Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Great End of Summer Man-Off

It's that time of year again, my brothers are going back to college. I'll miss them, as misogynistic and annoying as they can be, I'll certainly miss them.

Wednesday night involved cupcakes, the friends of my siblings, and a viewing of The Italian Job. After the movie I got to chatting with one of my younger brothers, and his friend. For some reason, we started talking about self defense (probably because my younger brother and his friend are oddly obsessed with legal violence). I chimed in, since I work at a warehouse and am occasionally there alone and therefore actually have a reason to think about self defense (although, granted, not much of a reason). The conversation escalated until we were hypothetically choosing weapons to fend of hypothetical attackers. Something about it galled me, but I wasn't sure what.

Then, from across the room a friend of my sister (T.) broke in "do you guys have to keep talking about violence?"

He was genuinely disturbed by our conversation. Then I realized why I was so unnerved, while the conversation had disturbed me as well I felt that somehow I could not back out of it. I was having a man-off with these two dudes, and you don't back down from a man-off. I had to defend my manhood (womanhood? Whatever) or else admit to dishonor. I held on for a few more minutes, then decided that defending whatever the hell I was defending by not being the first one to leave the conversation wasn't really worth my time. I went across the room and talked to T. about musicals. It was much more edifying.

Manhood and manliness are weird. For some reason my younger brother has always treated me more or less like "one of the guys" perhaps because of my intense disgust with "girly things". In fact, we talked about what actresses we found most attractive way back before I even considered coming out. He's given me a glance into the world of manliness, and I don't really like what I see. The whole thing seems overly complicated and constricting. Gender roles are confusing, I think I'll stay queer.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Some Emilie Autumn for You Because I am a Very Nice Person

I'm tired and not feeling so well, so I'm just gonna put this here and let you enjoy it to the fullest. Feast your senses, Emile Autumn is practically a goddess (and I think I have a fever...):

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Response to "10 Surprising Reasons Our Kids LEAVE The Church"

I know I've been quiet all week, I had a killer research paper that I put off to the last moment, and then I was exhausted. But I'm back! And rather than the first installment in my storytelling series, I want to respond to this article, because, as one of "their kids" I wanted my voice to be heard. I'm just going to take it reason by reason and throw in my two cents.

Note: I know my experience isn't everyone's experience, but my experience is important and adds another facet to something this author has cast as a very two-dimensional issue

Alright, here goes. Yoder starts of with some talk about how he takes kids out to coffee and gets them to spill the beans on why they left the church (get it? Spill the beans! I'm hilarious.). While he claims to have heard a lot of stories, his conclusions make me wonder if he actually listened, or if he just heard what he wanted to hear.

Reason 10: the church is trying to be too relevant
We’ve taken a historic, 2,000-year-old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize to.
Well... I don't actually care how people dress, and I'm pretty sure the Judeo-Christian faith is older than 2000 years, but I can agree with one thing--it's not cool, and it's not modern. However, the reason I left the church wasn't because it was trying to look cool and modern... the reason I left is because it WASN'T modern. The problem goes deeper, and the church isn't addressing it.

Reason 9: We just went to Sunday school, not "real" church

many evangelical youth have been coddled in a not-quite-church, but not-quite-world hothouse. They’ve never sat on a pew between a set of new parents with a fussy baby and a senior citizen on an oxygen tank.
 Well, to start with, this was really, really, not my experience. I was always excited when I went to a church where I got to sit in the service with my family, and most of the churches we attended were like that. I know that this isn't everyone's experience, but it was mine. I held that fussy baby, and helped that senior citizen pass the communion platter, so not being in real church didn't make me want to leave. Being in real church is what made me want to leave, because in real church I was exposed to the toxic beliefs that changed the way I see the world. This argument sounds dangerously close to the "you just didn't understand the Gospel" argument, which is complete BS and a total cop-out. Do not demean my experience. (the you-just-didn't-get-it argument is a major pet-peeve of mine).

Reason 8: Non-Christians don't dumb things down for us

Rather than dumbing down the message, the agnostics and atheists treat our youth as intelligent and challenge their intellect with “deep thoughts” of question and doubt.
Well, Yoder sort of gets it. But what I don't think he understands it that those deep thoughts he sticks in quotations are actually important. The origins of the universe, sexuality, gender roles, scientific ethics, where personhood begins, these are all very important questions. And a community that trivializes questioning what one has been taught, and considers doubt a problem is not a community I want to be in, point blank. I left the church not because they treated me like an idiot, but because they told me questioning and doubt were sinful. I'm sorry Mr. Yoder, but the atheists and agnostics got it right on this one.

Reason 7: We were not properly indoctrinated

Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not?
Once again, this was not my experience. I knew (and still know) the basic tenets of the judeo-christian faith inside and out. I started out Lutheran moved to different fundamentalist and more mainstream evangelical churches, and became deeply Calvinist for a while. I read the works of church fathers, went through the AWANA program until I was in eighth grade, and attended a week long worldview training camp before graduating high-school. It wasn't because I didn't know my stuff that I left, it was because I knew and understood, I saw the ideology for what it was. I could not have come to that point if I had not been taught so thoroughly as a child.

Reason 6: We got too emotional

With nothing solid to hang their faith upon, with no historic creed to tie them to centuries of history, without the physical elements of bread, wine and water, their faith is in their subjective feelings, and when faced with other ways to “feel” uplifted at college, the church loses out to things with much greater appeal to our human nature.
Oh dear, the old feelings are bad spiel. The argument here is that the church sold feelings not truth, so when us kids realized we can get fuzzy feelings elsewhere we left the church. I'd like to express that this is actually the opposite of my experience, after years of being told my feelings were untrustworthy, sinful, and to be ignored in favor of the truth I said "to hell with it". I am an emotional being, and I will embrace my emotions. My emotions and thoughts are important, and a community that ignores them and tells me they are evil is no community I want to be part of.

Reason 5: Something about community?

When our kids leave home, they leave the manufactured community they’ve lived in for nearly their entire lives. With their faith as something they “do” in community, they soon find that they can experience this “life change” and “life improvement” in “community” in many different contexts.
 Once again, Yoder makes a good point. When I left home, I (to some extent) left that manufactured community. And you know what, I found better communities, friends, more uplifting worldviews, and more compassionate service opportunities. I'm not really sure what point Yoder is making here, since faith is a community activity. I mean, the later part of the New Testement is all about community.Maybe Yoder doesn't think community actually exists, since he stuck it in what my Freshman year English teacher (a devout Catholic and a wonderful man) called cutie quotes. I think he's trying to say that faith isn't something people do, it's something else. I disagree, faith is, and always has been, a community of believers acting in relatively the same manner and believing relatively the same things. Faith=community. And if he's trying to say that people should not find satisfaction and joy outside their faith community, his religion is starting to sound like a cult.

Reason 4: We got too emotional II

When they leave home, they realize that they can be “spiritually fulfilled” and get the same subjective self-improvement principles (and warm fuzzies) from the latest life-coach or from spending time with friends or volunteering at a shelter.
Following on the heals of faith-isn't-something-we-do this is an odd point. Because Yoder seems to be arguing that faith is external, not an internal emotional something. Since we can get the warm fuzzies helping our fellow human beings and bettering ourselves, why go to church? That's a really good question, when we can feel fulfilled and spiritually whole outside of the church, maybe we don't need the faith. I think Yoder's point is a true statement (although I'd call warm fuzzies something a little less demeaning and trivial, like you know, satisfaction with life or maybe, happiness?), I found out I didn't need church, because church only beat me down. Why stay somewhere that makes you feel like crap?

Reason 3: We got tired of pretending

In the “best life now,” “every day a Friday” world of evangelicals, there’s little room for depression, struggle or doubt. Turn that frown upside down, or move along.
This is very true. Unfortunately, Yoder seemed to say earlier that he does not think the church has room for the deep questions like those Athiests and Agnostics ask, since they're really not that deep anyways. Here's what I got tired of hearing, I got tired of hearing that God had a plan, that I didn't understand but He did. I got tired of a petty God who would play with my life because I didn't really matter. It's not that the church has somehow stopped making room for depression, struggle and doubt, it's that the room was never there in the first place.

Reason 2: We couldn't be nice enough

But their diet is Law, and scripture tells us that the law condemns us. So that smiling, upbeat “Love God and Love People” vision statement? Yeah, you’ve just condemned the youth with it. Nice, huh?
Oddly enough love God love People is what kept me going through years of frustration and pain. Once again, it wasn't the rules that made me leave the church, in fact I didn't realize all the shaming and legalism was going on until I was out. It wasn't the rules. It was the THEOLOGY. It was the faith itself. Until the church understands that, they'll just keep going in circles.

Reason 1: We didn't feel guilty enough

As we jettisoned the gospel, our students were never hit with the full impact of the law, their sin before God and their desperate need for the atoning work of Christ. Now THAT is relevant, THAT is authentic and THAT is something the world cannot offer.
I think it's very interesting that Yoder ends with this. So, I'm going to give it to you straight, this is why I left the church:

I don't believe it anymore
I don't believe in total depravity

I don't believe in giving unconditional love and worship to a cruel and petty deity
I don't believe in a six day creation
I don't believe in man's headship over woman
I don't believe there is anything wrong with being transexual, bisexual, homosexual, poly-amorous, monogamous, heterosexual, or anywhere else on the spectrum
I don't believe my purpose in life is to convict and convert others
I don't believe my depression will get better if I pray more
I don't believe in consciously destroying my self-esteem for a deity
I don't believe the judeo-christian tradition is superior to other traditions
I don't believe it

I didn't leave the church because I didn't understand the theology, I left because I did understand the theology. I didn't leave because the church was too relevant, I left because I realized it wasn't, and could never be, relevant. And I left because I was tired of people treating other humans like projects. I left very simply because I don't believe anymore.
I do respect the historical significance and beauty of the judeo-christian tradition, but I do not believe it. There is nothing that made me leave the church but my own journey through life. I think the church needs to let go of its lost children, because they aren't lost, they're just in their own place now. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Coming out part one: The early years and my first crush

I've heard a lot of people say that gay kids can tell they're different pretty early on. I guess it could be true, I did always feel different. It never really occurred to me when I was little that being different could be a bad thing. I grew up in a fairly isolated environment, it was me and the stories (there was my family, but I was a solitary child and they were like the landscape to my existence*). My first crushes were on characters from books, Triss and Muriel from the Redwall series, Aerin from Robin McKinley's "The Hero and the Crown" and Menolly from Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonrider's of Pern".

Because of my isolation I didn't know how different I was until I was about ten or twelve, and started attending a homeschool co-op for the first time. I am naturally introverted, and had a hard time making friends, but I was used to going it alone and co-op only met once a week anyways. It was in that first year of co-op that I had my first crush on a flesh-and-blood girl. She was the only goth girl in the entire co-op, and took a lot of crap for it (apparently self expression is a form of rebellion against one's parents. Only immature and ungrateful children do it, you know.). And she was gorgeous. I think she was of Latino descent, she had caramel colored skin, and waves upon waves of shimmering black hair that fell to her hips. She was always wearing black and red, and decorating things with safety pins. She was an artist, and did cool, edgy things like drawing on her arms and listening to rock music (my childhood culture was pretty narrow, okay). I had a class with her--despite the fact that she was a few grades ahead of me--and sat in the back corner constructing scenarios in which we would talk and she would be so impressed by how awesome I was. I never talked to her.

If only I'd figured it out then, but I still had a long way to go before I muddled through all the confusion. In part two, I'll talk about my junior high friends, the party where I got jealous, loving too hard, and purity culture!

*I really, really, love my family no matter what dysfunction we share and despite all the crap we've put each other through. Unfortunately, one of the things about spending your entire childhood in the near constant presence of the same five people is that you take them for granted.