Archive for August, 2010
On July 28, famed author Anne Rice, who wrote “Interview With the Vampire” and “The Queen of the Damned,” posted the following on her Facebook page. “For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”
It was in the last line of Anne Rice’s statement that I found camaraderie because my conscience will not allow me to belong to any religion either. In fact, it has been years since I walked away from Christianity. I read her Facebook status only minutes after she posted it and sent it to people immediately because I knew it was going to be big news.
After a Catholic upbringing, Rice became an atheist as a young adult and lived many years as such until a conversion experience restored her faith ten years ago and she became a devout Catholic. Anne Rice has long been one of my favorite authors and I have read all the books in her “Vampire Chronicles” and “Mayfair Witches” series. Coincidentally, when I read them, I was a believer and found her books to be searching and longing for something. She found that for which she had been searching.
After her conversion experience, Rice started writing books with a Christian theme and was very successful. Yet, try as she might, Rice has said she could not reconcile her conscience with the behavior of her religion. Been there, done that. What is one to do when common sense and your conscience tell you something is wrong, but your religion insists it is right?
For thousands of years, religions have taught that women are to be subjugated to men and that it is moral to kill another person as long as it is done in the name of a God. We now know – many of us, anyhow – these hateful teachings to be evil. However, as long as religion continues to teach any type of evil in the name of their Gods, right thinking humans will continue to reject that evil in the name of their Gods – as Anne Rice has done.
Personally, I quit religion because of the hate it has incessantly dealt to women. In her own words, Anne Rice quit religion because, “In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life.”
Depending on each person’s interpretation of their holy scriptures, one can hold to a belief that is on either side of those issues as scriptures give equal weight to the message of love and the message of hate. Sadly, many religious people side on the side of hate versus love. They choose to judge because their scriptures encourage them to do so, while it is also admonishing them not to judge. They choose to discriminate because their scriptures teaches them to do so, while it is also teaching them that all humans are created by their creator, loved by their creator and cherished by their creator.
I believe that at some point in their lives, all religious people are faced with the decision to side with one aspect of these contradictory teachings or the other. Too often, they choose the path of judgment, hate and intolerance. Those who do not, either choose to walk away from their church while maintaining the “love” aspects of their belief or some, like me, choose to walk away from faith completely.
How can a woman believe there is a God who loves her and has a good plan for her life when scripture teaches that women are cursed (Genesis 3:16), are subjected to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1), that men should control women (1 Corinthians 11:3), that women are not permitted to speak in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), or that we should not fix our hair, wear gold or pearls or costly clothing (1 Timothy 2:9)? Why should I be willing to sacrifice all for a God who permits a husband to scourge or beat his wife (Qur’an 4:34)?
As the group Black Eye Peas sings, “Where is the love?” Many may see their God as love, but it is difficult for countless in society to accept and believe this view. It is difficult for a gay person to see that professed love when they are told they are an “abomination.” It is difficult for women to feel the love when being labeled as second-class citizens disgraces them. It is difficult for certain races to feel the love when, according to scripture, God himself refers to them as “dogs.”
My hope is that more religious people will make a stand like Anne Rice to leave religion and embrace the love teachings of their faith. Perhaps then organized religion would be forced to rid itself of the hate teachings and embrace love, equality and tolerance. In the words of a bumper sticker I glimpsed a few days ago, “I support the separation of church and hate.”
One of the reasons I have no tolerance at all for domestic abuse – whether physical, mental or emotional – is because I suffered terribly from all these forms of abuse for years while I was a child.
My father was nowhere to be found and my mother was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One moment she would be smiling and happy, the next one I would be flying through the air or my head would be slammed into a doorknob. The physical wounds all healed – eventually. However, the mental and emotional abuse took years to heal.
In fact, I’d say there are still parts of me that have yet to heal. I can easily talk about the physical abuse now, but still 25 years after leaving my mother’s house I cannot think of the details of the psychological and emotional abuse without breaking down in tears.
Those wounds run so deep that I often wonder if they will ever heal. The mental and emotional abuse from my mother has affected every single relationship I have ever had with another person – including my husband and children. I find it difficult to trust even the best of hearts and keep friends at arm’s length to protect myself from potential dangers.
One of the reasons I can read people so well today is because I spent all of my formative years carefully assessing minute actions to better prepare myself for the next onslaught of torture. The slightest facial movement or a quick intake of breath could be an early indicator for me to shield my body, my mind, my soul.
I have said all of this to explain why it infuriates me so when I hear people make light of the mental and emotional abuse to which women are subjected. When my husband, Paul, showed up when I was 15 years old, he was the first person in my life to care enough about my situation to help me deal with it in a meaningful way.
Those in my church turned their eyes the other way, family members would only speak up when they could no longer handle hearing the verbal abuse themselves and the rest of the world was just beginning to understand how important it was to intervene for the sake of the child.
There were so many days when I would be awakened with the torture in the early morn, bear it all day long and fall asleep from the exhaustion of it at night. Some days my nerves would have me physically shaking in fear and anxiety and I would try my best to hide it dreading more torture. Worst of all were the feelings of abandonment and rejection that never once in all those years left me.
How much is this exactly like what women go through each and every day? How many women live this life of torture? How many times a day is a neighbor’s head turned to pretend it is not happening? And when the woman finally decides she has to find help or she will die (I had those thoughts so many times), society mocks her, scoffs at her and casts her aside – validating what her abuser has said all along…she is worth nothing.
Do not mistake aggressiveness for authority. Just because a man brazenly hits a woman, yells at her, threatens her and demeans her, that does not indicate that he has the authority to do so. No man ever has the right to abuse a woman. Ever. A fact backed up by the law – a true authority.
There is also the assumption that women can be treated like slaves. They are expected to clean the house, do the laundry (wash, dry, press and fold), cook all of the meals and service the man’s sexual desires whenever he so demands.
When a woman does these things of her own volition, that is one matter, but when she is expected to do it regardless of her own desires – that is slavery. Women are not slaves. Slavery was outlawed decades ago and a relationship between a man and woman should be one of equal standing and mutual respect.
In modern society we finally understand that all humans are equal regardless of race, gender, creed or any other “differences” previously used to belittle varying sections of humanity. Therefore, domestic abuse is not a man’s right or privilege; it is barbarism. He is not acting as king of his house; he is just being a bully.
I cannot understand what causes people to abuse others – and believe me; I have spent years of my life trying to understand.
I know they do need help. But that is for someone else because my passion, understandably, is to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.
I wish someone had told me that my mother was wrong and had no right to abuse her child, which is why I am writing this column today. I am here to let women know that it is not okay for a man to hit, to threaten or to demean you. It is not right. It is wrong. It is wrong. It is wrong.
Consider the impact abuse has had on my life, on all of my relationships, on how I see the world. The longer a woman stays in an abusive relationship – whether physically, mentally or emotionally abusive – the more wounds there will be. Who knows if all of them will ever heal?
What should a woman do if she is in an abusive relationship? Escape as quickly as you can. Get away. Run away. If you need protection, make the police (who are sometimes just as abusive to women) understand. It is their job and it is the law.
If you need help starting over, there are churches and/or organizations that can help. Most times, family and friends will help, too. But most importantly, run far, far away.