The Bad Theology of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Crisis pregnancy centers have been the bane of my existence as a woman for many years. In fact, when I do public speaking around abortion issues, crisis pregnancy centers receive my special wrath. That’s because CPCs are sneaky and deceptive while spreading terrible theology about women.

For those who are unaware, a crisis pregnancy center, or CPC, is an anti-abortion religious ministry often masquerading as a women’s health clinic. They’re usually behind any “Pregnant and Scared?” bus advertisement you’ve seen around town. They are often staffed by church volunteers, most of whom have no medical training and who peddle disinformation about STIs, pregnancy, adoption, and abortion.Many people are aware of CPCs and the bullshit they traffic in. However, most people haven’t stopped to consider the underlying theology upon which CPCs operate. For many people with little or no experience of Christianity, CPCs are just another intolerant arm of the Church. But I argue that it is much worse than that. The bad theology behind the religious anti-abortion movement is twice damaging  in that it does a disservice to Christianity while also specifically damaging women spiritually.

Religious anti-abortion culture and thus, CPCs, rest on the assumption that women are not capable moral agents, in other words, that women are unable to make their own decisions about pregnancy. This is what lies behind the idea that women will regret their abortion or that she needs to have a 24-72 hour legally mandated waiting period between her consultation and her procedure, or that it is a good idea to try to intercept women as they enter abortion clinics. Women can’t possibly understand what’s at stake unless someone else more informed tells them.

Religious anti-abortion theology also tends to equate womanhood with motherhood and reduces women to their biological ability to reproduce. Thus, the rejection of motherhood is considered unnatural and as taking something away from men that rightfully belongs to them. This is why we see signs in black neighborhoods accusing black women who abort of genocide. Or why the anti-abortion lobby had to invent “post-abortion syndrome”, a fake mental disorder that can supposedly result in guilt and suicide for a woman who rejects motherhood. Or why protesters at my old clinic used to tell men that they needed to take “their women” out of the clinic to save their “seed” which rightfully belonged to the man.”

So, where did this theology come from? Aristotle, whose philosophies influenced much early theology, believed that women did not have a rational spirit and Augustine concluded that there was absolutely no reason for woman to exist except as womb in which to grow children for men. Both Aristotle and Augustine may have existed long ago but their thought was hugely influential in the Church and I argue that much of our current attitudes toward women as rational beings who can be trusted to make decisions about their reproductive lives, is, in turn, consciously or unconsciously influenced by these biases still sanctioned and active in our churches.

I’m not saying that CPCs keep Aristotle close to hand or that they chat about Augustinian ideas in between potential converts. I’m simply saying that it pays to investigate where ideas come from, how they mutate over time, and continue to show up again and again unless interrogated and confronted. In our culture which, for good or ill, is culturally steeped in Christianity, ancient attitudes about women (which, by the way, Christianity did not invent but which were in turn inherited from classical civilization), still hold some sway. We see them reflected in supposedly secular anti-abortion laws and in religious institutions alike. The only alternative is to confront these ideas  head on and create new theological ways of understanding and honoring the rational spirit that lives in  women.

If you want a more in-depth look at the bad theology behind the the anti-abortion lobby, check out Theology Outside the Clinic or feel free to drop me a line.

 

My Story: The First Draft of the Introduction to “The Companion”

I’m all about laying myself bare, warts and all, so I thought I’d give you an excerpt, completely unedited, fresh off the crazy train, of the introduction to my new book-in-progress tentatively titled The Companion: An Abortion Doula Handbook. This excerpt is not the entire introduction but gives you a sense at least of where I come from as I begin to put together this book and the accompanying online abortion doula training. I also love that you get to see all the mistakes, shitty sentence constructions, terrible flights of ideas, mixed metaphors, and other writerly missteps that every writer makes and a good editor puts to rest. Seriously. ALL first drafts are shit and you CAN write a book.  Just read below for inspiration 😉

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When people ask me how long I’ve been doing this work, I’m not always sure what to say. Which work? Advocacy for women? Feminism? Reproductive justice? Was there ever a clean-cut line after which I began this work in earnest? What I usually end up telling people is that I began doing “front line” abortion activism work in 2010, when I founded Richmond (VA) Clinic Defense, but that I’ve been doing direct action feminist work since forever. I didn’t begin to do abortion doula work until 2015, after I moved to Canada but even that isn’t quite true. As I look back, I can see the pieces of what would become my abortion doula work falling into place at various times in my history within the feminist world.

Let’s just begin this story by saying that I did not start out “pro choice”. In fact, there was a time in which I was decidedly anti-abortion. I never stood outside of a clinic or even wrote any letters to my people in congress, but I did have a very regrettable bumper sticker on my car in high school. I also once visited an anti abortion crisis pregnancy center, but we’ll get to that. Mainly, my anti abortion outlook was a result of my upbringing and my “activism” was restricted to arguing with friends.

I grew up in a non-religious and non-political family that, after I was long out of the house, became quite religious and rabidly political. It was a strange shift, for sure. But as a child, we went to church exactly three times and my parents were sort of vaguely Republican in that way it was still possible for people to be in the 80s. I sort of glommed onto my parents’ views the way children do. In fact, I remember a time in gym class during the 1988 presidential election in which our fourth-grade class divided up into factions shouting, “BUSH!” or “DUKAKIS!” over and over again until our gym teacher was able to distract us again with dodge ball. I sometimes wonder if anyone else from that class remembers that and finds it as hilarious as I do. But fervently shouting the name of a man I knew absolutely nothing about was the height of political action for me until…middle school. Of course, it being middle school, I now had my OWN opinions and they were definitely not the opinions of my parents and they tended to center around whether things were fair or not. And it wasn’t goddamn fair that Mike was being suspended because Mr. Felix paid another kid a bribe to say that Mike had put a smoke bomb in someone’s locker (yes, I know. But we actually believed these things and believed them deeply when we were thirteen because school officials were, of course, evil and capable of anything). Filled with righteousness (and obviously credulity), I staged a sit-in. I got several of my friends to participate and we sat outside the school until Mr. Canard, God bless his soul, came out and spoke to us like adults (which we so didn’t deserve. I’d also like to mention that after writing that last sentence, I messaged Mr. Canard’s son who was a good friend back in those days and told him to please apologize for us and that I was publicly stating what an idiot I was as a sort of mea culpa.)

Then there was the time in high school when I decided that I was sick and damn tired of seeing the same four girls elected to prom court every single year. So, I got my best friend at the time Peggy and we walked around from classroom to classroom during second period giving impassioned speeches for why WE should be prom royalty. I wasn’t sure this was actually going to work. We didn’t exactly fit the Prom Queen ideal. But our faith in our fellow students wasn’t misplaced and Peggy and I were duly elected to the prom court. And that was the first time I swung an election.

But when it came to abortion, there wasn’t really a whole lot I thought I could do. By the time I was busy staging sit ins and influencing elections, it was the mid nineties and the big debate then when it came to abortion was the so-called “partial birth abortion” ban. Like many people of the time, I bought the phrase “partial birth abortion” hook, line, and sinker. I had no idea that it wasn’t even an actual medical term but rather a politico-religious term generated by the anti-abortion lobby. The actual medical term was a dilation and extraction. I completely bought the myth that during this procedure, a fetus was actually born and then systematically dismembered. I was as horrified as the anti-abortionists wanted me to be.

I remember having a discussion with my good friend Mark as the national debate raged around us. We were sitting in my car in front of his house.

“Don’t you think that banning these abortions will just lead to more back alley abortions?”

I was aghast. Allowing baby killing simply so irresponsible women could live? “It doesn’t matter!’ I yelled passionately, “These women chose to have sex! You can’t make it right, even to prevent other deaths! Besides, I would die for my child!”

Good God. That Mark just chose to quietly disagree is a grace I didn’t deserve. I can only plead, Mark, the self-righteousness of youth. I’m glad we’re still friends despite my rather loud and ill-informed youthful opinions.

Somewhere between this period of high school and college, things began to shift for me. Part of it was undoubtedly that I was a voracious reader. Let me explain the connection. Reading has the tendency to humble us because we’re forced into situations in which we meet with people we might otherwise pass by. We read about their lives, their triumphs, their mistakes, and it becomes impossible to refrain from empathizing with them. Yes, even the villains! We might not wish they were our real-life best friends but what you learn from reading is that everyone has a story. And more than that. You learn that everyone feels pain, feels joy, and that most people on this earth are sincerely trying to do good. Suddenly, you realize that you don’t need to punish them anymore.

I do mean punish. At some point I don’t even remember, I realized that what I argued so passionately for in my car that night at Mark’s house was retribution. It was punishment for women who strayed outside of a subconscious idea I had about womanhood that, I didn’t realize then, was informed by centuries of shitty theology. “I would die for my child,” wasn’t simply self-righteousness. It was a declaration that I was not a bad woman, that I had maternal instincts, and that I believed the correct punishment for “irresponsibility” was death. Of course, I never would have phrased it that way and, in fact, if I had thought it through that far I would have reversed my position long before. But I was operating with the cultural assumptions I was born into, assumptions about women and motherhood that had never been challenged in my small world.

In college, I decided to become a Roman Catholic. Yeah, we’ll come back to that one too. Anyway, I was involved with a young adult group, one of those church groups with the ludicrously huge age range of 18-35 (read: any single legal adult that hasn’t been exiled to the actual singles group). I really enjoyed my friends in this group. They were irreverent and always up for fun. In fact, I managed to get them all naked and into my sauna once after a night of clubbing. Achievement unlocked.

But that isn’t to say that there weren’t conservative members of the group. One, a former nun who always had an air of sadness about her, asked if I’d like to join her at a dinner sponsored by an anti-abortion group. To my surprise my voice answered back, “Oh, thanks, Rachel, but I’m not sure I’m actually anti-abortion anymore.” I was as surprised as anyone else that night who heard me. I mean, I knew I had shifted quite a bit over time. I had gone from, “Abortion is murder,” to, “I probably wouldn’t have one but I can understand why others do” in the space of a couple of years. But even more surprising than saying it was how right it felt. Because for many years, even as I was parroting “pro-life” talking points, anti-abortion positions had begun to feel kind of gross.

While still in high school, I was reading an article in Newsweek (all high school sophomores subscribe to news magazines, yeah?) about an attempt to ban abortion in North Dakota. I remember sitting on my bed, holding the folded magazine in my hand held in front of my window so that I could better read the article. At the sight of the headline, my mind was thinking, “Yeah, right on,” but my stomach and heart both sank. Never one to shy away from asking myself hard questions, I sat with it a bit thinking, “What the fuck…?” But I didn’t yet have the language to express what was happening to me. And what was happening to me is a story, as they say, as old as time.

As women, we’re used to working with hand-me-down constructs of womanhood. We can’t help it because it is usually our first teachers, our parents, who instill them in us, even without realizing it. We learn early on that we like pink, that we don’t like to get dirty, that we’re nice. Later on, those turn into being consumed by fashion, obsessive body policing, and enforced prudishness. But every so often, something gets through and niggles at us. For instance, the time my cousin, a deeply sexist man who, at that time, was a deeply sexist kid, told me that I needed to let my boyfriend “take control” in the relationship because boys need to feel powerful. Being only 12 years old and not yet having delved into feminist theory, all I could say was, “That’s such bullshit.” Underneath my three-word response though was a whole complex set of feelings that I couldn’t explain. I felt stunned. I was confused. On top of it all, I felt a blinding rage. That rage is what unites girls and women all over the world. There are times when we have no way to express the contradictions in our heads, no words for making sense of the bullshit we’re experiencing, but we all feel the rage. This is the part of our life before feminism, as in 1992 BF. After all, if men can invent entire historical ages that women never had a part in then I can very goddamn well invent a historical period before which I was enlightened and invented the tools I needed to understand my world, using my words and my experiences.

So, dear reader, that was how I came out of the anti-abortion world. My feminism and my growing sense of unease forced me to consider that perhaps the world did not need to be arranged according to male norms. There was no renaissance for women in Italy. The enlightenment period remained totally unenlightened about and by women. And the theology that informed our views throughout history of what a woman should be? It also was devoid of a real knowledge of women, women’s bodies, and women’s lives.

So, there I was in 2010, completely moved over to the “other side”.  I’d already left the Catholic church, realizing that I had two strikes against me: I had a calling and it wasn’t to be a nun, and, that calling was to work for women’s liberation in some way. That December, I found myself staring at a group of people standing in front of a local abortion clinic and thinking, “This is wrong.” I knew very little about clinic escorting, a practice in which trained volunteers escort patients past protesters outside of clinics, but I contacted the clinic escorts over in Louisville, Kentucky whose blog Every Saturday Morning was already a widely read outlet among feminists. They sent me some start-up information and offered their support as I began to put together my first clinic escort team. Within two years, we had hundreds of local supporters and approximately 25 regular escorts. It nearly broke my heart when I left in 2015 to move to Canada.

Once in Canada, I realized that my calling hadn’t ended with clinic escorting. Somewhere along the way in my reproductive justice work, I had begun to interact more intimately with people regarding abortion and contraceptive care. People who knew what sort of work I did began to reach out to me online to ask questions or find support. At first I thought of this as simply another part of being an escort. After all, lots of people reach out to us when they realize we’re safe to talk to. But the more it happened, the more I realized that escorting, while an amazing experience, was not where I was supposed to stay. My outgoing personality, my religious calling, and my desire to be in deep relationship with people all came together when, after a couple of years, I realized that I had unwittingly become an abortion doula. My work consisted of intake, arrangements, meeting, support during the actual procedure, care in the recovery room, and, sometimes, whispered conversations about God’s love for a lonely and abandoned woman with no one to comfort her but some weird American rando. At this point, it only made sense to “put a collar on it”.

My work today is still largely centered on interacting with individual people seeking care. I suspect that it always will be. After all, my God is all about communion and so am I. But I also spend a huge amount of time, effort, and swear words attempting to challenge bad theology about women. I believe that all of us of European descent or anyone living in “the west” is infected by this bad theology whether they are religious or not. It’s in our culture and the only cure is to examine our preconceived notions of womanhood and thus anti-abortion attitudes, most of which, I argue, are products of this faulty theology. I’ll examine some of that in this book but mostly what I hope to do in this particular work is to show you what it is like to walk in love with women who need a companion. Though this does mean speaking politically from time to time, I hope to focus mostly on this work as a work of pure love since that is what is has been for me from the very first.

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Thanks for reading my first draft! I hope you’re inspired now to go write your own shitty first draft! All it takes is a lack of shame and a desire to get that book finished. Your editor will take care of the rest.

How to Be: Summer Breakup Edition

I know I’m an anomaly when I say that I don’t understand our prioritization when it comes to relationships. We assume that romantic relationships sit on the top of a pyramid of connections, with friendships somewhere below it. I’m a bit backwards and I place friendship at the top of the pyramid, if we even have to have a pyramidal, hierarchical structure at all. This is because my romantic relationships need to be above all things friendships at root. But its more than that, too. It’s also because I assume friendships are more enduring for most people (if done right) and that they are the most consistently life-giving. After all, you need your friends after a romantic breakup. So, it might be correct to say that I’m romantic about friendships. This is why it was such a hard thing for me this summer when my dearest and closest friendship ended.

People are funny things. We love them exactly for who they are and yet, when things go south, we wish they could be different. But relationships are messy at best and when we take on a friendship we also take on that person’s past, a past we were never a part of and have absolutely no control over. To put it simply, people are complex, a product of their past, and we can’t do anything about it.

For my old friend this past was, unfortunately, insurmountable. I had inadvertently done something that upset her and, because of her past, she was unable to move beyond it. At first, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t fix this. I apologized, I explained, I told her how much I loved her and I gave her space. But the lesson for me, it seems, was about how I can’t do anything. This was incredibly difficult for me because I am a doer and I like to show my feelings. But God, in Her wisdom, decided to knock me on my ass with this one. If I hadn’t learned that I can’t fix everything in the world by the age of 39, perhaps this was going to be how She got my attention.

And She did. She sent me on a long holiday the day after this all happened so that I was physically separated from my friend. This proved to be crucial to my healing as I was able to literally get some distance. Holidays abroad have always felt something like retreats to me so I got the added bonus of feeling especially close to God during this time. I used the time to pray and to reflect and what I found was not at all what I was expecting.

In my mind, I was expecting that my friend and I would make up and be close again, that we just needed time. But my time away showed me that perhaps that wasn’t the best outcome, strange as that may seem. When I had time to reflect, I realized that my nature as a doer meant that I had been the person primarily keeping the friendship going. I made dates to go out, I texted her, I reached out when I wanted to talk. Once again, I was doing. This isn’t a bad thing. I’m very proud of the fact that I know what I want and will set out to get it. Again, I’m romantic about friendship and believe that it requires intention and effort. But as I sat on the beach one evening looking out over the North Sea I realized that I had kind of made up the entire friendship, that I had chosen her but she had never really chosen me. Not that my friend was not a fantastic person and not that she didn’t care about me in some way, but when I was able to step back and really look, I saw that she was never going to really be able to choose anyone, that she would always wait to be chosen. I can’t blame her for this. She’s had a really rough time with relationships, both romantic ones and friendships. I understand to a point. But it came home to me with a sudden force that when it came to choosing between everything we shared as friends and the pain she felt from her past, she would choose the pain every time simply because it was safer and required less vulnerability.

This was hard. Like, REALLY hard.  There were nights where I just cried, feeling stupid and blind. How could I have not seen this coming? Why did I reveal so much about myself to this person? But it was also then that I knew deep within myself that I couldn’t let this situation cut me off. I couldn’t let the loss of this friendship threaten to isolate me and keep me from what I do best – sharing my heart with others. So, I prayed. I asked God to please keep my heart open, to let it break spectacularly so that I could stay compassionate. During the day I found myself absently stroking the sacred heart tattoo on my right forearm as if to remind myself to keep my heart broken for a little while yet, to let it be pierced over and over and let my compassion grow.

This might sound all very emotionally morbid to you, dear reader, but I believe firmly that we need to fully explore our emotions, our reactions, for meaning. Doing so allowed me to see that I “do” too much and that this has eroded my sense of self-love. Once I allowed myself to really feel the deep pain of betrayal and rejection, I felt an instinctive need to heal myself and to show myself the compassion I felt I was lacking. So, that’s what I did. I began, first of all, to eat better, something my powerlifting coach no doubt loves. I began making sure I went to bed before midnight. I began to monitor the way I spoke to myself. This all sounds very much like doing still, doesn’t it? But there were other ways I found healing as well.

I sat.

Literally, I just sat. I didn’t even focus on my breathing as I would for my meditation practice. I simply sat. When an emotion threatened me with its insidious waves, I shrugged and allowed it to roll over me. I trusted that God would see me through whatever happened. I trusted. I trusted. I trusted.

I accepted that I would cry for many weeks yet. That I would have days where I felt powerful and loving and days where I felt helpless and sad. I accepted that I may have moments where I felt friendless and times where I was going to have no one but myself and God to see me through. And I refused to talk myself out of loving in spite of it all.

trusted.

I trusted that I was enough. I trusted that God is about connection and love and communion and that therefore I was on the right path. When in doubt, I spoke to myself.

“Keep your heart open. Let it break. Let it break. Let it break.”

And because I am such a doer and always will be, I repaired what I could in myself and in other relationships. I reached out to someone I had stopped speaking to when I realized I’d never get the apology I deserved. I no longer felt like the apology was necessary. I began to write olde tyme letters to friends. I went on blind “friend dates” that, at this point in time, seem very promising. I even wrote a letter to my biological father, a man who abandoned us thirty years ago. I let go of the expectation that he wanted to know me and gave in instead to the knowledge that I couldn’t let people think that they didn’t matter. Instead of retreating into myself and refusing to love, I decided to throw my heart back into the ring with abandon.

trusted.

And I wrote a final text message to my old friend. I told her that I loved her and that if she ever decides she wants us to repair this, I’ll be here. But I no longer have the expectation that she wants this. I no longer need to assume that I was to her what she was to me. Knowing of the deep pain that she has experienced in the past, I don’t expect that she’ll choose me. Instead, I’ll just keep trusting that my love isn’t wasted, even when it isn’t returned.

I’m Irrelevant

Well, let’s face it. I’ve never actually been relevant. I have no idea who Zach Effron is, or even if I spelled his name right. I don’t think floral jeans are stylish because I actually wore them in the nineties so at this age I know better. Someone on Facebook asked, “Roku or Firestick?” and I had to answer Roku because what the fuck is Firestick? I NEVER know what’s what but if anything, I’ve become even LESS relevant in the last six weeks. Deeply and happily so.

So, to begin with, I quit school. Remember that whole shit storm in May?  I left that day feeling pretty demoralized, unsure about what to do. One thing I did know was that if I was going to get any support at all, even just conversation with other scholars, I’d get no help from my school. I was going to have to find it myself.

As soon as I got home from that meeting with my department head, I lit a nerd beacon. I got on Facebook and Twitter and mentioned that I was a feminist theologian looking for good conversation with other feminist theologians. Then I looked up relevant hashtags and began popping into discussions and basically forcing people to be my new buddies. And it worked. Within a week I was sharing papers, making plans to meet up at conferences, etc. And the number one question that came up in literally every single discussion I had was…why am I doing a doctor of ministry? Why am I not doing a PhD in religious studies? Of course, I explained that my background was not in either theology or religious studies and therefore DMin programs were just about the only way I was going to get what I needed to then meet the background requirements to do a PhD in religious studies. But I’ll admit that the question sparked something in me. Not that it was a new one. I’d asked myself the same one before and given the same answer to myself that I had given them. But after that day in May, the question sounded differently in my ears.

Here’s the thing. Before I left her office that afternoon, my department head had said to me (rather paradoxically, I thought) that perhaps I needed to think about whether my program was challenging enough for me. And the truth was and always has been – no. It’s not. In fact, it reminds me a lot of being an undergrad and I’m bored to fucking tears. I procrastinate so hard on my work because there is nothing engaging in it. My independent study courses are much better because I help design them but that’s it. The rest of the program is so intellectually unfulfilling that I spend my seminar weeks pretending to type notes while I am actually exchanging angsty messages with my best friend or reading my Kindle on my laptop. More than that (and this is telling) is that instead of forcing myself to write a paper that I couldn’t care less about, I spent all last week meeting with different professors from various schools either in person or online drafting customized reading lists and generally just chatting about our fields.

I finally decided that that was probably a good sign that I wasn’t being challenged in my home program. So, last Friday, I pulled the plug. After meeting with a couple of professors in a PhD program I’m excited about potentially transferring into, I emailed my department head to tell her that I’d thought about her question and that my answer was no, the program was not challenging enough for me and that I was going to move on.

The truth is that I have no fucking clue if I am moving on. There’s no guarantee that just because I’m talking to these professors and reading everything they throw at me that I’ll get into the department. They may reject me. And then what? Then I’ll just be a kind of weird author/housewife hybrid, an eccentric independent scholar whose chief joy is that her office doesn’t insist on pants. Maybe I’m not meant to be clergy or even around actual people. Maybe I’m meant to be underemployed and full of ideas no one wants. Maybe I’m meant to be utterly, inescapably irrelevant.

Thing is, I don’t fucking care.

These last couple of weeks have been the best I’ve had in a long time. I have read more than I’ve ever read compressed into such a time frame. And I’m someone who reads ALL THE TIME. In lines, at bars, at a goddamn red light, if it’s long enough. Still, I’ve been reading so much in the last two weeks that I’ve taken literally hundreds of pages of notes and I’ve gone to bed at 3AM more times than I should admit and even then only after taking a sleeping pill.

I fucking love it. If my life is meant to be simply sitting in my office day after day, reading about medieval women’s contraceptive practices, writing journal articles, and drinking so much tea that I get caffeine-induced anxiety then so be it. Maybe there isn’t a life that I really fit into other than the one I’ve made for myself, the one in which I am happy and don’t know what’s on TV.  A life in which I give in entirely to what I’m truly passionate about without having to worry about whether the people I minister to can relate to me or if its normal to have forty-two Amazon wish lists, including one devoted entirely to the study of solitude.

I know that my irrelevance, my inability to absorb pop culture or even know what fucking day it is half the time is a defense mechanism. Not that I get up in the morning and think, “Ah, another day in which to purposely avoid the things that matter to everyone else!” I’m not quite that hipster. But I busy myself so completely with reading, writing, and studying because, aside from it being goddamn heroin to me, it keeps me from entering a world that, with my propensity for enthusiasm, just unsettles and overwhelms me.

It’s 2:04 AM and my sleeping pill is starting to work.

Quit Saying that Atheists are Just Mad at God

As some of you may know, I spent a good number of years back home in the US being involved in the atheist and humanist movements. I wrote articles, a book, founded groups, and was even a humanist chaplain at one point. I met tons of people this way, some that are still very dear friends to this day. I even met some very lovely people who didn’t think the way I did AT ALL but who were as respectful and curious about me as I was about them.

But because I’m a rather extroverted and outspoken person, I was a bit of a lightening rod for people who were antagonistic to those who had a very different (or no) god concept. And when they saw me becoming upset about, for instance, the state using religious arguments to curtail reproductive freedom or the clergy sex abuse scandal, the question was always, “Why are you so angry all the time?” The follow-up was usually, “You’re just angry at God.”

So, let’s unpack this. Yes. I was angry. I’m still fucking angry. I am SO MAD. And if you aren’t, that probably means you’re white, male, or otherwise super down with imperial religion because trust me, there is a lot to be upset about whether you’re religious or not. And, whether you’re religious or not, the collusion of the church with the state to further oppression can be absolutely rage-inducing (thanks, Constantine).

And that whole thing about “being mad at God”? That’s some bullshit that says way more about you than atheists. If you believe that atheists are angry at a God they don’t even believe exists, it’s because you’re conflating God with your own interests. Because what pissed off atheists are angry about is not the existence of God (which they don’t even believe in, remember?) but rather the public face of religion which, every time, seems to side with abuse and injustice. Personally, I can’t blame atheists for this. How are they supposed to care about things like liberation theology or post-theism, open-theism, and Christian non-theism when all they see is some jerks standing around outside clinics? How are they supposed to know that there are thousands of alternative, intersectional, anti-oppressive Christian theologies with adherents all over the globe when Pope Francis is in the news talking about women being unfit for the priesthood? How are atheists supposed to see us as anything other than complacent assholes when they encounter the deafening silence of many churches to the crisis on the border? Or, even worse, the religious people who are speaking out IN FAVOR of the cruelty happening on the border? What angers atheists is not God. It’s the brutality perpetrated in her name, the domination that you seem to think God calls you to. And personally, I don’t blame them for that.

And we “good Christians” aren’t exempt from the assholery. We need to fiercely interrogate the moral assumptions put out there by conservative Christianity if we want to demonstrate our seriousness about cultural change. For instance, let’s challenge the idea that abortion is a moral wrong that we only tolerate because sometimes it’s best. Let’s challenge the idea that people who cross borders are doing something wrong. Hell, let’s challenge the morality of borders! Instead of working for “prison reform”, let’s abolish the fuck out of prisons altogether and get creative. Instead of “rescuing” sex workers, let’s stop a minute and wonder where the hell we got such idiot ideas about the morality of sex work.

Maybe atheists will stop thinking we’re such dicks if we stop allowing the moral assumptions of the hard right to infect our own discourse and action.

The Border of Legitimate Motherhood

I don’t have a lot of time to write something super theologically insightful about what’s happening at the border.  But make no mistake, what’s happening has theological implications. I’m going to need a lot of time to think this through and write something pretty but right now I feel like I just need to respond.

What’s happening on the border is a reproductive justice issue. It is about who is considered a legitimate mother (or parent) and who is not. It is about the intersection of race and parenthood, class and parenthood, citizenship and parenthood. It is about the power of the state to interfere in the most basic relationship there is for absolutely no reason but that you held your own child’s hand while crossing an imaginary line dreamed up by white men.

Ricki Solinger and Loretta Ross talk about “legitimate motherhood” in their work. It’s the idea that deep down we believe that certain groups of people are more fit as parents than others. This legitimacy is often based on race or class or, in this case, immigration status. Think of all the times you got pissed when you saw a poor woman with a lot of kids. Or a poor woman with any kids at all? We truly believe, if you really think about it, that a woman’s unique ability to perpetuate the species should be curtailed if she doesn’t meet certain criteria (though, God forbid she have an abortion…more on that another time). America is not unique in this thinking. My adoptive country, Canada, played this game when it set up residential schools, tearing indigenous children away from their parents and their culture so that they could be raised to be acceptably Canadian.

The state has a much easier time wresting kids away from black and brown mothers because we have told ourselves that these women are less able to parent responsibly than white, middle class citizen women. And we value middle class white kids because we expect that their mothers are teaching them “citizenship values”, unlike those brown kids from “shithole” countries that don’t speak “American” at home with their parents. Of course we’re going to take those brown kids away. Removing children is a great punishment tool for noncompliant women.

I’m so fucking angry right now.

So, let’s talk about quarantine. Because that’s what it means to stick people in cages. We quarantine prisoners because we don’t want to infect society. In this case, we don’t want to infect them with all the things we imagine immigrants and refugees to be. We don’t want to be infected with their brownness, their poverty, or their fear. We don’t want to infect America with new languages or cultural practices (we’ll totes take your food though). We add an extra layer of bravado to the security to ensure we don’t become infected with guilt.

I’m with you all in this. I sat at my kitchen table and cried until 4AM Tuesday morning.  I have no goddamn clue what to do. We can donate to legal organizations for refugees, we can protest, we can pray, we can do many things that just don’t feel like enough. And they’re not enough. Nothing is enough until it is enough.

What is happening on the border is a theological issue, make no doubt. It is about imago dei (the image of God), about hospitality and radical welcome. It is about the way we think about women and race and how this all intersects with the Commonwealth of God, a Commonwealth with no imaginary lines and which suffers the little children to come to them. I don’t have the emotional energy to tackle it all now in detail but I will be back. Whatever the cost, we have to keep coming back.

 

Jeff Sessions Knows Fuck All About Scripture

I admit that I’m coming into this piece today full of piss and vinegar but how could I not? I read yesterday about how Sessions quoted Romans 13 to justify tearing refugee families apart at the southern border. This piece of scripture reads in full:

13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

It sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it? But like everything in the bible, we have to take a few things into account. First, we must read this and ask ourselves, for whom was this written and why?

Paul (supposedly) wrote this advice for Christians at a time in which Christianity was quite literally illegal in many parts of the empire. So, right off the bat, just being a Christian was flouting authority and therefore seemingly antithetical to Paul’s advice. So, what’s going on? How can one obey the authorities and yet remain a Christian? For Paul, it was all about example and walking that fine line between obedience to authority and obedience to Christ. One of the stereotypes about Christians at this time was that they were uneducated and uncouth criminals. Also, the Zealots, a group of Jews who wanted to overthrow the empire, were clearly a threat to existing order. The empire was constantly on the alert for Christians, Zealots, and other groups who they believed could upset the status quo. One way for Christians to avoid getting the attention of the state was to conform as much as possible to existing laws. Sadly, we see this same injunction given today to African American males who are criminalized simply by their skin color and for whom police attention often means death. Many black mothers have the same conversation with their sons that Paul is having here with his followers, even when they realize that they shouldn’t have to.

But what about the part about God establishing that authority? Isn’t that an endorsement of the state? This one is admittedly much trickier and, in fact, harder to reconcile. It does seem like Paul, in stating that the authorities are “God’s servant for your good” is basically saying that the state is always correct. But here again we have to look to context. First, and most importantly, people in Paul’s time were not into democracy as we know it today. Not only were they not into it, they could probably never have even imagined it as a possibility. While it is true that Greece had a form of democracy in place beginning about five hundred years prior to Paul, it was nothing like what we know today. Very, very few men (and it was always men and only of a certain classes) had any say in anything and there was certainly no thought for minority groups. Thus, Paul and his contemporaries were operating out of a very different political reality, one that believed that God had indeed set rulers above the people. However, that does not mean that they believed those rulers were necessarily put there as a favor. In the thinking of Paul’s day, God often showed displeasure with its people by giving them unjust or imperfect rulers. But when we read Romans 13, we see Paul talking not about an unjust ruler but about God instituting rulers who have our good in mind. Paul is clearly talking about obeying conscientious rulers which leaves open the idea that civil disobedience is still available to the Christian in some cases.

But let’s dump this all aside for a second and look at today. The fact is that no matter what you believe about God or scripture, our lives are very different today from what they were for the oppressed Jews and their gentile allies in Paul’s day. Christians are no longer persecuted on anything like the scale they once were and, thanks to Constantine, Christianity has been in bed with the state here in the west since the fourth century. Moreover, THE BIBLE IS NOT AN INSTRUCTION MANUAL. It is not a rule book you flip through to find the right rule that applies to your situation and it never has been. The bible, huge though it is, was never designed to carry the answer to twenty-first century problems and situations that its writers could never, in their wildest dreams imagine. The bible is the story of the nation of Israel and, later, the unfolding of the life and ministry of Jesus. While the bible holds an incredible amount of wisdom that we’d be idiots to ignore, it is ultimately the story of the development of thought about God and what it means to be human. Though we certainly have books like Leviticus that have lots of rules in them, nothing in that book is infallible simply because it is written in that book. Like the traditions we receive, scripture is meant to be consulted, pondered on, and respected while not being idolized.  Bronze and Iron age males did not hold all the answers to questions we are asking today. And if you are disturbed by that thought, ask yourself WHY you feel you need a rule book. The fact is that many Christians openly and without shame throw out bits of scripture that are not life-giving. We don’t have to contort ourselves in explanation. The bible is not magical. We can throw out those “texts of terror” that some guy wrote thousands of years ago to describe his own situation and society. Those passages we find useful we can reclaim. The bible is chock full of moments of revolution, rebellion, and insubordination. What are we to make of that? What do we do when one part of scripture written by one group of dudes seems to contradict another part of scripture written by another group of dudes hundreds of years apart? We do what people over the ages have always done – we look to our conscience, that “still small voice” that many believe God gave them to use in situations such as this.

And now, tell me, when you get quiet for a few minutes and tap into that voice, what does it tell you? Does it tell you that God wants us to separate parents and children? Does it tell you that small, scared children are enemies of the state? Does it tell you that Trump is a just leader? Does it tell you that people of color are to be feared and despised? Or does it tell you that something else is happening here? Does it tell you that Sessions has no interest in God, or love, or scripture? Does it tell you that maybe, just maybe, he, like many politicians, is subordinating God to the state for other interests?

Because let’s be honest. Sessions doesn’t even believe his own bullshit, does he? If he did, he would advocate just as strongly for laws that promote the rights of women, girls, and LGTBQ people. Because they’re laws. In fact, Sessions wouldn’t even have a goddamn JOB because in the form of government the scripture passage describes and in the way that Sessions interprets it there is no quibbling about the law. What the ruler says goes and our job is simply to obey.

But guess what? We don’t live in an Iron Age occupied land. We live in a twenty-first century (kind of) democracy where not obeying is a time-honored tradition for Christians and non-Christians alike. In fact, it kind of, sort of is what MADE this country.

But Sessions appears not to understand either this or scripture. Jeff Sessions knows fuck all about either apparently.

Complexity, Emotion, and Activism: Getting Comfortable with Complex Emotions through Spiritual Reflection

“I can’t have a conversation with someone who denies my right to exist.”

I get it. That shit is haaaard. And furthermore, I think it would be immoral for anyone to insist on it. I’ve certainly walked away from conversations in which I felt that my conversational partner was opposed to my very way of being. But something I’ve been thinking about lately (and which I think has no real concrete or final answer) is to what extent we hide behind our pride in order to avoid the possibility of transformation.

In our culture (by which I mean North American though mostly the culture of my home country, the US) we are used to thinking of getting our way as a right. We can customize everything from car paint to fetuses. In many ways, choice is awesome. It makes us feel free, liberated, in control. But what happens when our customized lives and selves come in contact with the customized lives and selves of others?

One of the problems we experience in an individualist society is the loss of complexity. We are the center of our universe, the lens through which we view life is the only lens unclouded and unscratched. It’s the obvious choice. And when we meet people whose lenses are different from our own, it can raise all kinds of anxieties and uncomfortable emotions and I believe that what we choose to do with those emotional reactions says everything about the kind of world we hope for. When we turn away we are saying we believe in one orthodox way of being, we believe in one source of truth and reality (our own, of course). If we decide to take a chance on this person with the different lenses, maybe asking them to clarify a point or offering an area of agreement, we are saying that we believe in the innate goodness of humanity, we are saying that making ourselves vulnerable in pursuit of transformation is a worthy cause and that a less contentious existence is possible.

Again, I’d like to offer a caveat. I don’t believe anyone owes it to someone else to educate them or have a conversation with them. I would never insist that the only morally acceptable choice is for a black person to be in conversation with a neo Nazi. There certainly are people who decide to do this but for them it tends to be a choice made while considering other goals and values as well as physical, mental, and emotional safety. But not every hard conversation is between a neo Nazi and a black person. Sometimes we imagine an assault on our personal dignity in assuming that someone who voted a certain way or who belongs to a certain religion must not believe in the humanity of another person. And sometimes, sometimes, we even return the favor, deciding that the neo Nazi or even just the person who has a different lens is less than human themselves.

I was talking with a theologian this week with experience in providing spiritual care. She mentioned a situation in which a therapist told her about her work with a sex offender. The therapist was disturbed by the conflicting emotions she felt. She felt both disgust at this man but also sympathy for the issues he had faced in his life. She wasn’t sure what to do with these feelings – or rather, she wasn’t sure how to make a choice between them.

This was so interesting to me and yet so not shocking. In our dualistic culture, we’re used to believing that we can’t experience a multiplicity of emotions or viewpoints because to do so is to be ideologically impure. If we have multiple and conflicting feelings, the idea is that we need to pick whichever is strongest or whichever best fits our ideological viewpoint. This is something I see all the time in the activist community in which I belong and it is also the quickest way to squash coalition building and personal spiritual growth. It, in fact, stunts us in small ways every time we refuse to honor and live in the paradox of our conflicting feelings.

So, all well and good, Autumn, but what’s your point? If we decide to reject dualities as dangerous for both communities and individuals, what do we do? How do we honor ourselves and our feelings when in conflict with someone with a different lens when and if we choose to engage?

What I’d like to suggest we do, both as individuals and as groups or activist organizations is engage in what we in TheologyWorld call Theological Reflection but which you might choose to call something else – maybe spiritual reflection or simply, reflection. It’s a process that allows us to name and honor our feelings but also to draw insight from imagery associated with those feelings. We can then take our insights out into the world with us to use in our activism.

The process I’m going to share with you is taken from  The Art of Theological Reflection by Patricia O’Connell Killen and John DeBeer. The process is entirely theirs but I am changing the language to reflect that not everyone has a religious tradition and to generally make it accessible to everyone. I’ve also adapted it specifically for activists. So, the next time you’re feeling the tug of conflicting feelings or you’re feeling the need to go deeper, give this exercise a try.

***

Spiritual/Philosophical Reflection for Activists

Step One

Grab a piece of paper and write out the challenging experience you’re having. But here’s the thing…do it without ANY judgments. Killen and DeBeer suggest sticking to the 5 Ws – Who, What, When, Where, Why.

My own reflection may be that I am talking to a male friend who has some sympathies for the Men’s Rights Movement and I’m wondering how to be a friend while also honoring my own experience as a woman.

Step Two

Remembering this situation as you read it through, focus on the bodily sensations it produced or is still producing. If you need help naming those sensations, have a look at this awesome and quite extensive list of bodily sensations and see what feels right for you. Identify where in your body you feel that sensation. Identify the emotions you associate with the situation. Again, here’s a huge-ass list of emotions to help you out.

I am feeling rage to such a degree that my body and brain feel like they’re vibrating. The feeling encompasses my whole body.

Step Three

Sit with those feelings for awhile and let them evoke images. Settle on an image that most resonates with you. Don’t worry about interpreting it just yet. Just find an image that reflects how and what you’re feeling.

The image that keeps coming to mind is that of a fish on a hook.

Step Four

Now begin to explore that image. What is it saying? What feels sorrowful in the image? What in the image might offer hope? Say anything else that you want to say about this image.

I feel my body almost writhing in anger but feel helpless against what seems to be an overwhelming misogyny, one that is so pervasive that my friend feels it is okay to talk negatively about women with a woman. Honestly, I find nothing redeeming in this image.

Step 5

Thinking of your particular spirituality, faith tradition, or philosophy, where does the image take you within your tradition? Are there similar images in your tradition? Don’t worry if you randomly seem to want to connect a seemingly disconnected bit of your tradition to the image. Killen and DeBeer say that if it is coming up in your head, trust that there is likely a connection.

I find a similar image in the Christian scriptures when Jesus says to Peter and James that if they follow him, he will make them fishers of men.

Step 6

Ask how your first image and your spiritual/faith tradition/philosophical image relate. Are there similarities? Differences? Tensions?

Both are images of fish. The first image is of a captive fish, the other of a captivated fish. In one image, the fish is me, thrashing desperately. The other fish is a man who is open to being led into the experience of others.

Step 7

What is this image from my tradition saying to me? It doesn’t have to be the same thing it says to anyone else or be the “orthodox” or scholarly meaning of that image or part of the text.

I am reminded by this image that if I am a follower of Jesus, I can be a fisher of men – I can invite my male friends, with compassion, to walk with me as part of a voyage of discovery, but the choice is ultimately theirs.

Step 8

What emerges for you as a result of this exercise? What insights and questions arise? Were you challenged? How do you feel about the initial experience now? Do you feel called to some action? The next time you’re in a similar situation, how do you want to act differently? Or would you act the same way?

My initial response to the situation was to shut down. I recognize that as a valid response. But when I reflect more, I realize that for me personally, I feel called to help this person see that this movement will not give him what he’s looking for (he is coming out of a bad divorce and vulnerable to anti-woman rhetoric). I feel called to walk with him in vulnerability and honesty as we navigate his questions together.

So, the above exercise was difficult (and way more detailed in my responses, but I’ll spare you). But the result was that clarifying my own feelings, including those held in my body, allowed me to know my truth and speak and act from it. I was able to make a conscious choice and not simply react. The result was that I did journey with this male friend and I’m happy to say that my allowing him space to both explore as well as hear my own experience helped him to eventually repudiate the movement.

So, give it a try and let me know how it worked for you!

 

 

 

 

 

Dodgy Goods

Now that I’m writing, being a student, and ministering full-time, I’ve had to get creative with how I can raise funds to keep my free Abortion Doula Services going as well as fund the rest of my work. The only problem is that I am not at all creative beyond, perhaps (hopefully?) creating liberating theologies of reproductive justice. Luckily, I don’t have to be terribly creative to create dodgy goods through Teespring. So, I hope you’ll take a look at the Electric Eel Pond store and spy something you like such as cringeworthy-but-true theological statements printed on t-shirts? Or a mug to hold male tears?

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Apparently the “Jesus Loves Strippers” shirt is popular with some Dutch pornographers so then I went ahead and made a “Jesus Loves Pornographers” shirt, too. Because, you know, he does. I’ve even provided a citation for that fact like the good researcher I am.

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So, hop on over to the store and see if there isn’t something there that makes you happy. My ministry is entirely driven by donation and a naive sense of justice, so, as always, thank you for your support!

 

Who Is For Me?

Who is for me_

My ministry and, indeed, one could say my entire way of being, is quite different for some people. This isn’t a shock. I’m an abortion doula. I help women access reproductive healthcare and I construct theologies that support reproductive justice. It’s not standard church fare. As such, I’m used to being either a little ostracized or feted, depending on the crowd. There are times when people love what I’m doing or they fear it. You really need good support system to do this work.

Yesterday was an interesting lesson in who my supporters are. When I turned off the lights and climbed into bed last night, the people I thought I knew who had my back when I got up that morning had changed and I was physically sick with apprehension. It was a day filled with intense anger, some of the most white hot fury I’d ever felt in my life, and a day of abject sadness and isolation. It was also a day in which I found myself more grateful than ever for the people I love.

***

It’s really hard sometimes being an aspiring clergywoman who advocates for the positives of abortion care. But one place where I’d felt completely supported in my work was in my doctoral program. After all, its here that I’m studying the spiritual lives of abortion care workers and everyone knows what I’m doing – or so I thought. I had been struggling for about a year with a couple of people in my program who weren’t quite sure what I was doing regardless of having read my work. At first, I thought perhaps I hadn’t been very clear myself. So, I send out my lit review to a few outside informal advisors who assured me that my work was quite clear. So, I persevered with the two in my program until it came to a head last week. The details are unnecessary but the summary is this: these two had negative views about both abortion and feminism that were making it difficult for them to be able to understand the crux of my work. Unfortunately, it was these same two people who had the responsibility of conveying my progress to the doctoral committee. In short, I realized that for an entire year, no one at the school had the facts about my work, nor did they know anything about my background, my education, or my experience. For the last year, I had been looking like a joke, like a loose cannon who was writing a “dissertation” on how great abortion is and that everyone should have at least ten of them.

I was alarmed and immediately met with the appropriate person at the school to express that alarm and hopefully find a solution. This person was very sympathetic to the situation, thankfully, but they, also being on the committee, had no idea of my background and began to ask me questions based on assumptions they had made from imperfect information.

She said that she remembered that I said I ran a bible study. It’s called Bible Study for the Rest of Us and is a way for people who have no interest in being converted can study what scholars have said about the bible through the ages. It’s a safe place for theists, nontheists, and post-theists to find common areas of appreciation for wisdom literature. But while this might sound harmless to most of us, she asked me a question that lit a fire of fury in me. She said, “Where do you get the confidence to think you can teach this?”

In other words, what gives you the right to engage in this ministry when you’re not a bible scholar. She said she was worried that people taking part would see that I’m a student of theology and have “certain expectations” that she seemed to think I wouldn’t be able to fulfill. “Why,” she asked, “do you think you can give them answers?”

And right there we have the problem, folks. There are still people (especially in the academy) who believe that laypeople and even students of theology are not equipped to read bible scholarship and talk about it amongst themselves (by the way, this would make every single church bible study illegitimate). The implication is that without a formal degree (yet, or ever) somehow no one has or ever should engage in learning on their own.

Friends, this is EXACTLY the bullshit I try to push against every day in my ministry. “How can you help people get abortions and be a Christian?” “How can you be a Christian and not believe in a theistic God-being?” In other words, how can I or anyone else be exactly who we are? Ironically, it is because we HAVE studied and we understand the long traditions that support both post-theism as well as reproductive justice. It’s a process called theological reflection that is as second nature to us as breathing. I shared with her that I didn’t feel I needed permission and that the confidence came from an intimacy with scripture and the support of those who felt I could introduce them to it. Moreover, I said, I come from a liberation theology perspective which believes that both theology and biblical interpretation are built from the ground up, not handed down from on high.

I was then told as an aside that when I speak of being ordained in the Anglican Church, I need to make sure I tell everyone that it is ordination to the diaconate and not the priesthood. The assumption here seems to be that the diaconate is an inferior order and that we don’t want people to think I’m in any way getting above my station. But the truth is that in the Anglican Church, the diaconate is a “full and equal order,” not a lower part of a made-up hierarchy of awesomeness. Moreover, I am always happy to talk about the diaconate but who the hell knows what that is? I don’t have the time during an introduction to talk about the history and significance of the diaconate so, when I meet people, I tell them that I am discerning ordination in the church. If they want to know more, that’s great, I will happily tell you why I chose the diaconate over the priesthood or, rather, why God made this choice for me.

At this point in the meeting, I was very upset inside but kept it together on the outside. I left as soon as I could and drove home, literally screaming the whole way with the windows up. I had never been this angry in my life! Seriously! Like, EVER. Once I got home, I curled up into a ball on my stairs and sobbed. I felt that everything that I am, all that I hope to do, was deemed inadequate by the powers that be, the people that apparently get to decide these things.

My question for them is, “WHERE DO YOU GET THE CONFIDENCE?”

Where do you get the confidence that you hold the answers?

Where do you get the confidence to assert that only those with multiple theology degrees get to tell everyone what’s what?

Where do you get the confident belief that laypeople haven’t read extensively, haven’t studied constantly, haven’t had a passion for wisdom that is worth sharing?

WHERE DO YOU GET THIS CONFIDENCE?

***

I sat there sobbing on my stairs until my priest and great friend Colleen texted me to see if I was okay. She suggested I stop by for knitting and tea, so we could chat about what had happened. Colleen is kind of the most amazing human being ever. She is open, sunny, and very easy to talk to. In fact, as I cried in front of her, I was startled to realize that she was the first person I had never apologized to for my crying. We chatted (well, I ranted) and she gave me what I absolutely most needed at that moment – reassurance that I wasn’t delusional, that I was doing good work, and that my research was important. Because as much as I rail against pointless authority and ridiculous assertions by the academy, something in them makes me doubt myself a little. I told Colleen all of this and about how a lot of it stemmed from my mother not really believing that I was capable of college, let alone an advance degree and ordination. I told her how ridiculous I felt that at almost 40 any of this still mattered.

But it did matter. I DO have moments of doubt. That’s what its like having ministries like mine or being someone who thinks a bit differently. We’re not the people who get famous or win massive adherents to our way of thinking. We’re the people who continue to do our work, even when in pain, because we can’t NOT do the work. God has called us to something for some damn fool reason we don’t quite get and our lives aren’t right until we answer.  We’re told in scripture, specifically, Romans 8:31 that “If God is for us, who can be against us,” but I’m not so good at claiming that I know what She is about. But I do know that God wants me in this stupid, agonizing, lame-ass struggle.

And this is why human support is so vital. No, I’ll never be famous. I also know I may not have the support of my program. I’ll never have more than a handful of supporters but that is all I need. I just need someone to feed me tons of tea and Chocolate Crack and tell me that the work that I love so much matters.