When Kissing is Abuse (A Survivor’s Thoughts on The Purity Movement). Part 2.

(Continued from part one here)….As an adult, coming to terms with my child abuse, I can remember feeling literal pain when talking with sisters in Christ who had upbringings that fell in line with The Purity Movement. They recalled childhoods wherein their fathers sat around the dinner table expounding upon the Bible. The minister in their family would lead worship songs and take them to summer camps (without assaulting them). Their mothers guarded their encounters with other children and adults. They actually threw out, or burned, the questionable toothpaste and the smut books…why hadn’t God put me in one of those homes instead of the one I was in?  That realization hurt. As an abuse survivor: The Purity Movement can sting in so many ways.

I was jealous for what these sisters in Christ had been given. Their caregivers had shut the door on the devil. Mine had invited him in for coffee! In contrast, I felt even more defiled and abandoned–and unsure if I even belonged within Christianity. I also learned that jealousy can be physically painful. It hollows out your chest cavity and burns your guts. I felt weak; exhausted. It wasn’t fun to sit through these stories others shared. But it was necessary to my healing. It also wasn’t fun to finally share my own stories of defilement. But it was necessary to my healing. Because it was my story. I’m more like Tamar from the Bible than I am Laura from Little House on the Prairie. And owning that made for a whole lot of pain; but it also made all the difference too. My own religious double-mindedness was disappearing, the more I owned the truth.

In time those feelings of jealous pain passed and I began to take a hard look at my relationship with Jesus. I wasn’t following Jesus because someone had been sure that I was ‘kept pure’, leaving me determined to ‘stay that way’ by jumping under Jesus’s Umbrella until marriage. No. Furthermore, my sexuality is only one part of what Jesus purified. The Purity Movement runs the risk of making everything about sex, instead of about Jesus. Sex was a frequent topic of discussion in my perverted upbringing, also with a hyper focus on the ‘sexual status’ of young girls. And so if we are ‘truly guarding’ a woman, then shouldn’t her sexual status remain private? Is ‘ensuring virginity’ something God told His people to do? We know they often made it public in the Old Testament but it is unclear if that publicity was a command of God. Because I grew up with religious people hiding their own perversions, who also loved to find out such intimate details about others, (particularly young people)– I question whether showing off a daughter’s purity cloth, or a modern day purity ring, isn’t simply more evidence of the human tendency to get fixated on sex; and particularly the innocent sexual status of young people. It’s a scary thought, to me.

Furthermore, our depravity goes much deeper than sex, it involves greed and pride and a host of other ills too. True purity is about much more than celibacy. It’s about turning from our very nature as fallen humans. And so ultimately: I can’t credit the way I was raised, any certain movement or published book, for my salvation and restoration which covers everything about me: including my sexuality. I can only credit God Himself for it.

Eventually it became clear that few people are walking in sexual freedom, no matter their backgrounds, or marital status–and that those who had been public about private matters often lived to regret it later (as Joshua Harris now seems to be doing). I had to wonder if it was because they’d never believed they had a reason to wrestle with their own purity status? Or if it was because in their own ways, they were also victims of sexualization (which is abuse, too)–except it would be taboo to ever call it that in a Christian setting! Meanwhile, I wrestled openly with mine, and asked God for salvation from my damnation as well as the healing of my broken sexuality and past abuse. I came to believe that eternity, purity and sexual freedom is found through ongoing repentance. Active trust in Jesus, not my own past or present action (or inaction), is what makes me pure.

Therein is the freedom. In admitting your own defeat and declaring “Jesus makes and keeps me pure!” Having said that, I actually have no problem with people attempting to keep their homes pure, for their children’s sake. I would likely do the same, could I redo some things myself in the way I raised my own. But I truly hope I would never ‘broadcast’ the virginity status of any young person (even with their expressed permission — young people are too young to understand the ramifications of that). Nor would I take part in putting a young person on some sort of public faith based platform or pedestal, as few adults have the kind of maturity and groundedness-in-Christ to handle such exposure. Putting young people into the public eye prematurely is rampant in modern Christianity. (Amending this on 8-23-19 to add: I believe every now and again a young person comes along who does have the kind of maturity to be in ministry at a young age. Often that person has been given an inordinate amount of wisdom AND has also endured so many trials that they are more than ready for a spotlight or platform. However, maturity really is necessary to be in that kind of ministry or have that kind of platform. Unfortunately, I also know ‘older people’ in ministry who still lack maturity.)

The idea that we can even ‘stay pure’ in the first place, is another thing that gave me pause, about The Purity Movement (after I peeled through the hurt, anger, jealousy, and outrage over ‘broadcasting the sexual status of young people’). The way I see it, it is impossible to spend any amount of time on earth, single or married, and not have your mind defiled to some degree by your own thought processes.

Jesus said if a man even thinks about a woman in ‘that way’ then he has committed adultery with her in his heart. Which tells me that even the best homes (and marriages) — are still not pure enough for God’s standards — no matter how careful they have been. The antidote isn’t merely avoidance of the devil; it is utter dependence on Jesus.

I am no longer painfully jealous when I hear about other people’s upbringings. I am all the more aware of what Jesus continues to give me. And I cling to that the way only someone who can’t hear the word ‘kiss’ without flinching, would cling.

Wrong as they were about so many things, and implicit as they were in the abuses of a child (me) — my parents behavior, and the actions of a wolf in shepherd’s clothing— was the conduit for me to respond to the Holy Spirit’s offering of Christ’s purity in every way I needed it.

For that I am thankful.

Nevertheless, Shut De Do is a favorite song of mine and I often think of that song when I think of my upbringing. If only someone watching over me had shut the door and kept the devil in the night.

 

 

When Kissing is Abuse (A Survivor’s Thoughts on The Purity Movement). Part 1.

Trigger warning — details about sexual abuse follow. I have enjoyed reading about the fall out from the I Kissed Dating Goodbye author’s change of heart– here’s a synopsis if interested. So much has already been said, from many angles. Please bear with me as I attempt to explain my own feelings. (Or feel free to move along to another post as this  one will get lengthy!) Update: I have so much to say on this topic, I am turning it into two posts!

Joshua Harris’s popular Christian book was something I’d never heard about prior to leaving the protestant faith I was born into. To date, I still have not read his book! Therefore the things I write here should not be taken as reflections of his former work or current change of heart about it.

Nevertheless, posts about Harris and I Kissed Dating Goodbye kept triggering me. I sat with it a while before it hit me. When I was a preschooler, a minister in my extended family started abusive contact in the form of kissing. And so I learned that kissing brings with it a whole lot of guilt and yucky feelings. I still have mixed emotions about kissing. Jesus was betrayed by a kiss. And it seems I was as well. Like Judas, my betrayer was also imbedded within Christian leadership. It’s hard to enjoy something that holds a sting inside of it. The very title of the book, with the word kissing being so closely associated with a Christian movement and leadership; triggered me.

Triggers aren’t the problem. Avoiding pain is the problem. Therefore it’s taken me a while to process through this one and again, apologies for the length on these posts and thanks for anyone who ploughs through it all with me!

When I left protestantism and began exploring other Christian faith traditions — The Purity Movement came onto my radar. I was uncomfortable with it. I was still trying to reconcile what had happened to me — with my own sexual purity stolen by abuse, and the discomfort I still felt from the continued voyeurism, and focus on my body, which I had experienced growing up.

I tried to make sense of what I was feeling. I knew that the way I was raised had been wrong. But I did not feel The Purity Movement was ‘getting it right’ either–and it took me a long while to realize why I felt that way. As a survivor of voyeurism, I saw how The Purity Movement, and book’s like Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye zeroed in on young people’s sex lives (a non existent sex life is still a focus on another’s sex life), forcing teenagers belonging to the movement to inadvertently become ‘public’ with very private information — thereby the adults and others looking on were also, in some ways, participating in voyeuristically viewing teenagers in terms of ‘sex’.

That irritated me.

I was also secretly jealous of the homes that had attempted to keep their children pure, adding yet another layer to the convoluted onion I needed to peel.

The Protestant home I grew up in was outwardly Christian (church attendance, having funerals and weddings ‘in the church’, getting confirmed in the teen years, and sprinkling/baptizing babies). But my immediate family was not ‘hit’ by the Jesus movement, that gained momentum in the 70’s and 80’s; or the homeschooling movement that took off in the 90’s. Though there were some charismatic gospel records that made a rotation on the record player.

The minister in the family practiced a strange mix of religious behaviors with licentiousness. When I first began to take my faith seriously, the ‘trained theologian’ in the living room mocked me openly about being a ‘fundie’, asking why I was ‘getting so weirdly religious lately’. He would talk quite skillfully and sincerely about ‘faith’ when needed, but show a very tawdry side if he knew his audience would actually appreciate a ‘minister who cusses’. He was ‘intellectual and modern’, about faith, often arguing from a near atheistic-sounding viewpoint, (that is when he was willing to talk ‘shop’). Ordinarily he avoided religious discussions, preferring instead to start gossip, or share jokes lifted from raunchy comedians.

His influence left a heavy mark.

…But the truth is, many family members seemed to operate with similar double-mindedness, as the family minister had.

My father was often perverted and displayed some serious lapses in moral judgment. He had another side, though, that would surface at church. And in the sweeping Christian movements of the 70’s through 90’s, we had frequent encounters with people who were participating in all kinds of faith movements and new rules — which left impressions on me, and contributed to my longing for a ‘serious’ faith walk myself. My father sat piously, listening to a visiting minister (not the one who abused me), or a religious relative passing through the area, as if in total agreement. One such visitor even insisted that Proctor & Gamble products had a satanic seal and should therefore be boycotted by all Christians, prompting my dad to dig out some deodorant and toothpaste, as well as a magnifying glass to look them over. The next day at the dinner table he was troubled and asked my mother, ‘Maybe we should stop buying that brand–what if that really is the sign of the devil on our toothpaste?’

Like the rest of the family my mother didn’t watch after my purity, storing her vast collection of explicit romance novels on my bookshelf, and ignoring the other pornography to which I was being exposed. Yet she also had her own type of faith and devotion life too. One which she occasionally shared aloud. So I wasn’t sure what to expect in that moment…and my hopes were kindled a bit. But she just snorted and waved her hand in front of her face in response to dad’s momentary crisis of conscience. Our P&G toothpaste continued without interruption. But I remember spending a lot of time looking at that tiny moon-man symbol, fearfully wondering if that’s why I kept getting cavities.

After toddlerhood, all of the abuse escalated, throughout the family. One abuser was beyond reproach, though, being a minister.

I blamed myself.

(See part two for more).

 

 

“Whoa! That’s a lot of Salt!”

person holding pen and planner
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

It’s been a year since I began making regular-ish posts. On the one hand, not much has changed. I still approach this space with a mixture of a strong desire to write and share; combined with a fear of doing just that. On the other hand, there have been many changes.

*Last august I still presumed many of my physical illness symptoms were psychosomatic–as doctors and therapists had been *insisting*. Then I came to believe that there is also a very real physical component at play, to what is thrown around as ‘anxiety’. This belief first began to change for me as I read other blogs. That exposure to other’s vulnerability, combined with things God kept showing me in ‘real’ life, eventually led me to take a look at what was going on physically with me–and realizing it was/is a manifestation of physiological responses which many doctors remain clueless about and which would descend me into a deep rabbit hole; trying to figure out for myself…

SOOO: a huge thank you to those bloggers who have shared their own health journeys! I believe there is POWER in sharing our story!

*I have been sporadic, but kept at it in my own way. I can now say, looking back at my archives: That’s a LOT of salt!! While many blogs have stuck to one day a week to post; or daily posts; or typical word lengths; I took a butterfly approach. I would show up and land on something repeatedly and then not be seen for a while again. A few posts are short; many are so long I don’t ever want to re-read them myself! Definitely too much salt for some. But, one thing has remained: I am still here *mostly* for me and my own healing. Therefore I don’t need (or necessarily *want*) a big readership. Yet I do want to be heard…by someone. There is power in just one set of listening ears or reading eyes. I have felt the healing power of simply being *heard* by several people who have come and gone and a few who stayed–Thank you for hearing me!!

*I began this blog with the idea that Christians are the salt of the earth–and of getting back to the basics/not trying so hard. The reference to salt was mostly figurative. Even though I’ve always loved salting my foods — when I started this blog I also used an abundance of other spices….but, a year later, the ‘just salt’ has become literal! It’s how I ask for my steak at a restaurant… so the ‘just salt’ in my blog title very much relates with the literal healing I am finding in a pared back diet with no black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon….and using even more salt than prior to ward off my frequent electrolyte imbalances.

And that’s a lot of salt as I’ve always heavily salted my food…Perfect strangers have shouted at me from nearby tables in public establishments, “Whoa! That’s a LOT of salt.” One woman, who clearly meant well, even added, “Don’t you know that salt is not good for you!?” And then she turned to her husband and shared with him just how much salt I’d shaken onto my eggs…the funny thing was she was wearing a Jesus t-shirt while eschewing the (dangers?) of too much salt…hmm…I had to giggle at the irony of that one.

I decided to leave Jesus’ insistence that we are to be salt, out of that conversation, sensing she wouldn’t find that humorous! Instead, I shared that I have very low blood pressure and need extra salt. She wasn’t convinced though. She still looked really shook up over my salt consumption throughout the entire breakfast. That was one time where I could have sworn someone else got high blood pressure just from watching me salt my food.

And so I can admit that a lot of salt may not be *good* for everyone. It can even be downright scary to some…But a year into this salt blog of mine and I can say with certainty that too much salt is very good. For me. 

side view of a bottle with salt
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

The thing is, as I have changed — the world has also changed, a LOT, in the past year. As has the internet…We had mass shootings a year ago. That isn’t exactly a new thing. What is new, (or what I am now noticing?) is all the stories on my newsfeed of people fleeing the country in fear, to raise their children elsewhere before ‘its too late’, and other stories about how to ‘live through a mass shooting’ that are also now showing up in my news feeds. Meanwhile, my ‘groups’ on FaceBook are being scoured through, getting graded over their ‘fake news’ content. A few friends have already abandoned traditional social media for ‘safer’ avenues with less censorship. Is there even a future in blogging at this point?

Who gets to decide on the difference between true and false? Some dot.com guy in sneakers?

And so the title ‘just salt’ takes on even deeper meaning as the darkness before us continues to unfold and we all face the very real possibility of censorship and being told what we can and can not say or write about.

Will I even be here in a year?

Who knows. It’s in God’s hands. The important thing is that today— I got up and I showed up. (With a shaker of salt). Praise God for that!

The Germans Have a Word for Everything

Schadenfreude: pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

My son asked me if I had ever heard of Schadenfreude. I said I was sure I’d heard it before but I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. He laughed and said, ‘Oh, you know how the Germans like to come up with a word for everything…”

Indeed. I looked it up online and read it aloud while we chatted on the phone.

I admitted that I have felt schadenfreude. And I love finding a word that describes so accurately something I have felt myself. That recognition moment is the ultimate ‘lightbulb’ going off, combined with a wordie girl finding a new word — it was a blissful moment.

Typically, after feeling schadenfreude, I then regretted feeling it because it seems so very unChristian and I have tried very hard my whole life to look like a good Christian; inside and out. So then I overcompensated for feeling glad about another’s demise by rushing in to help the very person that I was at first secretly glad to see suffering and then later felt bad about feeling good about and eventually that cycled off and I found that I genuinely drummed up some real empathy and love. Time and again, though, — that whole process ended up disastrously.

Being human is messy.

Seeing people reap what they sow is rewarding; sometimes. Other times it calls for keeping a wide path; while the inevitable destruction happens. And with those I truly do love, the family which God let me choose for myself –I find that schadenfreude rarely occurs. When they are in pain; I am in pain.

And so naming things has value. Recognizing your feelings is sometimes all we need to do. We don’t have to act on everything*. (*Note to self).

 

 

 

 

 

10 Christian sayings that can also be Cringe-y.

cross-sunset-sunrise-hill-70847.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  1. I really shouldn’t complain. Other people have real problems. Who gets to judge what a real hardship is anyway? I’ve endured serious trauma (witnessed sudden death–had emergency surgeries) in the past, but my paper cuts still hurt. I pour out my complaints before Him and tell Him all my troubles.  Psalm 142:2
  2. I’m too blessed to be stressed!  Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry…
  3. You’re too blessed to be stressed! Everything to God in prayer. (Lyrics to the song: What a friend we have in Jesus).
  4. My childhood made me who I am and I turned out well so it’s hard for me to find any fault in my  upbringing. This attitude served my own personal denial/delusion. Telling myself I turned out ‘well’ also spoke to my prideful nature.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us 1 John 1:8 ….and all the ways wickedness deceives those who are perishing, they perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. 2 Thessalonians 2: 10-12.
  5. You need to forgive and forget about it. forgive yes, that is a command of God. But if there isn’t repentance there cannot be reconciliation, and where there has not been repentance then a good boundary must be maintained for the sake of your own spiritual well-being and the hope of your offender’s salvation too!…and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17For whoever does the will of my father in Heaven, is my brother and my sister and my mother. Matthew 12:46-50 God’s will is that all come to a knowledge of the truth in order to receive eternal life 1 Timothy 2:4 when that happens there is also evidence of a changed life and (usually) attempts to reconcile old offenses.
  6. God’s got this! This is another tricky one that I see a lot of truth in. BUT. This saying also served some pretty major denial mechanisms in my life and allowed me to spiritualize away sin and other behavioral problems which needed addressing. Some things just need to be talked over THOROUGHLY with God, and perhaps a trusted counselor or friend, before we spiritually shelve it away by insisting: ‘Gods got this’. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:3Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from God. Acts 3:19 
  7. People could say the same thing about me This humble statement seems really spot on to me! Along with a similar adage: ‘but for the Grace of God, there go I’. What beautiful sentiments these can be. However, I have often said such things in order to commiserate with someone or to stop gossip in its tracks but then NOT followed up with the message of salvation in Christ. I have realized I need to also exclaim the glory of Jesus and His blood buying eternal life as payment of personal and collective human sin. Paul’s comment to Timothy glorifies Christ, not self: The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life 1 Timothy 1: 14-16
  8. Eat the meat, spit out the bones. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. Galatians 5:9
  9. All sins are equally bad in the eyes of God, no one is worse than any other. This one has a lot of truth to it, on the one hand. On the other hand, scriptures are clear that there are sins ‘which lead to death.’ Plus, this mindset can become a dangerous belief system that excuses the inexcusable. I dealt with this belief system in my family of origin and later on, in my recovery. It is a common tactic of abusers, and those who support abusers. It is called: ‘sin-leveling.’ Downplaying a criminal offense as ‘no worse than stealing a piece of gum in elementary school’ can reduce something traumatic and unacceptable, like the rape of a minor by an adult within the church, into mere whispers in the back of church. Because, well, ‘what was she wearing? Did she seduce him?’ and ‘I don’t want to judge that, because I’m a sinner too.’
  10. God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. I think some confusion about this popular adage stems from 1 Corinthians 10:13, about God not tempting us more than we can bear, and providing a way out of that temptation. In terms of hardships, though, yes, God might give us more than we, in our human condition, can handle, in order for us to turn to Him for helpFor we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 1 Corinthians 1: 8-9