I wrote something to an acquittance of mine, Anna L Davis, in response to a post she wrote and it got me thinking. I thought about the degree to which being part of a church is not about Jesus. Anna spoke of a group of former prostitutes who know try to lead other prostitutes to Jesus. For whatever reason (My morals, of course, intrinsically compromised by my atheism) I don’t like prostitution and I think it is good for women to be lead out of it by people who have been there, regardless of motivation. She mentioned how she would like to see more of this sort of thing.
I don’t think she will. Christianity is dying in the west, at rate of about 1% per year. Do you know what the fastest growing religion is? Wicca. The number of people who identify as Wiccans is doubling every 30 months. (Ref) So, I offer to concerned Christians everywhere my little guide book to how to keep your church from going the way of the brontosaurus. You can get Wiccans and other Neopagans (people who believe a fairly arbitrary re-imagining of neolithic and bronze age paganism, only without the blood sacrifice.) to go your church and stay there.
Its profoundly simple, actually. White suburban does not equal Christian. Tell me which picture is a group of Christians….
I like how the photo of the Christian teens (it’s taken from the Youth for Christ web page) uses careful lens flash to make the token black guy the whitest one there. So tell, me what exactly have the goths done wrong here? They are dressed as modestly as the Christians. There is no more hair dye, and no more make up on the right then on the left. You can’t see any skin really, no naughty words, no pentagrams.
But you know, don’t you? You know instantly they aren’t Christians because they don’t look white bread enough. Wicca takes these people with open arms. Wicca says “Your uniqueness is blessed”. The Christians say, through a tyranny of frowns and subtle digs, that these people aren’t right, no matter how much they love Jesus. I know someone is reading this and saying “Oh NO! Not I! I would love these people into Christianity. How long could person come to your church dressed like this before someone felt the need to say something to them? If Christianity wants to exist in another 50 years, then it needs to stop acting like being a Christian means having a Christian image, and needs to start acting like the inside is more important then the image….
Or be content with young people leaving droves from the hypocrisy.
P.S. If you got this far without ever realizing that only God can see the heart and the group on the left could be Satan worshipers and the group on the right could be local Baptist teen group then you don’t need me to tell you what the problem is.
Every year after my birthday, I try to reassess my life. I write down this reassessment so I can read it. I’ve found my memory slants things in my favor and only by writing down my thoughts can I later be sure of exactly what I was thinking at the time. So this post is primarily for me, put out publicly for anyone who might be interested. In essence, I’m reintroducing myself to myself. If you want to get to know me again, this would be a good thing for you to read, if you don’t there won’t be much you haven’t heard already.
I spent most of my life with what you might call a divided self. To some people, I was a good and serious Christian, to others I was a very liberal Christian, to myself I could be either of those two, but there was also a private life hidden from both my serious Christian friends and my nominally Christian friends. There were two parts to this private life as well: there was young man that desired nothing but the satiation of the flesh, and finally caught in the tension of all of this and man who truly hated his very life, and struggled constantly to avoid physical self harm and deep feelings of worthlessness. I was deeply ashamed that I, a Christian felt that way and struggled as much to keep people from finding out how I felt like trash as I did to overcome those feelings.
It made for a complicated life. I thought my parents were the greatest parents on earth and I loved them. At the same time, sometimes I hated them so much it was purely my fear of the punishment of God for disobeying them that kept me at home much past my 16th birthday. If I was going to choose one word to describe my young adult and adult years it would “confused”. I was never sure who was the real me: the serious Christian, the liberal Christian, the sex freak, or person who was prevented from suicide purely because whenever he put a gun to his head he saw his family around his hospital bed as he was in a vegetative state, clucking their tongues and saying “Couldn’t even get that right, could you?”
I was always on the look out for someone who had the answer of how to live the Christian life. I wanted to truly be a Christian more than anything on earth. Adolescent angst turned into adult depression. Frequently, I would wake up before my alarm went off and stare at the ceiling trying to will myself into facing another day of failing to be the man I was supposed to be. Usually I could. Sometimes I could not, and it cost me more then one job.
This would lead me to join a radical Pentecostal group who claimed to have a corner on knowing God. Some would call the group cult-like, and perhaps it was but, in the end it was good for me. For the first time in my life I was honest with people about the feelings I had about myself and others. There was an enormous rush to being that intimate with people emotionally. The feeling, though sexless, is not entirely unlike the feeling of being courted. (I’ve talked to a few cult survivors who say this remains a feature of their live that they now miss.) When the novelty of those wonderful feeling wore off however, I was largely the same person. This became an increasing source of frustration. Further, the church talked a very radical, revolutionary game, but when I started to ask hard questions about when this so called revolution would start, I was ostracized.
A pivotal moment in all of this, was falling in love with my wife’s best friend. Of course, being 24 and her being 22, part of these love feelings including an intense and acute desire to make love to her. Which at first, made me hate myself more then I knew was possible. It would hardly seem that this could work for good? But it did. Through long conversations with my wife about my feelings, we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t feelings that were wrong but the actions you took with them. That being the case, I just ignored the sex drive and enjoyed loving someone. Always I had seen my desire for sex with a woman I was not married to as sick and twisted, and myself as perverse for having such feelings. Now, I accepted those feelings and enjoyed them but chose not to act on them. This was the beginning of a life of much less self hatred.
This new life of believing that I was worthy of love changed what I expected from a church. I now wanted to be treated as a peer. This didn’t sit well with the somewhat cult-like church we went to. The last straw was when I quit my job (to avoid temptation, long story) and no one would help us. Further, I was reading the Bible as a whole document looking for the whole story rather then reading individual passages to see what I could make it say. Our church wasn’t even close.
We had moved to the inner city to be closer to the people we were supposed to be saving. I sat on the stoop listening to the gun fire and the sirens. I realized that every stupid thing I had ever done was because I thought someone besides me would take care of me, yet here I was unemployed in the projects of Kansas City. I had a high enough ACT score to get into MIT and I was waiting tables and living three doors down from a crack house.
I decided I would start taking care of myself, and that such a thing would glorify God. I also still wanted to help people in the inner city, and it looked to me (after 2 years of hearing about transformation that I never saw) that hard working people getting money into the crappy schools would go a lot farther then prayer meetings.
I joined the Air Force (same pay as the other branches but least chance of getting shot and most time at home). I joined a very sincere Christian who had reached one simple conclusion: If one was going to consistent with ALL of scripture instead of just the parts they liked, then God was a radically different person then most people thought.
It’s unfortunate in many ways that I deconverted after joining, because I think a lot of people have the idea the military experience is what made me an atheist. Not at all. I joined, as I said, primarily to make enough money to make a difference. I came into the military a Christian. It was not the Air Force life that deconverted me but careful study of Scripture and the history of the early church.
That study lead me to believe that one of three things must be true (1.) There is no God. (2.) There is a God but he actively hides from those who seek him (3.) There is a God and I personally can see no evidence because he doesn’t want me to. In any of those three cases, this life on earth is the highpoint of my existence as I am either bound toward nothing or hell.
Logic says to believe the idea which requires the least invention to work. I could invent a God that cannot be found with the scientific method, or say there is no God. I chose no God. I prayed a final prayer, “Lord if you are real, I came to this conclusion with the brain you gave me and the best facts I could get. If you are real and I am wrong, then please keep my daughter and don’t hold my sin against her. I’m going to be true to myself and admit I don’t see you.”
After this, everything got better. (A subject I have blogged on extensively.) I didn’t ache inside because I wasn’t failing anymore. I stopped pretending I was a Christian, so now I had one kind of friends: the kind that liked me for me. Three months later, I woke up and was getting ready for work. I felt strange and it took me some reflection to realize why: I couldn’t remember the last time I woke up so depressed that I couldn’t go to work.
I didn’t immediately “come out” as an atheist. In my life I have been many things and what I am really excited about today is not something that will necessarily have great meaning to me in 6 months or a year or 5 years. I quietly worked out things. One of the things I really struggled with was the meaning of life in the absence of God. Christianity is a pre-packaged world view, the paradigm equivalent of a Lunchable. Atheism is merely a theology. Eventually, two things would move me. The first was existentialism. Sadly, since most existentialists are big philosophy geeks, existentialism has a huge image problem. Existentialism does not say that life is meaningless (that would be nihilism), on the contrary existentialism says life can have great purpose: the purpose you give to it.
This helped me understand some of the great confusions of my life. What meaning did my relationships have? The meaning I chose to give them. Guilt I had carried over an ex-fiance for years melted away. But what of the indifferent universe that I now believed I lived in? Well, when I spoke of this to the very wise Doctor Karen Stollznow, she said, Israel, rocks and trees may be indifferent, but we as humans are generally surrounded by human beings who are as authentic parts of this universe as the sun or the earth. Because people can make the choice to care, the universe is not indifferent.
During this period (around this time last year) I began to really hate my parents. I was profoundly bitter with Christianity and I blamed my parents for raising me in it. That was stupid. We’ve talked since and worked it out largely. Though not bitter, I remain slightly miffed at Christianity. I’m 29 years old and it has only been the last few years that I have had a normal sexual relationship. I’ve been in a sexual relationship since I was 22, however it wasn’t normal or healthy until fairly recently as atheism and existentialism helped me come to healthy view about myself. Sex is not very important to some people and incredibly important to others. I am the latter, and it irritates me that I spent the first 25 years of my life when unhealthy, ineffective thoughts and actions regarding sex because of Christianity.
A note here, when I say “Christianity” I am not referring to a code of ethics based on the Gospels, but the unique expression of American, politically conservative protestantism as I understood it. I have talked to many people since deconverting that managed to believe psychologically healthy things as well as Christianity. They managed to believe everything I do, yet do so with a paradoxical belief largely at odds with scripture. More power to them, I’m not mad at them anymore either. (For awhile I was jealous of their ability to keep all the pleasant trapping of Christianity without the madness, but I’ve come to accept that they can do it and I can’t)
This is largely the complete story of how I got to where I am. Next post I will tell you myself (and you all) where here is.
In my last post, I told a story. I told the true story of how I came to no longer see open marriage as evil. Included in that story was the fact that ultimately, my wife and I don’t have what most people call open marriage. I told this in story form, because I thought it would help people identify with what was going on. It would show them a journey that made a little more sense of how a person who used to be a Christian came to think open marriage could be an option, before he de-converted. Instead of making it easier for people to understand I seem to have made it harder so let me try again, laying out the principles I wanted to make clear last time.
First off, all marriages are open. There is no magical force imbued in the marriage license that “closes” your marriage. Every person in every faithful marriage is so for one reason only: their feelings. Even if a person says “No, no, no! I am faithful out of a sense of duty!,” it is their feelings about duty that make them think duty is a worthy reason to be faithful. If they felt duty was a pointless concept, they wouldn’t believe it was a worthy reason to be faithful. Being faithful is choice every married person makes every day, based on how they feel about it at the time. As such, ALL marriages are open because everyday, either partner can sleep with whoever they want, whenever they want, The fact that most people chose not to says that most people feel that the consequences are greater then the benefits, not that marriage is magically a “closed” relationship.
Second, if any readers are familiar with personal property rights, they will know that what makes private property “private” is not only the right do do what you wish with it, but also the right to exclude others from doing anything with it. Marriage is as much about who is excluded and from what as who is included. This is why marriage is a legal status, and not just a relationship one. The government is aiding the contract holders (the married people) in enforcing their legal right of exclusion of all others. Because of the difficulty in pinning down anything else, legal marriage is what defines this right of exclusion primarily on the act of coitus.
The problem is when people carry the legal definition as a relational definition, because sexual monogamy is a road, not a point. The confusion is because sexual intercourse and sexuality are not the same thing. Most married people have a huge problem with their spouse having sexual intercourse with someone else. Very few married people have a problem with their spouse speaking to someone else. However, whats the line between chatting and flirting? Not a whole lot. When does flirting (which implies a lack of serious interest) become dirty talk? And at what point does dirty talk become virtual sex? Where is the line between a friendly squeeze and a grope? When does a pat (noun, usage 2) become petting? (usage 2) When does chit-chat become opening your heart?
My point is not that by creating infinitely fine gradients the difference between behaviors is erased. For instance, there is huge difference between chatting and phone sex, and everybody knows it. My point is that each couple has to determine how far down the road of non-monogamy is “too far” for their individual relationship. You will find few people to whom fidelity means merely refraining from coitus. (Bill Clinton famously among them.) This is because despite popular usage the word “fidelity” has no intrinsic connection to sex. Webster’s says fidelity means faithful. So what does Webster says faithful means? Steadfast in affection or allegiance, firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty. Even the dictionary confirms, couples work out what faithfulness means in their own relationship. As long as you adhere to the promises you made to your spouse, and observe the duties that you agreed to, you are being faithful.
There are intimacies of different kinds, including but not limited to emotional and physical. Since marriage is about excluding others as well as about including one, each couple has to work out where that line is crossed and others aren’t being excluded anymore. I know couples where each person doesn’t have any opposite sex friends because, for them, even a friendly conversation crosses the line of exclusion. I know couples where each person doesn’t look at pornography or read romances because, for them, that crosses the line of exclusion. I know couples that don’t sleep with people of the opposite sex until their spouse has met them because, for them, that crosses the line of exclusion.
Stereotypical open marriage means at least one spouse sleeping around with the consent of the other spouse. My point was not that that is something positive, but that I no longer see it as something implicitly negative . My claim that it is not bad does not mean that I am saying it is good. I am saying, above all, that fidelity is something every couple gets to work out on their own terms, and no person has a corner on what a “good” marriage is.
So, having realized (1.) Every relationship is open anyway. The legal status of marriage does not change this fundamental reality of relationships. (2.) Every couple has to work out their own working concept of fidelity together, respecting both voices. (3.) As such, a loving, healthy, and respectful marriage can include another person.
Understanding that lead to make the MAIN POINT OF THE WHOLE BLOG: “Love fearlessly.” Don’t let the fear of intimacy, be it of the emotional or physical prevent you from making the choice to fall in love with someone–just keep your spouse aware the whole time of what is going on. You are being faithful as long as you don’t cross the line of exclusion. When your spouse says “stop” because you hit that line, then stop, and you remain a loving, faithful spouse. Cross it and you are unfaithful, because when your spouse asked you not to, you did anyway, not because of the nature of the act you were asked not to do. No person has a right to say where that line is but you and your spouse, so don’t fear crossing anyone’s lines but the one you and your spouse marked out and said “This is ours.”
LOVE FEARLESSLY! That was the point.
Now, a note here on my marriage: The legal status of our marriage is merely a tax shelter; it has no say whatsoever on what makes marriage sacred to us. Sacredness comes from feelings. Whether you believe your marriage is sacred because of your feelings about a deity or because of your feelings about yourself and your spouse, either way the sacredness comes from your feelings. My wife and I consider marriage a partnership, a meeting of equals for mutual gain. We hold our marriage as sacred.
We decide the “line of exclusion” on a case by case bases after much discussion. If either partner says “I don’t feel comfortable with X” then X stops. Because to us, the day we desire an act with another person more than the whole hearted approval of our spouse, our marriage dies. The tax shelter would live on, but the sacred union dies. To me that is the only moral foundation for our marriage. When I talk about “open marriage” that is the context I am referring to.
And a note here on open marriage. Other people can define “sacred marriage” how they wish, but I find the way most people live out open marriage would absolutely not be sacred for me. In most of the open couples I have meet, the man can have sex with whoever he wants, and the woman (if she is allowed to have sex outside the marriage at all) is only permitted other women. If I were to live that way, I would be lying to myself and my wife to make such a life appear sacred to me. I can’t say that is the case for other men. But again, when I talk about “open marriage” the normal version is not what I describe. I call our relationship open because we don’t rule out or accept behaviors with others based on a preconceived notions, but on a careful study of facts, our emotions, and mutual consideration and meditation.
Will our marriage go toward the ultimate conclusion of openness with either of us actually having coitus with another person (assuming I am not bound by the UCMJ at the time)? I doubt it in the extreme. But, the point is, it would be ruled as crossing the line of exclusion by both of us, after long discussion and consideration, and not by one person for the other, and most certainly not by arbitrary social limits drawn by strangers about certain acts regardless of context.
I say again, LOVE FEARLESSLY! Please, if you didn’t read anything else, or don’t remember anything from this, remember this:
Love everybody. Fall in love whenever you can. Sometimes you will run into fences, like being straight and/or married. Those fences are there for a reason, don’t cross them. Sometimes you might need to move a fence out a bit, like saying its OK to have emotional intimacy. Sometimes you will get hurt, or run into consequences and realize you need to move a fence back a bit. The important thing is not the fences. The important thing is this: Don’t let the fear of hitting the fence keep you from loving people.
Ok, seriously, I have to stop posting my random, mostly high school-ish poetry, but I am having so much fun I can’t stop. Haiku time, kids.
In breakup we both
lost some one we truly loved.
You lost more than I
Brother this and brother that
Hold me I’m scared
and have I gotten fat?
Love should be shared
So tell me your prayers!
I’m ever so blessed
To have brother who cares
when I feel distressed
When I feel depressed
eyes stained red
Kind words confessed
He kisses my head
His white armour does shine
This man I love, “brother” of mine
Truly, I loved you
There could be no denying
My heart surely was true
But, a bit I was lying
Strong passions raised by your pining
I first feared your kindness
But you told me of love
How holiness makes blindness
Purity, gift from above
Would descend like a dove
And I believed
I fell for your drug
My heart was relieved
You were my “sister” appointed by Jesus
Divine friendship crafted to free us
Never had I loved with abandon
Trusted so completely
I wasn’t my way. I planned
Scared to let love defeat me.
But you, I loved madly
Without contract or treaty
It couldn’t end badly
With the Lord as our daddy
Holy union, perfect, platonic
Life couldn’t go sadly
Love was our tonic
High on Jesus, love, and each other
I was truly happy being your “brother”
But a line had be crossed
A road had be started
The switch had been tossed
The train had departed
To and fro my emotions darted
I couldn’t shut it down
I became broken hearted
Needing more of the sound
Of your voice, heard round
Me. And every part of you.
needed to be around
I wanted all of you
I need to have all, the whole.
Union of flesh as well as the soul
Every time you touched my face
You called me brother
And I felt like disgrace
Because my feelings were other
Skin hot like a lover
You affection was damning
My smile a cover
Of the pain you were fanning
I hated my standing
Torn on the fence
One foot on your landing
The other intent
On running away from your sighs
and the adoration plain in your eyes
I didn’t know how to feel
I loved you so much
Not knowing how to deal
With hunger for your touch
Was it love or lust?
That drew my eyes
To your petite bust
And voluptuous thighs?
Wrong or right to despise
Myself, to feel a louse
For wanting you to abide
In my own house?
Torn up, I told you my feelings
You went sick, your stomach reeling.
I, your “brother”, no less
Wanted you for more?
This was plain incest
And I was a whore
The bands of union tore
You offended, left with a fight
your friend no more
Because I didn’t love right
Years since that night
I’ve thought and thought
Relationship’s a rope tight
Upon which we walk
You told me to love you free
And did and loved indeed.
I would have gone back
And kept lying
At first when it was black
and felt I was dieing.
But after much sighing
I now know my statement
It was true love shining
And not abasement
Finished with self effacement
I wanted your body for your soul
Not for lusts enchainment
Intimacy means loving the whole
person, flesh, spirit or other.
Fear of love, not love, made you call me brother.
Aching loneliness in my soul
Led me down paths strange
Shoveling cinder and coal
Burying me in burning shame
It seemed a simple thing at first,
Images of women’s kindness
Did amply slake my thirst
And restore in me fineness
But my thirst would not be stayed
By such innocent mintage
Twas like sipping lemonade
But wanting headier vintage
Searching out stranger strangers
Seeing things which ought not.
Watching clips of varied dangers
Finding not that which I sought.
Then, forgetting mad dreams
I flesh and blood pursued
In hope and without schemes
I let myself be used
Steamy pictures o’ erotic tangles
Had awfully prepared me
For a real relationships’ tangles,
Arguments, tears, and pleas
Porn and I then parted ways
Religion was my watchword
I fantasized not of other lays
And followed always cross-ward.
Religion didn’t heal me
From the aching at the start
In fact, it just buried the real me
And broke my aching heart
Investigation of church’s claims
Left me scratching my head
The church had nefarious aims
Obsessed with others’ beds.
So I left the sacred fold
Trading one lonely for another
Finding bits of soul I’d sold
And myself, and my lover
When porn was viewed
By more secular angle
Without religious skew
Or tempting fallen angel
I realized I was never seeking
some erotic chemical high
Twas on beauty I was tweaking
Eros when most shy
To strange pastures I went
Not for tolerance built
To creepy content I was sent
Driven by crushing guilt
Atheism, ironic blessing
Freed me from guilt’s’ bully
To be myself without missing
The parts that are not “holy”
Free from guilt and shame
I view what I find lovely
I’m not driven by pain
And skip what misogyny makes ugly
And I can see clearly
With all the women I view
Real women I loved dearly
And almost always you
My taste has improved
I’m not looking in dark places
With all the shots perused
Trying to find you in their faces
But such an awful thing to say
And even worse to do!
To shape images like clay
To dream of loving you
The dream I often visit
Is us physically together
But, somehow, not illicit
A love that time could weather
I would be scorned
I seek images in replacement
I want to love and be loved in return,
You’d gag at my abasement.
None of them are right
None of them are you
All of them are right
All of them are you
So, to what cannot be
Between us, (though we love you)
Onan and I will see
What can I substitute
But it would misleading,
To blame only the ‘net
Your image is fleeting
For we’ve nott met yet
Morning dew gleams
Moon beams shine brighter
Life is better it seems
When love’s circle is wider.
I don’t want love to still
At some arbitrarily limit
I do seek a thrill
But only if love gives it.
I want love’s full expression
In context of friendship
Where physical affection
Is compassions apprentice.
So, I am seeking another
to have and to hold
Addition and keeping
Not substitution of old
I want to love with depth
A true equal and partner
But also with breadth
A circle out farther
I know when you say “I am atheist” people think, “Ah, you don’t believe in spirituality at all.” Actually I do. I believe, with the existentialist, that things, in general, have whatever meaning you give them. From time to time, I have these incredible dreams. One such dream is one of the first things I blogged back on my crappy Yahoo360 account and can be read here.
I was in little cabin, a shed almost. The wood was weatherd a dull, lifeless gray . Sunlight was pouring the open door, and I was looking out into these green, rolling hills. My wife was out there somewhere, waiting for me, but I couldn’t make my self go. Some darkness, some inner dread, kept me from walking out the door. I turned back to the cold fireplace, the fire long gone and stared at the ashes.
There was a captain ladder behind me to the attick and I heard the squeek of someone coming down. I turned, and behind me stood three women. The first was my highschool sweetheart. The second the woman I dated in college, and very nearly married. The last, a stranger to me. They were all beautiful, but etheral somehow.
They smiled, bitter sweet, slightly hurt smiles as they walked towards me. The two I knew gave me a speech, and it went something like this.
Dearest, we are your ghosts, ghosts of relationships long dead. You have kept your ghosts well and held our memories dear. But it’s time to grow up. Please let us go. Stop keeping the memories alive. We’re not real. The women you remember are long gone, and we can’t ever be them again, not in body, not in spirit. You can’t ever be the man we loved again.
Darling, you don’t need us anymore. You’ve held our memories because you were sad and broken then. To a broken you, our love, our compliments, our attention was the greatest thing you ever had. It’s not anymore. You are loved now, respected, treasured. You don’t need us anymore. Let us go.
The one I didn’t recognize stepped forward. She touched my face, gently. As I looked I recognized her. When I got kicked out of Bible college she was the waitress who offered to take me home at the end of her shift, the girl who folded my laundry when I forgot it at the laundry mat, the CNA who rubbed my shoulders as I charted the worst shift ever, the girl who put my arm around her at a hayrack ride in youth group when I was too chicken to do it. She was evey female that ever made me like I was someone special instead of trash.
They all held me.
“Goodbye, my dears,” I said.
“No hard feelings, beloved. Goodbye.” They said
I stepped to the door, and woke up
The room was tiny, not with the spartan cleanness of a jail cell, but with the claustrophobia of a coffin. He kept it neat, everything in place. The books on the desk in an orderly row from large to small. Anything that rested on something else was centered, and the squares of the quilt in perfect form with the posts of the bed. Closer inspection would reveal that this order, this cleanliness was in spite of the shabbiness of the room. The bed frame was scratched and rickety, the dresser missing boards, and the quilt tattered beyond all reason.
He stood in the room, naked and still damp from the shower, combing his hair with total focus. He was making part line down the center, imposing order on the chaos. He puts on a a black pair of underwear, a black pair of socks, a pair of Levis, a black t-shirt, and soft black boots. He takes one last look at the boy in the mirror, and sighs deeply. He’s not hearing voices, but his feelings are so conflicted it feels like a dialogue.
You don’t have to do this to yourself.
I’m not doing anything to myself! I just want to be happy.
Nothing can make you happy but Jesus. God will make you suffer until you turn to Him.
I am already suffering. I’m all broken and dead inside. When I do this, I feel something.
Sin brings pleasure for a season but the gift of God is eternal life.
He walks out of the room, over the torn carpet and broken down furniture, pausing to pet the dog who was sleeping in front of the space heater which warms the shack. He stares into the warm, brown eyes as he strokes the fuzzy ears.
Oh God, why did you make me a man? Why couldn’t you have let me been born a dog so it wouldn’t be a sin that I wanted to have sex? If you’d made me a dog, I wouldn’t be such a disappointment to you. I’m not sure if what I am going to do is sin against you or against my own body. I’m so sorry that I hang you on the cross again everyday. I’m so sorry.
The dog, looking as mournful as only a hound dog can, rests it’s head on it’s paws again and closes it’s eyes. The young man walks through the kitchen, the whole wall a library. He feels the weight of the great dead men on that shelf, pressing him to do something great, to change the world. He walks past the classics, the theology texts, and the paramilitary training books he’s memorized, to his mother at the table. She’s studying for work, and the whole kitchen table is covered with her books.
“Mom, I’m going to cruise the loop, I’ll be home before curfew.”
His mother glances up, not at him, but at the clock. Her face is pained from the effort of trying to discover what the new and arbitrary changes to the care plans are. Studying in hard for her, but she doesn’t want anyone to get hurt on her watch and she reads the guidelines cover to cover over and over again. She drops her eyes from the clock, and rises taking a sip of her chicory. She looks her son over head to toe, and frowns.
“Be safe tonight OK? If it starts to snow harder, pleas come home, I worry about you.”
“I know, you do Mom” he says as he slips into his black trench coat, and gives her hug.
“I love you” he says. “I love you too.” she replies, going to the kettle for more hot drink.
He walks out the door, slipping his black beret on his head as he walks out to his Ford Festiva. Like everything else he owns, the car is third hand trash, but with it, he can go where he wants to go and do what he wants to do. He’d sell his soul for it. He digs on the radio as he drives the eight miles to town, finally settling on some classic rock. He watches the snow blow by, like the trails of stars when warp is engaged. The inner dialogue is quiet. The car has a broken muffler, and it the roar of dying motor and the strains of Pink Floyd push away reflection.
He’s going to the big weekend shindig in the boondocks town he lives in. The kids drive in circles and congregate in the town square, showing off their parents’ expensive cars. At the corner of the square, between the gas station and the movie theater is the VonHoff Insurance agency. He pulls into the parking lot as the lights inside go off. A young woman opens front the door, and steps into the November cold, her fingers senseless in gloves, she struggles to lock the door.
Every time he sees her, it’s a dream. Like him, she’s seventeen, but unlike a lot girls his age, she’s shaped like a woman, not a girl. She has full hips from eight years of ballet. When he sees her waist he wants to put his hands on it. She wears “real bras” not the padded push-up junk that other girls do, and she has a lovely 50’s pinup profile because it. Her auburn hair falls halfway down her back. She’s like a woman out of time, a War World Two vamp dropped into his little pointless town and he thinks he might love her.
He watches her bend over to get the key into the lock, and turns his eyes from her curvy backside, mixed up bible verses pressing into his mind
The lust of his eyes comes not from the Father but from the world.
If you look upon a woman to lust after her, you have committed adultery in your heart.
Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.
The wages of sin are death.
If you eat of the forbidden fruit you will surely die.
It is good for man not to touch a woman.
It is better to marry than to burn.
But he can’t look away for long. She’s beautiful and she likes him. She bounces to the car and hopes in. Her face is pure electricity with a smile. Her grey eyes sparkle in the yellow streetlight as much as the snow flakes caught in her lashes. She reaches grabs his hand holds it in hers, blowing on it.
“Hi, babe.” She says between breaths.
“Hey.” He puts the car into gear and backs out. They drive and talk. They talk about the world, about the nature of things, about everything and nothing. They talk for hours, but it feels like minutes. Soon it’s almost ten, her curfew. He drives her back to her father’s office, and as they do, he broaches the topic he’s been thinking of all night. His heart is racing.
“Natalie, do you remember how you said you wanted to kiss me goodbye and I turned my cheek to you?”
She nodded, flopping the pompom on the top of her stocking cap. “Um hmm”
“Well, you said when ever I was ready for more I could tell you?”
The pompom flopped again. “Um hmm.”
“Well, I’d really likely to give you a real kiss goodnight, tonight.”
Her brows knit in concern.
“Are you sure you aren’t going to feel guilty about it? I don’t want you to just disappear like that again,” she asked.
“Oh, I’m sure,” he lied.
This is going to feel so great, this is going to be what I want. When I kiss her I’m not going to feel broken anymore.
You are just using her for her body you selfish bastard.
It’s OK. She’s so perfect for me, she’s going to be my wife, that’s what God put her in my life for. We’re going to get married
Maybe the guilt of this will make me hurt enough to really commit to God.
I think I really love her.
Maybe this sin will make me feel so horrible I’ll finally have the nerve to kill myself.
A coy smile spread across her face as they pulled into the office. “Well, if you’re sure,” she said as she got out of the car.
He jumped out to help her clear off her car. She starts her Buick and and steeped back to him. She pushed her hands into his open trench coat and wrapped her self around him, her pink sweater like star against his blackness. She held him tight and then raised her lips to his.
He kissed her, pressing his lips against hers as he held the small of her back in his hands.
No, no, no. Oh God, please forgive me. I’m sorry that I can’t control my lusts.
Her tongue found his, and his breathing quickened. He had an erection so hard that it hurt. He felt betrayed by his body. Now she would know that he was not doing this because he loved her, but because he wanted sex. She’d know what a pervert he was. He shifted against her, and tried to remember what he had read about kissing in books. He moved his tongue mechanically in her mouth.
I’m a whore. I am such a whore. She’s so sweet and innocent and I am such a filthy whore.
She gently broke away from the kiss, and looked at him, trying to find his eyes.
“Joseph, you have such beautiful eyes, I want to see them.”
It scared him so much to have her look in his eyes. They said eyes were the window to the soul. What if she saw all the perversion in his soul, what if she saw how fucked up he was inside? She was such a nice girl, and nice girls didn’t think about sex. All he could think about right now was having sex with her. He was so ashamed. He raised his eyes, trying to hide the darkness in his soul, but pain is transparent.
“Oh honey, are you sure this is OK?” she asked.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m just, this is just, new for me.” he said, staring into her eyes. His pulse was pounding, but not because he was aroused. He was terrified. He wasn’t pressing his hands against her because he loved her, but because if he didn’t they would shake uncontrollably. Every part of him, his body and his soul wanting nothing more than to let himself go, to fall into her and never take a breath. He never been so tempted to not have control before, and he didn’t know who he would be if he didn’t have control. What if he couldn’t stop? What if she said stop and he couldn’t? Was that who he was?
She began to kiss him again, and he kept going through the motions. He felt dead inside, laughed at. Empty. But not quite enough. He didn’t hurt enough to give up on everything he wanted and seek God. He didn’t feel hurt enough to kill himself. He didn’t feel anything but a sort of dark nothingness, a disillusionment as real and solid as the woman in his arms. Finally, with one last concerned and wistful look, she slipped out of his coat and into her car. She waved sweetly and drove away.
He climbed into the Ford. He hadn’t hurt himself enough inside to die, just enough to carry more pain. It had been in the back of mind the whole time he was with her, it always was: How to deal with the pain of failing again. He always failed to be the man God wanted him to be. As he drove he fingered the big combat knife he kept in the car. He knew God didn’t want him to cut himself either but the Bible had far less to say about self mutilation than sexual sin. Surely it was less of sin than the sexual sin he had committed tonight?
If cutting himself took away that loneliness he wouldn’t have to kiss Natalie again. Everyone knew where kissing lead. It lead to sex, it was unavoidable, and since Natalie would never have sex with someone like him, it would be sick and wrong. She would, of course say she wanted to, because she loved him but if she knew the real him, she would say “No.” If he slept with her, it would be a kind of rape. If they kept kissing, he would become a rapist. Kissing was a gateway sin, and once you turned your back on God you would do anything.
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, because of this God gave them over to shameful lusts.
Her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the death none who go to her return or attain the paths of life.
If cutting myself makes me not feel so broken and lonely, then it keeps me from kissing Natalie. Which keeps me from becoming a rapist and going to hell. I have to cut myself or I’ll go to hell and hurt this person I love.
Joseph leaned back in the seat, at peace. Maybe he had found the inner strength to be a better man after all. Perhaps his first kiss wasn’t a complete loss after all.
Why is this subject so important to me? Why do I need to have an opinion on this? First, to redeem my past. As I said before, I have never raped anyone, not by even the least coercive definition. I never felt the desire to do so, but I did share one common thought with rapists: I hated women because of how much power they had in comparison to me. I would submerge my identity to be with a woman. I would change my vocabulary, my clothes, my hair. Anything just to be seen with a woman, yet no woman would equally debase herself to be with me. I hated myself for being so desperate and empty and I transferred this hate to women.
Christian life reinforced these outlooks in a lot of ways. Women were the “weaker vessel,” fragile, emotional creatures, who could not be trusted to make important decisions, which is a backwards way of saying they could not be held as accountable as a man for their behavior. This and the tyranny of love. Young adulthood is a time to understand love and sex. I remember so many ex-couples where the girl broke up with the guy and really wanted to be friends afterword. Getting a mix tape of Micheal W Smith’s “Friends” was not unusual.
Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
Can’t believe the hopes he’s granted
Means a chapter in your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
And friends are friends forever
If the lord’s the lord of them
And a friend will not say never
cause the welcome will not end
Though its hard to let you go
In the father’s hands we know
That a lifetimes not too long to live as friends.
With the faith and love god’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you’ll live in
Is the strength that now you show
But we’ll keep you close as always
It wont even seem you’ve gone
cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
Do you see what I mean the tyranny of love? My god, who could do that? No pain of loss was great enough. No hope of a different kind of love could hurt enough. Nothing could hurt enough to end it. You just had to just keep suffering, pretending that everything was OK. This was the “love” that my female peers spoke off. This too contributed to my hate.
Further, from home and a little bit from the Christian culture, I had picked up the idea that women were not as sexual as men. “Women act like they want sex to get love, men act like they want love to get sex” was never said from the pulpit, but as a viewpoint, it pervaded the churches, camps, and college I went to. To have this incredible need from someone and have them have no need of it themselves felt so unfair. Imagine you are dying of thirst, and you crawl up to a person sitting on a 55 gallon drum of ice water. “No, you can’t have any. You’re all icky and thirsty.” You’d be pretty mad.
Again, the Christian culture shares some blame here, because if I could have just had a girlfriend and gotten laid, I probably would have calmed down with the hate quite a bit. But Christianity told me that the only acceptable way to desire sex was to want a wife. So every female friend I had was the future Mrs. Ronin Truthwalker. Every issue was huge. I could never just enjoy a young women for who she was. No, I had be weighing her character for fitness as the mother of my children. This is not conducive to good friendships, which made me feel hurt and betrayed a lot. Which again, increased the hate.
This hate I used to feel is the first reason this subject is so personal and important to me.
The second reason is my daughter. I don’t want her to grow up the way I did with these really stupid ideas about sex, love, and male and female roles in society, because ideas take people places, and those aren’t places I want her to have to go. A person’s ideas about rape are sort of a litmus test for what they think of women. If a person thinks that rape is not as serious a crime when the women was dressed suggestively that person is saying “It’s OK to harm women if they don’t look like nice women.” Which then says “Nice women either don’t like sex or don’t look like they do.” Which then says “It’s OK for guys to like sex, but not for women too.” Like I said, ideas take people places and I don’t want my daughter to go the places those ideas take people and I don’t ever want to go back myself.
I want my daughter to be free and strong. I want her to believe that rape should never be a reasonable expectation. At the same time, I don’t want her to believe an idea that puts her at risk. I’ll finish the rest of this later. This is just why this is important to me. I’ll give my conclusion later.
I’m broken inside without you
I cannot face the twilight alone
Without you, I must have day or darkness
But I am haunted by the twilight
This time when no bustle distracts
From your absense, my mind still
But for the pining.
Night has come, and left her veil.
Queen Mab stands by my door,
but she will not come.
It is between these woman,
Lady Night, and Queen Mab
That I belong to you
But you are not here,
Not with Night, not with Mab
And to climb into Mab’s carriage
without you, is to know
She will not drop me by you
I will awake, following m’lady
as her dark veil burns,