Even though I had long ago said my goodbyes to you, somehow I still wasn’t ready to receive the call. How do I say a final goodbye to the monster who had been investigated for owning child pornography? To the father who said he loved me while failing to do anything to protect me? I hadn’t seen you since I was twenty five, and I’d blocked you on social media a couple of years ago. I thought I was done with you. But your death made it otherwise. It has summoned me to face you in the horrific entirety of your life.
You were, after all the daddy who taught me how to tie my shoes and took me to watch roller derby. You showed me where to move my knight on the chessboard in order to protect the queen. You taught me how to ride my first two wheeler like a grown up girl, despite the fact that the bike was a bit broken. The handlebars were too loose so I never had full control of the bike, especially not on a sharp turn into our gravel driveway. I neatly sliced my thigh open and it was you who took me to the hospital for stitches. You were always there to save me. Except that you didn’t. Read the rest over at Cagibi
At 29, I lost my virginity in a one night stand with a drummer. He played for one of my favorite local Denver bands, and from his first set to his last, threw out a beat that rocked my body. I wanted him even though I was scared of what sex would actually feel like, even though I worried about STD’s and possible pregnancy. These things didn’t matter in my quest to have sex before I turned thirty. I had grown up in an evangelical home where I was taught to wait for marriage before having sex. But even that didn’t matter. I wanted him on top of me, in me. I wanted proof that I existed. I wanted proof I wasn’t dead inside. I had just finished my PhD comprehensive exams. I had been out of therapy for a year and had broken up with my conservative Lutheran boyfriend—my first boyfriend ever except for a two-week trial run in college. That college boyfriend refused to even kiss me because he didn’t want the relationship to get “too physical too quickly.” My sexual experience up till then would have made Andy Stitzer from The 40 Year Old Virgin look like a porn star. Read More at Huffington Post
“Where is my real daughter? What have you done to her?” My mother is inside the apartment, pacing back and forth. I’m standing just outside the front door where she has ordered me to stay until I answer her. I am shaking uncontrollably. It’s a cold February evening. She asks again, “Where have they taken her?” and taps the door a little every time she walks past so that it is slowly closing. “Once the door is shut, they’ll come after you.” It’s 1982, and there’s no Internet yet, no Snopes website to warn me this might not be real. I am alone in Denton, Texas with my mother and her lover who believe I’m in the occult. Read More at Entropy
I first read Slaughterhouse-Five the way I do most books; I devoured the first ten to fifteen pages, skipped to the end, and then worked my way towards the middle of the book from both directions. That’s how I read every book from childhood into adulthood. I even studied for my PhD exam in literature and reviewed books for the Washington Post using this method. I read much like Billy Pilgrim experiences time—in starts and stops and never in sequence, everything out of order.
“Why would you do such a thing?” A writer friend of mine once asked me at a group dinner after I mentioned my style of reading and my need to know how a story ends. “The end is meant to be experienced as the end—it’s a journey,” he explained. Others turned to hear my reply, but I couldn’t find anything satisfying to say. I knew my reading process wasn’t more efficient; if anything, it took me longer to read books and stories, to piece together exactly what happened. I didn’t understand then, the connection between how I read books and how I often processed time, in stops and starts, my desire to know the end fueled by fear and a desperate need for safety, for knowing what would happen. Read more at Joyland
In October 2016, pastor Kenneth Copeland warned Christian voters, “you’re going to be seriously, seriously held to account by God if you don’t vote … you’re going to be guilty of murder. You’re going to be guilty of an abomination of God. You’re going to be guilty for every baby that’s aborted from this election forward.” My breath grew shallow as I listened to the video repeatedly, making sure I got the quote correct.
The more I listened, the queasier I felt because I had forgotten just how powerful and foundational the rhetoric of hell is in creating a spiritual and political consensus among Christians. Whoever can help capture more territory from the devil and his army is the candidate to vote for. In the language of spiritual warfare, one candidate’s individual behavior pales in comparison to the millions of unborn souls that are saved.
I think this fear of spiritual rejection is what keeps many evangelical Christians loyal to Trump. But the threat of hell doesn’t just make conservative evangelicals politically active — it encourages the policing of other people’s spirituality so that no one backslides into the fiery depths of damnation…As a soldier for Christ, one’s job was to protect the boundary while advancing against the enemy. Read more at Huffington Post
I was twenty-five years old when I decided to break up with my father. I suppose I could have started with the standard it’s not you, it’s me, but that seemed too trite given that our relationship began the day I was born. What was really going through my mind was more along the lines of it’s not you, it’s me, no it really is you, all you and if you could just acknowledge that in some way, this could be saved and I wouldn’t be sitting here right now wondering how to start this conversation. Read More at Vol. 1 Brooklyn
Rage is probably the most terrifying emotion for a Christian to negotiate given its bad reputation. While there are sermons and verses warning us against the dangers of unrestrained anger, there are few, if any, that argue how righteous rage can be the most revolutionary emotion. Remember that Jesus used his rage to purge sin from the temple (John 2:13-16). He didn’t politely ask the merchants and moneychangers to leave or bring his complaint to the elders. Instead, he overturned tables and used a whip to drive out those who turned the temple into a business. It was spirit-filled rage that enabled Samson to kill one thousand Philistines using only the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:14-17). When outnumbered or outmatched, directed rage can be a great equalizer for the marginalized.
Perhaps now, more than ever, Christians need to redefine their relationship to rage — particularly women’s rage. The nation watched Dr. Christine Ford testify about her alleged assault while maintaining a gracious demeanor whereas Brett Kavanaugh was allowed to rant about his supposed mistreatment. This double standard stems from centuries of social conditioning, as well as a rather sexist interpretation of the Bible that argues women are to be silent and submissive. Read More at Sojourners
There’s a story in the Old Testament about a man named Achan who helped invade Jericho. In case you don’t remember (or never heard of it), Jericho was the city that Israel circled seven times for seven days, causing everyone inside to become completely neurotic. On the seventh day, the priests blew the trumpets, the people of Israel shouted, and that city wall fell down like it was made of Papier-mâché. Achan wasn’t necessarily one of the trumpet blowers, but he was there to help finish the job. While they’re going through the booty, he takes a few coins and some clothes (being out in the desert for 40 years, no one had done any recent shopping)—nothing too extreme. But Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, had warned them that the city was cursed by God, doomed to be completely destroyed. Achan disobeyed this warning, not only disobeyed, but hid the accursed thing, causing Israel to lose its next battle. There was no three strike rule back then, so once Joshua found out, there was little else to do but stone the entire family and burn them.
It’s a brutal passage and I’m not quite sure why my mother had us looking at it one Saturday afternoon. “How many stones would it actually take to make a person keel over dead? Probably took a while,” I say, because at twelve, I have a dark sense of humor. It’s the genetic code I share with my mother, but our shared DNA had been questioned lately and was quickly being dismantled, disintegrating with every interrogation about my possible participation in the occult. Read the rest at Entropy
In 2016, America came close to having its first woman president. Instead, our electoral college has given us a man who revels in grabbing women’s pussies. This unrepentant misogynist gained the White House in no small part due to the actions of evangelical right. In The Washington Post, Sarah Pulliam Bailey stated that Hillary “symbolizes much that runs against their beliefs: abortion rights advocacy, feminism and, conversely, a rejection of biblical ideas of femininity and womanhood.”
I grew up in an evangelical culture that demanded knee-length skirts and little makeup. I was taught to believe that women were to be submissive and peaceful, that we were the “receivers” and men the “initiators.” Pop culture often plays into this messed-up binary with men being labeled as the hunters and chasers, the political movers and shakers. But the patriarchy imposed by the Christian Right in which women are seen and not heard actually runs counter to stories of women in the Bible. The women in the Bible, far from being spiritual wallflowers, were actively political, even revolutionary. While I heard sermons about Delilah and Jezebel, or Mary and Martha, the Bible features many women who were neither seductress nor servant. They were nasty women. And God loved them. Read More at Heavy Feather Revie
Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the wall came a tumblin’ down. I used to sing that song in Sunday School every week. Funny thing is that no verse ever mentions the slaughter of children and mothers. Or of the people’s screams when they were invaded. We always bypassed those atrocities to focus on how Rahab was rescued because she had helped Joshua’s spies, how miraculous it was the city walls fell down when the Israelites shouted. Never mind that they left no soul alive.
Songs for adults were no less militaristic, with one of the best known hymns being Onward, Christian Soldiers, which describes one’s faith in war terms such as “battle,” “foe,” “army” and the “thrones [that will] perish.” That was in the seventies, but even in the emerging church I attended in Denver, movie clips we were shown often revolved around The Matrix, Braveheart, Gladiator—stories of battle and victory. Understand this: most evangelicals were raised on the rhetoric of war. Before I was ten I knew how to put on the armor of God, from the breastplate of righteousness to the helmet of salvation. It didn’t matter that I was girl—I still got a sword and a shield. We needed this armor because of Satan’s constant attack but also because Christians were persecuted at every turn. Read More at Huffington Post
In 2013 I quit my full-time teaching job in Denver, Colorado, sold my house and car, and moved to New York City because I needed more magic in my life—and I knew NYC had it. A writer friend rented his three-story townhouse in the East Village to me, and my community of sci-fi enthusiasts—authors, editors, and publicists—nicknamed it The Castle. I threw massive masquerade parties and hosted impromptu salons for artists and writers specializing in speculative fiction, fantasy, and the grotesque.
When my friend sold his place, I bounced around for a few months until my friend Cynthia von Buhler, an immersive theater producer, introduced me to puppeteers Erin Orr and Chris Green. Erin and Chris offered me a room in their puppet and antique filled apartment, which seemed like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
Then in 2015, I had the opportunity to rent a room in an Episcopal seminary in Chelsea. Given that my father worked for three televangelists (including Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the infamous Heritage USA) and my mother ended up entrenched in the Satanic panic of the early 1980s, I couldn’t believe I’d found a home in a place where priests lived and studied. The seminary reminded me of Hogwarts—it was old, magical, and sacred. It was exactly what I needed. Read mover over at Lit Hub
This past week has been one of the hardest of 2018 as I have watched evangelical leaders come to the defense of Brett Kavanaugh in light of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault. Franklin Graham tweeted: “Judge Kavanaugh has a stellar reputation of judicial excellence, integrity, & character …” Christian blogger Matt Walsh tweeted a similar sentiment: “Kavanaugh’s accuser had THIRTY FIVE YEARS to go to law enforcement about her allegations. … This is an absolute joke now.”
But it wasn’t just individual men who called Christine Ford’s accusation nothing more than a political stunt. On Sept. 20, the Faith and Feedom Coalition, which claims “over 1.8 million members and supporters,” called for the Senate Democrats “to immediately cease their desperate and unfounded character assassination attempts” and argued that Kavanaugh “is a devoted Christian family man with a lifetime of integrity …” Journalist Ruth Graham tweeted a screenshot of an email sent out by Focus on the Family, which labeled Ford’s claims as “11th hour allegations” and encouraged support for Kavanaugh as well.
As a survivor of molestation when I was 5 by a “good Christian man,” who happened to be my grandfather, these responses brought back an array of panic, shame, and rage. I realized that many in the white evangelical community were going to stand by a man who would serve their conservative interests rather than seeking the truth.
- “Strange Bedfellows” Who Will Speak for America (with Melissa Febos, Carmen Maria Machado, Jericho Brown, Herman Beavers, Sam Miller, & more)
- “Creating Visual Rhetoric and the Monstrous,” Monsters in the Classroom
- Evangelical Confessions of a Diehard Liberal, Entropy
- In the Hall of Faith, Huffington Post
- Listen to the Pope, Not Franklin James, if You Want to Know Jesus Huffington Post
- You Can’t Believe in God and Turn Away the Refugee Huffington Post
- How To Survive Being Bipolar During The Apocalypse Huffington Post
- Love One Another, Ben Carson? I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means Huffington Post