God Stories: Taylor
God Stories is a weekly segment where people from every possible location on the spectrum of faith tells the story of how they got there. They do not necessarily represent the views of the blog as a whole. If you would like to share your story, please see the submission guidelines here.
To the men (and shadows of women) who raised (and lowered) me:
You were my pastors, mentors, fathers, mothers, advisors, youth ministers, counselors and confidants.
I'm sure you had no ill, if not good, intentions.
I’m sure you know that you, and we all, have made mistakes.
I'm not so sure that you realize how you raised,
lowered, confused, shamed, boosted, belittled, scorned and betrayed me,
or how you've shaped the shameful person I've been and the strong, independent, thoughtful woman I am becoming today.
You raised me, or rather lowered me, from the time I was small.
You taught me that I was responsible for my many sins,
my sensitivity—perceived as weakness,
my broken confidence,
my fragile mental health,
my shameful body,
my helplessness and hopelessness.
You did not teach me that I was divine, endowed with the powers of divinity,
to forgive myself, to nurture my body, to heal,
to appreciate my sensitivity as strength, to love unconditionally,
to seek support through hardships and find it in trustworthy allies.
I was raised; lowered.
You taught me that I was made in God’s image, with His law written on my heart;
but never that I was divine myself, in my own existence and understanding.
You taught me I was accountable for keeping boys, and girls, and men, and women, and even pastors out of my pants,
for being nice and attractive and heterosexual—but not too nice or attractive or sexual,
for not seducing them with my feminine wiles, shameful body, skirts or tank tops,
for causing them to stumble or for allowing their illicit behaviors,
for remorsefully telling you about my sexual desires and encounters,
for your reactions of dramatic disappointment, disgust, and rage,
and for keeping them secret in holy repentant shame.
I was confused. I was shamed.
You taught me I was responsible for being a good Christian follower,
purer thinking and better behaved than the rest of the misguided, amoral, godless folks out there,
for being a good Christian girl and submitting to males,
existing in their shadows, letting them think and speak over me and for me,
for protecting their valuable reputations when they touched me without my consent, or when they hit me and yelled at me and threatened my life,
and for shouldering guilt when you did the same.
I was boosted; I was belittled.
You did not teach me to preserve my dignity, did not help protect or fight for me,
or for justice,
did not teach me to respect myself, to equally value my life and worth, to assert my right to decide my sexuality,
to value and choose my right to life, and the life I want, and my health over unwanted pregnancy or child birth,
to value and protect myself when men assaulted me,
to report their offenses, despite the effects on their valuable psyches and reputations,
because I am also human and valuable.
You told me to come to you for advice, for help and for justice;
but then you silenced me, stifled my emotions and invalidated my experiences,
and called me a failure, a whore and a malicious liar.
I was scorned. I was betrayed.
You told me I should have self-respect and self-control;
but you took those powers away before I could claim them as my own.
You told me I should be honest and be myself, that the law was written on my heart; but threatened to punish me and cut me off from the fold if the law on my heart weren’t the same as yours…
if I didn’t subscribe to outdated rules, fashions and gender norms,
if I were gay, sexually active, or questioned your views, your Church,
your fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible,
or your ideas of God.
I spent countless hours quietly meditating on scriptures, praying and crying out in earnest for understanding, absolution and healing, for a renewal of my tainted mind,
and for a Christ husband to save me from my wretched self, to guide me into peace; but that only begot more guilt, grief and shame.
It was never the solution; it was actually at the root of the problem.
I came to realize that idea of salvation from darkness, from myself,
was based on a fundamentally false, and dangerously co-dependent,
premise—that I was intrinsically defective, powerless, and needed to be saved.
Though I've tried very hard, I have never found lasting peace or comfort in assuming original sin, an invisible devil hunting me down, battling in a two-toned morality,
or tangible compassion in the idea of judgement, evangelism or salvation.
On the contrary, I've mostly experienced a rigid patriarchal dichotomy,
of harsh evaluation and shame, even from the most well-meaning disciples.
The only real darkness I experienced was the darkness people put inside me.
You told me that I should read and pray ceaselessly, think critically and for myself,
that I should invest my time and resources in acquiring wisdom and growing,
that I should study diligently and get to the truth,
and not worship man-made idols;
but you self-righteously rejected the intersectional gray-scale reality I discovered outside of bible worship,
the understanding and mystery I found in scientific inquiry and research studies,
the fluid, unconditional compassion and peace I encountered in various cultural teachings and positive traditions,
as Luke-warm blasphemy,
and called me ignorant, stupid, and vile.
You seem disappointed and confounded as to how I've become who I am;
but much of who I am is a result of your teachings,
though the result may not be who you think you instructed me to become.
I want to acknowledge that I have also had wonderful experiences
with some of you that I will always treasure,
and I have had some amazing experiences in this life that have re-shaped me into a
happier, healthier, and whole human being.
I am grateful.
I’m not looking for explanations, and certainly not interested in apologetics;
however, a personal apology would be nice if this letter resonates with any of you.
I apologize for anything I have said or done that damaged others
while I was in the toxic fundamentalist mindset, and thereafter.
I realize that although I have sloughed off those skins layer by layer,
I will never shed those roots, and so I must tread carefully.
I wish I could swallow and undo those harmful things I’ve done, but I know I can’t.
I do believe, however, that I can start doing my part in the process of healing
by admitting fault and taking responsibility, and saying that I acknowledge
the hurt I have caused.
I am so very sorry.
Reaching self-compassion and forgiveness for my mistakes feels like an uphill battle with the inertia of bad faith and the gravity of religiosity;
but thankfully, the laws of my universe have been shifting and expanding.
The law written on my heart has been evolving, and has become something quite different.
While I used to be afraid of the changing, now I delight in that.
My mind is being beautifully renewed.
And now I am here, evolving and teaching myself the lessons I needed all along.
I am a sensitive, shameful girl,
a compassionate, healing woman,
a student, a scholar, a patient teacher,
listener, counselor, and confidant,
a complex trauma and rape survivor building a family of strong womynn,
who think for themselves and don't exist in the shadows of men or antiquated texts,
and good men who don't hold tight to bad faith or keep people in their shadows,
actively helping to create a better world without denying,
or relying on, unseen forces.
I have a voice, and a mind, and a vision...
I see a divine light in each of us, radiating naturally, without searching it out or waiting on it to strike and make good things happen, or make dark places light.
I still have the light shining within me, and I’m gonna let it shine for everyone to behold.
I see that we are all in this life together, and I wish and hope that we take res
ponsibility for the damage we have done, and the good we can do, moving forward.