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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I Am No Longer Afraid

"You're different these days."

It was a compliment this time. Though I usually hear it in a chiding tone from someone who thinks it their right to comment with displeasure on my life-journey. But this time, surprisingly, it was in admiration from someone who has known me a long time. It made me smile.

I am different these days. I am....happy. Confident. Free. Comfortable with myself and my place in the world.

But mostly, I am unafraid.

Fear has shadowed my entire life. I can never remember not being afraid. My earliest memories were tainted with fear, even the happiest of them.

But these days, that fear is gone. It's amazing how that changes a person.

I am no longer afraid of god. Afraid of displeasing him. Of not following his will for my life. Of making a mistake and disappointing him. Of him ruining my life because that's what god does when you rebel, it's how he shows you he loves you, by not letting you get away with your own selfish desires. His plans are so much better than yours, after all.

I am no longer afraid of hell. Of accidentally sinning and dying before I can repent. I had nightmares about that as a small child. I was terrified of spending eternity in hell. It seemed so easy to screw up and end up punished after you die. I was so afraid of my friends going to hell too. I was so afraid that I wouldn't get to tell enough people about Jesus in my life and would be responsible for them dying and going to hell.

I am no longer afraid of punishment. For most of my life, I lived under fear of punishment. From my parents, from god. Messing up meant harsh punishments. Spanking, grounding, losing friend privileges, having to do extra chores, writing out a hundred sentences that say "I will not blame-shift". But mostly spankings, until I became a teen. Then it was lectures, control of resources, and groundings that killed the small social life I had. For every little infraction, because all sins are the same, and foolishness must be driven out of the heart of a child. Afraid of punishment from god who could not only send me to hell if I died unrepentant, but he could make my life miserable too. He could do all manner of horrible things to teach me a lesson if  screwed up. He could even take my child's life if I loved her more than I loved him, if I loved her too much. That's what god does, because he's a jealous god. My entire life, death, and afterlife could be punishments if he decided I needed them.

I am no longer afraid of missing god's plan for my life. I make the plans for my life now. I take the responsibility, I pay the consequences, good and bad. No one is waiting to punish me for planning badly. I'm not going to ruin my life if I don't hear god correctly and take a wrong step. I'm in charge. If I screw up, I will try again. There are many different ways to live a successful life, I'm not fucked if I miss The One. There is no "hedge of thorns" sent to hem me in and bring me back to god's plan.

I'm no longer afraid of failing to be who god wants me to be. I don't have to ask permission to be me. To follow my heart. To love whom I want to love. To be passionate about what matters to me. I don't have to make sure my character fits someone else's idea of right. I choose my values, who I want to be and what that looks like.

I am no longer afraid of what other people can do to me. Of whether the ones I love and used to be dependent on will walk away, reject me, and break my heart. Because I realize now that giving my heart to them means they can hurt it, but they cannot ruin it. Only I can do that. I am not dependent on how others treat me for my validation or my success in life. I adore all the people that are part of my life, but my life is not dependent on them anymore. I am no longer defenseless and powerless.

I am no longer afraid of the darkness in me. That part of me that is just as much human as the light, happy parts. That part that scared people, that they taught me to fear. I am those things too, in all their rich glory, and they don't scare me anymore. I don't have to deny the darkness exists or pray it away because it turns out it's not evil. I know evil; and the anger, passion, depression, anxiety, rage, rain, storm, and shadows that reside in human nature are not it. I can be a whole person now.

I am no longer afraid of being happy. It's OK to be utterly happy with myself and my life. It's OK to love and to live. It's OK to feel satisfied and enough. Conversely, it's OK to be sad. To be unhappy. To want more. To wish and not be OK with how things are. I am no longer afraid of the entire range of human emotions. They are not good or evil, they just are.

I am no longer afraid of my passion. I am a passionate person, and that is perfectly OK. Though I still get shamed often for this, get sanctioned, invalidated, told I'm too much and not enough, told my passion doesn't belong or is misplaced, told to be quiet, be nice, sit down, shut up. But since I no longer need validation from others, I am no longer afraid of my own passion or what others think about it. I can shout from the rooftops or speak in whispers in quiet places, and it is enough and it is valid.

I am no longer afraid of so many things, fears that have been a part of my life for as far back as I have memories. And that changes a person. It takes a huge weight off their shoulders that makes every aspect of their life lighter.

So, yes, I am different these days. I am whole. I am unashamedly, gloriously me.

And I am not afraid any more. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

In Which I Wonder Why

I don't understand. Who tells a child the things that I was told? Who forms a child's self-concept in the worst way possible on purpose? What kind of person takes a sensitive, kind, loving, feeling child and tells them from birth that they are mean, bully, selfish, and unloving?

What kind of parent does that?

Was I a threat? Did they feel the need to tear me down because I threatened something? Were they afraid of me somehow? Did they look at me and feel fear and thus were driven to squash who I am? Was who I am that scary?

Selfish, unloving, unfeeling, mean, bully, harsh, hostile, angry, unkind, moody, vengeful, unhappy, rebellious. The words fill my head and keep coming, one after the other, all the words I was given as labels. All the words that they might as well have written in ink on my body as they were indelibly printed on my soul. But even permanent ink fades eventually and can be written over.

I am only recently discovering who I really am. And I am not who they said I was.

I am kind and generous. I am an empath. I feel others' emotions so deeply, like I am experiencing their pain in my own soul. I am a giver, I give til I have nothing left. I love with all that is within me. I am loyal to a fault.

But I am no doormat. I do not accept what I am told without proof. I am also a warrior. I fight for the people I love, for every person I come across who can't fight for themselves. I stand up for what is right and that is interpreted as "hostile". It's not hostility, it's righteousness. It's strength. It's ferocity. And it is who I am.

I am rebellious. I will claim that label, of all the words they slung at me. Some things are worth rebelling against. Rebelling has saved my life. "There's something wild in your heart, you need to pray to God to help you." There was something wild there. There still is. Did that scare them? Does it still?

What kind of person does that to a child? What kind of person teaches another child to do this to their own sibling? What was it about me that scared them so?

Whatever it was, they failed to eradicate it. Because here I am, in all my wild glory, and they can't do anything about it now, except keep trying to spread their lies and paint their own picture of me that I no longer recognize. Their picture of me looks suspiciously like their own self-portrait.

Was it religion? I fucking hate religion. Religion said I needed my will broken, beaten down, and taken away. Religion said to squash my glory because their pathetic god would be jealous. Religion said they had to take my rights, my ownership, my boundaries, because those things were not from god. Did religion make them try to break a child or did it just justify their own penchant toward insecurity and whatever the hell else was wrong with them? I don't know. I might never know. Does it even matter? The damage has been done, the healing has long ago begun.

As a parent, I look at my children in all their glory and life and I am completely baffled. The thought of telling them that they are inherently selfish with wicked hearts that need their foolishness driven out by the rod is painful enough to leave me breathless. The idea that I could take such amazing creatures and make sure they know how worthless they are unless they become what I dictate they must be causes physical pain and revulsion in my heart.

What kind of person does that to a child? I have no more excuses for them.

Monday, October 12, 2015

That Person Is Me

A few friends posted a quote on Facebook last week:

We have a God who sees hearts like we see faces, a God who hears ache like we hear voices, and we have a God who touches & holds & heals our wounds like we long to be held. ~Ann Voskamp

It struck me as something I once would have said and felt. Once, it would've stirred up the proper emotions in my heart and comforted me, like it was designed to do.
I used to believe this. With all my heart. It was comforting. No matter what happened, from the time I was about 14 until 8 years ago, I held on to this "promise" with my life. It got me through some very difficult things. 
Until the god I thought saw me and cared for me, stopped. Or maybe I just stopped being able to bullshit myself.
I can look back and see that the beginning of the end was when we lost our home to a fire 8 years ago, on October 22nd. God didn't save what little we had worked so hard for. He didn't help me find my wedding ring though I begged him, believed on faith he would help me find them, and dug through the ashes for a week. He let my babies' teddy bears and clothing and toys burn up; everything from the first 5 years of our lives together was gone. I praised him when our church got together and donated enough money for me to replace household goods and when they came with hammers to help us turn our garage into a home. 
But god didn't do those things, people did. Good people, who probably would've done it even without god (some of them weren't even Christians, just neighbors, good human beings).
That was the day my belief in a loving god who heals my wounds began to die, even against my will because I tried so hard to keep believing. It's symbolic how the ashes of my home became the ashes of my faith, me digging, trying to find something to salvage. Eventually, as things got worse for us, all the cliches about why god was saying "no" and why bad things happen to us even when we obey him and have faith and work hard, didn't work for me anymore. 
I sat thinking one day "what am I saying? I am bullshitting myself. This doesn't even make sense." And then I felt guilty because god hears your thoughts and he heard my lack of faith and maybe something bad would happen because of it. 
And then I got mad because how stupid is it to worry about god punishing you for being human? I had so much internal conflict, as reason and honestly looking at what was happening in our life started breaking through the cliches and the religious bullshit. It didn't add up.
I tried, prayed, cried, had faith, claimed god's promises, read the scriptures, forced myself to believe that he had a plan and it was good and he loved me, for 5 more years after that. 5 years of struggling and depression and loneliness and barely surviving and paying the bills. Through family betrayal. Through losing my best friend. Through foreclosure on the new house we'd worked so hard on. Through old wounds being ripped open. Through packing everything we had left into a truck and trailer and moving 2 states away just to get a job. Through being alone with 2 toddlers and a new baby for weeks on end. 
A little light came when we found a church with good people and they made us one of them and I had friends again and was leading worship again and loving it. Then the rejection after 2 years of throwing my life into these people, all because I believed the wrong things, like that gay people aren't sinners and god used evolution to create the world and women are equal to men. That was the end. I tried half-heartedly to visit other churches, but just couldn't do it. When my husband said he was done, no more church, I was relieved. I was tired of pretending that any of it mattered, or that I mattered to any all-seeing being who seemed unable to see me.
I wish sometimes I could still believe this and be comforted again. But I can no longer do make-believe fairy tales, no matter how good they sound. There is no deity out there who sees my heart or heals my wounds or cares about me personally. You know who does that? People. People like my husband, who has walked this road with me for 13 years now; people like many of you who read here, who though we've most of us never met, you still care about others on the other side of the computer screen; people like the new friend I'm making who hates religion and likes me; people like the various therapists who have shows empathy and understanding. 
People like me. I care. That person who cares about me and sees me....that person is me.
Some would be horrified at this, but to me, it's a relief. I don't have to go through mental gymnastics trying to figure out why shit happens, trying to convince myself that god has a plan for this shit, that it's divine shit, that I should be grateful for it, that god still loves me even though he's slinging shit at me (or allowing shit to be slung, depending on your theology). Shit just happens. There's no reason, usually. I didn't do anything wrong, I'm not the target of Satan, God isn't testing my faith, I don't have to pretend or try to convince myself of these illogical things anymore. These ridiculous cliches that people use to protest against doubt when, really, the doubt is right. 

And that's a huge relief. I alone am responsible for taking that shit and slinging it back at the universe. For forging meaning and making love and being resilient and rising from the ashes. That's on me. I am not at the mercy of the whims of a god I've never met that I'm supposed to just trust cares about me, even when everything in my life says otherwise. I can take control and make my own way and not look for someone to blame or someone to trust when life doesn't work. 

I write my story. I decide where to go from here. That is, perhaps, the most comforting and freeing thing I've discovered so far.

                                                                      (photo credit)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Parenting Beyond Religion ~ How Do You Know?

I’m reading an excellent book right now called Parenting Beyond Belief. It’s a collection of essays written by various people on parenting without religion and covers multiple topics related to parenting. One of the chapters stuck me as particularly useful given what my children and I have been discussion lately. The chapter was a letter written my Richard Dawkins to his daughter when she was 10. I found an online copy here and discovered it’s been passed around for a while now.

Dawkins starts by saying “Have you ever wondered how we know the things that we know? How do we know, for instance, that the stars, which look like tiny pinpricks in the sky, are really huge balls of fire like the Sun and very far away? And how do we know that the Earth is a smaller ball whirling round one of those stars, the Sun? The answer to these questions is ‘evidence’.”

He talks about three very wrong reasons for believing anything: tradition, authority, and revelation. I’m not going to talk about those today but I would encourage you to read the article as it is very good and helpful even if you aren’t a parent.

The question of evidence and proof is something I’ve been talking to my kids about lately. How do we know if something that someone tells us is true? Well, we ask for evidence. Tradition is not evidence. Revelation from someone’s god or goddess is not evidence. An authority figure saying so is not evidence. 

So the most important question I am teaching my children to ask when told something is true is “How do you know?”

My 4th grader came home last week saying a little girl in her class said that the world was going to end on September 27th because it would be hit by an asteroid. K, my daughter, was a bit concerned but still didn’t think that sounded quite right. So we got to have a great discussion about how to tell whether something is the truth or not. It went like this:

K: “Mom, Sarah said that the world is going to end on the 27th because of an asteroid.”
Me: “K., did you ask her how she knows this?”
K: “Yes, she said her mom said so.”
Me: “And how did her mom know?”
K: “Because she looked it up on the internet.”
Me: “And is everything on the internet true?”
K: “Well, no.”
Me: “So what should you ask if someone says something like that to you?”
K: “You should ask them to prove it.”

Then the rest of the kids and I talked about The Most Important Question: “How do you know?” And we applied it to all kinds of things, which got interesting when they discovered the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, which I didn’t actually know they didn’t know, but that’s another story.

We talked about how Moms can be wrong, so Sarah’s mom saying it doesn’t mean it’s right. We found a story on the internet about how a man said that God told him the asteroid would hit the earth on the 27th. I explained how that’s “revelation” and not a good reason to believe anyone and how he has no evidence for this at all. If the man has no evidence, then he could be lying or fooled or crazy. If the only answer to “how do you know?” is “God/Odin/Zeus told me”, that’s not good enough.  

This is a very basic way to explain to children how to ask questions and think through assertions. It empowers them to not only think critically but to not fear every time someone tells them unbelieving people go to hell, Jesus is coming to destroy the earth, or Yellowstone is going to explode. Critical thinking doesn’t have to mean diving into books on Socratic questioning or learning logic equations. It can be as simple and profound as teaching a child to ask “how do you know?” and to demand a good answer. Teaching them from a very young age good and bad reasons for believing something. Be warned: You will have to step up your game. No, you don't have to know everything and it's OK to answer with "I don't know". A good follow-up would be "But let's find out!" Teaching kids to question means being willing to question yourself. Don't worry, it's good for us. 

Can you imagine a world full of kids who are taught to question like this? High-schools full of teens who were raised to demand evidence and thoughtfulness? Colleges full of adults to whom critical thinking skills are daily used and expected? It’s not that religious parents can’t teach this to their children, it’s that they don’t. Because usually these questioning skills are a threat to a dearly held belief system based on tradition, authority, and revelation.

I can’t help but think how many adults need to hear Dawkins’ message and how much better off the world would be if they did. 

I'll end with this quote from Dawkins:

What can we do about all this? It is not easy for you to do anything, because you are only ten. But you could try this. Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Parenting Beyond Religion ~How I Answer the Difficult Questions

I have a lot of people ask me these days, "how do you parent without religion? How do you talk to your kids about why we don't go to church anymore? How do you explain your beliefs to them? How do you answer their questions?"

These are interesting questions, usually asked by other ex-Christian parents who are struggling with the idea that all the answers they used to have have been pulled out from under them. "For the Bible tells me so" is no longer the answer to everything from "why is lying bad?" to "what happens when you die?" Suddenly, we're forced to think deeper, to be purposeful, and to challenge ourselves. We don't get to play the God card anymore.

I can't speak for everyone who has been through the deconversion process with their family, but I can explain my own experiences and how I've approached parenting differently these days.

In the beginning of our journey, about 3 years ago, we left a toxic church. This was difficult for my kids, who were very young, because it meant losing their friends and social group. Even though we tried to stay in touch with those whom we were close to, it's just not the same when you don't see them 3 times a week and don't share the beliefs they hold dear. ("Friendship by proximity" is what my friend Sam called these relationships, not implying that they aren't genuine but that they are upheld by proximity, as are many other friendships, such as from a job or other social group). They missed the children's church and the potlucks and the singing and activities. They also missed the routine. They asked a lot of questions about why we don't go to church and why we can't go see some of their friends anymore. I avoided these at first, because I was hurting from betrayal and rejection and seeing my kids' pain and confusion was just another knife in my heart. I also just didn't know how to answer them, to explain that I still believed in God, but had no idea what else I may or may not believe it. That I wasn't sure where I was going on my own spiritual journey. And how do you explain things like triggers and panic attacks due to my past to children? Eventually though I had to be honest and explain as best as I could.

That first conversation, initiated by my daughter, K (who was 7) went like this:

K: "Mom, why don't we go to church anymore? I miss church."

Me: "K., we had to leave that church because we  were no longer welcome because we disagreed with some things they were teaching that we feel are wrong and hurtful. We haven't found another church that doesn't teach these wrong things so we decided to stay home and do fun family things instead."
K: "Like what kind of bad things to they teach, Mom?"

Me: "Well, like that women can't do things just because they are women....."

K, interrupting: "What?! That's stupid. That's an Old Times belief. Girls can do and be whatever they want today, so can boys."

Me, suppressing a smile: "Yes, but the church we left didn't believe that, didn't like that we believed something different, and we didn't want to raise our kids in a church that tells boys and girls who they must be and how they must act because of their gender." 

That was the beginning of a series of conversations that we had about a few beliefs that I didn't think were healthy and that were keeping us from church. I kept it as simple as I could and they haven't asked about church in a long time. Their lives are now full of school and friends and family adventures.

Recently, they've begun to ask deeper questions about God, life, behavior, values, afterlife, science, and philosophy. These have been interesting for me, and, I admit, scary as it is completely new territory. Whereas before I would answer "we don't lie because it is sin", now I have be more thoughtful and pragmatic in presenting my values and ethics to them. *I* have to understand the "why" before I can help them understand.

When asked point-blank whether God exists or not, I have explained various viewpoints, including other gods and goddesses in the list of "what people believe". I am very honest in explaining that we cannot prove that any god exists, but that people chose to have faith in one god or many, for many different reasons. I try to stress the difference between scientific proof/knowledge and faith, and how these things are compatible and how they are not. I often answer with "this is what we know and can prove, this is what we don't, this is what some people believe" and asking them "what do *you* think?" Because someday they're going to choose for themselves what they believe and I have no desire to dictate that to them. Not by conditioning them now while they are young or prejudicing them toward or against one belief system or another. I care only that they are good, strong, ethical people, who are critical thinkers and intelligent, not that they worship Jesus or Odin or no one.

Kids are smart and vastly underestimated. Kids who aren't told what to believe, who aren't scared by hell fire into accepting a system they are too young to understand, and who are taught how to think are really fun to have deep conversations with. They know they can ask me anything and I'll answer them as honestly as I can and have no problem saying "I don't know, what do you think?". I have no agenda to make sure they have The Right beliefs or none at all. They are and will always be free to chose any faith or none, THAT is the gift I want to give them now as I raise them to be free-thinkers. It was not a gift ever given to me as a child. The only thing that would ever disappoint me is if they chose a faith system that devalues them and other humans. And yet, I'm not all that worried. They are strong thinkers, science-minded, emotionally healthy, with hearts full of discovery and empathy. I could be wrong but I can't see them throwing out those instilled and natural values, but rather bringing them into whatever faith they choose.

Raising thinking children means being a thinking parent. It means no cliches, no pad answers, no dismissing. This is really hard, not gonna lie. It goes against everything I once was and once believed. It's meant re-training my habits and reactions and thought-processes in order to be more true to myself and more honest with my kids. It means being fearless in my thoughts and my answers to their questions, being vulnerable, being uncomfortable, admitting wrong, being honest and open. But I find myself at peace with the relationship I have with my own beliefs and with my children. This is a journey, one I'm sure we'll be on for a long time yet. But we're on it together, forging a connection and trust, even if I don't always know how to answer their questions.

And, really, that's the most important thing.

Friday, May 22, 2015

On Forgiveness


I'm having a difficult time with this concept. I know in my world, it meant "you nicely forget everything bad that was done to you and never bring it up again or treat the other person different because, they're forgiven. As far as the east is from the west." It was like the magic eraser of all wrong-doing. And you didn't have a choice in the matter. If you didn't forgive someone, God wouldn't forgive you. You'd allow a "root of bitterness" to spring up in your heart, "give the Devil a foothold" and suddenly Satan had a stronghold in your soul from which he could reign terror over your life. Didn't matter what the offense was, they were all equal in the sight of God and all needed to be forgiven and you certainly aren't perfect so who are you to withhold forgiveness and cast stones. That one time I lied pretty much negated any right I had to be angry at my sister for stealing from me or angry at my mom for manipulating me. Being angry at someone who sinned against you wasn't allowed because that meant you hadn't truly forgiven them. Remembering what they'd done and avoiding them or treating them differently because of it wasn't true forgiveness either.

No matter how much I try, I cannot help but see the concept of forgiveness as a means by which you enable people to hurt you. A means that abusers and toxic people use to control you and be sure you never talk about what they did to you. All wrapped up in a neat package with the label of "For The Bible Tells Me So".

Since becoming an adult, I have only seen forgiveness used to hide serious evil against other human beings. Abuse of every kind is covered up by the world "you must forgive them". And victims are silenced and suffer alone, feeling like they are the ones who failed when they cannot help but be angry or sad at how someone has treated them. They are not allowed to be angry at someone who abused them because "no one is perfect".

As far as I can tell though, forgiveness from a Judeo-Christian perspective, as far back as the Old Law, was not anything like what the church preaches today. It was really more of a legal definition. That whole eye for an eye thing? It's talking about natural retribution. Payment for a debt owed. If someone hurt you or stole from you, they owed you and you had the right to retribution, to make them pay. Forgiveness was about debt. Not about saying "it's OK, I'll forget this ever happened and we'll all feel loving again". No, it was more like, "I will not enact retribution for this action. I will not take what is owed me." Now that I can get behind. ('Course Christians claim that Jesus came along and changed all that and that's where it gets a little murky in the area of definitions and practicality.)

And yet....some actions demand retribution. They demand a debt be paid. This is how our legal system works. You kill or steal or destroy, you pay. It's how all human institutions have functioned throughout all history. Wrong-doing demands retribution. Whether or not a person chooses to forgive that debt that is owed, and how they choose to do so, is completely up to them. No one can demand that from them. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with forgetting what was done or demanding that someone not feel a certain emotion for it or treat the evil-doer as they would someone who had not enacted evil against them. This is not only unhealthy, it is dangerous.

I am so sick and tired of people playing the forgiveness card. The manipulation is disgusting. And the control that it has over so many people thanks to religion is abhorant. "Forgive" a child molester? Um, no. That's a debt that legally must be paid so others are protected. Whether the child demands retribution for that evil against them or not is up to the child and does not affect how the rest of the world treats a person who commits such atrocity.

People need to stop hiding behind the modern Christian view of forgiveness, stop trying to coerce people into shutting up for Jesus. Stop telling children that if they feel revulsion and hatred for a person who molested them then God won't forgive them and their lives will be ruined. That kind of forgiveness can never be a choice. It will always be coercion. Those kids who were abused deserve to enact retribution. They deserve to feel whatever they want to feel. They deserve to say "No, I don't forgive you for this pain". And they deserve the choice of when or if any amount of release of that debt happens in their own hearts, regardless of what justice must be enacted on their behalf.

We deserve to be angry. To be filled with rage. To not let abusers off the hook because they pulled the forgiveness card. We deserve the choice to determine how we handle wrong-doing against us....without coercion or guilt-trips or religious platitudes. We should not be told that we cannot judge an atrocity because "he apologized"and "you're not perfect either". (One nice thing about not being a christian anymore is that I don't have to believe that the one time I stole five dollars from my dad is just as bad as Josh Duggar molesting his sisters. Judge him I certainly will.)

And the next person who tells me "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" is going to get some rocks chucked at them.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Through Our Eyes

Death to life
Darkness to light
Evening to morning
Winter to spring
Despair to hope

Over and over and over again, from the beginning we never saw to the end we will never see.

This is who we are, what we do, what we obverse, what we grieve, what we celebrate. Like everyone who came before us and those who will come after us, our lives march to the rhythm of these things.  

Peace to you all today as you celebrate this circle of life in whichever way you prefer.

I wrote those words on Facebook this morning, trying to present another perspective in a sea of "He is risen" posts, trying to honor all my friends who choose today to honor life in their own ways.

A friend immediately sent me a note thanking me for writing an Easter status that wasn't triggering.

Another friend was chatting with me, sitting in a coffee shop after she tried to go to church this morning and just couldn't. "People need to know that there are other people hurt by the church", she said.

People need to know.

They need to know that many of my friends have avoided Facebook all weekend because the blatant religiosity causes them physical pain.

They need to know that watching the people who inflicted that pain post sanctimonious scriptures about death and resurrection is like a knife in the heart.

They need to know that many are missing family gatherings today because they are no longer an accepted part of a family that cries "He is risen!" yet rejects their own in His Name.

They need to know that people like me can't sit in a church service or in a group of Christians arguing about pagan holidays and what day Jesus was crucified because both cause panic attacks.

They need to know that when we watch them post about how gay people don't deserve pizza and wedding cakes, then turn around and post about how Jesus died for them and is risen, all we can think is "Who gives a shit that your god is risen when you can't even bother to treat others as human beings? What good is your god and your faith then?"

They need to know that many, so many, people whom they claim their savior died for are hurting today because of them. Because of Christians. Because of church. Because of teachings that taught them they are worthless without god, that their worthlessness killed god, that the only thing keeping his wrath against them in check is the torture and blood of an innocent. "Alas and did my savior bleed and did my sovereign die? Would he devote his sacred head for such a worm as I?" Because "come as you are, open to all" is usually a lie as some of us know that far too well.

I know it's hard to imagine that something that gives you such joy can cause others horrific pain. That this isn't a happy day for so many people. Some of those others want so badly to get the same joy out of your faith as you do. But they can't. Maybe someday they will be able to, maybe never again. It's hard to imagine that your faith you love so dearly isn't the answer for everyone. That when you insist it is, you can hurt more than help.

But this day, right now, there are people hurting as a direct result of the church caring too much about how well people celebrate a day on the calender and not enough about who has been kicked out, abused, forgotten, and shunned. Told it was their fault. Told they deserved it. Given a To-Do list to finish before they are accepted back. Lost their family because of religion. Told God wants them to suffer for their perceived sins. Told they are not good enough for community. Made an outcast. Told what was done to them by Christians was sanctioned by God.

Is it any wonder so many are hiding and avoiding social media and celebratory gatherings today? 

I wrote this once:

"No matter how hard I try, the abusive religion I grew up immersed in will always be there in the scars on my heart, screaming louder as I try to silence them in order to think. I'm so very tired of the struggle.

If you've managed to find a God that isn't abusive, kudos to you. I can't find Him. I only see what people do in his name, I only feel the fear of being a child afraid of hell and afraid of God, the overwhelming disgust at all the things I have felt and heard and said and done and wept about because of him."

When mentions of Easter and death and sin bring up flashbacks of abuse masked in religiosity, telling people "not all Churches" isn't going to help. Leaving your church pew in search of them, not to preach, but to sit and listen and just be, without ulterior motive or agenda....that would help far more. If you want to show "not all Christians" it will have to be with actions not words. It will have to be on other days too, not just this one. "He is risen" written all over Facebook and spoken from pulpits today can't erase the ugly that was said done all the previous weeks.

People need to know.