Hysterical Heretic

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There is something about

Mass hysteria.

That swelling

Sound, the heat in my face,

The way my heart would

Pound with the beat of

Prayer, the rhythm of the

Ones who felt they

Were safe…

Congratulations

On your most

holy state

A blur of faces with

The same expression

When the

Preacher said only

144,000 will be saved

Was I the only one

Pawing at my chest

The only one who

Was not sure of their

Salvation?

To think that out of

144,000 people in all

The millions of people

In the world

I would be among

The chosen

Seemed a most

Unlikely conclusion.

I could catalog my

Sins

I may as well set

Up my own pyre

I thought when I

Should have been

Lulled by the crowd

Into not thinking

Anything at all

For myself

It was spread out

Before me:

Repeat after me

A litany of verses

Into monotony

Prayers would

Reach another height

Long into the night

A celebration of the

Jewels they would gain

In heaven

So no sacrifice is too much

For the earth bound

Man to suffer

In fact, if one could

Suffer enough to be as

Job they could hold up

Their arms and be rewarded

Ten fold

Pass the offering plates

It’s only your houses

It’s only your children

God gave Job more,

Remember?

Give your ten percent,

And if you really have

Faith

Give more.

Campfires burned and the

Droning songs, and the marching

In formation and the talk of

Angels…

I saw myself fall into

Rings of sin, into

A mired dish of envy

I wanted too much

I hadn’t stripped myself

Bare to the essential self

The one whose only thought

Was to give praise to a god who

Would burn millions and millions

Hysteria crept over me

Until I wondered how this

Could happen

How could I control

My breathing

What is this new thing

New dread

New way of causing

Shaking heads

Hyperventilating into

My sleeping bag

So afraid of the second

Coming.

I Am Not Safe

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I was in my bathroom when the first rattle sounded. It was so loud. I peered down the hallway, confused. The door was shaking as someone on the other side tried to force it open. I whirled around. I decided if this person was successful in breaking down my illusion of safety, I would fight. All that I had in close reach was my small exacto knife. The blade was probably dull from cutting out pictures for collages. I decided I would stab it in the intruder’s neck.

 

The door knob spun back and forth ninety degrees. I knew I didn’t have much time now. I ran to the screen door. I wondered if someone was already on the other side. I gripped my blade so tight my fingers turned white. I opened the door. I ran.

 

I didn’t own a cell phone. I didn’t own a car. I pictured the nearby businesses. I just had to make it to one of them. I am not a runner.

 

I ran.

 

The coffee shop employees were kind. They let me use their phone. I shakily dialed the police. I sat in the funky chairs with happy, oblivious people all around me as I waited. I envied them their illusions. I was bathed in fear. I did not let go of my exacto knife.

 

The police were kind to me as well. They went to my apartment while I waited. They looked for the intruder. But the intruder was gone. My things had been gone through. Nothing was taken. What were they looking for?

 

It was hard to be in my apartment that night. I pretended to myself that I would sleep. I lay down. I did not turn off the lights.  I had spent the year preceding the door rattling squirreled away in my apartment. I didn’t know anyone. I was living in a new city. I convinced myself that meant I was safe. Now I knew I had lied to myself.

 

Eventually I decided to be okay with the fear. It doesn’t matter that I am not safe. Safety is never guaranteed. No matter what you do, even if you hide for a year in an apartment, someone can rattle your door. Live despite it, because nothing is certain. Leave the apartment.

 

There are kind strangers out there, willing to press a coffee into your hand despite your blade. There are kind strangers willing to go to your apartment to see if the monster is still there. They can’t make you safe.

 

They can show you it is worth coming out despite the risks.

LGBT club at Michigan university in rift with school

article reposted from Windy City Media Group by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

A simple charity fundraising bake sale has triggered a major gay-related debate at Andrews University, the flagship university of the Seventh-day Adventist school system and the largest evangelical Christian college or university in Michigan.

Eliel Cruz helped start Aull4one four years ago with a faculty sponsor. He was president of the club for three years and passed the torch to a new president this year, as he’s graduating in May. Aull4One, an unofficial gay-straight alliance on campus, is a student-run group with a handful of faculty sponsors. Andrews University does not officially sanction the organization, though they know it exists and allow it to continue to exist, Cruz said.

“Our mission is to create a safe and supportive space for all members, LGBTQ and straight alike, in which we foster meaningful discussions and create a welcoming atmosphere where everyone’s personal stories, perspectives, and ideas are valued,” he said. “Our hope is to apply God’s golden rule to ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ to the current conversations on Christianity, sexuality, gender, and identity. Our role is not to convict nor judge, but to show support, respect, and God’s care for all. By following Christ’s example, we hope to make our communities, our churches, and ourselves a living testimony of His love.”

Aull4One meets twice a month and it “creates safe space for dialogue about the intersection of faith and sexuality,” Cruz said.

About 80 students, almost all queer, are a part of the group. On average, group meetings have 30 to 40 students attending.

“We turned in a proposal last semester for [a] bake sale, [and the] Deans of Student life asked us to move forward with the proposal,” Cruz said. “[Since] we are an unofficial group, we needed someone to sponsor us; this is quite common. Many students have ideas and get groups to sponsor them. Campus Ministries agreed to sponsor us. The fundraiser is benefiting Project Fierce in Chicago.”

The purpose of the bake sale was threefold, Cruz said.

First, as an unofficial group, Aull4One has no means of letting LGBT students on campus know it exists. The bake sale “was going to help our [on campus] visibility,” Cruz said.

Second, it was to raise awareness on how LGBT youth are disproportionately affected by homelessness, he said. “In the last five years, Andrews University has had dozens of events on homosexuality, all of which were theologically condemning and some that even promoted change therapy,” he said. “It wasn’t until last year that [the school] allowed LGBT students to share our own narratives through a panel, and the event was completely prompted by students. Our campus doesn’t allow for LGBT education which feeds ignorance on LGBT stories.”

Lastly, the bake sale was going to raise money for LGBT homeless youth. “We wanted to give back to this particular community [as] most have been shut out from their homes due to religious homophobia.”

Cruz said the bake sale was put on the back burner in early March by Steve Yeagley, the assistant vice president for student life/director of co-curricular education in the school’s student life department. “He told us he had spoken to the president [of the university] and the Provost about the situation and that the decision comes from them,” Cruz said.

In an email from Yeagley to Cruz that Windy City Times obtained, Yeagley wrote that the university has decided not to support the fundraising proposal made by AULL4One. Yeagley noted that there is a fundraising policy found in the Student Handbook. “It simply states that funds may be raised for non-profit organizations ‘whose mission and practices do not conflict with those of the University.’

“I think the judgment in this case is that there may be a perceived conflict between the mission and practices of Andrews University and those of [Project] Fierce Chicago—certainly not in their efforts to aid homeless youth but in their approach to the LGBT issue, at large.”

Yeagley also wrote, “If a way can be found to serve LGBT homeless youth through an organization that more fully reflects the University’s mission and the stance of our denomination (which clearly calls for exhibiting compassion toward LGBT persons), let’s explore that.”

Yeagley’s email, naturally, drew the ire of Cruz and his club. So Cruz reached back out to Yeagley for further explanation. Yeagley replied via an email that WCT has viewed. He wrote, “I think the best I can do is to reiterate the administration’s assessment that ‘there may be a perceived conflict’ between the mission and practices of the two organizations, and that they feel confident this is an accurate statement when—as I said below—Fierce Chicago’s ‘approach to the LGBT issue, at large,’ is taken into consideration.”

Cruz is angered by the decision, to put it mildly.

“As a bisexual Christian man, I find it appalling that my university cares more about politics then the lives of LGBT people,” said Cruz, 24, a senior, majoring in international business and French studies. “We went through all the official channels and were still told no. Even under theological stances that say same-sex relationships are sinful, as is the official stance of my school and church, this should be a no-brainer for everyone who claims to be a Christian to get behind.”

Yeagley, contacted directly by Windy City Times for comment, forwarded the request to Stephen Payne, the school’s vice president of the division of integrated marketing and communication. Payne quickly replied with the official university statement, via Becky St. Clair, the media communications manager from the division of integrated marketing and communication.

The statement read, “Andrews University recognizes the special challenges facing LGBT youth and believes that efforts to help them are worthy. Providing care to LGBT homeless youth is compatible with our institutional mission to demonstrate God’s love to all people, and reflects our denomination’s specific call to exhibit compassion for LGBT persons.

“At the same time, Andrews University has declined a student request to officially endorse a fundraising effort to raise money for an organization that may have a perceived LGBT advocacy role. This decision was made in the context of our student fundraising policy in the Student Handbook, which states that funds may be raised for non-profit organizations ‘whose mission and practices do not conflict with those of the University.’

“So, our objection was not to the worthy goal of serving LGBT homeless youth and their transitional housing needs but to the perceived advocacy stance of the proposed organization. As a result, we can and will support LGBT homeless youth through organizations whose mission and purpose clearly align with the religious mission and purpose of our university and its sponsoring church. We invite our student clubs to find the appropriate organizations and opportunities to do just that.”

Payne’s email added that “Beyond this statement, Andrews University will have no additional comment at this time.”

Cruz said the club chose the Chicago-based charity because the school is only about 90 minutes from Chicago.

Aull4One was hoping to raise “a couple hundred dollars” for Project Fierce through the bake sale.

But now, the group is going viral—and shooting to raise more funds. Cruz said the club is now hoping to raise $2,000 through an online fundraiser. To support, go to life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/aull4one-raising-money-for-project-fierce/x/10107893.

Ryan Bell and the Pursuit of Knowledge

(Edit, updated 1/7/2014 If you haven’t heard of Ryan Bell, you can read the article he wrote for Huffington Post about his decision to live a year as an atheist. He was the pastor of Hollywood Adventist Church. He was asked to resign. Read his clarifications here.)

 

I think the pursuit of knowledge is always beneficial. It doesn’t matter how you came to the decision that it is time to reflect and read about view points different from your own. So what that Ryan Bell is writing a book to document his process? I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to do the same thing.

How can I capture the emotion I felt at reading Carl Sagan’s eloquent explanation of the solar system some 14 years later? The feeling when I finally read a book by Richard Dawkins, who gave me science- that world that had been previously denied as the devil’s territory? My heart raced, I sweated, and I felt faint. I felt a weight lift from me. I was not the most important of creatures, one of god’s chosen in the remnant church. I was not about to be tortured, because it was not the end times as taught by the prophet.

I no longer was cursed by the sins of my ancestors. I was free of the sin that was put on me as the result of rape. I could listen to secular music, and revel in the beauty of opera; I could dance!

I am on one teeny tiny planet, with an atmosphere, and a moon that reflects light. I am an amazingly unlikely outcome of genetics. The world is full of these beautiful moments that I can appreciate because they are not tainted by sin. They are the remarkable outcome of thousands of years of evolution. When I stopped believing in the literal word of the Bible, and the Prophet, my depression became less marked.

I came from the religion that Ryan Bell came from. By his choice to live as an atheist even for one year, he is losing everything he built. I’m not sure that most people who are criticizing him understand what that means. He lost his career. The community he loved has disowned him. Unless his family is on the very liberal side, they may disown him too.

Seventh Day Adventism is very insular. They believe they are the remnant church, and everything outside of them is worldly. They do their best to avoid anything worldly. You can go your whole life without having to deal with anyone outside the church. They have their own churches, schools, and hospitals. They have their own television network, as well as publishing company because you are discouraged from reading anything that is not the bible or Adventist produced.  In one of the towns I lived in, everything closed on Friday night in observation of the Sabbath.

I found out about Ryan Bell because I have a few of my old Adventist friends on facebook. They were talking about him. One of them claimed she could tell he wasn’t a good leader, and questioned his spirituality. If you are not all the way in, as demonstrated with Ryan Bell, you are out. You can not change the church from within for very long. It does not want to be changed. His big sins? He championed LGBTQ and womens’ rights.

I am glad he has decided to use his platform to talk about his experiences learning. He has come from a place where even thinking about questioning the status quo is sinful. I think he should be cut some slack. Who knows how he will feel in a year? Maybe he will be a Christian, and maybe he won’t. The point is, he will have been able to ask himself what he believes.

 

I made a list of 10 books that I read along the way. Each of these helped me explore the world outside of fundamentalist parameters:

 

1. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution- Richard Dawkins

2. Cosmos-Carl Sagan

3. Feet of Clay-Anthony Storr

4. Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology- Paul Broks

5. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales-Oliver Sacks

6. Beyond Good and Evil-Nietzsche

7. His Dark Materials- Philip Pullman

8. The Elegant Universe- Brian Greene

9. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings-Maya Angelou

10. Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs-Leonard Cohen

 

How did Stuart Perrin help save the lives of approximately 10,000 Nepalese children?

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(photo author’s own- from left to right Anais Chartschenko, Stuart Perrin, Kristina Jones)

 

I listened in rapt attention as he described in heart breaking detail the conditions in which he had found children.  They lived in cages and were sold to traffickers for small sums of money by their parents. His eyes got teary, and so did mine. I was lucky enough to attend one of the many speaking engagements Stuart Perrin is appearing at to support his novel, “Little Sisters”. It’s a page-turner thriller of a book, with scenes from posh New York City to the hinterlands of Nepal, and the brothels of Mumbai. Three sisters are trafficked by their family with three very different results.

Months after I read the book and saw Stuart speak, I was still thinking of the children and his dedication to saving them. How did this man set out on a path that ultimately saved the lives of approximately 10,000 Nepalese children? I decided to ask him.

How did you initially become aware of child sex trafficking?

Before 1992, I knew nothing about the horrors of sex trafficking. I had been to India at least ten times; I’d driven past Falkland Road in Bombay (where the brothels are), but I only thought to myself it was another oddity of Indian culture; and never asked myself the question: how did these girls get to the brothels?

I had been opening meditation centers across the world at the time and I supported myself by running an art gallery in Manhattan.  Several of my students asked me to start a center in Kathmandu, Nepal.  What a great idea, I thought.  So much of my life and spiritual education came from Asia.  It would be a wonderful opportunity to give something back.

A few months later, my colleague and meditation student, Kristina Jones moved to Kathmandu to open a center. Not long after she arrived, she telephoned me in New York to say that she loved Kathmandu and found it wonderfully exotic, but had no idea how to spend her time when she wasn’t teaching.  I promised her that something would come up; after all she was in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Two days later she called me back.  She had gone to a UNWO (United Nations Women’s Organization) meeting in Kathmandu about sex trafficking. She had met a Nepalese doctor, Aruna Uprety, who told her of children being abducted and trafficked into sexual slavery. Girls between the ages of ten and fourteen years were bought by sex traffickers in the hinterlands of Nepal and sold to brothels on Falkland Road in Mumbai, India. These children were tortured and raped and forced to have sex with twenty men a day.  They remained in the brothels until they became so AIDS- ridden that they were discarded like used tissues.

I said to Kristina, “This is our work. We have to help these children!”

What did you do to help in Nepal?

From 1992-1994, as President of the Bahini Foundation, I oversaw much of its operations. I stayed in close touch with Kris Jones whether I was traveling or in New York City.  I tried to raise awareness in the United States about the horrific child trafficking situation in Nepal and India. I made a number of trips to Kathmandu and worked with Kris and the children in the safe house. To my dismay, at the time, the world was deaf and dumb.  No one really cared.  Most people just looked at me in disbelief that something like this was going on.  Meanwhile over 200,000 Nepalese children were living in bondage, and at least 10,000 a year were being trafficked to Indian brothels.

Working with Dr. Aruna Uprety and RHEST, we first identified kids through offering free medical camps in remote villages and took referrals by police or teachers of families who were known to have trafficked their kids. We tried to convince their parents to put them in the RHEST safe house instead of selling them to traffickers. That was (and still is) challenging, because the poverty is so devastating. The average income for people living in the hinterlands of Nepal at that time was about $15 to $20 a year. Traffickers paid as little as $50 (the average wage of a teacher or policeman at that time) for a girl- and more if she was a virgin.  The family was told that she would go to Bombay, Calcutta, or Delhi to “work.”  No one in the village knew what the work would be, but they believed that the girl would be able to send money home. In addition, the family would no longer have to worry about having to raise a dowry for the girl.

We weren’t always successful, but the girls we were able to save were enrolled in local schools where they would be safe. We also welcomed women with children who had escaped from brothels in Mumbai. We had to remain vigilant to keep the girls from the clutches of sex traffickers even after we brought them to RHEST’s safe house.

On one occasion, Kris pretended to be a medical professional and went into the Falkland Road brothels to document the appalling conditions the girls lived in. Had the brothel owners known what Kristina was really up to, most likely they would have killed her.

In 1996, Kristina became ill.  The pollution in Kathmandu was so bad she had begun to develop lung issues.  I asked her to return to the United States for treatment.  Dr. Aruna Uprety who ran RHEST (Rural Health and Educational Trust of Nepal) incorporated Bahini under the auspices of RHEST.  Bahini was the first organization of its kind started in Nepal.  About a year and a half ago, Aruna telephoned Kristina and I, and told us, that because we started the Bahini Foundation it saved the lives of about 10,000 Nepalese children.

What was your inspiration for “Little Sisters”, the novel?

The Bahini Foundation produced a three-minute promotional video, “My Name Is Gita” to raise money, which is still being shown on VTV in Hong Kong as a public service announcement. Kristina is an accomplished singer, and she sang a song in the video about a girl named Gita.  After seeing the video, I knew the story needed to be told in a big way.  The very idea that 200,000 children were being raped, tortured and forced to live in sexual slavery, and almost nothing was being done about it, made me sit down and write “Little Sisters.”  The world had to know that this was going on.  At first, I wanted to make a Hollywood film.  I wrote a script, but no movie studio would touch it. “It’s too dark,” they said.  I even considered making a documentary, but decided that was too dangerous.  No brothel would allow us to film what really goes on.  If we tried to do that, we’d probably get killed. I wrote “Little Sisters” as a novel because fiction was the only way I could render the truth and make it palatable for people to read.  “Little Sisters” is a multicultural family story and a love story.  The underlying dramatic theme is the horror of children being sold into sexual slavery.  It shows how these children are transformed from innocent kids into sex slaves.

What are you currently doing as an activist?

My book, “Little Sisters” has been instrumental in setting up anti-human trafficking events in many cities throughout the United States.  The whole point is to create awareness- to make people realize that this isn’t just a Nepalese and Indian problem. This is going on in just about every city in the United States.  There are over 200,000 children being trafficked today in America and it’s a 32 billion dollar international business.  I’ve done panels with members of the FBI, with police detectives that work in anti-human trafficking squads, and with heads of NGO’s working in the field at NYU and The Ethical Culture Society of New York City.  I was recently given the pulpit to speak about anti-human trafficking at the Atkinson Memorial Church in Oregon, City, OR.  There are two events coming up in Carmel, CA and one in Monterey, CA the last week of January.  I‘ve been given the pulpit to speak about anti-human trafficking at the West Hills Universalist Unitarian Church in Portland.  I will also be speaking to the Lion’s Club in Eugene, OR.  Both of these events are the third week of February.  In March I have two panel events in at Westchester County, NY public libraries.  There will be a member of the FBI on one, a chief of Police, executives from NGO’s and someone from the D.A.’s office.  In early April there will be a similar event at another Westchester County public library.  Sometime, around the third week of April, there will be an all-day anti-human trafficking event at the First Universalist Unitarian Church in downtown Portland, OR.  Besides Kristina and myself, the list of tentative speakers may include members of the U. S. Congress.

How does the situation in Portland, OR and the USA compare with Asia?

According to the Portland Police, the situation in Portland is very similar to what I speak about in my book “Little Sisters.”  In my book they are called traffickers and Gharwalli’s (Madams).  In Portland they are called pimps.  Children in Portland are kidnapped, seduced, bought, and stolen off the streets.  They are raped, tortured, brainwashed and forced to sleep with twenty men a day.  The situation in the United States is just as horrific as the situation I speak about in “Little Sisters.”  Two hundred thousand girls are presently living as sex slaves in this country.

How can people contribute to this important work?

By becoming aware that sexual slavery is one of the most heinous crimes on earth today (a crime that’s equal to the holocaust); by letting their congressmen know about this crime and demanding that something get done; by volunteering time and money to authentic agencies that are working diligently to end this problem; by attending events, reading books, and educating themselves in regard to human trafficking; by being outraged; by saying to themselves that children are the future of our world and they can’t be living out their childhood as sexual slaves; by recognizing that slavery is a larger industry today than it was in 1840, etc. etc.

Men also need to be encouraged to get involved.  They make up the largest percentage of customers in the sex trafficking marketplace.  This is not just a women’s issue. This is a human issue.  By bringing men and women together to protect our children, we create a stronger future for everyone living on this planet.

 

Stuart Perrin, an American spiritual master of Kundalini Yoga, is the author of many books including The Mystical Ferryboat, Leah, A Deeper Surrender: Notes on a Spiritual Life, Moving On: Finding Happiness in a Changed World, and Little Sisters. He writes at: http://www.stuartperrin.com/

The Unbearable Kindness

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He made me feel sorry for him. It was one of his strongest defenses. Whenever I began to question his treatment of me, instead of responding he would tell me about horrible things that had happened to him. He would cry. I mean full-on weep about being bullied as a child (he did not get the irony that he was a current adult and I a minor), talk about his family’s dysfunctions, his own time spent in institutions. All of this drowned out my protests, making my voice smaller and smaller as the waves of his emotions flooded my lungs.

 

It was such a strange turn around- me crying after he raped me, and then him weeping and asking me for comfort. I would have his head in my lap, and feel like I needed to tell him it was okay. The thing is, an adult can outsmart a child every time. I had no prior experience with which to gauge the level of his utter bullshit.

 

And then there was the unbearable kindness. It would crush me with guilt. It would give me pause before I said anything against him. He would grandly proclaim his love for me. He praised my smallest accomplishments. He gave me gifts. I liked what he liked. I was less sure what I liked if you took him out of the equation. If I expressed interest in anything he didn’t like, he made sure I knew it was stupid and I was mistaken. He would overlook my lapses in judgment because I was, after all, so young.

 

The kindness extended to the crying times. He would try to repair my wounds. He would cry and apologize. He would fold me into his muscular arms and hold me while he prayed for our souls, or just say he was sorry. Or he would softly blame me with compliments- I was too pretty; he could not control himself around me. He would lie and tell me he needed to hurt me so he wouldn’t hurt anyone else (Liar-he raped others). I was special, and he loved me so very much.

 

I think the kindness was one of the most dangerous aspects to the abuse. When I was trying to learn good people from bad people, I didn’t realize bad people could be nice. I thought they were always obviously bad- walking around with horns or something. His kindness made it hard to throw him into the BAD category where he belonged. People liked him. He had friends. I had to learn that people have both good and bad qualities, and that sometimes what appears good is actually bad.

 

Rapists can give gifts. They can have friends. They can wear stylish clothing. They can be charming. But I won’t ever listen to their crying again.

33 jaw-droppingly bad multiple-choice questions from Accelerated Christian Education

“The most obvious way ACE is crap is in its multiple choice questions (of which there are thousands). Here, for your general amusement, are some I found yesterday. I make no claim that these are the best (or worst) of it. They’re just a few I dug up in a cursory jaunt through the PACEs I have. I could go on much, much longer.

This is what happens when you leave education to people for whom religious conversion is everything and learning is a distant afterthought. ”

-Jonny Scaramanga

 

She’s a Witch!

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(Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

His mother told him she had seen demons around me. I had heard of overprotective mothers, but this was ridiculous. What was worse is that this guy believed his mom. He offered to pray for me. Guys- a word of advice: It is a complete mood killer to tell your date that you are praying for her immortal soul.

I actually tried to convince him I was not possessed, which is a sad thing to admit. It seems like something you would not have to do, but, alas… For some of us who grew up in a fundamentalist back ground this is par for the course. It’s eerily similar to the Monty Python skit about the witch. People love killing witches. It doesn’t matter what you do once someone decides they have seen the evil in you, either. Everyone else is dying for some entertainment, so now they see those damn demons too.

Were you physically attractive to someone? You are a witch. Did you dye your hair? Hate to break it to you, but you are a witch. Did you read books about evolution? You invited satan and his evil hosts in, sweetheart, and you are most certainly a witch. Did you eat cheese? Heavy cream sauces? Did you drink caffeine? Did you pierce your ears? Good heavens, gather round, we have ourselves a witch!

The prayers were flung at me hot with accusations. They were tawdry, these prayers. I don’t know why I still had the capability of being shocked after everything, but there I was. Shocked into silence, staring at this guy who claimed he loved me.

 After that point, he treated me with less respect. I can’t believe I must say there was an after that point… I try to give myself a break- I was young, okay?! After all this talk of demons, the guy still claimed he was interested in marriage. At that time, I thought of myself as damaged goods. I was convinced I should take what I could get.
 
One day I burned my back pretty badly on a hot radiator. My sister was spending time with us, and was surprised at how callously he treated my medical needs. She was an awesome sister and shared her concerns with me. I blew her off that day, but it stuck in my mind.

Shortly after that, we were in a car accident. As the car spun out of control, my delusions about being a good wife were shattered. I knew if I lived, I did not want to live like this. I could not marry someone who saw evil in me. I could not be expected to confess my bullshit sins to some judgmental preacher. I would never allow myself to be subjected to a Monty Pythonesque mob of witch haters again.

I ended the relationship. No one has accused me of being possessed since.

Excuses, Excuses

 After I disclose my history of sexual abuse in a religious setting, I know I will hear arguments. Usually, I brush them aside as irrelevant, but I know a lot of people are swayed.

 Here are some prime arguments:

Rape happens everywhere.

They weren’t really christians, so it doesn’t count.

You shouldn’t talk about this. You seem angry. If you ask god to open your heart to forgiveness, you will be free.

Rape happens everywhere. I know. The statistics are heart breaking: Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted. There is an average of 267,868 victims (age 12 or older) of sexual assault each year. 44% of victims are under age 18.
 *statistics from www.rainn.org

 But I am not talking about everywhere. I am talking about my personal experience, which was in a religious community that had a culture of rape. The fact that people are raped outside of this context does not make my personal experiences carry less weight. Religion should not exempt the abusers from taking responsibility.

The fact is that the religious environment I was in fostered an abusive atmosphere that made repeated abuse possible. One problem is that it was insular. People are indoctrinated to fear the outside world, and that anyone seeking outside help is inviting the devil in. How easy for a rapist to commit crimes when everyone in the community works to shame the victim into silence! There is no recourse for a victim of sexual assault when his/her community condemns seeking help.

Then there is the victim blaming that is justified using scripture. People are taught that it is a girl’s responsibility to not tempt grown men. Virginity culture proclaimed anyone who strayed outside the marriage bed was sinful. Somehow rape victims were included in the list of adulterers. I was told by church propaganda that a touched girl was dirty, and then had the idea reinforced by my abusers. It was cemented when I dared to disclose the abuse and was called a slut, and blamed for my various infractions (such as having male friends, wearing makeup, being worldly) by members of the community. I stress: I was a minor being called a whore by adults because other adults had raped me. As I wrote in this post, one of my rapists who admitted to his crimes was readily forgiven, and provided sympathy because of everything I had put him though.

I’ve been assured that the people I dealt with weren’t really christians, so it doesn’t count. I can now experience god’s real love through their church. This hardly deserves a response. Who can decide who is really a christian, and why should that lessen the pain of having experienced abuse justified by the bible?

This brings me to forgiveness. I believe in forgiving small mistakes, for example if someone accidentally knocked over my favorite tea cup. If they apologized and it was truly a mistake, I would forgive them. If, instead, they brutally raped me and then demanded my forgiveness while continuing to abuse me I tend to be less forgiving. The rapist needs me to forgive so I can be a participant. He can use my forgiveness as a way to avoid possible punishment. If anyone says something accusatory to him, he will point out that he has my forgiveness so it wasn’t all that bad.
 
 If a community intent on keeping everything private demands I forgive because it was prayed about I still do not need to forgive. If people who are not even part of the community hear my story and believe I should forgive, I still don’t need to forgive. Some things don’t deserve forgiveness- Especially when no steps have been taken to ensure it does not happen again (sorry, prayer doesn’t count). In fact, there is no reason at all that I need to say I forgive my abusers. I don’t. I don’t need to. It will not release me. I released myself when I left the community that they flourish in.

I am angry. I feel it is a justified anger. I don’t know how anyone could hear about systematic abuse of children and not be angry. People know these things are happening, but because the rapist is crying religious freedom he is left alone. It baffles me. There is no group of people with a greater need to protect than children- certainly not a religious institution.