about it like I was committing sin and doing Satan’s work, so I didn’t do enough to actually learn much about myself at all. In fact, I know my boyfriend didn’t masturbate either, because there were times we would make out and he would have an “accident” in his pants. He was so ignorant sexually, he wouldn’t let me put my hand on his thigh after this one incident because he was afraid (besides being embarrassed), that sperm would somehow find its way into my vagina by me touching his leg outside of his clothes in comfort with my hand. I was already 18 years old when this shit happened.
Some of this shit may sound funny, but its not. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists do catastrophic sexual harm to its followers by preaching this purity before marriage bullshit. I’m speaking on a different level than controlling women. It harms both young men and women with the type of sexual ignorance that people who are old enough to vote should not have about themselves or each other.
Everything I know about sex I learned from my husband. Thank the gods he isn’t a conservative Christian, otherwise that sentence would be worse than it is. But its still bad. Although I would change nothing about my marriage and I would change nothing about how my husband and I feel about each other, I should have had more knowledge and experience before we met. And I know I can’t change the past at all. And I know I can use my experience to do better with my kids. But I’m not alone. There are probably millions of Christians who are so afraid… I don’t even know why really …they do this permanent harm called sexual repression to their kids. It passes down from generation to generation except for those of us who break the cycle. By all rights, my first boyfriend and I should have been educated about safe sex. We should have been encouraged to masturbate as teenagers and discover ourselves. And we should have been allowed, within the confines of a normal and healthy relationship, to discover each other and learn regardless of whether the relationship would eventually end. In fact, it is my belief (although now I know breaking up was best for us both), that a major part of the relationship ending was sexual repression. I know his parents pressured him to either end it or get married because they were afraid after a year and a half we would soon no longer resist and start having sex and since we were young and in college, they knew were weren’t ready to get married. There was no room for safe sex and birth control for a 19 year old college student and her 21 year old boyfriend in his parents eyes without pressuring marriage as a solution.
So now, I sit and grieve that my ignorance has followed me even to this day. That I was robbed of developing normally. That part of me won’t know how to help my children when I allow them to do what I wasn’t allowed to do because I won’t be able to relate to them.
I don’t know what the Christian purpose of this ignorance is, but I hate Christianity for it. And I’m angry at my parents for doing nothing but teach me what I learned in 5th grade sex-ed about periods, eggs and sperm. I hate people and I hate religion for forcing me to suffer. I hate people and I hate religion for restricting me from learning about myself. I hate people and I hate religion for restricting me from expressing myself.
Fuck Christianity and fuck its Gospel of Sexual Repression.
Where to start? There is SO MUCH in my life that happened to bring me to this moment of flouncing from a Mennonite Church I had been attending for the better part of the past 16 years. When my husband and I renewed our vows, we had our church wedding here. We dedicated our kids to God shortly after our son was born. The former pastor’s wife I still consider one of my good friends. She’s truly a good soul and knows what living love looks like. There are several other good Christian people with wonderful souls who are good friends and I know they try to live out a form of self love and love for others that Jesus tried to get others to see for themselves when he was alive all those years ago.
But institutionally, Christianity is an abusive father. Institutionally, church is not emotionally, mentally, sexually safe. Yes, institutionally. I’ve experienced for myself and listened to far too many stories to believe there are just a bunch of isolated incidents and Christianity as a whole embodies goodness. Back in 2009, some one posted a timeline of events in Europe that summarizes how Christianity took over in Europe. My pagan ancestors literally converted for fear of death. http://churchandstate.org.uk/2016/03/how-europe-was-overrun-by-christians/
I have a couple of books I’m reading about Germanic and Celtic history before the monstrosity known as Christianity took over Europe.
This isn’t a good start. Taking over by the sword and not by Love. It doesn’t get any better once Europeans spread to the Americas, but that’s not the point of this particular blog post, so I’m not going there. But there are plenty of resources to learn about that if you wish.
Eventually, I came to realize the damage in my own life wasn’t isolated incidents, but part of the institutionalized evil of Christianity.
A few years ago, I wrote a letter to the pastor of the cult church I spent my teenage years in. His wife treated me like I was the spawn of Satan come to corrupt her children. I confronted him for that after learning that Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church of Hammond, IN coerced a 16 year old girl and transported her across state lines TWICE to have sex with her. He is currently serving a 12 year sentence for his crimes. I was angry that I was treated like the spawn of Satan in his church while Jack Schaap was abusing his power and doing actual harm beyond the Patriarchy this cult religion preached. Jack Schaap and the previous womanizer and father in law pastor, Jack Hyles were the leaders of this particular faction of cult Baptist churches.
Last night, I stuck the following letter into the church mailboxes of the members of the Mennonite Church I had been attending. A slight background: they went through a “discernment” process to determine if and at what capacity, LGBTQ people would be allowed to be members and/or serve in the church. The church was pretty split on what we felt. Some people wanted total inclusion while others dug in their regressive heels, using the Bible as their weapon of hate against this “lifestyle choice” despite the real life testimonies of current and former attendees who proved it wasn’t a “lifestyle choice” at all. The discernment process was exhausting and rage inducing. In the end, they decided nothing, but have chosen to stay in limbo. I guess some people are just hoping the whole “issue” would just go away. Since that discernment process, my daughter discovered during puberty that she’s gay. Suddenly, I had much more to fight for than just being a strong advocate for my LGBTQ friends.
Then recently, I read how Vice President of Eastern Mennonite University, Luke Hartman, abused his power, coerced a young woman into a relationship and then mentally abused her, stalked her and even threatened her life when she tried to leave. It wasn’t just this alone that got to me, but how their local Mennonite Church and even the leadership of MCUSA (the broader denomination organization) tried to cover, lie, hide and victim blame. That was it for me, guys. How could ANY church argue against LGBTQ people being invited to Jesus’ table, serving God, and being church members when trusted men in power are sexually and mentally harming people and the church once again, caring more about their reputation than about bringing a criminal to justice?!
So here is the letter I wrote. No more silence, First Mennonite Church of Canton, OH. No more hoping this shit will just “go away”. Deal with yourselves, or become irrelevant.
Dear First Mennonite Church, April 22nd, 2016
Yes, our family hasn’t been there for a while and we probably won’t be. Maybe we’ll show up to eat some of your food at potlucks, but that’s it. It’ll be nice to check in with friends we don’t see often. But, I’m done with church and I’m done with Christianity.
I was emotionally abused as a teenager by my dad and by a church (not Mennonite) I was in. My daughter is gay. And during the entire “discernment” process, I was disgusted at many points during the process. At some point in my life also, I joined an Independent Baptist Survivors group on Facebook and learned about many sexual abuses committed by church leaders in the Baptist church and how the sexual abuse was covered up and the victims blamed for what was done with them.
And now Lauren Shifflett of Lindale Mennonite Church told her account of how she was sexually abused by Mennonite teenage boys as a teenager, raped at some point, and then sexually coerced, emotionally abused and stalked by Luke Hartman, Vice President of EMU who was recently busted in a prostitution sting. To this day, EMU and some church leadership of Lindale is trying to protect Luke, discredit Lauren and retraumatize her. If you’re interested, here is Lauren’s sister’s account of how the church and EMU has responded to the situation and to Lauren. http://www.ourstoriesuntold.com/good-intentions-arent-enough/
Here is where my anger has just exploded about First Mennonite, the Ohio Conference and MCUSA in general. First Mennonite, the conference and MCUSA has had this decades long debate about LGBTQs. I heard church members utter ridiculous fears about gay people. I mean, gay people might teach young Sunday School kids that its ok to be gay, right? Ridiculous times where Bible verses were used as weapons to justify LGBTQ exclusion from church membership and participation. At the same time, sexual predators and abusers are protected and word salad performed by Mennonite leadership that brings no real justice to sexual abuse victims.
I just can’t deal with a church half full of complete hypocrites when it comes to sex. My daughter can’t feel safe being around people who might possibly confront her about her “sin” while those same people probably judge Lauren for being a victim of a sick abusive man. Patriarchy is a hell of a drug, isn’t it? And how dare any women or LGBTQ people who don’t live by its rules disturb men’s power, right? So you weaponize religion and the Bible. No different than other Christians I’ve experienced. Your doctrine of pacifism is a lie as the violence of emotional and sexual abuse in the Mennonite Church is allowed and covered up while people whine and cry about gay people forcing the Church to accept their “lifestyle”.
Well, I’m done. Some of you may feel sad or even angry I feel this way.
Well perhaps you should have thought of that before emotionally abusing people in your own congregation. You won’t get the chance to do to my beautiful daughter what you’ve done to others.
So ends my 36 year relationship with Christianity. I’m completely done trying to make a relationship with an abusive Patriarchy religion work.
First of all, a disclaimer. This blog post is my opinion only. It’s not speaking for or endorsed by any group. This is just an individual speaking her mind on her own space of the internet.
So, Ervin Stutzman made his rounds here in Ohio to a constituency he perceived to be mainly conservative and I attended his stop at Kidron Mennonite Church. I have attached the audio file of my question that I asked him that of course, included some commentary. I was ready to do more than just ask a one liner question.
I appreciate the listen: http://yourlisten.com/naturebeckles/my-question-to-ervin-stutzman
What Ervin said is well summarized by my friend Jean Hershberger over on the Pink Menno Campaign FB page. Though her use of the topic phrase I think makes it clear this is her impression and opinionss of what Ervin, let me make it clear that it is. This is not meant as a record of factual statements, but of a response and impression of what he said. Please do not think that either one of us are purposely misleading or lying about Ervin. Here is the quote: “*These are some of the troubling aspects of Ervin’s ‘answers’ to questions…
**Feeding into negative stereotypes: In the context of a question about celibacy…he said something to the effect that he didn’t know, but maybe it would be better to allow for monogamous relationships/not all are called to a celibate lifestyle; then as examples, he shared about a doctor friend reporting of having a gay patient with over 300 partners; and then said something about some priests not being able to handle celibacy and because of that resorting to ‘pederasty’ (yes, he did use that word) I guess I was naïve to think that a man of his intelligence, even though we disagree, would resort to extreme, stereotypical and downright false examples
**At one point he attempted to speak with the ‘voice’ of a scientist/psychologist with vague and questionable references to ‘research’.
**Had I not been following MSMC & Denver Mennonite’s decision in licensing Theda and been aware of the depth of their journey, their seeking Spirit guidance…from Ervin’s comments I would have come away with the belief that they took it quite lightly and based the choice on their feelings – not on any sound biblical study. He wove that into answers several times – ‘they did not go through a study of the scriptures’ – not exact words, but close. And not just in talking about MSMC, but also in (poorly!) summarizing what’s going on with EMU and Goshen.”
So, Ervin’s comments made my blood boil. It isn’t simply a matter of his position on LGBTQ’s in Mennonite Church USA but the outright lying and misleading he did in his position of power. What is Ervin afraid of? He HAS to be afraid, because I don’t see any other motivation for using his leadership position to go around answering questions in a manner that is inconsistent with being honest. Mountain State Mennonite Conference did not throw the Bible away when they decided to affirm licensing Theda Good. But that is precisely how he made it sound. As if anybody who seriously studies the scripture can’t possibly come up with a different conclusion than he does. He used the term not accepting Scripture at “face value.” Apparently, Ervin is a fundamentalist because fundamentalism is the dangerous theology that takes everything literally in the Bible, out of historical context, out of context of the author’s theme/whole message, and out of context of the two main commandments that Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And He said to him, ‘You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” And as I learned from my personal healing journey, you can’t really learn how to love your neighbors until you learn to love yourself. Anyway, I’m getting off track.
Back to Ervin. He MUST be fearing polity change. That’s what this all boils down to. He is afraid that people would actually get behind the idea its time to reform the documents MCUSA has been living by since 2001. He’s afraid the voices he and others have been working so hard to silence can’t be silenced anymore. He stated clearly his beliefs coincide with the current MCUSA documents. But what bothered me most is the deceitfulness in his language to fool the sheep and prevent honesty and progress.
More than hoping at least some of my words stuck with Ervin in his head, I hope my words stuck with the audience who came to hear what he had to say. Whether Ervin likes it or not, change is coming. More people are ok with lesbians and gays getting legal marriage than ever before. Christian denominations will not be able to hold on to their hateful oppression without looking like fools much longer. They are losing the younger generation and giving in to fear of conservatives with money. Fear is the opposite of love. God is love. God is not complicated. HUMANS make things complicated.
“I believe in Jesus’ message in the Bible. I do not know if he was the divine son of God or not. I do not believe that it matters.”
I am going to go backwards today on this statement. Let’s talk about whether Jesus is the divine son of God or not. The single event that got me thinking about the divinity of Jesus happened while watching Religulous by Bill Maher. Love him or hate him, it’s a great movie. He even talks to our friend Ken Ham who recently had his little public debate stunt with Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Here is the quote that got the wheels of doubt turning in my head (from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0815241/quotes )
“Bill Maher: But the Jesus story wasn’t original.
Man at The Holy Land Experience: How so?
Bill Maher: [an explanation appears in subtitles as The Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian” plays] “Written in 1280 BC, The Book of the Dead describes a God, Horus… Horus is the son of the god Osiris… born to a virgin mother. He was baptized in a river by Anup the Baptizer… who was later beheaded. Like Jesus, Horus was tempted while alone in the desert… Healed the sick… The blind… Cast out demons… And walked on water… He raised Asar from the dead. ‘Asar’ translates to ‘Lazarus’. Oh yeah, he also had 12 disciples. Yes, Horus was crucified first… And after 3 days, two women announced… Horus, the savior of humanity… had been resurrected.”
Now there is debate on the internet on how accurate or inaccurate Bill Maher is with his “facts” on Horus. It is hard to fact check against this paragraph without reading The Book of the Dead yourself. But thanks to the internet, you can!
If you are interesting in a summary of similarities between Jesus and Horus, here is a link http://www.near-death.com/experiences/origen046.html. And on THAT website, you can link to a site here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/egy/ebod/ which is the Egyptian Book of the Dead, translated for our reading pleasure.
I myself do not need to dig into whether Bill Maher is right or wrong about the Book of the Dead. Even the one blog I found that sought to shoot holes in Maher’s claims admitted that many of these similarities exist between Horus and Jesus, but that there was no way early Christianity knew enough about the Horus story to make those connections because they would have needed to be cherry picked from the Book of the Dead texts. It is not an impossible thing honestly. You would have to believe that humans were much dumber back then than they are now to think it wasn’t possible. Dehumanizing the past like your typical high school history class does is an easy way to discredit our ancestors’ intelligence.
So first came my doubt. Wow. If the major themes of Jesus in Christianity are based on a reincarnated story from Egypt, then there are two possibilities: Jesus is a reincarnation of Horus, or Jesus is not the son of God. The wonderful thing about scholars by the time they were deciding what was be part of Christianity’s belief system is they learned how to make stories a bit more believable for people in their day than a goddess who retrieved her dead husband’s body parts except his penis in order to impregnate herself with their son. If you think about Mary getting impregnated out of nowhere and an angel appearing to her and Joseph about the whole affair (pun intended), it kind of doesn’t sound much less ridiculous than what Horus’ goddess mother did. The point is, how are we justified to sit here and discredit an old Egyptian religious story like its hogwash, but believe in our own fairytale like its somehow more credible? Will humans look at us 2000 years from now and dehumanize us in their High School history classes and discredit our intelligence? Oh but look here, some old arrowheads that are worn so much from erosion they couldn’t have possibly killed anything with that – they must have been hunters.
But just because early Christian scholars concocted a nice story for their narrative in order to persuade people to join their religion, doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t exist or that he didn’t have important things to say that could revolutionize humanity. This is where I start to view the Bible differently than most. I don’t look for key events that validate my religion. I look for an attitude for living.
Let me talk about the popular narrative for a moment and then I will end with some of favorite Jesus’ quotes that I think if we lived out to the best of our abilities, none of the rest of the mainstream Christian doctrine matters.
Most forms of Christianity argue that because of original sin, there was no way we could make it to God’s good graces (for most people that means going to heaven when they die) on our good “works” alone. Meaning, no matter how good of a person you are, you still have “sin” in your life. You still intentionally or unintentionally hurt yourself or other people in the course of your life. (that last sentence is how *I* like to define sin or “missing the mark”). Because of the sin in our life, we needed Jesus the Son of God to come down from heaven through a virgin birth and die on a cross to pay the penalty of sin for us so that we could go to heaven when we die. But only IF we BELIEVE Jesus died for our sins. Consciously or subconsciously, this belief system gives Christians a permanent “Get out Jail Free” card. This means they can be alcoholics, beat their wives at home, emotionally abuse their children, talk behind cowokers’ backs and just in general be a selfish shitty person. “It’s ok because Jesus died for my sins. It doesn’t matter how many I commit or how good I am. As long as I believe he died for my sins, I’m ok. Yeah, He probably wants me to go to church on Sunday, read my Bible and pray. But I’m good. I’m covered. And I can judge others and point out the specks in their eyes. Everyone needs Jesus!” Yes, this is a simplistic fundamentalist explanation without going into all the intricate doctrinal details and beliefs about what constitutes a sin. But it works. I see it in peoples’ behaviors every day. The way they drive, the way they behave at work. The way some people are nice to you at work when they want something from you, but otherwise could care less about your existence as long as you don’t bother them too much. There ARE good people who take their attitude and the way they treat others seriously. But on the whole, I don’t see that as the norm.
I prefer to look at things Jesus SAID. This world will not automatically become a better place if we all believe someone played out a human form of animal sacrifice from the Old Testament for all our bad deeds (never mind WHY people do bad things to begin with). But if you look at key things Jesus SAID, its some key concepts that if lived out can change the world. And the best part is, you don’t have to believe in original sin, his human sacrifice, his virgin birth, or his rising from the dead to do these things or to have the right attitude towards your fellow humans, nature and our earth.
Here are some of my favorites (from the NASB):
Matthew 7:12: In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 19:23-24: And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 22:34-40: But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 25:34-40: Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink? And when did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?” The King will answer them and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.”
Luke 7:44-47: Turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
I think Jesus makes his message pretty clear. It’s all about attitude, folks. It’s all about how well you LOVE.
1) I believe there is a God. I believe the spirit of God is omnipresent in each of us. But I do not believe he makes decisions or influences the world like an outside source. He simply “is” and we decide with our choices how much influence God has in the world.
I have often described the spirit of God in an analogy to The Force in Star Wars. It is the easiest concept I know to allow people to make sense of how I see God. It also closely resembles a Native American view as well. I hate using gender terms also, but I was brought up calling God a “he” so I stick with it out of simplicity.
So where did this belief of mine come from?
I do have subjective experiences that are “proof” to me in a spiritual realm that co-exists with our physical world. I use the term “proof” loosely, because it is definitely not scientific, nor would I ever try to meld some kind of weird definition of science into something I could use for my “proof”. Just the same, the events that speak to me are real and I interpret them as extra spiritual energy from God.
There is a time period in which I think God protected me and a specific series of events during December of 2012 that will forever be burned in my mind. Because of these two specific things, there is no convincing me there is no God.
I think God protected me during the time that I was brainwashed at Victory Baptist Church in Mentor, Ohio. It is an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. I was manipulated, shunned, and emotionally abused for part of the four years I was a member of that church. The protection was not evident to me until years later when I joined the Survivors of Abuse in Fundamentalism Facebook group. It was there I learned of wide spread sexual abuse and troubled teen homes where girls were physically and sexually abused. It is so wide spread, it could have only been God that kept me safe and had it to where I was in one of the few churches where sexual abuse did not occur. Several of the leaders our church followed and trusted in were later caught in sexual abuse. Pastor Jack Hyles was a womanizer and cheated on his wife. He literally stole another man’s wife as well. His son-in-law, Pastor Jack Schaap was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison for taking a minor across state lines twice with the intent of having sex with her (and yes, they did have sex). There are many more cases, but those two stuck out for me because First Baptist Church of Hammond, IN where those two nutjobs had their church was the church my local IFB church looked up to the most. The only other way to describe the fact I was never subjected to sexual abuse is luck. But I don’t think it was luck. I think it was God.
The other time I know God had extra presence in my life was December 2012. I was at a temp job for 5 ½ months and I thought I was close to getting hired in to the company. Work was increasing in the department I was hired to help in. My friend Randi and I were part of other extra projects that were not part of our original assignment. I thought the two of us were going to become permanent employees. Then 2 weeks before Christmas, the company closed an office in New York and laid off all their temps. I was devastated. I wasn’t there long enough to collect unemployment and because I technically didn’t lose my job with my employer at the temp agency, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to collect anyway. On top of that, we were no longer getting foodstamps temporarily while Job & Family Services were reviewing documents I turned in to prove I no longer worked at JC Penney. They took a month longer than we could afford for them to review stuff.
So here I am with no job, no foodstamps, 2 weeks before Christmas with no presents at all for the kids and I have no idea how we’re going to keep our house. I used the last pay check to pay the utility bills and keep our internet on. There was no sense in turning off the internet… first it’s better to search for jobs at home because it literally takes hours to fill out apps… and second… that 30 bucks a month was not making much difference in the overall suck-ass budget we were just handed. We needed some kind of escape from our new reality.
One evening I was driving home… I forget from where. But I just started crying and praying. I had our treadmill for sale on Craigslist and some other stuff on Ebay. I cried out to God for help. Actually, the only thing I asked for besides general help was to have our shit sell on Craigslist and Ebay. It would help get food or pay bills for a while after my last paycheck was gone. I asked for no help from anyone. Yes, people were told I lost my job and a few knew of the foodstamp situation, but I was determined to suck it up and make it through somehow. I generally have the attitude that I didn’t want to owe anyone anything (I grew up having things held over my head at times, so I don’t like having anyone having that type of ammunition if they became angry at me for any reason).
What I got was much more than I asked for. People at church gave us gift certificates for grocery stores so we could get food. Someone at church gave us a gift certificate for the movies so we could go out as a family. A random couple I have no clue who they were or what organization they came from, pulled up to our house in their vehicle one day and dropped off gifts for the kids for Christmas. They ended up getting things they needed like brand new winter coats. And the kids’ school gave us a turkey. I still tear up when I talk about everything we were given from people completely randomly and not asked for during that time. There was no way all of it was mere coincidence. God-spirit was moving and stirring in the hearts of others and we were lifted up and taken care of by our community. The foodstamps came back in January. In February, just a month before foreclosure proceedings were going to begin on the house we owned for 11 ½ years, I interviewed and landed the job I now have. This was no chain of coincidences. This was God. And there was nothing special about me particularly that made me more deserving of help than anyone else. But the people around me had a deeper tapping into their spiritual world. Jesus said when you do good deeds to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do good deeds to him. I live around some people who live that concept.
I get my deistic approach to God from our many founding fathers who were deists. Logically, I think about all of the pain and suffering in the world and then I think of God as being this benevolent LOVE that exists. After all, the Bible says God IS love. So how could a loving God allow all the suffering in the world? Without falling back on typical Christian apologetic explanations, I fall back on a mix of deism and Native American belief. God doesn’t allow anything to happen. God simply “is”. We tap into God-spirit, spiritual energy, however you want to describe it and our actions – good or bad – have a good or bad influence on the world. I think spiritual energy is good energy. I don’t believe in a “Satan” anti-God character or a hell, but I do believe evil is spread when we influence the world in a bad way. Some people call it sin. A good friend of mine calls it “missing the mark”. I call it when we hurt ourselves or other people. So yes, God is omnipresent because he/she lives in all of us and in everything. Yes, in animals and plants and the earth. And if God knows everything that each individual knows for themselves, then I guess that can be considered knowing everything. If we are honest about ourselves and how much power we have with the consequences of our actions and decisions, then I suppose that could make God all powerful. That doesn’t make us gods. It should be humbling, actually. It should move us to thinking on a higher plane of morality. Doing the most good for the most people gives LOVE a lot of power in the world.
It all makes sense to me.
I have told some people here and there what I do believe in, in bits and pieces. I don’t think I have articulated it all in one place before. My head is full of a lot of information regarding my own religious beliefs, so today I thought I’d make a list and then future blog posts will attempt to break the list down and expand on each point to explain how I came to believe the things I do. If you are searching for yourself or simply curious, my hope is simply that this blog helps you on your journey. I will probably have my personal experiences and personal church history mixed in where it’s applicable. I may also add to this list.
1) I believe there is a God. I believe the spirit of God is omnipresent in each of us. But I do not believe he makes decisions or influences the world like an outside source. He simply “is” and we decide with our choices how much influence God has in the world. This concept is supported in the Bible, actually, as I will explain in a later blog.
2) I believe in Jesus’ message in the Bible. I do not know if he was the divine son of God or not. I do not believe that it matters.
3) I loosely believe the Bible to be a guide book with flawed humans and stories in it. I do not believe it is the flawless inspired Word of God. I also believe humans purposely decided to leave books considered scripture out to carve out a certain one view of Christianity to promote it and use it for control and power.
4) I do not believe getting Baptized is important
5) I do not participate in rituals such as communion or before-meal prayers. In fact, I hardly ever purposefully pray. Most of my “prayer” is in the form of meditation.
6) I do not take oaths or covenants. My church has a covenant its members take at the beginning of each year. I do not participate. This past year I think my husband and I were the only persons in the church to not sign the covenant.
7) I believe certain themes and stories are across all major religions. There is value in that knowledge. It also puts Christianity as equally important to other religions…not as the best one, the only right one, or above any others at all.
8) I have not sought membership in the church I attend because I will not pretend to state things I don’t really believe in just to have voting or committee rights. My hope is some day I can have those rights while having the freedom to believe as I wish and simply be allowed to fully participate in the community I chose to be a part of.
9) I believe certain people throughout history have a higher spiritual knowledge and message they shared with people to collectively influence the world in a positive way. Jesus was one of those people (whether he is God or not is of little consequence). Other modern people I put in that same category are: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Bruce Lee, Jon Stewart, Robert Reich, and others. There are people I don’t even know about that fit that category also. But those are the people I have noticed and inspire me.
10) I believe we are all connected. I believe that it isn’t “God” who lets bad things happen to people, but merely it is a consequence and influence that we have with each other. The more power someone has, the larger influence and consequence that person’s decisions have. I will further explain this later with concrete examples.
11) I believe in a balance between personal responsibility of one’s own decisions and the knowledge there are circumstances (from other peoples’ decisions) that affect you, you have no control over.
12) I believe that Love is the solution to 99%, if not all, of our problems. And I believe we cannot love anyone properly without first loving ourselves. Most of us are fully aware of other people projecting their damage and pain onto other people. Most of us are not yet fully aware that Love works in the exact same way. When Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself”, he wanted you to also love YOURSELF. I believe this single concept can revolutionize the world.
Dear Ervin Stutzman, the MCUSA Executive Board and everyone else who is interested:
I have been reading Ervin Stutzman lately on the internet. He is the spokesman for a leadership group for an entire denomination – the Mennonites. I’ve been reading his open letters on the internet because he sets the tone for how the leadership group will respond or make decisions on conflict.
Ervin and other Mennonite leaders have worked hard to suppress and further oppress LGBTs within the denomination. A couple of key ways I myself have noticed the suppression that I have seen reflected in my own local Mennonite church are as follows:
1) Pretending that the conservative voices against homosexuality acceptance within the church are a majority
2) Allowing the few conservatives who threaten and use ultimatums to run the denomination through fear. (Fear is the opposite of love, Mr. Stutzman and Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves – He even said it is the 2nd greatest commandment.)
3) Suppressing educational opportunities. When people present information and education, it is ignored and leadership pretends it does not exist.
4) Treating the two views as equals as if nobody is being hurt or oppressed, we just have two different views supposedly digging in their heels and refusing to budge.
Recently, the Ohio Mennonite Conference (to which the church I attend unfortunately belongs too) and a couple of other conferences wrote letters to Mountain State Mennonite Conference that were harsh. The letters attempted to speak for the areas they represent without the congregations within those conferences approval or voice. Mountain State Mennonite church licensed a lesbian pastor who is in a committed relationship and it has raised all kinds of hell within the Mennonite denomination. After a failed discernment process in my own church, I became disheartened with Mennonites in general. But after befriending several Mennonites outside of my own church through Pink Menno and reading much of Mennonite history on this subject from the past 30 years, I now feel resolved to continually be a pain in the ass to the leaders of my local Mennonite church and of the broader MCUSA leadership until they either get their heads on straight or the denomination splits. Ted Grimsrud has an EXCELLENT blog on the negativity of threats and ultimatums and why they shouldn’t be given any weight at all. It can be read here: http://thinkingpacifism.net/2014/02/28/will-mennonite-church-usa-survive-reflecting-on-three-decades-of-struggle-part-1/
The reason for this blog today is to tell Ervin Stutzman, the Executive Board of MCUSA and EVERYONE the leadership of MCUSA can no longer pretend and ignore. This morning, I posted the link to Mountain State Mennonite Conference’s Facebook page on my own page, Pink Menno’s Facebook page and BMC’s Facebook page. At the time, it had only 64 likes… mine being one of them. In a swift show of support, in 12 hours the page has amassed 268 likes. My simple effortless sharing produced 204 people liking MSMC’s Facebook page in half a day. HALF OF A DAY.
Your days of successfully ignoring LGBT’s and their allies are coming to an end. We will not be silent until the Mennonite denomination finally allows LGBTs to sit at the table with Jesus. We will not be silent until LGBTs are loved with the same agape love that Mennonites are generally known for. We will be loud and obnoxious. Passive is not synonymous with pacifism. Our voices WILL be heard.