vixenmage: St. Francis wiv a bird on 'is haid! (Default)
Lately, this has been on my mind rather a lot. I've been thinking about writing something and submitting it to TBAT for Slacktiverse, something about how the focus on obedience and submission... basically fucks people up, probably with an emphasis on women-- the only initial reservation being that, although I read every post there, I comment once in a blue moon. The slightly more worrying reservation is that every time I start writing it in my head, it gets so personal I change my mind, both about publicizing it and about it being able to help other people. But I'll sketch something out here, and see if I can figure it out. After all, the more I find out about my childhood, the more I realize how much I have in common with other people raised in RTC households.

So here's the thing. I am, by nature, incredibly submissive. If you know me in person, you might find it incredibly hard to believe, though-- in a weird subversion, evolving Fundamentalist culture has beaten the submissiveness out of me. My family remembers it. My dad has jokingly told my sister not to worry about being a brat when she was younger, because obviously she'd look like one next to a goody two-shoes like me. I hate confrontation, always have, and as a child, I rarely questioned the adults in my world (which was very small).

See, here's how my siblings and I, and all the kids in our church, were raised. Obey. Obey your parents, for that is God's Will. Obey God, in all things. Submit to the authorities that God has placed over you; questioning that authority is disobedience in and of itself. The only time this is incorrect is if an authority gives you a command that is clearly against God's commandments-- and in that case, God's direct authority trumps the earthly ones. Over time, and talking to others raised in this subculture, I've learned that for a lot of people, this was what drove them to question. They asked questions, and got smacked down repeatedly, and this only made them question harder, and in the end, rebel. My older sister is one such woman. I am not.

Obedience and submission were overwhelmingly easy for me. Obviously, since I was a kid, fairly smart and active, I got into trouble, did stuff I shouldn't have, snuck around with my brother, etc. I'm not saying I was Elsie Dinsmore or anything like that. It was just that, although I questioned the physical world around me, I never even considered questioning authority. If my parents, or the pastor, or the church adults, said it, it was true. Always. If the Bible (KJV, of course) said it, it was true. Always. This was a fact of the world, as surely as the Sun came up every morning and rain fell from the clouds and mulberries were delicious. (We had a tree in our backyard. One of the happiest memories of my childhood is climbing that tree to sit and read, and daydream, and eat mulberries until the ripe ones were all out of reach.)

Then my mother lost her mind. She fell, so gracefully nobody noticed until it was too late, from average, run-of-the-mill RTC paranoia, into Paranoid Schizophrenia (and, as we found out years later, Bipolar Disorder). I'll skip over the more painful details of that. Most of it went over my head at the time-- I have a lot of memories that had very little meaning for me until I was years older. But suddenly, authority became pretty absurd. My siblings disobeyed because it was the right thing to do-- sneaking my father's ammunition and vital parts to his guns out of the house, to him, because they caught on much faster than I did and realized that my mother should absolutely not have access to that stuff.

This became a running theme. I was blind to the abuses of authority that were going on around me, because in my mind, authority was never wrong. My siblings, the natural questioners, the rebels, were always on the ball - they grasped that my mother was not in her right mind, and they acted to prevent things from going wrong. I did not. It wasn't until years later that the questions were catalyzed in my mind.

One of my mother's decisions was to enroll us in a private Christian school - she managed, if I recall, to get scholarships for the older three of us. This was a nightmare for all of us; we were the weird kids, the outcasts, the ones who never fit in. Even at eight, the feeling that there was something wrong with me came through loud and clear. But I was good at classes - I could read very quickly, and had excellent reading comprehension, and I grasped concepts pretty well. Even terribly broken ones, like "The world is 6,000 years old, and dinosaur bones/Mesopotamian culture can be used to prove it."

But in fourth grade or so, something changed. When I was much younger, probably six or seven, I'd read The Hiding Place, a book by Corrie ten Boom about her life, focusing on her family's efforts to hide Jews from the Nazis. I'd read it a few times since, loved it, and had certain parts memorized, so when it was assigned in class, I was ecstatic. There's one passage - one of the ones I'd memorized - about a failed romance in Corrie's life. She falls for a man named Karel, he falls back, they spend days walking in the garden, talking, and then she doesn't see him for a long period of time. The next time they see each other, he's with his fiancee; he tells her, "I can't marry you. My mother would kill me." Corrie is, of course, heartbroken, and her father consoles her not with the 'false words' that 'there will be another,' but with sincerity and love.

When our English teacher reached this passage, she told us that the point of it was that Corrie had gone against God's will by 'dating' a man not approved by their families. The point, she told us, was that courtship was the only Godly means of finding a spouse, and the heartbreak was God's way of punishing Corrie for disobeying him.

This made me unspeakably angry. I sat there, trying not to betray the thoughts in my head, which were screaming at how wrong that was. I'd been telling stories for years. To entertain my siblings, friends, or myself-- or simply because the story came to me and wanted to be told. To hear this-- to hear an authority someone who I trusted, lying about a story... it broke something in me. Worse yet, the story was about her life! This was a woman, brave, accomplished, truly amazing, and this teacher, who I trusted and respected, was lying about her life story.

I was utterly furious. I never said anything until years later, but it burned in me, and it burned through the walls I'd built up around 'authority.' My mother had been wrong, I knew, because she was sick, somehow, in her head. This made it different. But now, other things showed up. My dad said things that weren't right. He wasn't always fair. My grandparents, in whose house we were living, were not always right. The teachers protected the school bullies, because they were usually their children, even when they were blatantly lying. The teachers lied about stories. What else were they lying about? My father started dating, and he sometimes didn't come back at night. He didn't keep his promises. My grandmother lied to us about some things. Sometimes she was unjust. My grandfather was unjust sometimes. The youth pastors said things that I knew not to be true.

After a lifetime of trusting authority implicitly as an extension of God's Will, something inside of me snapped. I stopped obeying. I stopped submitting. I stopped trusting. Lesson learned: authorities always lie. People in power cannot be trusted. Everybody lies.

I intentionally went against the grain in highschool, and middle school. I was smart, and shy, so teachers liked me. And I hated that. They were liars! They said things that weren't true, they used their power to hurt-- freed from those walls, I now saw that everywhere-- and I didn't want their, or anybody's, favor. There were some exceptions - the music teacher, who talked about his experience playing in bars, and the biblical references in so much music. Our English teacher, who was pretty fair and sparked my continual interest in mythology. In highschool, things got worse. In classes where the teachers were honest with us, I worked hard and tried. In classes where I could tell the teachers didn't really care about questioning, truth, learning-- especially where they were openly dishonest or showed favoritism-- I actively worked to earn their dislike. I snarked openly. I asked questions, usually because I wanted to know the answers, but also because it drove them crazy. I did my work, and did it right, and so couldn't simply be failed. I was just a Problem Student.

In my senior year, for an English class that I loved, with a teacher who taught me, more or less, how to write, I wrote an essay about the role of Guildenstern, in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead." I called it 'The Questioner,' and drew the conclusion that some of us in life-- such as myself-- could not help questioning, no matter what, even when the answers made no sense, even when there were no answers, even when the answers led to death. We questioned, or we died. We questioned even if we died.

In that respect, the breaking of that trust made me a better person. I like being a Guilenstern. It's important. It's not always fun, and it sometimes gives you a lot of enemies, but it's necessary.

A less enjoyable result of that is the loss of trust, and this is where Fundamentalist subculture seriously messes kids up. If you are raised thinking that all authorities are infallible, if you are trusting enough to believe that, you are screwed as an adult. Because someday, somehow, you are inevitably going to learn the truth. And it is going to hurt. And if you're lucky, you recover and realize that people are fallible, not malicious. And if you're unlucky, the lesson you learn is that no one can be trusted, ever, for anything. And no matter how hard you try to rid yourself of that, to be more trusting, it is internalized pretty hard. And no matter how hard you try, you now know that to submit to someone's authority, to obey someone, for any reason, is a trust. And you can't do it. You can't not question. Even someone you do trust, which is hard enough to find.

I can't figure out a conclusion to this. It ends on a pretty bleak note. My friends are some of the people I trust most in this world. One of them is a guy I work with, who has been my boss/supervisor for about three years now. He's one of the most trustworthy people I know, in most ways, and among my closest friends. And I still question every mundane thing he asks me to do. And I still find it hard to obey him. He says "We don't have time for that now," I look into the bag anyway, without even realizing what I'm doing. And then reality smacks me upside the head, and I put it aside. My brain's immediate response to 'obedience' is a visceral, snarling rejection. Same with submission.

Yeah, I doubt this is ever going anywhere but into my own journal. Fundamentalist subculture is fucked up, yo.

PS: This song is what originally triggered this memory, some years ago, and that's what eventually helped me connect the dots as to how, with the personality I have, I have become the spiky-haired, defiant, untrusting coyote that I am.
vixenmage: (coexist)
There's a site-- Mark Does Stuff -- where Mark Oshiro reads/watches various media and writes up a review for what he's... watching/reading. He did Twilight, famously, first, because he was sick of everyone bashing it and wondering if it was all that bad (Spoiler alert: Yes. Yes, it is/was, and yes, when he was finished he agreed.), then moved on to Harry Potter, bitter and full of dark expectations, only to be delighted by the whole series. Right now, he's reading through American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.

This is absolutely one of my favorite books, even one of my favorite books by Neil Gaiman, which is saying something. (This may be one of my best bastions against being called a hipster. I do not care, nor will I ever care, how popular Neil Gaiman is, he's still awesome.) Anyway-- Mark is going through the chapters one per day, squeeing in delight like so many of us have at Gaiman's work in the past. (I am amused by the fact that Firefox now recognizes Gaiman as a word.) But it threw me, a bit. I may comment there, at some point, but for now I'm too sort of shaky/shy to do it, so I'll put stuff here, instead.

Regarding Chapter Five:
I don’t know what Gaiman is doing to me at all, but I like it. I love that Shadow is at a point in this journey where everything is so bizarre that there’s really no point in actively challenging what he’s seeing or experiencing. And perhaps this is me doing that thing where I read into something far more than I should, but Shadow just submits himself to the experience, and I find that to be an intriguing subtext to me.

See... I don't quite get it. I will agree that giddy enthusiasm is the correct way to react to the book - any books of Gaiman's, in fact! He's bloody awesome! And I think a huge part of it is that he weaves this story so well, and writes it so matter of factly, that you find that willing suspension of disbelief is all but unavoidable. But...

This world, this world where the spirits and gods and ancestors and brownies and fae and piskies and ifrits are real? This world is not unfamiliar to me. And I am only realizing now that the reason for that has, I think, a lot to do with my upbringing. Y'see, the branch of Evangelical/Fundamentalist Southern Baptistish Christianity that I was brought up in never told us magic wasn't real. Instead, it attributed magic to the Devil, or 'familiar spirits,' and chalked it up very firmly on the Evil column. (Everything in the world, you see, is either on the Evil column or the Good column. That is the religion I was raised in.) When you prayed, you always prayed to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, because if you only said 'Jesus,' then your prayer might be interpreted by a demon who went by the same name. We didn't have books of mythology not because "They're myths, not true, and therefore damned lies," or whatever other Good Christian reason you might think of, but because the gods in those books might tempt us from Christianity, to graven images and/or idols, because that's what they were. False gods. There, very much present, very much holding some power, but not Our God, and therefore evil.

Everything that ain't human (or animal) and ain't Yahweh is in the Evil column, you see. Very firmly in the Evil column. (Even angels are untrustworthy-- the Devil, you know, can appear as a being of light. They're not infallible themselves, anyway.) But still there. I remember reading Aladdin for the first time, and understanding (and agreeing with) the titular character's mother, as she unleashes the djinn and goes "It is an Evil Spirit, my son, and you must get rid of it." (Being about ten years old or so at the time, I also sympathised with Aladdin, and had a spiritual crisis that lasted damn near six years on whether I would be able to resist such a temptation.) Later on, I changed my opinion. The djinn is clearly a sentient, sapient being-- the immorality here is not in his magic, it is in his enslavement. The evil in Aladdin's choice is not in his decision to continue using the djinn's magic, it is in his never considering if he should set the spirit free. But then, they often seem pretty evil in the tales-- but I don't know. I have a complicated opinion on jinni. I would love to find one someday and have a conversation with xir. (Hopefully not one that ends with "...Well, if you must behead me, can I make a phone call to my boyfriend first? Or an epic cross-country walk to bid him farewell? It's only fair.")


My point is, although I no longer believe that the entire spiritual realm between man and God is inherently evil... I do hold the belief that it's There. I don't think it's all awesome light and goodness, either, but I think the hold that realm has on my mind is very deeply seated. It was easy, very easy, for me to believe in Coyote. It was much harder to believe that he was not an evil being, another facet of the faceless, demon-bound EVIL that walks the Earth.

I don't know.

The point is, when I read American Gods, willing suspension of disbelief was only partly required, because much of what popped up was so very familiar to me. When I finally did get my hands on mythology, I absolutely dove in. I never realized that the characters became so real to me; I never fully understood why, but I probably heard their names on the List Of Enemies at some point, either from my father or my mother or our pastor. And although I don't believe they're all unambiguous Enemies, their being real is so very much intertwined with my religion that I doubt I could ever shake it.

Alright, I have probably hammered this point in altogether too hard. My next point, of course, is the difference between idols and idolatry, and... all of the above.

I don't worship Coyote. He is my brother. Annoying as shit, funny as shit, I picture him with an infectious laugh, singing rowdy songs and getting drunk off his ass because he can. And so, sometimes, to make him laugh, I sing rowdy songs beneath the stars. Or make jokes, lewd jokes and simple jokes and complicated jokes, and have a Secret Plot to mess with my boss's head by slowly adding shades to his rainbow of *sharpies, leaving bottles upside down, balancing on their caps, replacing all the pennies in the safe with wheat pennies, etc. (That last is a bit more complicated, and must wait until I have enough wheat pennies to pull it off. Which may take a while.) And when I am walking down a straight and smooth sidewalk and trip for no reason, I laugh, and when I am balancing on a fencepost on a slippery moonlit evening in the middle of nowhere, I laugh with delight whether I make the jump to the next gap or not, because who really cares if it's a joke or a triumph? They're both fun.

I believe that God has a sense of humor. I think a being like Coyote has a place in the divine order of things. I don't think it's blasphemy-- or even idolatry.

Idolatry, to me, is simple. Letting something that is Not God subvert the place of God-- whose law, most importantly, is Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself. Who told his disciple, Peter, that in order to show love to God, we must take care of those around us. Whose main issue with the Goats in the parable of the Goats And Sheep was that they did not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison. (I would note he doesn't say anything about why they might be in prison. Apparently it doesn't matter whether they were guilty or not.)

So the most common idols I see are the **American flag, the dollar, and the ticker on Wall Street; my own idols are pretty easily selfishness and intellect-- I had a conversation with Andrew the other day about hierarchies in humanity (notably, how I have trouble following them), and he pointed out that saying no one has the right to dictate anyone else's life seems to assume equality of intelligence. I used to think the same way, but... not so much anymore. Being smarter than someone else doesn't make you better than them. At all. It doesn't give you the right to push them around.

Anyway! This has certainly gone on longer than I intended it to. Mostly I just wanted to kind of laugh at the fact that my strict upbringing made me more tolerant of Paganism and Druidism and Shamanism. (I'm not Pagan, or Druid, but I am Shamanist, which overlaps with both of those in some areas.)

Which would've horrified my mother.

I really shouldn't be snickering at that. *cough*

Anyway. Off to work!

*He's obsessive about those: "Don't use them! They're for signs, they're apart for a reason, I bought them myself." He's got the basic rainbow, but the company makes a lot more-- shades of pastel pink, and blue-green, and stuff. So I'm going to subtly slip new shades into the array until he notices and freaks out. Should be fun.

**I should clarify.

One day, an illegal Hispanic immigrant was walking down a hot desert road, when a bunch of punk-ass kids set on him, beat him, took his money, and left him for dead on the side of the road. He lay there dying, and a preacher walked by, saw that he looked like he might have been an undocumented migrant worker, and walked on the other side of the road, so that he wouldn't get caught in any kind of crossfire. Then a priest walked by, realized that the man might have been caught up in a drug war of some kind, picked up the hem of his robe, and kept walking. Finally, a former Marine who'd just gotten a day off from Border Patrol walked by, realized that the man might be in serious trouble, and, after biting his tongue about all the trouble he could get in for this, took him to a hospital and paid out of pocket to have the man treated, so that his lack of health insurance wouldn't be an issue.

I, um, I'll get off the soapbox and be off now.
vixenmage: St. Francis wiv a bird on 'is haid! (Francis)
And this is one of those things where I realize that my sister and I are very different people, even if we are getting along these days.

You Might Be an Evangelical if...

The comment thread, of course, proceeded to be vastly amused and began coming up with their own-- it's quite fun. There's also a handful of You Might Be a Catholic If, You Might Be a Unitarian Universalist If, You Might Be a Methodist If, wossnames. Even if y'all are not a fan of the Slacktivist site all the time, this is still very worth checking out. (The atheists with no family experience in Evangelical churches are sort of watching the thread with a bemused expression. It's funny.)

A Handful: If you’ve ever forgotten to set your clock back at the end of Daylight Savings Time and your first thought at seeing the empty church parking lot was, “Oh no, I’ve missed the Rapture,” then you might be an Evangelical.

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” If you just shouted, “Where?” then...

If you’ve ever played the tambourine while wearing a tie, then …

If the last rock concert you went to included an altar call, then …

And this is the one that had me laughing so hard I couldn't talk.

If a sentence beginning “Lord, we just, Lord, want to thank you Lord, for just, Lord, just …” doesn’t strike you as either atrocious grammar or a speech impediment, then …

My own contribution was "If you've ever had an intense debate over whether it's pronounced 'ah-men' or 'ay-men,' you might be a Baptist."

"If you've ever followed that debate with a car ride in which case it was hotly proclaimed "AH-men? Ah-Men? Next thing you know, we'll be praying in Latin!" you might be a Southern Baptist.

There was this: "If you don't really know what transubstantiation really means, but you totally believe it, you might be a Catholic."

And my response: "If you don't really know what transubstantiation really means, but you know it's heresy, you might be an Evangelical."

See, I remember all the things Ruth doesn't. I remember those car rides, I remember the barbecues in John's backyard after he finished the sermon, I remember all the little tiny quirks of our church that I never realized were, yes, very weird, until after entering the rest of the world. And you know what? Despite my oft-expressed cynicism with much of the Church, these days I don't think I'd mind finding a Baptist church to fellowship with on Sunday mornings.

(If you know the difference between 'fellowship with' and 'worship with,' then I don't know what you are, but we're likely on the same level of theological tongue-in-cheekery, and yes, these Slacktivite comment threads totally count as fellowship.)
vixenmage: (coexist)
Firstly, CS Lewis and Pacifism: A Failure of the Imagination? And I'll add that question mark, because if it is not in the title, it is certainly in my own head and reading of that article. But I do admit to laughing at the opening paragraph:

Whenever one disagrees with C.S. Lewis, there is sure to be much fear and trembling. I am a Christian today in large part due to Lewis’ writing, and, if he had the opportunity to respond to me on the subject of pacifism, I suspect I would meet the long shadow of the Great Knock! A fearsome idea if there ever was one.

Anyone who's hung around Slacktivist/Slacktiverse for any amount of time probably remembers from recent or distant history some time when someone argued against Kit with "But according to C. S. Lewis--!" and was met with a steely glare, followed by a lengthy, well thought-out, considerate, and devastating explanation of why, Precisely, that does not matter to the argument at hand. They may even, like myself, remember it with a smile! What they probably don't remember with a smile is the ensuing slugfests during which people would tell Kit that she was being overly emotional, that she Just Didn't Get It, that she was wrong because THEY understood Lewis, that she was simply misconstruing his position on this/everything, and in which Kit and those agreeing with her got increasingly frustrated and tempers frayed on all sides.

The other night, I was going through a bookshelf, trying to put off sleep a little longer, and found The Great Divorce. When I was younger, maybe... oh, I don't know. Was it two years back I found that, or only one? Either way, it seems like longer. Time is slipping through my fingers, these days-- and yet, the days drag, and the tally lingers. Anyway. I remember taking great comfort from that book. Thinking on the idea that one had to choose Hell. That forgiveness was, truly, always available to those who could forsake that part of their spirit which had led them wrong, or at least be humble to their own flaws. I loved the metaphors, and always took the lizard which was slain to be an analogy to mental illness - the voice whispering in your ear, telling you any number of horrible things. Unique in a way, and certainly interesting, but overall rather harmful, in this present world we lived in - but transformed, in Heaven, to something beautiful and glorious. That passage filled me with hope, and I seem to remember tearing up, reading it.

Then there's things like his passing slight of 'liberal theology.' And any number of other things that I now cannot recall, and my wondering, foolishly, on the morn, how Lewis might describe me. And then instinctively flinching from that answer, because I am a bisexual monogamous female who wears terribly androgynous clothing/hair, doesn't wear makeup or jewelry, is argumentative and headstrong towards authority figures more often than I care to admit and a vegetarian (I seem to remember him taking a rather derisive tone of vegetarians) and a pacifist (of sorts) and overall, the sort of person who I cannot help but think his initial reaction to would be pretty much "...gah. No." I'd like to think that on further conversation, I might at least persuade him of my humanity, but then my flight of fancy comes crashing to the ground and I realize hey it doesn't matter. He's someone who has no bearing on my life right now, and even if he was still alive this would be the case, and really? I stop trying to please my dad, grow to the point where I am not trying to please my friends... so the psyche shifts to an admired author. Brain you need to stop this.

Anyway. I have come to the conclusion that Paul's advice is the best, still. Echoed by Fred Clark and many others, it boils down to this:

Test everything; hold onto the good."

When this body breathes its last, it is not Clive Staples Lewis I will need to answer to. I doubt that Christ will ask me "Ah, but did you consider before joining the rally that Lewis would not have approved?" He may very well ask "When you joined the rally, how conscious of an effort did you make to ignore your conscience?" or "When you turned away from the rally for idle entertainment elsewhere, how were you showing Love, to your neighbor or to God?" I pray, on that day, that I will have the answers to more of my life than I do now. But in the meantime, priorities are priorities, and I will continue to seek answers wherever they lie, the writings of Lewis included. Test everything; hold onto the good.

I have other insecurities and issues and flailings to do, but none of them really belong here, so I shall leave it and attempt to get some sleep.
vixenmage: (icarus)
We're standing in the dark, you and I. There's a howling wind, so quiet it fills the background, you have to strain to hear the silence on the surface between us, that still tension of things not said. We're standing in the dark, and I'm still not sure which of us has the light. It's supposed to be you, I want to say. You're supposed to be the light, you're supposed to be all. I'm not responsible for undoing my own shadows...

I'm standing in the dark. I love you won't come to the speaking, won't say itself in my heart. I'm here in the dark, and my arm's too heavy to reach for you, and if I fall, I'll fall away. I'm standing in the dark, and I don't have the light, and I don't have the torch, and I'm full of angry darkness, and I don't know why. You're here in the dark with me, I'm told. You're here, not in the rushing or the howling or the fire but the still, small voice.

You're the one who put these voices into me? I hope not. These are not your voices, they are mine, they are selfishly, angrily, hurtfully mine. You're holding the torch, I'm holding the match, we're at an impasse and no matter how many times I say it's my decision...

Other people go through life pretty happily, or peacefully - at least with you. They have things, and they don't feel guilt weighing them down at every step, and they don't resent the guilt, and they don't resent the quiet understanding that they could be better. I'm straining at the bit again, I'm breaking through the traces, I'm seizing the reins and throwing them to the ground, tangling and tripping and falling to the dust off the side of the track, and not looking up to see if you're amused or disappointed.

We're standing in the dark, and I can't see the stars, the clouds, the ground all shod in broken glass, and mosaics of paving-stones. I told you I'd grope in the mud and crawl in the smoke and seek you in the smog and clouds and darkened alleys of this world, and now the lighter the tower grows around me, the harder it is to see. I'm going blind, I'm losing you in all the space, I'm all alone in the twisting places of the narrowest road, and there is no hope.


Mar. 1st, 2011 11:54 am
vixenmage: St. Francis wiv a bird on 'is haid! (Default)
I think I'm officially a Fred Clark fangirl.

Team Hell Gets Loud.

I keep trying to find a selection from the post that will do to explain it, but I'd rather just paste the whole thing here. >_> Ah, this will do.

The evangelical blog world seems all atwitter over a forthcoming book by Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. The book's title, "Love Wins," is apparently regarded by many American evangelicals as an astonishingly heretical and controversial claim. Love wins? How dare anyone suggest such a thing?

Even more controversial is the book's subtitle: "Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived." Bear in mind that the book hasn't hit shelves yet, so nobody's actually read it yet, but that subtitle and this promotional video from Bell were more than enough to prompt Team Hell to spring into action.

I'll say this for Team Hell, they're not afraid of repeating themselves.

Also, I meant to tell Sixwing how awesome her shut-down of Honestwoman was, but forgot. So: Sixwing, you rock!
vixenmage: (coexist)
Because salvation is not a bargain -
a gift, and what is worth a life?

But I will seek you
not in the clear skies alone
but in the clouds and smoke
in the smog, and the confusion
in the twisting darkened alleys
in the darkness,
in the broken glass and
the needles left in the gutter,
For that is where you call me.

Often, of late, I find my train of thought to be suddenly very, very humbling. It's in the self-righteousness of a thought, and suddenly, like a weight on a spinning chain, it comes back to smack me in the face with, "Ah, I forgot you're perfect and can pass judgement on your fellow man!" Ouch. I don't remember what exact train of thought led me to standing with my notebook held against a telephone pole to scrabble that above down, but I do remember looking at the skies for some kind of sign, and seeing a sort of colorless cloud-cover, and realizing that I never feel quite so... right, as when I'm up to my elbows in muck, be it the metaphorical muck of writing about the modern slave trade and talking to people about it, or the literal muck of the disgusting pond in Bushnell Park, back when I used to do Food Not Bombs every week.

There are people whose place is in abbeys, thinking and studying and shining; I am not one of them. If there is a title in history for me, for what I want to do, it is muckraker. Yes, I know it was coined for derision. No, I don't think that derision was earned. Without those willing to rake the filth into the light, it would skulk and grow in the corners, and the question would not be "What do you propose we do about it?" but a slow sucking noise, as the dry ground is sucked into the puddles and the darkness.

It is way, way too late at night for me to be attempting to write.
vixenmage: Beautiful bird which people dislike because it is a crow-related animal (grackle)
When I was about... ten or so, my middle school class went to the Mohegan museum, up where Foxwoods is. The guide actually explained to us at some point that Fox-woods was a literal translation of the name of the area. We oohed, ahhed, and I discovered for the first time that no, not everyone can trace parts of their family back to a Native American tribe. This was a strange, strange thing to my young mind; I'd always assumed "Melting Pot" meant that everyone was literally a little of everything. Anyway, at that point in my life I was beginning to outgrow an obsession with wolves; they just weren't filling a gap in my mind anymore, and the Noble Wolf Tribe Fantasies were wearing thin. But when we saw the polished stones, with animals carved in, for sale at the gift shop, I grabbed what I thought was a silhouette of a howling wolf; it turned out to be a coyote. After lunch, the small group I was in went for an outside tour, to see the way food was kept, and shelter was built, etc. We got lost. On a little circuit that never left sight of the museum on the map, we wound up in an unspecified woods, with no significant landmarks in sight.

The following summer, my family went up to Mt Desert Island, and camped in Acadia National Park for a week. It was a sort of tradition, or became one-- I think that was the first time we'd gone as a family in my generation. I remember thinking it was the most beautiful place on Earth; I was totally enchanted. I also remember hiking along with no particular ambition or thought, admiring the beauty of the world around me, and suddenly realizing my family was nowhere in sight. Usually if I sat down and had a drink they'd be coming up behind me in a few minutes, but still; it was quite funny, especially when I got into the habit of finding a decent hiding place and scaring the crap out of my siblings when they caught up. My dad, at some point, bought a book of Native American Myths And Legends. Terribly thick, heavy, and altogether awesome. My siblings and I all perused it from time to time, but I was probably the most into it.

Which is probably why I was the one who found The Story. The Story, of which I don't remember the name, the origin tribe, or the ending, had a few key components that my young brain collapsed beneath. First, there was a witch who had a special power: She had teeth Down There. Second, she used them to devour warriors by having her beautiful daughter seduce them. Third, in order to do this the warriors put their Thingie... uh, Down There. Which was apparently how they got around to baby-making.

Confused, disgusted, and altogether horrified, I summoned up my courage and asked my dad if that was, indeed, how babies were made? (Prior to this, I had been starting to refuse to swing on the rope swing with my brother, in case I accidentally got pregnant, which would be a sin because he was my brother, Ew. This is probably because the K-12 RTC Pentecostal (Yep! They're out there!) school I went to forbade all physical contact between the sexes, even for games of tag. Nonetheless... I have to feel bad for my father. That's an awkward conversation among awkward conversations.

Anyway. When I was eighteen, we went back up to Mt. Desert for the fourth or fifth time; it was my dad, step-mom, step-brother, little brother, and sister. We went on one or two family hikes, but my favorite hike was the one I took myself-- which was also one of the hardest things I've ever done, physically speaking. Nine miles, between ninety-five and one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, and I ran out of water 2/3 of the way through. I'd had a little foresight and drank from a clear stream earlier (yes, I was that desperate), but the last three or four miles were pretty crazy. I broke off the trail at one point, deciding to cut along the shore of a pond, which was a shorter route to my destination-- but off the trail(s). I made it about 1/4 of the way, realized if I collapsed from dehydration I probably wouldn't get found, and returned to the trail*. I remember this one hill, it felt like 60 degrees up. I was literally chanting prayers under my breath because I was certain I wouldn't make it. But I did-- all the way to the top of that hill, and the next, and then down the mile or so of road. At some point I found a wild blueberry bush and devoured every one I could reach.

That night I couldn't sleep. I eventually left the tent, walked outside and down the path, to where there was a clearing in the woods with no camp spaces, and looked around. Overhead, there was the biggest, brightest shooting star I have ever seen-- you know the ones that are actually green? Yeah. It was breath-taking. I went back to the tent, and fell asleep, and had the wildest dream-- and I do mean Wild. I don't remember it-- all I remember was waking up with Coyote on my mind. I'd been doing more research into spiritual journeys, and shamanism, and no matter how I tried I could not shake the thought of Coyote from my head. (It probably didn't help that you can hear coyotes howling in the night, up there.) All week, I felt freer and happier than I had in a long time. I was full of this wild joy, this energy, and it didn't go away. Eventually the laughter faded, after we'd come home, but... the feeling lingered. I thought about it a lot-- I was relatively unchanged, but... not. The restlessness at night was not so miserable; laughter came more easily; I started running, spontaneously in the night, for the joy of it. There was no sudden realization, no turning point, no spark of understanding. Just a gradual change of heart and mind, as I went from "Christian who's interested in mythology" to "Christian who believes in shamanism." This is not to say I don't still struggle with it, from time to time. I've wondered if I'm being led astray by an evil spirit, or somesuch. Pretty sure that's not the case, though.

The thing is, I find it hard to believe that God would have provided Eurasia with the prophets, and then Christ, to guide them to the light-- and utterly ignored Australia, Africa, and the Americas. It doesn't make sense. I think C. S. Lewis was right; there is a spiritual element to this world-- something between humanity and God. I think we blanket-label those beings as Evil at our own peril. In his Space Trilogy, the premise was that Thulcandra Earth was the Fallen Planet, and the eldil angels thereupon were all Bent Fallen, every one. I have to disagree with him there. Humanity is Fallen-- is every single one of us inherently evil? We have the potential for good, and the potential for evil. Why should we not assume the same of our brethren?

I don't worship Coyote. He's my brother, and he seems to alternate between looking out for me and pulling pranks, depending on circumstances beyond my understanding. I worship God, Jehovah, Yahweh-- Christ. And I figure Coyote probably does, too, in his own way, by his own means.

*(Unrelated: several times, I looked at the ground and went "somebody's done this before. and not that long ago, either." I was pretty psyched when I found out I was right.)

Spirit Day

Oct. 8th, 2010 10:09 pm
vixenmage: (coexist)
Originally posted by [personal profile] neo_prodigy at Spirit Day

It’s been decided. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the 6 gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes at at their schools. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools.

RIP Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh (top)
RIP Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase (middle)
RIP Asher Brown and Billy Lucas. (bottom)

REBLOG to spread a message of love, unity and peace.

If I'm working, I'll dye my hair purple and/or wear an armband. This is Important.
vixenmage: (coexist)
Uh. This is something I posted to Facebook, and to my blog-thing, and nowhere else because it is really rather unfinished. But I'll post it here anyway, and apologize for the double-post, because I really am curious about thoughts you might have. (And suggestions for polishing, which it does need.)

Author's Note: I am kind of a shite writer sometimes. This is one of those times; I've had this flowing about my mind for a good few months/years now, but it always seemed like... like writing out the steps to an equation that you see complete in your head-- which is actually a lot harder than writing something complicated out-- it seems self-explanatory. But. All the same, here is the first bit; when I have a bit of time to breathe, think, and re-calibrate my head, I will write the second, which deals with "What God hath made clean call not thou unclean," and, if I were a philologist of absolutely any skill whatsoever, would also deal with the works of the Apostle Paul, and why I don't think what he is saying is what a lot of people think he is saying. As it stands I might try and touch on the point that he was writing to wayward churches with advice, not transcribing The Words of Jesus to all Christians everywhere at any point in the future. Or I might leave it-- sometimes it's better to have three decent points than three decent... and one weak.

Let me begin with a disclaimer. I am not the best person to write this—nor anywhere near the top of the list. I am not as wise, nor as eloquent, nor as learned a writer as it takes to do this subject justice. Furthermore, it has been said before, I’m sure, and will be said again, more eloquently – and again, and again, and again, I hope, until it is no longer necessary to repeat; until we are, as the poet says, too old to need such crutches. In the meantime-- here goes nothing.

With the disclaimer out of the way, a more… traditional introduction is in order. This is a hard essay for me to write, simply because the final conclusion is something I reached a long, long time ago; it’s something I find self-explanatory, and I don’t know how to convey that simplicity.

Put succinctly – expect rewrites.

To the Christians the world over—every church deacon and pastor and preacher and priest and bishop, and every authority who’s made the claim that God Hates X. Unless that blank is filled with a word like ‘bigotry,’ ‘hatred,’ ‘hypocrisy,’ and especially if it is filled with a specific group of people, consider this essay directed almost entirely at you. I am a Christian, and it’s taken me a while to be able to say that again without wincing at all the implications – after seeing what this religion can be capable of, it’s hard to then take a deep breath and go back, and say to myself that it’s the institution, the people in charge – that I have no beef with God (at least, most of the time – I will admit to a fair amount of skyward-fist-shaking, and furious profanities shouted in quiet dark spaces), that I have never disbelieved in Christ.

That I believe in Love.

For that is the greatest commandment, is it not? Love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and all with thy soul, and with all thy mind. No side-stepping, no hemming or hawing; that’s straight out of the KJV, the Bible the more strict churches believe is The One And Only Word, right down to the punctuation. Love thy God; love thy neighbor. These, Jesus says, are the greatest – there are no commandments greater than these. But what does that mean? Love thy God – how, exactly, are we to do that? Besides an internal belief, and surely that isn’t all, what are we to do?

Peter doesn’t ask this at the time – I can’t recall if any of the disciples do. It’s a lawyer who originally asks him what the greatest commandment is – what he must do to inherit eternal life, depending on which gospel you’re reading. But at the end of the gospels, Jesus asks Peter. I’ll just… I can’t paraphrase this.

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

“He saith to him again the second time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

Unless there’s an entire lost gospel kicking around somewhere about Jesus’ time as a shepherd, those are metaphorical sheep there he’s talking about. The message is clear: If you love me, take care of your brethren—your neighbors. Everyone you can. My sheep. My flock. You. How do you uphold the first commandment? Follow the second.

God is Love. Over, and over, and over again, this crops up in Christianity. So why is it that apparently, in order to worship Him, we need to wear nice clothes to church every Sunday, marry a nice boy/girl (depending, obviously, on gender) in our own social group, always support our country first, and spend much of our life shaking our heads in disapproval at those who don’t follow our set of rules? All of our rules are meaningless – yes, everything even The Apostle Paul wrote, everything that does not uphold those two commandments. Love thy God; love thy neighbor. If it’s not supporting that, what is the point?

So there’s my first proof. But that doesn’t quite hit the heart of the matter; there are plenty of people who preach the doctrine ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin,’ and in this manner avoid outright acts of violence towards any subgroup they disagree with, while at the same time telling them, basically, that their love is something God hates. That they are condemned as sinners – oh, of course we all are – but… they are, moreso, for something they didn’t choose.

Here, I will pause the sermon-type bits to make a short point that I find very difficult to talk about LGBTQ without mentioning. Often, the argument or debate or discussion quickly disintegrates into a snit-fight over whether homosexuality/bisexuality, etc. is something natural, or something chosen. I have one quick question to every single person who’s about to rush me with one finger upheld, pointing, condemning, or, most infuriatingly, holding up invented 'studies'. Look at your Significant Other. Your Better Half; your fiancé, fiancée, your wife, your husband, your lover, the one person who you want to spend your life with. Look at everything that makes you love them – if you will, an itemized list. (Note: Do not actually try to make an itemized list. It’ll take you a good few eternities, I assure you.)

Did you choose that? Did you choose her eyes that make you smile? Did you choose to have that little flutter in your chest every time he looks at you? Did you make a conscious choice, at some point, to first be attracted to that person, and then to fall in love with them? (...Or to fall in love with them and then find yourself blown away when you actually meet them face to face?) Somehow, I doubt it. So unless you’re about to tell me that you made the conscious decision to be attracted to girls with red hair, to really tall guys, to girls with dark eyes, to guys with green eyes, or to guys or girls at all, I don’t want to hear it. Nobody chooses who they fall in love with, okay? Moving on, now.

I'll pick this up later with a Part Two. But I'll summarize that Part Two now by saying that it is unbelievably hypocritical to blather on about homosexuality being a huge, incredible, horrible sin, to persecute and attack and marginalize the very humanity of couples, two people whose major crime seems to be loving one another, while ignoring the rest of Leviticus. And before you go on and point out that shrimp and unclean animals are allowed by Peter's vision, I will quote that passage: "What God hath made clean, call not thou unclean." God seems to have scattered people in all different molds. I'm pretty sure His intention was not to make some automatically more powerful than others, simply by dint of being born out of the majority. And before you put on airs about that passage applying to food, not people, and who do I think I am anyway, I will roll my eyes in advance, and point out that the same passage of Leviticus forbids women to leave their rooms while on their period, forbids men from touching them, or sitting where they have sat, and declares that if a man rapes a woman who is not betrothed, they must be married. (If she is betrothed, her family/fiance gets to kill the rapist! Fun times.) That passage was never specifically refuted either! (Unclean, unclean!)

Now I'm going to go beat my head against the wall until the overtired crazy goes away, and write that rest thingy later.

I should also add, as an aside... this is not meant to be patronizing. As I said, it's a letter to Christendom, explaining... well, why I think they're wrong. It could be argued that everything I've said here is heresy-- so be it. But I don't want anyone thinking this is a "Hey, gay dudes, lesbians, trans people! It's okay, you have my religion's permission to love, now!" It's more... a statement of belief-- I don't think love is condemned by my religion, or ever has been. I think we got something wrong, somewhere a long ways back.
vixenmage: (icarus)
Every now and then, I have this whole internal conversation where I wonder, yet again, what strange things my upbringing did to my psyche. Today, I was contemplating the terror implanted in every Good And Righteous And Godfearing Baptist (heh, just realized how appropriate that is, for the topic at hand), all through growing up.

See, I will argue to the death, however lightheartedly, that Catholic GuiltTM has absolutely nothing on Baptist Guilt, which is so mind-altering that there aren't enough subversive/escaped Baptists out there to make it a culture-thing. See, Catholics, from what I understand, are told that the very act of procreation is a sin, so they're born of sin, into sin, to sin, etc. Baptists, on the other hand, are told something that I believe is -technically- more accurate, but in such a way, given the theology and psychology of the sect, as to be so, so much worse. Baptists are told that every human is born pure and innocent, but chooses to sin. On the one hand, I completely believe that babies are pure and innocent! Annoying? Yes. Ye gods and little fishes, they are annoying. But innocent.

But... that's not what I remember. Not "Ah, the innocence of babes," but "Oh my GOD, I chose to sin! I don't even remember it, but one of my first conscious acts was to choose disobedience and tip myself over into sin, rather than innocence! I am a MONSTER!" And... that kind of stays with you. That doesn't go away.

Baptist guilt. And, on the heels of Baptist guilt, Baptist terror. My family/church (the church, at the time when my conscious memory picked up, had just shifted from about twenty-thirty people who met in an elementary school basement to three or four (admittedly huge) families who met in the pastor's living room (and basement, for the kids)) believed rather strongly in The Rapture, and that it could come at any moment, and that you would, if you were not Ready, be *Left BehindTM for... oh, what is it, seven and a half years? of horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE death and blood and pain and annhilation, wherein would be the constant temptation to just give in and join the Antichrist and his hordes, and if you did your life would be way easier, but also if you did, you would immediately be rejected from Christ forever and condemned to Hell (unless you later cut the Mark of the Beast, probably, according to what I remember, a microchip (HAHA! I just remembered! My mom used to rant about the chips they put in dogs, so that shelters the country over can return them to their owners by finding the chip on the computer network, and how they're a precursor to this!, she was fucking crazy), off, which meant either ripping the skin off your forehead, or cutting off your right hand, you could get back in.

...Anyway. When you're a Good And Righteous Baptist, you live in constant fear of not being good enough, of blaspheming unintentionally, of pissing off somehow the Vengeful god of the skies universe, who will strike you down and condemn you to hell if you show a sign of weakness.

The self-loathing that comes along with all that-- at least, it did for me-- is a topic for another day, and also a topic for a different, probably less public, forum. The thing is, sometimes I understand and empathize with Baptists, even the contemptible, detestable, and pitiable, Fred Phelps. ...Well, his congregation, anyway. He's just a... I don't know if there's an appropriate word (by which I don't mean "not profanity," I mean I honestly don't think the English language has a word for what he is, which I'm actually a little bit glad for. I like this language.) Because, you see, they're all terrified witless. They're afraid if they show a little empathy, a little care, a little, Heaven Forbid, love, to their neighbor, they'll be contaminated. God won't love them anymore, because they have Taken Sides Against His Doctrine, and they'll be condemned to eternal torment.

...For loving their neighbor.

And that's why I rant and rave and rail against most of Christendom, most of the time, and will still defend the religion itself to the death, quite literally, because another Baptist trait that seems to have embedded itself into my psyche is the irrational tendency towards martyr-worship.

Love thy God, with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy mind. Love thy neighbor as thyself. And if you ask how to love thy God? "Feed my sheep." Not 'kill, maim, and destroy any who disagree with you,' not 'make everyone around you as miserable as you can,' but "Feed my lambs."

So... yeah.

This rant may or may not have been brought on by my frustration with my inability to do everything right the first try, or even the second, or by not having eaten more than a roll of bread and a brownie all day, (although the brownie was excellent-- woot for Starbucks) or by my sheer irritation at winding up as a manager at my second job, despite protesting to a friend, more than once, that I would only be dragged into a management job kicking and screaming, especially at that job.

Quoth she, earlier this evening:
(This was after explaining that I wished I could've just said no, but there's... nobody else. And I take some small comfort in the fact that I probably can't do any worse than the thieving, alcoholic, heroin addict who I'm replacing.)
July: You're a natural manager.
VM: I am not.
July: Are too.
VM: I hate authority, I hate bossing people around, I hate being in control, I hate being the responsible party.
VM: I am the opposite of a natural manager.
July: You're like Vimes, y'know.
VM: I am NOT!
VM: I mean, I like Vimes!
VM: He's my favorite character!
VM: But I am not like him at all. At all.
July: Look at what you said.
July: Think about how he is.
VM: ...
VM: oh, fuck.

Or it might be because my brain is acting up and making me neurotic (moreso than usual), and because I'm getting paranoid about everything, or because my back is sore from lifting boxes, or because I'm operating on little sleep and way too much angst and paranoia. But it'll work out. I'll keep ranting until sleep knocks me out with a club and I wake up for work tomorrow.

*The World's Worst Books, as wonderfully dissected by the amazing Fred Clarke, at Slacktivist
vixenmage: (icarus)
Or: knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend.

Fred Clarke's blog, Slacktivist. Read it. Please.

I want to rationalize American evangelicals' understanding of what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. By that I mean I want to spare them from irrational readings of the map that cannot be reconciled with the terrain of reality. If your reading of the Bible leads you to assert that homosexuality is a choice when it is not, then you're reading it wrong. If your reading of the Bible leads you to claim that "ex-gay ministries" are effective, rather than delusional and abusive, then you're reading it wrong. If your reading of the Bible leads you to claim that the happiness of a loving, committed same-sex relationship is an intrinsically, irredeemably abhorrent thing, then you're reading it wrong. And if your reading of the Bible leads you to tell someone else that their desire for that kind of relationship means that they are dirty and wicked and evil, then ... well, then you're just being a jerk, really.
vixenmage: St. Francis wiv a bird on 'is haid! (Default)
Texas votes to rewrite History textbooks! (to remove leftist bias, of course. and Hispanics.)

Geometry teacher uses the hypothetical assassination of President Obama (as in, HOW TO) to teach angles!

Macho Ministry tries to prove Jesus was a cage fighter!

...I just.

This, just. I don't know whether to scream or cry anymore.


vixenmage: St. Francis wiv a bird on 'is haid! (Default)

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