I was never set free by the truth

John 8:32 “and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

Growing up, I was continuously reminded at every opportunity that lying is literally the worst thing I could ever do. This Bible verse was repetitively hammered into my frail bones like it was the answer to every adult problem I could ever face. I will never forget the first time I was caught in a lie. My brother and I had been playing in our backyard and we decided that it might be fun to play our version of Power Rangers, a show we weren’t allowed to watch out of fear that it was too violent. A little while later, our mother appeared on the scene and demanded to know what we were playing. I was too afraid that I would get in trouble for playing an innocent game she disagreed with, so I lied. If I think hard enough, I can still remember the taste of the bar of soap and the way it made me gag as it was shoved in my mouth as punishment for my lie. The scraping of the top layer against my teeth. The bitter taste burning the back of my throat and making me dry heave. The acid that burned my stomach. There was no calm reprimanding. It was threat level midnight on first offense with my mother.

Or the incident a few years later, when Harry Potter became a mainstream obsession. Shortly after the first movie came out, I remember shopping at Target with my mother and brother. They had a television in the kids section that was playing a loop of the movie on silent. Our church had banned Harry Potter out of fear of the presence of witchcraft in the books and movies. As we were shopping, my mother noticed my brother had begun focusing his attention to the movie looping on the screen. She told him several times to stop watching it, and he assured her that he wasn’t. He was caught in his lie. Returning home, he was gifted with a fistful of belt thrashes.

There were endless conversations about the consequences of lying. The reminders that those who lie are hell-bound. The assurance that even white lies count, and yes, there is never a lie that is ever effective to keep anyone safe. Because lies will never keep anyone safe.

The troubling thing for me now, as a survivor, is that lying seems to be the only way to keep myself safe. The only thing that lets me sleep at night some weeks. The troubling thing for me now, as a survivor, is that lying seems to be the only thing keeping my shame at bay enough for me to even perform the act of surviving.

..for me to even perform the act of surviving.

You see, I spent 19 years holed up in a vortex of silence. The echo of truth banging against the walls inside the black hole we called a home. I was told that the life we were living was the truth, but no one else could have a look inside. Those who did not live there were not allowed to have access to the keys. They were shut out–metaphorically and literally.

Indoctrination does a funny thing. It brain washes you. It convinces you that what you are being taught is absolute truth and there is no point in questioning, because it is just the way it is. It makes you feel that the world is actually a warped Picasso painting, and that you are obviously a righteous, stable statue of perfection and purity outsiders are not quite ready to accept. It is an absolute mind-fuck of epic proportions. I watched as my parents told me over and over that I should despise those different from us. “Be not of this world. It surrounds you, but do not let it become you. ” Reminded that I was alien, not born of this world, but of a blessed bloodline I should be terrified others would taint.

Apparently, so blessed that I was not allowed to discuss my problems with other family members with whom I was extremely close with. Once it was discovered that I was having knowledgeable conversation with my cousins about topics other than the Bible, we were discouraged from spending time alone together. We were constantly interrupted, for fear I would be someone who removed the blindfold. I was repetitively wrist-yanked by my mother into the bathroom for harsh scoldings about my behavior. I think they were afraid that I, as the oldest, would be the one to make them all aware of the blindfolds that had been placed on our eyes in the delivery room. That somehow I had figured out their big secret, delved beneath the poison of their indoctrination and found fresh air.

The troubling thing to me, as a survivor, is that the truth has NOT set me free.

This week I have struggled with just making it through the long days. I have fought with sleep overrun with nightmares about the abuse I suffered, waking up in panic attacks that feel like I am being choked from the inside out. I have found my head in a constant cloudy reminder that my shame will always be the strongest chains, binding me to the past. Chains that I currently do not have the tools to break, so I do my best to paint them pretty colors so other people don’t notice their ugly hue clashing with my attempt at a bright exterior. Chains that I try to disguise by pretending their existence isn’t hindering my daily life, yet knowing they are.

There will always be the shame. The first emotion poured into the empty vessel of my soul as a baby, and the warning about not numbing my conscience. I think I will always feel guilty for exposing the truth about my past. I will feel forever consumed with the worry about what my abusers will think, and the inability to come to terms with the remainder of healing I still have yet to accomplish as a result of that denial.

I have always felt like I am being choked by a force far greater than myself.

When your parents are your abusers, you wonder if you will ever be able to untangle the complicated weaving mess of your relationship. If you will ever be able to dissect the shame and decide if you want to have a real relationship with them despite all those feelings or as a result of them. You will spend what feels like centuries, wading through old conversations in your head trying to pick apart the moment you realized that you were drowning in a sea of shame so deep you worried you would never be able to breathe again.

As a survivor, the truth never set me free. The truth only tangled things.

 

Stop shaming our daughters into believing their worth lies in their sexuality

I’m going to apologize in advance that this post is quite lengthy. I do not feel like making several posts to make up all of my thoughts on this topic, so if this is a problem I am sorry. I just have a lot to say. If the title of this blog post is offensive, maybe you should back away from the computer now before I start throwing out pages of information and beliefs your way.

The other day I had managed to find myself sucked into the vortex that is YouTubeland, once again. I was enjoying myself watching strange documentaries about people who have interesting medical problems, until I stumbled upon this documentary:

After the first three minutes I felt sick. But I couldn’t stop watching because I wanted to understand, to try to comprehend such indoctrination. I, too, was raised in a home that strongly believed in the value of saving yourself before marriage. The point of this post is not to bash those who have made the personal decision to wait until their wedding day (or those who have successfully waited). I find them to be admirable to be so committed to a choice they personally have made. What bothers me most about this documentary is the disturbing fact that the highest age of girls interviewed were in their early twenties. And the choice of abstinence and virginity until marriage does not feel like the decision of those interviewed, but rather the choice their parents forced them to make, pressing them into the act of confessing their purity to the father of the house every year.

In my opinion, I had hoped that society had evolved enough to not require the force of parents to determine their child’s entire life. I guess I had forgotten that every where I look I see travesties like this one happening all around. As the media has altered perceptions all around, parents have begun working on over time to prevent their children from becoming corrupted. As Christians, we are called to be different from the world. There is nothing wrong with setting some boundaries on what our children are exposed to, ensuring that they are aware of the problems around them. However, at a certain point, as adults, we need to simply allow our children to experience the consequences of their actions first hand.

I firmly believe that my role as a parent (or adult) is to set my children up to live life to the fullest. To show them the hurting world around them and give them the tools to not only grow themselves amidst the turmoil, but to successfully help carry those who really just need a helping hand. Yes, there is a lot of evil in the world, but I do not believe that in order to properly raise children than I should feel entitled to put them in a glass bubble and ensure they do not leave it. Our children need to be built up, to know they are important.  We need them to feel as though they are the most special people in the whole world, and lovingly correct them when they need some guidance in life. I successfully consider parents to be like bumper railings. There are many bowling pins that children can consider targets. They don’t have to bowl a strike every time, there is some leniency allowed, but when things start to get out of hand, we are there to guide them back into the correct realm of things.

The problem I have with the parents of this documentary is that, unlike the bumper railings, they have set a strict guideline on their children and expect them to follow it to the T. However, one cannot be expected to never make a mistake, and not allowing for any error only allows forever-wounds to be created, for craters to be formed where they are not wanted. We cannot know the damage we bring to our children when we refuse to love them or accept them for veering off to the side a little in the path of life. For not bowling a strike every time they set a target.

Growing up, I was given a purity ring on my sixteen birthday. I had no plans of rushing out and losing my virginity to the first man I met, but I felt uncomfortable upon receiving the gift because I have always believed that you can guide a child to believe what you think is right, but after a certain point it is just time to let them run with the values you have hoped to instill in them. Obviously I don’t believe that children at age thirteen should be having sex. They are far too young to comprehend and understand the consequences if something goes wrong. But giving our children the tools of abstinence and not allowing them to understand what could happen if they fail to follow through only sets our nation up for rising rates of teenage pregnancy. Whether a teenager of consenting age decides they want to have sex or not is their choice, not the choice of the parent. Am I grateful that I waited until I met my husband to embark on this journey? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that is the ideal image for every teenager.

What I’m saying is, that if we fail to teach our children better methods of protected sex, we are failing to give them the tools to make the right decisions. We can tell them that we believe they should save themselves for marriage, providing good, solid reasons as to why of course, but we cannot make them follow through. They are bound to make mistakes. Are we going to follow them everywhere they go and remind them not to kiss, or hold hands or whatever we believe that stopping point should be? It’s simply insanity. Like I’m sure  I have said a hundred times, our job is to set boundaries and to hope they understand what will happen if they make the personal choice other than the one I have told them I prefer. We are set to be guiders, not commanders. Our children will not effectively listen if we force them to follow a certain path of behavior, they are more likely to either rebel or to only do it because “they were told so”. We cannot give them the proper background to stand up for what THEY believe and allow them to accept these beliefs as their own if we ensure that they know nothing other than what we tell them. The world will throw a lot of garbage at our children, it is our job to give them the tools to sort through that garbage, to make decisions accordingly, and hope they turn out the beautiful people we believe the to be.

Another reason why I become sickeningly irritated by the parents in this documentary is because this type of teaching is so blatantly patriarchal it’s disturbing. As far as I am concerned, yes there are differences in the way that males and females GENERALLY are made, but most of those differences deal with the way we prefer things, and are very stereotypical. Maybe a general mass may think one way, but that does not apply to everyone. That’s why I think that gender standards are too rigid, and I think that maybe they should be more fluid so as to allow for the people who don’t exactly line up to the ways the world thinks they should run the ability to be accepted, too.

Women and men are more equal than so many people like to believe. If we teach our children that one gender is inferior, we allow the slanted view that women belong in the kitchen and men belong in the work force to be perpetuated. And this is not only a disgrace to the fact that many women are born with brains and domestic capabilities, and to the men that feel they cannot show any type of quality that might resemble anything feminine. It’s not black and white.

This documentary disturbed me because these girls (one who was interviewed began going to these purity balls at age seven. Seven!! That’s extremely young to make sure they know about sexuality and exactly what purity entails.) attend the ball with their fathers. They dress up like princesses, are served dinner, watch a little performance put on by other girls, and do a little dancing. All of that is not disturbing. I believe it is sweet that the fathers would want to spend time with their daughters, to make sure they understand that they are valued, in every way. We all should make sure that our children feel that way. After the dinner, however, it gets freaky. There are forms passed out, and the fathers agree with their daughters that their daughters will remain pure until their wedding night. It’s not like these daughters have a choice. And the fact that the fathers seem to take their daughters purity into their own hands only sounds perverted and disgusting to me. My father does not need to ensure that I am pure by regularly having discussions with me about it. I felt as though some of the dads appeared to have too much interest in their daughter’s sex lives. It’s really not their business.

The film tried to state that the fathers simply don’t want their daughters hearts to be broken, for them to experience heartache because they found the wrong person to date. They shared that before a boy even was able to hang out with a girl he was interested in, the father would have to sit down with the man, hang out with him a few times, and then decide if he was a perfect match. In my opinion, that means that the father would be selecting a mate based on what he WANTS his daughter to date, that HE thinks would work, but that gives no room for the daughter to make her mind up about what she likes or wants. It allows no room for decision making on the girl’s part. In my head it sounds more like arranged marriage then courting. I believe parents should be able to suggest to their child who the right pick is, and hope for the best, but demanding that they can’t see certain people only allows them to want to see that person more. (Trust me, I know from personal experience). But also, it feels like some of the girls in the video got married quite soon after dating the first person they met. I’m not suggesting that we should all go around dating everyone in sight to decide our personal preferences. It’s such a beautiful thing when we allow our God into our lives to help us decide our potential future mate. And I’m lucky that I only dated one other person before I met my husband. When you know you know. I just feel as though there should be a little more leniency on the part of the parents for deciding who their children are interested in. We cannot prevent our children from heartache. It is inevitable. Even we give our children heartache sometimes. These parent’s goals are absurd.

Also, are the boys of these families taken to another ball and asked to pledge their virginity to their mothers? Do their mothers attend, desperately attempting to ensure that their sons are as pure as they desire their daughters to be? Or as much of society believes, are they men allowed a “free pass”, able to engage in sexual activity before their wedding day? I cannot even explain the level of irritation I have at a society that claims that men are allowed to have whatever amount of sex they want with as many girls as they want and that is “normal” but if a woman does the same thing, she is automatically considered a whore. I’m sorry, but where do we get off explaining to women that they are worth less than men? That men can do whatever they want but women should automatically be held to a higher standard. Pathetic. That’s what it is. It makes it seem that women are irresistible, but that women can find some means of self control. This only makes rape acceptable, only excuses it when a man cannot control his instincts but blames the victim when she “cannot find the grace to act like a lady and keep him from thinking of her in that way.” Ya know what I say to that line of thinking? Fuck you. Fuck society for thinking that way.

The biggest reason that this documentary made me sick is the fact that it makes it seems as though a girl’s only worth is in her ability to give her gift of virginity to her husband on her wedding day. This does not take in to account victims of sexual assault or rape. Girls who “mess up”. Those who do not find pleasure in those of the opposite sex. None of these things are taken into account. It is automatically assumed that a girl will naturally like a boy, will keep herself in good grace and not bring sexual violence towards her upon herself, and she will remain pure by staying away from any and all temptations.

As far as I am concerned, putting so much worth on a woman’s sexuality takes so much away from her potential as a smart individual, as a contributing member of society, as a brilliant being all her own, different from all of those around her. It places worth on artificial things like beauty, the ability to perform simple household duties, the ability to maintain the principles of motherhood. It assumes that all women desire to be married, therefore they should not deviate from the given path. I call bullshit.

I’m sick of the indoctrination we call America. I’m sick of the lies. I’m going to speak out now. I am going to stand up for what I believe. Always.

Why Bible tracts are extraordinarily offensive and insulting to Christians part 2

I promise, I was planning on completing this final part of this blog tomorrow. But the combination of too many thoughts running through my mind and my husband snoring like the world will end any moment now, is not conducive to a good night sleep at the moment. I can usually sleep through his snoring, if I’m nearly passed out when he starts. Tonight, no so much.

Anyways, I wanted to focus on why Bible tracts fail to make much of an impact, based on their contents.

Now, I understand that most versions of tracts want to remain simple. This cuts down on paper, someone is more likely to read a smaller pamphlet, and you don’t really have to be super smart to understand the bullet points. However, the pamphlet I found today, made the attempt to use reason and logic as to why one should accept Jesus as their Savior. They failed miserably.

I know that I am not always the majority, but I do believe there are many people out there who will say that if you want to argue a point, at least attempt to come up with intelligent and nearly sound arguments. Otherwise, I simply don’t even want to bother trying to figure out what you mean and how it could possibly make sense in your head. It is not that I’m trying to judge you, but I have over time developed a strong passion for debates. Civil ones, but debates nonetheless. I am willing to listen to and hear out your different opinions if you are willing to not personally attack me and sound like a complete moron who does not know how to logically come up with conclusive arguments for your side. Even if those two things don’t happen, I’m cool enough I’ll probably listen anyways, and then when I get home just bash my head against the wall and wonder where you learned to argue.

Back on track here.

I am lucky enough to have taken a philosophy of religions class that really got my gears going regarding formulating arguments. I had a good idea, but with religion it can be difficult to decipher where to begin sometimes because everything is cyclical reasoning to an extent. I attempted to give this pamphlet the benefit that for the convenience of space, time, and understanding of their audience that they wanted to make their reasoning simple. And while I get that, I beg to differ that they succeeded in attracting an audience dying to finish reading if they even started in the first place.

This is the tract I picked up from work today

The three witnesses they try to claim prove the existence of a God are:

  1. the universe and life itself
  2. the word of God–written and living
  3. conscience and moral law

The first two points are sort of valid.

I do think there might be a case for creation of man indicating that there is a God. However, science has fought with this for centuries, and maybe if you are trying to convince me that there is God, this point should not be put in there for length and common sense. I say this because evolution could have been used by God (in my opinion), but we’ll never know. Trying to convince someone who is a non-believer to have faith does not begin with attempting to make them believe the world they live in was made by someone. Though this could be argued for. So, while this argument is more sound (a little more waterproof) than the last one, it is not an amazing one.

The second point is a little more logical than the first. If the statistics are true, it is difficult to think that a book that has no supernatural abilities throughout human life could have had so many prophetic signs come true. I will let this one slide, even though again I find it tough to convince someone stout in their beliefs that a man rose from the dead. We debated stuff like this in my philosophy class this semester and I’m pretty sure some people there were making fun of me behind my back because they felt the Christian viewpoint held no water whatsoever. Whatever, I can choose what to believe.

The third argument the tract tried to explain is pathetic at best, to be honest. It states at the top of this section that. “Every man knows in his heart that it is wrong to murder, it is wrong to steal, it’s wrong to lie, and it’s wrong to have another man’s wife.” Wait, really? Do they? EVERY man? It goes on to attempt to claim that because every man knows this God exists. So basically, because I don’t murder someone there is a Supreme Being. It holds no water. If maybe they had attempted to use some sort of logic to word that statement better I would not have laughed myself all the way home today after reading that. The paragraph after that quote states that God is the ultimate judge and He will judge you for your sins. Yep, nice try but you’ve now shut down at least half of your audience because they don’t want to follow someone who smacks them every time they make a mistake. Most people are aware that if there is a God, he is a judge. They know that if there is one, they will probably be punished for their poor actions. Therefore, there is no need to include in a tract that is attempting to save someone’s soul the fact that we should accept God because of moral reasoning and our sins. That’s called promoting fire insurance, and it does not promote a true and genuine relationship with God. When people attempt to convince others to believe in God solely on the fact of their sins, they might begin to believe they are not worthy of His love (and while we really aren’t, we are in a sense, because even if only one person existed in this world, He would have still died for us).

I guess all I’m trying to say in this post is, that if you decide you must write or pass out tracts, make sure it is one that’s contents speak volumes logically.

The last thing I wanted to comment on is the last page of the tract that started listing quotes from other faiths and why they were invalid. I found that offensive. I know why they did it, and what the intention was, but you will not turn a crowd to listen if you are slamming their faith. I know this opinion is not going to be the popular vote here, but I am very much a person who believes in coexisting with others. We wonder why there are religious wars all over the place, yet we are not even willing to get along with others unless they are converts of our faith. I will save my entire rant on this for another post another time, as I do intend to write a post about why religion is such a scary war force.

Just please, consider the way we argue, and how we word things to those we know do not believe. Love them instead. Let God work to speak in their lives, and leave the convincing to Him.

Why Bible tracts are extraordinarily offensive and insulting to Christians part 1

This afternoon at work I found that someone had placed and unsolicited Bible tract near my computer work station. I’m not sure if it was one of the guests who had given it to a fellow waiter, but I suspect it was. Every once in a while, when I worked at my old job, little old ladies would hand me a tract with their little noses in the air, press their cold hands on mine, and look into my eyes like my soul needed some kind of desperate saving. Yep, I’m a Christian and nothing more turns me off to my own religion than people who don’t understand the very foundation of the faith they claim to follow.

I’ll explain.

It’s not that I don’t realize that some people have good intentions when attempting to share their belief system with others in this fashion. I’m aware that, in some strange way, they believe they are effectively going to convert a non-believer to their side of the argument. I guess I just haven’t figured out yet how they think that process would work exactly.

First of all, I find that Bible tracts are an offensive way to try to communicate the gospel to a person because it is downright pretentious. To me, it feels as though you assume that somehow, through the small window of actions you have had the privilege of seeing me perform, indicates that I am some wretched heathen that needs some immediate help on the soul-search. When I have been given them in the past, I just wished I had a moment to say something like: “Thank you for the thoughtful gesture, but what made you think I needed saving? You and I are on the same team, friend.” Just so that I could understand their reasoning. As a follower of Jesus, if I am this turned off by someone of my own faith’s attempt to convert someone, I cannot imagine the automatic turn off someone who has a different belief system as I instantly feels.

And that ties into my second reason. Most of the first-world reasonably knows the major belief systems. And at my age, someone who is in their twenties, they have probably or will probably soon, make a definitive decision about what path they would like to take. It is not as though one must hand out tracts in fear that someone in America might not have heard what the Bible is or who Jesus is and stands for. I just can’t even stress how ineffective it is. If someone has already made up their mind to not believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, a tiny booklet giving them illogical reasons as to why they should is not going to allow them the chance to open up their hearts.

When I took Social Psychology, we discussed that the resistance of someone who thinks they are right is strong. People do not want to experience the uncomfortable feelings that come when their inner self schema is challenged. So they mentally try to defend that belief. If we are abrasive in our attempts, we are just making them shut down instead of opening up. And we are now losing the battle we had hoped to win. It is kind of like when politics come around. You pick a side, or not, but either way you have made up your mind and your opinion about the election. When someone suddenly comes at you and tells you that your way is wrong in every way, how likely are you going to be to jump at the opportunity to listen? Yeah, I thought so. Now imagine how someone feels when you leave a tract instead of a tip, or slide it into their hand and look at them desperately like you will be praying for their soul. It doesn’t sound attractive.

Here’s my take. Jesus came to this earth and showed the world what love looked like. Raw, unadulterated, pure love. He didn’t chose certain friends based on his righteousness, after all he was very good friends with a prostitute. He did go around preaching the gospel, but He was preparing a path, and those who listened had ready hearts. This is why I refuse to force explain what I believe to others. Instead I choose to live a life that tries its best to love like He did. I know my love cannot be perfect like His was, but I can try and with His help I can shine His light. I strongly and firmly believe that by loving like he did, others will wonder how, in this crazy, insensitive world I have managed to keep my head up. And I don’t even have to say a single word. I feel that is how it should be. I don’t need to be offensive with my words to make up for my lack of understanding. We just need to take the time to be there for others. And pray, with all our might. If we are to be the tool used to bring someone to the light, God will use us. No questions asked.

So stop trying to take someone else’s fate in your own hands. If we are truly in tune with the Holy Spirit, and what the Father has in store for us, we don’t need to hand out Bible tracts that are poorly written, we can live our lives in such as way as to be a continuous and living testament to the beauty he brings through restoration. We don’t need to tell someone within five seconds of meeting them to shove it.

Tomorrow, I will attempt to write my thoughts about the contents of the tract. I read through nearly the whole thing, but my thoughts are too much for one post. Until tomorrow, folks. Stay strong.