Everyone needs a little fun in their life. Yesterday I went to the Pleasure Chest with a friend and bought some fun accessories. Who doesn’t like having their nipples bedazzled and their ass spanked?
Everyone needs a little fun in their life. Yesterday I went to the Pleasure Chest with a friend and bought some fun accessories. Who doesn’t like having their nipples bedazzled and their ass spanked?
Life is good. I wake up as late as I can, brew some coffee and read the news. The coastal breeze blows through my windows cooling me off. The day is open to any possibilities, and I lavish in the fact that I don’t have to do anything or ask permission to leave my house.
Life is good.
The other day an old friend of mine posted a scripture on his Facebook wall about not being lukewarm or God will spit you out. It got me thinking quite a bit.
For starters, I was always a very “passionate” Christian. I’d hear a verse like that and do whatever I could in my power to be “hot” for Jesus (sounds kinky, right?). I didn’t like the idea of being cold for anything. That’s one of the reasons I decided to attend a year of Master’s Commission (which turned into 7). I thought it would make me a better Christian.
But, now that I’m not a Christian, what am I? Am I “hot” (read: passionate) about something else? Am I “cold”? Will God spit me out of his mouth?
How I always looked at that verse was a way to claim my superiority over another Christian. I was judgmental. Very. I was pious and perfect and looked down on anyone who failed to get it right. When I decided to follow the rules of Christianity, I excelled in following them and attending Master’s Commission only made me more cocky.
Some people call that legalistic. Some people call it fundamentalism. What’s interesting though, is that was preached to me, so I wasn’t just becoming legalistic on my own terms. I was being taught to have moral superiority over those who weren’t as passionate about God as I was.
That moral superiority carries over into other religions. Osama Bin Laden wrote a letter to the Jihadists saying that the Western world (and those who were not passionate enough as Muslims) were infidels. An infidel means one without faith. Bin Laden encouraged attacks on people who were without faith, or who didn’t have strong enough faith.
Christianity and Islam are very similar. Their holy texts call for extremism in cases like this. Yes, you can interpret the Bible or the Koran more liberally, but it’s no surprise why people interpret verses in either to claim a moral superiority over those who aren’t religious enough.
As for me, I’m not hot or cold, or lukewarm. I just no longer believe in Christianity as a powerful, righteous force.
I had an interesting date with an Agnostic last night. I self identify as somewhere between Agnosticism and Atheism. I’m not a huge fan of Richard Dawkins and am okay with people celebrating different traditions and myths, as long as they don’t proselytize me.
My date asked me if I was agnostic, though, and I explained the above. Then, he asked if I thought God could be proven or disproven. “God doesn’t exist,” I said.
“Then you’re atheist.” He told me.
“I think the question of whether god exists or doesn’t is irrelevant. To me, god is a myth–something people believe in because they need to verify their sense of self, make meaning and develop a sense of community.” I explained.
“You’re definitely an atheist.”
So, maybe I’m an atheist. I’m okay with that.
We then went on to talk about how I took a turn from being a reverend to being “so extreme” on the opposite spectrum, as he put it. I told him I ask myself that all the time. I ask myself, Do I just have a capacity for extreme beliefs? Am I a zealot, no matter what my beliefs are? often.
I’m not above questioning myself and my lack of beliefs, or where they stem from. As a child, I was a member of PETA, because I love animals and they started sending me literature about the cosmetic industry testing on rabbits. The pictures were disturbing and I would tear up seeing the torture the bunnies went through just so we could wear eye shadow, or use a certain face cream. I was a member of the World Wildlife Fund first, and had a desire to be a Dian Fossey, Jr. saving mountain gorillas.
Essentially, I was an activist as a child. I was always fighting for the underdog, the abused. It’s probably normal that I went into ministry, because from the outside it seemed to line itself up with humanitarian work quite nicely and I felt I could help those who were disadvantaged and misfortunate by working with a charity group, like a church. Now that I’m not a Christian, this blog is sort of my service to those who were abused (by the Church).
In my opinion, atheism wasn’t a random choice. It’s sort of a natural progression of who I was a child, a learning from my own experiences. Trusting myself to make the best decision for myself.
Summertime is ending (or has ended) for most of us. I’m looking forward to going back to school next week, because it’s generally a lot less stressful than most jobs. I’m also looking forward to continuing what I’ve started this week–a really heavy workout schedule. I’m starting to love it. It reminds me of high school (a whole 10 years ago!), when I used to play soccer and run cross country. Some summers our cross country team would drive up to the mountains, where the weather was cooler and our coach would drop us off 10-15 miles away from our destination–a German restaurant on top of the hill. From there, we’d do our best to run up and down hills in a higher elevation than we were used to. I was usually the slowest runner on the team, it being my first season, and that ended up being kind of cool because my coach, Mr. Dennis, would run to meet the last runner and coach us back.
Mr. Dennis was a world-class coach. He was very positive and made me feel like an Olympian just for finishing the 10 mile run without stopping. It was there that I started to love running–in those moments when Mr. Dennis would coach me, telling me how strong I was getting physically and mentally. He wasn’t in it for him, he was looking out for me. Pushing me to become stronger.
I miss those 10 mile runs, not because they’re easy but because I miss the coaching. My mind would be fighting me, telling me to stop because I was exhausted and all of a sudden, I’d see Mr. Dennis coming down the hill running to meet me. And then I was able to push through that mental block and finish pushing myself.
My summer was also filled with 5k’s and a long run from our desert town to the beach. Our team members each took turns running a few miles, for about 12 hours. When we were finished, we all took showers and grabbed dinner. I was exhausted, but it was that kind of training that made our team champions in many of our races. Being around great runners and great athletes made me cognizant of a mental fortitude we all have and we can all tap into. We all have it inside of us, and sometimes we just need to push ourselves and find what works.
In theory, Christianity is almost benign. “Love your neighbor.” “Serve one another.”
In practice, Christianity is one of the most judgmental and dishonest groups in the world.
This weekend I watched “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” about the late Tammy Faye Bakker.
A documentary look, mostly through the eyes of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, at her rise and fall as a popular televangelist with husband Jim Bakker.Traces their rise: her teen marriage to Jim; their children’s TV show (she was a puppeteer and singer), success founding the 700 Club, co-founding the Trinity Broadcast Network, and starting PTL Network; her nondenominational version of Christianity reaching out to all; and, their building of Heritage USA, a theme park. Things fall apart as money woes mount for Heritage and for Jim, as Tammy takes pills, and as Jerry Falwell takes PTL. Jim goes to prison; she remarries, finds herself alone again, yet remains unsinkable. [From IMDB]
In one of many poignant moments, Tammy Faye talks about her experience re-entering church after her divorce from Jim Bakker. She said she didn’t want to attend church because she’d been so harshly judged by Christians after her divorce from Jim and their money scandals. And, the film shows people feeling disgusted with Tammy Faye as she re-enters a church to sing.
What some of us may not have seen until this film was the predatory way that Jerry Falwell came in and took over PTL when the news of the sex scandal with Jessica Hahn hit. Or earlier, when Jan and Paul Crouch booted them out of the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
It’s easy to see from the film that Tammy Faye was naive, and trusted those who called themselves Christians. And why shouldn’t she? They’re the kindest group in the nation, right?
Tammy Faye learned firsthand what Pat Boone was quoted as saying in the film,
“It’s so true that Christians are one army who kill their wounded.”
I’ve experienced this, though on much smaller levels than Tammy Faye. I’m not 100% convinced that I was ostracized from my church friends just because it’s a cult-ish church. I say that because later, when I met Christians in college, I got the same treatment. When I shared with some family members what happened to me, I got the same treatment. When I started blogging, again, many Christians (and Christian bloggers) treated me the same way.
The bottom line is if you’re wounded, they will try to kill you.
There’s nothing more frightening to Christians than a person who’s outspoken about the faults of their pastor and their religion, and they will attack to kill.
There’s a dark side to Christianity. A side that only the departed have seen. A side you’ll never see until you’ve walked away from the church, or become dissatisfied with lip service, or find out about the financial indiscretions of the people in ministry you so respected.
That dark side of Christianity is the other side–their true colors. The “we’ll kick you when you’re down” and “we take no prisoners” kind of mentality. They won’t leave many to talk about their wickedness, their hatefulness. They want to cut out your tongue so you can’t speak ill of them.
For a group who loves the truth, they love to silence those who want to SAY the truth.
There are, and it should be noted, a few, caring, devoted Christians that I know. I like them, but they’re decidedly not fundamentalists. They drink alcohol, and curse, and they are usually “outsiders” in their own religion.
I talk about Christianity as a whole here because I’m not sure what has happened in our country, our world, but it seems that fundamentalists have overrun the entire religion. Not that they’re the most outspoken, that they are the majority, and their ideology has infiltrated most Christian sects.
Upon leaving a fundamentalist cult, I felt it was important to differentiate between the cult and the “normal” Christian church. And then later, distinguish a difference between a “liberal progressive” church and the fundamentalists I knew.
But what is the real difference?
Upon further study and observation, and yes, even how I was treated by them, I find that the problem isn’t with fundamentalists or not. The problems lie in the religion itself. It’s a faulty and violent ideology. Those who say Islam is violent, should take a much deeper, introspective look at Christianity. In many ways, they mirror each other.
Fundamentalism is easy to embrace because the Bible is easiest to interpret literally. I blame preachers, yes, but I also blame the Bible for being contradictory. It takes a very enlightened mind to embrace today’s culture warmly and still believe in the Bible. Those who can embrace our culture and the Bible simultaneously feel comfortable with accepting the Bible as stories and suggestions, not rigid law or a map to follow. The Bible presents contradictions within itself and teaches values that are oppressive to many groups (slaves, women, etc.). To embrace these contradictions, one must be comfortable with uncertainty, doubt, and being contemplative rather than absolute.
To be honest, I have a real problem with stating that Christianity is a violent ideology, because I believe that people should have the right to freedom of religion. So, can I support freedom of religious belief and still believe that Christianity is violent? It’s complicated, but yes.
While complicated, those ideas can live together just as we humans can live together in [sometimes] harmony. Although we’re different, if we choose to be hopeful [and hope for the best in our neighbors] and introspective and thoughtful, a lot of good can come of it. We may not agree, but we can be cognizant of our differences and approach our differences thoughtfully. We can be honest about ourselves–where we came from, where our ideologies stem from, what are the strengths and weaknesses of those beliefs. We can embrace those who are different from us in peace, not in war.
Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. Albert Einstein
Well I looked my demons in the eyes
Laid bare my chest and said,
“Do your best to destroy me.”
See, I’ve been to hell and back
So many times you kind of bore me.
Empty, by Ray LaMontagne
I’ve been struck very recently by the charm of an Englishman, and if any of you have had the pleasure of meeting one, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that they’re different from our American counterparts.
What’s so different? Isn’t a man just a man?
Despite our shared language, the difference between the American and the British way of life varies greatly. For starters, our slang is completely different. When my new Englishman, whom I shall call EM (brilliant, I know), used the word cunt a few months ago, I was floored. It must mean something quite different from our use of cunt here. So, I asked him. His explanation went as follows, “The C word in Britain [is] usually associated with people that jubilate in the inane or irrelevant (usually accompanied with undue self-importance). Stems from the crude reference to the female genetalia… Perhaps the last taboo insult.”
I had now not only cleared up that misunderstanding, but had also become completely infatuated with his choice of words in his description. We just don’t use words such as jubilate or inane in conversations here. I am an English major, and something like that can turn me on instantly. As Alycia Smith-Howard says it, getting to know an Englishman is, “A seduction of the mind.”
But if you do a quick Google search on the matter, you’ll find scant information online relating to relationships between American women and British men. Or, you’ll find plenty of American women insulting British men for their “stiff upper lip” and lack of asking out a woman, or footing the bill. Whereas British men call American women brash and loud and traditional. Here, Robert McCrum talks about his American wife and the dating differences between their two cultures:
These fine sentiments are meaningless, and faintly sinister, to your average American woman. They never go into darkened rooms with almost total strangers until and unless it has been thoroughly checked out by a real estate agent, a trusted girlfriend and, probably, an expert in feng shui. The only fluttered consciousness they’ll experience is if you cannot agree to split the bill, I mean ‘check’. And the idea that love might be a childish matter is almost heresy in the American bible of the heart.
We American women apparently treat first dates as job interviews. We have a mile long laundry list of do’s and don’ts for our future partner and we treat everyone as a future spouse waiting to be crossed off the list for wronging us on our first date. He didn’t pull out his wallet and pay? Cross him off! What’s his credit score? Does he have children? Religion? Check, check, check. The endless laundry list.
It wasn’t until recently (yesterday) that I realized dating customs vary so greatly. It’s common in the U.S. for girls to date or get to know several guys at once; whereas, in other countries, that’s considered rude or heartless. I had no idea. That was something I learned to do from the men here in America and just as I was supposed to accept their behavior, I guess I picked up that habit.
And of course there’s the tradition where American women (still) think men should do all the asking, and all the calling. This proves to be true all the way up our fame ladder, as proved by Gwenyth Paltrow saying that not one British man asked her out when she was on a trip in London.
”British people don’t seem to ask each other on dates,” she fretted. ”If someone asks you, they’re going out on a limb, whereas in America it happens all the time. Someone will come up to you and ask you for dinner and you’ll say, ‘Sure.’ It’s no big deal and no weight will be attached to it. It’s only dinner, for God’s sake.”
The same article goes on to insult English men in their entirety calling them incomprehensible drunkards who spend too much time in the pub. Another article online quotes Canadian writer, Leah McLaren who calls them “repressed homosexuals…[who are] incapable of intimacy with a woman.”
Wow. It’s no wonder many English men don’t like us. We’re demanding and we misunderstand their culture. Not to mention, if we misunderstand their culture we jump to a negative (and brash) conclusion. Are we American women or are we sharks? (See Shark Week on the Discovery Channel).
As I’m sure all women (and men) will agree, the British man’s accent is something charming. Looking past the popular, sexy accent though, is an individual who’s not just charming for the sake of being charming. He may not be particularly open immediately (the British like their privacy) but he isn’t convinced that he has to lie or exaggerate to impress you. And his humor. There’s an art to his sarcasm and dryness. It’s a well crafted line that he gives you, intended to make you laugh. The EM is incredibly witty, although it took me quite some time to understand his British references. Here’s one for example:
Apparently the UK terror threat level has been reduced from ‘severe’ to only ‘substantial’, meaning there is now just “a stong possibility of a terrorist attack which may well occur without warning”. I feel so much safer knowing that.
And another commentary on the price of a train ticket:
£39 for a train ticket. If anyone sees Thomas The Tank Engine, remember to punch the smug cunt the face for me.
Once this American girl got the meaning of cunt, I had to admit to laughing out loud to each one of his jokes. They’re smart, funny and quite brilliant. Maybe I’m just biased.
Another difference between the American and British way of life? Without being too crude, the EM is different in his approach in talking about sex. It’s not, “Hey do you give blow jobs? How soon can you be over?” but “How about a cuddle on the couch and a glass of wine?” Something American men often lack is the ability to control how excited they are about sex. Once sex is mentioned, and American men know you have a vagina and some breasts, they turn into a cave man with a club thumping you over the head and dragging you back to their bed. When you wake up, you must serve them fellatio and then find your own ride home. With an Englishman, although he may be feeling the same cave man lack of control, he subdues it (at least to you) and romances you. But the romance isn’t over the top, like the Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi, who publicly announced that he’d run away with another woman if he wasn’t already married to Veronica Lario.
Berlusconi’s public statement in [apology] – “Forgive me, I beg you … I guard your dignity like a treasure within my heart … Accept this public apology as an act of love. One of many. A big kiss. Silvio” – would not have cut much mustard with me. Generally speaking, the more florid the declaration of love, the worse the bounder behind it. Besides, grovelling in public is hardly a punishment at all for a man who lives to be centre stage. [Quote and commentary from Jemina Lewis]
To her credit, Veronica Lario wrote that it was “damaging to her dignity as a woman,” and divorced him in 2009.
So, even if a relationship can’t develop overseas, I have to admit that getting to know the EM is quite different from the online stereotypes I’ve found about him. And it’s certainly a refreshing change from dating the American Mike, The Situation types who think, “…It’s not a matter of if she wants to hook up with me; it’s a matter of just when I decide.”
Logging off to watch BBC and Pride and Prejudice. xo
Update January 2013: Since the writing of this post, I’ve come to realize British men are very much like American men; they just hide it well at first.