The summer of 2000 was supposed to be my best yet. I had passed my oral comprehensive exams for my Ph.D. and now only the dissertation stood between me and my dream of being a professor. I had just turned 30 and felt physically better than I had in a long time, except for a nasty cyst near my tailbone that had become inflamed through summer heat and sweat. I went to a doctor who prescribed me a round of Keflex (Cephalexin) to take care of it. “If it works,” she said, “then we won’t have to surgically remove it.”
It was enough of a threat that I finished the entire packet. On my final day, when I was out shopping, my ladybits suddenly felt itchy. Really really itchy. I thought maybe it was the July heat. I liked to blame the summer heat on most things — my depression, insomnia, lack of ambition. You name it. But by the time I got home, I knew something was terribly wrong. Read more at Fearless, She Wrote
According to our patriarchal culture, I am trapped in the amber of being a woman. I am to expect violation from men, and yet, I am bombarded with rules about how to prevent it, and when it happens, society will demand to know why I couldn’t stop it. Time travel was the only way I could survive this destructive logic as I floated between the living room where Lawrence Welk music played and the bathroom where my grandfather stood, a great big blue towel being pulled off his waist. I learned how not to be fully present, how to let a portion of myself escape. Survivors like me send that part out to the ceiling, the sky, another room or an imaginary land to ensure we have something left when it is all over. Sometimes, though, we don’t know we’ve been trapped until after the fact. We forget that no matter how many rules we follow, a predator finds a loophole. Read more at Joyland
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
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. Read more at Huffington Post
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
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. Read More at Sojourners
“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
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 Review
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….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
I spent the Fourth of July on a Brooklyn terrace barefoot and drinking a lovely pinot while watching the sun break into streaks of gold and pink as it set. In front of me and a small audience, hip-hop artist Mandella Eskiatook the microphone while polymath rapper Mike Larry Draw spun a soft orchestra of accompanying sounds that I could not call music because it became more than music.
I registered it as a choir singing backup to a preacher as Eskia’s words spun around me. “Don’t touch me, your hate too disgusting, we stay on that upswing, you pray I get nothing.” I didn’t understand the tears in my eyes or why my hands were suddenly clenched together as if in prayer. I only knew this place was flooded with holiness, that the Spirit was here as Eskia rapped about love and resistance, about identity and social justice. Even after I went home, I couldn’t shake the line about prayer.
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…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.Lit Hub
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. My parents had met at Philadelphia College of Bible, so saving people and relationships was a big theme in my family. I was raised on verses such as Exodus 20:12 that promised long life for those who honored their fathers and mothers, and I had to acknowledge the violence I was about to commit in telling my father that the markers of “father” and “daughter” no longer applied to us. I was about to break linguistic and spiritual codes in the next few minutes. But this abandonment was years in the making. Read More at Vol. 1 Brooklyn
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. (Read more at Sojourners)
As a writer and academic living in New York City, I often forget how close I was to becoming a radicalized conservative while growing up. I was raised on the notion of God and country first. Everything else played second fiddle, whether friendships, education, art, or occupation. My parents, who met in Bible college, believed that Christians were slowly losing ground to Satan in various ways — from governmental socialism to abortion to liberal-biased reporters. I have written elsewhere how my mother, fueled by this kind of Christian fundamentalism, ended up having a psychotic break while we lived in Texas. I fared only slightly better with my father, who worked for Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker at Heritage USA and then moved us to Colorado to work Paul Crouch of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. My father’s job was fulfilling the great commission by making sure all countries, cities, and villages, no matter how remote, heard about Jesus Christ via television. If the enemy was going to infiltrate the media, TBN would be a safe haven for the faithful.
Wear purple underwear every day. Sit in a cafe where the barista knows your name. Wear the same four skirts but with a different shirt when you go to work. Buy extra underwear so you don’t have to do laundry as often. Juggle. Pray. Whatever makes life bearable or even close to decent as news hits us every day about how much worse things are going to get with the current administration. When surviving a depressive episode I have rituals that help remind me I will return above ground someday. I string up enough twinkle lights to rival Clark Griswold’s house in “Christmas Vacation.” I wear a special ring that I tell myself gives me power. I let myself binge on mindless movies in between grading or writing articles. I’m not looking for happiness, just basic hope that there will come a morning where I wake up and feel neutral—neither terrified of what could happen that day or full of manic energy because I barely slept the night before. Read more at HuffPo
It’s not an exaggeration to say I was groomed from the womb to be a soldier in God’s spiritual army, to take whatever battle wounds dealt to me in our war against sin. My grandparents had been missionaries in Tanganyika Territory, Ethiopia, and Kenya, and when I visited their house as a child, I would sit on an elephant foot stool and listen to how they ministered to all those lost tribes who, in their view, unknowingly served Satan. When I was seven my father went to work for televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye’s PTL Club, a talk show format that brought pastors and performers together… It grew into an empire fairly quickly during the 70’s and 80’s, becoming a worldwide cable network, and amassing 2300 acres of land to make Heritage Village, which would house chalets, a palatial hotel, mall, and even a water park. We went there just for retreats at first. Meanwhile, at the church we attended, I had Bible drills that helped sharpen our memorization of scripture. We sang victory songs about Noah building an “arky arky” and how Joshua fought the battle of Jericho (both songs are about massacres, by the way,—one of the world, the other of a city). No matter how bad the trial or tribulation, believing in God meant that you’d eventually win. Read more at Entropy
- “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
- 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
- Love One Another, Ben Carson? I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means Huffington Post