A few weeks back, author and historian Jemar Tisby tweeted that an acquaintance of his “described their general experience with white evangelicals as ‘people who don’t have any questions.’ I immediately knew what they meant.” The tweet gained some traction, with 62.1k “likes” at the time I’m writing this. The next week, Tisby followed up with a thoughtful reflection piece, expanding on his own experience with white evangelicals needing to have answers to every question, from “How old is the earth?” to “How should Christians vote?” Tisby unpacks the dangers of this kind of arrogant certainty, inviting Christians instead to embrace mystery, curiosity, and learning.
I resonate with many of Tisby’s observations and reflections. From my experience (including thirteen years in evangelical churches and a Master of Divinity degree from an evangelical seminary), I wouldn’t say these things are true of every single white evangelical—but they’re definitely true enough of the movement as a whole that they are very much worth naming, engaging, and challenging. I appreciate Tisby’s work.
I am a great evangelist. I used to evangelize in Pentecostal settings until I was 22. Then, I left my church to evangelize about feminist issues to every woman that crossed my path. Rhetoric is a gift I received when I was a kid and that I inherited from my grandpa and my dad. But during the COVID lockdowns, it was hard to socialize, and my evangelization skills turned toward making my friends and family join the privileged fan base of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. One by one, I convinced my sister, cousins, neighbors, and best friends to watch the reality show, and they did with astonishing devotion. Every week, two or three of us gather in someone’s living room wearing masks to watch episode after episode after episode. Our debates about the queens in the show could last all night long. Who had the best performance? Did you like their lip-synching? “That elimination was so fair/unfair!”
Accounts and allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse perpetrated by mostly straight white men in power have flooded the U.S. news cycle for months. Each new revelation confirms that sexual violence is an epidemic fueled by systems of unchecked power and authority, including patriarchy, white supremacy, and Christian supremacy.
After TheWashington Post published the story of Leigh Corfman who recounted the sexual abuse she suffered as a teenager at the hands of Roy Moore, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler came to hisdefense and argued that this would have no political impact since Moore “never had sexual intercourse with any of these girls.”
We all ought know by now that such allegations of sexual abuse, even when the perpetrator admits to them, bear little weight on the electability of white male politicians (see: November 8, 2016). Even so, I was stunned by a poll that revealed that 29% of Alabama voters answered that they are now more likely to vote for Roy Moore since allegations were made against him.
Recently, facing the reality that I do not have definitive or perhaps, static “answers” for my little one when she asks me about death, I find comfort in Carol’s words—in the idea that I don’t have to “answer” my daughter with one, forever “truth.” Because I have to ability to give her “enough,” at least for now.
As I sit down to write, I am reminded of a post I wrote many years ago entitled “Where Do Cat’s Go,” about my mother’s cat, Mimi, who passed away at the age of twenty-four. At that time, I was struggling with what death meant outside of an Evangelical Christian ideology. I had rejected the doctrine of heaven (and hell) itself; but doubt lingered. Fear still held sway over my emotions. I wanted to “believe in,” something else. Whether to regain control or simply for comfort, I hoped for new belief.
Carol Christ, who has touched so many of us, who was my teacher and whom I miss, replied to that post (paraphrasing here), “Why does [Mimi] have to go anywhere? Isn’t it enough that she is a loved and remembered part of life?”
At the time it was not enough. But recently, facing the reality that I do not have definitive or perhaps, static “answers” for my little one when she asks me about death, I find comfort in Carol’s words—in the idea that I don’t have to “answer” my daughter with one, forever “truth.” Because I have to ability to give her “enough,” at least for now.
As a feminist mom, I frequently think about what will give my daughter strength and a sense of her value outside of hetero-patriarchal standards. I am also an ex-vangelical agnostic married to an atheist. He and I want our daughter to have choice in her spirituality and freedom to explore her own directions. I think this is a good commitment, though it is frequently a little more difficult in practice. My partner wants to protect our daughter from all religion and Christianity in particular. I tend to take an educational approach, answering her questions about spiritual matters with, “well, people believe all sorts of things about that,” then listing several beliefs or mythologies that might give her some information on the matter.
One of my former students recommended UNFOLLOW to me, a memoir written by Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of Fred Phelps (1929 – 2014), the (in)famous pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas.
Some people may not be aware that Fred Phelps began his career as a civil rights attorney—someone who, in the 1960s, took on racial discrimination cases no other lawyer would touch. Today, he is best remembered as a preacher who vociferously opposed homosexuality, spreading his message “God Hates Fags” both in the pulpit and while picketing in public spaces. He and his followers also picketed the funerals of fallen soldiers with signs that read “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” Phelps believed soldiers’ deaths (as well as natural disasters) to be God’s punishment for the country’s “bankrupt values,” especially the “sin” of homosexuality. Hence, God unleashes calamity and catastrophe on the United States, a nation in dire need of repentance.
Many Americans described the recent (January 6, 2021) attack on the Capitol in Washington DC as shocking. I believe the event reflected one of the many times we’ve reaped the fruit of what we’ve sown throughout the course of American history. Thomas Edsall, in a New York Times article (1/28/21), wrote an excellent piece titled, “The Capitol Insurrection is as Christian Nationalist as it Gets.” He quotes a variety of experts on religion and other disciplines while contextualizing the incident within a religious narrative—something that is sorely lacking from our news outlets.
I think many people think of religion as something inherently good or at least as a neutral phenomenon belonging for the most part to an unearthly, apolitical realm. Charles Kimball writes in his book When Religion Becomes Evil: “History clearly shows that religion has often been linked directly to the worst examples of human behavior… more wars have been waged, more people killed…in the name of religion than by any other institutional force in human history.” Continue reading “Is Authoritarianism a Christian Value? by Esther Nelson”
I’ve been puzzled for a long time why people, especially conservative Christian people who seem to be decent human beings, enthusiastically support Donald Trump, our current president. My thinking stems from my own experience of being brought up in an evangelical, fundamentalist space.
I grew up with ultra-conservative, missionary parents in a small community of believers who thought they were the only people who understood “life” properly. Especially relevant to the theme of this essay is their understanding that political leaders are in power because God willed it. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). Nothing happens in the political arena (or anywhere else) outside of God’s will which is perfect even though we may not always understand God’s strategies. Continue reading ““This World Is Not My Home” by Esther Nelson”
Daniel Deitrich, a worship leader in South Bend City Church, a “Jesus-centered community” in South Bend, Indiana, isn’t the first evangelical Christian to go up against fellow evangelical Christians who support the current U.S. president. Perhaps, though, he’s the first to author a hymn as a scathing rebuke to those 81% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election and those who continue to uphold him.
In 2015 Kira Schlesinger wrote piece for Ministry Matters about how her own pro-choice stance on abortion had become more complicated the more she explored the issue of abortion. The article was widely read and shared, as well as hotly debated by many. You can read this article and the many comments here. Out of the response to this article grew Schlesinger’s Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justice.
The book does a great job of walking the fine line of being both academically engaging and an easy enough read to engage a book or Bible study group as well. Schlesinger uses the first couple of chapters to dig into the history of abortion, listing recorded examples of the process as early as 1300 BCE. From there she briefly walks the reader through the roughly 100 years (Comstock Act in 1873 until Roe v. Wade in 1973) during which abortion was illegal in the United States. Finally, she wraps up this beginning historical section with details about the generations after Roe v. Wade up to our current reality.
I’ve had two distinct vocations during my lifetime—so far. Three, really, if you count parenting a vocation. Parenting took up a lot of my time for many years. There were aspects to it that were fulfilling, enlightening, and satisfying, but parenting doesn’t last a lifetime. Children grow up before long and then what?
I grew up in Temperley, a suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina, with fundamentalist, evangelical missionary parents, the second of five children. My parents met at Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois, an ultra-conservative, Bible-believing school that encouraged and prepared students to go into the world and preach the Gospel. My parents were zealous to reach Jews for Jesus and sailed to Argentina in 1941, a country where many Jews from Europe emigrated to in the 19th century to escape various upheavals. Continue reading “Acting Out by Esther Nelson”
My husband’s stepmother, Ginny, died last week. She lived several months past her 97th birthday. Here is her obituary.
Ginny shared her life with three husbands, outliving each one. Three sons were born from her first union. She then married John, my husband’s father, and warmly welcomed us (John’s family) into her life. When John died, Ginny married Fred. After Fred’s death, Ginny told me, “Of all my husbands, Fred was my favorite. He was fun.”
Ginny lived at the Brethren Village Retirement Community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania—a home with several levels of care—for over 30 years, moving there a few years after marrying my father-in-law. She said, “We made a good decision. I never wanted to be a financial burden on my children.” And she wasn’t.
Throughout her life, Ginny attended a fundamental, evangelical church. Had she been able to vote in the 2016 national election, she would no doubt have voted Republican. She had no use for feminism (women who rail against God’s ordained order), liberalism (the Devil’s message), homosexuality (perversion of God’s perfect creation) and immigrants (they siphon resources from hard-working Americans).
Yet, at the same time, Ginny was generous, giving to causes that fit with her ideological worldview such as missions. It was important to her that people come to understand the “truth” as seen through the prism of the theology she embraced. Within her community, she was loving, actively engaged, and caring, helping people in practical ways—donating food and other necessities to organizations sponsored by her church.
On a recent Friday, I learned that the 43 year old husband of someone I went to graduate school with, parent of four young children, died suddenly. Though I had been out of touch with my grad school friend for some years, I felt deeply for her loss, her unexpected plunge into single parenting, the way her life and the lives of her children would forever be shaped by this grievous tragedy.
I carried this family in my heart as I drove to my weekly Sunday visit with one of my adult sons, who lives about 75 miles from me. At this time, disabled by mental illness, he lives in an AA recovery house, surviving on Supplemental Security Income of $740.00/month and SNAP food allotments. Now 27, he dropped out of college after one semester, has never held a job for more than a month, and has been hospitalized three times for psychiatric care.
I usually enjoy our weekly visits, during which we sit at a coffee shop or do an errand. But I never know how he will be doing. When he is doing poorly, my own tendency to depression means that being present as best I can, even for just a few hours, to his deep suffering may utterly deplete me for the rest of the day or several days following. Continue reading “Sunday Shaming by Alison Downie”
Accounts and allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse perpetrated by mostly straight white men in power have flooded the U.S. news cycle for months. Each new revelation confirms that sexual violence is an epidemic fueled by systems of unchecked power and authority, including patriarchy, white supremacy, and Christian supremacy.
I find myself asking (again), when the religious right, evangelicals, and Christian fundamentalists hear Trump say, “Make America Great Again,” do they really hear him saying, “Make America Christian Again?” How can the really hear him saying that in light of what this man has actually said and actually done? The answer: because of the same mythical purity that erases the violence, slaughter, and atrocity attached to this “Christian nation’s” founding.
My mother sometimes likes to watch the movie “Independence Day,” on the 4th of July—you know, the one where Will Smith, the gutsy and heroic Marine pilot, Jeff Goldblum, scientist, and Bill Pulman, president, save the Earth from extraterrestrial invasion? It’s an action film loaded with implicit myth and exceptionalism, extolling “mankind’s” common humanness in the face of annihilating, “alien” difference. The heroes ultimately unify the globe with fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants “American” ingenuity, luck, and bravery. Continue reading “Making America What Again? Reflections for the 4th of July by Sara Frykenberg”
I had never heard of the Rite-13 Ritual until I saw it listed on my worship bulletin a few months ago. My first reaction was to become annoyed when I saw the additional program item and to begin to calculate the additional minutes we were going to be sitting in our pew. Our nearly two-year-old daughter had just had her weekly meltdown over being left in the nursery, and all I wanted was for this liturgical hour to be over so I could scoop her up in my arms and take her home.
Started by an Episcopal Church in the 1980s the Rite-13 Ritual is modeled on the Jewish bar and bat mitzvah and intends to recognize adolescence as a time of transition in a young person’s life. After the opening hymn, six gangly, slightly awkward teenagers and their slightly nervous parents made their way up to the front of the congregation. They began with a reading based on Psalm 139: “God, investigate my life, get all the facts firsthand.” Most of their voices were barely above a mumbled whisper, perhaps due to the sheer discomfort of being center stage at church. In between each passage the youth read, the congregation responded, “Your creation is wonderful, and we know it well!” I’m a strong advocate for participatory worship, but this kind of of responsive reading always feels a little odd to me.
The last portion of the ritual, however, caught me off guard and left me in tears. The youth knelt down as their parents prayed a blessing over them. We couldn’t hear what was said, but watching these parents lovingly speak words of affirmation and encouragement softly into their children’s ears was beautiful. Now that I’m a parent, I couldn’t help but imagine what it might be like to stand in their place one day and pray a blessing over my daughter. But I don’t think that’s what brought on the tears.
I had a flash of a memory of a similar scene. I was also thirteen standing at the front of my church with my mother and a group of other youth and parents. We were not there to receive a blessing or to be affirmed, however, but instead to proclaim our commitment to sexual purity until marriage. It was the late 1990s and the True Love Waits movement was just ramping up. I guess you could say my church was an early adopter.
Instead of reciting Psalm 139, we spoke these words instead: “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.” In this evangelical church of my childhood the only readily available affirmation of me as a teenager was tied to an ill-informed, naïve promise I was pressured to make about sexual abstinence for the foreseeable future and beyond.
It was a perfect example of the contradictory theological messages I got constantly from my faith community: God created you, so you are good. But you are also sinful, so you are bad. I remember a church friend once jokingly said, “You totally suck. But Jesus is great through you.”
Twenty years have passed since that True Love Waits Sunday, but as Madeline L’Engle wrote, “I am still every age that I have been.” Over those two decades, I’ve internalized that message of earned and performative self-worth I got as a teenager. It shifted from worth rooted in sexual purity to one tied to academic achievement, transformed to professional success, and then on to marriage and parenthood and the illusive “balance” of doing all of it simultaneously. I still yearn to hear those words of acceptance that I needed then and need to this day.
As I see it, the heart of the Rite-13 Ritual is a commitment on the part of young people to seek divine wisdom throughout the journey of life and for the community of faith to pledge to be a place of unceasing support, friendship, and care for them. No strings attached. I’ve kept that bulletin insert, formerly a source of annoyance, on a prominent place on my desk. I turn to it on particularly hard days as a constant reminder of the truth of my own sacred worth that can’t be lost or earned. It simply is. “Your creation is wonderful, and we know it well!”
Katey Zeh, M.Div is a thought leader, strategiest, and connector who inspires intentional communities to create a more just, compassionate world through building connection, sacred truth telling, and striving for the common good. She has written for outlets including Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, Response magazine, the Good Mother Project, the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion, and the United Methodist News Service. Her book Women Rising will be published by the FAR Press in 2017. Find her on Twitter at @kateyzeh or on her website kateyzeh.com.
After the shooting in Orlando I was numb. In fact, every time a mass shooting occurs now, I am numb. I think we all feel that way, but we all handle it in various ways. Within hours, there are blog posts, articles, and news pieces. People explode on social media with memes, arguments, and debates. There’s a whole lot of projection, a whole lot of persecution, and a mess of ideologies. Yet, what have I noted that is lacking? The ability to listen.
It seems Omar Mateen was gay. No one will ever know for sure. Lovers have come forward, information was found on his computer and phone that points to him being gay, yet, it is all speculation. Mateen didn’t just attack a gay nightclub because he was homophobic. It seems his inner demons ate away at his soul. The fact that he was Muslim on top of that, which, if you follow the doctrine, forbids homosexuality, obviously lent to his actions that fateful night.
Let’s say Mateen was gay. His faith dictated to him that he couldn’t be. He struggled. He prayed. He married two women. Then, he killed 49 people.
Kim Davis does need a lot of things but saying of suggesting that she needs a haircut, a makeover, or even to lose weight, makes you and those that continue to repeat it no better than she is; to state such statements doesn’t purport the ideal that #LoveWins, which took over social media just mere months ago, but changes the whole narrative to symbolize that sexism and hate are more important than love and equality.
Kim Davis, the defiant county clerk, is currently sitting in isolation in a jail cell after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky, even after she was ordered by a judge to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage or be held in contempt of court.
Everywhere I turn on both social media or in person people are talking about Ms. Davis, her actions, personal history and for some weird reason her hair and looks. I’m all for individuals taking a virulent stand against an individual who chooses to not uphold the law of the land as well as continually acting in an unjust discriminatory way but bringing her looks or anything else about her physical appearance into the narrative is not only just plain wrong it is sexism in its worst form. Continue reading “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right by John Erickson”
In a repetitive culture of abuse and silence, is it really shocking to find out that an individual who preached such hate and discontent for others actually perpetuated other forms of heinous abuse against others?
In 2013, I wrote an article about the then latest reality TV scandal featuring A&E’s Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and his rampant foot-in-mouth disease that caused him to express, in the pages of GQ, his true distaste for the LGBT community and specifically for the sexual proclivities of gay men.
Now, two years later in another reality TV show, TLC’s ’19 Kids and Counting’, it isn’t star Josh Duggar’s anti-LGBT statements getting him into trouble but rather his sexual assault and molestation of 5 girls, including two of his sisters. However, while the Internet explodes with attacks against Josh Duggar and his Quiverfull background, it is vital to remember that the silence that he and his family inflicted upon his victims since 2006 has not only been ongoing since then but is also being reemphasized today with each keystroke focusing on the assailant rather than the victims. Continue reading “The Religiosity of Silence by John Erickson”
Mars Hill Church in Seattle has been a large-scale experiment to shape the future of the Evangelical Movement, for good or ill. In recent months the controversy surrounding the Mars Hill founder, Mark Driscoll, gained national attention. Driscoll’s version of radical conservatism wherein he advocates a return to more conservative and traditional faith (with a particular emphasis on gender and gender roles), has long drawn criticism from more mainstream Evangelical factions, but it endeared him to many young Evangelicals.
I always knew I was a feminist, despite my lack of knowledge in the movement and philosophy growing up. I did, however, have the religious support of my family and community to be an Evangelical Christian. I knew all the right words, mannerisms, and behaviors to represent myself as the proper Christian woman. I went on mission trips abroad, wore purity rings, attended sexual purity retreats and church camps, prayed fervently, spoke in tongues (glossolalia), contributed 10 percent of my meager earnings, and above all, fell in love with God.
As a first-generation college student, I was thirsty for knowledge and ready to take on the world. Some of my favorite courses during my undergraduate career included: “Psychology of Women,” “Women, Gender, and Ethnicity,” and “Psychology of Sexuality.” My coursework in gender, sexuality, and the social sciences compelled me to pursue graduate studies in gender, culture, and media at a university abroad. My studies in gender theory and feminist philosophy, and how it intersects with religion and social institutions ignited my spirit.
As a result, my relationship with god suffered. My newfound feminist beliefs were not solely to blame, however. Rather, a variety of reasons contributed to my detachment from god and the Evangelical church which I explain in my post, “Leaving Behind My First Love.” My new feminist identity was the main driver for questioning my relationship with god. Everything from the male-dominated language and rhetoric used in the church, to the discrimination and prohibition of female pastors, to the stringent gender roles expected of congregants. Continue reading “From Evangelical Christianity to Feminist Evangelism by Andreea Nica”
Throughout my “bible-thumping, smitten with God” years, I scribbled countless thoughts and prayers in four devotional journals. Recently I came across these journals, wiping away the years of dust accumulated. As I have been detaching from the Pentecostal god, it was a painful, downright mortifying experience to read through my past communication with god. This god seemed so foreign now given my liberated, enlightened, evolved self. I remember writing to and about Him, but I couldn’t help thinking how dysfunctional and convoluted the language I used really was.
I love you Father. Take me…surrender me to your will…your ways. Let me not lean on my own understanding and foolishness.
Mary Daly in Beyond God the Father advocates, “Time to go beyond God the Father. Don’t you see? If God is male, then the male is God. Reclaim the right to name your self, your world, your God. The liberation of language is rooted in the liberation of ourselves. Be a wild woman…God is not A Being. God is Be-ing.”
Many social scientists contend that language is the foundation of our socially constructed realities. We use language as a creative tool and guide to frame our perceptions of the world around us. We also use language to create our own unique creative expressions. That even though we share and appropriate from the accessible pool of creative expressions, each individual designs and discovers their own true form. Continue reading “The Mosaic Language of God by Andreea Nica”
A few days ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Secular Student Alliance Conference on how non-believing persons can work with Churches. Amidst the chaos of conferences–managing your time, deciding which talks to attend, and making sure you have enough water (it was a Burning Ring of Fire outside in Tempe, AZ)–I got to meet some pretty incredible secular women.
One of them was Heina Dadabhoy.
Former Muslim, blogger at Freethought Blogs, and overall bad-ass, Heina spoke about ways in which secular groups can create a more welcoming environment for ex-Muslims and Muslims beginning to doubt. Her talk, “Of Murtids and Muslims,” (a “murtid” is a public apostate) was not only about her experiences coming out as a secular humanist, but considered some of the absurd questions people ask her (and other ex-Muslims) about leaving Islam. “So did your parents try to honor kill you?” “Have you gone through FGM?” It was disturbingly humorous.
What I considered to be Heina’s main point, was that we should respect each others’ individual differences and not generalize and caricature all Muslims with the depictions of some. “Just because you read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book,” Heina notes, “does not make you an expert on Islam.” Heina made sure to emphasize the radical diversity that exists in Islam. She also spoke of the some of the issues that people go through when they leave Islam: How do I create a new identity when my old one was intricately tied up in my Muslim community, family, and culture? How do I navigate popular culture when I have missed a bunch of it? How do I find myself in this new secular world? Heina’s answers were refreshingly honest and insightful.
P.S. Aisha (one of Muhammed’s wives) should not simply be reduced to the young person Muhammed married; she was also a war leader, influential Muslim thinker, and someone who contributed greatly to early Islam. This is, of course, Heina’s insight.
Another awesome secular woman I met, was Sarah Morehead.
Sarah is a former evangelical Southern Baptist, Executive Director of the “Recovering From Religion” project, and another overall bad-ass. She spoke on how to start up a Recovering From Religion group on your campus. Here is a blurb about Recovering From Religion,
“If you are one of the many people who have determined that religion no longer has a place in their life, but are still dealing with the after-effects in some way or another, Recovering From Religion (RR) may be just the right spot for you. Many people come to a point that they no longer accept the supernatural explanations for the world around them, or they realize just how much conflict religious belief creates. It can be difficult to leave religion because family and culture put so much pressure on us to stay and pretend to believe the unbelievable. If this is you, we want to help you find your way out. Don’t let people convince you that you just didn’t have ‘enough’ faith, or that you just haven’t found the “right” religion.”
Sarah and I chatted (and often laughed) about our old experiences as conservative Christians. We discussed some of the funny language (Christian-eze) we used to use, the various levels of guilt and shame that were cast upon us, and how science helps explain some of the interesting displays of piety often seen at Pentecostal services. Sarah’s jovial and welcoming demeanor was calming, and as an Executive Director for a project aimed at helping people “recover” from religion, I cannot think of a better person for the job.
The last woman I have in mind is Lyz Liddell.
Lyz is the Director of Campus Organizing for the Secular Student Alliance. I have an interview I did with her a while back, on this very blog! Besides running around with her headset on, standing on chairs for announcements, and generally keeping the world of SSA from not crumbling into oblivion, Lyz is a great motivation and example. If you are ever interested in starting a SSA group on your campus, talk to her.
To all those who attended this years SSA West, or who are involved with helping secular students: Unite!
Kile Jones holds a Bachelors of Theology (B.Th.) from Faith Seminary, a Masters of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) and a Masters of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) from Boston University, and is a current Ph.D. in Religion student at Claremont Lincoln University. He also holds a Certificate in Science and Religion from the Boston Theological Institute. Mr. Jones has been published in Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, Philosophy Now, Free Inquiry, World Futures, Human Affairs, and the Secular Web. He is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Claremont Journal of Religion (www.claremontjournal.com), and is the Founder/Director of Interview an Atheist at Church Day (interviewatheists.wordpress.com).
A former evangelical Christian friend of mine sent me information on the intriguing documentary God Loves Uganda. The newly released documentary addresses how the American evangelical movement has prompted a political and social shockwave in the country of Uganda. While missionaries are typically associated with delivering aid and improving the conditions of third world countries, the spreading of Christian values and ideals has inflicted suffering upon ethnic communities through evangelical indoctrination.
The intent of the film is to raise awareness of the political and social brutality that the evangelical missionaries are instigating; specifically through their teaching that homosexuality is a sin and should be dealt with accordingly. In Uganda this means death. Given the rise of globalization, transnational religious actors have been more enabled to engender other nations with their respective religious beliefs, often with minimal regard for the cultural and political landscape of the nation they wish to transform. Continue reading “Evangelical Missionaries Preach Death in Uganda by Andreea Nica”
Jesus loved sinners and Jesus would rather be dancing with me in West Hollywood on a Friday night than lugging through a swamp luring ducks into a trap with a duck caller made by a clan who think that my sexual actions are similar to that of an individual having sex with an animal.
To be able to walk down the street holding the hand of the one you love is a great feeling and an action that some of us aren’t able to perform without fear.
A line has been drawn in the sand between those who support gay rights and those who do not. While some call it being on the “right side of history,” I simply now refer to it as not sounding and looking like a bigot in the halls of history and in the various books, Facebook posts, and Tweets that our children will one day read. Continue reading “Yes, You’re a Homophobe by John Erickson”
I grew up in a white-middleclass-fundamentalist-Protestant community. As a result I learned to think of God as my Father, and Jesus as my savior, similar to the fairytale prince in shinning armor or the ultimate boyfriend. As an undergraduate studying Religious Studies, I learned of other ways to relate to the Divine and discovered how to be a Feminist Christian. However, many women with backgrounds like mine do not have the opportunities that I did to discover different and liberating pictures of God. As a result they must choose between a religious life that enforces patriarchal norms, or life as a “secular” feminist. A recent song by a modern rock band, Daughtry, “Waiting for Superman,” reveals how the dependence on a male savior prevents Christian women from claiming their own personhood, independent of a patriarch. Continue reading “Waiting for Jesus… I mean, Superman by Melinda Bielas”
Breaking up with your first love can be an excruciating process; especially when it happens to be completely entangled with your being. God was my first love and he stayed for a long while. We had many exhilarating times together, particularly within the branch of Christianity I was raised in: Pentecostalism. I fell in love with God when I uttered his divine language at 13 years of age.
Currently, I’m writing my memoir and narrative nonfiction, Freeligious™, for which I explore the scientific explanations of my charismatic experiences in the church, which inevitably led to a closer attachment to God. In the Pentecostal church, we were encouraged to connect with God through supernatural phenomena.
Examples include: speaking in tongues (glossolalia), healings, trances (drunk in the holy spirit), visions (hallucinations), prophetic messages (delusions), rebuking evil spirits (paranoia), and many more god-friendly activities. While some of my church peers and most outsiders found the charismatic ordeal to be phantasmical and plain ol’ crazy, I became enchanted by the initiation. The initiation process was quite simple really. As believers in Christ, we must receive the baptism of the holy spirit which usually took the form of speaking in tongues, clinically known as glossolalia. Continue reading “How I Loved Myself through Charismatic Worship by Andreea Nica”
The prolonged debate around feminist subjectivity and religious participation continues to evoke much compelling discussion in academia, political arenas, and public space. There have been a number of academic studies around the intersection of gender, religion, and migration, specifically on how gender and immigration assimilation is constructed and managed within western religious systems.
Women’s bodies continue to receive an inexhaustible amount of attention. As a society, we have glorified, scrutinized, degraded, hypersexualized, underrepresented, and misunderstood the female body. Purity culture has orchestrated a movement around the management, perception, and regulation of women’s bodies. As a former Pentecostalist, I grew up knowing there was more focus on my body versus those of my brothers in Christ. There was a bodily divergence between men and women that I did not fully comprehend but felt obligated to adhere to; the ideological basis of this difference was filled with much ambiguity.
Each time the church organized a sexual purity event and/or discussion, boys and girls were unfailingly segregated. I was always so curious about what was discussed in the boy’s group so I would ask my brother, Christian boyfriend, and male friends at the church to fill me in on the gossip. In my teens, I didn’t know how to perceive the information relayed to me. Looking back now, I am surprised at the discourse around purity culture and masculinity in the church. During my earlier years at college, I convened with the male pastoral leadership, and they confirmed the following main themes taught to men during sexual purity discussions. Continue reading “The Purity Complex: Are Men Really Less Affected Than Women? by Andreea Nica”
If a conservative religious traditions can’t give their mothers or sisters full equality, how can we expect them to give a GLBT individual the time of day?
Outrage. Anger. Fear. Hatred. These are just a few of the words that flashed across my Twitter feed as I woke up on that fateful Wednesday, June 26 morning when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) was unconstitutional and that supporters of Proposition 8, the hotly contested voter initiative in California that banned same-sex marriage, had no standing. People were mad. However, it wasn’t just the typical kind of mad that is associated with hatred, it was a type of mad that was met with impossible anguish because what I was reading and feeling was a result of one thing: there was nothing more they could do.
What does all this mean? Questions from friends and family were filling up my inbox and although I wanted to take a moment to just hit “Reply All,” and input the words: Equality, I had to hold back and start to examine the notion that although equality may now be firmly on the proverbial table, there is still a lot of work to be done, specifically for gay marriage and those wanting to marrying inside the traditional church spaces they grew up in and not just the ones that have come out as open and affirming in recent years towards LGBT individuals. Continue reading “To Have and to Hold: Gay Marriage and the Religion Question”
oes God exist within the LGBTQ community anymore or has the community itself abandoned God for all-night raves, dance clubs, alcohol, and hypersexualized and over commoditized fetishized forms of femininity and masculinity? Oftentimes, I find myself answering yes to the above questions. After surviving hate crime after hate crime and endless batches of newly elected conservative politicians hell bent on ignoring medical and social epidemic plaguing the very country they were elected to serve and protect, why would a community, oftentimes linked to sin itself, believe in a holy entity?
My good friend and fellow Feminism and Religion Contributor Marie Cartier’s forthcoming book, Baby You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall argues that American butch-femme bar culture of the mid-20th Century should be interpreted as a sacred space. Specifically, gay bars served as both communal and spiritual gathering spaces where butch-femme women were able to discover and explore not only their sexuality but also their spirituality. An opus of an academic accomplishment based off of the amount of in-depth interviews she conducted, Professor Cartier explores lived religion in an area that has become all too common within the LGBTQ community: the bar