religion

Friendship, lust, doubt, Evangelicalism: response to Wondering Eagle

My friend Wondering Eagle just put up a blog post that covers a wide range of topics based on Evangelical culture, regarding friendship and loneliness and doubt and lust etc. etc.  I posted this in reply:

1) Years ago, songs like this one probably would have struck me as blasphemous, because of how Evangelicalism “trained” me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ijwj1xOLYY  Nowadays, after almost two decades of doubt and disillusion combined with stubborn refusal to give up on God, I can truly appreciate that Gary Numan is the Gothic Job.  (He’s an atheist, BTW.)  Every now and then, I get obsessed with this song; here we go again. 🙂  It helps a lot that Orthodoxy and Catholicism actually let you have doubts and the dark night of the soul.  In Evangelicalism, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to have doubts (“ye of little faith”) or question the moral values the elders passed down (“you just want to sin”).  And that made me harder on others than I should’ve been.

2) My church has usually been a fairly safe place, with both Republicans and Democrats.  I come back to church after getting vaccinated, and after church a newcomer is yelling at the church president and a couple others because everybody’s wearing “carnival masks.”  A few weeks ago, she wondered about a necklace I was wearing (I wear Gothy jewelry; this piece was based on Poe’s “Raven”) and said, “I thought, it couldn’t be Harry Potter!”  It’s put my spidey senses on alert: Is it a Trumper? Is she like the Evangelicals I used to go to church with?  Around that time, we’re told that TWO members of the board have submitted resignations, and I wonder what’s going on behind the scenes.

3) My narcissist ex-friend, at least according to the stories he told me and others, was once a promising up-and-coming preacher in Foursquare, packing churches.  Some TV celeb wanted to get him on TV.  Yet he told me that secretly, he didn’t believe any of it, and whenever he spoke in “tongues,” it was just a bunch of gibberish he made up.  Unlike the other preacher celebs, though, he finally got disgusted and walked away.

4) The messaging on lust doesn’t just destroy young men.  In college, I was in a friends-with-benefits “relationship” that never actually went “all the way.”  It was with an Evangelical; I was Fundie, influenced by Evangelicals.  For that reason, it was full of so much lust and guilt and blame that it almost destroyed me.  I had normal feelings and desires, which he did his best to stir up, but he made me feel like a slut who was driving him away from God.  And I thought demons were tempting me, and poured it out to my prayer partner.  I told the guy what was going on, hoping for his help–and he turned around and treated me like an evil temptress he had to avoid like the plague.

5) I was raised in the 80s, when nobody around me said opposite-sex friendships were somehow bad.  Both in the church and out, it was expected and normal that people, both single and married, would have whatever friends they like.  I didn’t encounter this part of purity culture until my friendship with that narc ex-friend in #3, during the naughts.  The wife was very controlling and believed it was her prerogative to tell him who to be friends with, whether male or female.  She decided I was a threat.

Apparently the purity culture affected Orthodoxy through converts, because I confided in some converts online and they treated me like *I* was the problem for wanting to have a close friendship with a man!  It shocked me.  For years I wrote about it on my website/blog, seeking out articles proving that I wasn’t some kind of deviant and that it isn’t right to tell your spouse who to be friends with.  And yes, I still maintain various friendships with men!  One is in my own church, which is mostly “cradle” Orthodox, and nobody has ever so much as given me a side-eye for being close friends with him.

In recent years I finally found out this attitude was coming from Evangelical purity culture.  Samantha Field, who is bisexual, would hear this and think, “Samantha, you can’t have any friends.”

Christians are being propagandized into a surreal bubble of nonreality, extremism, and hate

In the past few days, I’ve posted a couple of comments on blogs that I want to reproduce here:

[First post, a few days ago on the claytoonz blog:]

I had to unfriend a couple of Trumpers on Facebook on Saturday after the race was called. It was upsetting because they weren’t old high school classmates–They were people I see a lot (or at least, used to, in the Before times). I liked them, stuck up for them in other contexts. And here they were harassing me on Facebook with snarky comments.

One had been doing this for the past year, ever since I started posting about immigrants in 2019.

The other–Well, once he called one of my other friends [Enema] “slime” on Facebook for supporting abortion rights.  [Enema recently died of COVID; he was an awesome person who loved kids.]  Then he dissed modern Goth literarature/music/art (grrr).  Then one day I posted the Benjamin Corey post which starts by tongue-in-cheeky comparing the Antichrist prophecies to Trump (and ends feeling “unsettled”).  This person wrote, “My church teaches that the Catholic Church is the Antichrist/Whore of Babylon.”  That was a red alert right there, because the churches that teach that tend to be the extremists of the fundies.  I was fundie once, and we didn’t say that.

Well, yesterday I changed my cover photo to Love Trumps Hate.  I come back a short time later and find a comment that says (paraphrasing), “If PERVERT love is what the Greek Orthodox Church teaches, then I’m glad I was never a part of it.”

I’d been ignoring a lot of his comments lately; I wonder now what the other ones were like, if he could post this jaw-dropper.  And there he was with the other guy on another post, exchanging things like “I’ll never accept Biden as my president” and “I agree” with each other.  I’d had enough.

I’d heard from people in different minority groups that my town has issues.  Here it was right in front of me, which I didn’t see before because I mostly kept quiet on Facebook and in real life about politics/race/LGBTQ/etc.  Kept my mouth shut at church and at club, and as a white person, people treated me fine.  I start speaking up about minority groups, I start talking in opposition to Trump, and look what happens.  People start unfriending me, I start unfriending others.  I start to see the ugliness.  The blinders of privilege are real.

And these people are unapologetic about what they’re doing and saying.  These two people are not blocked; have they messaged me with apologies, asked to restore friendship?  Nope.

[Second post, today:]

In 2003, in the EFCA church, there were people who wanted the pastor to preach about politics, but he said no.  He wanted people to make up their own minds.  I was a Bush fan, but we had at least 3 staunch Democrats in the church.  But the church was also tilting Calvinistic at this time, and Evangelicalism had been getting crazier and crazier (Halloween, Harry Potter, etc), so shortly after, we left.

2004 was the turning point for me.  There was Gitmo, stories of Bush allowing torture, the Patriot Act, doubts about the Iraq War–so I voted for Kerry.  I went first to a liberal church and then became Greek Orthodox, so there was no idolizing of Bush there.  The church was mostly cradle, not converts, so they weren’t affected so much by Evangelical nationalism.  But I saw it elsewhere, especially on Jesus Camp.

However, the couple who first influenced me into Orthodoxy–a convert couple I found online, who later moved to my town–was also right-wing.  *He* was a Libertarian and didn’t like Bush, but *she* was a Republican and sounded very much like the extreme side of Evangelicalism that I’d been trying to escape.  And *he* became a Tea Partier.  Even though he didn’t like Bush, he still hated Obama, thought he was going to outlaw Christianity.  So even though they were Orthodox now, they brought that Evangelical extremism with them.  At the time I was upset that they didn’t like my church and went to another one in a different county.  Now I’m glad.  That church closed, but they never started coming to mine.  We have Republicans and conservatives, but we also have Democrats, and usually conversation is about gardening or arguing over who left what mess in the basement.

Then over time, the right-wing converts in Orthodoxy have been bringing in the extremism, so I see it online.  I haven’t seen it in my church so much, fortunately.  Though for the past 8 months, I haven’t been to church….

I see it online, though: People I used to know in college or in the church where I grew up, posting about guns.  I don’t remember them ever mentioning an interest in guns before this past decade.  One person just posted a picture of herself with an AR-15.  One was in my church youth group; we never talked about guns back in the day.  Christianity was about peace and love, not shooting people, though shooting deer was okay.  Then I found one of my exes [Shawn] and friended him on Facebook; his wall was covered with memes about guns and Sean Hannity quotes.  I knew he was conservative, but I knew him for two years and he never mentioned guns!

Ever since I came out and started posting political things on Facebook after a 5-year break, the claws started coming out.  I was tired of people posting their conservative memes and assuming that I agreed with them because I never said anything.  People I thought were nice, started to actually harass me for my posts.  On Saturday I had to unfriend two people.  One of them made a nasty, homophobic comment that insulted me and my church as well.  When did this become Christian?

This could’ve been me, if not for the crises of faith I experienced in college.  Many of my beliefs on many things were tested in a college I thought would be a safe Christian bubble.  (They actually let everybody in and didn’t care what they did.)  Pat Robertson said God told him Bush would win re-election; that didn’t happen.  I learned that what he said about a LOT of things wasn’t true, everything from politics to Dungeons and Dragons.  Media class taught me that Rush Limbaugh was manipulating people.  My eyes were opened and, while I was still Republican for a while, I was moving away from it.  When Fox News came out, I knew better than to watch it, and stuck to the newspaper, news magazines, and occasionally CNN.  While everybody around me was starting to go nuts, I still kept my head.  Now I look at people’s social media posts and it’s like they’re in a totally different reality.  It’s surreal.

But I keep reminding myself that the Church has survived 2000 years of political upheavals and religious wars.  The German church turned Nazi for a time, but many Christians kept their faith.  The Church survived Soviet Russia.  I can’t let American fascism turn me away from it.

Time to turn the tables: Conservatives do NOT define Christianity!

I’ve been seeing a lot of crap online lately about Christians having to follow a certain conservative-defined set of beliefs.  I’ve been complaining about it on Facebook and Twitter; I’ve been feeling abused, traumatized, and very, very tired.

So yet another conservative (Matt Walsh this time) is shooting his mouth off about what “Christian” means and saying,

I don’t care how you feel about Trump, if you’re a Christian you cannot support Joe Biden. The fact is that Joe Biden supports and will impose policies that contradict the moral tenets of your faith at the deepest levels. The same cannot be said for Trump. And it’s that simple.

(I replied, “NOPE.  Conservatives don’t get to dictate to us what “Christian” means.  They’re backing a monster.  I’m sick of people saying you can’t be “Christian” if you’re a Democrat.  I’M DONE.”)

And the other day I learned about a pastor saying that people in his church who are “woke” need to be subjected to Matt 18 church discipline, with excommunication a possibility.  Then there’s a poster on The Ancient Way forum–who I remember from when I posted there between 2005 and 2010?–saying this:

Well, as far as whether kooks are dealt with appropriately, I’d say it’s the general problem of people entering the Church and thinking their own ideas to be the mind of the Church, and refusing correction from the consensus of Holy Tradition. Many walk around with all kinds of ideas out of whack with Tradition. Some think divorce from other churched Orthodox and remarriage to be perfectly fine and necessary, others that same sex sexual relations or other sexual relations outside of holy matrimony are not sin, still others that women ought to be priests, some hold that the words of Christ on some issues today are not relevant, a few do think that interracial marriage is somehow bad, and even more think that a majority race ought to be prosecuted if not persecuted for imagined “privilege” and alleged inherent unconscious racism, all ideas that were never taught by the fathers. This refusal to be corrected by the Tradition of the Church constitutes sin, a failure of obedience, humility, and submission. Anything we say, including me, should be subject to such correction. —rusmeister

(I remember this person.  I saw him as a fanatic 15 years ago, too.  He’s the one who yelled at me when I came to the forum asking for advice after witnessing Tracy abusing one of her kids.  It shocked another poster, who privately messaged me with resources if I needed them.  Rusmeister is an American convert always praising Russia and dissing everything Western–and, by the way, he said that blacks have no right to complain about how they’re treated because he sees REAL oppression in Russia. 🙄 )

Then there’s the Ayn Randites who say screw poor people, screw the old, screw the sick, take off your masks and just let them all die: It’ll siphon off the excess population and be great for the economy.  (You’ll find such a person, Matthew Harvey, in the comment section here.)

Then there’s the multitudes of conservatives acting all butt-hurt because the rest of the world doesn’t want to follow their Archie Bunker ideas anymore of what makes good TV or comics or movies or books.  Maybe we got tired of how women and minorities were being portrayed.  Maybe we got tired of fat jokes and wife jokes and dumb women having to be rescued.  DEAL WITH IT.  The culture has moved on.

And don’t forget how, for many years now, we’ve been called libtards, Demoncrats, feminazis, accused of having a mental disease, because we refuse to let money-grubbing fat capitalists tells us what’s best for us or the environment.

Then there’s the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories–Illuminati, QAnon, New World Order, Soros, etc.–which all come straight out of the Nazi playbook.

Plus there’s a multitude of forum posts, tweets, blogs, placards, bumper stickers, TV shows, magazines, articles, etc. etc. etc. telling us that “Christianity” means “vote for the GOP so they can make abortion/homosexual marriage etc./whatever we don’t like illegal!”

You know what?  You can shove it all.  I’ve read the Bible so many times I can’t even count anymore.  What you’re pushing is NOT CHRISTIANITY.  It’s your own Pharisaical, man-made Christianity.  There is no truth in it, only oppression, only white patriarchal dominance.

I’m sick of people like this telling me what “Christianity” means and–every time somebody tries to point out that Trump is the opposite of Christian–saying that Dems, Biden, whoever, is in favor of abortion.  That’s just whataboutism, ignores all the realities of the issue, and takes the focus off the real atrocities being committed in the name of Christ by an antichrist named Trump.  So we’re supposed to forget all about the kids in cages, the poor being oppressed, people losing their healthcare, women losing their hard-won rights, minorities and immigrants and LGBTQ+ feeling frightened, because Biden doesn’t believe in the government getting between a woman and her doctor and conscience?

We’re supposed to back down and say “Oh, I’m sorry, you know best, I don’t” and let you keep dominating the discussion?  We’re supposed to let you keep defaming the name of Christ?  We’re supposed to let people like this continue to smear mud all over Christianity just as they have for hundreds of years?  These people are the reason why non-Christians hate Christians!  They are the reason why we don’t get more converts, why so many people are instead leaving the churches in droves!  They see the hypocrisy and want no part in it!

It’s time to fucking turn some tables over.  It’s time to stop letting the conservatives dominate everything.  It’s time to stop being polite.  They DON’T define Christianity.  They don’t even know what it is.

This also kind of relates to another issue: A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted,

Someone else’s post on a totally unrelated incident re: abuse and shame turned on a light bulb for me: Even though I myself published on my site my stories of abuse, I still get uneasy about “exposure.” Why is that? Because the abusers made me feel ashamed, and it still lingers.

Basically, in a private forum, there was a discussion about someone who posted their abuse story, and whether it was the right of other people to share it.  Someone noted that abusers so shame their victims that they still fear exposure, even when they know what was done to them was wrong.

It explained to me why I get nervous about people reading the many abuse stories I’ve posted here, even though they are public.  You’ll note that I don’t use my real name; I also get very protective about my real name on Twitter, where a group of trolls occasionally tries to “out” me.

That’s because my many abusers tried to shame me, make me feel like it was my fault they treated me that way.  It still lingers, still comes out when I see trolls or abusers going through my site, still occasionally makes me want to take all the stories down off the Web.

But this is all part of the Shame culture perpetuated in conservatism: It permeates everything, from your sexuality, to your beliefs, to your thoughts, to any deviation from the accepted dogma on any issue, whether religious or political or social.

Shawn, for example, shamed me because he had taken in himself the patriarchal Purity culture idea that the woman is responsible for stopping a man from whatever he wants to do.  So even though it was always his idea, and I always let him lead, he turned it into MY character failing, MY fault, MY disgustingness.

Phil shamed me for not letting him be right in everything, for not letting him have his way in everything.

Tracy shamed me for not following a strict code of behavior from the oppressive Purity culture; she and Richard shamed me for not following the extrovert’s code of behavior.

All of them are WRONG.

I have no reason to be ashamed because other people abused me.  That is all on them.

I have no reason to be ashamed because I don’t fit somebody else’s idea of what it means to be a Christian.  I have my own mind, my own heart.  I can think for myself.  I can reason.  I don’t have to submit to anyone else’s ideas.

Time to turn some tables.  DON’T YOU SPEAK FOR ME.