Pentecost

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After the Eucharist I think that the thing that brings me back to the Episcopal Church every Sunday the most is the celebration of the liturgical year, and it was actually one of the things that made me initially interested in the church. Today was my first Pentecost as an almost Episcopalian. My priest had said in church last week that most people would wear red for Pentecost, and then he said that some of us might do something crazy, which I took as a challenge, or pretended to for the sake of a joke anyway.

So I dyed my hair bright red for Pentecost, and while I did it as a joke at first, it turned out to be meaningful for me because I would see the red and think about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit which means I’ll try out “liturgical hair” again (although I haven’t decided if I can bring myself to do the green for the next liturgical season, ha). Actually I tried to get it red the first time and it came out hot pink and I had to find a different red. Although it was done to be funny, it was significant because humanity often uses symbols to represent meaningful things, it’s why some of us are tattooed. For me it’s simply another way of worshiping and keeping my mind on things that matter. I find the celebration of the church year meaningful because it keeps my mind on all the different aspects of Christian belief and celebrating each of them equally.

I also wore my gothic dove choker because the dove is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit. I find that thinking about wearing red, or dying my hair, or putting on the dove choker is very beneficial. Symbols are so important; the church year and the liturgical colors representing the seasons and the colors we decorate the church in, it all helps focus my mind on God.

I get so caught up in day to day life that sometimes I don’t think about God a whole lot sometimes, so looking in the mirror and seeing the red hair reminds me of the Holy Spirit. The church year helps to focus my mind on all the things that make up the Christian faith; the different events that happened to create Christianity. It also helps to have different seasons so the focus can be on different experiences during the year, such as Advent being a time of expectation, and Lent being a time of repentance.

So today I walked into church with my dove choker and my bright red hair, and was handed a pin with a dove on it to put on my shirt. I immersed myself in the hymns and in the Bible readings and the prayers, all focused on the Holy Spirit and the events of Pentecost, the birth of the church. The birth of the church is an important part of the Christian faith. On the day of Pentecost, Christianity became open for all, it was an event where everyone heard the message of Jesus in their own language. The Holy Spirit came to us at Pentecost, and now all of us are welcome at the table without prejudice.

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Sexual Ethics in Fundamentalism

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When I was nine years old; an older boy at school lured me behind the toilets and asked me if I would “play dirty” with him. Thinking that he wanted to play in the sand pit, I said sure. Then he held me down and asked me to touch him, and he touched me. I said no I didn’t want to do that but he held me down and forced me anyway. I always blamed myself because I answered yes that I wanted to play dirty, even though I hadn’t known what that meant. In fundamentalist purity culture, it meant that I was soiled and trashed, even though I was still technically a virgin. Josh Duggar molested his sisters and yet it seems like conservative fundamentalist Christianity is still willing to overlook it.

Yes, I know he was young, but it was an ongoing thing, and he needed help that he did not get. But hey, he “only” molested his sisters, at least he isn’t gay, now that would be terrible. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Fundamentalism believes that the way God created me, bisexual, is an abomination and that LGBT people are pedophiles, and yet a lot of them seem to be willing to look the other way when a fundamentalist celebrity gets caught either doing something wrong or when the crap hits the fan and people find out about past sins.

I’m not one of the people that is going for the jugular in this whole mess, right now there are a lot of vultures that are swooping in on their prey, happy that Josh has been caught in a sex scandal. I’m really not happy about it, woman have been hurt, but I’m also confused about the fundamentalist response because I’m not sure how being bisexual is supposed to be worse than sexually abusing one’s family.

I’ve made some terrible mistakes of my own, and sometimes those mistakes have come back to bite me in the ass, it’s what happens sometimes because, well, consequences. The fact that this is coming back to bite Josh is one of the consequences of what he did. I’ve done some pretty awful stuff myself, much of which I document in my book The Girl with the Grace Tattoo.

I believe that the Duggars are living a cult life and that the girls are in danger because in their circles, being sexually molested is counted as being impure even though the woman didn’t consent to being touched. Fundamentalism appears to have a huge problem with the concept of consent. Instead of realizing that a horrible crime has been committed against a woman; fundamentalists try to find a way to blame the victim…perhaps she was wearing something that they thought was revealing, perhaps she was drunk, etc. The problem is that if you do not have enthusiastic consent, you do not have consent. And, well, no consent means no sex. That wasn’t too terribly hard to figure out after all.

Influence

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Back when I first started working on my book The Girl with the Grace Tattoo; I wanted to earn myself a place at the emergent/progressive Christian table as a new voice. I very quickly learned that they were not interested in new voices, they were only interested in their voices. I apparently ran in all the wrong circles because I tried to talk with several of these authors and only one of them ever even bothered to talk with me. The rest were too important and they knew it. They didn’t want new voices at the table because that would threaten their income.

At first I was upset that only one of them talked to me, but now seeing the Tony Jones fiasco and who is supporting him and who isn’t, I’m glad I don’t have a voice at their table, because I’m afraid that having that much power might corrupt me like it is corrupting some other authors. Yes, I want to sell a lot of books, but not at the expense of giving up my humanity and turning into a monster that’s only interested in power at all costs.

I would like to say that I would stand with Julie because that would be the right thing to do, but once a person is in a position of power, doing the right thing seems to be harder than it used to be. I’m not arrogant enough to presume that I wouldn’t let power corrupt me, but what I can say after seeing this whole thing unfold is that that I’m glad I wasn’t given a voice at the table; I’m glad that I am just little old me without a lot of influence, happy that my income doesn’t depend on covering up or overlooking abuse.

I would like to sell a whole lot more books, but I hope it will never be at the expense of treating others right. I want to be respected as an author and as someone with something valid to say, but not if it’s going to ruin me. It’s hard sometimes because I do get jealous when these other authors are respected and people wait to buy their work. I want to enjoy the same status that they do, in being well known. But Julie and other women like her who have been through abuse deserve better from Christians, and so if I’m never a household name, I do hope I’ll maintain my integrity.

Violence

I’m a single mom that is running out of ideas on how to make money, and so I started selling things that I did not need on eBay, and from there I went out and bought things especially to sell on eBay and made a little money. Then something went wrong, I had honestly listed a product which somebody paid $44 for and then when they got it they were unhappy. The tried to return it but I said no. EBay, however, said I had to refund them and pay for the return shipping also, which means I had paid instead of being paid. It was a big deal and I was frustrated that I hadn’t made any money but rather had lost. This wasn’t the point. Within that same week, a seller gypped me by claiming that an item worked and yet it was missing a crucial piece in the listing, meaning that it didn’t work at all. I went through the dispute process with eBay who gave me a refund but did not make the seller refund me.

I felt mean and vindictive because I had wanted him to be forced to refund it after being dishonest because I had had to when I was being honest, and well, it just wasn’t fair that he didn’t have to pay for his dishonesty. But the situation got me thinking that this was the perfect chance I had to wish grace rather than loss on this seller. He had done me wrong blatantly and on purpose and it seems as if he got away with it. I am a pacifist and I’m also non-resistant, and yet I can be violent in my mood, attitude and words which is still violence and still needs to be dealt with in my heart.

I don’t try to solve problems trying to start a fist fight, but I often use my words to start a verbal fight; which is just as bad as a physically violent brawl. I need to eliminate all violence from my life: violent thoughts and attitudes. Instead I need to respond, even in my thoughts, with grace. The book of James says that our sin begins in our hearts, a thought is conceived and it grows and then is birthed as an angry explosion. The heart: that’s where it starts. Those violent thoughts, feelings and moods, which make me a violent person even if I never physically hurt anybody. I need to offer grace instead of vindictiveness, even just in my own mind; because what is in my heart is going to come out of my mouth and I crave grace for myself and need to give it to others.

I need to get rid of the violence: to know that I am not always right and my argument isn’t always the right one and that people are far more precious and valuable to God than they are to me. I need to get rid of the violence when someone pulls out in front of me in traffic instead of swearing loudly and flipping them off. Like James says: unchecked anger in the heart conceives and gives birth to violence and violence brings death. Likewise; grace in the heart conceives and gives birth to kindness and results in life.

Forgiveness

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I walk into the church and then nervously I slip inside the altar rail and stand next to the chair waiting for me. I pick up the prayer book so that I can sit down, and it’s already opened. Form 2, it says. “Damn it” I say to myself, knowing the differences between the two confession forms that I have studied. For me, one of those forms is much harder than the other, and God knows it and the priest knows it.

I need forgiveness, that’s why I’m here. My friend rolls her eyes when I tell her I’m going to confession, she tells me that I can confess my sins to God at home and I know that’s true, but I crave the absolution that confessing to the priest will give me. There is a reason that confession, or rather, reconciliation, is a sacrament. It’s because, like the bread and the wine, we need it. I need to know that I am forgiven by God and for me it helps to have the priest give absolution; it helps me remember for sure that God has forgiven me.

My confession is done and the priest asks the one question I wanted to use the other form to avoid: “Do you, then, forgive those who have sinned against you?” I’m here seeking forgiveness and absolution from the priest for my own sins, and yet I don’t want to answer this question. But slowly I answer the question that was asked: “I forgive them”. I can’t really go seeking forgiveness for my own sins if I won’t forgive others for their sins.

Every Sunday I kneel and pray for forgiveness of sins in unison with the rest of the congregation. The priest pronounces God’s forgiveness for our sins, and as we get ready to partake of the bread and the wine, we also pray the Lord’s Prayer. Again in the Lord’s Prayer, I ask for forgiveness for my own sins and then follow that with a declaration of forgiveness towards those who have sinned against me. Besides which, the Golden Rule says that I am to treat people the way I want to be treated, not the way that I am treated. Besides which, when I give forgiveness, I gain peace.

I have begun to realize that forgiveness is huge, which is why I crave it. I want to be in unity with the people around me. We can be so much stronger together than we can apart. Forgiveness must be given and received. Grace and peace are the two biggest themes that I’m seeing in the Episcopal Church and when I forgive someone for their sins against me, it gives me peace, because it’s no longer something that I have to worry about and get all bent out of shape over. The Bible says that people who want forgiveness ought to be ready to also grant forgiveness to others.

“…and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”.