Today’s news

Adapted from what I posted on Facebook:

I just heard the news.

No doubt some of my friends are feeling like dancing in the streets because their guy got confirmed to the Supreme Court.

No doubt some of my other friends are devastated, because this feels like yet another crushing, wounding blow to many sexual trauma survivors — especially to those of us who have to live daily with the fact that, although the horrors of our assaults are seared into our brains, we don’t remember details like dates, times, locations, and exact time lines.

Please don’t comment by arguing the merits or credibility of Dr. Ford. Not here. I was not there at any party she or Judge Kavanaugh attended, and I doubt that any readers of my blog were there either. But when you tell me how you think a sexual trauma survivor should be able to remember things, or how and when she should come forward, or how she should conduct herself, you run the risk of treading dangerously close — and maybe crossing the line — to criticizing and slandering me and people I hold dear… even if you don’t name us by name.

I excuse a lot of what people say because some people are ignorant and don’t know better. Heck, I used to believe a lot of the same sexual trauma myths myself. The lies and misinformation I’d been fed didn’t just hinder my healing, but damn near killed me. Literally.

But these past couple weeks, I’ve heard more dangerous nonsense about trauma than I can stand, and I’m fed up.

To all my sister and brother survivors out there: be gentle with yourselves. Remember, we were not and are not on trial, no matter how things may feel. If you haven’t done so yet, find your “tribe”; find your allies who will stand with you… compassionate people who will sit and weep with you if that’s what you need.

Take a break. This morning I went for a wonderful walk on the beach with two terrific women. Pet a dog. Hug a baby. Take a deep breath. Kick and punch the heck out of a heavy bag. Do yoga. Whatever works for you…

Seek out what is good and true and beautiful. It is still all around us.

I know who I am. It would be nice if the whole world agreed with me and recognized and supported me. But that will never happen. So today I took a walk on the beach, and prayed with some allies, and forgot all about politics for almost 3 hours, and remembered how good my life really is, thanks to the grace of God.

I want all survivors to experience that peace.

Liturgical worship and ADD

When I was in my 50’s, it was suggested that I be tested for ADHD. My diagnosis with the inattentive, non-hyperactive type of attention deficit disorder did not take my older kids by surprise; they told me that they could have spared me the money and the ordeal of undergoing four hours of rigorous testing and screening. (“Seriously, Mama? You really didn’t know you have ADD? Everyone else knows.”)

The diagnosis, and the reading and research that I did as a result, was one of those wonderful AHA experiences: I wasn’t stupid, after all! I wasn’t being purposefully careless, or willfully disobedient, or “just lazy”, or trying to drive people crazy! And wasn’t crazy either!

The psychologist who tested me told my husband something along the lines of, “You have no idea how much effort it takes for your wife to do the things that you think should come easily.” He actually said that I tried so hard to do well on the tests that it was “painful to watch”.

For about a year, I was on wonderful ADD meds. I actually felt smart! I was waaaaaay less distracted. Reading, which I’d always enjoyed, became ridiculously easy, and I could even remember most of what I read. I could think in a linear fashion. Conversations were so much easier to follow. I didn’t get lost watching movies with multiple characters and complex plots. I could teach karate without misspeaking, without my words becoming a weird jumble. (No more did my students stare at me in bewilderment after I said, “Put your feet out over your knees” only to have me ask them, “What did I just say?”) I managed to organize the chaos and disorder of our upstairs room without dissolving into tears of frustration. It was amazing!!!

But…

The medication that worked best for me was expensive. In order to keep costs down, I supplemented the wonder med with a cheaper med, but the monthly medical bills, paid out-of-pocket, still mounted up. And, in order to be able to sleep at night, I had to make sure that the meds wore off in the evening, which meant that I appeared my same old self to my husband. I suspect he had hoped that the meds would turn me into a different person, someone who was actually efficient and productive. The psychologist had warned us not to expect a dramatic transformation: meds wouldn’t make me “normal”, but would make it easier for me to learn how to do things that were too difficult before. Life would no longer require such exhausting effort on my part. (One of the most amazing things is that I finally figured out how to cook and clean up the kitchen…sort of…at the same time, instead of cooking and leaving a disaster area behind.) Since my husband wasn’t inside my brain, he wasn’t impressed with my enthusiastic claims of, “But I feel so smart now!!” and “Everything isn’t so hard any more!”  The wonder drug may have been wonderful to me but, from his perspective, the cost-benefit ratio was disppointing.

As if that wasn’t discouraging enough, my already high heart rate started getting scary high, and it seemed that I had no choice but to go off my beloved ADD meds. I felt almost like Charlie in Flowers for Algernon. Once again, I was the dreamy, disorganized, forgetful, clueless space cadet who bumbled her way through life. Once again, I found the most ordinary of tasks to be dauntingly exhausting. (But I can still wash dishes and wipe a counter even while cooking food on the stove — without disaster or calamity. Though my husband might disagree, since he was actually paying for the expensive meds and doctor visits, I think that alone makes all the money well spent!)

I grew up in church, with my father as a pastor. When I was a kid, it was our family tradition to have a really nice Sunday dinner after church, during which we inevitably discussed my father’s sermon. The two of us kids would sometimes be quizzed to see if we had really been paying attention. My older brother had the amazing ability to be able to listen to one thing, even if he was reading another thing at the same time, and he could remember the Scripture references, the three main points, and the illustrations. Despite desperate attempts to pay attention, I was lucky if I could remember even an illustration. (So I started cheating: after the service, I’d sneak a look at the outline in my father’s sermon notebook, and manage to quickly memorize at least a point or two.)

My mind still wanders during sermons, and it takes a great deal of effort to rein in my errant thoughts. To add to my difficulty, far too many churches these days are so obnoxiously visually distracting to me — I end up thinking about wires and amps and keyboards and drum sets and movie theaters and weird lighting and bare walls and ugly architecture and why people hate pews so much that they replace them with chairs, etc. If you’ve been in the typical modern evangelical church, you probably get the picture. Then I leave and wonder what if anything can be done with someone like me. Church services are so hard.

At least that’s how it used to be.

Once again, the Historic Church holds the answer for me. For centuries her liturgy has been so conducive to worship that it seems almost custom designed for people with ADD. In my Anglican church, my entire being is involved — spirit, mind, body, and all five senses. I smell the incense. I kneel, I stand, I bow, I cross myself. I feel the prayer-book and the hymnal in my hands. I sing. I read. I pray out loud. I move forward for the Eucharist. I taste. I am fully engaged, rather than a passive observer. It matters that I am there, taking part with my brothers and sisters alongside me, and with the global church throughout history.

There are no long, drawn out sermons with humorous anecdotes, lengthy illustrations, Power Point presentations, and clever alliterations to distract me. The homilies are relatively brief, Scripture-based, devoid of fluff and filler, and well worth my attention. But even if my mind does wander, what I see — the altar, the crucifix, the icons — draws my mind to my Savior and to the wonderful mysteries of the faith, rather than to mundane thoughts. My soul is fed by beauty in an environment designed for worship rather than vexed by ugly, distracting things scattered across what looks like a concert stage. Everything I do and see and smell and taste has profound meaning and brings me back into acknowledging the very Presence of God.

When we gather on Sundays, everything works to point me — even the most easily distractible me — to Him. Isn’t that the very purpose of the Church?

I’m through with being evangelical

This was the last straw:

I have two main problems with this, neither of which have to do with the main point of giving President Trump a “mulligan”:

1. Tony Perkins seems to think he is a spokesperson for American evangelicals. Perhaps he is. All I know is that he is not speaking for me. (Silly me. I’m still stuck back in the 1990’s when character counted and our President was supposed to set a moral example for our nation.)

2. It seems “evangelical” no longer means what I thought it did. Just to check, I went to the source, the National Association Of Evangelicals:

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Historian David Bebbington also provides a helpful summary of evangelical distinctives, identifying four primary characteristics of evangelicalism:

  • Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus
  • Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
  • Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
  • Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity

These distinctives and theological convictions define us — not political, social or cultural trends. In fact, many evangelicals rarely use the term “evangelical” to describe themselves, focusing simply on the core convictions of the triune God, the Bible, faith, Jesus, salvation, evangelism and discipleship.

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Wait — what? “These distinctives and theological convictions define us — not political, social or cultural trends.(The same website does have a page about “Evangelicals and Politics“.)

So why is Tony Perkins speaking about evangelicals as if they are a voting bloc, a subset of the Republican Party?

Because that is what has come to define evangelicals more than anything else. Someone highjacked evangelicalism, and turned it into a political movement. And lots of people are happy to follow along.

I quit. I no longer want to be part of what seems more and more like a political/social/cultural club with semi-Christian overtones. I don’t regret my lifetime spent in evangelicalism; it shaped me in many good ways. I experienced much blessing there, and I consider many evangelicals as my dear brothers and sisters. But, as a movement — at least as how it is being defined, taught, and lived out by its spokespeople — modern evangelicalism has been heading somewhere I don’t want to go.

Until now, I thought I could have my feet in both of my worlds, and be an ecclesiastical mutt of sorts, all Charismatic-Evangelical-Anglo-Cathodox. But I can’t. If I’ve gained anything these past couple years, it’s a far deeper and richer understanding of just how good the Good News — the evangel — is. That’s what draws me and feeds my soul these days.

That Good News has nothing to do with a political party.

Nothing.

It doesn’t matter what political party it is, whether I’m registered or affiliated with it or not, or whether I like the current evangelical in crowd or not…none of that is the Gospel. But I keep hearing more and more spokespeople telling me that I’m wrong, that what defines evangelicalism is not really the evangel… or following Jesus…or our commitment to the Bible…or the emphasis on a lifelong and ongoing conversion of becoming more like Christ — what defines evangelicalism is our political views and our favored candidates.

It’s not just Tony Perkins. He’s merely yet another in a sad series of last straws. Most evangelical spokespeople stopped speaking for me quite some time back, on a growing number of issues. It’s made me feel quite unwelcome at times.

So this is it. I’m officially out. It’s kind of a sad thing. No, actually it’s heartbreaking. I once had such high hopes for the evangelical church…but not any more.

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After I finished writing this post, I read this analysis of the latest unbiblical (or is it anti-Biblical?) statements from yet another prominent evangelical spokesperson. It seems more and more evangelicals no longer read or take to heart the Bible they are, by definition, supposed to obey. It seems they no longer hold the Bible in such high esteem as the very Word of God.