Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Magic formulas

On some of the fundie women's forums I frequent, there is a recurring theme that if you only do all the right things--homeschool, dress modestly, don't use credit or loans, be a stay at home mom, and become pregnant every eighteen months--God will bless you abundantly and fulfill all of your of your needs, both financially and physically.

Here is how this is working in my life:

On Saturday, I got my first homeschooling catalog.

On Sunday, I took a home pregnancy test and found out that I am, indeed, pregnant.
On Monday, I fell off my porch that is being remodeled(debt free, I might add), and tore 75% of the ligaments in my left foot and ankle.

Fortunately, I am only a part-time stay-at-home mom, and I have Aflac through work, and my husband is not self-employed and thus has Blue Cross Blue Shield through his job, so the ER and X-ray bill are completely paid for and Aflac will send me a nice check.  

So according to my fundie friends, God is blessing me with something good(my hospital bill paid and the Aflac check on top of it) for something bad that happened, and the only reason that bad thing happened is because Satan doesn't want any more godly children and was purposely tripping me to make me decide to use birth control.

You can't make this stuff up.  That last paragraph is pretty darn close to what a fundie friend told me this morning.

Works-based religion is one of my biggest pet peeves with any legalistic movement.  There is zero Scriptural evidence that God considers birth control a sin, and a whole lot of evidence that God can send a baby to a couple whenever He wants, regardless of their age, status as a virgin, or usage of conception.  The passages describing things such as debt free living and modest dress are not commands, but guidelines.  Yes, it is wise to live life without buying things you really can't afford on credit.  Yes, it is probably wise to dress in such a way that cars aren't pulling over and asking how much you charge whenever you walk down the street.  Those are good things--but they are not Biblical commands. And God does not love a stay-at-home, headcovering, homeschooling mom any more or any less than he loves the single mom next door who is working two jobs to try and pay the bills and wears jeans.   Scripturally, there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less than He already does.  That doesn't mean we have free license to do whatever we want--Jesus was pretty clear that we need to love God and love others, and He had strong words to say about those who put on a show of better-than-you to try and earn points with God.  The Pharisees, anyone?  The ones who prayed loud prayers thanking God for how wonderful they were?  Jesus couldn't stand them.
And neither can I.

So that is what bothers me about works-based religion.  If I can do all the "right" things to earn favor and be blessed by God, what was the point of Jesus?  If all I have to do in order to have a good life is A, B, and C, then why are there so many struggling people doing all those things?  Why do I know so many young adults who grew up hard-core fundie who want nothing to do with God or church, and many who have significant anxiety and depression issues? 
Because there is no magic formula. Regardless of what the Pearls, Doug Phillips, Geoff Botkin, fill-in-the-blank tell you, there is no one magic formula for a happy life.  There is no guarantee that if you homeschool/home church/shelter your kids that they aren't going to grow up and hate you, and then go live a normal American life.  Good things are not going to happen to you just because you are living a certain way that a teacher is telling you. 

What really happens is that good things, like this baby coming next June, and bad things, like a sprained ankle, happen to everyone no matter what.  Accidents happen and people get hurt; it doesn't mean Jesus is unhappy with you.  Good things happen, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you're living the right way.
There is no formula.
No magic.
Only life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Love at fifteen

Once, a long time ago in high school, I fell in love.  As much love as a 14-year-old can be in, but it felt real at the time. Looking back, I think it was real.  A different love than the love I have for my husband, for I was a different person at 14 than I am at just about 30.

This young man was entrenched deeply into patriarchy, though I didn't see it at the time.  His family was so deep into patriarchy that when we were 15, they went and lived at a "mission" in the Appalachian mountains.  I can only describe it as a commune though it portrayed itself as a training camp for future missionaries. In any case, they eschewed not just birth control, dating, public school and regular church, but also electricity, just in case you might be called to a country where they had no electricity.  Phone calls to the outside world were limited to Sunday nights at the leader's house where they listened to every word, and, though I have never been able to prove it, I strongly, strongly suspect our letters to each other were read not only by his parents, but by the mission leaders.
I wasn't much different fifteen years ago than I am now.  It screamed cult, and cult was what I called it. Blatently. Loudly. To their face.
  My letters to him were filled with teenage refutations to the arguments they presented--why women shouldn't go to college. Why dating was bad.  Why birth control was anti-Biblical.  Why it ticked me off completely that their practical classes were segregated by gender--the men studied construction, hunting, community planning, first aid.  The women studied childrearing, homeschooling, sewing, and cooking. I argued that we should not get married at sixteen years old so I could go to the misison field with his family. (Seriously, the cult leaders recommended that. I suspect they thought marriage would shut me up and make me toe the submissive line.  I should hunt them down now and let them talk to my husband about how well that worked)

I should have seen it.  But by then I was 17, and we were madly, deeply in love.  I didn't want to see what would happen. I didn't want to realize that I was a threat to the cult leadership; that one of their followers in a relationship with a smart, outspoken, opionated, educated and assertive woman would destroy what they had tried to build.

But it came down to one question.
Would I submit to him in all things after we were married, even if it was something I believed to be a sin?
And the answer was no, I would not.

I'm nothing if not honest and blunt.  What you see is what you get with me. And no, I would not, could not, submit to my husband in all things. 

After three years, that was the end of that relationship.

Eventually they realized it for what it is, and left.  From mutual friends, I know that he, his wife, his parents, brother and sister-in-law are still wallowing deep in patriarchy and the family-integrated church movement.  I run across articles that he or his in-laws have written every now and then.

The last thing he told me was that I wouldn't find a good Christian man if I couldn't submit.

Today is my 2 and a half year wedding anniversary.
My husband is a good Christian man. He was a deacon in his church for a while.  He believes in God, and Jesus, and a literal interpretation of the Bible.  And he loves so completely and totally that it takes my breath away.  Two-and-a-half years of marriage later, just hearing him walk onto the porch makes my heart skip a beat.  We are madly, passionately, truly in love with each other.
And my husband does not expect me to submit to him in all things. 

He expects me to love him, and I expect him to love me.  I expect him to put my needs and wants ahead of his own, and I do the same for him.  He would not want me to do something he wanted if I firmly believed it was wrong, and I would not want him to do something he believed was a sin.  This isn't submission.  It's mutual respect and love, two core building blocks of any marriage.
Patriarchy has no place in our marriage.

So in the end, I dodged a bullet. I met someone, even if it was ten years later, and fell in love.  And this is why I talk about patriarchy and gender roles and submission.  I talk about it for the fifteen year old girl that I was, in the throes of teenage love.
And I talk about it for the fifteen year old girls that are out there today, who for whatever reason aren't able to look at the patriarchal movement and say, loudly and boldy, This is a lie.  I talk about this for the fifteen-year-old girls who have been taught and believe that they are worth nothing more than their virginity and then their wombs.  I talk about this for that fifteen-year-old girl, sitting in her room in her long skirts, exhausted from caring for her siblings and the responsibilities of a large family.  For the girls trapped and not seeing any way out.
This blog, and everyplace else I write, is for you.