I don’t blog anymore because I can’t react to things at the appropriate times.
I can’t be a journalist.
I can’t be clickbait.
See, these days, I live up in a little top story of a Nashville cottage-mansion with two little souls who haven’t quite learned how to respond when I say things just yet. I could talk at them all day about women’s rights & evangelicalism & purity culture & they’d just blink. Maybe scream. (Prolly scream.) I play mama now, & let me tell you WHAT, is it ever an exercise in rejoicing-with-those-who-rejoice & mourning-with-those-who-mourn. Our tear duct cycles are all in sync, the three of us, in our little Rapunzel tower on our quaint, fiery autumn Nashville street.
I’m not gonna blog about blogging, although I probably should. I should probably tell you why I’ve been absent. I should probably wax verbose on the subject of blog “vision”. Maybe I should care about branding or making this little corner of the internet look less like shit. Maybe I should tell you that this site is UNDER CONSTRUCTION & will shortly be streamlined & professional – all the punk-kid shined off & looking semi-respectable. Maybe someday all my blouses will get hung again after that one bedbug outbreak & maybe someday that little ring of grime around the faucet I can’t quite get to will miraculously disappear.
Maybe someday! *insert cheery shrug*
TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY.
Today, I’m just going to write like we are the oldest & dearest of friends, because I have a little story to share. I made almond icing for these scones in the oven, and boy, I’ve never made anything this fancy so you’d better get it while you can. Pull up a mug of cream tea. I have an announcement.
Today, after 10 months of bathroom-floor tears & planted roots of bitterness & playing the outsider, today I told myself: I FIT.
I choose to fit. I choose a community that is broken & shabby & kind of looks like grandma’s quilt after 30 yrs & moths.
Truth is, by most accounts, I kinda don’t – or so I’ve always believed. “You’re a missionary kid,” the voice that sounded sorta like me would say disdainfully. “You’ll never meet anyone’s expectations. You’re just a punk kid with weird lipstick who loves foreign alphabets and calligraphy and solving Agatha Christie novels and you don’t even look like a good minister’s kid with those sunset-colored PICTURES on your arms! Who would want you?”
(Turns out that voice wasn’t me after all.)
I sat across from my pastor’s wife, a woman in whom I had seen a fierceness, a twinkle, strength & wisdom & humor gathering pooled behind her eyes. She was a deep well. I could tell. She’s a pastor and a therapist, a mama and a leader, and I asked her to meet me so she could tell me I was OKAY. That I fit. I wanted validation, see. I wanted recognition. I wanted her to pat me on the back & say, “Well done.” I wanted her to be the Spirit.
Then, the strangest thing happened.
Turns out – the SPIRIT was inside ME.
& I heard, in my heart’s ear, the whispered truth about my self & how I mattered & without knowing what she thought of me really, I told her I fit anyway. I spoke it into existence.
AND IT WAS THERE, SUDDENLY, IT WAS THERE. IT WAS REAL.
I FIT BECAUSE I SAID SO.
& then, just like that, we were in the thick of it, talking about our dreams for God’s strange, beautiful women in our little city. We are a ragamuffin lot, we are, failed artists & aspiring singers & single moms & boy, do a lot of us have purple hair. A lot of us left other places because we didn’t fit those places & we are all HERE, NOW, not-fitting together. Most of us have probably heard a voice that sounds much like ourselves tell us that we don’t belong where we came from & it had sent us like aimless, doubting Hagars to search for a hometown & answers from heaven.
She told me that the Spirit had given her a dream – a dream about women – and my breath caught. She’d had an inkling of equipping the women of our little body with PERSONHOOD – dismantling the power differentials that kept us from preaching & standing tall & forging ahead with our respective visions. In her dream, that strength & purpose had gone forth through the city, passed on from sister to sister until it spread far outside our four old brick walls & took root in the hearts of this city.
She said, “That’s kinda my thing.” & I said, “That’s MY thing!” & together we soaked in that joyful, pregnant silence just a minute.
The conversation turned to books, & she said, “Have you read N.T. Wright?!” & I said, “Have you read Jesus Feminist?!” & she took down a little note to herself that out there in the world was a lady named Sarah Bes – no, two S’s – ey who thought that being a Jesus feminist was a real thing.
She hadn’t had the words for it, you know?
She didn’t have the language.
But she had the Spirit, & the Spirit had spoken anyway.
It was then, I think, that my little abstract dreams of feminism in the way of Christ took flesh & blood.
They had a name.
They were April.
It’s taken a long time for my dreams & theories about feminism in the way of Christ to take any sort of tangible form. Praxis is not my strong suit. Tonight was a tiptoe in the right direction, though, and in the name of the Spirit who speaks to us even when we don’t know all the fancy words & in the name of Ruth, who declared Naomi her home & Boaz her kinsman-redeemer I say, with all the clarion tones my timid voice can muster,
I say to you
& you & you & you –
I FIT, & so do you.
‘It could have all turned out differently, I suppose…
… but it didn’t.’
– Fanny Price
Feminism for the Creative
Before my hatred for labels & my disgust for most arguments lead me to throw out the term entirely, I want to take this chance to try and explain WHY FEMINISM for a peace-loving, non-confrontational creative like myself.
At the heart of feminism is the belief that all people have inherent value as image-bearers of the divine. Why then, the feminine focus, you ask? When the sins of prejudice and hatred and hierarchy overtook the world, this is the way it all panned out: women, among countless others, have often been treated as less than human subordinates to men.
Could it have all worked out differently? Could the opposite be true?
It could have all turned out differently, I suppose. But it didn’t.
Amid all the murky waters of ragey Twitter trolling and reactionary blogging, I have struggled to keep my head above water; to remember why feminism is not merely a theory but should, in fact, be a way of life.
These are a few thoughts toward that end.
Feminism is for selflessness. It’s for seeking out the unloved by man but beloved of God.
When I sit beside a child in my preschool classroom, bend down to look into their crestfallen eyes and listen to their story, that is feminism.
When I go to war with the elusive pride of privilege when my own dire financial straits lead me to seek help in a community clinic I consider “beneath me”, that is feminism.
Feminism is an opportunity to rise out of quiet victimhood and speak up. It is an opportunity to name the sins of oppression in our culture, robbing oppression of its power & hopefully bringing help & love & Gospel to those who have been its hands and feet. If we are honest in our humanity, all of us have oppressed someone.
Feminism is gripping, stomach-wrenching art, created to draw attention to the things that we like to miss. I think of Morgan, Rachel & Jordan, friends and alums from our common alma mater, Moody Bible Institute, who wrote, directed & acted in “Vyrosla”, a musical (!) about the injustices of sex trafficking. While receiving both praise and censure from the decidedly conservative student body at Moody, I watched them stand up for their art last week & I am privileged to know such wild, talented, engaging, overwhelmingly courageous souls. (Highlights here!)
Feminism is writing songs and blog posts and tweets that consciously seek to uphold and revere the personhood of every unique, intriguing, whole human being that I get to encounter. It takes a bit longer, granted. It takes a lot more sitting & thinking & erasing & pray pray praying for clarity & guidance and most days, it means shutting up & listening.
Feminism is prophetic grief: a voice crying “All is not as it should be” & weary feet that bring with them good news saying, “Oh mourner! Redemption is yet nigh”.
Feminism is a voice of one crying in the wilderness –
for often following the Spirit can be a lonesome road –
that the heart of God is to bestow a crown of beauty upon the burdened necks of those who grieve (Isaiah 61). I find it very telling that God’s heart, as expressed so eloquently in these last chapters of Isaiah, is yet brought near to the mourners by human feet that walk & human hands that lift.
Feminism is both for repairing bridges long forsaken and rebuilding the walls of personhood torn down by sorrow and abuse.
Feminism is for broad shoulders and strong hearts,
for binding up the broken-hearted and holding the battered and being the servant of all. [Isaiah 55]
Feminism is “now I will show you a more excellent way”,
for at the root of feminism that is centered in Jesus is love, modeled after the love of Christ who ripped down the veil of the Holy of Holies and the individual veils that had kept us from seeing one another as the beautiful, sacred image-bearers we were created to be & he – the one, true, holy, enthroned creator – came NEAR, & in so doing gathered us, however unwillingly, across cultural & societal boundaries & near to one another. ‘For he himself is our peace.’
O Come, Emmanuel, & be our peace.
‘“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.’
It’s a great feeling to have all of your lifelong fears and discomforts finally validated;
when a whole community of writers and bloggers starts speaking up and tearing down the cultural constructs that have so oppressed and depressed you throughout the entirety of your childhood and early adulthood;
when all of the opinions that used to make you a rebel – a pariah, of sorts – are finally not only your own and the burden of the truth, the whole truth, no longer seems to rest on your shoulders alone.
One Sarah Bessey I’d never heard of or read before out of nowhere writes an article about her experience with something called “purity culture” and all of a sudden I’m in a heap in front of the gate to my preschool,
ugly crying as I pull a torn notebook page out of my back pocket and just as suddenly start writing again. I had really sworn off writing, you see, after two arrogant sorts in my college poetry club wore me down until I couldn’t hear my voice over their imagined critiques every time I set pen to paper. But there it was, that nagging voice that I just can never quite squelch, the one that starts whispering in my ears whenever my soul rubs up against any kind of injustice or injury towards the outsiders of society. I have always liked the borderliners,
the people of the outskirts,
the ones who liked to dance to their own beat right on the fringes of society and orthodoxy.
I considered myself quite one of their own.
Little did I know that I was dancing right behind that Pied Purity Piper all along.
See, here’s the thing:
I’m a virgin.
Emily says that I should define my terms which, whatever, but what I mean is my hymen is firmly intact. Not only that, there’s never been any danger of that changing.
So there’s all my cards out on the table. Yikes.
Oh yeah, see, I followed the purity culture rules to a tee. I am its angry, sulking poster child. I snarled and seethed and bathed in red lipstick but I never did quite get off my high horse. In fact, I did purity culture one better and I kept my kiss-ginity too. (yeah, that’s a thing.) I avoided boys like the plague and kept romantic moments quite out of the question and I ran as far away from that hypothetical ledge as I could and dear lord if you could get medals for self-control I WOULD HAVE THEM. Oh, I compromised alright, but I made sure that any rules I broke were the ones not quite black and white enough to find their way into the verbose, exacting purity culture handbook.
I was not about to be sullied!
I was not about to become pee water!
I was not about to give any Christian boy any further reason to discredit my viability as a spouse, seeing as how they already found plenty.
I was like those people who don’t believe in God but say a few rosaries & light a few candles every now & then, just in case of Apocalypse.
Now I’m 22 years old and I feel like I may still actually be a prepubescent teenager, unsure of myself or how to appropriately interact with the opposite sex and you know, how to hold a boy’s hand and stuff.( Are the fingers supposed to lock? Is that a thing? That is not pleasant. Am I just supposed to get used to that?) Sigh.
While my friends were getting labeled and shamed for engaging in sexual behavior, I was busy trying to convince everyone around me that I had no interest in and desire for sex at all.
While others were abused physically, I was abused emotionally by men who were so indoctrinated into purity culture that as long as they never kissed me on the mouth or slept with me, they earnestly believed they’d done right by me.
It’s strange to me that we seem to have the same triggers now – those of us who experienced physical abuse and those of us who suffered emotional heartache and physical neglect by men who thought they could divorce our hearts from our bodies. I do not claim that these two kinds of wounds are equal in destructive repercussions, but it seems that they are more similar in kind than they are often given credit for.
And I’m afraid I find myself at a crossroads.
Emily and I are two months into our Purity Culture Rehab Project and all of a sudden I realize that tearing down purity culture will have to involve constructing something inside the void that it left. But what? What goes there now? Do I start mercilessly sleeping with every boy I come into contact with? Do I throw caution to the wind?
I discovered this week that quite a few of the writers I admire most seem to vary rather widely when it comes to the whole “Is Extramarital Sex Still a Sin” thing, which I naively didn’t know was a question anyone was asking. Anyone who ascribes to any semblance of a Christian philosophy, that is. For me that’s not a question, based on what I believe about the Bible and stuff, but I’m learning how not to shame people for having choices that differ from mine.
I’m learning how not to shame myself for making choices that I can’t carefully, methodically defend.
I’m still a little ashamed though.
I’m a little ashamed of my inexperience.
I’m a little ashamed of my stupidity.
What is an ignorant virgin trying to combat purity culture for, anyway?
Isn’t it a little superfluous to try and rehabilitate myself from purity culture fully intending to stay a virgin at the end of it?
I’m still not sure it isn’t an exercise in futility.
My conclusion is this:
my virginity – or lack thereof – is the property of my personhood.
I am not less a person for losing it.
I am not less a person for keeping it.
I am not required to catch up.
Taking back my personhood means taking back my sexuality. It does not belong to my church or my friends or other people’s opinions or even to my own stubborn stereotypes of what should be; of what’s normal.
I have time to figure this all out, you see. Tearing down purity culture doesn’t necessarily mean that, at the end, I will have built a healthy understanding of my sexuality at the same time. While rehabilitation does require breaking a collection of destructive habits, it also necessitates the beginning of new healthy ones to take their place. So here’s my Rehab Project shifting focus a bit – from dismantling the evils of purity culture to creating something new to replace it.
I wanna talk about how I’m afraid that all of us fighting against purity culture will, by heading towards the other extreme, lose any audience we may have had with the conservative Christian culture that so desperately needs change.
I wanna talk about how sin & shame are two different things.
I wanna talk about how purity culture is as harmful to those who comply with its demands as it is to those who do not.
But right now, I just wanna sit
in the bliss that is knowing
that I am mine.
“The requirements for conforming to western female norms are ‘nice, thin, modest, uses all available resources for appearance.”
– Brene Brown
I’d never heard anyone explicitly state these standards before, but it occurred to me, as I glued my eyes to Brene’s kindly face projected larger-than-life on a living room wall, that I’d always felt uncomfortable, sort of socially naked, when I was not subconsciously complying with them.
// NICE. //
I have driven myself mad with NICE.
I have pretended to believe all manner of lazy theology because to disagree with someone I admired and honored would mean to offend them and to offend someone is not NICE.
I have shut my mouth and closed my eyes to disastrous choices that dear friends have made – journeys they’ve embarked on that I could have dissuaded them from – because to point out error is not NICE.
I have mopped the contents of my heart up off my bathroom floor, time and again, and offered my whole person to boy after boy who did not want it & did not care to care for it because refusing your trust to anyone is not NICE.
The very thought of NICE infuriates me and yet, when my supervisor tells me that an unruly child is spreading the word that I am a perpetrator of NOT-NICE, I melt into a puddle of angry self-doubt.
// THIN. //
I’m not quite sure any of us really know HOW to be thin.
I mean some of us are, and that’s fantastic, and a lot more of us aren’t. Nobody knows how to stay that way and nobody knows how to get that way.
If it happens for you, excellent.
Lemme buy you a [Slim-Fast] shake.
When I was sixteen years old I loved a boy whose constant bipolar crises I bravely strapped to my barely formed shoulders and the weight sent me into a tailspin of depression and sorrow. In the name of young, miserable, hearty and foolhardy love, his every thought became mine; his every misery my cross to bear.
A symptom of that mess was an actual physical loss of appetite.
I never meant to stop eating.
I never meant to starve.
But once you have begun slowly starving the soul, the body seems to quietly follow suit. All of a sudden you’re spending hours in between classes agonizing over trying to choke down a single cup of soup.
(While we’re on the subject, never do I ever want to hear any self-styled Christian counselor patronizingly inform me that depression is “all in your head, dear”. OKAY. You let me know when you’ve had every symptom of the stomach flu for months on end without any treatable virus. Then we can talk.)
And even as this distressed teenager, wasting away, I remember thinking – with a bit of morbid humor – that perhaps all the heartache was worth it if I could at least maintain this new-and-improved, bare-bones version of myself. Because if I could not comply with this boy’s exacting standards – if I could not somehow FEEL enough for him- then at least I could look the way I was supposed to.
Sometimes THIN is the only visible symptom of deep-rooted, black-veined heart rot.
And what a good deal of the rest of us dejectedly find is that the harder we work for THIN, we tend to just become healthier (or less healthy, as the case may be) versions of the bodies we already had. You can’t change your basic structure.
I mean, you can, but that’s another conversation.
// MODEST. //
Every time I ran across the courtyard and over the lawn and up 8 flights of stairs to my tiny two-room Chicago walk-up to throw off my clothes and swear never to put them on again because of the shaming glares of my sisters in Christ and dear God, maybe I wasn’t such a good believer after all.
Every time I would forego bright colors or red lipstick or that one shirt with the mildly suggestive cut-out in the back or any hint of dark self-expression because MODEST –
MODEST ultimately means UNREVEALING –
And there’s more to be revealed here than just skin.
And even though I wear the lipstick now on the days that call for it and I have – God forbid! two visible tattoos! – I still find my jaw clamped shut on long late-night drives with my best friends when we’re all supposed to be baring our souls and I decide to save my ugly, deformed little thought for later.
And this is what MODEST has become to me – a false storefront, a disguise, a comfortably barricaded bomb shelter of sorts to guard against the onslaught of honesty and vulnerability that have come knocking louder and longer lately.
It seems that every relationship, after it has first come to blows –
after the first breach of trust,
after the honeymoon perma-smiles have faded and you are made to look right into the eyes of someone who presumably has only, to this point, known only things they like about you and are about to enter a much, darker, overgrown, untraveled pathway of you –
– every relationship must choose whether being known – or feeling pleasant – is of more worth to them.
There is nothing MODEST about intimacy.
// EMPLOYING ALL AVAILABLE RESOURCES TO [IMPROVE?] APPEARANCE. //
I don’t have anything even lightly poetic to interject here.
My beauty routine involves a curling iron, a grocery bag of collected make-up supplies, a large quantity of baby powder, Moroccan argan oil and a Christmas-gift bottle of Kat Von D’s Sinner.
I’m hardly employing all available resources here.
While that used to trouble me more, there are still mornings I’ll pull into my backlot parking space at the preschool I work (read: slave) at and I’ll suddenly panic at the sight of my naked face in the rear view.
And although most days I’ll tell you make-up is a pastime and not a crutch, there are mornings when I’ll admit to myself – before the honesty of sleep has worn off – that I like my mask more than the face beneath.
I’m not sure there is, in fact, a point here.
I cannot divorce my body from my soul.
I cannot pretend to throw off the confines of society and adopt a lifestyle of hearty asceticism.
I cannot feel more helpless than I do on this subversive shoreline of ruthless Western superficiality. I am out of the waters for a moment, but it is, after all, just a moment and I’ll be assailed by its calm, imperturbable waters as soon as the tide rises again.
And even still I have not begun to chisel away at Christian purity culture’s adoption and unabashed copying of Western norms of beauty and femininity.
What I can – what I do – demand is a new standard for womanhood: one that has far more to do with the content of our deeds and our souls than our bodies, weary from doing good and from simply bearing the weight of living here in this unrestored creation which daily, hourly cries out for its Creator and Savior to please make all things new. My body – with its already grey hairs and dandruff and stress-weight and stress marks – cries out too, with the rest of everything.
Women of valor, lets imagine something better and teach it to our children and our grandchildren and remake this tired culture into a celebration of the divine image-bearers we each one of us are.
or, “an un-serious treatise on the total appropriateness of 2013’s standard gender binary.” //
1. Well, first off, I think my face just says it all, don’t you?
2. I want to “fix things” all the time, which they tell me is a real manly trait.
3. I like wilderness and stars and fighting for things I love and have even been known to PURSUE THE OPPOSITE SEX (horror of all horrors), so John Eldredge has got me good and pegged, DOESN’T HE JUST.
4. I *like* being respected. Love is great & I like it, but I also like respect, so yep, DEF MALE.
5. Not to mention, my sex drive, which is approximately 3 TIMES the appropriate female sex drive (in that it exists & all), as every Christian book on male-female relationships has ever led me to believe. My only conclusion: I MUST, IN FACT, BE MALE.
6. I’ve been known to season my speech with all manner of colorful words & phrases, which, if I was female, would ensure me a long & lonely spinsterly existence, so, being that I have a lively, often even exciting dating life, I think we can safely assume that must mean I am IN FACT, MALE.
*6.5 SMALL TALK. WHAT EVEN IS THAT. DON’T WE ALL ALREADY KNOW WHAT THE WEATHER IS LIKE (WE LITERALLY JUST WALKED IN OUT OF IT) & IF I REALLY WANTED TO KNOW WHAT BRAND OF MASCARA YOU WERE WEARING – IF, GOD FORBID, I COULD DISTINGUISH THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MASCARA BRANDS – DON’T YOU THINK I WOULD ASK YOU. Somehow though, as much as women can generally small-talk me under the table and I abhor it (I tend to take it as a sign that you don’t actually want to know me), I have to believe that a skill that inane must be a societal construct and hardly something I can blame on any particular gender. However! We are talking about why my interests mandate my being a man and so therefore: NO SMALL TALK = INHERENTLY MALE.
7. I am going to pick a movie with a proliferation of blood & guts in it, nine movie nights out of ten. Guy movies. I like guy movies. Gladiators and glory and Russell Crowe. ALL OF THE CROWE. Chick flicks (with the ironic exception of What a Girl Wants. Pre-wonkers Amanda Bynes traipsing around London in hippy bell-bottoms, giving stodgy Englishmen their well-deserved come-uppance?! the BEST!) are of little use to me. TOTALLY MALE.
8. I am only gentle and quiet some days. I’m hardly the new face of conservative complementarian womanhood. In the face of genuine sorrow and death and mourning and weeping girls, I can be gentle and quiet. I can mourn with those who mourn, okay. But a lot of days I am screaming lyrics off of my living room couch to anyone who will listen while intermittently yell-expounding on the profundities of existentialism and preschool. Tonight, as I’m writing this, I’m mostly just jumping off of furniture yelling “Iiiiiiiiiiiiiii… AM EVERYDAY PEOPLE” with Sly and the Family Stone in whatever non-descript rom-com is currently gracing my screen while yelling “THAT DECISION IS FRAUGHT WITH MORAL COMPLEXITY” at Emily Allison.
Actually I’m not quite sure what gender that makes me. Is there a third choice?
9. I am no use at hanging demurely on anybody’s arm. Unless you like girls who scream their faces off behind microphones on stages, you’ll probably have little use for me either. I am also not passively waiting for a spouse – nor do I think that any [accurately] translated version of the Bible expects me to. MALE.
Still, although my gender does appear to be currently in question, I keep trudging.
10. I could name a thousand other stereotypes. I could talk about how I like my coffee black or how anything frilly makes me vaguely nauseous or how the Sons of Anarchy and motorcycles and craft beer and theology are all topics that can make me get loud. I could, but rejecting the gender binary means that I don’t have to. I don’t have to adhere to any stereotypical gender norm because
– say it with me –
I AM A WHOLE PERSON.
Whole people are not bound by the confines of societal constructs or culture, no matter how oppressive, and are therefore freed up to be themselves without pretense.
I can wear dresses with whimsical Peter Pan collars and still (in my dreams) ride motorcycles and get seminary degrees and pursue members of the opposite sex. (The only unreal thing about that sentence was the motorcycle part. But hey! A girl… ahem, a PERSON can dream, amirite?!)
Let’s talk, though, about “manhood” and “womanhood” and if those words mean anything anymore. I want to think they do. I’m not trying to erase gender, after all. Contrary to popular opinion, the Christian feminism of 2013 is hardly trying to make everyone believe that we all came out blank slates and the blind hands of “nurture” somehow roughly and abusively formed us into who we are today. That would be giving “nurture” – and culture – far more power & credit than it deserves.
So what have we constructed in the name of biblical gender and can therefore do away with? What must we irrevocably keep?
I’m all ears.
In the interest of taking back the personhood that purity culture & various & sundry personages influenced BY purity culture have taken from us,
– and in the interest of lightening the mood –
we: Emily Allison and Hannah Paasch, roommates, best friends, sometime bloggers, all-the-time writers, co-adventurers and mischief-makers present to you the PURITY CULTURE REHAB PROJECT, our off-the-wall, oft-sarcastic, sometimes profound misadventures in the name of science and recovery. While we both are on individual journeys in the pursuit of both Jesus and holiness, we like to think that our silly 15-step (or so) road to recovery might help us mature into more peaceful, grounded, passionate women of valor
the way nature – and most importantly, Christ – intended.
But first! A clarification of terms! “Purity culture”… what is that? Is it a cult? Is it a detergent? And why would one need to recover from it? Both of us were raised in excellent Christian homes with parents who guarded and guided us with care and precision. What, then, could possibly have gone awry?
We believe that an errant translation of the word of God & a probably well-intentioned effort on the part of Christian culture has led to, in our generation, a negative, dysfunctional, almost inhuman understanding of love, romance, and sexuality. We are required not to think of sex until marriage. We are taught that “kiss-ginity” is a thing. That somehow our sexuality is synonymous with our salvation, and what we do with it almost determines our future standing with not only our earthly fathers but our Heavenly one as well–not to mention our future spouses which we all most certainly will have, since God promised us a hope and a future and a sexy virgin spouse, right? Right?!?! JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER GOOD RELIGION THAT PROMISES VIRGINS FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR, RIGHT?!
The point is, we’re both a little tired of the bullsh*t. And at the end of the day, that’s what it is, really. Well-intentioned, misleading, dangerous bullsh*t. And we’re not gonna take it anymore. [CUE ROCK ANTHEM]
So, embark on this journey with us, maybe? We know that a lot of you have been really hurt by the church in (possibly) deeper ways and we don’t pretend to compare battle scars. After all, one of us is a strong proponent of organized church, one of us isn’t so sure, and both of us firmly acknowledge that our qualms with the pseudo-Christian conservative culture we are a product of has very little to do with the Jesus it so brazenly claims. But, we’d like to stop licking our wounds and have a little fun.
SO! Rehab it is.
Check back at emilyjoyallison.com & ajesusgypsy.wordpress.com for our PRIMETIME UPDATES. Shocking posts about beauty, OMG KISSING, red lipstick, OMG CUSS WORDS, and plenty more to come.
We’d like to hear your stories too. Bring em on.
You can also find Emily tweeting her little heart out at @softlysoaring & a few musings from Hannah at @thesettingsun07. We’ll be hashtagging #puritycultureRP for the next month. GITTIN IT.
LOVE AND DANCING AND KISSING AND RED LIPSTICK ALWAYS,
Emily & Hannah
I read the Four Loves the spring that he left, and while the rest of life was bursting into bloom, I was growing older and colder.
I had nothing to regret – and I almost regretted that.
I read about Affection and I thought about my mother, all of the cautious, overabundant motherly love that she had bestowed on me without my ever deserving or requesting it.
I read about Friendship, and I saw my favorite Maria friend – the one who put up with my platinum gold highlights in the seventh grade and my occasional emotional tornadoes and that one trashy trucker hat phase that she lovingly endured without a dissenting word.
I read about Charity, and I saw thirty faces on thirty street corners – my friends who lived in the empty lot behind my house in a North African ocean town and would come around on Saturday nights to eat bologna-and-cheese sandwiches with us and talk about the God we loved and their dreams that they had almost let die and were now thinking about watering again.
And then Eros. I almost skipped the chapter. I knew that the whole chapter, the whole concept, was a topic that I was not allowed to broach, even subconsciously. Sexual attraction was the dirty secret in his and my relationship – the “urine in our glass of water”, if you will. (We’ve all heard that one, haven’t we? Holler at me fellow PKs!!!) As ludicrous as it sounds to me now, I thoroughly believed that C.S. Lewis was, in fact, misguided and that sexual love could not be any kind of real love at all.
Real love was sacrificial.
Real love was tragic.
Real love was anything but pleasure & enjoyment and the only genuine passion one person could have for another had to be “pure” and painful and chaste.
And so I had to learn how to love his mind – to dive deep into the depths of him and just soak in all of the charming, stormy, volatile mess that was his personhood and that I do not regret. I had to pursue and seek out those parts of his heart that stayed mysterious to me (I’ll be blogging soon about how women pursuing men is also something that is not a sin). I wrote poems about that man’s soul and I drove him to school everyday and together we read Macdonald’s fairytales and pretended that all we were was brains and hearts and the loftiest of aspirations.
But nobody can pretend to be just brains forever.
We started to deteriorate as soon as we realized that we could actually touch each other too. And I’m not saying that we made any decisions that purity culture at large could point any fingers at, either. All of the carefully delineated steps that our educators tell us lead to sex and babies and AIDS and death were carefully avoided and so, naturally, things got real weird real fast. We took our stolen moments in between classes and tried to feel close without breaking any rules. I remember slowly walking back to my car at twilight wondering what had just happened; confused how I could feel violated without ever getting so much as a real kiss.
The only boy who ever got up the gumption to kiss me in the years that followed ran down the stairs, made himself a pot of coffee, and patently ignored me until I finally left, dazed, when I dared to tell him that it was my first.
What kind of world have we created, Jesus-lovers, where the fear of sex is so engrained into our subconscious that we avoid all healthy expression of attraction and are then belittled later in life for admitting our lack of experience?
Somebody tell me I’m not the only one here.
Three years after I lost my first love, I sat around a Chicago dining room table with my roommates, trying to decide what exactly to do with my love life or lack thereof. I’d been seeing someone, and all I could come up with to say about him was his “wonderful heart for worship” and “great sense of humor”… which, as all of you know, sounds the certain death knell for any relationship. Our discussion was about how I ran away from him when he tried to touch me at dinner.
“You can’t cringe when he comes near you, Hannah,” one of them was saying, gesturing emphatically. “That’s sort of a given.”
“Is it, though?” I found myself saying. Was it really so bad that I only wanted to write songs with him and have lots of late-night parked-car conversations and check out some stars real fast then hug and go home at reasonable hours?
That was all that I’d ever wanted out of anybody else, after all!
I had run to the other side of the table when I realized he’d wanted to push our chairs together. I had hugged him quickly and fast-walked to my car door and turned up the radio immediately to overpower the sound of my own irregular heartbeat. If I was being honest, I wasn’t sure whether it was because I was so afraid of what would happen to my body if he ever did touch me or whether it was him specifically I did not want.
I had never learned to decipher between the two.
“Well, sooner or later, you’re gonna mess up. You know that right?” The penetrating voice of my best friend broke into my reverie like glass shattering. “You’re gonna go too far, and you’re gonna start over and work through that together. I know I have.”
Going too far?! Was that something that happened? I was actually surprised. I mean, I knew that lots of people slept together all the time – I do assume that’s something going on around me all the time – but it struck me like glass shards that someone who loved Jesus could be with somebody else who loved Jesus and somehow fail the Ten Commandments of sexual purity and come out on the other side unscathed, un-struck by lightning, pick up the pieces of their love and keep on going. I had always firmly believed that I could escape that fate. That I could get to other side – the other side meaning marriage and a happy ending, I suppose – having completely avoided even temptation herself.
I had confused the temptation with the sin.
I had equated sexual attraction with adultery.
I had spent nine months of my young life pretending that I could somehow talk God into giving me the gift of celibacy. http://trashtown.tumblr.com/page/96
And yet here she was, sitting across from me, telling me that it was inevitable; that at some point I would fail, that I would give into – even momentarily – my attraction for someone and do something I’d wish I hadn’t. That that wasn’t somehow game over – that you could forgive and be forgiven and change and grow from that point forward. But something was not quite right.
I tried to imagine the last time I’d felt even the slightest inkling of that sort towards anybody. Nothing came to mind. I literally could not recall the last time that I’d wanted to do anything but side-hug anyone at all! Could it be that in all my valiant effort to inflict the “gift of singleness” (whatever that is) upon myself that I’d actually completely squandered my ability to want someone? It was strange, to be sure! When anyone ever asked me what my “love language” was, I would sheepishly admit that it was, in fact, physical touch – only I knew the embarrassing truth that whenever anybody touched me – no matter who, no matter how – it immediately registered as a sexual action in my mind, primarily because I had taught myself that touch of any sort was to be avoided as sin.
And so, here I was, nearly immune to even the most persuasive advances, and feeling considerably less arrogant about the fact then I had heretofore.
Well, this particular confession led to a chorus of shocked but mildly impressed girls asking if I could teach them how to do that. Looking around the room, I realized that I had forgotten that sexual attraction was sort of a pervasive, across-the-board sort of thing.
It was then that I realized that purity culture had made me into a cold, repressed, unapproachable, difficult-to-love sort of girl: a far cry from who I actually was.
Because everything else about myself is widescreen hobohemia technicolor. I want to know all of the things. I want to read all of the things. I am fascinated by souls and journeys and mysticism and baking and linguistics and jawbones and stars. My curiosity and my adventurous spirit are elven and rampant and tireless. I write poems sometimes and love to sleep in grass and on beaches and stay up all night screaming the blues and I suppose you could call me frigid, but please, please don’t. You really wouldn’t be taking my whole person into account. AND THAT’S WHAT THIS WHOLE JOURNEY IS ABOUT, ANYWAY. https://ajesusgypsy.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/today-i-embark-on-an-expedition-to-take-back-my-personhood/
It’s finally midnight, so today marks day 1 in an adventure that Emily, my new roommate and loud, proud, Jesus feminist over at http://www.emilyjoyallison.com/, are embarking on to put ourselves through PURITY CULTURE REHAB. We’re going to do a bunch of things that we never would have done as drinkers of the purity culture Kool-Aid but that we’re doing now as holy women of God who are slowly but surely recovering our moral agency.
Won’t you join with us? As much as it is not my desire to decry anyone of my brothers or sisters that Jesus loves dearly, it would seem to me that there is, indeed, a better way than the one that purity culture at large has left us with.
This is not an attempt to throw off the shackles of Scripture and create our own way, but rather to walk in the ways of Jesus without the cultural constraints that Western conservative pseudo-Christianity would place upon us. We’re going to start taking care of our bodies, because we don’t have to be gnostics anymore. We’re going to ask a boy to coffee – and PLATONICALLY, too. We’re going to get our battle cry eshet chayil! tattooed on our arms to remind us not to give up.
We’re going to do a couple other things too – but you’ll have to wait and hear about those when we grow the balls to actually do them. 😉
Courage, my friends and sisters. Your desires are not to be squelched and squandered. You were created with a mind and with a body too. I remind myself daily, along with you, that it is no sin to seek to be loved as both.
Perhaps together we can reclaim eros as an expression of love to be treasured and valued and yes, protected, but not defamed.
Let’s recover and rebuild, redeem and restore ourselves and those we love as WHOLE PEOPLE that our kind Father created and declared that first day and everyday since,
“It is very good.”