religion

Giacomo Sanfilippo of Orthodoxy in Dialogue is being persecuted for defending LGBTQ+

My friend Giacomo runs the site Orthodoxy in Dialogue, which has quickly become the standard bearer for LGBTQ+ people gaining acceptance in the Orthodox Church.  And this has made him a target for a fundamentalist contingent which has a lot in common with MAGAs, many modern white Evangelical/Fundamentalist churches, and a certain anti-Francis segment of the Catholic Church.

We have learned a lot about gender variations over the past 2000 years, things which people just didn’t know back when the Bible was written, just as with human reproduction (people used to think there were little men in sperm) and astronomy.  If the Church truly is not against science, then it has to admit when it’s pushing views that are hopelessly antiquated.  But some people are against any kind of change even when it’s desperately needed.

Many of us want people to be allowed to marry whoever they want and stay in full communion.  This isn’t about allowing licentiousness or promiscuity or pedophilia in the church–homophobic tropes where people just assume if you’re gay, you must be in favor of these things as well.  Society in general has been moving toward acceptance, but some just want to drag us backwards again.

For several years, Giacomo Sanfilippo has been subject to various attacks for trying to change hearts in the Orthodox churches so they can be safe spaces for believers who are LGBTQ+.  He’s been slandered, libeled, sued for defamation, and now he’s been doxxed on Twitter. They’re trying to get him in trouble with his bishop.  It’s being done by a group of people who claim to be “Christian” and call him and his allies “wolves.”

But I’ve seen a sample of their behavior online, and–to paraphrase John Fugelsang–I’ve seen atheists who are better Christians than these people.  They have no idea what Christianity is.  They’re the pack of wolves.  They harass, troll, abuse, and give Christ a black eye with everything they do.  They need to get off the frickin’ Twitter, sit down with the Red Letters of Christ, and come to repentance for the hate that fills their hearts, because right now it’s Satan they’re serving, not God.

Purity Culture guy who slut-shamed me was arrested for prostitution

Sometimes, in the years after breaking free of a narcissistic and/or abuser or rapist, you will find out new information that proves you were not to blame.  One ex kept pretending to be something he wasn’t to get girls to date him.  Another has various psychological disorders and sleeps around on his girlfriends.  An ex-friend nearly choked his stepdaughter to death.

In the 1992/3 section of my College Memoirs, you’ll find the story of Shawn, a guy who accused me of separating him from God and not doing enough to stop his advances while he kept pushing and pushing for physical and sexual favors.  I let him do it because I was in love with him and–after growing up with a learning disorder and bullying–didn’t know how to stick up for myself.  I didn’t know how to give myself some self-love by telling him to stop and getting away from that situation.  I was only 18 and 19 years old and kept hoping one day he would say he loved me.  And meantime I kept letting him do whatever he wanted after initially resisting.

He kept saying we were “just friends” and he didn’t want to have an actual “relationship” with me, but he kept coming over to see me and inviting me over.  We both intended to save sex for marriage because of Evangelical Purity Culture, but he kept pushing my boundaries until I stopped wanting to stop him, then he blamed me for giving in.  Then his ultimate slut-shaming of me was saying he couldn’t be my friend anymore because I had given in to him and that made me so repulsive to him.

He severely psychologically damaged me.  I wrote about my realization that his attitudes, the way he shamed me constantly for everything from my introversion to giving in to him to my alleged “imperfections,” came from patriarchal purity culture and his own psychological disorders, here and here.  I wasn’t raised with the idea that I was responsible for stopping him, but HE apparently was, so he blamed me for his own transgressions, while I was left confused, wondering how it could be my fault when he’s the one who kept pushing.  He made me feel like I was forcing myself on HIM when I was actually very passive through the whole thing, letting him take the lead.

He did eventually call me again to try to bury the hatchet.  We connected a few times over the years, briefly.  He finally let me friend him on Facebook a couple of years ago, for a day, but there I discovered he’s a Trumper who listens to far-right con artists like Sean Hannity and Vicki McKenna.  I think he unfriended me again because of my liberal views and disdain for far-right con artists.

Well–I just learned that in June of 2019, Shawn was busted for sex with a prostitute.

WUT

Details are sparse.  But here are the facts:

He’s married and has daughters.

He pled guilty and paid over $1000 in fines.

It was “Prostitution-Nonmmarital Sexual Intercourse.”  He was required to “Provide biological specimen to state crime lab for DNA analysis, and pay DNA analysis surcharge.”

Apparently prostitution rings are common in that part of the state, and they regularly do stings, so maybe he was caught that way, but I have nothing but conjecture to go on.  I know that whether prostitution is “bad” or should be a crime is controversial these days.  But I think most people can agree that a married man with daughters going to a prostitute is disgusting.

UGH

I dodged a bullet!

And I can’t help but wonder at the implications of an Evangelical guy who slut-shamed me, going to a prostitute.

Revisiting: Putin as Antichrist?

A couple of years ago, during the “Trump’s the Antichrist!” fervor on Twitter (sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes serious), I posted the following:

Trump, Putin, and the Antichrist

(I also wrote more on the subject here.)

I noted that people were seeing Antichrist signs in Trump–heck, I was, too–but that Putin seemed a more likely contender.  Of course, as even the Bible notes, you can have a bunch of antichrists before the end of the world (1 John 2:18).  And there are many potentials in the world right now, as we have many authoritarian regimes.  We voted Trump out, and cut off a large part of his power, which hopefully kept him from turning into Antichrist, even as people were revering him as the messiah and King Cyrus.  Of course, this is still up in the air, because he still has so many minions trying to make it easier to steal elections that don’t go in his favor.  But at the moment, he’s relegated to the old man yelling at clouds.

I also noted that even if Putin (or Trump) is the Antichrist, that doesn’t mean the world is ending, because so many Antichrist figures have already passed through this world without it ending.  Hitler sparked WWII and yet the world didn’t end.  But then again, I noted, we now live in a time of nuclear weapons and climate change leading to disaster.  Maybe the end of the world is indeed nigh–especially when that madman in Russia is threatening nuclear war.

Turns out many other people are looking into Putin’s eyes and seeing not a dedicated leader, as Bush did, but a psychopath with no soul, as I’ve seen for many years.

Ever since an article in US News and World Report 20 years ago exposed all the reasons why he could be dangerous in the future, I’ve been wary of him.  And this has been proved out over years of him invading countries, poisoning his enemies, fixing elections, jailing protesters, interfering with other countries’ politics, doing everything that screams “dictator.”  We were warned back in the early 90s of what could happen if the void in former Soviet Russia was not filled quickly with a strong alternative to communism.  In the late 90s, Russians were in poverty.  And look who swooped in and took over.  Now, according to experts such as Fiona Hill, it’s not Soviet Russia he wants to rebuild, but Imperialist Russia.

Now that Putin has invaded a sovereign nation without provocation and is bombing it into submission (and yes, it’s wrong for the US to do it, too), the cries of “Antichrist” are rising.  See the following:

CBN–Who Really Is the Antichrist? Bible Expert Explains After Ukrainian Archbishop Calls Putin the ‘Antichrist of Our Time’

The Bible expert in this article notes the difference between fundie and Orthodox versions of the Antichrist because the archbishop said “of our time” instead of “the End Times.”  He sees the many different antichrist figures throughout history.  But Kinley takes the usual literalist view of the prophecies, which doesn’t give you the full picture of what they’re saying.

With literalism, you miss that many parts of the prophecies were fulfilled a long time ago, or how segments of Revelations are basically an ancient worship service.  You miss how much is metaphor or allegory, and how the same prophecy can be fulfilled in the past, is being fulfilled in the present, and will be fulfilled in the future.  You simply can’t approach them expecting everything to exactly match when it’s talking about beasts with seven heads rising from the sea.  A more metaphorical, allegorical, and liturgical interpretation allows you to see how the Antichrist story plays itself out over and over again throughout history.  The maniacal leader rises up, gets a cult to worship him and act as his religious backer, gains power, crushes his enemies, persecutes the resisters, and finally falls.  Revelations is a primer on how to keep yourself from falling for the next Antichrist.  If people looked at it that way, a lot fewer people would currently be kissing the ring of Trump–or of Putin, for that matter.

Kinley says Putin can’t be the End of Times Antichrist because he uses war to get his way.  But that doesn’t fit my reading of Revelations, for one–the Antichrist is very warlike–and for another, we know that Putin has many dedicated followers.  We hear about dissenters, but from my own personal experiences and the stories of people who know actual Russians, it’s very common for them to think he’s performed a “miracle” in Russia and that Russian propaganda is the truth.  A couple of weeks ago, a dear online friend scolded us all for listening to “state media” when Putin was not invading Ukraine, but working to get rid of a fascist regime!  The Antichrist figure may not start out making war, but first gains the love of his people by turning their lives around.  Hitler did the same thing.

Now for articles about the Orthodox Archbishop who points to Putin as the Antichrist of our time:

THE PATRIARCH’S COMPLICITY IN THE INVASION OF UKRAINE by Igumen Vladimir (Tobin)
Ukrainian bishop says Putin is the ‘Antichrist of our current time’: ‘Against God’s law’
Ukrainian Bishop Calls Putin ‘The Antichrist of Our Current Time’
Ukrainian religious leaders liken Putin to anti-Christ, Hitler
Address by Metropolitan Epiphanius (February 27, 2022) (You can run this through Google Translate.)
The BBC interview with the archbishop (This seems to be it, though “interview” seems generous.  It was just a couple of minutes, halfway through the podcast.)

Update 3/10/22: Evangelicals are getting into it, too: Russia’s war on Ukraine has some Christians wondering: Is this the end of the world?

Update 3/13/22: Articles examining the religious element of the invasion:
War is Evil–So why does religion inspire it?
Next Year in Kyiv?  When it comes to Russian Orthodoxy, Kyiv is essentially Jerusalem.

Death of friend, politics invading life, Buffy abusing Spike: Catchall

Dealing with several things all at once:

–1: The death of a dear friend of 30 years, the one in my College Memoirs whom I called “Pearl,” my confidante.  It happened two months ago.  But us college friends, the old roommies and InterVarsity people, the group who shared “Journal” e-mails until Facebook arose–we weren’t told.

One of us got re-married in mid-October.  I went to the wedding, disappointed to see that Pearl was not there.

She died later that week.

We last were on her page in September, when she posted about her child.

The Journal group found out around November 18, when somebody went to Pearl’s FB page and then posted what she discovered.

But that day, I was dealing with all sorts of headaches regarding publishing my books, and wasn’t on FB at all.  So I didn’t find out until a week ago Saturday, when I went to her FB to see what she was up to lately.

It took a moment to process the posts about her death, and once I did, I was just–stunned.  Heartbroken.

We were just coming off COVID quarantine when this happened.  (We’re all vaccinated, so COVID was just a bit of a cold that made the Hubby lose his sense of smell for a couple of weeks.)  I’d hoped to go back to church the following day, only to find this late Saturday night.  Instead, I was basically catatonic.

There was a day of deep grief.  Since then I’ve been hit with this intense midlife crisis, the sense of everyone getting older and older even though I could swear we were twenty just a couple of weeks ago, the sense of impending Death.  Same thing happened after my dad died in 2016; this and COVID have intensified it.  I’ll be fine during the day, then get hit with it in the middle of the night, or when I watch a 30-year-old TV show or look at a recent picture of someone from college.

And through it all I miss Pearl, who just isn’t there anymore.

And I wonder what happened.  The family was vague, just said she had health problems and died in her sleep.  I knew about the rheumatoid arthritis; she had that in college.  But all these years, she’d managed, she’d survived various health scares.  I wonder if it was COVID.  She was vaxxed, but there was the RA.  There are also the full ICU beds because of COVID anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers selfishly refusing to take the needs of their neighbors into account.  Did she die of COVID?  Did she die because she couldn’t get needed care because COVID is overwhelming health providers?  Did COVID take yet another friend/family member?  Or was it something else entirely?

Farewell, sweet Pearl….

 

–2: This part is a bit more lighthearted.  While I was away from church pre-vaccine, we somehow acquired a large group of converts.  They were attracted through studying the church intellectually–the same way I was.  But on Sunday I sat with them and discovered a strong sense of Convertitis and Orthodox Triumphalism.

It’s very familiar.  I suffered from it myself 15 years ago, and shared it with Richard, until I began to discover that people in my new church were human, too.

Until my priest said that River of Fire was too polemic and should focus on what’s good in Orthodoxy and not what’s bad in the other churches.

Until I heard somebody yelling at a parish General Assembly.

Until I saw that most people don’t follow the fast strictly, or care about the organ and pews, or even know a lot about their own theology that the converts find so attractive.

Until I began to see the drawbacks even in following the church that claims to be unchanged since the days of the Apostles.

We have our spats and flirting; we don’t just sit all coffee hour opining about the Filioque or hating on other churches.  You’re more likely to talk about gardening or kids or the next fundraiser.

Our new converts praised the church for being so welcoming, while I remember a time when people said the opposite.

My BFF and I are more likely to wear a Prussian uniform (him–this actually happened) or a Gothy top (me) than a prayer rope or a headscarf.

Part of staying Orthodox after the honeymoon period, is accepting that the people are not perfect.

Nowadays when I talk about problems in other churches, it focuses on harm being done by bad theology, or grifters, or abuse–things like that.  It’s about harm being done to the entire Christian body by certain attitudes.  I came to Orthodoxy not to be better than other people, but to stop worrying that nearly everyone alive was destined to end up in Hell.  I came to find a loving God.  I can recognize the good in other churches that are not Orthodox.  I can also recognize that various churches–including Orthodox–can be so obsessed with doctrinal purity that they don’t accept science or life experiences that prove some of their attitudes are wrong.

 

–3: I’m facing a writing club Christmas party today.  Normally I get into these biannual parties.  The conversation used to be interesting.  But lately, it seems like everyone who shows up is retired and I have nothing in common with them, so we sit and talk about very little of interest, if anything, before the food finally comes.  Well, there’s writing, but nobody talks about that, and half the people are spouses who don’t write.

We have liberal members, but we also have a bunch of people who are right-wing religious and/or Trumpers.  Our club party in July ended with a bunch of people getting into an argument about things like CRT, right-wing talking points being flung around, and me hearing a certain loved one’s disturbing attitudes on cultural issues.

I finally got up and walked out of the house.  I was shaken and upset for days, wondering if any of these relationships could survive.  I was finally able to put it out of my head and move on.

I don’t want a repeat of this.

Then last week, after a club meeting, somebody brought up a transgender issue and I became very uncomfortable.  Frickin’ politics ruining frickin’ EVERYTHING.  It makes you not want to leave the house, except even there it isn’t safe.

 

–4: Over the past several years, since we got Hulu, I’ve been rewatching Buffy and Angel, which I hadn’t seen since one pass of re-runs after they went off the air years ago.

Last night, I got to THAT EPISODE of Buffy.  I was so disturbed that I had to google and see if I was the only one to feel this way: Spike trying to rape Buffy was NOT AT ALL in his character.

Apparently that scene was one of the writers exorcising her own demons, because Joss wanted her to do so.  But it just wasn’t something that Spike would’ve done to Buffy.  Another thing that disturbed me was how Buffy had treated him for the past couple of seasons, especially during Season 6.  I guess the writers wanted us to hate Spike, but instead I was upset with Buffy for abusing Spike.  Spike was hardly a saint, doing his own abuse, but she’d punch him, she’d sleep with him and then say he disgusted her and she can’t love him, etc. etc.  Meanwhile, she’s letting her friends say bad things about him, too.

And yes, other people have indeed noticed this.  I found articles written by women complaining that Buffy had become an abuser.  For example: Defending Spike Part 1 and Kristen Smirnov’s Domestic Abuse and Gender Role Reversal in Season 6: My Letter to Mutant Enemy.

The writers were so intent on making us hate Spike, because he was an evil soulless thing, that they did this rape scene–

when the whole time they’d been showing us Spike on a redemption arc even without a soul.  We saw Buffy falling in love with him.  We sympathized with Spike because we saw that he was in love with Buffy and that it was turning him away from evil.

But after showing us this, the writers got mad at the viewers for seeing it clearly, and accused us of being the type to write love letters to serial killers.  It was gaslighting.  Them having Spike try to rape Buffy was like them abusing US now, along with Spike’s character.  They wanted us to think that Xander’s constant snipes at Spike were Xander seeing the situation properly.  They wanted us to agree that Buffy’s self-righteous abuse of Spike was how Good and Decent People™ behave.

While reading “Defending Spike” last night, I realized that Buffy treated Spike exactly the same as Shawn treated me back in college.  And there in black and white, I saw somebody else confirm that yes, this is extremely abusive behavior.  The writer saw it as abusive when a woman does it, and pointed out that a man doing it is clearly seen as an abuser.  And well, Shawn was male.  So hey.  That explains why I always sympathized with Spike here.

Abusers can so get into your head that for years afterward you wonder if you were the actual abuser.  Shawn and Phil (also in college) both did this to me, as did the so-called “friends” who abused me a decade ago, Richard and Tracy.  That’s part of the reason for my memoirs on both college and Richard/Tracy, to try to get into what really happened and sort it out.  It’s a lot of work and reflection.  And the conclusion is that I’m not the abuser at all.  But they can make you think you are, even 30 years later, even when intellectually you know that you were the victim.

And that’s my very-long catchall catchup post.

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.”

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