Category Archives: Thoughts

Thoughts on Turning 55

I’m about to collide into a milestone. There’s no point pretending it isn’t there or that it isn’t important. It is and it is. I’ll be fifty-five next week.

When I turned 30, I wasn’t shaken. Thirty was the age I finally felt grown-up. But 31 was hard. It meant I was “in my thirties,” and that was difficult. Fifty-five is like that. It’s in-your-face almost actually old. I have to face this.

But first, some memories:

When I was a little girl, I had a blue and white checkered elephant. And a green and orange teddy bear who came in a cardboard box that looked like a washing machine, to emphasize that he was washable. I still have Teddy. He sits on the shelf in my closet near my old violin, the one I played for years and was never very good at. My bow arm always shook during performances, so I couldn’t control the sound or play confidently. Still, I have a few good performance memories. Here’s one: as a junior higher, I played in the fourth violins in the West Coast Premiere of the cantata “Jesus is Coming,” conducted by the composer John W. Peterson. Here’s another: I won a blue ribbon for my performance at a CACS (now ACSI) festival in high school. Other performances were not so successful per the shaky bow arm. It doesn’t matter how perfectly you play it at home if, during the performance, one of your arms refuses to cooperate. Hence my Scott-Moore-in-sixth-grade aha moment written of elsewhere on this blog.

I also had untamed red hair, glasses, braces, freckles, chubbiness, and lefthandedness. Yeah. All that. Still, I labored hard to be a success in school. To be accepted and popular and loved, and I did pretty well, I think. Perhaps I would not have worked so hard for that had home been a happier place to come to, a situation I won’t talk about here because I’m told some things are best left in the 70s, may he and his enablers find repentance, atonement, and effective medication. Justice is already done, karma being a capital b-word. And no, I’m not sorry I said that. Some things should be said at last and clearly. Gone are the days of my accepting this: “Oh, you’re just spouting hurt feelings!” That’s one of the great things of getting older. It becomes time to own yourself and your feelings and not scurry away into some acceptable ball of roly-poly fear, let me hide in a corner and allow you to discount my experiences, my pain, my reaction to those things that Happened To Me.

In high school, I was a cheerleader, took stats for the JV baseball team (Coach Kirby) and the JV basketball team. I was in choir, on yearbook staff, and was Girls League President my junior year until we moved that November. At my new school, I was the yearbook editor and anything else I wanted to be, because when there are only 28 students, you can pretty much take over if you want to. I wanted to. At the end of 11th grade, I took the California High School Proficiency Exam and moved along to Christian Heritage College in El Cajon, where I made straight A’s my first semester, but had no friends. Giving up the A’s, I had more friends and more fun. I graduated at 19, got my heart broken, had my MA from BJU at 20, then taught school for a few years, had a bad marriage that produced my older daughter and lasted 2 years and another marriage (less violence, more fidelity) that so far has lasted 26. Along the way, I put my hubby through nursing school, adopted 3 babies, wrote a bunch of books, lived in Hawaii, moved 20 times, had a baby at 43, and became a lawyer, among other adventures.

That was all before. Now I’m mostly tired. Tired of parenting. Tired of homeschooling, though I still enjoy it. Tired of the same old same old that most everyone in the world would kill for. That I stay home in my giant house and do what I want. But this is, of course, new. For decades I was enmeshed in crippling poverty and emotional pain and clinical depression and the anguish of infertility. Now, with plenty of money and time and kids and a granddaughter and a choice of what to do each day, I run into this milestone with less energy, less moxie, fewer emotional outbursts, which may have something to do with the conscious destressification I’ve been actively in pursuit of the past three or four years.

This fifty-five. This marker on my path that says you are mortal, which, by the way, I can see in the mirror and feel in my bones and my brain. I don’t feel old or sick. I feel mellow and wise, though perhaps I don’t come across that way. It is a steadiness of heart and mind. I make decisions differently. I choose differently.

I choose to be apart from those whose presence doesn’t make me happy. I choose to cultivate those who interest me. I choose to listen to religious and political arguments that I avoided for years out of fear. I choose to befriend those who need me rather than those I supposedly owe. I reach out to beggars. I am not afraid of them. I have realized the great privilege I wear because I am a straight, white, middle-aged woman of a certain socio-economic status who has lived long enough not to be afraid of dying young, and please God may I use that privilege to help, not lessen or marginalize anyone else.

Not afraid, but definitely regretful. I don’t understand people who say they have no regrets. Have they done nothing? Have they made no mistakes, committed no sins, caused no catastrophes? I have made spectacular, explosive mistakes. Skeletons are stacked in my closet. How do people live without causing havoc from time to time?

I regret ridiculing a special-needs girl in my high school. I regret allowing the students in my first class to torment one of their classmates. I regret losing my dearest friend over my books–books that, had I known it would cost me the friendship, I would never have written. I regret keeping other people in my life longer than I should have, years beyond any reasonable expiration date. I regret that I am unable to cultivate friendships, that once a month for a couple of hours at Starbucks is the best I can do, and the best I want to do. I regret I never took math after Miss Royer’s Geometry in 1976. I regret not fighting for a particular friendship I can’t mention here. I regret not speaking on so many occasions. I regret turning in one roommate at BJU and not turning in an RA and his compliant girlfriend at CHC whose (ahem ahem ahem) I voyeured from my bedroom window which was separated from the CHC parking lot by only a chain link fence. They became missionaries, and I’m sure they are still as madly in love and aheming as ever. I regret squandering my brain in unaccredited colleges when I could have done something with it elsewhere. I regret not trusting myself to understand my own needs and desires as valid, giving away my autonomy to preachers, pastors, and others who by virtue of “they said so” claimed some kind of authority over my decisions when in fact they were nobody to me, just men behind pulpits or lecterns or newspapers telling me what to do when they had no idea who I was. I regret not standing up for myself on so very many occasions. For sitting there and taking it. For door-matting it up as if I was made to be stepped on, made to have dirty feet scraped off on me, made to be left out in the cold. I regret swallowing the evangelical line that the world was about to end and that we shouldn’t look forward to decades of joy and life and success and progress because everything was going to hell in a handbasket, America was finished, and Democrats were Lucifer’s spawn, when anyone who had eyes could see (especially after 1991) that democracy was spreading, that freedom was on the upswing, and that donning white robes and standing on hills waiting for the Second Coming (whether in 2000 or 2011) was not something God wanted on our to-do lists.

Things I don’t regret are all the crazy things Brian and I have done that everyone told us we shouldn’t do. We shouldn’t get married after knowing each other only three weeks. We shouldn’t move across the country so Brian could go to nursing school, a decision that scandalized everyone we knew for being “unmanly” and to which I can only reply, “In your face, sexist pig,” but I wouldn’t because those poor sexist sillies are still making twelve or fifteen dollars an hour and probably still saying men “shouldn’t” be RNs, if not so loudly. They said we shouldn’t adopt transracially, shouldn’t move to Hawaii, shouldn’t move 20 times in 20 years, shouldn’t shouldn’t shouldn’t. It’s all right. I was critical of their decisions too. For us, we make our decisions together. Every time. Every single time. If we agree, who is anyone else? Marriage is (assuming a friendly partnership, not some hierarchical authority structure where one partner is assumed right) you and me against the world, period.

People I’d like to thank as I slam into door number 55: Dan Salter for yanking off my very thick blinders, his niece Lily whose ordination causes me to relax and realize that brilliant young women are doing what I won’t be able to, Brenda and Elizabeth for not going away, David Diachenko and Jeffrey Hoffman for you-know-what-you-did, Tammie and Nancy for being wonderful friends for many years, Valerie for being there since 7th grade, Shannon for being there with laughter and friendship in the late 80s when I was gasping for air in a deep humiliation and crushing poverty, for everyone who has ever read anything I’ve ever written and told me it made them laugh or cry or both, because that feeds me. Brian for letting me breathe deeply and laugh/cry/rant with abandon for 26 years without complaint or criticism ever. I know this is rare in men, and I am grateful.

The Romans put milestones on the side of the road so you’d know where you were on the path, how far you’d come, and about how far you had to go. I’m going to amend my first statement. I’m not colliding into this milestone, this 55. I’m on the path going past it. I see it. I nod to it. I smile that I’ve come this far. My grandparents lived into their 90s (my last grandma died just six years ago a month from 96), and I hope to follow them there, all crinkly and ancient and saggy, with my head full of wisdom, my heart full of joy and satisfaction. I want to be 90 and look back at 55 and say, Oh, I was so young then, and how many things have happened since then, and how many new friends I learned to make and how wonderful that I learned to play the cello, and how great that I wrote another book and took up causes and traveled and taught English in Mongolia and found a place to worship and people to worship with, and how wonderful that my husband and children and grandchildren filled my heart up. Then I want to see 100 on a stone ahead and look back to 90 and tell my baby granddaughter Penny, who will be 46 that year, how much of life is ahead of her and how great it is going to be.

A THOUGHT FOR CHRISTIAN PARENTS WITH GAY KIDS

In my capacity as a member of the Board of Directors at BJUnity*, I have occasion to think about how Christians interact with (or fail to interact with) their gay friends, co-workers, and children. I’ll admit my thoughts are rudimentary, but perhaps they might be, for all their simplicity, helpful to Christians who learn that someone in their circle of influence in gay. Particularly, if the person is one of their own children.

Thought #1: Take the Anderson Cooper Test

If you had a chance to meet Anderson Cooper, would you say, “Ewwwww, no, how gross! He is so gay!”? No, you would not. If you had a chance to have dinner with Mr. Cooper, you would be as gracious as possible, and your conversation would be as witty and as sophisticated and as focused as you could possibly muster, given that your heart would be racing with absurd levels of star-struckedness.

Treat your gay kid with at least this much grace. He or she came out of your body and loves you. Anderson Cooper is thinking, “How long do I have to stay here with this person just because they won the CNN caption contest?”

Thought #2: Take the Sally Ride Test

When thinking about great Americans, do you leave out Sally Ride and say, “Oh yeah, she was America’s first female astronaut, but we’re not talking about her because she was a freaking Lesbian”? No, you do not. You put up her poster and talk about her as a great American woman who blasted through the glass ceiling of NASA like it was nothing but space. You discuss her PhD in physics, her work on the Challenger commission, her space missions. You don’t throw her contributions out because she had a 27-year-long partnership with another woman.

Treat your gay kid with at least this much respect. He or she wants your love and longs for your acceptance. Would you have shaken hands with Tam O’Shaughnessy, Ride’s partner? Shake hands with your own kid’s partner.

Thought #3: Take the Neil Patrick Harris Test

If you could be on NPH’s new show, Best Time Ever, would you? Or would you say, “No way, never. It creeps me out even to think of being near a man who is married to another man. I would throw up. I can’t get out of my mind the images of what they are doing to each other”? No, you would go on the show. You would have fun. You would laugh.

Allow your gay child at least this much access to you: to have fun and enjoy family moments as you would have fun and talk about (forever, and you know it) how much fun you had on NPH’s show, were you ever fortunate enough to get on.

And, of course, I’ve saved the best for last.

Thought #4: Take the George Takei Test

If you could meet Mr. Sulu. I repeat: If you could meet Mr. Sulu, would you, dear Christian trekkie, say to him what Christian parents say to their children, “I will never speak to you again! You’re not welcome in this house! You’re going to hell and God can’t save you. Your grandmother will die in shame because of you. I hope God brings you to your knees in disaster. You can’t see your siblings ever again!”?

You would not. You love George Takei and you want him to love you. You would speak kindly. You would recount your happy memories of a certain fencing incident. You would assure him he was and always will be far better than John Cho could ever hope to be (even though you are highly appreciative of Mr. Cho’s performance, darn that pesky external inertial dampener). You would shake Mr. Takei’s hand and you would shake Brad’s hand, too, were it offered to you. You wouldn’t say anything that remotely referenced their intimate relationship or what you might think it entailed.

In short, you would be an adult.

Granted, these things are more difficult with your own child. You never had hopes and dreams for Neil Patrick Harris. You did not imagine specifics of Sally Ride’s wedding. You never worried that your own parents might think ill of George Takei’s marriage choices. But you are still an adult, and you are still a Christian, and you can exercise prudence, compassion, and kindness.

You can keep communications open.
You can express love without prefacing and couching and following-up with “you know where we stand.”
You can shake hands, chat about the weather, exchange holiday and birthday gifts, inquire as to your child’s and your child’s partner’s/spouse’s health and job.
You can congratulate people on promotions, raises, graduations, new babies, and marriages.
You can be there.
You can stand between them and those who would be cruel.

No one is saying these things would be easy, only that they ought to be done.

They don’t have to be done perfectly. After all, people will crawl all up your business if you’re kind to your gay child and his/her/their partner/spouse. People will shame you and say you are “condoning sin” if you don’t cast stones and hurl aspersion. You may be shunned. You may be talked about. They might say you have walked away from the faith, that you can’t be saved, that God can’t love you if you love your gay child, that you never really were saved at all if you could do such a thing as be kind, compassionate, and accepting of your own child who has come out to you.

This is your son. This is your daughter.

Treat this person who aches for your love at least as well as you would treat a random gay celebrity who, if you ever did meet them, would forget about you before you had left the room.

*BJUnity is a group of LBGT and straight allies affiliated in some way with Bob Jones University. I am a 1981 graduate of BJU, a former staff member, and author of 11 books published by BJU Press, 3 of which are still in print. You can reach BJUnity at www.bjunity.org.
sulu

A Thought on Mr. Gothard’s REPROBATION CHART

This is a picture of the crowd at one of Mr. Gothard’s seminars.

As you may know, I am taking a class at Oak Brook College of Law called Life Principles for Lawyers. In this class, we are studying Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar material. You can look it up if you’re interested; here I only want to talk about the Reprobation chart. (Please forgive my handwriting. I am a better typist than I am a note-taker). It looks like this:

This chart purports to show how a person progresses from the beginning of an idea or desire into full-blown reprobation—that time when the person’s conscience is “seared” and he no longer feels anything but happiness in committing a particular sin.

Let’s say that I begin at the bottom. I see a movie that shows bank robbery, and I think how fun it would be to rob a bank and have all that money. I am at level one. I am curious.

As I think about robbing a bank, my conscience is awakened (step 2). I fight against that for a while, but then I start in to thinking about the money in earnest. I am at step 3, sensual focus.

Now I begin to question Scripture. I say the law was fulfilled in Christ and I am no longer bound by it. Thou shalt not steal doesn’t apply to me. I am firmly on the fourth step. Now I move to step 5, violating conscience, by scoping out a few banks and maybe robbing the Walgreens just to get a little practice before moving on to banks.

(They don’t catch me because I wear my “thin suit” and thus don’t fit the description of the fat lady who had to squint at her stick-up note written on the back of her hand so she wouldn’t forget what to say.)

Guilt awakens, step six. I feel bad. I feel really really bad that I took advantage of my thin suit and robbed the poor night checker.

Step 7. I respond to my guilt by crying, throwing up, thinking about calling the police. I seamlessly move onto Step 8, incomplete repentance, by crying and praying all night long. It’s incomplete because I don’t drive to the Sacramento PD and turn in the money and myself. I keep the money. I spend the money. I like the new purse and shoes.

However, in order to salve my conscience I involve myself in (step 9) religious compensation—I start attending Wednesday night “6:13 Prayer Meeting” at my church and maybe even sign up to help with VBS. I stand there smiling and handing out juice boxes. My guilt is somewhat assuaged, especially if I used some of the “take” to buy the juice. Juice in individual boxes is expensive. Good thing I robbed the Walgreens!

Without missing a beat, step 10, frustration over my drive to steal kicks in. I enjoyed that money. I want more. Plus, the thrill of the criminal outing.

I re-examine Scripture (step 11) and focus on the parts that seem to say everyone should be treated the same and people who amass a lot of money through putting up Walgreens stores on every corner are some kind of horrible. I justify my urge to steal. I steal again. I line up some banks. I keep robbing them.

At some point along my journey, I justify my stealing (I need the money. I give ten percent to Capital Christian Center. I donate to the Dining Common project.). At last, I reach the top of the Reprobation chart, where I have no pangs of conscience and I can even be a bank robbery apologist (step 13, Argumentation). I have reached the top (or rather, bottom) of my moral life: I am a happy bank robber.

So, I think this chart is correct.

Except. The exact same progression happens when you come to a place of Christian liberty about something in your life that was once forbidden.

(I tried to share this with a friend the other day, but I mucked about and put my foot so far into my mouth that I basically choked to death and have been afraid of even saying hello to him since…so I’m trying again here with a different example.)

FOR EXAMPLE: Contemporary Christian Music.

Let’s say that all your life, you were taught and you believed that Twila Paris, Sandi Patti, Nicole C. Mullen, and Hillsong United were of the devil.

For the sake of brevity, let’s leave it in chart form:

1. Natural Curiosity—you were tuning your radio and you chanced upon “Redeemer” by Ms. Mullen. You couldn’t unhear it. You listened. Your heart was “strangely warmed.” You said, “Amen, sister!” At “I spoke with Him this morning,” you cried.

2. Awakening of Conscience—you feel guilty. You’re not supposed to listen to this stuff. It’s evil. It’s bad. It’s wrong for you. It will cause your foot to slide in due time.

3. Sensual Focus—you can’t forget how that song made you feel. About Jesus. You want to hear it again. You wonder what other amazing songs are out there.

4. Questioning Scripture—you pore over the Scripture, all the places you can find for songs, hymns, spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. You can’t find anywhere that says a song declaring, “I know my Redeemer lives” is evil.

Teeny-tiny additional half-step
4 ½. YOU QUESTION THE ORIGINAL PROHIBITION—you’ve now come to a place where you realize Scripture does not prohibit your listening to this song. Maybe the RULE IS WRONG.

5. Violation of Conscience—you start to listen to more new music. (Yes, I realize “Redeemer” is 12 years old. It’s just an example, people.) You feel guilty because all your life you’ve been forbidden this pleasure—and it really is a pleasure. You really are blessed in your spirit. You are encouraged in your faith.

6. Awakening of Guilt—you feel guilty because you are hiding your new listening habits from others. You agree when they talk about music standards.

7. Response to Guilt—you try to listen to Fanny Crosby more and more. You feel trapped—you know Hillsong’s “Lead Me to the Cross” is good for you, but your early training is pulling at you.

8. Incomplete repentance—you try to find musical satisfaction the old fashioned way, but you are never able sincerely to say that you know “The Warrior is a Child” or “Was it a Morning Like This?” (Did the grass sing? Did the earth rejoice to feel You again?) or Keith Green’s “There is a Redeemer” is evil. (Again, sorry for decades old examples. New examples would be better.)

9. Religious Compensation—maybe you continue to nod and talk cheerfully and exclusively about traditional music. You choose only the old stuff for your group. You say Amen at all the traditional places. Or not, if you’re Baptist.

10. Frustration over drives—because you have to hide your new CCM habit, you know, that music that feeds your soul, that brings you to Jesus and brings you to tears.

11. Re-Examining Scripture—again, you go over all the Scriptural portions touching on music. Now you can’t see how you ever ever thought the prohibition against new music made any sense. Sure, there’s stuff that’s simply no good and stuff that needs tweaking, but my goodness, Salieri was no Mozart, and not everyone is Ira Sankey!

12. Justification of Immorality—you’ve now come to understand that lots of the new music is fine and dandy, thanks so much.

13. Argumentation—you talk about it. And you listen to it loud while driving down the road, while rising up early and staying up late, when chatting with friends, while hanging out. You happily sing hymns in church, but you equally happily enjoy your new Gospel/Worship music in your life.

I know this is long and boring, but my point is, the same chart can be used to show moving toward sin or moving toward liberty.

The hard part may be deciding which of those you are doing. Once you’ve figured that out—is this a sin I am attempting to make palatable to myself or a liberty I need to strive toward—you know whether you are sliding into reprobation or climbing into freedom.

Note: the author admits to having stolen answers off an algebra test in 1975 and in once overlooking a nail polish that was wedged in a shopping cart (it failed to get onto the conveyor belt, but made it out to the van), but she has never robbed a Walgreens or a bank.

More Note: the author further admits that her favorite Twila Paris song is “Runner.” (Runner, when the race is won, you will run into His arms.) This song took her through an extraordinarily difficult time.

And last note: the author is fine with traditional hymns in church. It’s the condemnation of people’s personal music on their personal time that grates.

FORSAKE ME MAYBE

June 27, 2013

Dear Friends and Friends of Friends,

As you may know, this is my last semester of law school. Lord willing, I will complete my JD in December and take the California Bar Exam in either February or July of 2014.

A requirement for graduation from Oak Brook College of Law is a Senior Paper on a question of law. I will be researching the question, “Is BJU’s ‘Forsake Me Not’ Promise to its Faculty Enforceable, and if so, By Whom?” By “Forsake Me Not” I do not refer to the endowment fund mentioned in the late-1990s videotape, but to Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.’s promise to take care of faculty in their retirement. This promise is described in Dan Turner’s book Standing Without Apology on page 237, thus:

The Founder’s ideal was that each member of the faculty was hired for life, and he promised that the school would care for each member of the faculty, providing him or her with housing, food, medical care, and a small retirement salary until death. (my emphasis)

Standing also indicates that a profit-sharing plan was instituted in 1989 to deal with tax issues in the years after the Supreme Court tax case, but no mention is made that the original promise was withdrawn. In fact, I clearly remember than when I came on staff in 1992, the above statement was still being made. I am not aware of the moment when (if ever) it was stated that there was no more Promise, and though I have heard rumors that the “endowment is lost,” I have no details on that.

I am aware that recently a number of older staff and faculty have been fired after lengthy careers at BJU. Some of these servants of God have been left with nothing—no retirement except Social Security, no Dining Common privileges, and no housing stipends. I would like to hear more. I would also like to hear from people who have been retired with benefits, as well as anyone else who would be willing to speak with me.

I am further interested to hear from people currently employed by the University. Are you confident you will be taken care of in your retirement years? Are you fearful of being let go just before retirement age? If you are left with only Social Security payments, will these payments be sufficient for you to have a peaceful retirement? What amount of monthly Social Security payments do you expect to receive based on the salary you received while employed at BJU?

I have loved and defended the University for many years. Many of you know that I received my MA in Church History in 1981, and that I worked at BJU Press from 1992 through my husband’s graduation from the nursing program in 1997. I have published eleven books with Journeyforth, all of which are in print as of the date of the letter. I have no animosity toward my alma mater, but recently I have been feeling a deep and growing discomfort about how older faculty are being treated.

Of course I want to protect your anonymity if that is your wish. I can do that by disguising your name, dates of service, department, and so on. I regret that it will make my paper less useful if I don’t know who you are, so I will need your correct information, but I promise to safeguard your private information if you prefer to be referred to pseudonymously. I am aware that there are faithful servants of Jesus who are working under fear of being fired, and this is one factor that has caused me to look into this matter.

I have heard from a few people already who have given up hope because, so they have said to me, “It was an oral promise.” There are laws about oral promises. They are not all gratuitous and unenforceable. Nor was this promise entirely oral. It is contained, for example, in Standing Without Apology, and recorded in the video we all received during the late 1990s regarding the proposed Forsake Me Not endowment.

I appreciate any help you can give me as I work through this problem. I look forward to hearing from many of you regarding your understanding of the Promise, how it applied or applies to you personally (or to your parents or spouses), how the profit-sharing plan was presented and how that has worked out, and so forth. I assume I will also hear from those who would not like me to poke around in such things. To them I can only say that I hope their jobs are safe and that they never need to worry about how to live on a few hundred dollars a month in Social Security payments.

I can be reached at the addresses listed below. I prefer not to speak by phone, as I wish to have everything written down. Please feel free to share this note with anyone whom you think might be interested.

sharonhambrick@hotmail.com
11948 Pericles Drive
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742

Sincerely,
Sharon Hambrick
MA 1981
BJU Press 1992-1997
Author of Arby Jenkins, Arby Jenkins Mighty Mustang, Arby Jenkins Ready to Roll, Stuart’s Run to Faith, Arby Jenkins Meets His Match, Adoniram Judson: God’s Man in Burma, The Year of Abi Crim, Tommy’s Clubhouse, Tommy’s Rocket, Tommy’s Race, Brain Games

RISE UP, WOMEN OF GOD

No one should have to tell you to stick up for your kids. No one should have to tell you that your children’s safety is more important than your own, that your children’s emotional stability is far more important than your pastor’s ministry, that if your husband is raping your daughter, you should call 911 and then high-tail it to the lawyer’s office.

If you have to be told this, something is very seriously wrong. Why, when you hear of horrors perpetrated against your own child, would you ever for one second believe that you should be silent? That you should not fight for your child against anyone—husband, brother, father, deacon, elder, pastor, babysitter or father of children your child is babysitting–who injured him or her in a sexual way? Why are your claws not out, your eyes ablaze and your soul in full-on mother bear mode?

Probably because you were taught to be meek and quiet. And sweet. And silent. And that no one likes an angry woman. Proverbs teaches us, dontcha know, that enraged women are ugly. Or was that Rush Limbaugh? I can’t remember. So, calm down, honey. It’s not biblical for you to be so angry. Are you sure you’re in the will of God, because remember, whatever is not of faith is sin! Didn’t you covenant to stay married no matter what? Is there a root of bitterness growing here? Isn’t that the real problem? After all, a three-year-old won’t remember, and we need Pastor Whatshisname to keep Spreading the Gospel. You don’t want to be the one responsible for all those souls going to hell because Pastor would be out of ministry and unable to preach, do you?

And other foolish, hellish nonsense that unmothers a woman. That keeps her from tapping those two little buttons (the second one twice) when her children report horrors, invasions, violations, rapes.

We’ve allowed it. Eyes wide open, we’ve gone into marriages and motherhood believing we are not partners but employees or underlings or subordinates. We’ve promised to give up our very selves to cater to our husbands, to exhaust ourselves in church service, to obey everyone they can think of to put in authority/accountability over us, so that when the moment comes (God forbid) that our children need us to rise up in wrath and deal with wrongdoers with purpose and unwavering mother-strong diligence and fury, we wobble, we tremble, we cave to the mighty men who wear suits and talk all prosey and quote this and that into our ears until our spines have cracked, splintered, and dissolved.

We’ve allowed ourselves to believe that we are less important in our families than our husband are, less valuable to the Church than our pastors are. These are lies. These are damned lies.

A woman who covers up or ignores or “forgives” a boy or man who sexually attacks her child because she thinks that keeping the perpetrator out of prison is more righteous than protecting her own baby is seriously confused, to put the kindest face on it. She is deluded. She is weak. She is lied to. Do not be this woman. (I put the “forgiveness” in quotes, because how dare you believe you can forgive someone who raped your little child? That is not up to you. That is up to that child when she grows up and understands all the details and what that means in the scheme of the world—no minor child can do this, and anyone who asks her to or forces her to is seriously crazy. A 12-year-old girl who “forgives” the man who raped her doesn’t even understand yet what was stolen from her. She will find out later, as she grows up, after she is married, when she has children.)

Woman-up, mother! Allow no one to hurt your baby without the righteous vengeance of a mother pouring down in torrents upon the wrongdoer. Be enraged and don’t back down before your husband, your brother, your father, your pastor, anyone at all in leadership, or the “poor misguided young man” or anyone else who stole your child’s innocence. Stand up and start shouting down justice. Sure, do it quietly if you like, but do it. This is your moment. This is your job.

Like you, I have been hearing the horror-stories, reading the Complaint, and I can’t get over the rape of Christian women’s minds by Pastors and other leaders who have over and over and over again told women that it is more important to have their husbands home than to keep their daughters from being raped by these men, that it is more important that “the work of Christ go on” than that Pastors and other rapists be held accountable for their crimes, that “Church discipline” is more effective than being tossed in the slammer (or juvie) for sexual battery crimes, and that believers should never ever file lawsuits against one another—which is not what Paul said. Paul said, “Is there not someone among you” who can handle these things? Well no, in sexual battery cases (or child abuse cases of any other kind) there isn’t, because the Law mandates that you call the police, period. You may not deal with this in some churchy way, smooth it over nice-and-clean and let’s-all-forget-about-it and sopranos come in strong on the third stanza! Better yet, let’s have the men only sing the third—love those strong, masculine voices proclaiming the Gospel!

Be enraged, women of God, when you read that Complaint. People are afraid of angry women, and well they should be. Every adulterous and child-abusing pastor, elder, deacon, youth leader, or what-have-you in conservative Christianity knows that when his wife finally opens her eyes and decides to walk out the front door and talk about what went on inside there, his “ministry” is going to crash around his ears in a loud and public way. Own that power, wife. Do not be afraid. Walk courageously. Yes you can. Yes you must.

The news being what it is, it is incumbent on every church-going woman not to let her children out of her sight before informing them that there are bad people in the world and some of them are dressed up like babysitters and Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders. Some of them are called Pastor. If you are touched inappropriately—in your bathing-suit area—or if someone wants you or forces you to touch them in their private area, run, scream, and immediately call 911.

Tell your parents before telling anyone in church leadership. This should not make children too afraid to go to church—it will make them armed to go to church, and God help us that we have to arm our children with defensive weapons just so they can go to Friday night youth group, but if you don’t do this, it is on you when they get hurt and don’t know what to do. It is your business to tell them about this. Tell them today.

We have laughed at Catholic priests for their rampant pedophilia. We have snickered and scoffed at those of other-than-our persuasion who have “fallen.” Good and well. So, up and at ‘em, Mothers in Israel. And if you know of something that has been going on and you have been silent when you should have been screaming, just go get in your car, drive to the police station and start talking. What is all your picketing abortion clinics if you cannot speak up to the police for your own babies? What is all your ranting against same-sex marriage—because of the horrible things it will do to children!!!—when your own children are being brutally used in your own “covenant” home?

It goes without saying—oh wait, it doesn’t, so I’m going to say it—that if you are being raped, hit, shoved around, cursed, belittled, marginalized, or otherwise badly-used in your marriage, it is time to get help, serious help. If your pastors tell you to get over it, submit, forget about it, or understand he’s “just a man after all,” it is time to run for your life. Take your children with you.

Don’t worry. If he’s all that great and godly, he’ll make changes and come get you. But that’s another post altogether. For now, keep your children safe.

DRINKING THE KOOL-AID

I recently joked with my law school classmates, that, having been in Fundy schools since kindergarten, I’ve been drinking Kool-Aid since 1966.

It isn’t true, is it?

Because it wasn’t the listening that equaled “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

It wasn’t the moving to Guyana that equaled “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

It wasn’t the hanging on every word the Man preached that equaled “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

It wasn’t the devoting of one’s life to serving the Man’s cause that equaled “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

Drinking the Kool-Aid happened when the Man turned on his followers and said, “Drink this and die, because that is better than living. Because the world out there hates us and is coming to get us and wants to shut us down. And, while you’re at it, make your children and old people drink and die, too.”

Almost a thousand—almost a thousand—obeyed, most without question.

But some, knowing what was coming, fled into the unknown, into the jungle. All the listening and admiring and working for the cause did not cause them, when saw the writing on the wall—when they saw what was inevitably coming—to throw away their lives at the word of a Man who said he spoke the Word of God.

They ran. They lived.

My only point is that perhaps we throw around the Kool-Aid accusation too quickly. We joke that anyone who is listening carefully and trying to pattern his life after someone else is “drinking the Kool-Aid.” (Pauses to hear someone yell, “It was Flavor Aid, man!”) Listening, taking notes, obeying might be fine.

But be very careful, my dear friend, when the listening turns into doing something or countenancing something that has harmed or will harm you, your friends, your children, or your old people, or anyone else.

Then run like crazy. And don’t look back.