From the Archives: Recognizing Abuse by Karen Tate

This was originally posted on March 8, 2019

I’ve been thinking a lot about abuse. Of course, most of us know about the domination, exploitation and  need for control meted out by patriarchy, but I wonder if we have actually normalized many abuses? Abuse in the home, in the workplace, in our culture. Perhaps  we accepted it unconsciously because so many of us are conditioned by religions that tell us to make noble sacrifice and tolerate suffering silently. I wonder if we’re calling it out when we see it – often and loudly – or if we’ve become conditioned to quietly accept the abuse with little push back.

My intent is not to offend anyone with this. I want to find common ground and defeat the polarization we find around us, but our President is the poster child for abusive behavior.  Do we recognize his lies and fear-mongering and so many of the ideas he gives credence and license to as abuse?  Not only is he eroding our democratic institutions but he poisons the political, social and cultural arena with negativity, fear and hate, rather than uplifting us and encouraging us to evolve and be the best version of ourselves. I equate him to poison in a well from which we must all drink.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Recognizing Abuse by Karen Tate”

Marketing in the New World and Karen Tate’s New Book on Normalizing Abuse by Caryn MacGrandle

Marketing was my thing in college.  And my first professional job out of college was in Marketing at the Regional Headquarters of Canon in Dallas.  And then my life took me out into the weeds: a marriage to an Airforce pilot following him to the snow filled tundra of North Dakota, the swamps of Mississippi, two divorces, four children, twists and turns and ups and downs all landing smack dab to where I sit in front of my computer at the moment outside of Huntsville, Alabama at 53 finally feeling like I’ve got somewhat of a handle on this crazy ride called Life or at least a better idea of how to buckle in and enjoy the ups and get through the downs.

Continue reading “Marketing in the New World and Karen Tate’s New Book on Normalizing Abuse by Caryn MacGrandle”


This was originally posted on March 5, 2012

What happened to you really was bad. This should not happen to any child. It should not have happened to you.

In our culture there is often a rush to forgiveness that precedes acknowledging the harm that has been done. When I was a child and my father yelled at me or withheld love, I was told by mother, “He really does love you. He just does not know how to show it.” She sometimes added, “Even though he will never say he is sorry, you should forgive your father, because he did not really mean what he said.”

Continue reading “Legacy of Carol P. Christ: FORGIVENESS or TRUTH: WHICH IS THE BEST REMEDY?”

We Endure Abuse to Survive, Part 2 by Karen Tate

Part 1 was posted on December 18. You can read it here.

But what was the straw that broke the camel’s back in my case? What hurled me into that dark abyss I described earlier? The paranoia, the anxiety, the nightmares and sleeplessness. Not opening my closet in three years or not caring about much of anything. The fear of being alone in a place or in a crowd of strangers.  Fear of going to unfamiliar places. Of driving myself across town. Did it start with the collective trauma and abuse mentioned earlier? I can’t be sure, but therapy definitely points to my attack by an inebriated young woman wielding a stun gun. She looked to be college age. One would never have guessed her capable of such a senseless assault. I told few people about it but it was years before I realized how that event stifled my voice. Yet “they” – the authorities in society – say if we don’t talk about assault right away it must not be true. Or we’ve waited too long to talk. They want us to talk on their timetable about damage done to us when there might not be visible wounds or we even understand the psychological scars that might not have surfaced yet. It was a few years after the attack that I finally sought the help of a therapist and was diagnosed with the PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder that changed my life. 


Continue reading “We Endure Abuse to Survive, Part 2 by Karen Tate”

The Ugly “Neighbor” and The Power of Evil by Sara Wright

What follows is yet another story of how patriarchy is destroying our culture through the lens of personal narrative. This is a pattern we must uncover, reveal for what it is and refuse to participate. As bell hooks once said, “your silence will not protect you”. Especially from insanity.

I was gone when the U-Haul moved out.

 For almost 19 years Ugly neighbor lied, manipulated, tried to steal land, stole my young balsam trees, ignored covenants on our deeds and most recently started to set off explosives.

Six months after moving in here this guy cut down my trees and built a bridge over the brook on my land. It never occurred to me that he did it. Oh, I wasn’t accustomed to this sophisticated level of manipulation. When I approached Ugly neighbor (alias ‘nice guy’ with a fake halloween pumpkin smile) to tell him what I believed someone else had done, I discovered he built the bridge; he cut down my trees. Stunned, it barely registered when he said “I did it for you.” WHAT???

Accustomed to the old fashioned ‘respect your neighbor policy’ I had no frame of reference for the hell that was coming my way.

Continue reading “The Ugly “Neighbor” and The Power of Evil by Sara Wright”

Be the Donkey: On Parshah Balak by Ivy Helman.

The Torah portion for July 16, 2022 is Balak (Numbers 22:2 -25:9).  Some of what happens in Balak is familiar: idolatry, divinely-sanctioned death penalties, and a plague.  But, did you know that this parshah has a talking female donkey who stands up to abusive behavior?  Perhaps not.  That talking donkey and the larger story of Balak’s attempt to curse the Israelites raises questions about gender, how we treat animals, choices, free will, violence, courage, and having one’s eyes open to what is really happening around one’s self. All of which is what we will be looking at today.

Balak begins with this story about Balaam.  The Moabite king, Balak, wishes to curse the Israelites because he is worried about their size and their impact on the land and its current inhabitants (22:3-4).  He sends representatives to bring  Balaam, a powerful man whose curses and blessings have tangible effects on their recipients (22:6), to him.  Balaam meets with those representatives and tells them to wait; he has to talk to the deity in order to know what to do.  The deity commands Balaam to stay put and to not curse the Israelites, for they are blessed (22:12). Indeed, a first in quite a while. 

Continue reading “Be the Donkey: On Parshah Balak by Ivy Helman.”

When Rabbis Abuse: Power, Gender, and Status in the Dynamics of Sexual Abuse in Jewish Culture, Part 2 by Dr. Elana Sztokman

Moderator’s note: This is a book excerpt in 2 parts. Part 1 was posted yesterday. When Rabbis Abuse will be published on June 14th, information on ordering below.

Grooming tactics: Targeting the victim

Although there are many ways to target a victim, there is a particular type of grooming that is available to rabbinic figures and other clergy, which comes in the form of pastoral care. Many stories involve glaring examples of this—funeral, bat mitzvah class, depression, or other moments of emotional vulnerability. Often the rabbi-abuser will target people who are going through a divorce—or even worse, recovering from sexual abuse. …

Brenda, for example, says that the rabbi targeted her when she was at a very stressful time in her life and having what she described as “emotional issues”:

I was making my son’s bar mitzvah, and it was a lot of work. I was having some emotional issues because I’m more observant than my family and most of my family is pretty secular and it’s always challenging to get my family to be engaged, and I was feeling stressed and hurt because a lot of my relatives had decided not to come.

Continue reading “When Rabbis Abuse: Power, Gender, and Status in the Dynamics of Sexual Abuse in Jewish Culture, Part 2 by Dr. Elana Sztokman”

When Rabbis Abuse: Power, Gender, and Status in the Dynamics of Sexual Abuse in Jewish Culture, Part 1 by By Dr. Elana Sztokman

Moderator’s note: This is a book excerpt in 2 parts. Part 2 tomorrow. When Rabbis Abuse will be published on June 14th, information on ordering below.

When I started this research in 2015, I was not expecting rabbis to be the headliners. I was looking at abuse in general in our community. When I began conducting interviews on this topic, I was startled to discover how many of the abusers described by interviewees were rabbis.

Discovering rabbis

Although anthropology does not claim to offer statistical evidence or representative sampling, and although I efforted to maintain listening neutrality and non-judgment, I was nonetheless swept away by hearing so many of these accounts of rabbis who sexually abuse. The title of this book is a result of an incomprehensible number of interviewees in which the abuser was a rabbi. I decided to examine the profile of the rabbi-abuser more carefully to understand what this means for our culture and our community, and to use those insights to analyze other cases of high-profile abuse using those paradigms of power in our culture….

Continue reading “When Rabbis Abuse: Power, Gender, and Status in the Dynamics of Sexual Abuse in Jewish Culture, Part 1 by By Dr. Elana Sztokman”

Walking With Aletheia by Jean Hargadon Wehner – Book Review by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Trigger Alert: There is discussion of sexual violence.

“I transformed from terrified victim to a courageous survivor . . .Different than an ‘out of body’ experience, this felt more like an ‘in-body’ experience. I stood my ground and did what I had to do to get the hell out of there.” Jean Hargadon Wehner (pg 89).

In 2017, a Netflix documentary came out called The Keepers. It is the story of abuse and torture that was not only allowed but protected by the Catholic Church. Jean was featured in the series as the linchpin who helped to uncover and bring to light the atrocities. Our own Carol Christ watched the seven-episode series when it came out and wrote a blogpost about it. FAR reposted that blog at the end of February to honor Jean who has now written her own book, Walking with Aletheia. In it she describes her own healing journey or as she calls it her “health walk” out of the wreckage of that horror. For more on The Keepers, you can read Carol’s post here (which also includes Jean answering some questions about her story). This book is Jean’s story which, while intricately intertwined with the Church, is ultimately about her own pathway to spirituality and healing.

It’s hard to imagine the emotional weight of the authority figures that bore down on Jean when she was a student at Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School in the late 1960s. Not only did two priests torture and abuse her but they drew in other Church officiants as well as the police. The legal system actively turned its collective back to her. It is a great gift that she has survived and a testament to her strength, inner creativity, and the love in her heart that she was able to navigate such an apocalyptic terrain. The instruments of the torture were horrendous including rape, sex trafficking, drugs, and mind control techniques.

Continue reading “Walking With Aletheia by Jean Hargadon Wehner – Book Review by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

Peng Shuai and Tennis’ #Metoo Moment by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

I am a fervent tennis follower in all its forms. I both play and watch tennis. That is, perhaps, why this story caught my eye. As I’ve written before, I am also a survivor of sexual assault, so these #metoo stories are personal.  

On Nov. 2, Peng Shuai, a member of the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association), charged a high-ranking Chinese official with sexual assault via social media. Her post was taken down in under 30 minutes and for 2 weeks she was not heard from at all by any independent person. An uproar ensued with major tennis stars speaking out including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic. Peng, a 3-time Olympian herself, has been ranked as high as #1 in doubles and #14 in singles.

Could this be the case where there might actually be consequences for silencing a woman who has credibly charged abuse? It appears, at least for now, that the WTA is doing the right thing. After some initial dithering, the WTA is, as of this writing, standing strong saying they will withdraw tournaments from China until there is a satisfactory resolution to this situation. This is a billion-dollar industry with 11 tournaments scheduled to take place in China yearly. In other words, its a big deal.

Continue reading “Peng Shuai and Tennis’ #Metoo Moment by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

“Go Back to your Country!” OK. But … I’m From San Francisco! by Karen Leslie Hernandez

On December 15, 2018, at 10:22PM, I received a call and a voicemail from someone I didn’t know. The charming message left for me? “Hello, Karen. You fat, disgusting slob. Go back to your country. I hope your new year’s is great. You fat, disgusting slob. Goodbye.”

What to say?

With just the right amount of racism, misogyny and stereotyping, at first, I was scared. I remember sitting in my apartment, with the lights off thinking that no one should see I was at home – wondering who this person is? Was he close? Did he live in San Francisco? How does he know my name? How did he get my number? Does he know where I live? It completely freaked me out. I listened to the voicemail several times, wondering if I knew this person – perhaps he was someone I angered because I didn’t want to date him – I had no idea.

In the coming days, after a conversation with Verizon and a friend who works with AT&T, I got the caller’s name and some other pertinent information. An 18 year-old kid named Dominic, from Ohio, was the culprit, and after a bit of sleuthing on Facebook, I contacted Dominic’s dad. I left a voicemail at his dad’s work, sent his dad an email with a copy of the voicemail, and I called the Youngstown police – and I never heard back from anyone.

Continue reading ““Go Back to your Country!” OK. But … I’m From San Francisco! by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Privilege and Hierarchy in Community Care by Chris Ash

This is part one of a multi-part series on privilege, dehumanization, and hierarchy in organizing, activist, and ministry circles.

Early in my training at my current job, my boss explained our agency’s position on social justice and intersectionality to me: “When we center the margins in our work, everybody gets served.” Framed differently: When we expand the circle of who can access service, be treated with dignity, and have their humanity affirmed by others, those already within the circle get served, respected, and affirmed as well. Nobody gets excluded. Everyone gets support. In our work, we recognize that all oppressions are interlinked, and that you cannot effectively advocate for the abolition of one form of oppression without working to end them all.

I think there is a fear within circles of people who experience one or more forms of oppression that in order to allow care for those who are more marginalized, or marginalized in different ways, we must turn our focus outward to the margins, away from the center. And sometimes we do. Sometimes we need to stop talking about the needs of cis men long enough to really focus on harm experienced by women and femmes. Sometimes we need to stop talking about the experiences of white women long enough to recognize the unique oppressions experienced by Black, Latinx, and Native women. Sometimes we need to stop talking about the experiences of straight cis people to recognize the daily microaggressions, direct aggression, and harm experienced by trans and nonbinary people. Continue reading “Privilege and Hierarchy in Community Care by Chris Ash”

Recognizing Abuse by Karen Tate

I’ve been thinking a lot about abuse.  Of course, most of us know about the domination, exploitation and  need for control meted out by patriarchy, but I wonder if we have actually normalized many abuses?  Abuse in the home, in the workplace, in our culture.   Perhaps  we accepted it unconsciously because so many of us are conditioned by religions that tell us to make noble sacrifice and tolerate suffering silently. I wonder if we’re calling it out when we see it – often and loudly – or if we’ve become conditioned to quietly accept the abuse with little push back.

My intent is not to offend anyone with this.  I want to find common ground and defeat the polarization we find around us, but our President is the poster child for abusive behavior.  Do we recognize his lies and fear-mongering and so many of the ideas he gives credence and license to as abuse?  Not only is he eroding our democratic institutions but he poisons the political, social and cultural arena with negativity, fear and hate, rather than uplifting us and encouraging us to evolve and be the best version of ourselves.  I equate him to poison in a well from which we must all drink. Continue reading “Recognizing Abuse by Karen Tate”

Compassion to the Why by Karen Leslie Hernandez

This last month, I’ve found myself doing work on what I call, Compassion to the Why. That is understanding why. Asking why. Getting why. Having compassion, for, why.

Why is this important, you ask? Because getting to the ‘why,’ is imperative to understanding. Almost everything.

Let me give you some examples. I will start big. Afghanistan. After colonization, Afghanistan was working toward a modern world. I’ve noted pictures of women in mini-skirts at Kabul University in 1977, and although the country’s infrastructure was struggling, it was moving along as it should. Then, the Russian invasion in 1979, rebel groups, radical forming factions using faith as their political motives, and the rest is history. We have no guarantee or Crystal Ball as to if Russia had not invaded, of what Afghanistan would be like today, or if the Taliban or Al Qaeda would have formed anyway, but, it is safe to say, it probably would be a very different country all together. Let me also add this about my using Afghanistan as an example. Right after 9/11 and when the US was about to invade the country and begin its assault, I sent out an email with my worries about what that retaliation would mean. An Aunt of mine, through my marriage with my former husband, wrote me back and gave me a litany of excuses as to why we should obliterate this nation, ending with, “… and besides, they aren’t even Christian over there.”

If only my good ol’ Auntie had cared to know why, perhaps, she would have had some compassion.

Continue reading “Compassion to the Why by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

What’s Your Choice? by Karen Leslie Hernandez


Many times choices are difficult. Some of the time choices are easy.

I have had a rough year. Probably one of the most difficult yet in my adult life.

I began this year with an offer of a job, where I would have used every bit of my knowledge and education, which included a move to Dallas. That job, due to fear and discrimination, ended as quickly as it started. Now, 12 months later, I am job secure and I still live where I began 2018.

Aside from job security, I have been dealing with a serious incident of verbal abuse, from someone in my family, who should never do to anyone, what they did to me. It has been devastating, debilitating, and incredibly difficult, to say the least.

I have also been thinking about my choices of men. That seems to always be disastrous for me. I do not choose wisely. And I am uncertain as to why.

Last, I have been thinking about my choices of whom to include in my life as friends, and whom I must not include. This particular choice is not easy.

The fact is, I have a choice. We have a choice. Always.

Continue reading “What’s Your Choice? by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

I Was Brainwashed to Believe I Wasn’t Human. Now I’m on a Mission Against that Cult – Part 2 by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, graphic sexual content

In Part 1 of this story, I introduced a discussion of Johan Galtung’s theory of cultural violence as it relates to my experience as a young woman in an abusive relationship. To recap:

Cultural violence is: “…any aspect of a culture that can be used to legitimize violence in its direct or structural form. Symbolic violence built into a culture does not kill or maim like direct violence or the violence built into the structure. However, it is used to legitimize either or both.”[1]

Cultural violence against women is: Normalization and promotion of pornography, prostitution, degradation, and sexual objectification of females in media, predominantly male language in civic, business, and religious institutions, gender roles and stereotypes, misogynist humor, gaslighting, minimizing or denying any of these forms of violence.

Part 1 ended right before my ex convinced me to leave MIT and move with him to Minnesota. I had been trying my best to please him by sculpting my appearance to match his preferences, believing that it was my job as a female partner to try to satisfy my male partner sexually.

Continue reading “I Was Brainwashed to Believe I Wasn’t Human. Now I’m on a Mission Against that Cult – Part 2 by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

Open Letter to the Pope and all the King’s Men by Natalie Weaver

Dear Sirs,

It breaks me down.  My anger, my revulsion, my powerlessness.   I have been searching for the way since I was a child old enough to remember my mind.  For a time, I thought Jesus was a white guy knocking on my door after having seen a religious pamphlet placed under our windshield wiper.  I’m not sure he has blond hair anymore, but I still feel him knocking.  I have been in love with him for as long as I have been a self, so much so that I baptized myself as a little girl.

Somewhere along the way, I figured my little, lonely way wasn’t good enough, and I wanted a church home.  I finished a doctoral dissertation trying to find some place I could hang my hat.  I picked the Roman Catholic Church, despite what I knew of it and what I had to defend about its patriarchy and history to family and friends.  I loved the conversation, the so-called “Catholic Intellectual Tradition.”  I always felt myself to be a covert, a conversa, a definitive outsider, and someone not to be trusted entirely as a cradle Catholic might be trusted, yet I tried to be family. I’ve been bringing up my kids in the Church, volunteering, working in Catholic education, paying the boys’ tuition.  I do work-arounds, making excuses for the exclusion of women, defying the Church’s stance on sexuality with a critical repertoire of cross-disciplinary scholarship.  Lord, I even had to help my Seventh-Day Adventist mom with a hostile annulment process that was dropped on her unsuspecting by a horrendously insensitive marriage tribunal.  It wounded us all. Yet, here I have sat, until this.

Continue reading “Open Letter to the Pope and all the King’s Men by Natalie Weaver”

Time to Stop Talking by Esther Nelson

One of my Facebook friends—someone I’m quite fond of—posted the following remarks given by her pastor, Dr. Jim Somerville, First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia, to the congregation on July 15, 2018:

It was Thanksgiving 2016, and my brothers and I were headed toward a family reunion of sorts in Franklin, West Virginia, where my mother now lives. Four of us were carpooling together and one of us asked another one of us, ‘Can you please help me understand why you voted for Donald Trump?’ And we all listened. And my brother who was asked the question explained his position in a very clear way, in a very gentle way, in a very loving way, so that his brother could understand his reasons. And when he was finished he said, ‘Maybe you could tell me why you voted for Hillary Clinton?’ And my brother responded in the same gentle, kind, and loving way… Continue reading “Time to Stop Talking by Esther Nelson”

Gas-lighting on Al Franken(stein)’s Street by Elisabeth Schilling

I will add my #metoo, but don’t feel like going into details. I will just say that in light of my past experience and Al Franken’s statement of apology, I’m realizing why some of us don’t tell at an even deeper level.

This is Al Franken’s statement:

“I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many. Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that. I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.”

Summary: It’s super hard to be a guy in this society.

Continue reading “Gas-lighting on Al Franken(stein)’s Street by Elisabeth Schilling”

Grief and Healing by Carol P. Christ

My father died on July 6, 2017, 98 years, 4 months, 12 days. The last time I saw him was in the spring of 2004. During that visit, he gave me “the silent treatment” (refused to look at me or speak to me) when I stepped over an invisible line. That was not the first time, but it would be the last. When I gave lectures in California in 2008 and 2010, I agonized and yet made the decision not to visit him. I did not want to give him the chance to hurt me again.

My father and I kept in touch at Christmas and birthdays. In recent years we found our mutual interest in the family genealogy to be safe ground on which we could make contact. I was pleased to be able to tell him that I found the place of origin of our branch of the Christ family in Unterpreppach, Lower Bavaria when I visited Germany in the spring of 2016 with my cousin Bill. My father was with me in spirit when I visited the Christ family graves at Most Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Cemetery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the winter of 2016.

When my father had his first heart attack a few years ago, I agonized again and made the decision not to visit. I did not want to give him the chance to hurt me again. This time the decision was final. Continue reading “Grief and Healing by Carol P. Christ”

A Beginning: Atonement Theology and the Feminist Critique by Katie M. Deaver

Since many of the comments on my last post expressed interest in my dissertation topic I will use my next couple of posts to talk a little bit more about my work and research in that area.  When we talk about theories of the atonement we are trying to describe a narrative structure of what took place within the Christian cross event.  Generally speaking, Christians believe that atonement serves at the reconciliation between God and humanity and that this reconciliation is realized through the person of Jesus Christ.  The three primary theories that try to explain this event are Substitutionary/Satisfaction, Moral Influence, and Christus Victor.

The Substitutionary/Satisfaction theory of atonement suggests that Christ takes on the guilt and punishment that humanity deserves because of our sinfulness and so becomes our substitute, paying the debt we owe for our sins.  Because of humanity’s sinfulness we deserve death, but instead of giving us what we deserve God instead offers God’s son as a sacrifice to pay our debt, to atone for our sinfulness, and to save us from the eternal punishment of death.

The Moral Influence theory of the atonement focuses primarily on the life and ministry of Christ rather than on his suffering and death.  This theory is centered on the belief that God loves God’s creation so much that God would hold back nothing from us, God would even give God’s own Son in order to save us and remain in relationship with us.  As a result this theory encourages Christians to live as Christ lived and focuses on imitating his life and ministry in order to bring about justice in our own world.

Continue reading “A Beginning: Atonement Theology and the Feminist Critique by Katie M. Deaver”

In Memoriam: Katelyn Nicole Davis by Stephanie Arel

On December 30, 2016, Katelyn Nicole Davis, a 12-year-old girl from Cedartown, Georgia filmed her suicide by hanging from a tree in her front yard. Recorded live, the video has gone viral. Alarmingly, a young girl’s succumbing to death logged on the Internet clamors recognition of an existence she felt helpless to bear alone. Reported in her blog, abuse and sexual assault tainted her young existence. As a result, her perception of her own isolation, her articulated sense of worthlessness, and her shame motivated a trajectory toward death, demonstrating what is at stake when these crimes go unrecognized.

Much effort has been made to remove Katelyn’s suicide video from on-line circulation, but the electronic footprint she left on cyber-world proves nearly impossible to erase. The recording corroborates experiences detailed in her hauntingly designated blog “Diary of a Broken Doll.” Suggesting the core of how she understood her place in the world, the chilling description of her self as a broken body employed as a toy echoes a life framed by abuse and sexual assault.

Hoping for connection and healing, Katelyn reached out for and found witnesses, but they failed to attend to her wounds. The platform on which she chose to make human bonds established an inviolable boundary where Katelyn became an identifiable sufferer who could not be saved. The result was a plunge into shame that left a child unable to find value in her life or in herself. The shame, initiated by abuse, perpetuated itself and led to her death. Continue reading “In Memoriam: Katelyn Nicole Davis by Stephanie Arel”

Novel Excerpt III: That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier


MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405I have posted selections from my novel in progress before here and here and here…I am again. My last post here at FAR was about women and silence. Silencing women—from the powerful (Hillary Clinton) to the obscure (this girl that in this novel excerpt is now a teenager) women are silenced.

In this novel, as you can read from the previous excerpts a journal is found by a brother who is twin to his sister. The journals he finds are addressed to him after his parents’ house sells. Upon reading them he begins to discover that they are written by his sister when she was younger and in all likelihood she does not now as an adult remember having written them. She does not remember what it looks like happened to her. Incest. What must he do? This grown up person that he now is finding this information out? She has been silenced and he is holding the key to the only voice she had at the time. I have been working on this novel for over ten years and am currently immersed in trying to pull together all of the pieces I have written over the years. What I have posted so far is excerpts from the journals he, Chris, finds. This excerpt continues that story line. Continue reading “Novel Excerpt III: That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier”

Mazel Tov Tzidkaniyot of the Wall by Ivy Helman

20151004_161012I have never understood the logic behind sexism. Why is half (or so) of the human race better than the other half? Of course, patriarchy and patriarchal religious traditions offer various seemingly logical reasons, sometimes even divine explanations for the inequality between the sexes. Still, the –isms of patriarchy, whatever their “reasons” or perhaps better excuses, puzzle me.

Even more puzzling are the steps patriarchy-orientated men and women take to preserve these distorted systems. Violence usually goes hand-in-hand attempting to control others in order to preserve the status quo. Obviously if you need to resort to violence to keep people in their place, there is something horribly wrong with society. That being said – one could say that almost no society, nation or culture in our modern times doesn’t have some form of patriarchal violence within it. One would be correct to attribute some measure of the increase of violence to globalization, capitalism, fear, past colonialism and/or neocolonialism. Nonetheless one is hard pressed to find a culture without sexism, without patriarchy and without the need to keep the system in place through violence. Continue reading “Mazel Tov Tzidkaniyot of the Wall by Ivy Helman”

Forgiveness is a *choice* by Vibha Shetiya

VibahSomeone I dearly love recently lent me a very sensible piece of advice: “You should forgive.” I know he resorted to these words out of love because he didn’t like seeing me in pain, a sentiment for which I was and remain grateful. I also know he wasn’t judging me when he brought it up, nor was he pressuring me into doing something I wasn’t ready for.

I truly understand how forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you can set you on the path to freedom. In the sense that forgiveness can loosen the chains that bind you to the past, the anger, the deep sense of betrayal, helping you learn to live again; that forgiveness is not so much about the other person but about the self. I have watched shows in which victims of horrific crimes or their family members have chosen to forgive, not always out of a sense of human bonding towards the aggressor, but because they could not live with the debilitating anger and hatred festering inside, and so chose to forgive to set themselves free. Continue reading “Forgiveness is a *choice* by Vibha Shetiya”

On Staying and Leaving by Katey Zeh

Katey HeadshotThe pastor couldn’t have been more than five minutes into his sermon when I starting getting antsy. I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “He needs to be careful with this.” We were visiting a new church, an experience that nearly always puts me on edge. Whenever I attend a worship service for the first time, I come prepared with my mental checklist of liturgical offenses, ready to check each one off, so I can tally them up later and justify why we need to eliminate yet another congregation from our list of possibilities.

I recognize that my attitude about church is downright terrible, and that if I want to participate in a faith community, I have to find a way to deal with this impulse to judge so quickly and fiercely. Up until that point I had been working really hard that morning not to go to that negative place in my mind. If that meant cutting the pastor some slack, then so be it. “Give him a chance,” I said to myself.

The sermon was the first in a series about church membership and was loosely inspired by the story found in both Mark and Matthew in which a man is healed of demons which Jesus casts into a herd of pigs.  When the man begs to stay with Jesus, Jesus says that he must go back to his community and share about how God had healed him. The pastor spoke about this as an example of when God calls us not to a new place, but to remain where we are. To stay put.

The pastor spoke about his own affinity for fleeing,  how almost like clockwork every four years he gets the itch to move to a new place. Speaking to a congregation of mostly young adults, he talked about the generational shift among millennials who unlike their older counterparts no longer expect to live in a single place for their entire lives, nor to work for a single employer for their entire careers. Millennials, of which I am technically a part, have grown so accustomed to upheaval and transition that fleeing has become our default mechanism for coping with boredom, conflict, and discomfort. When the going gets tough, the millennials get going…out the door.

This trend among young people is particularly alarming for institutions like the church, so it’s no wonder that a pastor preaching a sermon on church membership would focus on it. He talked about how over the last few decades our collective understanding of what it means to be a regular church attendee has shifted from showing up weekly to showing up a few times a year. To commit to a church, the pastor continued, means that we agree to show up and stay put.

Remain where you are.  Commit. 

Gazing  around the packed room I looked at all of the women, men, and children taking in his words. How many of them, I wondered, were in situations of abuse that they are trying to flee? What were these words on the virtue of staying put doing to them? Didn’t the pastor know that this was the first Sunday in October, and that it was Domestic Violence Awareness Month? I prayed a quick prayer that his words wouldn’t cause them harm.

Stay put.  Commit. 

As he continued talking, I couldn’t help but return to that my mental checklist of typical church behavior that irritates me: a white, privileged man not acknowledging his bias, referencing only biblical men, male scholars, and other male ministers. Check. Check. Check! The more he talked, the more agitated I became. But since the sermon was about staying, I stayed even though his words made me squirm. I listened even though I wanted to disengage completely. I tried my best to give him the benefit of the doubt. I waited patiently for the caveat that would surely come. But it never did.

Resist the urge to flee. Commit.On Staying

I’ve grown weary of the notion that church decline is due solely to my generation’s fear of commitment and nomadic tendencies. It’s also that we no longer subscribe to the notion that we ought to preserve the institution for the institution’s sake. As I’ve journeyed with my sisters and brothers who have made the decision to leave the church, I have witnessed their arduous struggle to break free. Sometimes leaving is a moment to be both grieved and celebrated at the same time.

Over the last few weeks I’ve had difficult, important conversations with close friends and colleagues  who are in the midst of huge transitions in their lives.  In their own ways, each of them has mustered up the strength to move on from their present circumstances, either to seek something they desperately need or to leave behind something that is sucking them dry. None of them is doing so without tremendous courage.

I know that this pastor had every good intention. In many ways his words were a much needed counterbalance to a culture that lures us into a perpetual search for “elsewhere.” But I also know that “for everything there is a season,” and there is both a time to stay and a time to leave. We must honor both.

Katey Zeh, M.Div is a strategist, writer, and educator who inspires intentional communities to create a more just, compassionate world through building connection, sacred truth telling, and striving for the common good. In 2010 Zeh launched the first and only denominationally-sponsored advocacy campaign focused on improving global reproductive health for The United Methodist Church. She has written extensively about global maternal health, family planning, and women’s sacred worth for outlets including Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, Response magazine, the Good Mother Project, Mothering Matters, the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion, and the United Methodist News Service.  Find her on Twitter at @ktzeh or on her website

Holding On Too Tightly by Sara Frykenberg

Raised in an evangelical, Protestant Christian tradition, I was repeatedly told that “God is love.” God is love. While much of my Christian experience was difficult and even abusive, I have always interpreted this teaching—while sometimes confusing to me, and other times, fueling my spiritual inquiry—as a positive thing. When learning to shed the abusive contexts in my life, I did so encouraged by those who knew that love and god/dess shouldn’t be abusive. When challenging and responding to abusive paradigms within Christianity through my dissertation writing process, I reflected on how leaving an abusive cycle can feel like a hiccup from love, a frozen breathlessness and confusion on how to access love in new ways; but I also had to conclude that love hadn’t really been absent, even if hard to find.

God/dess is love—even when the dominating power celebrated within a particular religion, family or society distorts access to god/dess-loving. Yet, this issue with access, the trained approach to receiving love that is taught in an abusive context, is a habit that I have had to continually and consciously shed. I catch myself falling into patterns of get-love-through-control or get-love-through-performance behaviors. I try to be someone or something to ensure my access to what I perceive as love, sometimes finding it hard to accept that I am loveable without performance, role-playing or being someone that somebody else wants me to be. The more I experience mutual loving—or as Carter Heyward puts it, “godding” –the less I fall into this trap of performance; and the more I realize that my “performing” who I think others want me to be actually hinders my most loving relationships. However, while living outside of the abusive context has become easier in my life, sometimes I panic. Sometimes I hold on too tightly, afraid of the reality of loving without (the illusion of) control. Continue reading “Holding On Too Tightly by Sara Frykenberg”

How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? (Part 2) by Karen Hernandez

karenRead Part I here

This is the first time I have written openly about my childhood. It isn’t to get back at anyone, it is more to give a voice to the voiceless. I will admit right here, that, of course, I have anger. Yet, I write this not to blame, or to be spiteful, or to seek revenge. Many of us who move through this world with deep resolved and unresolved pain caused by our parents, are told we shouldn’t talk about our abusive past, because it could hurt our parents. To this all I can say is that children grow up. As children we are muted out of fear and ignorance. As adult survivors, we should speak – not to do more harm, but to create change.

I am happy to report that my relationship with my mother is intact. Although she still has an edge to her, she has not hurt me, in any way, shape, or form, for a very long time. I set boundaries, and in those boundaries, she and I have found a way to coexist. My father and I also have a good relationship. Yet as with any relationship that has gone through what he and I went through together, as well as individually, the past affects our interactions, which are, understandably, sometimes heated.

As I write this piece I am thinking of all the other children who are being abused by their parents in unspeakable ways right now. Children who are afraid, feel unloved, and are simply confused. These kids too will grow to be adults – adults who struggle every day to face their past holistically and with love. Or, they will become adults who can’t deal on a non-violent level and end up abusing their family members as well, and the vicious cycle continues. Continue reading “How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? (Part 2) by Karen Hernandez”

How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? by Karen Hernandez

karenGod commands it – Honor your mother and your father.

I believe God passed down this commandment with the meaning that when you do honor your parents, you are honoring God, because, after all, God is our ultimate parent, considered “Father,” to many.

The question begged, however, is what if your parents do not honor you? What if your parents are abusive? What if they treat you with disrespect? Are we, their children, still expected to honor them? Continue reading “How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? by Karen Hernandez”

The Religiosity of Silence 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?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.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”

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