losing my religion

Introducing – No Shame Movement

In the past, I’ve been told it isn’t a good idea for me to write about about religion. But I can’t help it–I’m drawn to spirituality. It’s a huge part of people’s lives. Here in Canada, only 23.9 percent of the population claims to not have some sort of religious affiliation. Therefore, those who believe in (a) God are in the majority.

Whether it’s discussed or ignored, religion has tremendous cultural and personal power. Most people’s understanding of the divine likely colours the way they view themselves and others. Faith also has the power to determine the way folks perceive every part of their lives, including their sexuality.

When religion has a healthy influence over the way someone sees relationships, it can promote a deeper level of things such as commitment and self-care. When its impact is unhealthy, it can lead to distorted ideas concerning oneself and others. Among Christians, this negativity can manifest itself through purity culture, an entity that

…encompasses the emphasis on virginity before marriage and on maintaining emotional purity that pervades fundamentalism and evangelicalism, made visible in purity balls, purity rings, purity pledges, and modesty teachings. These teachings are not limited to fundamentalism and evangelicalism, and can be seen in the culture at large with the slut/virgin dichotomy and the prevalence of abstinence only sex education in public schools. In its most extreme, the purity culture involves giving up dating for a return to parent-guided courtship, and even arranged marriages.*

Fortunately, some are daring to turn the tide. Not too long ago, I got in touch with Lola Prescott, creator of No Shame Movement, a platform committed to countering purity culture’s stifling hold on Christianity.

no-shame-movement

I asked her some questions, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to share her thoughts on my blog.

What’s your religious background? Were you born into a church family?

I grew up in a Christian household, around conservative evangelicals and Pentacostals. I also attended Christian schools during my preteen and teen years.

Growing up, what were you taught about sex?

Explicitly, I was taught to believe that sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed between husbands and wives. Implicitly, I learned that sex was something that men do to women: Men want sex and women must do everything they can to keep them from getting it.

Any discussion of sex outside of marriage was considered disgusting. For instance, TV characters who talked a lot about sex were thought of as “raunchy” and cast in a negative light.

Policing or shaming people’s sexuality is an integral part of purity culture. Can you give me an example of a purity culture tool that you think has been especially harmful?

[Purity culture] infantilizes teens and young adults. They’re taught to “avoid temptation” in a variety of ways instead of learning how to set healthy boundaries and communicate with their partners; it also doesn’t teach the concept of consent.

It’s harmful because it has resulted in a whole generation of Christians who have no idea of how to have a healthy relationship and believe they’re “damaged” [because of] any physical activity they’ve engaged in outside of a heterosexual marriage.

When it comes to myths that some Christians perpetuate about sexuality, what do you think is the biggest one?

You’re either Chaste-y McVirginton or you’re a sex fiend, running around having sex with any and everyone. Also, [there’s] the notion that having sex outside [of] a hetero marriage will ruin your life…When you’re told consistently that sex will result in heartache and depression, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Suppose someone tells you that we need “purity culture” to keep us on the right track in our Christian walk. What would you say to them?

I have a website full of receipts that say otherwise. One of the main reasons I started NSM is to have a place for people to share stories. It’s easy to argue with one person, but a multitude of people sharing stories with a common theme is harder to ignore.

In terms of deconstructing or destroying purity culture, what do you think people can do? Do you think it’s possible…? Better yet, how can people heal from its influence?

It is definitely possible, but it’s an ongoing process. People [need to] start with educating themselves. Many people who grew up in purity culture are woefully uninformed about sex ed. Get to know your own body and discover what you like and don’t like. Be patient with yourself. Recognize whether or not you’re ready to be sexually active, and don’t be afraid to communicate that clearly with your partner.

Also, [it’s important to] talk to people who share your experiences.

The bottom line is to understand that the things that are best for YOU don’t necessarily equal things that are best for ALL.
How can people find out more about you and the No Shame Movement? What’s your URL, social media handle, etc.?

You can visit noshamemovement.com for more info. We’re also on Twitter @noshamemov, as well as Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Flipboard.

Thanks again to Ms. Prescott for her time.

*Definition taken from The “Purity Culture”–a definition and resource list on pathos.com

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losing my religion

Dear Conservatives: Do Better.

I’m disgusted…

I’ve been thinking that I ought to get back into my blogging groove for a while. Over the weekend, I started organizing a list of topics. My days were set. (Sorry I’m late. 😉 ) The first thing I wanted to share with you was my take on an article I’d found via a link on Christianity Today’s website. The topic? Child abuse.

I’ll get to it later, though. Earlier today, I began to watch this interview featuring Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.

In case you’ve decided not to watch, Mr. and Mrs. Duggar were being questioned by Megyn Kelly about their son Josh’s abuse of their daughters. I’ll admit it: My viewing experience didn’t last very long. Almost immediately after I pressed “play” on that video, my shoulders tensed up. As I listened to Ms. Kelly’s questions and the Duggars’ replies, something didn’t seem right to me.

For now, I’ll spare you my thoughts on that “something”. Instead, I’ll talk about the point when I decided I’d had enough.

Around almost 7 minutes into the interview, Megyn asked Mr. and Mrs Duggar if they’d considered turning their son in to the authorities.

Cut to Jim Bob’s answer.

“As parents, you are not mandatory reporters.”

I couldn’t go on much further after that.

Mr. Duggar believes that parents are “not mandatory reporters” of abuse. He does not think that they should feel obligated to tell the police if their children have been abused. Needless to say, Mr. Duggar’s words left me feeling a mix of disgust and worry. There are already countless abusers in the general population. Along with them are parents who either know about instances of abuse, or suspect it. How many of them will watch Jim Bob, hear what he says, and fail to protect their children because they don’t believe that they’re obligated to do so? How many are already doing nothing, and now feel justified by his claims about the law?

More importantly, what do conservative Christians–and even as I say that, some conservative Christians, because I can’t believe that all of them are that ignorant–have against doing the right thing?

The article I mentioned earlier disturbed me for one simple reason. (Feel free to read it here. Note that it was published before the Duggars’ interview, yet its content supports their line of thinking.) In spite of its seemingly neutral wording the only thing I understood was that it perpetuated a very harmful message.

If you don’t want to report abuse, remember that there are states where you can get away with keeping quiet.

I want to know: Where does this need to protect abusers come from?

Abuse victims deserve more than what some folks are willing to give in terms of integrity and justice. I can’t tell you how sad it is to me that in instances of abuse, certain Christians forget that

…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God…

(From 1 Corinthians 6: 19)

Every human body is sacred. It’s hard for me not to notice how quickly some remember that when complaining about a host of supposed worldly evils. Yet when it comes to protecting abuse victims, suddenly, they can’t be bothered.

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losing my religion

Why Christian?

I mean, really. What’s the point anymore?

I know some people are asking themselves that question. Especially in an age where fundamentalism seems to be the dominant public face of the religion.

That question is also the title of a conference headed by Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber: Why Christian?

I found out about their gathering yesterday. It’s definitely piqued my interest.

When I saw the page featuring their speakers, I smiled.

If I may be frank with you, I’ve never seen so many women of colour on a conferenced helmed by two Caucasians. From what I’ve seen, such diversity is normally included when a conference’s founders are people of colour.

Although I still know very little about Why Christian?, there was something else about it that struck me as unique. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first…And then, Rachel dropped this tweet:

Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Christian conference (hereafter called a “CC”). Yet I’ve seen plenty of their websites.

Why is it that many CCs that have predominantly (white) male speakers are marketed to everyone within their demographic? (By “everyone” and “demographic”, I’ve seen pages for conferences for church musicians, youth leaders, you name it–yet there’s no discrimination among the gender of those who are expected to attend.) Meanwhile, when a CC lineup features a predominantly black or female group of speakers, then that’s exactly who I see in footage of its audience. (The only exception are a handful of Caucasians or men that I’ve observed.)

I used to assume that these unique attendees were family or close friends of those who are a part of said conferences’ mainstream. However I realize that in making such a conclusion, I’ve ruled out another option. What of the man or woman who has looked at a conference’s web page and said, “I am a Christian. I believe that the people who are going to to speak will be saying something that is relevant to my walk with God….”?

Hence, they decide to attend regardless of the risk of being perceived as an outlier.

Our perceptions of who belongs where need to change. Especially in religious circles. Or for the sake of this piece, Christian ones. Just because a speaker doesn’t appear to match perpetuated norms, don’t assume that you won’t learn from them.

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I'm just sayin'., losing my religion

A time to rant.

Maybe it’s because I’m black. Maybe it’s because–no matter what others say–today’s homophobia smells a little too much like Civil Rights Era racism, but I’ve grown tired of not saying anything.


Source

Yesterday on the Huffington Post I found this article regarding evangelicals and homosexuality.

Apparently the authors are bothered about the fact that some Christians’ actions/words are referred to as “hateful”.

Did you read that entire post? If so, bless you. I couldn’t make it past the introduction. And believe me. I tried.*

Via Twitter today, I discovered this article. Andrew Marin, proprietor of The Marin Foundation, wrote a response to the aforementioned piece.

I started to check out the comments. And made one of my own.

In fact, I said

It has occurred to me that a lot of people’s resistance to gay marriage and gay rights comes down to a matter of ego and selfishness.

I was inspired after reading another user’s words:

If the likes of Focus on the Family came out and said something like, “We’ve said some horrible judgemental things about the LGBT communities in the past and we’re sorry for them – they were wrong”, would they then no longer be “haters” if they still opposed marriage equality on the religious basis that “marriage can only be between a man and a woman”? At that point would it itself be “hateful” to launch huge PR campaigns to demonise people and institutions just because individuals hold to traditional religious views and wished to see them enshrined in the laws of the land (in the same way that some wish to see non-religious perspectives become part of the State’s formal framework).

Just wondering where the balance in all this lies.

(emphasis added)

Which were written in response to someone else…

I’ll tell you one thing, friends…I am sick and tired.

I am tired of the pointless blame and immature whining of Christian conservatives regarding homosexuality.

A lot of folks want to blame gay people for ruining the definition of marriage.

Well. Would you like to know what I think makes a mockery of marriage?

1. Divorce. If you’re going to claim that heterosexual marriage is where it’s at, then what of that 50% divorce rate? I don’t believe that divorce should be banned outright. Yet some people give up on their relationships far too easily.

2. People who think that marriage is a game. Let’s face it. Far too many folks take greater care in their vetting process when they decide to buy a car or a piece of cheese.

I once heard of an instance where a man (an artist? a pro-gay-rights activist?) met a woman, went to (his city’s) city hall, and married her. Not out of love. Not even because he thought she was hot. But because, hey. She was the right gender. As was he. They fit the combination concerning what constitutes a “lawful” marriage in various states and provinces, so–what the fuss–why not make a go of it?

He did it to prove a point, and I believe he made it.

All that sarcasm to say this.

Why do some Christians feel compelled to adopt a superiority complex concerning those who do not hold the same views as them?

As for the commenter that I responded to above, I remember feeling angry as I wrote. And sad over what some people of faith have become. Many of those institutions who want to uphold “traditional” marriage are vilified. But is it without reason? They often use hyperbolic rhetoric, depicting homosexuals as inhuman.

And for what?

To make gay people feel like the odd persons out?

Is it because the Word says so?

As much as I love my Bible, there are A LOT of regulations within it that Today’s Good Christians do not follow.

Goodness knows, if some literalists had their way, I wouldn’t have been seen in public this week.

(For reasons that are…You know…Womanly.)

But I digress.

For now, I will close with remarks from the end of yet another comment that I made on that very same blog post:

…people can believe what they want. I’m old enough to be used to folks being hard-hearted. However that shouldn’t stop them from treating their fellow human beings with respect…

Knowing Jesus–or, rather, THINKING that one knows Jesus–does not make one person better than anyone else.

*After I wrote this post, I went back and read the article in question. Its content was no different from what I expected.

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