Sunday, April 13, 2014

I am Your Parent, The Psycho

This meme has been popular around Facebook lately. I'm sure you've all seen it:

It disgusted me, so I wrote my own version that displayed the kind of healthy relationship I want to have with my children, and my friend Joanna made this with it:

I like my version better.

Monday, March 3, 2014

On Homeschoolers, Stories, and Dismissal

I'm not gonna lie, this is going to be harsh. I'm angry and frustrated and exasperated, and this post is the result of that. So don't come on to my comments and tell me how angry and emotional I am, Captain Obvious.

I was homeschooled. (I know, duh, right?) Most of my friends past and present were all homeschooled. Thanks to the internet, I have made connections with thousands of homeschoolers from all over the U.S. and Canada and a few other countries, some of whom I knew once in a former life, some I've never met though our stories sound the same. They are my cohort, they get me, we all grew up in this weird sub-culture that was varied yet similar. We are adults with careers, families, and lives. We have stories and we're telling them. Those of us who were lucky are standing in solidarity with those that were not. We are trying to get people to understand something complex and difficult, something most of us have had to wrestle with for years. To understand what went wrong when so many just wanted better for their families.

But many people aren't listening. Worse, they are trying to completely invalidate our stories.

People in our generation that either weren't homeschooled or they were homeschooled well, without all the crap that so many of us experienced aren't taking us seriously. People in our parent's generation treat us like children to be disregarded, discredited, and outright denied our stories and pain.

"Well, you're just bitter."
"You just want to rebel against your parents and God." (side note: how old do I have to be before I'm not "rebelling against my parents" anymore? And what happens if my parents now agree with me?)
"You don't have a spirit of gratefulness for everything your parents sacrificed for you."
"You should be honoring your parents not speaking badly about them!"
"Most homeschoolers aren't like that."
"Don't go from one extreme to another."
"Your abuse has nothing to do with homeschooling."
"How dare you link homeschooling with abuse!"

If you want examples of this, just go browse through the comments on posts on Homeschoolers Anonymous. The outrage and disbelief and dismissal is thick enough to slice with a knife. People comment in indignation on HA's Facebook page about the content of the articles printed there. "How dare you misrepresent homeschooling like this?!" (Because people telling their true life stories are obviously diabolically "misrepresenting" homeschooling.) These people don't care about the very real faces behind those stories. They only care that the image of Almightly Homeschooling is preserved intact while the inside rots in darkness and filth and brokenness because, oh, we don't want to talk about those things.....we only want to see the nice, pretty stuff. Nothing bad ever happens in Homeschool Land! Well fuck that shit. That's the 
attitude that CREATED these stories and these broken lives and we are all so over it. 

If you weren't homeschooled, don't tell me my experiences aren't valid. You have no idea what you're talking about any more than I would have any idea about things like prom, sports teams, or high school cliques. Don't tell my friends that the abuse they suffered had nothing to do with homeschooling. You don't know that. You have no idea the complexity that is abuse in homeschooling families. And if you're from my generation and are enthusiastically homeschooling your own kids, then it's even more crucial that you listen to people that grew up homeschooled. I don't see why you wouldn't want to. We lived the way you've chosen for your kids. We can tell you what we liked and didn't like, what worked for us and what didn't, which roads led to a cliff and how to avoid those. We're like this totally awesome resource that you can utilize yet the main reaction we seem to get from you these days is disdain and dismissal. You might want to rethink that. I pay rapt attention to people who were public-schooled so I know the pros and cons and what to watch out for with my own children. It's just common sense.

If you're a former homeschooling parent from our parents' generation, don't sit on your high horse and condemn your children for telling their stories. Don't deny their pain because you're too much of a coward to look into your own life and see how you caused it. Don't tell them not to speak badly of you when you acted badly toward them. Shut up about how much you sacrificed for them when they're bravely trying to explain that you hurt them. Just fucking listen for a change.  "But we were good parents!" you say. No, no you weren't. If you're telling your adult children to stop talking, that "it wasn't that bad" and denying their pain, you're shitty parents. I can't even imagine defending myself if one of my kids told me I hurt them. But then, I'm under no illusion that I'm better than they are or that my reputation matters more than their pain. Stop treating them as errant children. They are the age you were when you decided to homeschool them.

An entire generation of homeschoolers have grow up and they are telling their stories, the good, bad, and ugly. Most of us have lived our whole lives under crushing standards, expectations, and facades, and we are done. So done pretending. There a lot of successes and a shitload of failures that came from the conservative homeschooling movement and we will talk about all of them. Because information is power, empowering the next generation to help avoid the awful parts of ours. They NEED to know what went wrong, from the perspective of the guinea pigs. We alone can tell that part of the story, paint that part of the picture, speak from the very darkest places in our hearts about the parts that went so desperately, terribly wrong. What do people think? That we share the worst parts of our stories to billions of strangers on the internet for the heck of it? We share because WE FREAKIN' CARE. We care that others not go through what we did. We care and desperately want to save others from needless pain. This isn't some joyride we all decided to take part of. This shit hurts, and the derision we experience from family and friends is daunting, but staying silent while others suffer is a far worse pain than honestly exposing our own wounds.

Don't come on here and tell me how sorry you are that I had such a bad experience but I can't judge all homeschoolers by my terrible experience and blah blah blah. I didn't have a terrible experience. I was one of the lucky ones. My parents actually gave me a great education and loved us and didn't physcially abuse us, even as they were victims themselves of a spiritually abusive system that judged them as harshly as it judged us. Was I scarred from shit in my past directly related to homeschooling? Yes I was. And that's MY story, much of which I've told on this very blog. But I have sat and listened to hundreds of the stories of my friends who were not so lucky. I have held them as they cried and tried to put the broken pieces of their lives back together. I have written the stories of my friends as tears poured out of my eyes and onto my keyboard. I have heard unspeakable things that NEED to be spoken but no one knows how because they are too hard to face, because no one believed them, because people like you silenced them. I started college last year at 29 years old because my desire to help people heal from abuse is so great I decided to become a therapist so I could really help for the rest of my life.

I am so sick and tired of people trying to silence me and my friends. So let's get one thing straight: We will not be silenced any more. We aren't going away. We've discovered the power of large groups of pissed off people that have a lot in common, that have been silenced and controlled too long. We've found that it only takes one brave person to speak up to allow everyone else to be brave. You can discredit our stories all you like, ignore the frantic warning signs we are holding right in front of your noses, and keep on perpetuating mistakes on your own children. And when they grow up and write blogs like this and this and these, you will only have yourself and your pride to blame. We'll just be here to hug the survivors and give them a place to talk and an understanding ear to listen, and to keep on fighting for people as we've been doing all along.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Was That Parent

Libby Anne, of Love, Joy, Feminism, has been writing a review of Micheal Pearl's book, To Train Up A Child. Today she got to the chapter on "The Rod". And my heart broke all over again. Those words from that chapter...they are like a knife in my heart. I want to forget I ever read them. I want to forget I ever followed them. This is my story, one I haven't shared in all it's details to many people. One I am ashamed of, that makes me angry at myself, at the Pearls, at spiritual abuse and how it invades and takes over every aspect of your life til life itself is choked out.

I was one of those parents convinced by this book that if I didn't spank my child, I didn't love them. I was convinced that I was just emotional and needed to "toughen up" (something Micheal says to mothers throughout the book), that this was what my kids needed to turn into good people.  That if I didn't follow Pearl's advice, my kids would be delinquent perverts. That if I didn't "win" every battle, we'd all lose. But the fact was, we all lost anyway.

I had my first two babies in one year, 11 months apart. Both high-needs, one later diagnosed with ASD. Before I had them, I had read everything the Pearls ever wrote. It made perfect sense to my teenage mind and I was determined to raise my kids this way and reap the promised benefits. Then I actually had kids. And it all went downhill from there. I started to lose my resolve to spank/swat into submission for every infraction when my oldest was around  9-11 months.  She was so young and stubborn and, try as a may, I couldn't completely turn off my conscience. I started to become sporadic with my punishment since it seemed all we did was battle with our baby, and started picking my battles because it didn't seem like I ever won and we were exhausted and I just flat-out didn't think I'd have to spank so much before I had her. The Pearls and others say that if you train early and consistently, then your child will be sweet and submissive at an early age, but it didn't seem to be working. I thought maybe I wasn't doing enough "training sessions" like they say to. I felt so guilty for co-sleeping just so we could sleep and baby-wearing so I could get things done (as opposed to "blanket training" which just seemed pointless to me). I just knew that I was setting us all up for failure for letting my baby control me and not training her better when she was young. But I excused myself because I was pregnant and sick and tired. My resolve was renewed when my 2nd baby was 6-12 months old and I remember with heart broken how I spanked her for not eating her food, thinking I had to or she would be spoiled and I would prove that I'm a wimp and hate my children. (When she was later diagnosed with ASD and SPD, I realized that texture mattered to her and there was no way she would eat certain foods. She is 6 1/2 and still extremely picky, something I came to understand as normal for a child like her, for most kids actually.) I remember not feeding my baby, like they said to, because she wouldn't eat what was offered to her, supposedly teaching her I was in control of her food and pickiness wasn't allowed. Thankfully, mother's intuition kicked in after her 3rd missed meal and I caved and fed her, somehow knowing she would starve herself before she ate something she didn't like. Again, feeling guilty and like a failure. Conflicted because part of me even then was thinking "fuck this shit" as part of me still hung onto it as "God's best way".

Somewhere after that time, around the time my 2nd daughter was 2 1/2 and diagnosed with autism, I gave up. I stopped pouring over the Pearl's books, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I started researching childhood development and working with therapists and behavior specialists for my daughter. A whole new world opened up to me as a parent. I began to work *with* my children's development instead of against it. And I was appalled I had ever thought the Pearls knew what they were talking about. Everything they advise goes against all common sense and science and child psychology and understanding of childhood development. I was appalled I had been so ignorant, had ever done such things to my children in the name of love, in the name of following God, in the name of good intentions. All the good intentions in the world cannot erase my guilt for those few years. Guilt that has since turned into righteous anger. I went from feeling guilty that I didn't follow their advice to feeling heartbroken that I ever tried.

Much research and a lot of experience later, I am now a complete believer in positive, respectful parenting and a die-hard attachment parent. It's my natural parenting style that I had stifled because I read in those books that it was wrong and worldly and my kids would end up in hell if I followed anything else. Well, if this is hell, bring it. Our family is so much more peaceful and I actually like my kids, and I am free to be the parent I want to be and they are free to be children. Where there was once expectations of perfection and antagonism, there is now only love, grace, mercy, and unfinished parents and children who are walking this journey together, on the same team. And we are all so much happier for it. I'm so glad we gave up on "the only perfect way to raise kids" before they were old enough for much damage to be done. We haven't spanked our children in years, one has never been and never will be, though we were still hanging onto spanking in the back of our heads as something we might use in drastic situations while finding other means to communicate with our kids. About a year ago, we consciously swore off ever hitting our children again. I fully believe that parenting can be done with respect, that children are people too, and that spanking is very damaging, no matter how you do it or how much you love your kids. There are much better ways to raise good people.

And, can I be brutally honest here? Fuck Micheal Pearl and his stupid, destructive books. I despise them with all that is within me. I will not stop speaking out against their damaging advice, telling my story, hoping that other parents and children might be spared. Children have died because their parents followed these methods. And it's not hard at all for me to see why. It could've been my own story. Thank God I couldn't quite stifle my conscience and instinct and natural love enough to follow their advice perfectly for very long.

People who were not raised as I have asked with disdain how anyone could follow such abusive methods. They shake their heads at the horrible parents that would ever practice such things. And I try to explain the ideas of spiritual abuse, brainwashing, and toxic faith in a system that teaches "do what we say, or your kids will go to hell". The control by fear. I cannot justify blindly following someone out of fear, and even now I only blame myself for choosing to follow a method that hurts, but I do understand. I understand that parents who love their kids and have the best intentions can do the worst things and follow bad advice. I understand that many parents think they are loving their children while abusing them. I do not justify them or me, but I get it. I hurt for them. I am angry on their behalf, on my behalf, and for our children.

Libby Anne's conclusion of the matter hit me like a ton of bricks:

"This is toxic. This is how Michael convinces otherwise gentle and loving parents to beat their children with plumbing supply line. I really don’t know what else to say here except that this section is so toxic it takes my breath away. What Michael is doing is telling parents to turn off their consciences and their natural human love for their children, because beat their children they must. We like to think of child abuse as something that is only done by angry, hateful parents. Sadly, because of books like this, that is not true. "

She couldn't have been more agonizingly correct.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Of Homeschooling and Cohort Effect

Sometimes I feel like I'm from another country. Or maybe another era. I'm a child of the 80's, yet I know nothing about being a child of the 80's. I can't relate to pop-culture references and feel awkward when people my age laugh about something I'm supposed to know about but don't. I see funny posts entitled "You Know You Grew up in the 80's and 90's When...." and I get maybe 2 references in the entire article. Sometimes it's funny and I laugh at myself. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes I sit in a group of people and wish I knew what they were talking about, wish I had that camaraderie they all seem to have, wish I didn't feel like an oddball, like I will always be an oddball. Sometimes I like being an oddball, when it's of my own choosing. Sometimes I wish I had a choice in the matter.

I'm studying all kinds of fascinating things as I'm finishing the last half of my BA in liberal studies. The psychology and sociology-related classes are my favorite. I came across this word and concept a few weeks back: Cohort. And suddenly, things started falling into place in my head; ideas with a lot of gaps and holes and flashes of pictures started forming and making sense, like pieces of a puzzle that were missing but aren't anymore. Cohorts.....cohort effects......and it hit me:

Homeschoolers are basically their own cohort.

No matter what part of the country we are from or how old we are, we experience a cohort effect that other people in our age group do not. Even though all people from our generation are technically in the same age cohort, homeschoolers are actually in their own cohort with their own sociocultural-graded influences that the rest of our culture did not experience. We often joke among us that we were our own sub-culture. But I think it's deeper than that.

I was asked as an essay question for a class to write a couple paragraphs on how cohort effects have shaped my worldview on things like politics, gender, science, and religion. And I thought, where do I even start? I'm not just in the cohort that was born in middle class white America in the 80's. Matter of fact, I have very little relatability with anyone in my birth/generational cohort because I basically grew up in a completely different cohort.

Oxford Reference describes "Cohort" as:
"A group of people who share some experience or demographic trait in common, especially that of being the same age ..."

The Psychology Dictionary defines "Cohort Effects" as:
"The effects of being born and raised in a particular time or situation where all other members of your group has similar experiences that make your group unique from other groups"

This is usually used to describe a group of people born at the same time, who experienced similar history, and their similarities in development. Like Generation X. Or Millennials. Or Baby Boomers. People born in the same time and the same place. Though it can also be used to describe sub-cultures within cultures.

The cohort effect is something that must be taken into account when studying developmental psychology or lifespan development, because something could be erroneously attributed to an age group that actually describes a cohort, a group of people that shared specific happenings, demographics, or historical events. This article has a very good, simple example of this effect in studies, and why it matters.

Those of us who were part of the pioneer Christian homeschooling movement, no matter how extreme or not, no matter where on the spectrum of conservative to liberal we were, we relate to each other in ways we cannot relate to the rest of our age cohort. In reality, we experienced history differently. We had our own culture and our own leaders and our own historical events that the rest of America knew nothing about, but that were very important to us. They defined us and we were proud of that. It's not the fact that we were all home educated that creates this dynamic. It's the fact that we were all part of a home education movement that was not just counter-cultural, but *anti* cultural. We were raised in a movement with varying degrees of the same teachings and varying degrees of sheltering, for all the same reasons. We were, most of us, raised under the influence of the same leaders.

Find me a religious homeschooler from the 80's and 90's that doesn't know who Josh Harris is. Or has never heard of courtship. Or HSLDA. If you don't, you are the exception and your parents were probably hippies that didn't want government interference in their families so they homeschooled you in a bus on a mountain somewhere (like my husband. Heh.) Think about these concepts for minute and the pictures and memories they conjure up: Ken Ham, Abeka, Rod and Staff, homeschool conventions, the Pearls, modesty, denim jumpers, fear of going outside before 2PM, Bill Gothard, courtship, parental rights, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, evils of rock music, submission, Saxon math, biblical manhood and womanhood, women's roles, keeper at home, "what grade are you in?" "I have no idea", Creationism, ATI (either you were in, or you thought that at least you weren't as weird as the people that were), R.C. Sproul, Howard Phillips, quiverfull/huge families/ "are they all yours?!", Mike Farris, government brainwash centers (aka public schools), evils of dating, head coverings, fear of child-snatching CPS, evils of feminism, evils of sex ed, evils of Halloween, evils of pagan Christmas, evils of kissing before the alter, evils of peer pressure, homeschool co-ops, culottes, endless questions about how you get socialization and whether you do school in your PJs, skirts-only, Biblical Worldview, Republican conventions, government conspiracy theories, 15 passenger vans, no TV, Mary Pride, family bands with matching clothes, and King James vs. NIV. To name a few.

Not included in that list are the major historical events that we *didn't* know about or experience the way that most people in our age cohort did. The killing of John Lennon, the Challenger disaster (which I didn't know about until I was an adult), the fall of the Berlin wall, the massacre of Tiananmen Square, the Rodney King trial, Princess Diana. Not to mention the lack of knowledge of entire segments of history such as the Civil Rights Movement or the Suffragette Movement. We knew nothing of pop culture: music, movies, art, except that they were "worldly". These were deemed contemporary, products of a relativistic worldview, and thus worthless, while we studied the Reformation period or the Founding Fathers or the Civil War instead.

We are the products of a pioneer movement; the good, bad, and ugly. A movement many of us have grown up and left behind, some of us floundering in the world we are trying to be a part of now but were never prepared for because we were told we were not supposed to be "of this world". We have similar memories, both positive and negative. We look back on our own lives and we relate to one another, even if we've never met in person. Thanks to the internet age, we who thought we were alone and weird and oddballs have found each other, found people that are as oddball in all the same ways as we are. We have found that we are not alone in a culture we don't understand but pretend to anyway. We may be in similar or vastly different places in life right now. But no matter where we are in life, and what we believe now, we have a shared experience that no one else in our generation has. 

This can be a difficult concept to share with other people. Last night I was out with some new friends and they were exchanging stories of their first kiss and getting in trouble for sneaking out or smoking or drinking or playing hooky, and when it was my turn, I said "Well, I got in trouble for wearing pants". The silence and stares were deafening. Had I said that in a group of ex-homeschoolers, there would've been laughter and rolling eyes and sympathy. Because we *know*. We get it. We lived it. We can laugh about it together.

"The effects of being born and raised in a particular time or situation where all other members of your group has similar experiences that make your group unique from other groups"

Perhaps I'm using these terms all wrong and someone smarter than me can correct me. I just know that for better or for worse, the definition fits. And it really explains a lot.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dear Parents, The World Does Not Have To Be Cruel

People think kids must be treated a certain way because "the world is a cruel place" and kids should just learn that from the start of their lives. It's true that the world is a cruel place and my kids will discover this eventually. But I am not the world. I am their mother. I am the one that should show them a haven in a cruel world. I am the one they should be able to come to when they are tired of the cruel world. I should be their safe place, not just an extension of the cruelty they will find when they leave me. *Perhaps the world is a cruel place because we think we need to teach our children that the world is a cruel place.* Perhaps if we instead taught them that the world doesn't have to be cruel, if we send newly-made adults out into the world, having been taught kindness and respect and justice, they will in turn create a world of kindness, respect, and justice. 

I think what our world needs is adults who were once children who know first hand what respect means because the adults in their life modeled it every single day. Children learn what they live, and they become the next generation to raise more children who learn what they live and the curse of authoritarian bullies that rule the world, turning it into a cruel place continues. What are we teaching them by our interactions with them? That the biggest and strongest can impose their desires on the weak? That leadership is about oppressing people? That the smaller you are, the less your desires and ideas matter? This is what I see when I look around me, at parents and children. This is the brokenness that will carry on to the next generation if we don't stand against it and show a better way.

I see parents getting patted on the back for making their teen stand in shame on the side of a road, holding a sign that says "I disrespected my dad". It is obvious to me where they learned such disrespect. But, hey, do as I say, not as I do, right? I'm bigger and that's all that matters? That seems to be the most popular parenting method these days. It is no wonder our world is cruel when the ones who are responsible for teaching respect and kindness are teaching shame and hatred instead. 

I refuse to perpetuate the brokenness. To show with my life that the Golden Rule only matters if you are not a child. To prove by my actions that only the biggest are due respect. I prefer to teach my children that a person is a person, no matter how small, and that everyone matters. "Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly" begins with me, the mother, the molder-of-lives, the hand that rocks the cradle. It begins with us who, with words and actions, influence the next generation. It begins with how the powerful treat the smallest and weakest. And actions scream louder than our words ever can. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Leaving Christianity

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” 
― Galileo Galilei, 

“The Bible has noble poetry in it... and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies.” 
― Mark Twain

“If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be—a Christian.” 
― Mark Twain,

“Ninety-nine percent of everything that goes on in most Christian churches has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual religion. Intelligent people all notice this sooner or later, and they conclude that the entire one hundred percent is bullshit, which is why atheism is connected with being intelligent in people's minds.” 
― Neal Stephenson

“Love is larger than the walls which shut it in.” 
― Corrie ten Boom

“I want Jesus to come back and say 'THATS NOT WHAT I MEANT'" -” 
― Margaret Cho

“…Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I don't know what will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. We're more popular than Jesus now. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.” 
― John Lennon

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

“You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
― Anne Lamott

“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me--that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” 
― Anne Lamott

These quotes sum up where my heart is these days. Which would be right in the middle of a conflicting, insane, uncomfortable mess. This holiday season marks two years since we left The Church (tm). Two years of half-heartedly trying a church here and there, searching for something we never found. Two years of being in this limbo place between wanting desperately to belong and not caring if we ever stepped foot in a church again. Two years of a spiritual detox. Of judgment and rejection and hesitant friendships begun and trust trying to bloom again. Of stepping back and seeing this thing called "christianity" with new eyes....the eyes of an outsider.

I am nowhere closer to resolving this conflict over religion in my life. I'm not sure I ever will be. But today I realized something.

I am done. I am done with Christianity in America. I want no more part of it. I have no wise words or inspirational thoughts here. Just weariness and raw honesty.

I look around me and I see nothing about Jesus in Christianity. I see a lot of judgment and cliques and pettiness and fear. I see rules and regulations and church constitutions that have more pages than the book of Mark. I see bigotry and sexism and homophobia and hierarchy. I see "pastors" that look more like powerful CEOs of businesses than servants washing feet. Questions that aren't allowed to be asked. "I'll pray for you" being thrown at everyone that doesn't fit the mold. Conformity masquerading as unity. Insincerity and masks. Weak cliches thrown at broken hearts. Power and control and greed and and performance and who has the biggest church and the best worship team and the most accurate theology.

That doesn't mean I'm done with God. I'm not quite sure where I stand with the idea of God. Walking away from institutionalized religion has caused me to ask even more questions, seek for more answers, and mostly to let my heart rest and be. I'm not any less conflicted about Jesus or why I believe in the God of the New Testament. I'm just OK with the conflict now. If God is who he says he is, he can handle my doubt and questions. If he doesn't exist, then doubt won't hurt anything. If he's some vengeful, sadistic god that won't let you into heaven if you don't pray some prayer then why would I care what he thinks? Obviously I lean toward the first scenario. Mostly out of choice, and partly because there are things I cannot explain and deeply personal happenings and issues that cause me to believe in something higher than myself. And I kinda like that Jesus guy.

My spiritual journey is messy, for sure. And there isn't room for messy misfits in America's churches.
People are leaving The Church in droves, and there's been a myriad of boring articles trying to explain why. Postulating all kinds of nonsense on why those darn Millenials just won't go to church. But why do these hot-shot pastors spewing such things never just sit down and ask. ASK the people who left why they left. Is that really so hard? Or do they even really want to know? Micah from Redemption Pictures put together many heart-rending stories worth consideration. 

When asked about leaving the organized system of Christianity, here's what a couple of my friends had to say:

"My personal view is that what frustrates me so much is definitely the man made version of Christianity. My entire life, I have been told what the Bible says, what the Bible means and how it applies to my life. But I am not the only one: our entire western society is dominated by a certain ideology of This Higher Being we call God and what His Book should dictate in our lives. In my opinion, this ideology is completely twisted and lacks basic Truth. I'm not sure what the Truth is but I know what it is not. " ~Naomi

"I am right there with you. I'm sure I'll study Jesus more at some point, but I've just been tired for more than a year and can't even begin to think much about it. Stopped attending church all together about two years ago, now that I think about it. Wow. I barely ever missed a Sunday before that. I think you'll find that the sentiment you shared is not so uncommon anymore. We're hurt, frustrated, and burnt out. Doesn't mean that we don't still want Truth."  ~Amy

"The more I read and question, the more I'm convinced christianity began to lose its way back in the 3rd century when it began to be formalized and politicized and has been on a more or less downward spiral from there." ~Heath

"But this is what concerns some activist Christian leaders, that we are all not attending church anymore, so America is going down the tubes! They don't seem to understand that just because we can't take their institutions anymore doesn't mean we have abandoned God or the Bible. We just abandoned performance." ~Matt

"I got so waterlogged of Bible after 3 years of Bible school (forced by my family because I was "rebellious" and it was that or homelessness,) that I have rarely opened a bible since, six years later. Since I got married we have rarely gone to church and we recently realized we are done with Christianity altogether. We want truth but most Christians do not live out what they claim are their greatest truths (Love God, and love your neighbor, pray for your enemies.) I am not going to be disrespectful of another person's choices or religion. Granted, if something a religion believes is a human rights violation I would do everything in my power to see it stopped, but if I disagree with someone else's path I am not going to mock them for it. How is that loving your neighbor? And yet I see Christians do that all the time." ~Jennyfer

When Christianity is used to justify bigotry, hatred, hitting children, sexism toward women, rejection of LGBT friends and family, bombing other countries, rejecting people we don't like, controlling people, spending money on huge buildings instead of feeding the poor, judging other people, splitting families apart, bondage, wars, throwing away logic and it any wonder that many of us are just done? We're tired of trying to reconcile that innate belief of justice and morality that Christians say points to God, with the God we are told is love. It cannot be reconciled and some of us cannot live in cognitive dissonance any longer. The answer is as simple and as complex as that. The institutions and businesses on every corner that people call "church" are nothing like the church I read about in the New Testament. Maybe someday I'll find a group of people that want that pure, simple fellowship in faith, and that aren't afraid to ask hard questions, and aren't afraid of doubt. Maybe I've already found it in many of you I've met online.  Maybe I've found it in the people I meet and walk with every day, some Christians, some not. Maybe it can't BE found inside the stifling walls of a church building. Maybe Love was never meant to be caged like that.

I have no idea what the future holds for my spiritual journey or if I will someday try Church again. I'm open to the idea. But for now, I'm just done. To save my heart and soul, I am done.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Post About Motherhood and Image-Worship

Alright. It's time for a Mommy-post. As a mother to 4 crazy kids 7 and under, mothers have a special place in my heart. We have a really difficult job. No, the "the most blessed job" or "the most difficult job" or whatever other claim all those mommy-blogs you read say. It's just difficult. And blessed. And, well, sometimes feels dang near impossible. So when I come across another article that heaps even more impossibility and judgment on the heads of mothers in the name of Christianity, I have to say something.

I came across this post today, on a well-known Fundy blog that promotes strict gender-roles and much striving for perfection in women of all ages, all in the name of God:

What Kind of Picture Are You Painting?

She starts off like this:

You’ve seen her, that Mom.
Maybe you, like me, have been her: that Mom.
You know, the one in sweat pants and hair that hasn’t been washed in three days who’s pushing a cart with more kids than groceries in the store that keeps all the breakable items at toddler eye-level.
The one with bags under her eyes from too many nights in a row with more work than rest.
The one with the little girl wearing flip-flops, a winter coat, a t-shirt two sizes too large and a skirt that’s…wait, she is wearing a skirt, isn’t she?! I’m sure she had one on when we left!…The one with the little boy who is begging for a snack and clearly in need of a nap.
The one with the gassy baby screaming for someone to take her out of the car seat so she can “let it all out.”
The one with a long trail of animal cracker crumbs left behind her by a toddler who opened a box that wasn’t on the original shopping list.
The one who’s perfected The Glare and is using it liberally.
The one who just let her kids know that they’re going to “get it” at home without saying a word.

Painting a picture of a tired, chaotic mom. Then she contrasts it with this picture:

Maybe you’ve seen the other Mom too. Maybe you’ve been her.
The one who looks like she just stepped out of a Pride and Prejudice movie set with a long, flowing skirt, hair gracefully twisted into an elegant bun, a few wisps purposefully left out and curled to frame her face, perfectly manicured hands pushing a buggy that works – full of children still, but ones that everyone stops to say are adorable.
The one whose well-rested, well-dressed, obedient, happy children remember to smile and say “thank-you” to the lady in the bakery department when she hands them a cookie.
The one with lips laced in kindness and patience as she carefully explains for the tenth time to her inquisitive three-year-old the health benefits of each organic vegetable they pick out together and place in the cart.
The one who people admire and inquire “How do you do it?!”

She then goes on to say that the "picture we paint" of motherhood with how we look when we're in the grocery store is important. I mean, what if a "raging feminist" (her words) looks at us and we look like the worst mother and that "raging feminist" decides right then and there to never have kids? We have just failed Jesus, y'all!!! Everyone that sees us will think terrible things about God and motherhood!! Oh noessssss!!

I can only imagine the picture I "paint" when I go out with all my kids:

Kid #1 always has crazy hair and mismatched clothes. I let her dress herself because it's fun for her and teaches her autonomy. As long as it's weather-appropriate and she's not naked, I consider it a success. And her hair is impossible to keep orderly. I try, honest. I've considered shaving her head but she's not keen on the idea.

Kid #2 is always dressed as Snow White or Raphunzel or a ballerina or a gothic fairy, complete with wings. Because it makes her really happy. She's autistic and I love her creativity. She puts together the wildest outfits but has to have her hair all perfect. And she loves boots. It's so cute. She is so uncaring about what anyone thinks and just dresses how she loves.

Kid #3 usually looks pretty normal, but often is mistaken for a girl because he's beautiful and has gorgeous long, blonde hair. Even though he's also usually wearing camo and super-hero clothing and his shoes are always on the wrong feet. He's convinced they're the right feet and after a few arguments I just drop it.

Kid #4 is just a baby. In this heat he's usually just wearing a onesie. I pack him around on my back in a Beco Gemini. He's usually babbling and playing with my hair and laughing at his siblings. Or crying and screaming because he wants down. Sometimes he smears snot on my back. His face never seems to be clean no matter how many times I wash it.

They're all very loud, all the time. It's like this happy roar wherever we go. Unless it's not happy. Then the fun really starts. Most of the time it's happy...singing, laughing, making weird noises, goofing off, "Mommy can we buy that huge TV for our living room?" and "Mommy that man has a funny face!" and "I hafta go potty!" and "can we look at the fishies?".

As for my appearance.....well.... I try to be clean, and match, but I don't "dress up" to go to Target. I mean, I really rock the shorts and tank and sandals look. Especially if I remembered to shave my legs within the last 5 days. I tried wearing a sundress out once, because I love them, but that didn't turn out so well and I don't like flashing an entire parking lot full of people because one kid just has to see my belly-button RIGHT THEN (we're working on boundaries. It's a difficult concept for a 3-yr-old). Occasionally I might swipe on some mascara, but often because it's taken half the day to just get everyone ready, I'll skip the make-up. My hair is usually in a pony-tail, but always clean. Except those days I just run out of time and I declare a hat day. Sometimes I can keep the smile on my face. Sometimes not. Usually I'm thinking about my list I forgot and mentally comparing prices and trying to plan the next 5 meals in my head while keeping my eye on everyone while trying not to run into other shoppers or accidentally grab someone else's little blonde kid, and while answering the barrage of questions that get flung at me by 3 eager little children who think Costco is the best store ever, full of wonder and delight and samples.

So I guess the picture I'm painting for the world to see is that of a busy mother who has full hands and heart, is a bit of a hippie, has creative, fun, friendly, loud, happy kids, who love our quirky life, who are far from perfect, and none of whom give a damn about what other people think of us. Because that's what this lady is actually saying. "You need to care about what everyone else thinks about you." She's just couching it in spiritual-sounding terms so she can hide her hang-up about what others think behind a spiritual concept and feel better about her need to appear perfect to everyone around her.  Because, as Jesus said, "They will know you are my disciples if you dress and look like you stepped out of a Jane Austen book". Ohhhhh wait........

I honestly feel sorry for her. And her kids. I can't imagine living under that pressure to perform for the world like she does. And how dare she praise that brokenness and heap it as a burden on other moms?! Don't we have enough on our plate without worrying that we're making God look bad because we aren't perfect-looking? What about those of us who have special-needs kids? Try going shopping with an autistic child who is scared to death of public restrooms or has melt-downs in the store because the sensory overload is too much.

This woman is so worried about what "message" she is sending to other people in the store....what about the message she is sending to her own children, and now proclaiming to other moms: That looking perfect is what matters. That "having it all together" is most important. That what other people think about you should rule your choices. This is image-worship, my friends. It is nothing short of idolatry. She is worshiping a certain image and telling other moms if they don't measure up to it, then they didn't plan well or they don't care what other people think about motherhood or Jesus. Golly, just reading what she wrote makes me exhausted. What a sad way to live.

Everywhere I go, people say nice things about my kids and I. Not because we look like we have it all together (we don't). But because we're happy (for the most part) and we're free from pressure to perform, and my kids are friendly (sometimes a little TOO friendly) and respectful (usually). People don't notice how we look (except sometimes my #2 daughter gets told how awesome her princess/fairy/ballerina clothes are). They notice things like happiness and freedom and grace and love. Even on the bad days when I think the latest grocery expedition is a complete fail, someone always smiles and says "you're children look like so much fun!" And it makes me smile, even when I feel like crying and never leaving the house again.

Mothers, just be you. Give your kids the freedom to be themselves. It's OK to not smile all the time. It's OK to not look like Lizzy Bennett with a bunch of smiling, quiet kids tripping in a perfect row behind you. I'm like 99% sure God doesn't care about what you look like. He cares about your heart (oh yeah, I read that in my Bible somewhere). He cares that we show love for each other. He doesn't care if your hair isn't washed or your kids' clothes don't match or you're wearing yoga pants. If you have to carry a screaming kid out of the store, He isn't judging you for making Him look bad. The people making Him "look bad" are the ones using his name to judge and to put other mothers in bondage to image-worship and perfection.