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.”